2012 Drought more expensive than Hurricane Sandy

You thought Hurricane Sandy was bad? You were right, but economically, the ongoing drought is worse economically. But we already know a much brighter path.

Weather Underground founder Dr. Jeff Masters wrote 16 November 2012, Lessons from 2012: Droughts, not Hurricanes, are the Greater Danger,

Sandy’s damages of perhaps $50 billion will likely be overshadowed by the huge costs of the great drought of 2012.

By Dr. Masters’ estimate, the 2012 drought will cost more than half again as much as Hurricane Sandy.

Also notice Hurricane Katrina still at the top of that table, with almost three times the economic damage and far more deaths than Hurricane Sandy. We could have gotten the message back in 2005, but hey, those were only poor southern people, so who, in for example New York City, really cared? Yes, I know many of us did and many of you actively helped, but I’m sure you see my point that when greater New York gets the storm, suddenly the country pays attention and a lot more people want to find out how to keep that from happening again.

What’s that drought look like for us here in Georgia at the moment, according to U.S. Drought Monitor?

Georgia 11 Dec 2012 in U.S. Drought Monitor

Right now we’re “only” abnormally dry in Lowndes County, and elsewhere in Georgia it’s much worse.

So what’s the drought forecast from NOAA?

U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook by NOAA

It looks like the drought will get worse.

Dr. Masters mentions the ancient Anasazi of the southwest whose civilization collapsed during the Great Drought starting in the 12th century, as well as numerous other civilizations that have not survived protracted drought. And the Mayans. Ever wonder why the ancient Mayan civilization isn’t around to explain to us they meant their calendar that seems to come to an end this year was really supposed to repeat? Because their civilization didn’t survive a drought, and their scattered descendants forgot.

Dr. Masters then spells out the stakes we face now:

We should not assume that the 21st century global civilization is immune from collapse due to drought. If we continue on our current path of ever-increasing emissions of carbon dioxide, the hotter planet that we will create will surely spawn droughts far more intense than any seen in recorded history, severely testing the ability of our highly interconnected global economy to cope. The coming great drought disasters will occur at a time when climate change is simultaneously creating record rainfall and flooding in areas that happen to be in the way of storms.

Here in south Georgia and north Florida we are fortunate that our drinking water mostly comes from the deep Floridan Aquifer, so direct effects on people are buffered by that underground limestone lake. Not that our aquifer will last forever as we increasingly suck up more water from it.

Meanwhile, water for our crops and forests and cypress swamps does come from surface water, when we get any. And sometimes we get way too much, as in the 700 year flood of 2009. Plus there are the likely coastal floods of Savannah and Jacksonville and everywhere in between.

So am I posting this just to say the end is nigh? No, because we know the way to a much better future, and all we need to do is to get on with it. Moore’s Law is pushing ever-faster deployment of solar energy, which, combined with wind power, conservation, and energy efficiency, can provide almost all of the power we need, so we can shut down the water-sucking nuclear, coal, and gas plants that are causing the problem. Oh, and we could stop cutting down quite so many trees and paving over so many acres. And the quicker we get on with it in Georgia, the quicker we’ll all not just survive; the quicker we’ll all profit by switching to renewable solar and wind energy.

Those really are the stakes: rapidly increasing droughts and floods increasingly damaging the local and world economy, or turning towards a sustainable path already clearly visible right in front of us in the bright south Georgia sunshine.