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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Posts tagged "sea level rise"

Meet Professor Austin Becker, Assistant Professor of Coastal Planning Policy and Design at University of Rhode Island. He focuses on coastal adaptation and resilient sea ports. He’s also a good friend of mine.

Sound argument for climate adaptation in the Op-ed section of the Miami Herald.

Via The Guardian

The flood frequency table is eye opening:

Baltimore, Md. 922% increase in floods over average
Atlantic City, N.J. 682%
Philadelphia, Pa. 650%
Sandy Hook, N.J. 626%

The governor is a prominent climate change denier. His home is located on a beach, just one foot above sea level. Erosion, higher waves, sea level rise, flooding, and storms threaten the property.

Gov. Scott’s beachfront home vulnerable to changing climate

The day after the Third National Climate Change Assessment report came out, the New York Times said Scott would not respond to its questions about what Florida is doing about sea level rise. When a Palm Beach television station asked him about it, Scott said the state’s emergency management division would handle any flooding problems — period.

Three years ago, Scott made his position plainer. “I’ve not been convinced that there’s any man-made climate change,” he said in a 2011 interview.

Scott has a vested interest in how Florida fares amid the rising seas. He owns a $9.2 million mansion in Naples that sits right on the beach, a foot above sea level and about 200 feet from the water.

"He’s definitely in one of the most vulnerable positions," said Jim Beever of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council. Despite Scott’s denial, Beever said, the sea is creeping up on him already. Along that stretch of the Collier County coastline, he said, it has been rising at the rate of about 8 to 9 inches over the past century.

Because Florida is so flat, even a few inches of increase means water pushes a long way inland. For instance, 60 miles north of Naples, the mangroves lining the shores of Charlotte Harbor have retreated the length of a football field from where they were 50 years ago.

The rising sea will lead to greater beach erosion and other problems, but what poses the most immediate threat to Scott’s home is not the slow creep of higher waves. It’s the increasing reach of the storm surge that accompanies tropical storms and hurricanes.

I’m sure some will disagree with me, but I think this is great news. For decades, U.S. taxpayers have been subsidizing insurance for private homes and businesses that have been built in dangerous, flood-prone areas. Thousands of buildings are built (and rebuilt) in coastal areas that flood and storm with incredible reliability - and taxpayers foot the bill to rebuild these buildings in the same exact, vulnerable areas.

A Florida coastal home bought in August 2012 that pays a yearly premium of $500 will rise to $4,500.

It’s unfair, dangerous, and wasteful. This insurance, called the National Flood Insurance Program, has been a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.

Even the U.S. government admits the program is terrible: see the GAO’s raw assessment of the program, here. Now, the program is being significantly scaled back. Unfortunately, this will affect several thousand people who own property in dangerous areas. The price of flood insurance will go up substantially, and many people will have to move.

Video: Decline of very old ice in the Arctic, 1987-2013.

Back at UMass-Amherst, my advisers asked me to create a sea-level rise vulnerability assessment of lighthouses along the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts. The idea was to create a method to integrate adaptation techniques into cultural heritage protection policies in New England. Pretty interesting concept. Especially since so much history and so many landmarks are located along coastlines. Instead, I did a study of the first tax-payer funded adaptation plan in the world in a tiny city in Denmark.

President Obama issues new Executive Order, “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change." The new EO, issued November 1st, directs the agencies to

1) Federal infrastructure spending will have to take climate into account. Agencies are supposed to examine their policies and find ways to help states prepare for the effects of climate change.

So, for example, federal disaster-relief programs that help coastal communities rebuild after a storm or flood will have to take into account the possibility that the next storm or flood could be even worse. Likewise, roads and bridges built with federal money will have to be planned with changing climate conditions — such as future sea-level rise — in mind.

2) Water- and land- management will get revamped. Agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior will have to review their land- and water-management policies to take shifting conditions into account.

For example, agencies will have to ”evaluate how to better promote natural storm barriers such as dunes and wetlands” and figure out “how to protect the carbon sequestration benefits of forests and lands to help reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change.” (The EPA has already released its plans to this effect.)

3) The federal government will try to provide better data on what climate impacts are actually coming. As part of the executive order, federal agencies are supposed to offer better information “that state, local, and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions.” - WaPo

It’s an integrative approach, folding climate science and data into decision making at the federal level. Each agency was directed to create an adaptation policy back in 2011. Now the agencies have to implement their plans and use the National Climate Assessment and other findings from peer-reviewed climate scientists. This new EO builds upon several(!) orders by the President, including Executive Order 13514, which I wrote about here.

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?  

500,000 people affected in Maryland alone.

Great maps! Check out the study. Also, shout out to Alaska Public Radio! Hi guys!