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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We hit 400ppm CO2 (far above the 350ppm pipe dream). And it’s rising, with no evidence emissions will slow down. We’ve no choice but to adapt.

The Center for American Progress is a DC based think tank that works on several policy issues, including energy, national security, immigration, education, and health care.

They’re starting to get involved in climate adaptation, which is the process of lowering risk from environmental harms. And they recently published an interesting paper that aims to motivate the Federal Government to invest in America’s infrastructure and resilience policies. For those new to the issues of resilience, this makes for a decent primer. For those familiar with the concepts, the section on making the business case might be most interesting. The paper is here. Below is an edited excerpt:

It is time for a national strategy for infrastructure resilience

There are three parts to forming a national strategy for infrastructure resilience. First, the federal government should launch a national infrastructure-vulnerability assessment that evaluates the ability of the nation’s current infrastructure to withstand climate-related extreme weather. Second, the Obama administration should build on the proposals laid out in its FY 2014 budget and harmonize financial resources to invest in these resiliency projects in a coordinated way. Third, the administration should elevate resiliency as a priority by tasking cabinet-level officials to work systematically with cities and states in directing these resources.

A national strategy is needed to reduce infrastructure vulnerability to climate change. If we don’t, then federal funding for disaster relief becomes much more expensive.

For this reason, it is essential that the federal government tightly link its work on infrastructure investment as an engine of economic prosperity with the expanding priority it has placed on resilience.

We recommend that the president, Congress, mayors, and governors work together to make an immediate commitment to design a national strategy for infrastructure resilience.

To realize this plan, the president should act immediately to:

1. Launch a national infrastructure-vulnerability assessment: Improve the availability and usability of information on infrastructure needs and resilience. It would look systematically at the ability of U.S. transportation, energy, water, communications, and other strategic infrastructure to hold up to both current and future threats.

2. Establish a comprehensive federal infrastructure-investment strategy: This would build on recent commitments in the administration’s budget plan, and would both access new financial tools and better harmonize existing financing authorities within the federal government to more effectively leverage public and private capital in priority-infrastructure investments.

3. Create an infrastructure and resilience council: The council would function as a working group within the president’s own cabinet to support presidential leadership in improving coordination across all federal agencies and in partnering with cities and states to accelerate the development of these priority-resilience projects by increasing public and private investment.

President Obama has already taken important steps to lay the foundation for a national infrastructure-resilience plan. In Executive Order 13514, signed into effect in October 2009, the president called on agencies to “evaluate agency climate-change risks and vulnerabilities to manage the effects of climate change on the agency’s operations and mission in both the short and long term.”

Since 2009 the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force—led by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy—has been coordinating federal actions to reduce climate-change risks to federal assets and communities.

In February 2013 executive agencies released their plans to begin adapting to climate change. Additionally, the administration has already adopted national-action plans overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency to safeguard our oceans, fresh water, and fish, wildlife, and plants from the worst impacts of climate change. Though agencies have yet to develop a national resilience strategy for public infrastructure, Executive Order 13514 and the real rising risks of climate change give them the clear authority to do so.

Read the rest, here.

It will be approved. Nearly half of the line is already built, the land from Canada to Texas is already secured, Sec. State John Kerry signaled his support, and redstate politicians are salivating for a knockout punch to the environmental movement.

RI Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (whom I interviewed back in 2005) predicts the approval will be wrapped in green packaging. He thinks Keystone approval will be surrounded by “a whole formidable array of environmental and anti-carbon measures that can not just offset the harm that they do by approving [Keystone] … but actually turn the whole package into a very strong, anti-carbon pollution suite of strategies.”

Thursday’s report by dozens of scientists from five different federal agencies looked into why forecasters didn’t see the drought coming. The researchers concluded that it was so unusual and unpredictable that it couldn’t have been forecast.

"This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years," said lead author Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Climate change was not a significant part, if any, of the event."

Via AP

Every major oil company has a climate change division. Most have active climate change plans aimed at reducing emissions, managing environmental risks, and experimenting with alternatives to reduce climate impacts. Importantly, these are voluntary efforts.They chose to manage and discuss climate risk.

Here are links to the biggest oil and gas companies’ climate pages:

See also, Skeptical Science post Big Oil and the Demise of Crude Climate Change Denial.

The question is: What - exactly - do deniers know that these companies do not? And why are these companies not listening to (or hiring) deniers?

mothernaturenetwork:

Why you’re paying for everyone’s flood insurance

Two members of the Natural Resources Defense Council explain how the taxpayers, coastal homeowners and climate change are all connected.

Asker nturlbruntt Asks:
I had a client tell me the other day that we're not headed towards a warm climate, but an ice age. The planet has to warm up in order to cool down. (or so he claimed). Is there any truth to this?
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hi nturlbruntt!

Thanks for your note and absolutely not! The earth is at its hottest point in over 11,000 years.

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Your client believes a rumor from the 1970s, one that won’t die apparently. It was dismissed, debunked, defrocked, and deblorgged decades ago, but has resurfaced as a rather brilliant right-wing political talking point.

97% of climate scientists agree the earth is warming. This is the highest agreement in any of the sciences in all of history. Second, the vast majority of scientists in the 1970s agreed global warming was occurring, that humans are causing it by emitting greenhouse gases, and that the earth is in big, big trouble.

Back in 2005, climate scientists at Real Climate took the time to discuss the origins of the rumor, show who restarted it, and describe why it’s completely false. You an read their post, here.

In 2008, the American Meteorological Society published a special article on this myth. It’s a great read, very short. It describes the history of the myth (it also gives a glimpse at how scientists suck at PR).

Lastly, Skeptical Science ranks it as the 11th most discussed myth. They published a simplified, easy to read summary of the myth called: “What were climate scientists predicting in the 1970s?, which shows that scientists back then were very worried about warming.

At the end of the day, your client is acting as proxy for the fossil fuel industry. This may sound crazy, but his/her’s real argument is that oil and gas should not be regulated, that they should be able to pollute without regulations. People who argue that that the world is cooling, instead of warming, are really saying that there is no need to regulate pollution or emissions.

What’s even more bizarre is that they may not even realize this.

Naomi Oreskes discusses how this happened in her book, Merchants of Doubt, which shows that oil and gas industries hired the same public relations experts that defended the tobacco industry in the 80s. Recall that the tobacco industry - and the politicians they donated to - denied that cigarettes caused cancer (seriously), and they successfully perpetuated that myth for decades.

And that, my friend, is how an industry and politicians manipulate public opinion.

Cheers!

Michael

Pretty good pulse-taking by Bizweek.

Now some investors are taking another approach. Working under the assumption that climate change is inevitable, they’re investing in businesses that will profit as the planet gets hotter. (The World Bank says the earth could warm by 4C by the end of the century.) Their strategies include buying water treatment companies, brokering deals for Australian farmland, and backing a startup that has engineered a mosquito to fight dengue, a disease that’s spreading as the mercury climbs.

Derivatives that help companies hedge against abnormal weather and natural catastrophes are drawing increased interest from some big players. In January, KKR (KKR) bought a 25 percent stake in Nephila Capital, an $8 billion Bermuda hedge fund that trades in weather derivatives. (The firm is named after a spider that, according to local folklore, can predict hurricanes.)

Climate risk is something people are paying more and more attention to,” says Barney Schauble, managing partner at Nephila Advisors, the firm’s U.S. arm. “More volatile weather creates more risk and more appetite to protect against that risk.

Drought is helping spur business at Water Asset Management. The New York hedge fund, which has about $400 million under management, buys water rights and makes private equity and stock market investments in water treatment companies. “Not enough people are thinking long term of [water] as an asset that is worthy of ownership,” says Chief Operating Officer Marc Robert. “Climate change for us is a driver.”

Via Business Week

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Canada’s conservative government, which has been pressing the Obama Administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, has come under sharp criticism for allegedly muzzling Canadian government scientists who talk about the pipeline, climate change and other controversial topics.

The Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria released a report called “Muzzling Civil Servants: A Threat to Democracy" that documents the ways in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration has prevented public scientists from speaking freely about their research.

The Law Centre and Democracy Watch, a leading Canadian public accountability group, have requested an official inquiry into whether these practices violate Canada’s Open Government laws.

Climate change will open up surprising new Arctic shipping routes

"Right now, the Arctic Ocean is still too icy and treacherous for open-water ships to traverse with any regularity. The Northwest Passage is only navigable during the summer months once every seven years or so. Too unreliable for commercial shipping.

But that will soon change. As the planet keeps warming, the Arctic’s summer sea ice is vanishing at a stunning pace. That rapid melt is expected to have all sorts of sweeping impacts, from speeding up climate change to wreaking havoc on weather patterns. On the flip side, the loss of sea ice could also open up some potentially lucrative new trade routes between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, led by UCLA geographer Laurence Smith, looks at how the Arctic will change under even modest levels of global warming. Through computer simulations, the researchers found that open-water vessels will be able to, in theory, cross the Northwest Passage and North Sea Route regularly in the summer by 2050 without icebreakers. And icebreaker ships may be able to ram right through the North Pole:

The blue lines show the fastest routes available for common open-water ships during the summer, while the red lines show routes available for Polar Class 6 ships with moderate icebreaker capacity. By 2040-2059, there are many more routes.

The change here is quite striking. Right now, no commercial shipping goes through the Northwest Passage that hugs northern Canada. Yet by mid-century, those routes could potentially be clear for open-water vessels every other summer. Likewise, the Northern Sea Route that hugs Russia is projected to be open in late summer 90 percent of the time, up from 40 percent today.”

Via WaPo

Scientific consensus on climate change is at 97%, which might be the highest agreement among any of the sciences.

Temp graph via: NASA

Just made Mashable’s Top 9 Enviro-Tumblrs list. Thank you Mashable!!

Lake Ontario is almost completely ice free. The water temperature is 35°F. Yet, there are more snow storms. How can this be?

The Center for Climate Change Communication (4C) conducts unbiased research and surveys of the public’s perception of climate change. The surveys follow strict scientific design standards and analysis, and the results are published free to the public. I worked with Edward Maibach, the director of 4C last year, on a few interesting projects last year.

More About 4C:

We use social science research methods – experiments, surveys, in-depth interviews and other methods – to find ways of effectively engaging the public and policy makers in the problem, and in considering and enacting solutions. Social science research has played important roles in many social change campaigns over the past several decades, including reducing smoking and littering, and increasing seat belt use and recycling. 

4C’s Mission

Our mission is to conduct unbiased public engagement research - and to help government agencies, non-profit organizations, and companies apply the results of this research - so that collectively, we can stabilize our planet’s life sustaining climate.

4C is the premier source for these types of surveys. Their reports are easy to read and comprehend, and think-tanks and the public use 4C’s findings on a regular basis.

Here is a sampling of their reports

  • The Climate Change in the American Mind Series - Fall 2012In Fall 2012, we conducted our latest national survey on Americans’ climate change and energy beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behavior. The first report focused on the 7% of voters who were undecided about the upcoming Presidential election.  The majority of these… Read More
  • Climate Change in the Indian MindIn November and December 2011, members of our research team conducted a study investigating the Indian public’s climate change awareness, beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behaviors. A total of 4031 people, from both rural and urban areas, responded to the survey…. Read More
  • The Political Benefits of Taking a Pro-Climate Stand in 2012This brief report draws upon data from a nationally representative survey conducted in March 2012 (Climate Change in the American Mind) and other research to investigate the question: On balance, will candidates for political office benefit or be harmed by talking about and… Read More
  • The Climate Change in the American Mind Series, Spring 2012In March 2012, we conducted a national survey on Americans’ climate change and energy beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behavior. The first report shows that a large majority of Americans say they personally experienced an extreme weather event or natural disaster in… Read More

It’s Climate Science Communications Week at Climate Adaptation!   For the entire week of Feb. 18 - 23, I’ll cover how climate change is discussed by the media, scientists, researchers, academics, and politicians. If you have sources or ideas on communicating climate change, send to: http://climateadaptation.tumblr.com/submit

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Why do most TV Meteorologists deny climate change? Surprisingly, most are not trained in climatology. NPR dives in to explore how some meteorologists are working to change that problem. (Side note, I worked with Ed Maibach on a few projects last year. He runs George Masons’ Center for Climate Change Communication. Interesting guy.).

Forecasting Climate With A Chance Of Backlash

When it comes to climate change, Americans place great trust in their local TV weathercaster, which has led climate experts to see huge potential for public education.

The only problem? Polls show most weather presenters don’t know much about climate science, and many who do are fearful of talking about something so polarizing.

In fact, if you have heard a weathercaster speak on climate change, it’s likely been to deny it. John Coleman in San Diego and Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That? are among a group of vocal die-hards, cranking out blog posts and videos countering climate science. But even many meteorologists who don’t think it’s all a hoax still profoundly distrust climate models.

"They get reminded each and every day anytime their models don’t prove to be correct," says Ed Maibach, who directs the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, and has carried out several surveys of TV weathercasters. “For them, the whole notion of projecting what the climate will be 30, 50, a hundred years from now, they’ve got a fairly high degree of skepticism.”

And yet, Maibach has found that many meteorologists would like to learn more and would like to educate their viewers. A few years back, he hatched a plan and found a willing partner in an unlikely place.

Prepared For Backlash

"I loved it. That’s exactly what I wanted to do," says Jim Gandy, chief meteorologist at WLTX in Columbia, S.C.

Gandy had actually begun reading up on climate change several years earlier, when — to his surprise — a couple of geology professors at a party asked whether he thought global warming was real. Gandy was disturbed by what he learned and was game to go on air with it, even in what he calls a “dark red” state with a lot of “resistance” to the idea of climate change.

"We talked about it at length," he says, "and we were prepared for a backlash." Via

It’s Climate Science Communications Week at Climate Adaptation!   For the entire week of Feb. 18 - 23, I’ll cover how climate change is discussed by the media, scientists, researchers, academics, and politicians. If you have sources or ideas on communicating climate change, send to: http://climateadaptation.tumblr.com/submit