Big Expensive Weather

By Beacon Staff

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations said that 2012 was the hottest year recorded in the U.S. since the organization began tracking weather in the late 1800s.

It’s not just hotter weather that is causing farmers to take notice; it’s the size and power of the new super storms. Farmers in Gallatin County showed Sen. Jon Tester and Gov. Steve Bullock this month’s damages from the worst weather that anyone could remember in the area.

The conservative Montana Grain Growers Association said that crop damages hit $50 million, not including 5,000 acres of potatoes. In southwestern Montana wind speeds over 100 miles per hour were recorded and golf-ball-sized hail hit Billings.

Flathead Valley residents reported big hail and the National Weather Service said that well over an inch of rain fell in Whitefish during 24 hours.

EPA administrators under Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush penned a letter in the New York Times urging Congress to support climate action by President Barack Obama.

In their letter – “A Republican Case for Climate Action” – the former EPA chiefs said in part that “there is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts: our world continues to warm, with the last decade the hottest in modern records, and the deep ocean warming faster than the earth’s atmosphere. Sea Level is rising. Arctic Sea ice is melting years faster than projected.”

These EPA administrators asked for congressional action, but are unlikely to receive help.

Congress is embarrassingly struggling to pass a budget, and the House is hamstrung by immigration reform. House Republicans are even ideologically opposed to funding food programs as 130,000 Montanans are bracing for less full plates on tables when lawmakers returns from a five-week long recess vacation.

Last May’s satellite images of the expensive Oklahoma weather that produced tornadoes shows one single massive cohesive structure that cut across seven counties.

Satellite images of super storm Sandy were near global in size. Sandy’s big weather cost is $60 billion with one-third of that in New York City alone. The Journal of Quaternary Science reported that a 14-foot storm tide drove astronomically high waters into the city.

Bullock asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for $44 million for weather-related crop damage after county commissioners asked Bullock to seek federal help.

Select farmers are eligible for federally subsidized crop insurance, but Congress excludes most local farms from this climate protection. If Congress passes a renewed Farm Bill, wheat or GMO crops like tobacco, cotton, corn, soybeans, or sugar are on target to receive $120 billion of federal climate protection in crop insurance and guaranteed profits over the decade.

The Department of Agriculture had forecast strong yields in the Gallatin Valley area before big weather devastated fields of grain, peas, potatoes and hay fields. Most farmers suffered losses of 40 to 80 percent.

During the record heat of the last dozen years, more than 3 million acres have burned in Montana. In 2006 alone, fires cost $1.5 billion nationally with Montana’s share at $30 million. It’s expensive for Congress to ignore hot weather.

This summer across the border, the Calgary area was pounded by record rains producing massive flooding. The economic damage exceeds billions of dollars.

Congress should end its five-week long recess and get back to work. But instead of focusing for the 41st time on defunding or repealing people’s health care and threatening shutdowns of health clinics, the House should act on the big weather that has become too expensive to ignore.

As the last four Republican EPA administrators said in their letter, “The only uncertainty about our warming world is how bad the changes will get, and how soon. What is most clear is that there is no time to waste.”

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