Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bush White House Balked at Plan That Could Protect U.S. Against Hurricanes


We all knew it was coming. Officials have been sounding the alarm for years about how vulnerable Louisiana is to the threat of a hurricane.

Not only did we know it was coming, but we've known for a long time exactly what is needed to protect New Orleans from a hurricane. In a word: wetlands.

Wetlands have long served as a natural shield to protect New Orleans from the wrath of hurricanes. Wetlands are vital to protect a city that has 80 percent of its area located below sea level. And America's wetlands, under the Bush administration, have been deteriorating at an alarming rate.

The loss of wetlands in Louisiana in recent years has been staggering: the state has lost around 25 square miles of wetlands each year (or around one acre every 30 minutes).

In recent years, alarmed officials put together a plan to protect Louisiana's wetlands, called the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) project. But, predictably, the Bush White House balked at the projected price tag of $14 billion over the next 30 years.

Indeed, that sum appears to be a lot of money. That is, until you consider that the Bush White House has already squandered a staggering $200 billion in embroiling our nation in the current bloody quagmire in Iraq.

But fiddling while our nation's wetlands disappear is only one way in which the Bush team let America down before Katrina hit.

A growing number of scientists are pointing the finger at global warming as a main culprit behind the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina. After all, warm oceans are a key component in the formation of hurricanes.

In early August, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Kerry Emanuel published a study that showed that hurricanes have vastly increased in intensity over the past 30 years---a trend, he said, that appears to be directly linked to rising ocean surface temperatures.

And, of course, on global warming, the Bush White House has let America down. Refusing to even accept the science behind global warming, Bush declined to sign the Kyoto Protocol (thus telling the other 180 nations who signed to go screw themselves).

Bush has long argued that the costs of complying with international climate protection goals would harm the U.S. economy. But it's clear that the costs of dealing with disasters like Katrina will dwarf what the U.S. would have needed to spend to get on-board with Kyoto.

What is certain is that America's reckless use of fossil fuels is unsustainable. Americans make up only 4 percent of the world's population and yet we're responsible for one quarter of the planet's emissions.

I find it rich how neocons buy Bush's argument that Kyoto would "harm" America's economy. Since when has Bush ever understood anything about economics or finances?

The U.S. is already facing unprecedented and soaring fiscal deficits and is on the verge of bankruptcy. The dollar is posed for meltdown. And New Orleans has turned into an uninhabitable toxic cesspool that's going to cost us all billions of dollars---all because of a disaster that could have been avoided.