Climate Adaptation

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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Fears sea-level policy may slash $1bn off property values
Will predicted sea level rise wipe out future coastal property values? A local Australian government implemented an adaptation plan to help protect thousands of homes from sea level rise. But, a handful of vocal residents believe the plan will devalue their homes, since there will be few buyers in the future who would want property in a hazardous area. 
INSURANCE FIRM IS SET UP FOR LAND TRUSTS, WHICH SEE LEGAL COSTS SOARING

The $4 million estate on the Connecticut River in Lyme had everything: a six-bedroom home, a pool and a dock, all surrounded by 17 acres of native meadows, brush and woodlands. It also had a decades-old conservation restriction, held by the local land trust, requiring the property to remain largely in its “natural wilderness” state.

But after buying the land in 2007, Brian and Beverly Platner went for a more manicured look, installing a sweeping lawn and gardens with sculptured borders.

The Lyme Land Conservation Trust was not pleased, and in 2009, it sued to enforce the restrictions, which were adopted in the 1980s. In turn, the Platners sued the trust’s president, accusing him of defaming them.

When landowners defy established conservation restrictions - and informal resolution efforts fail - the country’s 1,700 or so land trusts find that they have little option but to take them to court. “Whoever holds the easement has an absolute responsibility to defend it,” said Darla Guenzler, executive director of the California Council of Land Trusts.

But some trust officials worry that the litigation costs could ruin their largely volunteer organizations and erode their ability to protect land. The national Land Trust Alliance came up with the idea of creating an insurance company to help trusts with legal costs, and it petitioned the Internal Revenue Service to grant the new company, called Terra Firma, nonprofit status. On Thursday, the I.R.S. approval came through.

Read the rest of this article here

Vietnamese businesses ill-prepared for climate-linked disasters - study

"The Vietnam study, with responses from 191 surveys and in-depth interviews with 51 small and medium-sized enterprises, was conducted in three provinces in May and June 2011 but the findings in English were made available only at the 6th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change, which ended Sunday.

Of the more than half a million businesses in Vietnam, 90 percent are small and medium-sized, and they account for 40 percent of the country’s GDP and employ some 9.5 million people, Nguyen said.

“The private sector plays a very important role in the economy and their ability to bounce back, re-establish production and continue to provide employment to local workers in the aftermath of disasters is critical to the communities,” he said.”

Via AlertNet

Insurers Prepare for Climate Change…Except in U.S.
"In a survey conducted by Ceres, a Boston-based coalition of investors and environmental groups, more than 75% of insurers acknowledged the existence of perils stemming from climate change.
 
“Yet despite widespread recognition of the effects climate change will likely have on extreme events, few insurers were able to articulate a coherent plan to manage the risks and opportunities associated with climate change,” the Ceres report states.
 
The Ceres study found that out of 88 U.S. insurance companies, only 11 had formal climate change risk policies and more than 60% had no dedicated management approach to assessing climate risks.
 
Ben Schiller at Yale’s Environment 360 noted that while American insurance companies have been slow to prepare for global warming’s ramifications, their European counterparts have been getting ready for a potentially costly future.”
Via AllGov
Hogs Wild

Morning read.

essayist:

by Ian Frazier (stolen from TETW)

What do wild hogs do that’s so bad?

Oh, not much… eat red-cheeked salamanders and short-tailed shrews and red-back voles and other dwellers in the leaf litter in the Great Smoky Mountains, and destroy a yard that had previously won two “‘Yard of the Month” awards on Robins Air Force Base, in central Georgia, and knock over glass patio tables in suburban Houston, and muddy pristine brook-trout streams by wallowing in them, and play hell with native flora and fauna in Hawaii, and contribute to the near-extinction of the island fox on Santa Cruz Island off the coast of California, and root up American Indian historic sites and burial grounds, and root up a replanting of native vegetation along the banks of the Sacramento River, and root up peanut fields in Georgia, and root up sweet-potato fields in Texas, and dig big holes by rooting in wheat fields irrigated by motorized central-pivot irrigation pipes, and, as the nine-hundred-foot-long pipe advances automatically on its wheeled supports, one set of wheels hangs up in a hog-rooted hole, and meanwhile the rest of the pipe keeps on going and begins to pivot around the stuck wheels, and it continues and continues on its hog-altered course until the whole seventy-five-thousand-dollar system is hopelessly pretzeled and ruined.

Fracking Firm Admits It Caused Earthquakes in England

All is OK, energy company states - that is until someone’s property is damaged, or worse, gets killed.

"When two small earthquakes struck near Blackpool, England in April and May, suspicious eyes turned toward the hydraulic fracturing operation in the area. In a move few expected, Cuadrilla Resources, admitted that its shale fracking operations were indeed responsible.

In a press release issued today, Cuadrilla explained the findings of an investigation of the tremors:

  • It is highly probable that the hydraulic fracturing of Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall-1 well did trigger a number of minor seismic events.
  • The seismic events were due to an unusual combination of geology at the well site coupled with the pressure exerted by water injection as part of operations.
  • This combination of geological factors was extremely rare and would be unlikely to occur together again at future well sites.

Cuadrilla insists that the event was extremely rare and unlikely to do any damage if it ever recurred. But whether or not it’s right, the fact that humans are causing earthquakes as well as global warming is likely to make the idea of fracking much less palatable.

Updated: Despite Cuadrilla’s insistence that this is an isolated incident, a US Geological Survey report links 50 earthquakes to fracking operations throughout the United States.

Treehugger

LATimes solid piece on economic impacts of climate change. Sea level rise and other impacts will cut into tourism and tax dollars. Presents a massive sink hole for municipal infrastructure dollars. Couple this with the short-cycle, short-sighted nature of political “leadership,” and coastal cities and home owners are in big, big trouble. 

Rising sea levels could take economic toll on California beaches: A state-commissioned study by San Francisco State says erosion and storm damage by the advancing ocean over the next century could cut into tourism and tax revenue.

Photo: Homeowners along Broad Beach in Malibu have been building huge sandbag walls reinforced with truckloads of boulders to stem damage caused by rising seas and stormy tides. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

(via latimes)

Federal Government hearings consider climate adaptation: “Federal Disaster Assistance Budgeting: Are We Ready for the Weather?”

$9 billion. That is the previous record the U.S. Government spent on weather related disasters. This year, only half way through 2011, the government has spent $8 billion. The hurricane season is just beginning and NOAA and other agencies predict massive weather disasters. “On July 28, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government heard testimony from witnesses…on the current state of U.S. climate adaptation policy.” Importantly, the question of whether or not the government is prepared for weather-related natural disasters - answer - we’re not. Worse, droughts and sea level rise add to the risk to management. 

Amid the current climate of fiscal uncertainty, the costs of U.S. lack of preparedness for global climate disruption and weather-related disasters are becoming a burden that the government will find it increasingly difficult to carry. Accordingly, coherent adaptation policies must be adopted that allow for better monitoring and prediction of weather- related events, and for developing greater resilience to disaster-related impacts, to ensure the necessary protections for Americans. Record drought, flooding, and wildfires are having real and significant consequences. A lack of preparedness at the federal level is simply not an acceptable option.

Most interesting from this hearing is that a witness from the insurance industry admits - in no uncertain terms - that insurance industries are cancelling thousands of insurance policies for coastal homes and businesses based on climate change models. Government agencies, such as FEMA, are left to pick up the tab.

Source: Climate Science Watch

Look at the below FAIL. To be sure, the notion of Smart Cities is (sort of) catching steam. But, as the below announcement demonstrates, promoters and sponsors have some serious PR issues to the point of cognitive dissonance. 

smartercities:

Open Source Cities

Citizen Urbanism. Ecological Design. Urban Planning.
Open Data and Collaboration for the Future of Cities.


Launching Q1, 2011. For more information:
info {at} opensourcecities.org

This is one example of an upstart launch FAIL by something called Open Source Cities. As a citizen, you should question everything and be empowered with knowledge before committing to this crap. Here’s how I questioned this project: 

The Open Source Cities website is “Launching Q1, 2011.” Click the link to see. Now, how many citizens know what “Q1” is? Not many. Nor, I assure you, do citizens give a spinning shit. Why do the proprietors of this website not know this? Because they didn’t bother to talk to any citizens

Also, the notion of “open source” is citizen driven. It’s by the people. It’s not sponsor driven. It’s not a for-profit endeavor. So why is this project edited by liberal elitists, and sponsored by some greenwashed server-hosting bs company, and NOT by actual citizens?? Again, click the link to see the sponsors. What gives?

(Note: I’m not criticizing liberal elites per se. I’m pointing out that you cannot have “open source” anything run by backslapping journalists and designers with no clue as to actual city planning. Nor can you run an “open source” project by a for-profit corporate sponsor who is obviously trolling to expand its customer base. To put in plainly, it’s not credible.).

Before I discuss property rights, let me rant about this this Q1 business. If, as these insiders assume, citizens care and even understand municipal fiscal clocks, by whose “Q1” clock are they referring to?? New York State’s fiscal year starts April 1st and ends March 31st. New York City’s starts and ends July 1-June 30. If you’re a regional planning agency, how do you square those two clocks with Brooklyn’s 2012-2015 fiscal planning clock? How do citizens interested in city planning understand and navigate these fiscal clocks? And why is this important? Open Source is silent.

There are 10,000 municipalities in the US, add thousands of counties operating under various state mandates, and all use different fiscal clocks. So, “by whose Q1?” is pretty solid question. There is a NYTimes reporter on this project, is this going by the NYTimes fiscal Q1 clock? Why? Why are they even using Q1? This shuts down conversation. Especially if you’re supposed to be ushering Joe and Jane citizens - who are hella busy - to get involved with city planning and economic development.

You cannot subsume knowledge on behalf of half-interested citizens. Not to mention there are hundreds (perhaps thousands?) of regional, quasi-public/private, private, not-for-profit, planning, housing and economic development agencies and organizations who also use different fiscal clocks. And on and on. You cannot use ‘Q1’ and escape being called out on weaselly designery elitism. 

Finally, where, of their sponsors, is Joe and Jane “citizen” in their “Citizen Urbanism” moniker? Architectural firms?! Pssssshh. I can’t even… I. I, I don’t… ARRGG!! 

This isn’t open source, nor is it citizen driven. It’s privatized, for-profit city consulting. Private organizations are grabbing tax payer dollars to ‘consult’ with cities for unproven economic development.

And don’t get me started on demographics - as in how are they going to represent my grandmother, who has no access to a computer? Or immigrants? Or the poor? Or expats? Or single moms? Or the creative class? Or 18 year old college freshman? These clowns have no demonstrable experience in city planning.

Why am I ranting? Because these crack pots are fucking with people’s property rights. These people are going to try to change zoning regulations and building codes and do so at tax payer expense and ride into the sunset with your money. It’s serious business. People’s property isn’t some fucking techie toy. Cities are not sand boxes to experiment in.

If they were, then these sponsoring organizations should take full responsibility for any economic failures they usher into fruition. They should contractually sign away liability, be immune to quasi-sovereign immunity claims, openly report under SEC rules, and be open to all causes of action. By taking responsibility for outcomes, their work becomes truly open and more carefully crafted. Importantly, they don’t leave citizens holding the short end of the stick, especially if a select few vote to change their neighbors’ vested property interests and investment-backed expectations based on something that comes out of this ill-conceived project. 

With such high stakes, to hide these things behind a mask of friendly assistance is pure bullshit to me.

What are they to you? 

(via envirolutionary)

Free Webinar: Impact of Wind Power Projects on Residential Property Values

Recorded, so watch when you want. Speaker’s presentations are posted, so you can blast through their ppts if you want a quicky. I think it speaks to the quality of the people at New England Wind Energy that they also posted a bibliography. These guys are thorough! Warning, it’s verrry wonky. Here’s a synopsis:

The New England Wind Energy Education Project (NEWEEP) hosted the first in a series of free webinars. The main topic of NEWEEP’s inaugural event was, “The Impact of Wind Power Projects on Residential Property Values” presented by Ben Hoen, consultant to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. The session opened with a brief introduction of the New England Wind Energy Education Project, followed by an introductory discussion of, “Wind Power’s role in Achieving Regional Policy Objectives” presented by Heather Hunt, executive director of New England States Committee on Electricity. The webinar included a question and answer session. This was a free webinar funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Wind Powering America Initiative. The webinar was designed for attendance by the general public, local officials, facility siting decision makers, policy makers, and others interested in a review of objective information on the impacts of wind energy.