If current trends in global warming continue unmitigated, some of the world’s most well-known and historically significant cultural landmarks could be destroyed by rising global sea levels.
A new study examining the long-term effects of sea-level rise on the 720 spots around the world that have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites found that roughly 20 percent of them could be ruined if temperatures rise 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels over the next two millennia, said study lead author Ben Marzeion, an assistant professor at the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.
“I didn’t expect that so many of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites would be affected,” Marzeion told Live Science. “I knew that many of the sites are close to the sea, but I didn’t expect to have such high numbers. If you asked me when I started doing this, I would have said maybe 2 or 5 percent.”
The findings are also worrisome because the scenario imagined in the study
- that is, a temperature increase of 5.4 degrees F (3 degrees C) above pre-industrial levels - is not much more extreme than current climate change projections,
the researchers said.
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.
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?
Boesch and Horn Point Laboratory led a panel of scientists who have predicted a one-and-a-half-foot sea level rise in our area by the year 2050.
It was published in an independent, scientific report earlier this year.
The report recommended that it would be prudent to prepare for the sea level along Maryland’s 3,100 miles of tidal shoreline to be 2.1 feet higher in 2050 than it was in 2000.
The panel’s best estimate was a sea level rise of 1.4 feet, but no less than 0.9 feet and no greater than 2.1 feet by 2050.
“That’s not that far away,” Hall said.
The scientists reached their conclusions by factoring in the expansion of the earth’s collective ocean volume as it warms, along with more water from the glaciers and ice sheets melting in Greenland and Antarctica. Other considerations include changing dynamics in the ocean, such as a slowing of the Gulf Stream, and vertical land movement.
500,000 people affected in Maryland alone.
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.
Great maps! Check out the study. Also, shout out to Alaska Public Radio! Hi guys!
Kivalina: The Alaskan village set to disappear under water in a decade
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.
Looks like a fun lawsuit to watch.
A huge lawsuit stirs up the sediment in Louisiana
OVER the past century Louisiana has lost nearly 2,000 square miles of coastal wetlands, an area the size of Delaware.
The board that oversees the levees protecting New Orleans filed an audacious lawsuit in July demanding that nearly 100 oil and gas firms should either repair the wetlands, or pay damages that could be used for levee upkeep. The defendants are a roll-call of industry giants, including BP (formerly British Petroleum), ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron.
The suit has been inspired by the successful assault on Big Tobacco in the late 1990s by state attorneys-general, who won a multi-billion-dollar settlement by arguing that cigarette-makers had increased their states’ medical costs. The legal arguments in the levee case are, if anything, even simpler: the oil companies drilled and dug under permits that required them to restore the land to its original condition. Their failure to do so has made Louisiana’s coast more fragile, and that has increased costs for the levee board, which must build taller, stronger structures to protect New Orleans from storms. The fact that regulators haven’t squeaked till now is of no moment, the plaintiffs say.
Depending on your point of view, the suit is either a brilliant scheme to protect the environment or a bonanza for greedy lawyers that will stifle a vital industry and hurt Louisiana’s business-friendly reputation. The Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, immediately denounced it, and seems keen to block it. An association of state levee boards also voted to oppose it. State legislators are discussing ways either to put the kibosh on the suit, or to limit the potential award.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers could get very rich. If the suit succeeds, they stand to pocket 32.5% of the first $100m and smaller slices of anything beyond that. But if they lose, they will get nothing, and would normally be liable for their own expenses. The levee board has tried to protect its lawyers with a “poison pill”: if the board withdraws the suit of its own accord—which could happen if Mr Jindal replaces a majority of members, as he may—it will first have to pay the lawyers their expenses.
The Jindal administration says the real villain of the piece is the federal Army Corps of Engineers, which built most of the levees in south Louisiana.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have allowed development on piers in coastal high hazard areas and put more people and property in harm’s way, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Below is a statement by Erika Spanger-Siegfried, a senior analyst at UCS.
“Governor Christie did the right thing today. He demonstrated leadership by putting the safety and welfare of New Jersey residents and the long-term viability of coastal communities ahead of narrow short-term economic interests. This decision puts common sense and pragmatism above politics and special interests.”
“The state faces huge flooding risks because its coastline is so exposed and densely populated. With North Atlantic hurricanes becoming stronger, flooding from storm surge worsening, and sea level rise already measured at 20 inches in Atlantic City, this bill would have set the stage for New Jersey to get hit hard again, at a time when its priority is making itself safer.
“The bill would have been in sharp contrast to the recommendations issued today by a presidential task force charged with developing a strategy for rebuilding areas damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The task force’s main message is that communities must plan for future storms in an age of climate change and rising sea levels.
“Post-Sandy rebuilding is at a critical early stage in a long campaign to make our coastal communities safer and more resilient in a future of climate change and rising sea levels. This isn’t going to be easy, and we need leaders willing to make hard choices – choices that help our communities prepare in the near term and choices that protect the long-term future of our coast by reducing carbon emissions to help slow global warming and sea level rise.
Via Union of Concerned Scientists
EPA substantially revamps its climate change pages. Tons of data, reports, charts, graphs, and factsheets now round out the agency’s information section.
Above, screens of the EPA’s “indicators”, which shows how climate change is impacting environmental systems from GHG concentration studies, to drought measurements over time, to glacial melt and sea level rise, even winter bird counts - cumulatively, the U.S. is about to experience some very dangerous environmental problems.
Sea level rise and drought are the most visible, with coast lines eroding and people’s homes slowly sliding into the ocean. Drought is also an obvious indicator the public can relate to. Water shortages in the southwest, wildfires and bark beetle forest slaughters in the midwest and west, and severe crop loss across regions. Health problems, like increased asthma, Lyme disease, though, will kill the most people, but these will slide under the visibility radar.
Check out the EPA Climate Change Indicators, here. Hover your cursor over the tabs for more options.
The Halligen Islands in the North Sea are one of many low-lying and island regions that are very concerned about climate change.
Not protected by dikes, the Halligens are a set of small islands (some as small as 17 acres) that have separated from the mainland after centuries of flooding and erosion. Because of the periodic storm flooding, homes on the Halligens are built atop small, artificial hills (Warften) that keep them above sea level.
Like large areas of the Netherlands, northeastern Germany, and Denmark, the Halligen Islands are keenly aware of the risk of sea level rise due to global warming and are investing in climate adaptation strategies.