Letters to the Editor

Lessons from Houston and Hurricane Harvey

Homes are surrounded by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, near Beaumont, Texas.
Homes are surrounded by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, near Beaumont, Texas. AP

Climate change ‘real threat’

The military can fight climate change” (Aug. 28) highlights the national security threat posed by a changing climate. Hurricane Harvey has shown exactly what climate change looks like domestically with over 50 inches of rain falling on Houston, over 30,000 folks in shelters and half a million people impacted, and the storm is not over.

With 14 oil refineries now shut down the risk to our energy security is clear as toxic chemicals are released into flood waters. Everyone must fight against climate change and our best weapon is the market. The military says it is a threat to our national security, Harvey demonstrates it is a real threat to all here and now, and economists say the best way to stop it is to put a price on carbon. The cost is real, with this storm alone projected to cost over $100 billion. Now is the time for action, now is the time for a federal carbon fee and dividend program that will make a more secure world.

Donald Addu


On Harvey aid

The Texas governor did not hesitate to ask for federal aid to help with rescue and relief from Hurricane Harvey. It seems like the state that believes in a small federal government has no problem asking for money and government intervention when they need it. The state that would not expand Medicaid or embrace Obamacare and has the largest population of uninsured people in the country doesn’t like to give, but it sure likes to receive.

In fact, its senators, Sens. Cornyn and Cruz, voted against aid to New York and New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy. And where in this calamity is Franklin Graham and his ilk assuring everyone that the disaster is God’s punishment for an immoral government? Why their sudden silence?

Rabbi Jonathan Gerard

Chapel Hill

Protect environment

After reading “Tillerson to abolish most special envoys, including climate” (Aug. 28) I am deeply concerned. Hurricane Harvey is still happening. At least 38 people are already dead from the horrendous flooding. Catastrophes like this used to be something almost unimaginable, especially in a place like Texas. Many didn’t imagine the possibility of flooding when they thought about Texas.

The news often says such events were “unprecedented,” but weather keeps getting worse. Our climate is changing dangerously, yet our government refuses to support policies that could protect us. I grew up loving the outdoors in rural North Carolina as a Girl Scout. I was taught to love nature and to make the world a better place. How can ignoring climate change make the world a better place? Citizens must encourage government policies that protect them. I implore readers to take action and ask Sens. Burr and Tillis to protect North Carolina by supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate, Air, and Energy Research and refusing the major cuts proposed by President Trump.

Corena Owens


Build coastal infrastructure

As the people of southeast Texas experience catastrophic effects of flooding from Hurricane Harvey this week, the focus is, as it must be, is on saving lives. Inevitably, the question will arise: Will we have more frequent heavy rain and flooding events, like Hurricane Harvey, in a warmer world? As the Earth warms, extremes in precipitation increase. This means that over the long term and across the globe, heavy rain events have become more frequent and more intense. This follows from simple physics. People observe this happening, and they expect more in a warmer future.

As a climate scientist working to quantify that important question, I defer to a different one that, in the short term at least, totally eclipses the first. Why are vulnerable coastal cities and infrastructure woefully unprepared to handle the impacts of a massive flooding event? Science has settled that first question. It’s time to move on to the other one. As coastal cities become home for more people and continue to power the economic engine of the nation, why are they allowed to remain so vulnerable to flooding? The same story plays over and over, like a glitch in a video playback. Massive damage and loss of life – in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina, in New York from Hurricane Sandy, in Houston from Hurricane Harvey.

The great American coastal cities are home to more than 100 million people, and are the main artery for most of the country’s economic output. Thousands of lives, and over $100 billion, have been lost to flooding in the past 20 years at and near the coast with few short-term solutions and no long-term strategy. We rebuild, rather than redesign, vital coastal infrastructure following the inevitable flood. Other nations lead the way in keeping safe their ports, power grids, and people in major cities along their shores, while America chooses to keep coastal assets exposed to powerful storms and rising seas. There is no time to waste debating questions to which we already know the answers. Congress and the President must act now to help our precious coastal cities shore up their infrastructure.

Thomas Rickenbach, Ph.D.

Director, Undergraduate Studies Department of Geography, Planning and Environment

East Carolina University

Energy vulnerable

Regarding “Hurricane Harvey closes key oil, gas operations in Texas” (Aug. 26): You might call it harbinger deja vu: Current climate and political events are suggesting that North Carolinians were fortunate in 1999 that eastern North Carolina did not have a concentrated presence of offshore drilling, petro chemical plants and fuel storage areas when Hurricanes Dennis, Floyd, and Irene left devastation that has not been fixed yet in some places.

Even if rogue actors do not target existing petroleum centers with weapons, nature has shown that it can assault and humble the current energy industry with powerful storms.

Phil Wood