February 15 2018

February 15 2018

musk oxen, Hurricane Harvey aftermath, melting roads, snowstorms in Tehran

Inside alilimate News reports that 106 members of Congress, representing both parties, have sent a letter to President Trump urging him to recognize climate change as a national security threat (Grist reports on the rise of the “eco-right”). The Trump administration failed to mention the risks of climate change in its National Security Strategy, although the Washington Post notes that the Pentagon just released a report documenting vulnerabilities at military sites around the country. The previous National Security Strategy, produced in 2015 by the Obama administration, listed climate change among the top strategic risks. The New York Times reports how water stress is generating conflict all over the world, with this problem projected to worsen in the future.

The New York Times reports on recent research that links increased frequency of rain in arctic regions with declining size of musk oxen calves. Researchers suggest rain that then freezes—as opposed to normal snow cover—inhibits the ability of pregnant females to obtain food, and researchers suggest a warming arctic will see a significant decline in the size of musk oxen herds.

The Guardian reports on recent research concluding that the equilibrium sensitivity of the climate to a doubling of CO2 might be less than previously thought. This would certainly be good news, as atmospheric CO2 concentrations continue to rise due to our lack of ambition to reduce emissions. The uncertainty around the equilibrium sensitivity is highlighted by another recent study suggesting the possibility that the earth could be more sensitive than previously projected. For those more technically inclined, RealClimate has an interesting post that concludes the Guardian (and other media outlets) are likely overstating the impact of the new analysis on the question of the actual equilibrium sensitivity of the climate system.

Inside Climate News has an article that provides an update on the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which is being called the greatest rainstorm in recorded American history (there were 50,000 calls to 911 on the first night). However, Harvey was just one of 10 hundred-year-plus storms in Houston in the last 40 years. The author interviews members of Residents Against Flooding, a group formed in 2009 to “battle what they deem official complacency” about flood threats. The Guardian reports on recovery from Harvey in Port Aransas on the Texas coast.

The Houston Chronicle tells the story of the Assistant Engineer of Fort Bend, TX (adjacent to Houston), who calculated in 1992 that the dams being constructed by the Corps of Engineers to retain floodwaters would flood adjacent private land that was slated for residential development. He was attacked, his concerns dismissed, houses were built and, guess what? Hurricane Harvey proved him right when 9,000 structures were flooded.

An op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle suggests that California’s insurance commissioner should allow rising insurance costs to provide a market signal to discourage development in areas likely to experience increased fire risk in the future. The Washington Post reports on a heat wave in Australia that is melting roads in Victoria and resulting in the deaths of bats.

Quartz reports the International Renewable Energy Agency is predicting that all forms of renewable electricity will be consistently cheaper than power produced by burning fossil fuels by 2020. Stefan Ramsdorf reviews the science of the carbon cycle at RealClimate, debunking some favorite denier myths about carbon in the atmosphere.

The New York Times reports on the recent snowstorm blanketing Tehran, which used to be a more common occurrence, and the ongoing serious drought affecting the city.

The Los Angeles Times reports on the difficult time the Trump Administration is having finding a person to take the job of Administrator for EPA Region IX in San Francisco. Region IX includes almost 900 staff members committed to EPA’s mission, and the Chronicle reports that many of them are deeply disturbed the Trump Administration’s impact on the agency. We should all be thankful to have a dedicated professional like Alexis Strauss as acting administrator. As the Trump Administration gets ready to roll back protection for wetlands, Jane Kay reports at Reveal that California is finalizing its own rules protecting wetlands and other waters.