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.
Easier said than done. Georgians and southerners love their sprawl, and are deeply averse to urban planning investments that involve participation. Developers know this, and prey on southern states for its cheap land and purchasable politicians. Voters, therefore, need to force their politicians to decouple their relationships with big land developers and engage the public.
President Obama’s new Executive Order, “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change,” and recent Climate Action Plan directs federal agencies to ask the Climate Question and provide policy support and technical assistance to help federal, state and local governments, and private companies answer both parts of the Question — mitigation and adaptation.
The nexus between adapting to a changing climate and reducing GHGs is rarely approached in an integrated fashion. Many climate adaptation measures have GHG mitigation benefits and vice versa, yet too often the synergies only receive cursory attention. CCAP sees great opportunities in focusing on that sweet spot in the center of the Venn diagram.
Interesting argument against governments protecting urban zones over food-production zones. Coastal communities and inland cities are protected from floods and erosion by highly complex infrastructure mechanisms, such as dams, levees, and piping. Agricultural lands do not enjoy the same levels of infrastructural capacity. But, should they? Should farms have an equal amount of protection as cities do?
Government accused of failing to address effects of climate change on coastal and rural areas
Severe flooding threatens to undermine the country’s food security, according to farmers and environmental groups, who today accuse the government of failing to address the effects of climate change on coastal and rural areas.
As gales swept southern and western parts of the UK, with already drenched counties bearing the brunt of the storms, it has emerged that parliament’s select committee on the environment warned in a report last year that “the current model for allocating flood defence funding is biased towards protecting property, which means that funding is largely allocated to urban areas. Defra’s [the Department of the Environment’s] failure to protect rural areas poses a long-term risk to the security of UK food production, as a high proportion of the most valuable agricultural land is at risk of flooding.”
"We need a response from government that recognises the importance for our long-term food security of safeguarding high-quality farmland," said Neil Sinden of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. "We need to view the countryside as more than a place for building, and value it for the food it provides." Via The Guardian
Highway to the Arctic Ocean, built on melting permafrost, slices through dozens of streams, ponds, and lakes. Why? In anticipation of the Arctic north thawing from climate change giving the Canadian government an edge on extracting natural resources.
Authors in the Naturespecial feature on coastal threats argue that rather than restore costly sea walls and other engineered coastal defenses, it might be more efficient to restore tidal marshes, coastal wetlands, barrier islands and other natural ecosystems that have traditionally served as buffer zones for coastal-dwelling communities.
Two other scientists believe that natural buffers could keep pace with sea level rise and offer continuing protection.
“Tidal marsh plants are amazing ecosystem engineers that can raise themselves upward if they remain heathy, and especially if there is sediment in the water,” says Patrick Megonigal of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, one of the authors.
(33 cities chosen from) more than 1,000 registrations and nearly 400 formal applications from cities around the world. Each city was asked to present a clear and compelling description of how they are approaching and planning for resilience to decrease vulnerabilities, and after careful review of the applications, a panel of esteemed judges, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Olosegun Obasanjo, recommended the first set of 33 cities for the 100 Resilient Cities Network.
It wasn’t easy to choose only 33 – we had so many passionate, vibrant entries. Among the winners: One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world wrote of the city’s history withstanding shocks for the past eight millennia. One African city wrote of a resilience plan as harmonizing climate change adaptation, biodiversity, planning and management and water security. And a city in South America finds itself dealing with landslides and forest fires, all while sitting in the shadow of a volcano.
Creating and Expanding Funding Streams for Adaptation Planning and Implementation
Cities and communities are confronted with planning and implementing climate adaptation with very few resources available to help pay for the help they need. Adaptation funding is competing against already limited funding for schools, police, and libraries from scarce local resources. So, while adaptation is a responsible long-term investment for communities, it is usually very difficult to secure adequate funding for planning and implementation. During this webinar we will explore ways to use existing mandates for implementing adaptation, give an example of how adaptation is moving forward in the City of Cleveland, and provide a forum for discussion on challenges and creative ways to move adaptation forward.
This webinar is the first of the National Adaptation Webinar Series and is sponsored by EcoAdapt and Georgetown Law Center and hosted by CAKEx.org.
This webinar will focus on identifying existing adaptation funding streams and using existing resources and mandates to implement adaptation.
1:15-1:30Sara P. Hoverter, Senior Fellow (health & climate) and Adjunct Professor, Georgetown Law Center, will discuss federal opportunities and challenges to supporting state and local adaptation. Download the presentation.
1:30-1:45 Jenita McGowan, Chief of Sustainability, City of Cleveland will discuss the Cleveland Climate Action Plan and the challenges and plans for implementation. Download the presentation.
1:45-2:00 Open discussion and questions for panel members.
Excellent adaptation webinar from EcoAdapt and CAKEX.
Let me be blunt: there is no such thing as a “natural” disaster. Disasters are complex, multifaceted, frequent, and overwhelming. We have a hard time fully grasping the nuance and complexity of each disaster – particularly one that strikes halfway across the world – so we turn to calling it a “natural” event. The term natural disaster is, in essence, a heuristic that we fall back upon in order to interpret the event.
A disaster is widely perceived as an event that is beyond human control; the capricious hand of fate moves against unsuspecting communities creating massive destruction and prompting victims to call for divine support as well as earthly assistance.
Huffington Post (yes, HuffPo) published an excellent article on how U.S. cities are not even closely prepared for hurricanes, sea-level rise, or strong storms.
They point out that these vulnerabilities are our own doing. NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg admits to assisting businesses and people build in harms way.
Bloomberg has in general been skeptical about actually limiting development on the water. “People like to live in low-lying areas, on the beach; it’s attractive,” he told a reporter after Sandy. “People pay more, generally, to be closer to the water, even though you could argue they should pay less because it’s more dangerous. But people are willing to run the risk.”
The city’s progress on adapting to storm surge risk has so far consisted mainly of smaller steps, like working with private and public players to harden the electrical grid and seal off the subway system against the threat of flooding.
In other words, city officials are too scared, too weak, or just too ignorant to warn citizens that their lives, investments, or families are at high risk from obliteration. This is not an exaggeration. Even local officials shrug their shoulders when it comes to developing along risky ocean fronts:
Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, argued that development along the Jersey Shore has been ongoing for decades, even before there was a coastal permitting program. He said it is not the state’s role to dictate how redevelopment should occur.
“People who live along the shore always live with a risk, and they know that. That’s understood,” he said. “We at the state are not going to tell these towns you can or cannot rebuild, but we will work with them to make sure that whatever comes back will be done in as smart or protective a fashion as possible.”
What’s worse is that these cities and towns claim they are “vital” pieces of the U.S. economy. Yet, they’re not willing (or capable) to pay for clean up and rebuilding after a storm hits - that’s forced upon the American tax payer…
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.”
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.
Adaptation planning in the Philippines, Vietnam and Nepal with funding provided by the Swedish Government:
Adaptation planning for climate change requires inputs from multiple levels of stakeholders and multiple layers of decision-making. New mechanisms may have to be developed within existing institutional arrangements to facilitate cross-level communication.
One of the biggest challenges is to determine who ‘owns’ the adaptation planning process. While by default, it will often be the national government, this is likely to limit the influence of local and marginalized voices, which are crucial to the process. External actors such as international NGOs, meanwhile, can be helpful, but can also take power away from local actors and create dependency.
Participatory processes need to include all voices to be effective. Power imbalances – based on socioeconomic status, ethnicity and cultural traditions – marginalize some groups and limit their capacity to reduce their exposure and sensitivity to climate and disaster risk. To reduce vulnerability, these imbalances must be recognized and addressed, and marginalized groups must be empowered and engaged.
Budgetary constraints matter. When funds are limited, smaller and less ambitious projects may be preferable to larger, more costly initiatives. However, in many places, transformational change is needed, and this will require large-scale funding.
Planning is often done based on previous years, but with climate change, historical patterns will increasingly not be reliable predictors of future patterns. Science-based projections will need to be considered as well.
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?