Bump in corn grown for ethanol has polluted water and wiped out 5 million acres of conserved land, AP finds
Five million acres of land — more than in Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite national parks combined — have been pulled from conservation on Obama’s watch, according to Agriculture Department figures.
What’s more, from 2005 to 2010, corn farmers increased their use of nitrogen fertilizer by more than 1 billion pounds. More recent data isn’t available from the Agriculture Department, but because of the huge increase in corn planting, even conservative projections by the AP suggest another billion-pound fertilizer increase on corn farms since then.
Some of that fertilizer has seeped into drinking water, contaminating rivers and boosting the growth of enormous algae fields in the Gulf of Mexico; the algae eventually decompose, sucking oxygen from the water and leaving behind a huge dead zone, currently covering 5,800 square miles of sea floor where marine life can’t survive.
That dead zone is just one example of a peculiar ethanol side effect: As one government program encourages farmers to plant more corn, other programs pay millions to clean up the mess.
1) The Philippines has become increasingly vulnerable to typhoons for lots of reasons — and climate change is only one angle here.
Thanks to basic geography, the Philippines has long been one of the most storm-ravaged places on Earth, with about 8 to 9 typhoons making landfall each year, on average. The warm waters surrounding the island nation help fuel strong tropical cyclones, and there are few natural barriers to slow the storms down or break them up. … 2) Typhoons aren’t the only natural disaster the Philippines has to worry about. … But the precise risks are often difficult to pinpoint — and that makes preparation even harder. Many climate models still have trouble making predictions at a very fine-grained, regional level. And typhoons are especially difficult to forecast: While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change thinks it’s “likely” that tropical cyclones will get stronger as the oceans warm, it’s less clear how the frequency of storms will change in the years ahead (they may even become less frequent).
3) Adaptation can help, but it’s not always enough. Many countries have managed to reduce their exposure to natural disasters over the years by implementing detailed adaptation plans. If climate change does increase the risk of natural disasters in the years ahead, then those plans will become increasingly important. …
Bangladesh, for instance, has steadily reduced the number of deaths from tropical cyclones since the 1970s through early-warning systems, shelters and evacuation plans, and building coastal embankments.
4) Where will the money come from for adaptation? There are two key questions that always come up at international climate talks like the one now going on in Warsaw. First, how will the world cut its carbon emissions to slow global warming? And second, where will the money come from to help poorer states prepare for its effects? The second question is likely to get more attention in the wake of Haiyan. …
"We have received no climate finance to adapt or to prepare ourselves for typhoons and other extreme weather we are now experiencing," Saño told the Guardian. “It cannot be a way of life that we end up running always from storms.”
NPR asks: If coastal communities are so economically vibrant, why can’t they pay to rebuild after storms? Should the Federal Government continue to pay and subsidize rebuilding America’s coastal cities?
The Federation Maproom are disaster and climate maps used by the Red Cross. I use the map room once in a while to check out the “Recent Climate Trends” tab. Note, these maps contain huge data sets, so they take a few seconds to load and you’ll need a touch of patience.
The report criticizes the NFIP’s “perverse” incentives, including artificially low insurance rates and other subsidies. The program should instead, according to the UCS report, set rates that reflect true risk and phase out unfair subsidies. This will help coastal communities make smarter choices about building and rebuilding in flood-prone areas, and ensure that U.S. taxpayers aren’t saddled with rapidly increasing flooding and disaster relief costs.
A particularly wasteful aspect of the NFIP program is that it continues to pay out claims on properties in high risk areas that have been repeatedly flooded, with virtually no penalties. UCS has created a map based on Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) data that shows egregious instances of repetitive-loss claims along the Gulf coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and along many parts of the Atlantic coast, including Florida, North Carolina, New York and Massachusetts. According to the NFIP, though repetitive-loss properties account for just 1.3 percent of overall policies, they have been responsible for 25 percent of all NFIP payments (almost $9 billion) since 1978, and are expected to account for 15 to 20 percent of future NFIP losses.
“The problem is two-fold,” said Rachel Cleetus, a senior climate economist at UCS and author of the report “Overwhelming Risk: Rethinking Flood Insurance in a World of Rising Seas.” “The coasts are becoming more populated and built-up, so we have more people and more valuable property in harm’s way. At the same time, climate change is contributing to sea level rise, generating more intense hurricanes, and causing bigger, more damaging storm surge.
The result is that coastal residents and business owners are at increased risk and taxpayers nationwide are looking at shelling out more money to help with post-storm rebuilding efforts.”
Thousands of homeowners in flood-prone parts of the country are going to be in for a rude awakening. On Oct. 1, new changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which offers government-subsidized policies for households and businesses threatened by floods, mean that businesses in flood zones and homes that have been severely or repeatedly flooded will start going up 25% a year until rates reach levels that would reflect the actual risk from flooding. (Higher rates for second or vacation homes went into effect at the start of 2013.)
That means that property owners in flood-prone areas who might have once been paying around $500 a year—rates that were well below what the market would charge, given the threat from flooding—will go up by thousands of dollars over the next decade.
That change, unsurprisingly, has affected homeowners from the seaside coast of New Jersey to the Gulf beaches of Louisiana very unhappy. On September 28, dozens of Long Islanders—many of them victims of Superstorm Sandy—converged at the Babylon Town Hall for a “Stop FEMA” rally, one of several held around the country. (FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, runs the NFIP.)
Congressional representatives from states like Louisiana and Florida that are likely to be hard hit by the NFIP changes are raising hell, calling for FEMA to delay the implementation of the new rules. FEMA says its hands are tied—Craig Fugate, the agency’s director, told a Senate subcommittee at the end of the September that the Biggert-Waters Act, the law passed last summer to adjust NFIP rates, gives him no leeway to postpone the changes to NFIP just because they may be unaffordable to some property owners.
For readers actually into climate adaptation and urban planning, this is huge, huge news. Click here to read more about the the Flood Insurance Act of 2012. This basically undoes decades of subsidizing risky properties in the U.S.
The burden of living in risky, flood-prone areas will shift more towards the individual home owner and away from the American taxpayers.
What are your thoughts on the NFIP? Should the rates stay the same or be adjusted?
The Arctic sea ice has been surprising scientists for the last six years. It set a new record for melting back during the International Polar Year in 2007.
Last year it beat that record, but at the same time the seasonal ice in the Bering Sea has been increasing – also to a record last winter. Whatever is driving these changes is also beginning to affect the vegetation on land.
Almost no one in America has heard of the Alaskan village of Kivalina. It clings to a narrow spit of sand on the edge of the Bering Sea, far too small to feature on maps of Alaska, never mind the United States.
Which is perhaps just as well, because within a decade Kivalina is likely to be under water. Gone, forever. Remembered - if at all - as the birthplace of America’s first climate change refugees.
Four hundred indigenous Inuit people currently live in Kivalina’s collection of single-storey cabins. Their livelihoods depend on hunting and fishing.
The sea has sustained them for countless generations but in the last two decades the dramatic retreat of the Arctic ice has left them desperately vulnerable to coastal erosion. No longer does thick ice protect their shoreline from the destructive power of autumn and winter storms. Kivalina’s spit of sand has been dramatically narrowed.
I have a few posts on Kivalina. The villagers tried - and lost - several times to sue oil companies and the federal government.
Thanks for your note. I hadn’t heard about Gezi Park, actually. It seems there is a proposal to turn the park into a mall. And it seems there is a protest that is unfocused, leaderless, and has no clear demands. What is the goal? Who, exactly (by name), are the protestors protesting?
Other questions: Is turning parks into malls or other developments a regular occurrence in Turkey? Who “owns” the park, technically - the city, the country, a private person, a corporation?? Why wasn’t the public involved in the park management in the first place? For example, were any of the protestors on the review board that approved the mall plan? If not, why not?
I don’t know enough information to make a determination. But, if the city or the government body managing the park has the authority to turn parks into malls, then that is their prerogative. If the authority is corrupt, that is your prerogative to change it - not by protest, but by law. The pen (law) is always mightier than the sword (protest).
Three years of repeated floods have inflicted serious damage on Pakistan’s economy, halving its potential economic growth, an expert says.
“The impact of floods on Pakistan’s economy is colossal as the economy grew on average at a rate of 2.9 percent per year during the last three years,” said Ishrat Husain, an economist and director of the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi.
That is less than half the 6.5 percent that Pakistan could potentially have managed if it weren’t facing the economic and human losses associated with the flooding, Husain said.
Flooding is hardly the only impediment to economic growth in the troubled South Asian country. Worsening power shortages, “a poor law and order situation and a host of other structural impediments” also are holding back investment and growth, Husain said.
But extreme weather presents an especially worrying economic challenge, he said, because the country can work to reduce its energy crisis and improve law in order, but has limited scope to avert natural calamities, other than trying to devise effective mechanisms to minimise its losses.
The Obama Administration—via its Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force—has released a rebuilding strategy that it hopes communities affected by natural disasters will follow. The blueprint is also aimed at helping the Sandy-affected areas continue to rebuild.
Superstorm Sandy crashed ashore on October 29, 2012. The second costliest hurricane in the US, it caused widespread destruction with damages estimated to be $68 billion. In the aftermath of the storm, as the difficulties many communities were having in restarting and rebuilding became clear, President Obama put together the taskforce, chaired by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.
The Rebuilding Strategy contains 69 policy recommendations, many of which will have a significant impact on how the region rebuilds—and hopefully create more resilient communities going forward. Some of the task force’s policies and principles were also incorporated into President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The Rebuilding Strategy calls for a federal department or agency to carry out implementation of these recommendations. A team will also track and release data on Federal spending from the Sandy supplemental funding bill.
The top five recommendations from the report are:
RECOMMENDATION #1: Facilitate the incorporation of future risk assessment, such as sea level rise, into rebuilding efforts with the development of a sea level rise tool.