Year 4, Month 7, Day 3: My City By The Bay

The Arizona Daily Star continues on the what-cities-are-doing-to-prepare-for-when-the-shit-hits-the-fan angle:

BONN, Germany – From Bangkok to Miami, cities and coastal areas across the globe are already building or planning defenses to protect millions of people and key infrastructure from more powerful storm surges and other effects of global warming.

Some are planning cities that will simply adapt to more water.

But climate-proofing a city or coastline is expensive, as shown by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $20 billion plan to build flood walls, levees and other defenses against rising seas.

People think we’re going to technologize our way out of this. Nope. June 17:

When it comes to planning ahead for a climate-changed future, the world’s cities are definitely ahead of the curve. Reinforced infrastructure is critical for a world in which extreme weather events are routine occurrences, and coastal areas which fail to anticipate rising sea levels may well face guaranteed submersion— which means millions, perhaps billions, of disrupted lives.

But physical infrastructure can only be part of a comprehensive strategy for coping with the consequences of an accelerating greenhouse effect. Two other elements must be integrated into the equation. Without a resilient social network — a culture which fosters cooperation, sharing, and mutual assistance in times of stress — all the physical and technical infrastructure in the world won’t make a difference. And without mass media that is morally and ethically committed to telling the truth about the climate crisis, societal support for these measures will always be hamstrung by ignorance and denial.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 2: Just Enough For The City

The Paramus Post (Paramus, NJ) discusses Michael Bloomberg’s plan for climate adaptation:

In the devastating aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn charged the task force with giving recommendations to improve the resiliency of city buildings and maximize preparedness for extreme weather conditions like high winds, high temperatures and flooding. Urban Green Council led the 200+ member task force.

Highlights of specific suggestions:

• Create stronger buildings—require new and replacement doors and windows to be wind resistant; anchor homes to their foundations; design sidewalks to capture storm water.

• Ensure reliable backup power—make it easier for buildings to use backup generators and solar energy; require buildings to keep stairwells and hallways lit during blackouts; add hookups for roll-up generators and boilers.

• Provide essential safety—install a community water faucet for entire buildings during power outages; maintain habitable temperatures during blackouts by improving insulation; ensure windows open enough to both reduce overheating and guarantee child safety.

• Implement better planning—create emergency plans; adopt a new city code for existing buildings; support “Good Samaritan” legislation that protects architects and engineers from liability for emergency volunteer work.

The report makes recommendations for four specific types of buildings: commercial, multifamily residential, homes and hospitals. Recommendations require a combination of upgrading existing codes, implementing new codes, employing retrofits, removing barriers and adopting voluntary practices at the building ownership level. The suggestions strike a balance between resiliency and cost.

All good stuff, but just a drop in the bucket. June 16:

Preparing for extreme weather is a crucial part of any plan for adapting to a climatically-transformed world. As the greenhouse effect continues to elevate atmospheric temperatures, increased moisture in the air will bring more precipitation — and failing to plan ahead will inevitably mean more lives disrupted, more property destroyed, more money wasted. Mr. Bloomberg’s plans for buildings and infrastructure in New York City are an excellent start.

But there is more to do in planning for the impacts of climate change than strengthening foundations, improving drainage, and reinforcing utility connections. Delivery systems for food and water need to be developed, tested, and practiced; community groups must be integrated into disaster response, increasing the resilience and flexibility of individual neighborhoods in coping with disasters.

And, finally, people everywhere need to accept that the climate crisis is a dangerous and undeniable reality. We can no longer afford the luxury of denial.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 12, Day 24: Give Peace A Chance

The Vancouver Star anticipates problems:

METRO VANCOUVER – The combination of a king tide and a surging storm that pummelled parts of Vancouver’s iconic seawall Monday are symptomatic of what climate change and rising sea levels could mean for the region, according to an expert.

Oceanographer Susan Allen said that in coming years, the flooding seen in parts of Metro Vancouver’s waterfront could occur outside a “coincidence” like Monday’s heavy wind and rain that combined with the so-called king tides, which are nearing the end of their month-long peak in British Columbia.

“In the future we won’t have to have quite so high a tide at the time of a storm surge to get exactly what we had today because the water will be a little higher,” Allen said. “The important thing is “and.”

“If you get global warming and a big tide and a storm surge then we (have) problems.”

No argument there. Sent December 18:

As Arctic ice continues to melt, the world’s coastlines are going to be dramatically transformed. And with these changes will come a new assortment of dangers, exemplified in such recent weather disasters as Superstorm Sandy and Typhoon Bopha. Cities up and down the coastline of North America will need to start planning for such events with the certainty of “when,” not the ambiguity of “if.”

This means that a great many things will have to change. Urban planners can no longer assume a business-as-usual model when it comes to the impact of a transformed climate on major population centers. To avoid tragedies of Brobdingnagian proportions during the coming centuries, the world’s nations must prepare carefully and cooperatively. Infrastructure must be strengthened, emergency response mechanisms augmented, and worst-case scenarios prepared for; all these are expensive propositions, until you consider the alternative: gigadeaths on a scale dwarfing all of humanity’s wars combined.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 1: The Old Gray Mayor Just Ain’t What He Used To Be

Michael Bloomberg wants you to know that he’s on the case:

Again and again, Bloomberg stressed the contrast between the paralysis of national governments and the agility of municipal authorities, which he said were up to meeting the social and environmental challenges of the 21st century.

“We don’t have the luxury of just sitting back and talking about the problems because on a whole range of critical action, the buck stops at city hall,’’ said Bloomberg, adding that cities are key players in the fight against global warming because about 75 percent of global emissions take place within city limits.

“We aren’t arguing with each other over reduction targets, we’re making progress individually and collectively to improve our cities and the planet,’’ he told journalists on a conference call ahead of Tuesday’s event. He added that two-thirds of the C40 initiatives to combat climate change were financed solely out of municipal budgets, with no funds from national governments.

Some of the projects already under way include Paris’ rental bike and electric car programs, Bogota’s electric taxis, Los Angeles’ use of more efficient bulbs LED in its street lights, and the improved solid waste collection initiatives by New Delhi, Lagos and Mexico City.

Good for them. How about some large-scale support? Sent June 20:

Given that well over three-quarters of Americans (and over half the world’s population) live in cities, sustainable urban design is an idea whose time has clearly come. The fight against climate change requires us to feed and shelter the world’s steadily-increasing population while simultaneously significantly reducing greenhouse emissions — an impossible task without the economies of scale and increased efficiency cities provide.

But a climate-changed world poses enormous challenges to urban planners. Extreme weather will stress infrastructure to the breaking point, our already-vulnerable agricultural systems will be hard-pressed to feed millions of people, and unlimited fresh water is no longer something any of us can take for granted.

Cities around the world will play a crucial role in our struggle against the burgeoning greenhouse effect — but they must be supported with robust environmental and energy policy initiatives at all levels of governance from local to international.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 30: Burning Disappointment

Four dozen of the world’s largest cities have taken steps to cut 248 million tons of greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020, according to a report issued Tuesday, an announcement aimed at demonstrating that environmental progress can continue in the absence of a broad international climate agreement.

The news, which New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will deliver along with Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes at this week’s Rio+20 Earth Summit, highlights the fractured policymaking landscape that defines environmental issues today. While more than 130 world leaders will try to hammer out a negotiated statement in Rio by week’s end about their sustainable development goals, many of the concrete steps are being taking by community leaders.

“We’re not arguing with each other about emissions targets,” Bloomberg told reporters in a teleconference Monday. “What we’re doing is going out and making progress.”

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group — a network of 59 cities, including Los Angeles; Tokyo; Bogota, Colombia; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — was launched in 2005 to provide support for mayors hoping to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in urban centers across the globe. The group analyzed data from 48 cities to determine a suite of policies that are now in place to cut 248 million tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of taking 44 million passenger vehicles off the road for a year.

As usual, the conference has fucked the duck. Sent June 19:

The world’s cities have an enormous role to play in the fight against climate change, and the work of the C40 Cities group in setting up realistic frameworks for greenhouse emissions reductions demonstrates what people can do once they focus their attention on the urgency of the problem.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Rio climate conference as a whole. The Rio+20 Earth Summit’s negotiating text is an embarrassment to its authors and to the participating nations, demonstrating conclusively (as if further proof were needed) the extent to which the economic power of multinational corporations has hindered the development of climate solutions.

Meaningful strategies for coping with the climate crisis will range in scale from individual/local to collective/planetary. There’s much that cities and towns can do to prepare — but without committed leadership at the international level, we’ll never be able to mobilize our resources fully and completely.

Warren Senders