He wrote, “Global warming is on track to cause a major wipeout of insects, compounding already severe losses, according to a new analysis.
Insects are vital to most ecosystems and a widespread collapse would cause extremely far-reaching disruption to life on Earth, the scientists warn. Their research shows that, even with all the carbon cuts already pledged by nations so far, climate change would make almost half of insect habitat unsuitable by the end of the century, with pollinators like bees particularly affected.
However, if climate change could be limited to a temperature rise of 1.5C – the very ambitious goal included in the global Paris agreement – the losses of insects are far lower.
The new research is the most comprehensive to date, analysing the impact of different levels of climate change on the ranges of 115,000 species. It found plants are also heavily affected but that mammals and birds, which can more easily migrate as climate changes, suffered less.
“We showed insects are the most sensitive group,” said Prof Rachel Warren, at the University of East Anglia, who led the new work. “They are important because ecosystems cannot function without insects. They play an absolutely critical role in the food chain.””
On May 23 Alan Bjerga posted an article on Bloomberg titled, Honeybees May Be Dying in LargerNumbers Due to Climate Change. He wrote, “Beekeepers in the U.S. reported an increase in honeybee deaths over the last year, possibly the result of erratic weather patterns brought on by a changing climate, according to the scientist leading an annual survey on the insects.
U.S. beekeepers said 40 percent of their hives, also called colonies, died unexpectedly during the year that ended March 31, according to a survey released Wednesday by researchers from Auburn University and the University of Maryland. That’s up from 33 percent a year earlier.
Elevated bee-loss rates have been an agricultural concern for the past decade, since a mysterious malady called Colony Collapse Disorder coincided with a doubling of honeybee death rates and spurred greater attention and research on commercial and wild bees. Higher death rates make pollination more expensive for beekeepers and farmers.
An autumn that began with hurricanes in southern states, followed by abnormal temperature patterns and frequent winter storms, may have disrupted bee feeding patterns and increased their vulnerability to other maladies, said survey coordinator Geoffrey Williams, an assistant professor at Auburn in Alabama.
“Changes in climate and weather affect food and forage for bees,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious that if you have bees already on the edge and you have a radical, quick weather shift, they aren’t going to do as well.”
Other factors that may contribute to bee deaths are air pollution, pesticides, and large rapid weather changes.
A May 30 article by Sean Couglan in BBC News reports recent data showing that childres’s learning and performance on exams decreases at higher temperatures. The title of the article is Hotter years ‘mean lower exam results’.
The author wrote, “In years with hotter weather pupils are likely to perform less well in exams, says a major study from researchers at Harvard and other US universities.
There is a “significant” link between higher temperatures and lower school achievement, say economic researchers.
An analysis of test scores of 10 million US secondary school students over 13 years shows hot weather has a negative impact on results.
The study says a practical response could be to use more air conditioning.”
“But this study, from academics at Harvard, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and Georgia State University, claims to have produced the first clear evidence showing that when temperatures go up, school performance goes down.
Researchers have tracked how secondary school students performed in tests in different years, between 2001 and 2014, across the different climates and weather patterns within the US.”
NOTE: This is yet another reason why low income children in poorly funded schools are disadvantaged compared to children from higher income families and schools.
EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community.
Federal Agency Recommends Greater Action to Prepare Chemical Facilities for Extreme Weather
Officials with the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board have issued findings and recommendations to the Arkema chemical company, government officials, and chemical industry members. Arkema’s facility in Crosby, Texas was flooded by six feet of water during Hurricane Harvey. The flooding took out the backup generators and cooling system, resulting in multiple explosions that exposed the community to hazardous chemicals. The investigation found that the facility had been at risk prior to the hurricane, but that Arkema appeared to be “unware.” The board, an independent federal agency responsible for investigating industrial chemical accidents, recommended that the nonprofit Center for Chemical Process Safety work with companies to develop guidance on determining the risks posed to chemical facilities by extreme weather events. Board chair Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “Given that experts predict that extreme weather events are likely to increase in number and severity, the chemical industry must be prepared for the worst-case scenarios. We cannot stop the storms, but by working together we can mitigate the damage and avoid future catastrophic events.”
City of Norfolk Is Serving as a Laboratory for Climate Adaptation
Officials in Norfolk, Virginia are trying out creative solutions to help the city adapt to the frequent flooding and creeping sea level rise plaguing the city. Norfolk houses the largest naval base in the country, but is also experiencing sea level rise at a rate twice the global average. The city hopes to combine climate adaptation with economic development in order to assist impoverished and vulnerable neighborhoods. That includes Tidewater Gardens, where regular flooding hampers the quality of life of its residents. Proposals to leave the Tidewater site as open space and move people elsewhere have raised concerns that some residents may not be able to afford the neighborhoods they would have to relocate to. Meanwhile, the city’s decision to designate the zones most vulnerable to flooding as ineligible for flood protection has residents worried that property values in those areas could crater. Norfolk overhauled its zoning codes in January 2018, featuring incentives to direct new development away from the coast and flood-prone areas. Norfolk’s planning director, George Homewood, said, “Let’s focus on the areas that aren’t at risk, and how we can develop and improve and densify those areas.”
Houston Attempts a More Resilient Rebuild Following Hurricane Harvey
Houston is attempting to rebuild following Hurricane Harvey without repeating the planning mistakes that contributed to the storm’s destructiveness. Northwest Houston is rebuilding according to new, stricter standards that account for projections of additional extreme weather events in the coming decades. The 2018 hurricane season, scheduled to start June 1, is already expected to be worse than last year’s. City officials are also requesting additional flexibility in how billions of dollars in federal emergency funds can be used to address frequently flooded neighborhoods. The nation’s fourth-largest city has never had zoning regulations and only added flood-protection standards about 20 years ago, leading to some neighborhoods springing up in flood-prone areas. Part of the problem was a rush to provide housing for Houston’s booming population, even if it meant building in flood plains. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called Harvey “a wake-up call” and has worked to implement building regulations that consider the latest weather projections. Turner noted, “We have had three 500-year storms in the last three years.”
New Mexico’s Farmers Fear Rio Grande May Dry Up in 2018
Climate change is clouding the long-term outlook of the Rio Grande. Arid conditions and the second-lowest mountain snowpack on record are threatening to bring water shortages to regions that rely upon the river. Farmers in New Mexico may be without irrigation water by the end of July – three months earlier than normal. Some are counting on the seasonal monsoon rains to meet their needs, but the storms can be highly unpredictable. The Rio Grande itself has long been a “feast or famine” river, with alternating wet and dry years. However, warmer temperatures due to climate change could make that year-to-year recovery more difficult. David Gutzler, a climate scientist with the University of New Mexico, said, “The effect of long-term warming is to make it harder to count on snowmelt runoff in wet times. And it makes the dry times much harder than they used to be.” The river’s conservancy district was able to store water upstream during an exceptionally wet 2016-17 season, but farmers are wary that those types of reserves will be unavailable if 2019 is dry.
Climate Change Disrupts Long-Term Plans for California’s Farmers
America’s avocado industry is already experiencing the effects of climate change. Avocados are particularly sensitive to temperature fluctuations, as the trees start to falter when temperatures drop below 28 degrees Fahrenheit or rise above 100 degrees. Cold weather can shorten the trees’ pollination period, while water shortages, salt accumulation in the soil, and warm-weather loving pests can also lead to death. California farmer Chris Sayer says all of these hazards are “quite possible in the next few decades, as the climate shifts.” During a February freeze, Sayer’s trees shed their leaves, which then caused the exposed avocados to burn in the sun. A string of strange weather events has stressed California’s crops, which produces two-thirds of the fruits and nuts in the United States. Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at NASA, cautioned, “It’s a virtual certainty that California will get drier. I don’t think it’s a climate that’s conducive to orchard crops anymore.” Farmers who grow tree-based crops have to deal with the fact that it can take years for those trees to mature and pay off, which makes long-term planning in the face of an uncertain climate all the more challenging.
Study: Limiting Global Warming to 1.5 Degrees Celsius Could Save Tens of Trillions of Dollars
A new study appearing in the journal Nature asserts that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could lead to $20 trillion in savings. The Paris Climate Agreement’s goal is to cap warming at two degrees C over preindustrial levels within this century. However, prior research found that the national commitments under the agreement would still lead to an increase of three degrees by 2100. Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve these goals will require substantial investments, but will also result in benefits; the researchers wanted to determine what the value of those investments might be. They used historical data to calculate the relationship between temperature fluctuation and gross domestic product (GDP), then estimated how projected temperature increases would affect a country’s economy. The study found that if temperatures were contained within the 1.5 degree C target, it could save around three percent of global GDP ($30 trillion). Co-author Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford University noted, “Low-latitude countries are highly likely to benefit from lower levels of warming because of the fact that they’re highly likely to incur damages for higher levels of warming.”
Study: Increased Levels of Carbon Dioxide Could Diminish Nutritional Value of Rice Crops
Scientists have discovered that higher concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide could significantly lessen the nutritional value of rice. The study, appearing in the journal Science Advances, grew several varieties of rice in experimental plots. Some of the plots were enclosed and had their CO2 levels raised to a concentration of 580 parts per million, reflecting the projected atmospheric conditions after 2050 if no action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or deforestation. The rice plots otherwise received the same levels of sunlight, water, and other factors. The rice grown in higher CO2 concentrations saw severe declines in protein, zinc, iron, and B vitamins per grain. B9 vitamins are especially important to fetus development and a deficiency can result in birth defects. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, rice, corn, and wheat provide 60 percent of the global population’s food supply. Professor Kristie Ebi of the University of Washington said, “When you look at a country like Bangladesh, three out of every four calories comes from rice. Obviously, that means any decline in nutritional value is very significant.”
On May 30, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) announced in the Federal Register that it would be repealing an oversight rule regarding vehicle tailpipe emissions. The rule required around 400 state transportation departments and municipal planning organizations to track the annual amount of carbon dioxide emitted by vehicles traveling on the country’s national highway system. The effort would have also captured traffic congestion data and had an initial report scheduled for completion by October 2018. The repeal will officially take effect at the end of June 2018. The rule also ordered states to set two or four-year emission reduction plans, but the provision did not establish any binding targets. The transportation sector was responsible for more than a third of all U.S. carbon emissions in 2016. A coalition of states, including California, Massachusetts, Washington, and Iowa, had previously sued in 2017 to require the Trump administration to continue enforcing the rule, contingent on a formal review of the rescission proposal.
Trump Administration Files Repeal of National Vehicle Emission Standards, Setting Up Clash with California
On May 31, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposal to repeal a rule requiring automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of its passenger vehicle fleet to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025. The auto industry had expressed opposition to the rule and had been discussing a potential rollback with Trump administration officials. An EPA spokesperson said the proposal had been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review, indicating a formal rule could soon appear in the Federal Register for public comment. The move sets up a showdown between California and the federal government over the state’s special exemption status. Under the Clean Air Act, California may set its own vehicle emission standards, which have been adopted by 12 other states. These 13 states account for one-third of the total U.S. auto market. Industry experts fear the administration’s policy shift could create two divergent sets of fuel economy standards in the United States, which could create significant compliance burdens for the auto industry as a whole.
Climate Change Makes Life Harder for Stakeholders in Senegal’s Fishing Economy
The fish sellers of Senegal are struggling to keep up with the impacts of climate change. Warmer water temperatures and rising sea levels have caused commercial fish populations to either migrate farther north or decline altogether. In addition to climate change, growing competition and territorial disputes with neighboring Mauritania and fleets of foreign industrial fishing ships operating illegally in the area have placed enormous pressure on Senegal’s fishing economy. In the coastal city of Saint-Louis, women largely occupy the job of processors, who purchase and prep fish for salting. The salted fish has a long shelf life and serves as a crucial nutritional supplement for people of modest means. However, the decline in fish stocks has led to an increase in price, threatening the livelihood of the processors and those who buy their products. Seventy percent of the fish processed in Saint-Louis goes to landlocked communities. Khady Sané Diouf of the Collaborative for a Sustainable Fisheries Future said, “Women are very vulnerable because of climate change, and also because of bad living conditions, which all makes them have less revenue than they did before.”
Canadian Government Invests in Controversial Oil Pipeline
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is drawing steady criticism from environmental organizations and indigenous communities for his administration’s support of the oil sands industry. The administration announced it will be purchasing an oil pipeline from Kinder Morgan for CA$4.5 billion and moving forward with expansion plans, despite oil sands being one of the most carbon-intensive sources of petroleum in the world. The project is viewed as a central piece of Canada’s petroleum industry and is expected to lower the cost of oil extraction. However, Trudeau defended the project by saying it would also be part of the government’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Trudeau said, “In order to be able to protect our environment, we do need to be able to have a strong and growing economy. That’s why our plan to fight climate change features both a national price on pollution [and] getting our oil resources to new markets through responsible pipelines.” The pipeline is part of an effort by the Canadian government to secure support from the oil-rich province of Alberta for a national carbon pricing proposal.
Study: Meat and Dairy Production Accounts for Vast Majority of Farmland Demand and Food-Related Climate Impacts
According to a new study appearing in the journal Science, demand for meat and dairy products has an outsized environmental impact relative to other types of food. The researchers found that without meat and dairy consumption, farmland could be reduced by 75 percent and still meet the global population’s food needs. Although meat and dairy provide just 18 percent of humanity’s calories and 37 percent of its protein, it uses 83 percent of all farmland and generates 60 percent of the agricultural sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. The study discovered that even the “lowest impact” meat and dairy products still have a significantly outsized environmental impact when compared to the “least sustainable” vegetable and cereal-based products. The researchers also accounted for impacts on water and air pollution and freshwater usage. The study drew upon a dataset of nearly 40,000 farms in 119 countries, while covering 40 food products representing 90 percent of global consumption.
EPA Seeks Public Comment on Effort to Tear Down Current Cost-Benefit Methodology
On June 7, EPA took an initial step toward altering the cost-benefit calculations it uses to formulate and justify its climate-related regulations. EPA officially opened up its proposal to public comment, signaling a potential series of moves on how the agency conducts one of its core duties. The proposal suggests that EPA may modify or end the practice of considering ancillary benefits that stem from the regulation of fossil fuel emissions. This could result in public health benefits no longer carrying the broad value they currently do. In a press release, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said, “Many have complained that the previous administration inflated the benefits and underestimated the costs of its regulations through questionable cost-benefit analysis.” Pruitt’s claim suggests that he intends to challenge the use of cost-benefit metrics for more than just climate rules. EPA stated that industry groups had previously requested these changes to the regulatory process.
NOTE: Before Trump, the EPA used to evaluate the value of new regulations by comparing their cost to the economy with the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC), the cost to society of health and property damage caused by each additional ton of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere. The SCC had been estimated to be around $40-$50 per ton. Trump and Pruett have greatly reduced the estimate in order to favor burning fossil fuels – with no scientific justification.
Trump Administration’s Coal Directive Could Reshape U.S. Energy Markets
On June 1, President Trump released a directive ordering the Department of Energy (DOE) to prepare recommendations to keep at-risk coal and nuclear electricity generators from retiring. The directive utilizes DOE’s emergency and war-time powers under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act and the Defense Production Act (DPA). While supporters of the directive claim it provides an argument for the economic value of coal and nuclear, critics fear the action could upend today’s competitive electricity market. Former FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said, “Having a significant number of subsidized generating facilities will cause market prices to fall substantially and cause other plants to become uneconomic,” leading other segments of the market into bankruptcy while raising the price of energy for customers. There will likely be multiple court challenges to the directive, seeking to characterize it as arbitrary and capricious. Industry experts have stated that the nation’s energy system could be made more secure by investing in power grid upgrades and more distributed energy, rather than subsidizing older, centralized generators.
Boston Pursues Climate Adaptation Steps; Critics Call for Greater Urgency
As Boston prepared to host the International Mayors Climate Summit on June 7, city officials declared they would be ready for the climate impacts expected to plague the city down the road. City Planning Deputy Richard McGuinness said, “We know the water is going to be coming in through South Boston, pretty much from every direction, by 2070.” The 36 inches of sea level rise, relative to 2000 levels, projected for the city would affect 90,000 residents and 12,000 buildings, while potentially causing $14 billion in economic losses. Critics point to the continued development along Boston’s low-lying areas as evidence the city is moving too slowly to adapt. Boston’s “climate-ready checklist” provides guidance to developers on how to strategically plan for future adverse conditions, but companies are not required to implement such measures. City officials counter that they’re investigating revisions to zoning codes and estimating the cost of major public works projects and neighborhood improvements designed to deal with flooding.
Maryland Farmers Seek Solutions to Salinization, Invasive Species, and Flooding
Maryland contains some of the oldest farmland in America; however, the region is under threat from a rising Atlantic Ocean. For farmer Bob Fitzgerald, encroaching saltwater has killed 15 acres of his soybean crop, now replaced by invasive phragmite plants and degraded soil. Fellow farmer Kevin Anderson said the transformation has harmed his livelihood, stating, “There’s 20 acres of farmland that I mortgaged and paid for 20 years ago that’s not producing any income now.” As the sea is pushed underneath the land and into the groundwater, a briny salt mixture is killing crops from below. Researchers from the University of Maryland have been studying the phenomena in an attempt to help farmers restore the health of their farmland. Wheat, barley, and switchgrass are being tested as potentially restorative and salt-tolerant crops. In the future, farmers may be compensated to set aside their land for conservation. Regardless of these efforts, there appears to be a general consensus that the farming of past centuries may have to be abandoned due to the rising seas.
Study: Maintaining Fossil Fuel Investments Could Lead to Major Economic Losses in Future
The decreasing demand for fossil fuels may result in a global economic decline, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. This predicted downturn, caused by a burst in the “carbon bubble,” could result in the global loss of one to four trillion dollars by 2035. A separate study found that if the Paris Climate Agreement goals are met, 20 percent of world electric generating capacity could become “stranded assets.” The United States, Canada, and Russia would likely suffer the largest economic losses under this predicted shift. Despite a recent trend among companies of divesting from carbon intensive industries, the fossil fuel energy sector still accounts for six percent of global stock markets. The authors note that the movement away from fossil fuels is likely a long-term trend, and a downturn may occur even if the implementation of emission reduction policies were to halt. The authors conclude that if action is taken soon, losses associated with the predicted economic decline could be reduced.
Big-Name U.S. Corporations Leading Renewable Energy Boom
Despite President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, dozens of U.S. companies have stayed committed to their renewable energy goals. Now big-name companies are investing billions of dollars in new wind and solar projects across the country, fueling significant growth in renewable electricity generation. Last year alone, 19 corporations announced deals with energy providers to build 2.78 gigawatts worth of renewable energy capacity. Long-term power purchase agreements between companies and energy providers have proven to be advantageous environmental and financial investments for large firms. However, these arrangements can often be too costly for smaller companies to consider. “Green tariffs” have emerged as a potential solution to this problem, where deals are made with local utilities to pay a fixed price for electricity from a solar or wind farm. The hope is that the momentum created by these companies can have a sizable influence in transforming America’s grid, despite an absence of federal oversight.
NOTE: Germany had a system like that described above, where people generating PV power and feeding it into the grid were paid a fixed price – above the current market price. People saw the installation of more PV power than they could use themselves as a good way to make money, and solar power grew rapidly in Germany as a result.
Market Forces Display Greater Influence on Decarbonization Efforts than Trump Administration
A year after President Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, the rate of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States has remained relatively unchanged. Emissions continue to slowly decrease, despite initial fears the withdrawal announcement would usher in a period of increased emission rates. In fact, one independent analysis (the Climate Action Tracker) has recently released an improved assessment of the country’s trajectory for reducing GHG emissions – a result of the “continuing reduction of carbon in the electricity sector… driven mainly by market forces, rather than Trump policies.” The actual impact of the Trump administration on GHG emissions is unclear, due to this decreased demand for carbon-intensive services and a surge in cities and states implementing their own climate measures to fill a “policy vacuum” at the federal level. Yet, the United States is still not on track to meet its emission reduction targets outlined in the Paris Agreement.
With Stronger Storms on the Rise, Experts Call for New Category Six Designation
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has published its outlook for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, projecting above-average storm activity this year. Scientists point to climate change as the driver of increasing storm frequency and intensity, noting that the number of storms with winds stronger than 155 mph have tripled since 1980. In response to Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico, experts are now calling for adding a Category Six to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to capture storms with peak winds of 190 mph. Climate scientist Michael Mann of Penn State University said, “The current intensity scale doesn’t capture the fact that a 10 mph increase in sustained wind speeds ups the damage potential by 20 percent. That’s not a subtle effect. It’s one that we can see.” The new category could help save lives, in part by guiding efforts to implement disaster preparedness measures that can withstand such storms. Scientists argue that small investments in resilience are critical to preventing future fatalities and catastrophic losses.
IPCC: Global Temperatures to Surpass 1.5 Degree Celsius Threshold by 2040
A draft report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects global warming will pass the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold around the year 2040. The report adds that governments may still be able to hold off the 1.5 degree C increase if they implement “rapid and far-reaching” transitions spanning the world economy. The final report is scheduled for publication in October 2018 following additional revisions and approval. The IPCC’s reports serve as the primary scientific resource guiding international climate policy. The latest edition builds on an earlier draft from January 2018, drawing upon 25,000 comments from experts and a broad scientific literature review. The Paris Climate Agreement’s declared goal was to limit global warming “well below” two degrees C, although temperatures have already risen by a full degree and are increasing by 0.2 degrees C per decade. The IPCC said, “Economic growth is projected to be lower at two degrees C warming than at 1.5 degrees for many developed and developing countries,” due to extreme weather impacts on agriculture and an increase in public health threats, such as heatwaves.
China Looks to Install Solar Panels on Highways to Overcome Land Scarcity
A professor at Shanghai’s Tongji University is behind an ongoing test of solar roads – roads with surfaces made of plastic and solar panels. For China, which has become a massive player in the world market for renewables, solar roads could help meet rising energy production demands while capitalizing on the open space roads already provide. Falling solar panel prices enable this type of deployment, and although the cost of installation remains higher than that of regular roads, the panels would recoup that cost within 15 years. The energy production of solar roads is less than that of regular solar panels, which can turn with the sun and are not obscured by vehicles passing over them. There are also concerns about how well the panels would hold up under the stress of frequent vehicular traffic, but experts see a high potential upside for this application. In addition to generating electricity, solar roads could potentially charge electric cars that ride over them and feature lights to provide signals to drivers.
Vulnerable, Impoverished Border Communities Lack Protection from Extreme Weather
Along the United States-Mexican border, residents of “colonias,” or shantytowns, are disproportionally affected by climate change, due to the increasing frequency and severity of storms. Colonias are generally located in low-lying areas within the Rio-Grande floodplain, and have little (if any) capacity for storm drainage. The housing in colonias is usually composed of trailers or self-made houses “consisting of little more than tin, cinderblock and cardboard” and is ill-prepared to handle extreme environmental conditions. There is little to no infrastructure, as tens of thousands of residents must cope with a lack of paved roads, street lights, and even clean water. There are approximately 2,300 colonias in Texas alone. While regional advocacy groups have worked with governments to address stormwater drainage, a Texas program designed to deliver services to colonias was eliminated in 2017. Martha Sanchez, an organizer with the advocacy group LUPE, said, “In the last four, five years we have seen an increase in the storms, and that increases the vulnerability of these people that don’t have proper infrastructure. It has to do with climate change … It’s going to get worse.
As Extreme Rainfall Becomes Commonplace, American Infrastructure Struggles to Keep Up
Recent storms, like the one in Ellicott City, Maryland, are profoundly damaging to communities. The increased danger of these storms stems from the increased rainfall that has been made more frequent and severe by climate change and a lack of environmental systems to help deal with the excess water. In Ellicott City, torrential rains triggered flash flooding, but the proliferation of impermeable surfaces, like roads and roofs, compounded by insufficient stormwater infrastructure made these events devastating. This potent pairing of increased rainfall and deficient infrastructure was also responsible for the damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey. Development without appropriate environmental mitigation puts communities and municipalities at risk, and the repercussions of falling behind with flood control have become evident in recent storms. Ellicott City Resident Ron Peters said, “Merchants and property owners are the ones who pay the price [of inaction].” With extreme rains becoming more frequent and intense, many towns will have to confront their increased vulnerability to extreme weather events.
Climate Change Could Lead to Major Crop Failures, Including American Corn Production
On June 11, two studies were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that analyze the effects of climate change on the global production of food. The first study analyzed the effects of climate change on corn production, finding “significant differences in corn yield depending on how high global temperatures rise.” Notably, the authors found that an increase of two degrees Celsius would reduce U.S. corn production by 18 percent, while a four degree increase would reduce production by nearly 50 percent. The second study analyzed how climate change may affect the global production of vegetables and legumes. The authors found that the impacts of climate change – specifically, an increase in ozone and salinity, and reduced water availability – would reduce vegetable production. These effects “would cut yields of vegetables by about 35 percent in the second half of this century.” Both studies found that climate change will decrease crop yields, creating potential food shortages and affecting the nutritional intake of individuals around the globe.
Study: Antarctic Ice Sheet Loss Has Tripled Over Past Decade
A group of 80 scientists has published discouraging findings on the state of Antarctica’s ice cover in the journal Nature. The findings revealed recent measurements of Antarctic ice loss from 24 studies, producing alarming statistics on glacier and ice sheet depletion. The most startling news: Antarctica lost 219 billion tons of ice annually from 2012 through 2017 – approximately triple the rate from a decade ago. While this equates to just 8 millimeters of sea-level rise, experts note that as Antarctica’s ice sheet shrinks, gravitational pull on the ocean relaxes, letting water travel further from the poles and accumulate along city coastlines like New York and Boston instead. The sea level rise is largely attributed to two glaciers, Pine Island and Thwaites, along West Antarctica. Scientists say the degradation of Thwaites poses a potential emergency scenario because it is considered a gateway for warm ocean water to reach the center of West Antarctica. University of Waterloo glaciologist Christine Dow said, “If you start removing mass from [West Antarctica], you can have a very large-scale evacuation of ice into the ocean and significant sea-level rise.”
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