Climate change, uncertainty & security 2017 – 2018

Written by  //  September 15, 2018  //  Climate Change  //  No comments

U.S. $23 trillion will be lost if temperatures rise four degrees by 2100
(Phys.org) Imagine something similar to the Great Depression of 1929 hitting the world, but this time it never ends.
Economic modelling suggests this is the reality facing us if we continue emitting greenhouse gases and allowing temperatures to rise unabated.
Economists have largely underestimated the global economic damages from climate change, partly as a result of averaging these effects across countries and regions, but also because the likely behaviour of producers and consumers in a climate change future isn’t usually taken into consideration in climate modelling. … The severe falls in GDP in the long term will put many governments under fiscal stress, since tax revenues are tied to GDP or national income levels. Tax revenues will fall dramatically.In addition, if global warming is linked to increases in the frequency of weather events and other natural disasters, which invoke significant emergency management responses and expenditures, the pressure on government budgets will be even more severe.
Many governments around the global won’t be able to cope and will, to put it simply, fail. 15 August 2018

15 September
Cleo Paskal: Climate disruptions are also about politics and economics, as about environment
(Sunday Guardian) Yes, climate change is a serious challenge. And it is combining with other aspects of environmental change, as well as politics and economics, to trigger increasingly disruptive events. All three must be understood and addressed together if we are going to achieve anything close to security, let alone prosperity.
We need to look at insurance, zoning, locations of critical infrastructure and more, and over a much longer time frame, to understand what kind of risk we are creating. Otherwise, our world will be filled with many more Florences.

11 September
Floods and Droughts: As climate change exacerbates water and other resource shortages, the crisis Cape Town was forced to reckon with this summer foreshadows emergencies in cities all around the world, Vann R. Newkirk II reports. In the United States, Hurricane Florence is predicted to make landfall in North or South Carolina on Thursday, and could lead to dangerous flooding similar to what Houston suffered due to Hurricane Harvey last year. Elsewhere, melting glaciers are hitting tourists.

28 August
The Global Rightward Shift on Climate Change
President Trump may be leading the rich, English-speaking world to scale back environmental policies.
(The Atlantic) Moderate national leaders—on both the center-left and center-right—in some of the world’s richest and most advanced countries are finding it far easier to talk about climate change than to actually fight it.
At a basic level, this pattern holds up, well, everywhere. Every country except the United States supports the Paris Agreement on climate change. But no major developed country is on track to meet its Paris climate goals, according to the Climate Action Tracker, an independent analysis produced by three European research organizations. Even Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom—where right-wing governments have made combatting climate change a national priority—seem likely to miss their goals.
Simply put: This kind of failure, writ large, would devastate Earth in the century to come. The world would blow its stated goal of limiting atmospheric temperature rise. Heatwaves might regularly last for six punishing weeks, sea levels could soar by feet in a few short decades, and certain fragile ecosystems—like the delicate Arctic permafrost or the kaleidoscopic plenty of coral reefs—would disappear from the planet entirely.

22 August
The Victims of Climate Change Are Already Here
(The Atlantic)With a new global summit approaching, communities in the southern United States are calling attention to the disaster scenarios they currently face.
In the new global reality, where each passing year is the hottest on record, the final month of summer foretells calamity. It’s always hot and volatile in the dog days between mid-August and mid-September, but the past few years have dialed those elements up high. Heat waves, droughts, storms, floods, and other extreme events have garnered increasing attention. The largest wildfire in California’s history is now raging almost a year after the previous record holder hit the state. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma ravaged the Gulf Coast and Florida in late August last year. Hurricane Maria became the second-most deadly natural disaster in contemporary American history when it passed over Puerto Rico last September. And the 13th anniversary of the Louisiana landfall of Hurricane Katrina, the largest such storm, is on August 29.

1 August
We’ve reached a milestone in our demand for Earth’s natural resources, and it could have major consequences
This year’s Earth Overshoot Day falls on August 1, the earliest it has ever been.
Renewable natural resources are being consumed 1.7 times faster than they can regenerate, according to the Global Footprint Network.

Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change
By Nathaniel Rich
Editor’s Note
This narrative by Nathaniel Rich is a work of history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989: the decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change. Complementing the text is a series of aerial photographs and videos, all shot over the past year by George Steinmetz. With support from the Pulitzer Center, this two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews. It tracks the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe. It will come as a revelation to many readers — an agonizing revelation — to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it. – Jake Silverstein
The Problem With The New York Times’ Big Story on Climate Change
By portraying the early years of climate politics as a tragedy, the magazine lets Republicans and the fossil-fuel industry off the hook.
By Robinson Meyer
(The Atlantic) The New York Times Magazine has tried to make the release of its new article, which details a decade of climate history, as momentous as possible. It has devoted the entire new issue of the magazine to just this one story, which is written by Nathaniel Rich. Having read the story, I am left to wonder: What was the point?

25 April
Not exactly new news to those who have been following events in the small-island states
Climate change to drive migration from island homes sooner than thought
Low-lying atolls around the world will be overtaken by sea-level rises within a few decades, according to a new study
(The Guardian) Hundreds of thousands of people will be forced from their homes on low-lying islands in the next few decades by sea-level rises and the contamination of fresh drinking water sources, scientists have warned.
A study by researchers at the US Geological Survey (USGS), the Deltares Institute in the Netherlands and Hawaii University has found that many small islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans will be uninhabitable for humans by the middle of this century. That is much earlier than previously thought.
Experts say the findings underline the looming climate change driven migration crisis that is predicted to see hundreds of millions of people forced from their homes in the coming years.
More than half a million people around the world live on atoll islands, often extraordinary and beautiful structures based on coral reefs. Their closeness to sea level makes them particularly vulnerable to climate change.
The increase in urgency comes because, according to the authors of the report, previous studies had been based only on predicted sea-level rises. Today’s study also examined the impact of wave driven flooding on the availability of fresh water.

29 March
Biggest Threat to Humanity? Climate Change, U.N. Chief Says
(NYT) The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, on Thursday called climate change “the most systemic threat to humankind” and urged world leaders to curb their countries’ greenhouse gas emissions.
He didn’t say much, though, about the one world leader who had pulled out of the landmark United Nations climate change agreement: President Trump.
Instead, Mr. Guterres suggested that Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord nearly a year ago didn’t matter much. The American people, he said, were doing plenty.
Mr. Guterres is planning a summit meeting next year to goad world leaders to raise their emissions reductions targets. But few countries are even close to meeting the targets they set under the Paris agreement, which was drafted in November and December in 2015, according to independent analyses.
His warnings came a week after the World Meteorological Organization, a United Nations agency, reported that a barrage of extreme weather events had made 2017 the costliest year on record for such disasters, with an estimated $320 billion in losses.

28 January
Volcanoes, earthquakes: Is the Ring of Fire alight?
(Japan Today) A volcanic eruption in the Philippines forces mass evacuations, while another in Japan kills one person. Across the Pacific, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hits off Alaska. So what’s the link?
The spate of activity around the so-called Ring of Fire has raised concerns that a major and potentially deadly volcanic eruption or earthquake could be on the way. Here is what the experts say:
The recent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occurred along a belt that runs around the Pacific Ocean and is known as the “Ring of Fire.”
Reaching from Indonesia to the coast of Chile in a 40,000-kilometer arc, the belt is home to most of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes and is where the vast majority of earthquakes occur.
It is an interconnected circle of fault lines — cracks in the Earth’s hardened upper crust — which are under constant pressure from super-hot molten rock beneath.
The recent spectacular eruptions and earthquakes have caused some speculation about a potential “domino effect,” but experts say that simply isn’t how the Ring of Fire works.
The Ring of Fire has produced the world’s strongest recorded earthquake and volcanic eruption, but experts say the recent activity does not necessarily presage a major natural disaster.

26 January
Climate and tech pose the biggest risks to our world in 2018
Environmental risks, which have grown in prominence over the 13-year history of the Global Risks Report, are an area of particular concern. The Global Risks Report 2018 looks at five categories of environmental risks: extreme weather events and temperatures; accelerating biodiversity loss; pollution of air, soil and water; failures of climate change mitigation and adaptation; and risks linked to the transition to low carbon. All of these risks ranked highly on both dimensions of likelihood and impact.

2017

26 October
Was the Extreme 2017 Hurricane Season Driven by Climate Change?
Global warming already appears to be making hurricanes more intense
(Scientific American) Summer and fall 2017 saw an unusual string of record-breaking hurricanes pummel the U.S. Gulf Coast, eastern seaboard, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
Hurricane Harvey brought unbelievable floods to Houston. Irma, one of the two strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the northern Atlantic, wreaked havoc on Florida and many Caribbean islands. Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The destruction begs the question: Has climate change influenced these extreme events? Hurricanes can be difficult to decipher, but experts are gaining a sense of what our warming world might mean for monster storms in the U.S. and worldwide.
The dynamic between storms and warming oceans occurs in part because of the role hurricanes play in our climate system: they rebalance Earth’s heat. The storms remove heat from tropical oceans in the form of moisture and pump the heat up into the atmosphere, where heat is redistributed and radiated out into space. “In some sense, hurricanes are a relief valve,” explains Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “From the climate standpoint, you need to have some hurricanes to come along and cool the ocean, to keep them at reasonable temperatures. No other phenomenon can play this role.”
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.

greenland-glacier-manhattan99

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