“A WWII minesweeper exposed by the low waters of he Mississippi River near St. Louis, Mo. The vessel, swept away during the flood of 1993, was a museum ship in St. Louis and is normally underwater year-round. The Mississippi, after months of drought, is approaching the point where it may become to shallow for barges that navigate the river. (AP Photo/United States Coast Guard, Colby Buchanan)”
Via the supreme article: Drought threatens to close Mississippi to barges
After months of drought, companies that ship grain and other goods down the Mississippi River are being haunted by a potential nightmare: If water levels fall too low, the nation’s main inland waterway could become impassable to barges just as the harvest heads to market.
Any closure of the river would upend the transport system that has carried American grain since before steamboats and Mark Twain.
Solid reporting on drought impacts!
These are the type of impacts that folks like me try to help manage. There’s no perfect way to analyze or predict the effects of climate change, but there are ways to discuss the issues with the public and politicians. Mainstream articles like this support the reasoning for adapting our cities (and economies) to environmental harms. The article explores the economic and local impacts from a drought stricken Mississippi. Many, many people depend on a steady flowing river for their livelihoods.
Of course, grumpy me, I have a pretty big quibble with this piece. Ideally, the journalists would have discussed how all those financial losses they discussed are covered by insurance. I feel the article misleads, most likely by accident. Yet one has to wonder - with all that focus on shipping goods, why skip discussing safety nets?
It’s true, the goods will be re-routed by other means of transportation - train or tractor trailer. And, as the article points out, there will be unrecoverable economic losses if the Mississippi becomes impassible for a month or so.
But the journalists skipped the fact that most losses (e.g., insured losses in law are called “perils” and “general averages”) will be covered by insurance.
To me, that’s the real nut of the story. They pull some great quotes from industry execs on estimated losses. In fact, one economist is quoted as saying there could be something like “$7 billion” in losses - a scary number. I don’t think it’s true. The execs don’t mention that most of their losses are covered by insurance contracts and government subsidies, which have perils built into them. I think that’s really where they should have poked and prodded their interviewees, double checked their figures.
Why? Because, if the Mississippi becomes too unreliable for shipping, insurance companies will have little incentive to continue to insure those goods. That’s when shit hits really hits the fan. When shippers extract their goods from the Mississippi and choose to haul on land either by rail or truck. The costs to local communities that depend on these barges will be utterly devastating.
Today (Nov 27) the President signed the New York City Natural Gas Enhancement Act into law, which will finally make the construction and operation of a new natural gas pipeline in New York City a reality. Given the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, this law could not come at a more critical time for New York City. This pipeline will help us build a stable, clean-energy future for New Yorkers and will ensure the reliability of the City’s future energy needs. I would like to thank President Obama for signing this bill into law and all of the New York City delegation members who supported it, especially the sponsors – Congressman Grimm, Congressman Meeks and Senator Schumer – for their leadership in securing this victory for New York City.
-Mayor Bloomberg’s Statement on President Obama’s Signature on the New York City Natural Gas Enhancement Act (via nycgov)
I posted a map of the pipeline, here.
Streaming right now for 24 hours! 4 million are tuned in. Watch special reports on climate change from around the world via the Climate Reality Project.
Calling the uncertain future of Central Appalachian coal mining the “elephant in the room,” industry consultant Alan Stagg said he expects mining in the high-cost region to cease in the next 10 to 20 years.
“Consultant: End of Central Appalachian coal mining is near
,” By Darren Epps (via coalashchronicles
The Chinese government claims the red is from silt from a rain storm. It is more likely to be pollution from a factory.
Why has the Yangtze River Turned Red?
A stretch of China’s mighty Yangtze River, near the city of Chongqing, has turned an alarming shade of red…
Indeed, on 7 September the Chongqing Environmental Protection Agency noted on its website that a water-quality monitoring centre on the Yangtze had detected very high concentrations of silt in the river. The agency says that torrential rain in the upper Sichuan province caused huge amounts of silt to wash into the Yangtze. It also says that the water does not contain hazardous or noxious substances.
Scientists interviewed by Nature say that it is unlikely, although not impossible, that the colouring is a result of an algal bloom. Sudden growths of algae, fed by fertilizer run-off (a process known as eutrophication), can sometimes produce blooms of brownish diatom algae in rivers, says Sergi Sabater, a limnologist at the Catalan Institute of Water Research in Spain, who carries out research in river ecology. Such ‘red tides’ of algae are sometimes observed in warm, shallow and nutrient-rich seas.
Read the rest at Nature
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Another thing Obama is not talking about: aging U.S. infrastructure, despite signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, in 2009. Over $100 billion went to helping fix some of America’s falling-apart infrastructure. These project helped cities update their roads and bridges. The ARRA also helped boost employment in the construction sector.
Once considered extreme, “new normal” weather is accelerating the life-spans of U.S. infrastructure. Weather really messes with our roads and bridges and even the electric grid. New weather patterns are changing the way city planners have to build and rebuild infrastructure. Updates to existing projects (adaptation) are needed, as well. The NYTimes covered this issue recently.
From highways in Texas to nuclear power plants in Illinois, the concrete, steel and sophisticated engineering that undergird the nation’s infrastructure are being taxed to worrisome degrees by heat, drought and vicious storms.
The frequency of extreme weather is up over the past few years, and people who deal with infrastructure expect that to continue. Leading climate models suggest that weather-sensitive parts of the infrastructure will be seeing many more extreme episodes, along with shifts in weather patterns and rising maximum (and minimum) temperatures.
“We’ve got the ‘storm of the century’ every year now,” said Bill Gausman, a senior vice president and a 38-year veteran at the Potomac Electric Power Company, which took eight days to recover from the June 29 “derecho” storm that raced from the Midwest to the Eastern Seaboard and knocked out power for 4.3 million people in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
In general, nobody in charge of anything made of steel and concrete can plan based on past trends, said Vicki Arroyo, who heads the Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, a clearinghouse on climate-change adaptation strategies.
Highways, Mr. Scullion noted, are designed for the local climate, taking into account things like temperature and rainfall. “When you get outside of those things, man, all bets are off.” As weather patterns shift, he said, “we could have some very dramatic failures of highway systems.”
Adaptation efforts are taking place nationwide. Some are as huge as the multibillion-dollar effort to increase the height of levees and flood walls in New Orleans because of projections of rising sea levels and stronger storms to come; others as mundane as resizing drainage culverts in Vermont, where Hurricane Irene damaged about 2,000 culverts. “They just got blown out,” said Sue Minter, the Irene recovery officer for the state.
NYTimes covers our need for climate adaptation
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.
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
“Drill baby drill!” - Sarah Palin’s famous quip became a mantra for the GOP. Now, drilling for oil is way up in the U.S., thanks in large part to President Obama. Alaska is being drilled more than ever before and the Keystone Pipeline XL is being built, for two examples.
So, why have gas prices have only gone up?
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.
Really great interactive map. Hover your mouse over nearly any country to view stats on ag production and needs. There’s also a drop down menu to help show various densities by color on the map. Straight forward and well researched. Check it out and follow the center for investigative reporting.
The United States is the world’s biggest economy and the leading exporter of wheat, corn, beef and many other commodities. It also has the most unequal wealth distribution of all major developed countries. Economic woes in the U.S. have led to one in seven Americans to rely on food assistance.
Get more information on world food statistics from the U.S. and countries around the world in our interactive map.
“In the worst wildfire season on record, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service ran out of money to pay for firefighters, fire trucks and aircraft that dump retardant on monstrous flames.
So officials did about the only thing they could: take money from other forest management programs. But many of the programs were aimed at preventing giant fires in the first place, and raiding their budgets meant putting off the removal of dried brush and dead wood over vast stretches of land — the things that fuel eye-popping blazes, threatening property and lives.”
Read the rest at WaPo
“Brisbane Airport and more than 4000 homes on the Gold Coast are at risk of being damaged or destroyed by climate change, according to a new report from the Climate Commission.
The Critical Decade: Queensland Climate Impacts and Opportunities was released yesterday by the commission which is headed up by former Australian of the Year Tim Flannery.
It found 4000 homes in the Gold Coast were at risk, more than any other region, with about 2000 homes at risk in the Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay.
The Brisbane Airport was one of the commercial and industrial buildings at risk of being flooded or damaged by rising sea levels caused by climate change.
The report said experts agree the global sea level is likely to rise 50 to 100 centimetres by 2100 compared to 2010.
“Even at the lower end, a 50 centimetre increase in sea level would contribute to a significant increase in the frequency of coastal flooding,” the report said.
The report said at the high end of the climate change projections 35,900 to 56,900 existing residential buildings in Queensland were at risk.
The agricultural and tourism industries could also suffer from rising sea level, warmer temperatures and rising acidity in the ocean.”
Via Brisbane Times
Greenland’s ice and glaciers are melting fast, exposing ultra-rare minerals and gems deposits like no other on the entire planet. Gold, diamonds, coal, uranium, possibly oil and gas, and rare-earth metals (a very rare mineral-ore used to make cell phones) are among the many riches to be dug up.
A mining boom is about to completely change the island forever. We’re witnessing it right now. Glaciers are melting, exposing rock underneath that is packed with profits.
This means a tidal wave of money is about to crush centuries of culture, tradition, and local community. Many locals can’t wait for it to happen.
These screens are clipped from this fantastic article covering the economic boom Greenland is about to experience due to the big melt. It’s a beautifully shot video. And these pics do not do it justice. Have a look.
After you watch, I’d also like to hear what you think of this situation. Do you think mining in Greenland is a good thing? If you know Scandinavian politics, what of the possible break between Greenland and Denmark? What new goods and services will the natives and locals need in Greenland?? Click here and add your opinion/ask questions/vent/etc. I’ll do my best to answer!
This could be momentous for Greenland, which has long relied on half a billion dollars a year in welfare payments from Denmark, its parent state. Mining profits could help Greenland become economically self sufficient, and may someday even render it the first sovereign nation created by global warming.
A Melting Greenland Weighs Perils Against Mining Potential