November 11 2017

November 11 2017

Cutting the weather forecasting budget, cost of climate change, intense downpours more frequent, Naval Base Norfolk under attack from sea level rise, Bill Nye movie

Dave Roberts has an excellent piece at VOX on the issues surrounding the Trump Administration’s attempt to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan. He notes in particular the cost-benefit distortions Pruitt’s EPA is attempting to insert into their analysis to justify their pursuit of a much more limited rule. In another piece, he documents the Trump administration’s doomed effort to save the coal industry, noting “bad policy could mildly slow coal’s decline, good policy could radically accelerate it, but no policy could stop or reverse it, short of nationalizing the energy sector.” Ken Kimmell, a lawyer and President of the Union of Concerned Scientists, reviews the implications of key pending legal challenges regarding climate change.

The Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative has an informative (and saddening) description of the proposed cuts to the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, which would gravely damage this government agency. The Rolling Stone describes the impact of proposed cuts to the National Weather Service, which will be eliminating improved forecasting services at the time they are needed most. The article notes that three-day hurricane forecasts are now nearly as accurate as one-day forecasts were when Katrina struck 12 years ago, as demonstrated by the forecast for Hurricane Harvey.

The New York Times reports on the findings of the General Accounting Office regarding the cost of climate change to the US. GAO conservatively estimates these costs as currently tens of billions of dollars (clearly an understatement for 2017) and rising into the future (Inside Climate News reviews the GAO report as well). CNN has a good summary of the relationship between climate change and extreme storms, and the Houston Chronicle reports on the massive freshet generated in Galveston and Matagorda Bays by the runoff from Hurricane Harvey.

Inside Climate News has a very thoughtful article based on the increasing frequency intense downpours and consequent flooding. It notes that small-scale flash floods “were responsible for the second-highest number of weather-related fatalities in 2016 (only heat killed more people),” and then examines in detail the response of the Evangelical Christians in White Sulphur Springs, W. VA, to the flash flood that occurred there on June 23, 2016. Inside Climate News has detailed look at the sea level rise challenge for Norfolk, VA, and Naval Base Norfolk, including an excellent 6 minute video (no surprise: it is a very large challenge). The New York Times reviews the “broke and broken” National Flood Insurance Program.

The Washington Post reports on new research reaffirming that seas have risen quite rapidly in the planet’s past, and that major glaciers have retreated quickly because their enormous size makes them potentially unstable. New modeling suggests relatively fast changes of these kind are possible, especially in the “business as usual” scenarios in which humans continue to burn high volumes of fossil fuels. The Post also has a brief description of some steps being taken by major cities around the world in response to sea level rise.

An op-ed in the New York Times reviews The Lancet Commission report regarding the health impacts from climate change. The article notes that the commission has found is that climate change is already affecting human health in serious ways, with damages “far worse than previously understood.” Yale Environment360 reviews the documented decline in insect populations worldwide, and the implications of this for natural and agricultural ecosystems.

PBS has produced an interesting video analysis of the issues around the use of nuclear power in New York. While New York has adopted goals for 50% of its power to come from renewable sources by 2030, at present over 50% of the non-fossil fuel electricity in the state is provided by nuclear power.

I just finished reading Jeff Goodell’s new book The Water Will Come. I have considered Goodell, an editor at Rolling Stone, to be one of our best writers about climate change since I read his 2013 article Goodbye Miami, and I highly recommend this book to all who are interested in climate change and sea level rise. Goodell visits Miami, Norfolk, Venice, Lagos, and coastal Alaska among other locations (his visit to Alaska was with President Obama), and he weaves the stories of these places with the science into an effective and compelling narrative.

And finally, Vanity Fair has a short article on Bill Nye in anticipation of the new film Bill Nye: Science Guy. Bill Nye has become one of the leading public voices for climate action, and is particularly well known in the Millennial generation (I can personally attest to his popularity after spending a day with Bill in the halls of Congress, where I suggested he should call himself Bill Nye: Selfie Guy). The New York Times has a short review of the movie.