Showing posts with label climate change impacts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label climate change impacts. Show all posts

Sunday, August 24, 2014

We Need To Do What These Guys Are Doing


"These guys" are the Brits.  What they're doing is taking an inventory of their transportation infrastructure to assess its vulnerability to severe storm events caused by 'early onset' climate change.  The good news is that the Brits get it. They know climate change is real and that they're going to have to adapt or else.  In other words, the Brits have concluded that infrastructure designed for Halocene conditions just can't cut it in the Anthropocene.


Britain's crumbling rail network is not built to "modern standards" and is at risk of a repeat of the severe disruption of last winter unless urgent action is taken, according to a major new report being considered by ministers.

A review of the transport network's resilience was commissioned in the wake of the storms and floods of last winter. Cornwall and much of Devon were cut off and rail services west of Exeter suspended for two months after storms washed away the main line at Dawlish.

The report warns that it is a case of when, not if, disruption happens again. The severe winter of last year will be a regular fixture, it says.

But that sort of thing could never happen here, right?  Right?  Wrong.  This happened in Calgary last summer.


Over the summer we've witnessed how climate change impacts are overwhelming infrastructure across North America.  For example, storm sewer systems we designed and built to handle 19th and 20th century conditions can't handle the heavy downpours we get today and, for some, it's getting very, very expensive.

Jeff and Joanna Stefanek are homeowners in the Chicago suburb of Burbank. They know a thing or two about flash floods.  You might even say that, by now, they're pros.  They knew what to do when floodwater began pouring into their home Friday morning.

The Stefaneks got hit hard, but they were not alone.
Not that that was any solace. They dashed around the house, moving high-priced electronics such as a sound system and TV to higher ground atop sofas and tables. Jeff tried to save improvements such as new doors and woodwork he has installed since the last bout of flooding.
He was unable to “and now we have about $15,000 in damage,” he said.
It flooded in 2010 and we gutted the house. It flooded again in 2013. It was like taking five steps back. And this is the second time it flooded this year,” he said.
The regional authority in Cook County is working on a flood relief plan that's due in five years.  Five years.  I expect the Stefaneks will be long gone by then.  The US National Weather Service has just issued another flash flooding advisory for their region.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

We'll All Be Singing This Tune Before Long


It goes like this:

"If we had had more ambition [on emissions cuts from rich countries], we would not have to ask for so much [money] for adaptation. If there had been more money for adaptation [to climate change], we would not be looking for money for loss and damage. What's next? Loss of our islands?"

That retort was delivered by Ronald Jumeau, representing the Seychelles, to the U.S. negotiator at the now concluded Doha climate summit.   The developing countries actually reached an agreement - to throw more money (supposedly) at the poor and vulnerable countries most heavily impacted by global warming.

Only this time there's a difference.   Instead of funding adaptation measures, we're promising to pay them damages for injuries and loss we have caused them.   Only we're desperately hedging to find something, anything else to call it.   After all, we don't want to admit responsibility, do we?

The US had strongly opposed the initial "loss and damage" proposals, which would have set up a new international institution to collect and disperse funds to vulnerable countries. US negotiators also made certain that neither the word "compensation", nor any other term connoting legal liability, was used, to avoid opening the floodgates to litigation – instead, the money will be judged as aid.

There we go.   We'll just call it "aid."  And we'll pay it, if indeed we pay it at all, on some ad hoc basis to our liking.   And, if we run true to course, if you're a good little country you might get some but if you're a bad little country, the uppity kind, you'll probably be out of luck.

As I read Jumeau's remark I was left to wonder when our own, national emissions impact bill will come due?   Who will fund our adaptation costs here on the coast?   And who will compensate us for our losses?

Sure, we should all pay, perhaps an assessment by province, according to each province's population and per capita greenhouse gas emissions.  Oh dear, that would cause some problems.   Okay, sure, it's Alberta again.  Alberta, of course, seeks great wealth by extracting and exporting bitumen that's processed into a heavy oil, mixed with dilutents and then piped out of province.  It's so filthy, so carbon-intensive, that the stuff is refined elsewhere, keeping those emissions off the books.  But, as reported by the Pembina Institute, if Alberta were a country, its per capita greenhouse gas emissions would be higher than any other country in the world.

No problem, we'll just price carbon emissions wherever and however they're generated, from sea to sea to shining sea.   That would make sense, wouldn't it.   Equality, fairness, polluter pays.

Except the Harper junta sees things differently.  Generalissimo Estoban Harper himself would like to see some carbon, his province's coincidentally, treated differently than other carbon, your province's.  You see if we priced carbon emissions fairly, equally, it would be another blow to the conjuring act of subsidies and deferrals and outsourced emissions necessary to keep up the illusion of Athabasca prosperity.  And that simply won't do.

So we're going to have a sector-based emissions pricing policy and by "sector" we mean bitumen production versus everything else.  That will also probably delay implementation of carbon pricing and ensure it's kept well out of the petro-state danger zone.

And so it's unrealistic to expect major efforts to decarbonize our economy and our society.   Ain't gonna happen if we're to multiply bitumen production several fold and every major petro-party which unless you're Green includes yours seems onside with that.   And we can probably wrangle about carbon pricing a good long time, your grandkids might wind up negotiating that.

So when it comes to funding adaptation and paying to cover damage and loss from climate change, there are two scenarios, neither of them good for coastal Canadians.   One is that the fossil fuel fetish continues in which case adaptation and compensation costs will be politically inconvenient and swept under the carpet.  The other is that the fossil fuel bubble bursts sending the foreign oil companies racing out of town and flushing Alberta's economy straight down the toilet, leaving the province with uncollectable revenues,  debt and economic dislocation similar to that of the Third World.

It's time the Feds had a viable carbon pricing regime actually collecting hundreds of millions of dollars annually to fund climate change adaptation, especially for coastal Canada.   That means talking about what is happening and what is coming.   That means putting a price tag on it (independently audited, of course) that Canadians can actually see.   That means making polluters pay, all of us, and finally encouraging alternative energy solutions.

That means responsible government, something we haven't had for far too long.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Climate Change Bill Comes Due

It's reported that if the steady decline in Mississippi water levels continues for just one more month, the river will be closed to most navigation.   The Mississippi carries some 60% of America's agricultural exports and a great many other commodities also.

An official closure is unlikely, but the river could become too shallow next month for most commercial vessels to transit a busy section from St. Louis to Cairo, Illinois.

Water levels on that stretch are forecast to drop to nine feet or less by early December as drought conservation measures will reduce the flow of water from the Missouri River and its reservoir system into the Mississippi.

And the impacts of America's ongoing drought are being felt across the Heartland.

In Decatur, Illinois, agribusiness giant Archers Daniels Midland is evaluating whether water scarcity may cause it to pack up and leave.

At the height of this year's drought, decision-makers at the agribusiness giant Archers Daniels Midland kept an uneasy eye on the reservoir down the hill from their headquarters.

At one point, the water level fell to within 2 inches of the point where the company was in danger of being told for the first time ever that it couldn't draw as much as it wanted. The company uses millions of gallons of water a day to turn corn and soybeans into everything from ethanol and cattle feed to cocoa and a sweetener used in soft drinks and many other foods.

Rain eventually lifted Lake Decatur's level again. But the close call left ADM convinced that, like many Midwestern companies and the towns where they operate, it could no longer take an unrestricted water supply for granted, especially if drought becomes a more regular occurrence due to climate change or competition ramps up among water users.

...With half of Minnesota, the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," still in deep drought, the Department of Natural Resources told 50 water users, including several major ones, to stop drawing from rivers and streams in October.

They included a paper plant owned by Sappi North America and a ceiling panel factory owned by USG Corp. The companies declined to comment, but DNR officials said they expressed concern about the future of their businesses.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

America's Internally Displaced Refugees

We became familiar with internally displaced populations in the wake of the American conquests of Afghanistan and Iraq and the sectarian violence that ensued.

America suffered a bout of internally displaced people after Hurricane Katrina hammered New Orleans and many thousands were forced to leave the city to take refuge in FEMA trailer camps.

Now the states of New Jersey and New York are faced with internal displacement challenges in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  It's estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 residents of New York City have lost their residences and need to be relocated.   Even as the flood waters recede, a cold snap has set in to torment the homeless and create another nightmare for city and state officials.

"Temperatures throughout the region fell early Sunday into the 30s, and the National Weather Service issued a freeze watch on Sunday for parts of New Jersey, including the coast, where many residents remained without heat. Officials have urged them to head to shelters.

"Mr. Bloomberg called the cold the “most pressing” challenge in the recovery. The city has opened heating shelters and is passing out blankets to New Yorkers without electricity.

“'You can die from being cold,” Mr. Bloomberg said Sunday. “You can die from fires started from candles or stoves. Please go to the local disaster site. If you don’t know where to go, stop a cop on the side of the road and ask.”

"Adding to the concerns, forecasters now say that a northeaster could move in by midweek, hitting the already battered coastal areas with heavy winds and strong waves. Freezing temperatures are also expected.

"As of Sunday, more than 700,000 remained without power in New York State, including 404,000 on Long Island and 154,000 in New York City."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Another Crop Failure



Farmers in the United States and Russia are reeling.   Now it's Australia, the world's second biggest wheat producer, where production is in peril.

Lower production in Australia, the world’s second-largest wheat exporter, could boost momentum for world grain prices that have already surged to near-record levels this year, as searing heat has withered crops in the US and Russia.

Poor rainfall in Western Australia is expected to cut Australian winter grain production in the financial year ended June 30 by a fifth to 36.2 million metric tons, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science said in a statement Tuesday. That’s down from its June estimate of 38.5 million tons.

Abares also reduced its estimate for winter wheat production, by 7% to 22.5 million tons, representing a 24% decline from record output in 2011-12. 

With the world population going straight up and global agricultural production heading in the opposite direction, isn't it time we had some straight talk from our governments, federal and provincial?  Stephen Harper is deranged.   This is happening and yet he's stuck in a terminal brain fart over the riches of Arctic seabed oil and gas the Earth can't afford to burn if our grandchildren are to live some measure of decent life.

It's encouraging that Obama's people have finally figured out there's enough voter support to make climate change a useful campaign issue.   It's frightening that he's running a close race with a Republican nominee and his sidekick, both of whom refuse to acknowledge the reality of global warming.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Calling the Prince of Darkness, Calling Beelzebub

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has an unwelcome message for Steve Harper - global warming is real and it's going to cost Canada big time.

Telling the Weather Story, a report released this week by the Bureau, predicts climate change will drive a 50% or greater increase in wild fires in British Columbia by 2050.

The study predicts B.C. can expect an increase in wildfires over the average of nearly 2,000 blazes a year between 2000 and 2010. Furthermore, the province will likely see a host of other weather-related issues like warmer temperatures, declining — and, in some regions, disappearing — mountain snowpacks, more intense rainfall during the winter, and drier summers. The number of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes — responsible for nearly 60 per cent of fires — is also expected to rise.

“It’s not a just a possibility,” said Dr. Gordon McBean, the report’s lead researcher. “There’s a very real probability it will happen.”

McBean, a climatologist and professor at the University of Western Ontario, conducted the research with cooperation from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, where he also serves as policy chairman.

The full report can be found here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

About That Balmy Winter Weather - Part Deux

Most of Canada had a delightfully warm winter and enjoyed an early spring.   Now the bill has come due.

In Ontario, farms face the loss of millions of dollars worth of crops.

The early warm weather in March, followed by sudden flash freezes, has caused devastating losses to tender fruit and apple growers in a large part of southern Ontario.

Steve Smith says there are no blossoms on his apple trees in Port Elgin, about 40 kilometres southwest of Owen Sound, which means there will be no apples.

Agriculture specialist John Cline at the University of Guelph says the apple industry alone in Ontario is worth up to $400 million.
Roughly 2,800 people are employed in the province’s apple orchards, including 2,300 foreign workers hired during the growing season.

Phil Tregunno of the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers Marketing Board in Niagara says about 30 per cent of peaches and nectarines have been affected, with damage totalling about $24 million to those two crops alone.

Growers won’t know the impact on the grape crop until early June.

In Britain there's news of another climate change impact, the migration of southern fish species into local waters.   Bluefin tuna, Thresher sharks, stingrays and anchovies are migrating northward.  We're seeing a similar migration here in coastal British Columbia.