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.


about.me - FAQs - Follow - Face - Ask - Donations - Climate Book Store


I am a man-caused-Climate Change (Global Warming) skeptic. Where should I start looking for evidence?

A question by Anonymous

Hi Anon,

Thanks for the question. Skepticism is the basis of science, so I somewhat* respect your point of view.

Note: I’m an adaptation specialist and I manage parts of USAID’s climate adaptation program in over 25 countries. This means I help governments around the world with policies that deal with inevitable impacts from climate change. Basically, I help with natural disaster planning using a bit of climate science, city planning, and environmental law. So, if a city is going to flood, I help a government plan to prevent the flood. If a country’s farming economy is going crash due to drought, I help the government shape a response to prevent crop losses. See what I do, here. Thus, I do not work on carbon or energy policy. I am not an activist. I do not advocate for emissions policies. I’m about as interested in “preventing climate change” as I am interested in becoming the next Dali Lama. That said, this is a very rare instance where I answer a question about carbon, GHGs, and energy. Ok, on to anon’s nice question:

The short answer, anon, is to go here, and probably here. The long (and basic) answer is that you have to contemplate the reason why the earth is warm (vs, say, the moon). The reason is that greenhouse gases (GHGs, e.g., carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor, etc.) hold a good amount of the sun’s radiation, thus keeping the earth nice and cozy.

Without these gases, the earth would be like the moon - a dead rock that’s freezing and boiling at the same time: +253F (+123C) during the day; -387F (-233C) at night.

There is no disputing this (deniers [unwittingly] admit this when they make arguments about cycles). When there are more gases in the atmosphere, more of the sun’s radiation is held within the atmosphere, creating a warming effect (and very strange changes in weather events).

The vast majority of climate denial arguments have been debunked years ago. For example, here’s a list of common arguments still used today, but answered back in 2004.

In sum, your starting point is: Why is the earth warm? It’s warm due to GHGs in the atmosphere. And humans are adding a never before seen amount of carbon into the atmosphere, which in turn will wreak unbelievable havoc. Deniers bear the rather obscene burden of showing that GHGs do not keep the earth warm, and that increases in carbon do not influence climate. 

I hope those links above help.

All the best,

Michael


*A legitimate skeptic applies critical thinking to systematically pick apart arguments. Skeptics do this by analyzing evidence. No one disagrees that GHGs cause warming (even all oil companies on earth admit this, and are searching for solutions to lower GHG emissions). The burden is on you and other deniers to show that greenhouse gases do not influence the earth’s atmosphere. Frankly, in my opinion, this is a rather boring subject. The more interesting subject is that deniers actually do not comprehend their own arguments. In fact, they’re really arguing against *the solutions* to reducing or preventing climate change, which are to raise the costs of fuels and not pay for environmental harm. This gets into societal ethics, personal responsibility, and market capitalism, which are far more (well, marginally) interesting topics.

Study finds shift to 'dark money' in climate denial effort

Professor tracks donations to climate denial politicians. Finds Exxon and Koch Brothers and others are exploiting the system brilliantly.

In the end, Brulle concluded public records identify only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars supporting climate denial efforts. Some 75 percent of the income of those organizations, he said, comes via unidentifiable sources.

And for Brulle, that’s a matter of democracy. “Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible,” he said. “Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square.”

Powerful funders, he added, are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise doubts about the “roots and remedies” of a threat on which the science is clear.

"At the very least, American voters deserve to know who is behind these efforts."

Rich beach community in New Jersey proposes elevating entire town 10 feet with taxpayer money

Officials in this Raritan Bayshore community are considering an ambitious flood-control measure in the wake of Superstorm Sandy: raising the entire downtown.

In their vision, not only would every residential or commercial front door go up at least 10 feet — a process that already has begun in many parts of the Jersey shore — but every curb, crosswalk and blade of grass would as well.

By their own estimates, the process would cost less than $200 million, take two years to complete and require millions of cubic yards of fill, consisting of either dredged material from Raritan Bay, chunks of concrete from construction sites or lots of barges full of gravel and dirt.

More forehead slapping fun, here.

Colorado Public Radio: Why People Keep Moving Into Fire-Prone Areas

What a great exploration of how our communities are built. Click through and press “listen” if you can. The answers are surprising, especially if you’re new to urban planning, disaster management, and land use development. 

The 90-plus population is expected to more than quadruple between 2010 and 2050

On the one hand, Obamacare just got a boost. On the other, the U.S. tax base is about to implode (bad news for growth-economists). There are so many implications from this, like the suburbs will empty even further and the need for nursing homes will increase exponentially. There won’t be much new land development, which I suppose is good news for environmentalists.

Living to age 90 is a worthy goal Americans are increasingly meeting. The number of people age 90 and older almost tripled from 720,000 people in 1980 to 1.9 million in 2010, according to a new Census Bureau report. And the 90-plus population is expected to more than quadruple between 2010 and 2050. Here’s a look at what life is like in the United States after age 90.

More women. Between 2006 and 2008, about three-quarters (74 percent) of the 90-and-older population were women. In 2006, life expectancy at age 65 was 19.7 years for women and 17 years for men. Women also experienced more rapid improvements in life expectancy than men between 1929 and 2006. Over the past eight decades, older women have added almost seven years to their life expectancy, or a 54 percent extension, compared with 5.3 years for men, a 45 percent extension. Among the age 90-and-older population, there are just 35 men for every 100 women. After age 95, there is approximately one man for every four women.

Married men and single women. Most women who make it to age 90 (84 percent) are widows. Only 6.3 percent of women in this age group are married. On the other hand, 43 percent of 90-something men are married and about half are widowers. “Women tend to marry older men. Traditionally, there is a four- to five-year age difference,” says Wan He, a Census Bureau demographer and co-author of the report. “When they get to age 90-plus, older men are very difficult to find.”

Living alone. Just over a third (37 percent) of people in their 90s live alone. About the same number of people (37 percent) live in a household with family members or unrelated individuals.

Read the rest at USNews

The IRS has a tumblr. Here a rep discusses how they can help in times of natural disasters.

US crop insurance shields farmers from drought

Your taxes.

Aggressive beach erosion from rising sea levels will cost tourist towns, like this one in New Jersey, millions of dollars to fix. As beaches erode, engineers scrape sand from the ocean’s floor and poor it back onto shoreline. They then tamp the sand down with special equipment.

The bill for such projects (and there are many) falls on federal, state, and local tax payers to pay for these projects - millions each year. The restored beaches keeps tourists visiting and shopping, supporting local economies. But is it worth it? Should you pay for other city’s poor land use development choices? Who decides?

Beach replenishment (also called “beach nourishment”) is an engineering strategy commonly used on sandy shorelines where erosion threatens coastal property and infrastructure. The process involves extracting sand from a source area and delivering it to where the shoreline is actively eroding. Replenishment is considered a “soft” alternative to the construction of “hard” coastal structures such as groynes, seawalls, and rock revetments. Unlike these structures, which are effectively permanent, beach replenishment is transient, requiring periodic deliveries of fresh sand. Why would coastal managers choose a temporary solution over an apparently more lasting one? Because hard structures built to forestall coastal erosion tend to prevent sand from accumulating in front of them — and on developed shorelines, sand is worth money.

A beach in a tourist town is an example of a landscape with “natural capital.” Essentially, the width of the beach has an economic value. Economists have shown that valuation of beach width is rather like Goldilocks and the Three Bears: beaches that are too narrow or too wide are less desirable (and therefore less valuable) than beaches that are somewhere in between. Beaches that are “just right” attract more beach-goers, who need food to eat and hotel rooms to sleep in; people want to buy houses near the beach, pushing up real-estate values. However, shorelines are dynamic, with natural changes in accretion and erosion that cause beach width to fluctuate. If a natural trend in shoreline position is predominantly erosive, then coastal managers may opt for beach replenishment as a mitigation strategy.

Developed coastal areas can thus exhibit a strong relationship between shoreline change and economic dynamics, comprising a coupled human–landscape system in which beach replenishment is the link between the economics of coastal development and the physical processes of shoreline change.

Via Carlton.edu

Republicans in Washington State pass historic climate change bill

Surprise of the year so far. It’ll be interesting to see how enviros will react if/when the national GOP moves towards similar legislation. 

Inslee climate change bill passes state Senate

OLYMPIA — The Republican-controlled state Senate on Wednesday passed legislation aimed at developing ways to reduce state greenhouse-gas emissions, and meet targets set by the Legislature in 2008.

Senate Bill 5802 passed by a vote of 37 to 12. The legislation, requested by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, creates a work group that’s supposed to come up with recommendations by the end of the year.

A similar bill was introduced in the House, but Democratic leaders are expected to work with the version that passed the Senate.

Inslee and his staff actively lobbied for the bill and the governor testified at committee hearings in the House and Senate. The measure that passed the Senate removed language talking about problems associated with climate change.

“I really want to take the religion out of carbon and I want to take a good hard look at how we can most effectively meet those goals” set in 2008, said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, speaking in favor of the bill. Ericksen is chairman of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee.

Via Seattle Times

New details emerge of potential sequester cuts to national parks

Congress to cut $110 million, affecting every park in the Nation.

The automatic budget cuts set to take effect on March 1 will delay the opening of the East and West Rim drives at the Grand Canyon and reduce hours of operation at the main visitor center. At Gettysburg, 20 percent of student education programs would be eliminated this spring.

The Blue Ridge Parkway would lose 21 seasonal interpretive ranger programs, resulting in the closure of half of the park’s visitor stations and leaving 80 miles between each one.

Mount Rainer would permanently close a key visitor center, and Glacier would delay the opening of a well-visited mountain pass.

Five campgrounds and picnics area would close at the Great Smoky Mountains, affecting 54,000 visitors, and the Grand Tetons would close a visitor center, information station and preserve.

WaPo

#ExxonHatesYourChildren. No comment.

“ Two financial deals that kept the National Football League playing in the Superdome, allowing New Orleans to host a 10th Super Bowl, were expensive for taxpayers and enriched Saints owner Tom Benson, said former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco.

Taxpayers have spent at least $471 million on the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina, allowing a state reeling from the nation’s most-expensive natural disaster to keep its pro sports teams and rebuild a part of downtown destroyed by the 2005 storm. Benson, meanwhile, is worth $1.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, after acquiring the National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Hornets, a 26-story office tower that houses state agencies and a mall next to the stadium. ”

—    Subsidies for Saints Owner Open New Orleans to Super Bowl - Bloomberg investigative report.

In Austerity Crisis, Greeks Turn to Wood-Burning, Illegal Logging

"A steep increase in heating costs has led many Greeks to switch from heating oil to wood-burning. But the price of using cheaper fuel is growing.

Illegal loggers are slashing through forests already devastated by years of summer wildfires. Air pollution from wood smoke is choking the country’s main cities. And there has been an increase in blazes caused by carelessly attended woodstoves.

Three children died in a northern village last month when a fire gutted the home of their grandparents, who had recently changed from oil-fueled central heating to a wooden stove to save money.

In Athens, the capital, officials have warned of severe health risks from the low-lying smog that smothers the city at night, when fireplaces and woodstoves burn at full blast in poorly insulated homes. Greece’s leading medical association is demanding urgent action to clean the air. But those warnings have largely been ignored for a simple reason: Burning wood provides the same warmth as heating oil, for roughly half the cost.

For the past three years, the country has been wracked by its worst financial crisis since the end of World War II. Living standards have plummeted, pensions have been slashed and a quarter of the workforce is unemployed, following deeply resented cutbacks demanded in return for international bailouts shielding Greece from total ruin.

The heating crisis was triggered by taxation changes, and made desperate by financial woes. For years, fuel for vehicles was taxed more heavily than heating oil. That encouraged crooked traders to sell heating fuel for use in vehicles and pocket the difference.

Hoping to boost faltering revenues and foil tax fraud, the government this year harmonized taxes on vehicle fuel and heating oil, which now costs about 40 percent more than last winter, although lower-income residents of colder areas get a rebate. Critics say the move backfired due to a drastic decline in sales.”

Via Weather

Part of this complicated issue is that Greeks aren’t used to paying market rates for basic services. Nor is the government itself used to the process of collecting taxes (sounds weird, but true). After recent austerity cuts, taxes and public services adjusted to (or attempt to) reflect a more market-oriented structure to help create a less corrupt, tax-dodging culture. The measures, as the above shows, may have been too strong and too fast, causing more damage to the country than taking a slower approach.