December 12 2017

December 12 2017

ice cliff instability, Peru agricultural bonanza, N. Carolina beach erosion, ecosystems as carbon solutions, Pruitt’s red team blue team farce

The New York Times reports on how melting glaciers have created an agricultural bonanza in Peru, supporting an export industry and urban growth in areas that will not be sustained as the glaciers disappear. An article in the Washington Post describes how some highland communities in the Andes are looking to revive historical water management infrastructure to enhance the water resources of their region in the face of climate change.

An article on Grist examines the results of the first models of future sea levels that include ice-cliff instability, which results in some scenarios with sea level rise up to 6 feet or more by 2100 if there are no controls on carbon emissions. This study and others that suggest higher sea level rise than previously projected are summarized by the Washington Post.

Vox reviews the recent report by McKinsey (Focused Acceleration) that identifies priority actions for cities committed to climate action. They conclude cities can make a major contribution toward 2030 targets (even without the US government), but it means taking on the challenge of coordinated action on many fronts simultaneously. The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the planning underway to rebuild the seawall in San Francisco, with the goal of making it more resilient to earthquakes and sea level rise. Mother Jones describes how Hurricane Irma exposed the challenges posed by flooding in Jacksonville, FL, including the environmental justice implications in this community.

Inside Climate News has a detailed article on beach erosion in Nag’s Head, North Carolina, which demonstrates the complexities facing coastal communities as sea level rises. The city has spent millions buying out homeowners after storm damage (which reduces the tax base), and mining sand to replenish beaches. The article notes “of North Carolina’s 160 miles of developed beaches, three-quarters of it is slated for nourishment. A couple of decades ago only 12 miles were nourished regularly”. The city’s efforts have been hampered by homeowner lawsuits and lack of federal funding. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that the Moody’s Investor Services (credit rating agency) has started integrating exposure to sea level rise and other threats into its ratings of state and local bonds.

An analysis by Nature Conservancy scientists shows that conservation and changes in land use and management – like forest management, and wetland and grassland restoration – could achieve as much as 17 percent of the cumulative greenhouse gas reductions California needs to meet its 2030 climate change goal (A summary of the study is on the Conservancy’s blog). A companion analysis (both published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) concluded that nature-based solutions can provide 37 percent of the global emissions reductions needed to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The scale of these estimated contributions surprised the research team given their use of conservative assumptions, and is good news for our ability to manage greenhouse gas concentrations. The Washington Post has a detailed look at recent discovery of vast peat reserves in the rainforests of the Congo Basin, and the challenges facing those seeking to preserve these intact rainforests from exploitation that would reduce their capacity to store carbon.

The Los Angeles Times reports on research from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that concludes the loss of arctic sea ice will increase the frequency of high pressure in the eastern Pacific, leading to less precipitation and more drought in California. This is the first time atmospheric modelers have addressed this question in detail, and their results suggest more “ridiculously resilient ridges” in our future.

Inside Climate News reports on EPA Administrator Pruitt’s statement before Congress that EPA will review the science of the endangerment finding using a “red team, blue team” exercise as soon as January. Dr. Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists has provided a proper assessment of this use of public funds: “Scott Pruitt’s call for a ‘red team, blue team’ debate on climate change is a farce and a distraction. If he has questions about climate science, he should turn to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, not hacks from the Heartland Institute.”

Vox interviews German sociologist Harald Welzer regarding his new book about Climate Wars… not the most pleasant topic. Welzer notes that climate change will increase the likelihood of human conflict, which he says that despite ideological motivations is already resource-driven at its core (“it’s not that difficult to see that, say, mass migration due to climate change will lead to social disruption and potentially violent conflict.”) Welzer points out that “we have a freedom to act, which means we can change things.”

The world we get will be the world we choose. So, let’s get busy!