Climate change, uncertainty & natural disasters 2017

Written by  //  September 8, 2017  //  Climate Change  //  No comments

8 September
A Requiem for Florida, the Paradise That Should Never Have Been
(Politico) As Hurricane Irma prepares to strike, it’s worth remembering that Mother Nature never intended us to live here.
The problem, like most problems in South Florida, is a water problem. Half the Everglades has been drained or paved for agriculture and development, so in the rainy season, water managers have to dump excess water into estuaries and what’s left of the Everglades. Then it’s no longer available in the dry season, which is why South Florida now faces structural droughts that create wildfires in the Everglades and endanger the region’s drinking water, which happens to sit underneath the Everglades. Meanwhile, the Everglades itself—once reviled as a vile backwater, now revered as an ecological treasure—has all kinds of problems of its own, including 69 endangered species. In 2000, Congress approved the largest environmental restoration project in history to try to resuscitate the Everglades, an unprecedented effort to fix South Florida’s water problems for people and farms as well as nature. But 17 years later, virtually no progress has been made. It’s a real mess.

“When the Last Tree Is Cut Down, the Last Fish Eaten, and the Last Stream Poisoned, You Will Realize That You Cannot Eat Money.”
This prophecy is becoming a more and more brutal reality.
But, even today, not every person is aware of the horrible effects our lifestyles have on nature.
27 images that are cause for concern

In Oregon, this thousand-year-old forest fell victim to the chain saw for a new dam.

10 August

International report confirms 2016 was warmest year on record for the globe

Last year marked the 3rd consecutive year of record warmth
(NOAA) The 27th annual State of the Climate report has confirmed that 2016 topped 2015 as the warmest year in 137 years of record keeping. The report found that most indicators of climate change continued to follow trends of a warming world, and several, including land and ocean temperatures, sea level and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere broke records set just one year prior. Last year’s record heat resulted from the combined influence of long-term global warming and a strong El Nino early in the year.
This annual check-up for the planet, led by researchers from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, is based on contributions from more than 450 scientists from nearly 60 countries.
(The Atlantic) Climate Climax: The five biggest findings of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s new report on 2016 weather paint a worrying picture of the state of the climate: Last year was the hottest on record, seas continued to rise, and countries around the world suffered severe drought. Al Gore’s new documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel, uses the tactics of TV shows to drive home the severity of this situation, but risks undermining some of its own calls to action. California has what might be a more effective solution in its own international climate pact, formed with several Canadian provinces—and soon, perhaps, with other U.S. states.

21 July
A new book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising.
A chat with Paul Hawken about his ambitious new effort to “map, measure, and model” global warming solutions.
(Vox) For all the hand-wringing on climate change over the years, discussion of solutions remains puzzlingly anemic and fractured. A few high-profile approaches, mainly around renewable energy and electric cars, dominate discussion and modeling. But there’s been no real way for ordinary people to get an understanding of what they can do and what impact it can have. There remains no single, comprehensive, reliable compendium of carbon-reduction solutions across sectors. …
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.
Unlike most popular books on climate change, it is not a polemic or a collection of anecdotes and exhortations. In fact, with the exception of a few thoughtful essays scattered throughout, it’s basically a reference book: a list of solutions, ranked by potential carbon impact, each with cost estimates and a short description. A set of scenarios show the cumulative potential.
It is fascinating, a powerful reminder of how narrow a set of solutions dominates the public’s attention. Alternatives range from farmland irrigation to heat pumps to ride-sharing.
The number one solution, in terms of potential impact? A combination of educating girls and family planning, which together could reduce 120 gigatons of CO2-equivalent by 2050 — more than on- and offshore wind power combined (99 GT).

10 July
The Uninhabitable Earth
Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.
By David Wallace-Wells
(New York Magazine) the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.
Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.
Even when we train our eyes on climate change, we are unable to comprehend its scope. This past winter, a string of days 60 and 70 degrees warmer than normal baked the North Pole, melting the permafrost that encased Norway’s Svalbard seed vault — a global food bank nicknamed “Doomsday,” designed to ensure that our agriculture survives any catastrophe, and which appeared to have been flooded by climate change less than ten years after being built. …
Drought might be an even bigger problem than heat, with some of the world’s most arable land turning quickly to desert. Precipitation is notoriously hard to model, yet predictions for later this century are basically unanimous: unprecedented droughts nearly everywhere food is today produced. By 2080, without dramatic reductions in emissions, southern Europe will be in permanent extreme drought, much worse than the American dust bowl ever was. The same will be true in Iraq and Syria and much of the rest of the Middle East; some of the most densely populated parts of Australia, Africa, and South America; and the breadbasket regions of China.

20 June
Too Hot to Fly? Climate Change May Take a Toll on Air Travel
Excess heat in Phoenix grounded more than 40 flights in recent days, and scientists say a warming climate could also mean more turbulent rides.
(NYT) In recent days, American Airlines has been forced to cancel more than 40 flights in Phoenix. The reason: With daytime highs hovering around 120 degrees, it was simply too hot for some smaller jets to take off. Hotter air is thinner air, which makes it more difficult — and sometimes impossible — for planes to generate enough lift.
As the global climate changes, disruptions like these are likely to become more frequent, researchers say, potentially making air travel costlier and less predictable with a greater risk of injury to travelers from increased turbulence.
La Guardia, because of its short runway, already forces many planes to reduce their weight, regardless of the weather. A Boeing 737, for example, has to cut its maximum payload by a thousand pounds for a successful departure. That restriction increases on hotter days, up to 15,000 pounds when the temperature hits 91.4 degrees.
Restrictions like these are determined by individual airports and airlines, and not by a standardized industry regulation.

19 June
Portugal Fire Survivors Recount Confusion Amid a Search for Escape
Already, the fatalities have made the wildfire the worst in half a century in a small country where deadly blazes have become increasingly severe and routine, as longstanding land management problems collide with changes in climate that produce hotter, drier summers.
While climate change may help explain the severity and speed of the weekend blaze, environmentalists also said it reflected longstanding forest management issues.
A significant problem, some environmentalists said, has been the proliferation of the planting of eucalyptus trees for profit, to be farmed for paper pulp. Eucalyptus offers a far quicker return on investment after its plantation than pine and many other kinds of wood. But it also contains flammable oil.

30 May
Bangladesh Cyclone Wreaks Havoc in Rohingya Refugee Camps
A cyclone tore through parts of Bangladesh on Tuesday, destroying the homes of thousands of Rohingya refugees who had fled the violence in Myanmar over the last several years.
The authorities in the affected districts of Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong evacuated 450,000 people before Cyclone Mora, officials said.
Cyclone Mora hit South Asia. In Bangladesh, where the storm made landfall, authorities have been trying to evacuate up to a million people, and in some places the danger is ranked at the highest possible level. The region has seen eight of the 10 deadliest cyclones in recorded history.

11 May

View from atop the Grinnell Glacier Overlook trail in Glacier National Park, Montana August 24, 2011. REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight (UNITED STATES – Tags: ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL SOCIETY) – RTR2QKAJ

Glaciers will disappear from mainland U.S. in our lifetime, scientists say
(PBS Newshour) Of the estimated 150 glaciers that existed when Glacier National Park was created in Montana back in 1910, only 26 remain. That’s according to a study released Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey and Portland State University.
The researchers warn the formations are disappearing so quickly that the lower 48 states will have no more glaciers before the turn of the century. The average glacier shrank 39 percent in a 50 year period, with some shrinking as much as 85 percent.

22 April
What Americans Really Think About Climate Change
Polls and studies reveal it’s the long, tiring grind that changes opinions about global warming.
(The Atlantic) A lot of people know about climate change, and a lot of people think it is generally bad. But they do not change their votes because of it. Americans may change their vote because of economic fear, or defense policy, or to protect their property or social privileges. But they do not vote because the ice caps are melting. This is the heart of the climate issue.

19 April
Our Climate Future Is Actually Our Climate Present
How do we live with the fact that the world we knew is going and, in some cases, already gone?
By JON MOOALLEM
(NYT Magazine) Even as most credible scientific estimates keep increasing and the poles melt faster than imagined, those estimates currently reach only between six and eight feet by the year 2100. That’s still potentially cataclysmic: Water would push into numerous cities, like Shanghai, London and New York, and displace hundreds of millions of people. And yes, there are some fringe, perfect-storm thought experiments out there that can get you close to 200 feet by the end of the century.
The future we’ve been warned about is beginning to saturate the present. We tend to imagine climate change as a destroyer. But it also traffics in disruption, disarray: increasingly frequent and more powerful storms and droughts; heightened flooding; expanded ranges of pests turning forests into fuel for wildfires; stretches of inhospitable heat. So many facets of our existence — agriculture, transportation, cities and the architecture they spawned — were designed to suit specific environments. Now they are being slowly transplanted into different, more volatile ones, without ever actually moving.
Some communities will face new problems and varieties of weather; in others, existing ones will intensify. Already-vulnerable societies — the poor, the poorly governed — may be stressed to grim breaking points. Consider the mass starvation in South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia, where a total of nearly a million and a half children are predicted to die this year — and that climate change is projected to worsen the kind of droughts that caused it.
Scenarios that might sound dystopian or satirical as broad-strokes future projections unassumingly materialize as reality. Last year, melting permafrost in Siberia released a strain of anthrax, which had been sealed in a frozen reindeer carcass, sickening 100 people and killing one child. In July 2015, during the hottest month ever recorded on earth (until the following year), and the hottest day ever recorded in England (until the following summer), the Guardian newspaper had to shut down its live-blogging of the heat wave when the servers overheated. And low-lying cities around the world are experiencing increased “clear-sky flooding,” in which streets or entire neighborhoods are washed out temporarily by high tides and storm surges. Parts of Washington now experience flooding 30 days a year, a figure that has roughly quadrupled since 1960. In Wilmington, N.C., the number is 90 days. But scientists and city planners have conjured a term of art that defuses that astonishing reality: “nuisance flooding,” they call it.

8 April
Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 is a glorious thought experiment on climate change
An excellent look at the relationship between capitalism and rising sea levels
In his latest novel, New York 2140, Robinson takes a look at the future of the planet as sea levels rise due to a warming climate and the changes civilization needs to make in order to survive. It’s surreal to be reading this book right now, especially against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s dismissal of the dangers that climate change poses. There’s already a number of fairly bleak novels out there about the affects of climate change. (Look no further than Paolo Bacigalupi’s excellent novels The Windup Girl and The Water Knife.) But Robinson’s book feels like the most optimistic take on our future yet. Sure, the water levels will rise, the Earth is going through a mass extinction event, and a lot of people will die as a result, but when things get really bad, society, he seems to suggest, can still manage to survive.
Robinson imagines a world where humanity doesn’t react in time to slow down climate change. In 2140, New York City is the new Venice, with canals replacing its streets, and people going about their lives in this new world. Robinson depicts that life with a multitude of characters, all of whom come together around the building that they all inhabit, Manhattan’s MetLife Tower.

18 February
Heavy Rain and Snow Pound California, Raising Mudslide Risk
(Fortune) The severe storm could bring California’s heaviest rainfall in six years, after months of wet weather that has dramatically eased California’s years-long drought. The heavy rain and melting snowpack threatened to undermine a spillway at one of the largest dams in the country, which prompted the evacuation of 188,000 residents earlier this week.
What the Oroville Dam Disaster Says About America’s Aging Infrastructure
This past week, heavy winter rain caused a 250-foot-long section of northern California’s Oroville Dam’s principal spillway to collapse. In response, state officials began releasing water from an adjacent emergency spillway, leading to the unexpected and rapid erosion of the ground below and the evacuation of 180,000 residents from their homes.
The crisis, which exposed glaring weaknesses with the dam complex, also carries an important lesson for the nation: Increasingly, extreme weather driven by climate change is placing substantial stress on America’s aging infrastructure.

13 February
California’s Oroville Dam threatens floods, forcing nearly 200,000 people to evacuate under emergency order
(WaPost via National Post) The water level in the lake rose significantly in recent weeks after storms dumped rain and snow across California, particularly in northern parts of the state. The high water forced the use of the dam’s emergency spillway, or overflow, for the first time in the dam’s nearly 50-year history on Saturday.
7 February

Man points camera at ice – then captures the unimaginable on film
In less than an hour and 15 minutes, [American photographer James] Balog and his team and saw a piece of glacier the size of the Lower Manhattan fall into the ocean.

The incident took place in Greenland, where James and his mates were gathering images from cameras that had been deployed around the Arctic Circle over the years
As far as anyone knows, it was an unprecedented geological disaster. Unfortunately, though, it’s unlikely to be the last one of its kind.
In November 2016, the Arctic was 20 degrees warmer than average, which is much warmer than even research models had predicted.

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