Climate news that has caught our attention.
America’s Infrastructure Struggles With The New Weather Forecast. It’s naturally-occurring extreme weather events amplified, juiced, by a warmer/wetter climate. The forecast for our aging, weakened infrastructure is not bright. Here’s a clip from The Wall Street Journal (paywall): “…American cities have been battered by severe weather for generations, but recently many have had to contend with more extreme events, including some they have little experience with, local government officials said. Compounding the problem: infrastructure that has deteriorated in many places, leaving cities with weakened dams, aging pipes and strained electrical grids. “Our cities and infrastructure…are not appropriate for the current situation,” said Klaus Jacob, a geophysicist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute who developed a climate-change adaptation plan for the New York subway system, adding that harsher weather is here to stay. Some local governments are pursuing projects to guard a range of infrastructure, including power lines, roads and water systems, against increasing climate threats. New York City is investing more than $20 billion in adaptation efforts to address storm surge, tidal flooding, heavy rainfall and extreme heat…”
Biden’s Infrastructure Bill Includes $50 Billion to Help Fight Climate Change Disasters. In 2020, a record number of disasters cost us $95 billion according to NOAA and 2021 is projected to break that record. The federal government is acknowledging the threat to American infrastructure. CNBC.com reports: “President Joe Biden on Monday signed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes historic funding to protect the country against the detrimental affects of human-caused climate change. The infrastructure bill designates $50 billion for climate resilience and weatherization, as more frequent and severe droughts, heat waves, floods and wildfires ravage the the country. For instance, it allocates financial resources for communities that are recovering from or vulnerable to disasters, and increases funding for Federal Emergency Management Agency and Army Corps of Engineers programs that help reduce flood risk and damage. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will also receive additional funding for wildfire modelling and forecasting...”
Satellite Monitoring of Greenland Ice Melting Highlights Increasing Global Flood Risk. SciTechDaily has an update; here’s the intro: “Global warming has caused extreme ice melting events in Greenland to become more frequent and intense over the past 40 years, raising sea levels and flood risk worldwide, finds new research involving University College London (UCL) academics. Over the past decade alone, 3.5 trillion tonnes of ice has melted from Greenland’s surface and flowed into the ocean — enough to cover the UK with around 15m of meltwater, or all of New York City with around 4500m. Published earlier this month in Nature Communications, the new study is the first to use satellite data to detect this phenomenon – known as ice sheet runoff – from space...”
High Impact Climate Events: Better Adaptation Through Earlier Prediction. A post at phys.org caught my eye; here’s an excerpt: “…Traditional weather and climate forecasting rely predominantly on numerical models imitating atmospheric and oceanic processes. These models, while generally very useful, can’t perfectly simulate all underlying processes—and phenomena like monsoon onsets, floods or droughts might be predicted too late. This is where network-based forecasting comes into play. Ludescher explains: “As opposed to looking at a huge number of local interactions, which represent physical processes like heat or humidity exchange, we look directly at the connectivity between different geographical locations, which can span continents or oceans. This connectivity is detected by measuring the similarity in the evolution of physical quantities like air temperatures at these locations. For instance, in the case of El Niño, a strong connectivity in the tropical Pacific tends to build up in the calendar year before the onset of the event…”
Could Making Climate Change a Rights Issue Help Boost Action. Thomson Reuters Foundation poses the question: “There are no words for “climate change” in the language of the Turkana people in northern Kenya, something that prompted campaigner Ikal Angelei to take a different approach when she began her environmental activism more than a decade ago. Rather than framing climate change as a global environmental risk, Angelei explained how decreasing rainfall and parched riverbeds threatened local people’s basic right to access water. “It really is the impact on people’s lives and livelihood that allows them to interact with the term climate change,” said Angelei, 41, co-founder of Friends of Lake Turkana, an environmental group in Kenya. From worsening droughts to rising sea levels, climate change is increasingly seen as a human rights risk and a growing number of climate litigation cases that invoke basic rights have been launched against governments and companies around the world. Legal experts said the shift in the narrative on global warming – to focus on the risks it poses to fundamental rights – had been crucial in forcing governments to acknowledge the need for action to protect their citizens…”
Kids and Climate Change: New Book Exposes Why Some Schools Fail to Teach the Science. Great use of the word “flaccid” by the way. The Revelator has an eye-opening post; here’s an excerpt: “…every part of young people’s lives — from the jobs they hold to where they call home. And yet, despite the rise and importance of young climate activists, climate change isn’t even being taught in many U.S. schools. Perhaps worse, some teachers are providing misleading, outdated or false information. That’s what journalist Katie Worth found when researching her new book, Miseducation: How Climate Change Is Taught in America. Sometimes, she learned, teachers don’t have the right training or resources to teach climate change. But often, the roots of the problem are much more troubling. “Fossil fuel lobbyists, flaccid text-book companies, networks of free-marketeers and evangelical leaders, and the American political machine have each had a role in the widespread, calamitous, and in some cases, intentional miseducation of American children,” she writes in the book...”
Northwest Glaciers Are Melting. What That Means to Indigenous “Salmon People”. OPB.org has the post; here’s a clip: “…Whatcom County has warmed about 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1922, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Mount Baker’s blankets of ice, which cover about 15 square miles around the volcano’s summit, are getting thinner and smaller. The nearly mile-long Sholes glacier has retreated up the mountain by more than 400 feet since Grah started studying it in 2012. On top of the glacier, the changes can be imperceptible to the untrained eye. Underneath, it’s more obvious: Meltwater gushes off the glacier’s deep-blue underside. Of course, glacier ice melts every summer. Fresh snow replenishes it in the winter. But as the climate has warmed, that annual dance has tilted in favor of melting, and glaciers around the world are melting away...”
Solutions Series: Creating Climate-Friendly Homes. A post from Climate Central shows opportunities to reduce energy demand – and save money: “Residential and commercial buildings account for 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. As we switch our energy supply to renewable sources, electrifying our homes, businesses, and work spaces is critical for reaching net zero emissions and limiting climate warming. Adopting efficiency and electrification measures can reduce carbon emissions of single family homes by 24%. These upgrades are also profitable investments for homeowners. For more information, check out our newest Solutions Series brief: Creating Climate-Friendly Homes. The brief provides data, resources, and story suggestions to help tell compelling stories about energy efficiency and electrification in local communities…”
In a Stark Letter, and In Person, Researchers Urge World Leaders at COP26 to Finally Act on Science. Or did we just get another heaping diplomatic serving of blah-blah-blah. Here’s an excerpt from Inside Climate News: “As COP26 delegates went into overtime Friday night, shaping the language of their final climate communiques into something all 197 countries could agree on, scientists from around the world issued their latest, and perhaps starkest warning. “We, climate scientists, stress that immediate, strong, rapid, sustained and large-scale actions are necessary to hold global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C,” they wrote in a Nov. 11 letter to the conference. More than 200 scientists from every continent signed the letter to remind delegates at the conference that there’s no negotiating with science, said Sonia Seniveratne, a climate researcher with ETH Zürich and lead author of the latest climate science report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…”
Last-Minute Demands Water-Down Coal Provision: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “A last-minute demand from China and India weakened the agreement by changing the “phase out” of coal to the “phase down” of coal. The demand came as a shock to many negotiators. “The coal thing? No, not all. That was unexpected,” Costa Rica’s environment minister Andrew Meza told Politico. The underlying tensions brewed throughout the conference, however, Bloomberg reports. Top negotiators from China, India, the U.S. and EU (all men, with ages ranging from 52 to 77), sat in a room off the main plenary hall where China reportedly threatened to tear apart the entire negotiations over the change; U.S. climate envoy John Kerry was silent, Politico reported. The U.S. and China employed “phase down” language in the bilateral agreement earlier in the week. Numerous countries objected to the eleventh-hour changes, including the Marshall Islands, Mexico, and Switzerland, on both its substance and the manner in which they were made. “We have been sidelined in a nontransparent and noninclusive process,” said Camila Isabel Zepeda Lizama, Director General for Global Issues for Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Coal and the phase-down of coal is on the books. It’s part of the decision. And you have to phase down coal before you can end coal. So this is the beginning of something,” Kerry said at a news conference Saturday evening. Speaking generally about the summit, Aminath Shauna, the Maldives’ Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, reminded the delegates, “What is balanced and pragmatic to other parties will not help the Maldives adapt in time. It will be too late.” Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa, also warned the narrow language creates a “loophole that will now allow ongoing subsidization and massive expansion of oil and gas extraction in the U.S.” (Politico, Bloomberg $, The Guardian, Reuters, FT $, The Guardian, S&P Global, Wall Street Journal $, Reuters, CNN)
“It’s Not Enough”: World Leaders React to COP26 Climate Agreement. The Washington Post (paywall) has analysis and perspective: “Many world leaders and activists expressed disappointment this weekend with the climate deal that emerged from two weeks of heated negotiations in Glasgow, Scotland — warning that countries will have to strengthen their commitments if they want to avert disastrous consequences and help at-risk nations cope with the damage that’s already occurring from climate change. Key officials in the United States and Europe vowed to work harder to help developing nations shift to cleaner energy sources, after delegates from China and India proposed a last-minute edit that weakened a provision in the text to phase out fossil fuels. The paragraph initially called for the “phase out” of unabated coal and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, but the final agreement refers only to a “phase-down...”
Without New Thinking on Nuclear Power, Climate Policy Can’t Succeed. I happen to agree, my thoughts on nuclear providing baseline power have evolved over decades as the threats from fossil fuel generation increase. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Star Tribune: “…A few thousand people die each day in the world due to air pollution from fossil fuels and also from auto accidents. With more than 37,000 fatalities worldwide since the Three Mile Island accident, commercial air travel has about a 10 times larger impact on public health and safety. For comparison among electrical generating sources, the fatality rate per billion kilowatt-hours generated is: coal, 25; natural gas, 2.8; global nuclear, 0.074 (includes an assumed 4,000 future deaths from Chernobyl); wind, 0.035; hydro, 0.024; solar, 0.019; and U.S. nuclear, 0.0001. And the lessons learned from the three accidents described above have been effectively applied to make safe nuclear power even safer…”
What Climate Change Looks Like from Space. If you missed it, check out the New York Times (paywall) multimedia presentation here.
Israeli Climate-Tech Firms Find Arab Partners to Face Global Warming. The Washington Post reports: “Dozens of Israeli climate-tech companies are teaming up with once-hostile neighbors in the Arab world, working together to stem the threat that climate change will render much of their region uninhabitable. After a series of landmark agreements last year normalizing Israel’s relations with four Arab countries — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco — a flurry of new business deals has offered Israel entry into markets that for decades were officially off-limits. With the Middle East warming at nearly double the global rate, Israelis are taking the opportunity to apply their homegrown innovations in the fields of solar, energy and food tech in some of the countries that may need them most...”
Africa’s First “Chief Heat Officer” Says Freetown Could Be Data-Driven Climate Model. A Chief Heat Officer? What does that mean? Quartz Africa explains: “…The number of people who got exposed to heat waves between 2000 and 2016 increased by 125 million, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said. 70,000 people died from heat waves in Europe in 2003, the year the world woke up to a long ignored threat. And in sub-Saharan Africa? There is hardly any data and researchers believe estimates are understated, frustrating hopes for meaningful public policy. But at least one African city is taking steps to fix the anomaly: last month, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, mayor of Freetown in Sierra Leone, appointed a chief heat officer for the city, the first such role in Africa…”
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