CLIMATE ADAPTATION

I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.


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In 2005, I swam in the Southern Ocean, just off Antarctica. It was cold — very cold — when I swam over a graveyard of whale bones near an old whaling factory. As far as I could see, there were bleached white bones piled up on the seafloor. Man hunted whales almost to the point of extinction, not seeming to care that we could lose one of the wonders of the sea forever. It is the coldness of the water that preserves the bones and makes it look as if they were left there yesterday, but I like to think they are there as a reminder of man’s potential for folly.

Fortunately, in 1986 most countries ceased commercial whaling, and some whale populations have made a spectacular recovery. Whales like the Southern right were brought back from the brink of extinction. Their numbers are now increasing 7 percent year after year. If we can do it with one species, surely we can do it for entire ecosystems. We just need to give them the space to recover.

Marine protected areas, which are like national parks for the seas, are the best way to make that happen. In the Red Sea, I saw no coral and no fish. It looked like an underwater desert. But then, a little more than a mile later, I swam into a protected area, where fishing had been restricted. It was a sea as it was meant to be: rich and colorful and teeming with abundant life.

We need far more of these protected areas. They allow the habitat to recover from overfishing and pollution, which helps fish stocks recover. When we create them, we protect the coral, which protects the shoreline and provides shelter for fish. They become places people want to visit for ecotourism. They are good for the world economy, for the health of the oceans, for every person living on this planet.

This year in the Aegean I swam over tires and trash. In a few years, I hope to return, and swim over thriving coral reefs.

Swimming Through Garbage" - Lewis Pugh

theaatproject:

World population to keep growing this century, hit 11 billion by 2100

Using modern statistical tools, a new study led by the University of Washington and the United Nations finds that world population is likely to keep growing throughout the 21st century. The number of people on Earth is likely to reach 11 billion by 2100, the study concludes, about 2 billion higher than some previous estimates.

The paper published online Sept. 18 in the journal Science includes the most up-to-date estimates for future world population, as well as a new method for creating such estimates.

Scientists and climatologists are saying that it would impact natural resources directly, making some parts of the world virtually uninhabitable. This, inevitably, would result in mass movement of human tide.

Norwegian minister of foreign affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre affirmed that back in 2011 at the Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement:

Human displacement due to climate change is happening now. There is no need to debate it.”

The realisation, somehow, has not hit authorities in Pakistan, who remain in a state of denial. This, despite the reality of having witnessed a movement (albeit a slow one) of people from rural to urban centres, due in part to climate-related events which have been taking place over the last several decades.

Good read on displacement of people due to environmental impacts.

The savage heat waves that struck Australia in 2013 were almost certainly a direct consequence of the human release of greenhouse gases, researchers said Monday. It is perhaps the most definitive statement climate scientists have made that ties a specific weather event to global warming.

Five groups of researchers, using distinct methods, analyzed the heat that baked Australia for much of last year and continued into 2014, shutting down the Australian Open tennis tournament at one point in January. All five came to the conclusion that last year’s heat waves could not have been as severe without the long-term climatic warming caused by human activity.

“When we look at the heat across the whole of Australia and the whole 12 months of 2013, we can say that this was virtually impossible without climate change,” said David Karoly, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne who led one research team.

One of the most direct and definitive statements from climate scientists to date. More here.

I was shocked by what I saw in the seas, and by what I didn’t see.

I saw no sharks, no whales, no dolphins. I saw no fish longer than 11 inches. The larger ones had all been fished out.

When I swam in the Aegean, the sea floor was covered with litter; I saw tires and plastic bags, bottles, cans, shoes and clothing.

Swimming Through Garbage" - NYTimes op-ed by lawyer and world-class competitive swimmer, Lewis Pugh.

Leaders failed (and continue to fail) to address well known and documented hurricane and flood risks to New Orleans.

ilovecharts:

Next up, let’s talk about college: Women now make up the majority of college and graduate students. Nice work!

Since the mid-1990s:

  1. A greater share of young women have obtained four-year college degrees than men.
  2. The share of young women enrolled in both undergraduate and graduate study has increased.
  3. Most 18 to 34 year-old students are enrolled in undergraduate programs, and the percent enrolled in graduate school has gone way up.

Today, the share of young women enrolled in graduate school is more than 25% higher than the share of men. Learn more about how President Obama’s fighting to make college more affordable for women (and men).

Vermont Law was majority women when I enrolled in 2008.

E.g., the case for removing old dams to restore ecosystems.

At over 100 sites throughout the Connecticut River basin, the largest river system in New England, we characterized species composition, valley and channel morphology, and hydrologic regime to define conditions promoting distinct floodplain forest assemblages. Species assemblages were dominated by floodplain-associated trees on surfaces experiencing flood durations between 4.5 and 91 days/year, which were generally well below the stage of the two-year recurrence interval flood, a widely-used benchmark for floodplain restoration. These tree species rarely occurred on surfaces that flooded less than 1 day/year. By contrast abundance of most woody invasive species decreased with flooding.
Such flood-prone surfaces were jointly determined by characteristics of the hydrograph (high discharges of long duration) and topography (low gradient and reduced valley constraint), resulting in increased availability of floodplain habitat with increasing watershed area and/or decreasing stream gradient. Downstream mainstem reaches provided the most floodplain habitat, largely associated with low-energy features such as back swamps and point bars, and were dominated by silver maple (Acer saccharinum). However, we were able to identify a number of suitable sites in the upper part of the basin and in large tributaries, often associated with in-channel islands and bars and frequently dominated by sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and flood disturbance-dependent species.
Our results imply that restoring flows by modifying dam operations to benefit floodplain forests on existing surfaces need not conflict with flood protection in some regional settings.

Pretty cool engineering project in New Orleans. The journalist explains how adding sod to the top of levees will increase the capacity of the berms to retain water. (though, I though levees were generally covered in grass, so it’s a bit confusing.) Anyway, this is a good and simple example of an adaptation.

Kids debate: “sprinkling” or “raining”?

Using Executive Authority, President Obama created the world’s largest protected marine reserve in Pacific Ocean.

President Obama used his legal authority to create the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve in the central Pacific Ocean, demonstrating his increased willingness to advance a conservation agenda without the need for congressional approval.

By broadening the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument from almost 87,000 square miles to more than 490,000 square miles, Obama has protected more acres of federal land and sea by executive power than any other president in at least 50 years and makes the area off-limits to commercial fishing.

The proclamation — which Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced during an oceans meeting he convened in New York on Thursday — will mean added protections for deep-sea coral reefs and other marine ecosystems that administration officials say are among “the most vulnerable” to the negative effects of climate change. The document signed by Obama noted that the expanded area contains “significant objects of scientific interest that are part of this highly pristine deep sea and open ocean ecosystem with unique biodiversity.” WaPo

More: White House Fact Sheet

2014 Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Sixth Lowest on Record: Arctic sea ice coverage continued its below-average trend this year as the ice declined to its annual minimum. Learn more: go.nasa.gov/1wGz5bB #EarthRightNow #ActOnClimate

This cloud formation over Lincoln, Nebraska will blow your mind.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Not sure if you have already been asked this, what did you study to get the career you have today?
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hey anon,

Yes, been asked a ton, but I don’t mind.

I have masters degrees in environmental law and city planning. The focus of my research was/is how land-use laws were able (or, rather, unable) to accommodate climate science. So, naturally, I’m interested in how climate will affect infrastructure, economies, demographics, ecosystems, etc.

For example, I’m quite interested how can coastal communities deal with a rising sea. Especially cities like New York City or Lagos, which have thousands of buildings, roads, ports, and pipelines literally built inches from the ocean.

Cities are prepared for certain levels of disasters. There are sea walls and evacuation plans, flood pump stations and hurricane barriers. And buildings and infrastructure are generally built to high standards. But, cites are not prepared for higher oceans (why would they be?). Climate change changes the equations and calculations of managing disasters in cities. They’re forced to adapt, regardless of how many solar panels are slapped onto rooftops.

It’s a complicated issue. Greenhouse gasses trap in more heat in the atmosphere, causing a bunch of crazy environmental things to happen. So the obvious response is to stop pumping carbon into the air. That’s Al Gore’s primary message.

The problem with this is that storms and fires and diseases are increasing as a result from rising temperatures. Climate change is occurring regardless of mitigation. Thus, the impacts have to be dealt with. In fact, our troubles are only going to increase. I choose to be on the impacts side of this conundrum (eg, adaptation).

Some other topics:

Cheers,

Michael

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