Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Climate Change Makes the Case for Renewable Energy Alternatives

Charleston, S.C., October, 2015

In America's southeastern states they call it "sunny day flooding." That's when coastal towns experience flooding caused only by high tides and sea level rise. That's distinct from the flooding triggered by high tides, sea level rise, hurricane force storm surges and deluge rainfalls - the real buggers that reshape coastlines and the houses that line them.

Coastal communities in America's southeast are just becoming accustomed to sunny day flooding, a.k.a. "nuisance flooding."  The population of Charleston is waking up to a problem that's only going to get much worse and sooner than had been imagined.

It's becoming more and more difficult to beat back the tides in Charleston. Not a month goes by now without city streets being washed out and closed off until the water recedes. Whether you call it nuisance flooding or a major threat may depend on whether you've had to abandon your car after stalling out in knee-high water. Either way, Charleston's flood problems are just getting started.

"Right now in Charleston, you get somewhere around 20 or 24 tidal flooding events per year, and that is really just when the tides get so high because you've got high tide on top of sea-level rise, they cause flooding, even on sunny days. Then when it rains, it just makes it much worse," says Nicole Hernandez Hammer, Southeast climate advocate with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "With the mid-range sea-level rise projections, you'll probably get around 78 of those events by the year 2030, and you're going to be looking at 187 of those events per year by the year 2045. As problematic as it seems now, this is the beginning of living with sea-level rise impact."

Hammer says her home state, Florida, is in more dire straits.

"What we're doing here in Florida is we're putting in pumps and we're putting in barriers and sandbags, not very sophisticated stuff, and that's in the high-end places. The areas with very few resources, they're getting nothing," Hammer says. "The city of Miami Beach, which is just 18 square miles, a very tiny piece of Florida and Miami-Dade County, is spending half a billion dollars to deal with sunny-day flooding, and that really just amounts to pumps, raising roads, and those are the two kinds of things that are being done. You can imagine the costs associated with adapting an area if those are the figures you're looking at for a small stretch of Miami."

A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that a great deal of the power infrastructure and grid is susceptible to storm surge inundation, which, it claims makes the argument for alternative, clean energy.

"You reduce the importance of any one asset on the grid the further you get away from a centralized system, and I think one of the great things about resilient, renewable resources beyond them being clean is that they can generate money for you even if the power hasn't gone out," says [UCS researcher Julie] McNamara. "You can still be making money off of your solar panels when everything is fine. You can't say that for diesel generators. It's been widely reported that during Hurricane Sandy some 50 percent of diesel generators failed in New York City. When you aren't running them very often, you have a higher rate of failure just because of inactivity or failed maintenance."


Toby said...

No need to visit Venice any more. Most of our cities will have canals. We can import some gondolas and gondoliers.

The Mound of Sound said...

What is rarely mentioned, Toby, is the impact of repetitive saltwater flooding. It's corrosive as hell and the salt deposits build up. I'm not sure of many structures, especially these grand old buildings, that can handle that damage. It was particularly telling that it's estimated Charleston could have nuisance flooding every other day by 2045.

It would be wonderful if some authority could arrange to have this irreplaceable architecture relocated to higher ground before this heritage is lost.

chris said...

Fortunately, North Carolina has a solution for the problem of sea level rise.

Yup, the stupid still burns.

Anonymous said...

Look at as an apportunity to install high street tidal power.