I don't think anyone would expect you to work on both adaptation and mitigation, I don't think that's what the last question was about. It just seems like sometimes you dismiss mitigation as something stupid and useless, which is probably why you're getting a few of these questions. That's probably what some people would like to see addressed; I would.
I’ve been asked variants of this question hundreds of times over the four years I’ve run this tumblr. At this point, I’m moving on from these discussions and I kindly refer readers to the archives.
I also kindly invite mitigation folks to deeply reflect on Kevin Anderson’s work on the realities of emissions, as well as the rhetorical emissions scenarios that politicians and many scientists have bought into. Anderson is the director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, a primary source for the world’s climate science.
Hi I really liked your post about what to do with a masters in urban planning. Currently I'm getting my undergad in sociology with honors but I want to get a Masters of Urban Planning or Urban Studies. There are a lot of different schools offering such programs in the US, how do I choose which is right for me?
Depends on your point of view - are you into theory or developing your career? If you are into developing your career, think of a masters degree as an apprenticeship. Look for schools that offer real world experience - ones that offer you a graduate assistantships or good internships that will place you in a some sort of development office - a city or town’s planning department, economic development office, historic planning association etc.
Once there, work very hard and cleverly to get onto any project in addition to your assigned tasks. For example, if you are assigned to work on updating GIS data (a cauldron of terrible doom, btw), ask to edit the latest economic development report, ask to take pictures of easements, request to take minutes at planning board meetings (you should show up anyway). These experiences will be invaluable later on (you’ll also be ahead of your cohort).
Hi! You posted a question in which another user asked about vegetarianism and your response was that you are more into climate adoption rather than mitigation. Do you think that in order to "punch" climate change in the face, adaption alone wouldn't "knock out" punch to climate change, but rather it has a combination of both? It seems kind of strange to say because it would allow for arguments for driving non-fuel efficient cars, not-recycling, etc.
Clever, but this is like asking me to be an engineer in addition to being a surgeon. I choose to work on adaptation and I love my work. I work with governments and people in over 30 countries - and I witness improvements in many people’s lives. I’m interested in deepening my expertise, not thinning them out.
This is what I do, from my current CV:
Mr. Michael E. Cote is an international climate adaptation specialist with 12 years’ experience specializing in urban planning, program management, and institutional capacity building. He focuses on managing teams that develop capacity for effective programming and efficient use of climate adaptation techniques and technologies. Mr. Cote has worked with governments, NGOs, universities, and the private sector in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and South Asia to create, implement, and build capacity for uptake of modern adaptation mechanisms.
For USAID’s GCC office, Mr. Cote manages the $2.1M High Mountain Adaptation Partnership (HiMAP) program, which has attracted climate adaption planning buy-ins from Peru’s Ministry of Environment, Government of Nepal, and the UNDP. He is the Technical Lead for the $650K urban planning technology project called CIMPACT-DST in Vietnam. CIMPACT-DST is a climate adaptation decision making software tool for use by urban planners that a) increases capacity to understand climate impacts and b) aims to lower climate and economic risks to planning and development goals. Mr. Cote also serves as Director of Communications for the overall CCRD contract, managing a team of environmental writers, editors, designers, and videographers.
Mr. Cote has published over 25 technical publications, journal articles, and reports on the laws and policies of climate adaptation, sustainable land use planning, and institutional capacity building. He is currently an editor for The International Journal of Climate Change, member of USAID/GCC’s National Adaptation Plan working group, and was Expert Reviewer on the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Working Group II. He is Engility’s focal point to the UNFCCC Nairobi Work Programme on impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation to climate change.
This is a lot of work. It’s difficult and tiring. And I’ve chosen to focus on getting better at it.
Hello! I'm a student in Washington, and I'm on my way to get a bachelors in urban planning. After that I'll probably go for a Masters. I was wondering though, as someone that has a degree in city planning, what kind of jobs do people end up with that aren't just city planners? When people talk about getting a city planning degree, they only talk about becoming city planners. Are there any other options?
Such an interesting question - what are alternative careers other than “urban planning” with an urban planning degree? There are a lot of options. It depends on your interests and your focus area. During my urban planning education at UMass-Amherst, I studied adaptation of coastal cities. But, I gained a lot of real world skills from graduate assistantships and volunteering - survey design (learn this!), historic preservation, economic growth, eminent domain, city park protection, water infrastructure, even apple orchard design, (don’t go into GIS, btw). From there, I became a specialist in adaptation and now I work around the world (OK, it’s not that easy, but I apply what I learned in grad school on a daily basis).
How about fighting wildfires in National Parks?
Work with game reserves in Africa and South Asia to protect rhinos, big cats, and elephants.
Drop your ethics, sell your soul to the devil and become a real estate developer. You’ll make a ton of money.
Or, double down on your ethics and go into international development. Help other countries build good communities.
What about historic preservation? Do homes, monuments, buildings, places, etc., need to be preserved for history?
There are tonnnnns of options for urban planners. I recommend, for your masters, that you latch on to an adviser that has very interesting ideas and projects in the real world. Avoid theorists (unless you want to teach). Protip: get as many graduate assistantships as you can with various city departments - then call them “consultancies” on your resume - you’ll blow your competition away come job hunting time. Oh, and apply for jobs 6 months ahead of your cohort (trust me on this, your cohort will turn on you come graduation and are vicious competitors for the same jobs you’ll be applying to.).
Climate change is among the factors Defense Department officials consider in protect national security around the globe, a senior DOD official recently told a Senate panel.
Daniel Y. Chiu, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee May 21.
Chiu said while DOD plans for contingencies and unexpected developments to protect the nation’s security, climate change can create sea-level rise, storm surge, shifting climate zones and more severe weather conditions that can affect operations. And while some of those conditions have affected military installations, he said, such changes can also have a negative impact on other DOD concerns.
“We are also seeing the potential for decreased capacity of DOD properties to support training, as well as implications for supply chains, equipment, vehicles and weapon systems that the department buys,” he explained.
Even while infrastructures are being adapted to climate change threats, DOD also is conducting a baseline study to determine which infrastructure elements are most vulnerable to extreme weather events and sea-level increases, he said, adding that the study is due for completion late this year.
Climate change effects potentially could alter, limit or constrain environments where troops operate, Chiu said, using sea-level increases as an example of an impact on amphibious operations.
Chiu states the US Dept. of Defense’s infrastructure is underprepared and vulnerable to climate impacts. Calls for more adaptation measures.
I was wondering if you had any opinions/information on California's Proposition 1, or knew of any good resources about the environmental impacts of of a yes/no vote. I'm trying to make and informed decision before the election. Thanks!
I’m embarrassed to say I’m not connected to this issue. Is it reactionary?
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who is second in command over the US Military (Obama is first) announced Department of Defense Climate Adaptation Roadmap. The plan aims to plan for climate impacts on US military assets and operations, and collaborates with other nations to further adapt. Some highlights:
Build natural infrastructure to protect bases
Strengthen supply chains vulnerable to climate impacts
Prepare forces for changing environmental conditions
Assess assets for vulnerabilities
It is in this context that today I am releasing DoD’s Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap. Climate change is a long-term trend, but with wise planning and risk mitigation now, we can reduce adverse impacts downrange.
Our first step in planning for these challenges is to identify the effects of climate change on the Department with tangible and specific metrics, using the best available science. We are almost done with a baseline survey to assess the vulnerability of our military’s more than 7,000 bases, installations, and other facilities. In places like the Hampton Roads region in Virginia, which houses the largest concentration of U.S. military sites in the world, we see recurrent flooding today, and we are beginning work to address a projected sea-level rise of 1.5 feet over the next 20 to 50 years.
Drawing on these assessments, we are integrating climate change considerations into our plans, operations, and training across the Department so that we can manage associated risks. We are considering the impacts of climate change in our war games and defense planning scenarios, and are working with our Combatant Commands to address impacts in their areas of responsibility.
At home, we are studying the implications of increased demand for our National Guard in the aftermath of extreme weather events. We are also assessing impacts on our global operations – for instance, how climate change may factor into our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. Last year, I released the Department of Defense’s Arctic Strategy, which addresses the potential security implications of increased human activity in the Arctic – a consequence of rapidly melting sea ice.
We are also collaborating with relevant partners on climate change challenges. Domestically, this means working across our federal and local agencies and institutions to develop a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to a challenge that reaches across traditional portfolios and jurisdictions. Within the U.S. government, DoD stands ready to support other agencies that will take the lead in preparing for these challenges – such as the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
We must also work with other nations to share tools for assessing and managing climate change impacts, and help build their capacity to respond. Climate change is a global problem. Its impacts do not respect national borders. No nation can deal with it alone. Today, I am meeting in Peru with Western Hemisphere defense ministers to discuss how we can work together to build joint capabilities to deal with these emerging threats.
Under threat from rising sea levels and tsunamis, the authorities of a provincial capital in the Solomon Islands have decided to relocate from a small island in the first such case in the Pacific islands.
Choiseul, a township of around 1,000 people on Taro Island, a coral atoll in Choiseul Bay, is less than two meters (6.6 feet) above sea level. Its vulnerability to storm surges and tsunamis caused by earthquakes is expected to be compounded in the future by rising seas.
Aware of these risks, communities in Choiseul Bay consulted a team of engineers, scientists and planners, funded by the Australian government, on how best to adapt to the impact of climate change.
It was decided they would take disaster prevention measures in the short term but also build a new town on an adjacent mainland where the population will be moved in stages.
"The project followed the ways of our traditions – talking with people, listening to people and reflecting the desires of the people," Jackson Kiloe, premier of Choiseul Province, said in a statement on Friday.
Philip Haines, project manager for BMT WBM, an international consultancy that worked on the strategy, said relocation was the only option that would keep the community safe but it would take “many decades” to complete.
Land to build a new, larger settlement catering for some 5,000 inhabitants has already been acquired, Haines said.
Interesting coverage of the first people to be moved from their homes at a large scale due to climate change.
Precise predictions of how high sea level will rise in the coming decades are difficult to make, and as a result forecasts vary significantly. This makes it tough for urban planners who need to know what to prepare for and when those plans need to be in place.
To get a prediction his city planners could use, Bloomberg gathered a group of scientists together in 2008 to predict the local sea level rise for the coming years. Their estimates had a mid-range prediction of 11 – 24 inches by the 2050s. They did not predict beyond the 2050s, a key issue they plan to address in their next report and that we will return to later.
New York City was in the process of planning for sea level rise when Sandy hit in October 2012. If the city did not have reason to prepare for sea level rise before Sandy, it sure did afterwards. Sandy, a “1-in-70 year storm” with its 9-foot storm surge flooded 17 percent of the city, impacting 443,000 people and 88,700 buildings. It caused $19 billion in damage to the city alone.
Swiss RE, a re-insurance company, estimated that if nothing is done to protect against sea level rise, a similar 1-in-70 year storm would cause $90 billion in damage to the city by the 2050s.
Hi, I'm doing a dissertation on whether biomimicry is more of a help or a hindrance to architecture. I read your post about it, and just want to know whether you have any examples of where biomimicry has completely failed architecture? You listed Frank Gehry as an example of failing architecture, but from what I understand, he focuses on modern styles of architecture, not incorporating biomimicry. My dissertation is leaning towards "biomimicry is helpful" and i'd like to know how it's not. tq!
I vaguely remember the post. I think it was grouchy and dismissive, and pointed to Gehry’s many leaky roofs and probably velcro.
Gehry’s buildings are frequently cited as examples of biomimicry in architecture journalism, green blogs, and sometimes serious literature (see here), regardless if his work meets even a loose definition.
My general issue with biomimicry is a standard, off-the-shelf criticism: it doesn’t scale up. With nearly 2 billion homes in the world, it’s unclear how a new design based on biomimic design could retro fit so many existing homes. See the problem of green roofs…
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.
“Is anybody listening? That’s the question,” said Gerald Galloway, a University of Maryland engineering research professor and one of the authors of the report. “The question is why aren’t more people listening to what’s been said about flood risk in report after report after report.”
The new report recommends a unified national vision and organizational framework for floodplain management that includes federal, state and local governments, the business community, non-profit organizations, and the public as partners.
"There’s a need to make this a not-Washington-only effort," Galloway said.
Leaders failed (and continue to fail) to address well known and documented hurricane and flood risks to New Orleans.
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.
The Army Corps of Engineers is moving to purchase grass sod to plant atop earthen levees in the New Orleans area to "armor" them from erosion if they are overtopped by hurricane storm surges, according to an agency notice to prospective sod sellers.
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.