Year 4, Month 12, Day 12: Whatever It Is, I’m Against It.

The Lincoln Journal-Star (NE) on the relative unpreparedness of coastal vs. inland states for the impacts of climate change:

Eighteen states, including Delaware, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Wyoming and others, were ranked as Category 1, meaning that their plans either mention nothing about climate change or discuss climate change with confusing, dismissive or inaccurate information. Colorado, California, New York and eight others that included the most thorough and accurate discussion of climate change were ranked as Category 4, while the remaining states fell between the two categories.

“By identifying the most thorough plans that have been prepared, we hope to provide planners in other states with models that can serve as a place to start in upgrading their own plans,” said Michael B. Gerrard, director of Columbia University’s Center for Climate Change Law, which conducted the survey.

Since the data were gathered, about half the states have begun revising their hazard mitigation plans. Some revisions that have been completed are not accounted for in the survey, he said.

The hazard mitigation plan for Colorado, the only western land-locked state the report ranked in Category 4, focuses on how climate change could have a significant impact on drought and water resources in the state. Colorado recently has experienced numerous climate change-influenced extreme weather events, including a withering drought, the state’s two most destructive wildfire seasons in its history and catastrophic flooding.

“The example of Colorado shows that climate-related hazards are not only coastal; land-locked states have their own hazards, and there are ways to anticipate them and plan for them,” Gerrard said.

States whose hazard mitigation plans ignore climate change entirely are Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The Mississippi and Montana plans discuss climate change only as a source of added complexity when dealing with wildfire, the report says.

A generic Republican-bashing letter. November 30:

The most immediately obvious impact of global climate change is the intensity and frequency of storm activity, so it makes sense that coastal dwellers will be more keenly aware of the crisis. But inland states’ unpreparedness cannot be entirely blamed on geography, for there is nowhere on Earth where the consequences of the accelerating greenhouse effect are not felt, and the facts of climate science are by now well-known.

Did I say “nowhere”? Perhaps I misspoke. It’s surely revealing that of the eight states which ignore climate pressures completely in their disaster planning, all but one are governed by members of a political party which is now dominated by science-denial and magical thinking. Republican lawmakers seem to be completely insulated from the obvious realities of a changing climate — a state of affairs which is a sad comedown for the erstwhile party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 12, Day 2: Just Tryin’ To Make A Livin’ And Doin’ The Best I Can

The Tampa Bay Times, on rising waters and insurance rates:

ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly 40 real estate agents packed the sweltering conference room in downtown St. Petersburg this week to hear flood insurance expert Pete Travis describe the new — and expensive — world coming Oct. 1.

He didn’t pull any punches.

Many older homes in flood zones have long benefited from a big subsidy that kept flood insurance rates very low. Starting next month, those homeowners will typically see annual rates jump more than 20 percent, including a fee for a new reserve fund. A late payment could cost them their subsidy immediately.

If the owner sells the home, the buyer will lose the subsidy. That could, as in one scenario, raise a premium that had been $1,400 a year to $9,500.

Travis wasn’t hopeful of a congressional reprieve in the next couple of weeks.

“Have I demoralized everyone here?” he asked.

Concern about rising flood insurance rates — triggered by the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 — has been percolating for months. Now, just weeks before the law’s main provisions take effect, real estate agents and communities from Apollo Beach to Treasure Island are galvanizing, worried about falling property values, busted real estate sales and a crippling effect on the broader economy.

People gettin’ hammered, everywhere. November 21:

A phrase we’ve heard all too often from our conservative politicians is “nobody anticipated.” “Nobody” anticipated New Orleans’ crumbling levees in New Orleans, the environmental consequences of oil spills, or the fact that cutting public works funding results in failing infrastructure. And “nobody” anticipated the devastating floods which are becoming a fact of life for coastal Floridians.

“Nobody,” that is, except environmentalists, scientists, and insurance companies. That latter group, of course, depends on accurate predictions for its continued profitability. Unfortunately, when it comes to issues of climate, the Republican Party has now abandoned any attempts at fact-based policy.

Thanks to zealous Tea-Party politicians and their constituents, the measured predictions of insurance companies contemplating a climatically-transformed future no longer have any influence on Republican policy-making.

Apparently nobody anticipated that a political movement built on ideological opposition to science and expertise would bring skyrocketing expenses for homeowners facing the impacts of global climate change.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 16: Because The World Is Round

The Miami Herald sends intrepid reporter Nancy San Martin to Greenland:

QAQORTOQ, Greenland — — On an inlet nestled between soaring cliffs, huge chunks of ice shimmer from a distance like precious stones on a cocktail ring.

The icebergs take on various formations — a swan, a whale, a ship, a floating island. Some are as white as the shaved ice on a snow cone. Others as glaring as Superman’s kryptonite. The thickest blocks look utterly alive with blue lines running through them like veins, the result of melting and refrozen crevices within the layers of ice that broke away from the glaciers that once covered the nearby cliffs.

Amidst the slow-moving icebergs, the sound of lapping water is interspersed with cracks and pops, similar to the noise that comes from pouring warm water over a frozen ice tray. Up close, one can hear the drip, drip, drip of melting ice. As the sun gets hotter, the drips become a trickle, then a steady flow like rain pouring through a gutter after a heavy storm.

This is a snapshot of climate change.

The melting is taking place thousands of miles away, but its effects can be felt in South Florida in the form of rising sea levels. According to recent studies, the sea level has risen nine inches since the 1920s and if the sea-rise trend continues to accelerate — as some predict — parts of the state could eventually be submerged under water.

Since Miami is populated by retirees, they’ll all be dead by then, so who gives a shit? September 9:

Nancy San Martin’s report on how Greenlanders are coping with a radically changing world makes for compelling reading. It is self-evident to all but the willfully deluded that the transformations they see around them are harbingers of unwelcome and dangerous changes for those of us in more temperate latitudes.

For too long, climate change has been seen as a problem only affecting people and nations far from us, or times far from now. Given the effect rising sea levels are likely to have on Miami within our children’s lifetimes, this type of denial is no longer a viable option.

As droughts, extreme storms, heatwaves, and wildfires make clear, the greenhouse effect’s consequences are not going to stay comfortably outside American borders; we’re all starting to feel the hangover from our civilization’s century-long carbon binge. Soon enough, Floridians will have more in common with Greenlanders than either group can imagine.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 9, Day 14: Well, That’ll Make Them Sit Up And Take Notice

The Sowetan (South Africa) alerts us to a resolution from the Pacific Island Nations:

Pacific island nations on Thursday night signed a declaration promising action on climate change to counter “the greatest threat to the security, livelihoods and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific.”

The declaration was agreed at a forum in Majuro, the capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

“We want our Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership to be a game-changer in the global fight against climate change,” said Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak. “We need the rest of the world to follow the Pacific’s lead.”

A number of commitments were made in the declaration. The Cook Islands pledged to have 50 per cent of electricity needs met by renewable energy by 2015; the Federated States of Micronesia said it would decrease the import and use of imported petroleum by 50 per cent by 2020; and Niue said it aimed to have 100 per cent of its electricity generation from renewable sources by 2020.

I’m recycling today. September 7:

The Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership underlines a cruel irony: the nations most immediately affected by climate change are almost always the ones contributing least to the carbon footprint of our industrialized civilization. While planetary temperatures continue to rise and polar ice continues to melt, the world’s largest developed countries seem paralyzed in the face of the crisis. By geographical serendipity, many of these superpowers are less immediately threatened by extreme weather and the profound climatic transformations now endangering Pacific island nations, which apparently makes it easier for them to ignore or downplay their responsibilities to the international community.

Island states, on climate change’s front lines, have no such luxury. Christopher Loeak is correct in calling on the rest of the world to follow the lead of the Pacific nations, for while there may still be time to mitigate the worst of the coming storms, there is none to waste in petro-political posturing.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 24: They Don’t Suffer; They Can Hardly Speak English!

The New York Daily News notes the US’ first likely climate refugees:

The northwestern Alaskan village of Kivalina is perched on a remote and narrow strip of sand next to the frigid waters of the Chukchi sea. Its 400 residents are the descendants of an Iñupiat tribe.

And in just 10 years, these folk might just be America’s first climate change refugees.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts that Kivalina will be completely uninhabitable by 2025, a victim of melting ice, coastal erosion and rising sea levels.

Until the shopping malls are covered, ain’t nobody gonna give a damn. July 31:

That an obscure town in the middle of nowhere will probably fall victim to planetary climatic transformations does not at first seem like particularly significant news, for the world is full of tragedies. But Kivalina’s plight merits closer attention. Its 400 residents have contributed next to nothing to the greenhouse emissions which may well seal the fate of their ancestral homes. The melting Arctic ice and rising seas are triggered by industrialized civilization’s essentially instantaneous introduction of hundreds of millions of years’ worth of fossilized carbon into the atmosphere.

These villagers will become climate refugees, with luck moving on to other towns, other lands, other lives, other hopes. Kivalina holds a lesson and a warning for the rest of us. We all live together on an obscure planet in an unremarkable corner of a nondescript galaxy — which we are rapidly rendering uninhabitable. Where shall we send seven billion climate refugees?

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 8, Day 5: No One There To Tell Us What To Do

The Charleston City Paper notes a group of educators who are doing their jobs admirably:

There couldn’t have been a hotter July morning to talk about global warming. Charleston’s temperatures hit right around 90 degrees, but that didn’t stop the national “I Will Act On Climate” tour bus from stopping at the Battery to spread awareness about this global issue.

The S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce teamed up with the national campaign Tuesday morning to present information and speakers on the issue of rising sea levels. This event also acted as the debut of SCBARS, a.k.a. SC Businesses Against Rising Seas, a local movement designed to inform local businesses, residents, and tourists of the impact that global warming will have on the Lowcountry.

Lead speaker Scott Wolfrey first stepped up to the podium, surrounded by charts estimating the increase in water levels for the Charleston peninsula and Folly Beach by 2100. The prediction: 6 feet. That means that Folly Beach would lose around 95% of its landmass, and the edge of the Battery where everyone was standing would be underwater.
Wolfrey said the organization had approached more 100 local businesses with the information, and more than 50 percent gave positive feedback and were receptive to the group’s mission.

A 300-word limit means I didn’t have to work too hard, which is good, because it’s too damn hot right now. July 17:

A six-foot high water mark makes an excellent symbol for one of the most vivid and unforgettable effects of global climate change. Over the coming century, rising sea levels are going to alter the world’s coastlines drastically, forcing millions of people away from their homes, their lands, and their lives. Our nation’s infrastructure, already in major disrepair, can hardly be expected to withstand such inexorable forces; it is an act of civic responsibility to ensure that businesses and homeowners have enough time to plan.

But we should not forget that the accelerating greenhouse effect will have other consequences that are equally profound but less obvious. Extreme weather can be expected to reduce agricultural productivity significantly: there’ll be fewer things to eat, and they’ll be more expensive and harder to obtain. Many plant and animal species will be unable to adapt to climatic transformations happening a hundred or a thousand times faster than evolutionary speed, which means a devastating loss of Earthly biodiversity for our children and our children’s children in the coming centuries.

The climate crisis is here, it’s real, and it’s dangerous to our civilization and to our species. Despite the best efforts of a complaisant media to downplay the severity of the emergency, there is no longer any valid excuse for ignorance or denial.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 20: Why Not Rent Out The Empty Space?

The Grand Island Independent (FL) notes the preparations underway in the Keys, arguably the communities most at risk for rising ocean levels:

Seasonal tidal flooding that was once a rare inconvenience is now so predictable that some businesses at the end of Key West’s famed Duval Street stock sandbags just inside their front doors, ready anytime.

“It’s really easy to see during our spring high tides that the sea level is coming up _ for whatever reason _ and we have to accommodate for that,” said Johnnie Yongue, the on-site technician at the fire station for Monroe County’s project management department.

While New York City’s mayor was announcing a dramatic multibillion-dollar plan for flood walls and levees to hold back rising water levels there, sea walls like those that encase the Netherlands wouldn’t help much in the Keys, as a lack of coastal barriers isn’t the island chain’s only problem.

“Our base is old coral reef, so it’s full of holes,” says Alison Higgins, the sustainability coordinator for the city of Key West. “You’ve got both the erosion and the fact that (water) just comes up naturally through the holes.”

The Keys’ plans for adapting to rising sea levels sound a lot like the way they prepare for hurricanes: track the incoming disturbance, adjust infrastructure accordingly and communicate potential risks to residents _ all, hopefully, without scaring off the tourists who treasure the islands for their fishing, Technicolor sunsets, eccentric characters and a come-as-you-are social scene that has attracted the likes of Ernest Hemingway, U.S. presidents and flamboyant female impersonators.

And who doesn’t relish an opportunity to dump on Rick Scott? July 2:

The challenges facing municipal officials in the Florida Keys are unique to their particular circumstances; very few cities anywhere in the world are built on thousands of years’ worth of accumulated coral, and very few are so profoundly vulnerable to the rising sea levels which are now considered inevitable consequences of the melting Arctic. These singular island communities are on the front lines of climate change; eventually all of humanity is going to contend with the impacts of a runaway greenhouse effect over the coming decades, and it’s not going to be pretty.

Key West’s readiness to face these dangers should be an example to those who use their political power to delay action and obscure the truth of global heating. For instance, Rick Scott, whose profit-driven anti-science ideology may enrich him and his cronies in the short term, while ensuring disastrous consequences for the state he purports to lead.

Mr. Scott is one of many conservative politicians who have made meaningful responses to the climate crisis all but impossible. This toxic mix of greed and folly is bad news for Key West, for Florida, and for us all.

Warren Senders

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 5, Day 1: Suck On This

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, on preparations currently underway:

In August, Tropical Storm Isaac flooded neighborhood roads in central and western Palm Beach County, dumping a historic 15 inches of rain in a few hours. In November, Hurricane Sandy washed out a portion of State Road A1A in Fort Lauderdale.

South Florida transportation planners think these examples are the beginning of the impact that rising sea levels, strong storm surges and flooding are going to have on the region’s transportation infrastructure.

“It’s going to happen more often,” said Roger Del Rio, a project coordinator with the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization.

To prepare, they’re urgently moving to see which roads, highways, railroads and other parts of the transportation system are vulnerable to climate change. And for the first time, they’re looking at factoring in climate change when determining future transportation projects.

It’s being done as part of a $642,000 tri-county pilot project with some of the funding coming from a $300,000 federal grant.

The collaborative effort includes Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward transportation planners, the Florida Department of Transportation and the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which runs Tri-Rail.

But you know that Rick Scott is going to pull the plug on this, because Freedom. April 19:

When it comes to our own homes and our own neighborhoods, climate change has become a lot less abstract. For decades we have sustained the comforting thought that the impacts of the accelerating greenhouse effect will only be felt by future generations — that melting Arctic ice is too far away to affect our lives directly. This illusion is crumbling now under a factual onslaught, and regions throughout America and the world are waking up to the fact that planning for a climate-changed future is simply sensible policy.

It should be clear even to the stubbornest denialist: if you know it’s going to be a dry year in the Colorado pine forests, prepare your firefighting equipment. If you know disease-carrying tropical insects will be moving North into your state, prepare your public health infrastructure. If you know a drought is coming, you prepare your irrigation systems. And, of course, if you know rising seas are going to cover your highways, you strengthen your infrastructure accordingly.

Only to the ideologically-driven mind of the movement conservative could such obvious common sense be in any way controversial.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 3, Day 19: Ask Not For Whom The Poll Tells, It Polls For Thee

The Island Packet (SC) calls out the state government for trying to bury a report on climate change:

Shelving a report on climate change and its potential impact on South Carolina’s natural resources makes no scientific or political sense for an agency whose purpose is to watch over those resources.

In explaining why the report by a team of scientists wasn’t released for more than a year after it was completed, John Evans, the chairman of the state Department of Natural Resources board, said the report was “for information only” and didn’t require action.

But that’s exactly what the report’s findings do require. The agency charged with overseeing our natural resources should have no higher priority than working to manage and protect those resources in the coming decades.

The report, completed in November 2011 and presented to the board in July 2012, was labeled as a draft, but a foreword from the agency’s former director, John Frampton, stated it was ready for public review. That didn’t happen until The (Columbia) State newspaper got a copy and reported on its contents late last month.

Buncha bed-wetters. March 9:

There is only one reason to shelve a report on climate change’s effect on South Carolina: fear. Now, there are many different sorts of fear. There is that which all of us experience when facing the unknown and potentially very dangerous future awaiting us on a post-greenhouse-effect planet. Who looks forward eagerly to food shortages, resource wars, increasingly severe storms, heat waves, droughts and crumbling infrastructure? It is surely tempting to take a discomfiting document and hide it away where it won’t bother you, and perhaps the state’s Department of Natural Resources was attempting this understandable but obviously doomed-to-fail approach.

But there is another and far less excusable form of timidity. Republican politicians are petrified of offending their tea-party base, for these low-information, high-outrage voters are more sensitive to apostasy than any other constituency in America. To approve a reality-rooted report on climate change’s potential for harm in South Carolina would be politically fatal for these lawmakers, for there is hardly any heresy that more excites conservative indignation than the fact-based, scientifically-grounded analysis of our rapidly worsening climate.

Whether conservative politicians and tea-partiers like it or not, climate change is happening. Cowardice in the face of facts is always, ultimately, a losing strategy.

Warren Senders