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Failing Dam in Puerto Rico, Endangering 70,000, A Reminder that Climate Denialism Kills


Failing Dam in Puerto Rico, Endangering 70,000, A Reminder that Climate Denialism Kills

Juan Cole

President Trump, notoriously, tweeted that climate change is a Chinese hoax.

Some 70,000 US citizens in Puerto Rico living along the Guajataca River are in danger as a dam in the vicinity is failing. Built in the 1920s, the earthen dam faces a drainage problem in the midst of the downpours visited on the island, which have abruptly filled it up and put unbearable pressure on the walls.


A reminder that along with climate chaos will also come unexpected local catastrophes like a failed dam in Puerto Rico or flooded chemical plants in Houston . Superfund toxic waste sites and nuclear waste containment ponds etc may be expected to weather the typical storm maximums but then Houston never expected the rain to exceed those maximums.

Will this kind of storm season happen next year and every year from now on since ocean waters have been warmed and will not be getting any cooler in the future?

Then again as the oceans continue to warm will these storms get even bigger and bigger?


Kudos to professor Cole for his tireless activism, writings, integrity and moral compass!
I would we had many more voices and wisdom like his making policy for a sustainable and healthy future!


We don’t need reminders and/or lessons. We need to ACT whenever and wherever we are able to organize to build power to work for nonviolent revolutionary change.


One also might wonder how much maintenance the dam has over the past 90 plus years???


To the US government, Puerto Rico is not country, it’s just property. And the US is not even a responsible steward of its property. Watch official contempt of Puerto Ricans rise to levels exceeding even the victimization of New Orleans after Katrina. It’s time for Puerto Ricans to revolt.


Wereflea Its not so much that Houston did not expect the rainfall to exceed those maximums as it is that our current estimates of 1,000 year, 500 year, and 100 year floods may need to be adjusted to account for changes in atmospheric conditions as affected by climate change and other potential factors. Keep in mind that temperature is not what made hurricane Harvey so dangerous. The hurricane was repelled from traveling north as it hit Port Arthur and Rockport Texas, because of two high pressure systems located to the west and east of Texas. The exact location and timing of this event is not caused by surface temperature in fact its caused by atmospheric temperature. There is no conclusive report that climate change caused these high pressure systems to occur in a particular period.

If you followed the storm, you would recognize the rainfall was significant within 24 hours, but the main damage came because there were multiple days of consistent rainfall caused by the inability for the hurricane to run northward as it was repelled by high pressure systems. Of the other significant hurricanes we experienced this year, this phenomenon never occurred again. In fact this phenomenon has rarely ever occurred in weather history, so to suggest that is there going to be a trend of occurrence just doesn’t make any sense.

We probably do need to adjust our probabilities, but what happened at hurricane Harvey is not a great data point for what we can expect in the future in terms of consistent rainfall over a particular area in through a particular time.


Great post! While the specific conditions that created the high pressure ‘holding pattern’ that kept the storm from moving on like normal were anomalistic as opposed to their being the result of climate change (at least that we can prove) the ferocity of the storm is something else again. I reassert that the warmed ocean waters will continue to add energy to future storms and increase the amount of moisture that they will precipitate. More powerful storms with increased rainfall as the norm.

While the theoretical in science is in part exploratory and speculative, the practice of science is by definition driven to prove concretely what are basically incontrovertible facts. We then use these facts to prove other facts and processes which are then added to the species sum of knowledge. Therein lies the rub! How do we define a fact? Worse how do we prove a fact is incontrovertible rather than being merely consistent with a side helping of anomalies? Even worse than that is that we must use language (a limited and often unwieldy tool) to describe those facts in specific detail. We do a good job … well sort of!

Humans love comparative estimates based on context while science defines everything with specifics including their overall context. Language is the question - How hot is hot? The answer doesn’t exist except in context. The sun is hot if space is cold. Yadda yadda. Prove each statement first before using them.

‘In long’ (we say ‘in short’ when it is short …ahem!) … The oceans were warmer and will stay warm. That adds more energy to the equation. Adding anything creates cause and effect. Some would say that this added warmth cannot be proven as a result of climate change.

In short… who are they kidding!

The question that should be asked but never is concerning climate change is >>> Can climate still remain the same when we change the factors that create climate?

They say ‘you can’t prove that climate change is caused by human activity’ whereas the real question is …that given the scale and scope of human activity how could you even try to prove that it has no effect on climate? Oddly enough we have no trouble defining the heat island effect for large cities. How many people are 7 1/2 billions in terms of carbon produced? How could such an immense amount of carbon added to the atmosphere have no effect on climate?

How warm are the oceans?

Ans. Too warm for storms to remain like they used to be.

Hint: Consider the monsoons that flooded SE Asia notably Bengaladesh. Warm oceans.


Sadly though if the Puerto Ricans do revolt they might find themselves on the receiving end of a genocide. The U.S. has proven now they are willing to brag about such potential actions to the world.


Puerto Ricans voted against independence.


From Wikipedia:

On November 6, 2012, a two-question referendum took place, simultaneous with the general elections. The first question asked voters whether they wanted to maintain the current status under the territorial clause of the U.S. Constitution. The second question posed three alternate status options if the first question was approved: statehood, independence or free association. For the first question, 54 percent voted against the current Commonwealth status. For the second question, 61.16% voted for statehood, 33.34% for a sovereign free associated state, and 5.49% for independence.

The majority - which disapproved of their current colonial status in this vote - will grow, especially after the official contempt and vast suffering we’re beginning to hear of. The reality will sink in that statehood would never be an option in racist America. “Sovereign free associated state” is thought of and promoted as a kind of independence, in the sense that Canada and Australia are independent of Great Britain.

The gross oversimplification you repeat is common in the imperial media. It serves the interests of empire.


Thanks for the astute and on-point comment. Most folks don’t have a clue about the nature or practice of critical and analytical reasoning.


Weather history is entering a new era resulting from global warming. Extreme weather events may become the “New Normal”. We have continued polluting the atmosphere with CO2 and the price will be high.


You cite a questionable vote in 2012. Yet the vote held this year 2017 was 97% in favor of statehood not independence. Why do you attempt to deceive people with troll like behavior?

People should go to Wikipedia and see for themselves.


Except that no one made such a statement. The info was about the warmed ocean waters adding energy and moisture to future storms not that all storms to hit Houston will behave like this one.

Secondly additional info was presented by pointing out that concurrent with this storm were the similar ‘heavy rains’ monsoon storms in SE Asia.


I agree, people should consult numerous sources for themselves, which convey that many were skeptical of both of these ballot measures (particularly the 2017 vote, which spurred boycott calls) because of their completely non-binding nature.

Personally, I can’t imagine statehood as a practical possibility. Ain’t gonna happen these days, for the same reason it hasn’t happened yet, only more so. I wish it could. But here’s a thought experiment for you:

Suppose Puerto Ricans were given the opportunity to demand statehood in a binding referendum - something like “if statehood cannot be attained in 10 years, Puerto Rico’s government is obligated to declare its sovereignty under international law.” Do you think that referendum would also get 97% approval?


You phony. You were caught deceiving and corrected and now you want to pretend like you weren’t? Yeah right. Go away troll.


You refuse to speak to the issue of whether Puerto Ricans should be given a genuine option to choose sovereignty, preferring to resort to name-calling (when there’s absolutely nothing deceptive in anything I’ve written here, and you know it). You thus trivialize the rights of Puerto Ricans, just as you previously trivialized concern for Palestinian rights as “nit-picking.”

My belief is that you’re too young to realize how you’re unintentionally serving empire with these trivial flames, and that eventually you’ll learn.


You tried to deceive and manipulate people with falsehood. You even sought to cloak it in an unjustifiable faux accuracy by mentioning Wikipedia. That was a low blow and cynical to the max. You want to skip over what you tried to do Troll and pretend I commented on an issue. I commented only on your falsehood and deceit. Your posts should not be trusted by CD readers.


Regardless of the context, I was not directing my comment at your response. For sure, though you are not perfect, your analytical and critical reasoning faculties are indeed relatively superior, as well as the length and breadth of your knowledge, generally and specifically.