Year 4, Month 10, Day 20: What Can A Poor Boy Do?

The Washington Post seems determined to atone for years of George Will columns. Here’s a perspective on climate change as it’s going to hammer cities, based on a new study in Nature:

Climate scientists sometimes talk about something called “climate departure” as a way of measuring when climate change has really changed things. It’s the moment when average temperatures, either in a specific location or worldwide, become so impacted by climate change that the old climate is left behind. It’s a sort of tipping point. And a lot of cities are scheduled to hit one very soon.

A city hits “climate departure” when the average temperature of its coolest year from then on is projected to be warmer than the average temperature of its hottest year between 1960 and 2005. For example, let’s say the climate departure point for D.C. is 2047 (which it is). After 2047, even D.C.’s coldest year will still be hotter than any year from before 2005. Put another way, every single year after 2047 will be hotter than D.C.’s hottest year on record from 1860 to 2005. It’s the moment when the old “normal” is really gone.

A big study, just published in the scientific journal Nature, projected that the Earth, overall, passes climate departure in 2047. The study also projects the year of climate departure in dozens of specific cities.

Dancing In The Streets! October 10:

Cities everywhere will need lots of preparation for a climate-changed future. Some aspects are easily predicted — bridges, drainage, power grids and communications networks must be strengthened with multiple levels of redundancy, so that extreme conditions can’t cripple an entire urban society overnight. But there is another, more subtle kind of infrastructure that also needs reinforcement.

Cities contain hundreds of interdependent neighborhoods, all with their own micro-cultures, mores, and local economies. Community centers, boys and girls clubs, volunteer groups, and block associations form the social systems that can make or break a city’s survival in difficult times. Just as nations anticipating millions of climate refugees must strengthen diplomacy and border security, cities must invest in nurturing healthy and resilient communities. Parks, civic spaces, arts and education programs are not frills, but necessities, if we want to avoid a worldwide and never-ending “long, hot summer” of dystopian urban collapse and violence.

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 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