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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NYC’s Plan to Prepare for the Impacts of Climate Change. Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks on the city’s long term plan to further prepare for the impacts of climate change at the Duggal Greenhouse

Bonus: Some pretty sweet NYC accents.

In his 1992 book “Earth in the Balance,” Gore compared talk of adapting to climate change to laziness that would distract from necessary efforts.

But in his 2013 book “The Future,” Gore writes bluntly: “I was wrong.” He talks about how coping with rising seas and temperatures is just as important as trying to prevent global warming by cutting emissions.

Like Gore, governmental officials across the globe aren’t saying everyone should just give up on efforts to reduce pollution. They’re saying that as they work on curbing carbon, they also have to deal with a reality that’s already here.

Other states are hiding this data from the public (glaring at you, North Carolina).

Disasters make for sexy headlines, but the real stories are in the clean up. Also, often times politicians use disasters to push through tough land-use regulations (such as no-rebuild zones or requiring homes on stilts) after a big storm. These regulations would get little-to-no support without a big storm or disaster. 

Stephen Flynn is one of America’s foremost experts on cities, disasters, and security. Here, Bloomberg News interviewed Flynn outside and near the Boston Marathon bombing. His answers about how the city will cope is incredibly surprising as he launches into an easy to understand overview of resilience thinking in city planning. A must watch for my readers interested in resilience and cities.

Wants to include climate change risks in environmental permits. When you build something, such a house or store, you typically need a permit (or three) from the local or state government. Bigger projects require federal approval, such as an oil pipeline or a rail line. So, the larger the project, the more information the government requires as part of those permits.

In order to get a permit, you need to conduct some studies and write a few reports, typically these include an economic feasibility and an environmental impact statement. For federal permits, these studies are made public. This “public comment period” gives everyone, including other businesses, a chance to voice their opinions on the project.

Now, Obama wants to change the rules. He is proposing that the federal permit process should include risks and impacts from climate change. These climate risks will be part of the environmental impact statement.

Businesses do not like permits - but not for the reasons you’d expect. It’s very expensive to conduct the required economic and environmental studies. Businesses have to hire specialists just for these permits. Often, these studies delay projects, which makes the projects more expensive to build.

The biggest complaint is that rules are inconsistent - they’re difficult to comply with, unclear in their intent, guidelines are always changing, and (worst of all) they’re unevenly enforced. Sometimes a politician will intervene - essentially subverting the law. Political intervention creates an atmosphere of unfairness and favoritism (but, that is discussion for another post).

In the permitting world, lawsuits abound. And lawsuits compound the costs of building and it generally pisses off a lot of people.

So, when you hear complaints that “environmental permits hurts jobs” it’s not that the developer hates the environment, it’s that the rules are a convoluted, expensive mess. It’s also a clever way for politicians to dismantle environmental regulations because, after all, the rules “hurt jobs” - a line that resonates with the voting public.

Thus, from the perspective of business, Obama’s proposal to increase the rules for environmental permits has businesses - and the politicians that they’ve bought - shaking in their boots.

Queue a big political fight on this one.

President Barack Obama is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways.

The result could be significant delays for natural gas- export facilities, ports for coal sales to Asia, and even new forest roads, industry lobbyists warn.

It’s got us very freaked out,” said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based group that represents 11,000 companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Southern Co. (SO) The standards, which constitute guidance for agencies and not new regulations, are set to be issued in the coming weeks, according to lawyers briefed by administration officials.

In taking the step, Obama would be fulfilling a vow to act alone in the face of a Republican-run House of Representatives unwilling to pass measures limiting greenhouse gases. He’d expand the scope of a Nixon-era law that was first intended to force agencies to assess the effect of projects on air, water and soil pollution.

“If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama said last month during his State of the Union address. He pledged executive actions “to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

Via the excellent Bloomberg.com

Two financial deals that kept the National Football League playing in the Superdome, allowing New Orleans to host a 10th Super Bowl, were expensive for taxpayers and enriched Saints owner Tom Benson, said former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco.

Taxpayers have spent at least $471 million on the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina, allowing a state reeling from the nation’s most-expensive natural disaster to keep its pro sports teams and rebuild a part of downtown destroyed by the 2005 storm. Benson, meanwhile, is worth $1.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, after acquiring the National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Hornets, a 26-story office tower that houses state agencies and a mall next to the stadium.
Let me be clear,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “We are not going to abandon the waterfront. We are not going to leave the Rockaways or Coney Island or Staten Island’s South Shore.” But he added that the city “cannot just rebuild what was there and hope for the best.” “We have to build smarter and stronger and more sustainable,” he added, while conceding that the city had yet “to determine exactly what that means.
NYC Mayor Bloomberg vows to put more people in harm’s way.

azipaybarah:

A deputy mayor calls storm barriers ‘financeable,’ in a discussion on keeping the city above water next time | Capital New York

Should NYC build a storm barrier to protect the city?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg isn’t too keen on a multibillion-dollar proposal to build tidal barriers to protect the city’s low-lying regions, a measure supporters say would mitigate the impact of future superstorms on New York City’s lower-lying neighborhoods.

"Even if you spent a fortune, it’s not clear to me that you would get much value from it," the mayor told reporters at City Hall in the days right after the storm. He’s scheduled to deliver an infrastructure speech tomorrow.

But one top member of his administration doesn’t think it’s so outlandish. Monday night at Joe’s Pub, in a panel discussion put on by The New Yorker, New York City deputy mayor for operations Cas Holloway said that barriers could be an important part of the city’s disaster-mitigation infrastructure.

New York City experienced $6 billion in lost economic activity as a result of Sandy, he said. The city, he said, is well aware of the need for a practicable safeguarding strategy to avoid such a catastrophe in the future. And though a barrier is not the only possible solution, nor necessarily the best one to guard against natural disasters, Holloway said it wasn’t out of the question.

"At the end of the day, if people decide this is what has to be done, it’s financeable," he said.

The New Yorker editor was leading the panel discussion on climate change, “Gathering Storms,” as part of the magazine’s Big Story series.

What is the absolute worst thing that could happen right now?" he asked the panelists at one point in the discussion.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Remnick’s question might seem a bit late in coming, but that was also the point. The panel was trying to get a handle on natural-disaster mitigation with the assumption that, despite everything, we haven’t seen the worst yet.

Good read by Grace Bello of Capital New York

Imagine for every dollar you earn, 60 cents is thrown away. Literally wasted for no reason. Now imagine for every pound of coal burned to make electricity, 60 percent of that electricity is unused, literally burned for no reason. That’s America’s energy system in nutshell, a crazed succubus that has captured our politicians. Most climate activists think we can free ourselves from the succubus. I’m not so sure… 

datavis:

U.S. Energy: Where It’s From, Where It Goes, and What’s Wasted

President Obama approves plans to build a natural gas pipeline through an environmentally sensitive National Park in coastal Brooklyn. To be clear, there are millions of miles of gas lines in the U.S. So, a new line normally doesn’t make news. However, this pipeline is special. It will slice through a piece of a National Park called the Gateway National Park. Only the president has the authority to change what happens in our National Parks.

Thus, he signed a bill called the New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act. The bill was sponsored by a Republican congressman back in February. It would have died if it weren’t for Hurricane Sandy, which provides Obama with, in my opinion, enough cover to fend off environmentalists and lawsuits. After all, it helps provide much needed “clean energy” for New York City according to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the bill’s sponsors.

CBS reports:

The New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act authorizes Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to issue permits to build and maintain the pipeline, which is aimed at boosting access to natural gas in the region.

The three-mile pipeline would run from the Atlantic Ocean beneath Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways and under Jamaica Bay to Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field.

Some area residents and environmental activists have voiced safety and planning concerns about the project.

Republican Rep. Michael Grimm, who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, applauded the approval of the measure.

Grimm said the pipeline could bring as much as $265 million in revenue and create about 300 construction jobs.

In a statement, Grimm called the project an important economic boost to the region in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

The current pipeline system serving Brooklyn and Queens was built 40 to 60 years ago and can no longer meet current demand, Grimm said.

The new measure will allow for a new pipeline to be built off the existing Williams pipeline that currently brings natural gas from New Jersey to Long Island.

According to Grimm, the planned route will avoid residential, commercial and environmentally sensitive areas.

The measure was sponsored by Grimm and introduced with Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) and Robert Turner (R-Brooklyn/Queens).

Via

But even as city officials earn high marks for environmental awareness, critics say New York is moving too slowly to address the potential for flooding that could paralyze transportation, cripple the low-lying financial district and temporarily drive hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

Only a year ago, they point out, the city shut down the subway system and ordered the evacuation of 370,000 people as Hurricane Irene barreled up the Atlantic coast. Ultimately, the hurricane weakened to a tropical storm and spared the city, but it exposed how New York is years away from — and billions of dollars short of — armoring itself.

“They lack a sense of urgency about this,” said Douglas Hill, an engineer with the Storm Surge Research Group at Stony Brook University, on Long Island.

Yet again, excellent climate-impact coverage from Bloomberg. I find that Bloomberg journalists skillfully weave economic impacts from climate change. They make their points come alive by highlighting both the economic and environmental impacts that a particular person or community is dealing with. This piece zooms in on corn farmers in Kansas adapting to a new climate reality, then zooms out to discuss the regional impacts of adapting new crops. Good stuff!

Shifts such as these reflect a view among food producers that this summer’s drought in the U.S. — the worst in half a century — isn’t a random disaster. It’s a glimpse of a future altered by climate change that will affect worldwide production.

“These changes are happening faster than plants can adapt, so we will see substantial impacts on global growing patterns,” said Axel Schmidt, a former senior scientist for the International Center for Tropical Agriculture now with Catholic Relief Services.

While there is still debate about how human activity is altering the climate, agriculture is already adapting to shifting weather patterns…

Climate change will probably push corn-growing regions north while making alternatives to the grain more important elsewhere, said John Soper, the vice president of crop genetics research and development for Pioneer, the seed division of DuPont Co. The company’s researchers anticipate more corn in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, traditional Canadian wheat-growing areas, while sorghum and sunflowers may experience a revival in Kansas as rainfall declines and irrigation becomes less practical, he said.

Better Seeds

The company is developing new varieties of corn, both in traditional hybrid and genetically modified seeds, while boosting research in sorghum and other crops that don’t need irrigation in areas where they’re expected to make a comeback, he said.

Still, fighting drought with better seeds and new trade sources only mitigates the effects of climate change, said Roger Beachy, the first head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture and now a plant biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis. New crops — and new markets for those crops — will be needed to ease what will be a wrenching transition for some farmers and consumers, he said.

Read the rest at Bloomberg

Poaching and illegal trade of endangered animals worth $6 to 8$ billion, and expected to rise as China’s economy continues to advance. This report by Bloomberg eludes to ‘research tiger farms’ are actually cover for a trading infrastructure of illegal tiger parts.