7 Things You Can Guarantee Will Happen On Christmas Day

1. Getting an unexpected gift and being forced to feign joy and excitement.

Maybe you get something you already have? Maybe you get given yet another generic shower gel package? Maybe you get given some piece of tat that there is no way in hell you would ever use? Whatever the case, this happens every year and let’s face it, you’ve become a bit of an expert at faking Christmas cheer at this point. The last thing you want to do is offend someone’s gift taste.

2. Eating yourself one roast potato away from a heart attack.

A loved relative knocks up a Christmas dinner of titanic proportions and you soldier through and eat every morsel you possibly can. You think you are going to combust but know that seconds are already on their way. You take a deep breath and prepare yourself. Refusing extra food is not an option. You can’t face seeing the look of disappointment on the cook’s face as you decline the festive dinner they slaved for hours over. By the time thirds are offered you have to accept defeat, justifying it by saying you are “saving yourself for dessert”; thereby reluctantly committing yourself to even…more…food…

3. Getting at least one gift that you can’t use because it doesn’t come with batteries.

This should be a criminal offence. Is there actually anything more disappointing? Your childhood is already scarred with memories of opening toys that didn’t come with batteries; yet you never learn.

4. A family feud over *insert trial reason here*

This could be about anything. What channel to put the TV on? What time to open presents? What flavour gateaux to have for dessert? Take your bets. Either way, brace yourself for a tense moment or two on this fine day.

5. Watching the same Christmas films you do every year.

Die Hard, check. Home Alone, check. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, check. Love Actually, check. You know these films like the back of your hand and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without them. But there’s always that one person who insists on talking through the film; who you will sit and internally rage against for the entirety of the movie.

6. Taking board games a bit too seriously.

Bitch please, no one knows Monopoly like you do. You are the Monopoly Grandmaster and no one will stand in your way – that includes your blood relatives and closest, longest friends. You will happily disown a loved if they lose your Pictionary team a point and you have no qualms about bending the rules slightly to keep your title.

7. Being hounded by personal questions from your loved ones.

Is any subject deemed too personal? No. Your love life, career plans and past mistakes could be brought up at any point. It is likely to hit you when you least expect it; but in the same way you have mastered the art of feigning joy, you’ve mastered the art of talking about your life as if you actually know where it’s going and what you’re doing.

Most Americans Agree That Climate Change Makes Hurricanes More Intense

Does climate change make hurricanes worse? Yes – warmer ocean waters make them wetter, more powerful, windier and, as is increasingly the case, more likely to cause wanton destruction. There are a few variables to this, and the overall damage really depends on where the hurricane makes landfall and if it slows down or not, but in a nutshell, this link is a surefire bet.

Now it seems that, for the first time, the majority of Americans accept this viewpoint too. According to a new poll by ABC News and the Washington Post, 55 percent of the public say that the severity of recent hurricanes is down to climate change, whereas 41 percent say that it’s just severe weather that happens sometimes.

This is a huge jump from the last time this poll was conducted (then by Pew), in September 2005 – just after Hurricane Katrina hit the US. Back then, just 25 percent said that climate change was ramping up the strength of hurricanes, whereas 66 percent disagreed.

The shift is primarily down to Democratic-leaning members of the public. This year, 78 percent of them attribute the severity of the recent hurricanes to climate change, a 47 percent increase from 2005. Independents, too, have contributed to the swing: 56 percent chose the climate change option, a 27 point bump from 2005.

Republicans, however, have shown almost no change at all. Just after Katrina hit, just 16 percent said that climate change made it worse. Today, that figure is 23 percent.

This is a curious finding, particularly as a recent survey hinted that Republican’s tendency to accept scientific consensus had no correlation with their political beliefs. In contrast, Democrats were more likely to accept scientific consensus as they gained more education, regardless of their political affiliation.

Overall, the most likely people to attribute the severity of the recent tropical cyclones were liberals or moderates, and those with college degrees, particularly women.

In any case, it’s another piece of evidence revealing that much of the American public – contrary to popular opinion – is actually scientifically literate, and aware of the emerging truths coming from academia. Despite the fact that 2017 is the age of Alternative Facts, scientific censorship, and looming funding cuts, there is hope after all that people are tuned in to what’s real, and what’s fake news.

It’s a shame, though, that sometimes climate change needs to be a visceral danger – one that essentially slaps you in the face – to make you realize it’s a clear and present threat.

End Of Times… The ‘Sexy Fake News Girl Costume’ Is Here To Ruin Halloween

If the cooler air and pumpkin spice everything haven’t clued you in yet, Halloween is just over a month away. But no amount of time can ever prepare you for the horror that is 2017’s scariest costume: sexy fake news.

Women’s lingerie brand Yandy, who last year unleashed the “Donna T. Rumpshaker” upon us innocents, has turned President Donald Trump’s gaslighting catchphrase into an erotic, low-effort costume dress that takes a jumble of faux newspaper clippings (so, actual fake news?) with “FAKE” in red capital letters. And … that’s it. That’s the costume. It doesn’t even come with fake horn-rimmed glasses, so you’ll have to buy your own to achieve the “hot Clark Kent” vibe Yandy’s model is going for.

The costume, which retails for a whopping $54.95, will begin shipping on October 12. While you wait, take comfort in knowing that it was “made in USA,” as Yandy claims on its website.

Toys ‘R’ Us Files For Bankruptcy

Toys ‘R’ Us Inc, the toy store giant with branches across the US, Canada, UK and Japan has filed for bankruptcy.

In a so-called Chapter 11 filing, the 60-year-old retailer asked for bankruptcy protection late Monday, with analysts citing the rise of online shopping and declining high streets being partly to blame. Toys ‘R’ Us is also said to be saddled with debt following its acquisition in 2005.

According to Reuters, the Chapter 11 filing, made in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond is “among the largest ever by a specialty retailer” and is a worry for the company’s 1,600 stores and 64,000 employees. The Canadian arm of Toys ‘R’ Us now plans to seek similar protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

“While today’s decision does not necessarily mean it is game over for Toys ‘R’ Us, it brings to a close a turbulent chapter in the iconic company’s history,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.

To ensure suppliers still receive orders for the holiday season, JP Morgan and other banks and lenders have agreed $3 billion “debtor-in-possession financing” to help Toys ‘R’ Us restructure over the coming months. This financing will now need to be approved by the court.

Also known as a DIP, a debtor-in-possession is an individual or company that has filed for bankruptcy protection but keeps control of the business. Under the DIP order, Toys ‘R’ Us would continue to run the business and would “have the powers and obligation of a trustee to operate in the best interest of any creditors”. This means Toys ‘R’ Us will continue to trade for the time being and has a duty to inform the court if anything changes.

In the US, a Chapter 11 is a form of bankruptcy in which a company will reorganize its debts and assets. Its named after the US bankruptcy code 11. Due to the fact it lets companies reorganize their finances, it’s also referred to as giving the firm a “fresh start” as long as they adhere to the conditions of the bankruptcy order. A Chapter 11 is meant to be seen as a last resort, after other measures have been taken to reduce the debt and pay creditors.

Notably, filing a Chapter 11 doesn’t mean the company is closing. It’s designed to help keep the company afloat and other firms, including General Motors and United Airlines, are among the US firms that have previously filed for bankruptcy protection and are still in business. Even Apple was close to bankruptcy once.

“We expect the financial constraints that have held us back will be addressed in a lasting and effective way,” Toys ‘R’ Us CEO Dave Brandon said. “Together with our investors, our objective is to work with our debtholders and other creditors to restructure the $5 billion of long-term debt on our balance sheet.”

Can Nature Help Defend Florida Against Future Natural Disasters?

The highest point in all of Florida is a hill that tops out at 345 feet above sea level, just south of the Alabama border. Much of the rest of the state lies far, far below that—like, 340 feet below—a peninsula jutting into the Caribbean around the same height as the Caribbean. It’s the last place you’d pick to ride out a hurricane, given the choice.But that’s the choice Florida’s 20 million residents had to reckon with last week, as Hurricane Irma barreled toward the state, breaking records and flattening towns across the Caribbean. Many expected it to be the costliest disaster in U.S. history—not just because of the Irma’s towering strength.

Florida is seemingly made for disaster. Its sprawling cities have been built up quickly and extensively, at the expense of the ecosystems that act as a natural defense against the worst of a hurricane’s blow. There’s nothing to stop a hurricane like Irma from wreaking havoc wherever it goes, but dunes, wetlands, mangroves, and coral reefs can all play an important role in absorbing some of the destructive energy of a storm. Unfortunately, over the past century, the Sunshine State has lost the majority of all these natural shock absorbers, trading them for arable land and new developments.

As Florida and Texas start to rebuild from the blows dealt by Irma and Harvey, many are weighing how best to fortify vulnerable coastal cities, even as rising sea level brings the threat of flooding closer and closer.

There’s nothing to stop a hurricane like Irma from wreaking havoc, but dunes, wetlands, mangroves, and coral reefs can all play an important role in absorbing some of the destructive energy.

“If you live near the water, the difference between a crashing wave and a slowly moving chop against the walls of your home can be everything,” says Rob Nowicki, a post-doctoral researcher at Florida’s Mote Marine Lab.

Houston’s mayor made a plea for funding to construct a massive sea wall, or “coastal spine,” to protect the region from dangerous storm surges in the future. “We cannot talk about rebuilding” he said, “if we do not build the coastal spine.”

This bunker-building approach to natural disaster—which Nathanael Johnson wrote about in Houston’s struggle to control floodwater—is prone to occasional, catastrophic failure, especially as climate change continues to shift the baseline on our expectations of what a storm can do. The problem is, for Florida, these kinds of concrete-heavy projects aren’t really an option.

“What distinguishes all of South Florida is that it’s got this porous limestone base,” says Ashley Dawson, author of Extreme Cities. No matter what barriers you put between yourself and the sea, water will be able to seep around it. In Miami Beach, king tides regularly flood up through the city’s storm drains, hurricane or no. At the most dire moments before Irma made landfall, Miami—with an average elevation of 6 feet above sea level—was predicted to see as much as 10 feet of storm surge.

When Irma made a last-minute swerve inland, pushing the storm surge away from populated coastal cities, much of the predicted damage was avoided. Still, Miami and Jacksonville saw several feet of flooding, power outages, and overwhelmed infrastructure.

Other cities, like Tampa and Sarasota, remain especially vulnerable because they sit on the on the edge of very shallow seas, Dawson says. That means when storms sweep in from deeper ocean they pile up some extremely high, extremely powerful waves ahead of them. Although Tampa only ended up with a couple of feet of storm surge from Irma, initial forecasts were chilling; if the storm had veered a different way, nine to 15 feet of surge might have slammed into the city.Shoreline habitats like dunes and wetlands can block storm surge, usually the deadliest part of a major hurricane, because they slow down dangerous waves and prevent water from moving as far inland as it would without them.A recent study in Nature’s online journal calculated that wetlands saved New York $625 million in flooding damage during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, by absorbing both storm surge and rain.“As a rule of thumb, you can expect larger and more prominent ecosystems to provide more protection,” says Nowicki.The same swamps and mangroves that would help protect Florida from storms are also what helped keep people and development out of the sparsely populated state until the 20th century.

To make South Florida habitable, the Army Corps of Engineers dug 2,000 miles of canals and levees starting in the 1930s. Beaches were bulwarked, channels were dredged, subdivisions snaked their way into former marshland, and Disney World appeared in a puff of pink smoke (I assume). Along the way, Florida’s natural wetlands receded and its once-stunning coral reefs all but disappeared. Florida is now the third most populous state, behind California and Texas.

In the last few years, Florida Governor Rick Scott has overseen large budget cuts to the department in charge of researching and preserving these ecosystems, enabling the kind of risky coastal development that puts people too close to dangerous storms. And President Donald Trump recently reversed an Obama-era mandate that federally funded construction projects abide by a higher flooding standard to take sea level rise into consideration. All of this leaves Florida in a poor position to weather future storms.

Then there’s the question of Florida’s coral reefs. Offshore reefs can’t stop surge from coming inland the way dunes and wetlands can, but they sap energy from the waves washing over them. Coral cover in the Caribbean, including in Florida, has decreased by 80 percent, leaving low-lying shorelines less protected than ever.

Mote Marine Laboratory, where Robert Nowicki works, is focused on research into how to restore Florida’s degraded reefs by growing and planting new coral colonies onto former reef sites.

“While much of our living coral is gone, the skeletons remain,” Nowicki explains. The structure of a reef, even a dead one, will continue to act as a brake on waves for a while, but over time the skeletons break down and, without live coral to rebuild them, turn into rubble.

This kind of outplanting project is based on the way foresters restore damaged forests by raising trees in nurseries and then distributing them into the wild. It’s labor-intensive and slow, yet Nowicki says it’s the best bet for rebuilding these damaged reefs, and their storm-buffering services, before they’re gone for good.

“Getting living coral back on the old skeletons,” he says, “is a kind of race against time.”

Hurricane Maria Heads Toward Puerto Rico As A Major Storm

Hurricane Maria, now a Category 3 storm, will hit the Leeward Islands on the edge of the Caribbean Sea on Monday night, forecasters say, threatening areas that are still coping with the devastation brought by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago. Predictions call for it to pass straight over Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

Maria is now classified as a major storm, and “additional rapid strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours,” the National Hurricane Center says.

Maria’s maximum winds are currently at 120 mph, after rising from 90 mph earlier Monday; they could reach 140 mph within the next two days, the center said. The storm is heading west-northwest at around 10 mph.

A hurricane warning — meaning hurricane conditions are expected to strike — has been issued for the islands of Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, St. Lucia and Martinique, as well as the neighboring British and U.S. Virgin Islands.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Martin and Anguilla.

An Air Force Reserve Unit Hurricane Hunter aircraft flew on a route in and around Maria this morning to investigate the storm’s development, the hurricane center said.

Unlike Irma, which took a relatively flat westward angle as it raked Barbuda, St. Martin, Cuba and other islands and stormed toward the Florida Keys, Maria is expected to take a sharper northwest tack, passing east of the Turks and Caicos as it heads toward the Bahamas.

Maria puts many of those same areas at risk — including the Virgin Islands, parts of which were hit by Irma’s eye wall before that storm veered north. Maria’s different approach also means that Puerto Rico and other islands that suffered only glancing blows from Irma could now be directly confronted with hurricane conditions.

On Monday morning, Puerto Rico’s emergency officials were meeting to plan their response to Maria.

“The government is prepared,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said via Facebook, “and we ask of the citizenship preparation, attention, and action.”

On the Saffir-Simpson wind scale, a major hurricane designates Category 3 storms and higher — hurricanes with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

Maria now fits that description, and is expected to remain a major hurricane through the weekend.

Maria doesn’t have the historic size and strength of Irma, and its hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles — far short of the 70 miles such winds extended from Irma’s center. But the hurricane’s storm surge and heavy rains could post grave threats, from triggering mudslides to frustrating relief and recovery efforts in places where thousands of buildings were heavily damaged by Irma.

Maria “is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 6 to 12 inches,” the hurricane center says, “with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches across the central and southern Leeward Islands, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, through Wednesday night.”

Here are the conditions the National Hurricane Center warns could be brought by a Category 3 storm:

“Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.”

Hurricane Jose, which buzzed the Leeward Islands as it moved north and west in Irma’s wake last week, has now weakened, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. Jose is currently about 280 miles east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and it’s expected to remain off the East Coast.

With Jose moving north at 9 mph, a tropical storm watch is in effect for areas from Fenwick Island to Sandy Hook; Delaware Bay South; East Rockaway Inlet to Plymouth; Block Island; Martha’s Vineyard; and Nantucket.

What Role Is Climate Change Playing In The Development Of Hurricanes?

Hurricane Irma is hovering somewhere between being the most- and second-most powerful hurricane recorded in the Atlantic. It follows Harvey, which dumped trillions of gallons of water on South Texas. And now, Hurricane Jose is falling into step behind Irma, and gathering strength.

Is this what climate change scientists predicted?

In a word, yes. Climate scientists such as Michael Mann at Penn State says, “The science is now fairly clear that climate change will make stronger storms stronger.” Or wetter.

Scientists are quick to point out that Harvey and Irma would have been big storms before the atmosphere and oceans started warming dramatically about 75 years ago. But now storms are apt to grow bigger. That’s because the oceans and atmosphere are, on average, warmer now than they used to be. And heat is the fuel that takes garden-variety storms and supercharges them.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that the Atlantic hurricane season this year would be big. It said the most likely scenario would be five to nine hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes, which is above the long-term average.

Some of its reasoning is based on climate change. The eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean is the fuel tank of hurricanes, if you will, and big parts of the sea surface have been between 0.5 and 1 degree Celsius warmer than average this summer. Now, the Atlantic goes through normal cycles of warming and cooling that have nothing to do with climate change, such as in response to the El Nino and La Nina weather cycles. But this year neither cycle is active.

And whether or not Irma was emboldened by climate change, what’s more telling are hurricane trends. Big hurricanes in the Pacific as well as the Atlantic appear to be happening more often and are packing more punch than normal.

Climate scientist Kevin Trenberth from the National Center for Atmospheric Research explains: “Previous very active (hurricane) years were 2005 and 2010,” he says, and along with 2017, they experienced warm Atlantic Ocean temperatures. “So this sets the stage. So the overall trend is global warming from human activities.”

It’s worth noting that there are other things that made Irma big that have no clear association with climate change. Vertical wind shear in the hurricane “nursery” region of the Atlantic are weak this year. Strong wind shear at the right altitude can in essence “behead” a hurricane as it forms, so Irma has free rein to build. There’s also a long-term cycle in the Atlantic — the Atlantic Multi-Decadel Oscillation — that affects hurricane-forming conditions. Since 1995, the AMO is in the “on” position for good hurricane conditions, and in fact the period since then has been quite active for storms and hurricanes.

So, as with Harvey, these superstorms have always happened due to natural causes, but the underlying conditions in the oceans and atmosphere have primed the pump. You don’t need much effort now to turn a trickle into a gusher.

Why Don’t We Bury Power Lines in the U.S.?

More than once during a storm — as I’ve fretted over the contents of my freezer or my lack of access to Netflix — I’ve found myself asking:

Why doesn’t the U.S. bury its power lines?

It turns out I’m not alone in wondering.

Burying power lines is expensive

The simple answer is that burying power lines is considerably more expensive than you might think. As reported by CNN, North Carolina’s Utility Commission looked into burying power lines after more than 2 million homes were left without electricity in the storms of 2002. Th commission found that the project would cost $41 billion, take 25 years to complete, and would require that customers’ electricity rates nearly double to pay for it — leading the commission to conclude that it would be “prohibitively expensive.”

Access and longevity are a concern

The upfront cost of “undergrounding” power lines isn’t the only downside. According to this Wikipedia entry on the practice, other disadvantages include a shorter shelf life for cables, the danger of the cables being accidentally damaged by road construction or other digging, vulnerability to floods and the fact that if damage does occur, repairs can take considerably longer than what’s needed for overhead cables.

That said, there are advantages. Some communities advocate burying cables for aesthetic reasons. My hometown of Durham, North Carolina, has chopped down or severely pruned its beautiful street trees because they interfere with power lines. (Apparently, when Durham’s many willow oaks were planted, city planners assumed power lines would eventually be buried.)

Undergrounding: Long-term investment and economic stimulus

Commentator David Frum has made a strong case for burying power lines, arguing that utilities’ cost estimates are over-inflated (a U.K. study suggested a premium of five times the cost of overhead lines, not 10); that resilience to storms is increasingly important in a changing climate; and that because U.S. cities are becoming more dense, we can expect the cost per mile to come down. Frum also argued that undergrounding is the kind of job-creating initiative that governments should undertake during an economic downturn, taking advantage of low interest rates to upgrade our infrastructure, shore up our communities against the threat of climate change and put many Americans back to work. (Indeed, burying power lines is one of the ways cities are preparing themselves for climate change.)

It seems unlikely that large-scale undergrounding will take off anytime soon, at least not in existing communities. But burying power lines in new communities is a lot more commonplace, and considerably cheaper than replacing existing infrastructure. It may be that we’ll gradually see a shift to underground lines over the decades, but for now, I think we should all plan to do a better job of preparing for the next power outage.

Irma Tears A Deadly Path Of Destruction Through Parts Of The Caribbean

France’s Interior minister says Hurricane Irma has killed at least eight people and left 23 injured on French Caribbean island territories. The Associated Press reports:

Speaking on French radio France Info, Gerard Collomb said the death toll in Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy could be higher because rescue teams have yet to finish their inspection of the islands. Collomb said Thursday: “The reconnaissance will really start at daybreak.”

Updated 2:14 a.m. ET Thursday

The National Hurricane Center says the dangerous core of the storm will move away from Puerto Rico Thursday morning and is expected to pass just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Irma is expected to be near the Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas by Thursday evening.

Updated at 10 p.m. ET

Carving its way through the Caribbean, the monstrous Category 5 hurricane called Irma, with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph, demolished homes and killed one person on Barbuda and ripped apart structures in St. Martin as it headed westward toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne says nearly every building on the country’s island of Barbuda had been damaged after the storm hit early Wednesday. He estimates 60 percent of the inhabitants are homeless. He says a 2-year-old child was killed.

“It is just really a horrendous situation,” he said after returning from an aerial inspection. He said roads and telecommunications systems have been destroyed, according to The Associated Press.

Earlier, referring to the country’s other island of Antigua, Browne posted a message of relief to his Facebook page.

“Thank God for his mercies and blessings. He has protected and spared us from the worst of Irma. Thank God that there are no … hurricane casualties reported to this time,” he wrote.

In a subsequent statement, Browne said: “The forecast was that Antigua would be devastated, our infrastructure demolished, people killed and our economy destroyed. In the light of day, the picture is very different.”

St. Martin/Sint Marteen, Anguilla, St. Barts

Video footage coming in from the half-French, half-Dutch island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten has painted a much different picture. One video, apparently shot from a second-story balcony, showed dozens of yachts smashed against a marina bulkhead and several feet of water inundating parked cars.

Dutch Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk says he believes the level of destruction on the island is “enormous.”

Speaking to reporters in The Hague, Netherlands, Plasterk said the damage on the island “is so major that we don’t yet have a full picture, also because contact is difficult at the moment.”

The hurricane was so strong as it passed that it registered on a St. Martin seismometer that is designed to record earthquakes.

The islands of the eastern Caribbean are geographically varied — some such as Anguilla are flat and low-lying, while others such as Hispaniola are mountainous. Thus, they are likely to fare differently in the storm. But perhaps even more important is which side of the storm’s path they fall on, with those along the leading northwestern side of Irma likely to get the brunt of its fierce winds. Islands to the south of its path should experience less severe winds but could still be subject to massive rainfall.

Directly southeast of St. Martin, video posted to social media from another French island, St. Barthelemy, also known as St. Barts, showed a river of water and floating debris running through a street.

In Paris, the French government said that it had delivered water and food to both St. Martin and St. Barts and that emergency response teams were being dispatched. Power was reportedly out on both islands, but no casualties were immediately reported. The British government said it would dispatch a Royal Navy Britain ship with humanitarian assistance to the region.

French President Emmanuel Macron says “the toll will be harsh and cruel” on St. Martin and St. Barts and that “material damage on both islands is considerable.”

The Netherlands’ Ambassador to the United Nations Karel van Oosterom said in addition to Sint Marteen, the islands of Sint Eustatius and Saba were also affected. “First information indicates that a lot of damage has been done but communication is still extremely difficult,” he said, according to AP.

Virgin Islands

Irma raked the British Virgin Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on its way to a likely landfall in Florida later this week or early next week, forecasters say. As of Wednesday afternoon, the storm had passed over the British Virgin Islands, with gusts of nearly 90 mph and offshore waves of 30 feet.

The Associated Press interviewed Laura Strickling, a resident of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, who said she and her family spent 12 hours waiting out the storm in a boarded-up apartment with no electricity.

“They emerged to find the lush island in tatters, with many of their neighbors’ homes damaged and the once-dense vegetation largely gone.

“There are no leaves. It is crazy. One of the things we loved about St. Thomas is that it was so green. And it’s gone,” said Strickling, who moved to the island with her husband three years ago from Washington, D.C. “It will take years for this community to get back on its feet.”

Puerto Rico

By evening, the storm was passing to the north of Puerto Rico, and the island’s emergency management agency said hundreds of thousands of residents were without power and tens of thousands without water.

Ricardo Rosselló, the governor of the island of some 3.4 million people, had urged residents to seek shelter in one of the island’s more than 450 hurricane shelters.

Lauren Weisenthal, 38, a transplanted New Yorker who moved to San Juan just six months ago, tells NPR that she and her husband, Brian, two dogs and a cat are situated high up on the bluffs surrounding the old city.

“We feel as prepared as we can be,” Weisenthal said. “We are in a house that is 100 years old; it weathered Hurricane Hugo [in 1989] and we’re feeling confident.”

But, she says, people in other parts of the city and in rural areas prone to flooding are more nervous.

“Those living closer to the water are definitely more anxious, especially older people who have been through this before,” she says.

Of most concern is the power situation, Weisenthal tells NPR. “We are concerned about that, but because we are in the old city, the center of government and tourism, we might get power back before the rest of the city.”

“But we talk to people in some rural areas that are expecting electricity to be out for months,” she says.

Loren Ann Mayo, an American tourist on the French island of Guadeloupe, just south of Irma’s path, told CNN earlier that she was sheltering from the storm in the bathroom of her hotel room.

“The balcony snapped and is now hanging on by one little piece of wire,” Mayo said.

Most of The World Could Be 100% Powered With Renewables by 2050

Almost three quarters of the world’s countries could be powered entirely by renewable energy sources by 2050 – if we want it badly enough, that is.

That’s according to an ambitious new 2050 roadmap that calculates a move to an emissions-free future would create millions of jobs, cut trillions in health and climate costs, and help save the planet from global warming.

The estimates, produced by a team of almost 30 scientists, are based on an assessment of the capabilities of 139 countries to transition to 100 percent wind, water, and solar power in the next three and a bit decades.

While such a far-reaching overhaul of existing energy infrastructure goes beyond what the UN’s Paris climate agreement (COP21) actually calls for, the researchers say there are compelling reasons for going all in sooner rather than later.

“Our findings suggest that the benefits are so great that we should accelerate the transition to wind, water, and solar, as fast as possible,” says one of the team, Mark Delucchi from the University of California, Berkeley, “by retiring fossil-fuel systems early wherever we can.”

That’s because doing so wouldn’t just create new jobs in renewables – a net increase of more than 24 million full-time positions is anticipated – it would also make us healthier sooner, with less fossil fuel emissions polluting the atmosphere.

The team says that reduction alone could cut deaths due to air pollution by as much as 4.6 million premature fatalities annually.

But perhaps even more importantly in the long run, making the switch could lock in COP21’s goal of keeping the rise in global temperatures to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The research, which in an earlier form was initially presented to world leaders at COP21 in 2015, builds upon a previous US-only roadmap that showed how the 50 US states could make the same kind of renewables transition by 2050.

Both studies were spearheaded by Stanford University’s Mark Z. Jacobson – a co-founder of US non-profit The Solutions Project.

[youtube id=”UiBMklgawDA” width=”600″ height=”350″]

“What I find most exciting about the results of this study is that every country that we examined has sufficient resources to power itself,” he told Charles Q. Choi at IEEE Spectrum.

“[A]lthough in the case of a couple of tiny countries with very high populations, this might require either importing energy from their neighbor or using an unusually high amount of offshore energy.”

That’s because larger countries with more landmass respective to the size of their populations enjoy greater flexibility in finding appropriate sites for solar, wind, and hydropower facilities.

While the 139-country roadmap has been a massive undertaking, the team don’t intend to stop there.

“We are next developing roadmaps for individual cities to go to 100 percent clean, renewable energy,” Jacobson said.

While thousands of the world’s cities are already doing an amazing job of independently crushing their carbon emission targets, more localized and granular roadmaps could only help the world to go emissions-free.

As awesome as the rapid uptake of renewables has been in recent times, from where we stand right now we’ve still got a long way to go to get to 100 percent – but we’ve got a roadmap, people, and we know which way to head.

The findings are reported in Joule.