Everyone is aware of the topic ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’. The difficulty is that there is no actual definition, experience or data that defines these terms. Clouding the dialogue is conflict between naysayers, entrepreneurs, ostrich heads, unprepared government representatives and science. The casual attitude by most around the world is, “Well, maybe. But it’s too far in the future for me to worry about.”
The reality is that climate change officially began with the first report of atmospheric modification back in 1853. The primary culprit is known today as burning fossil fuels. What is hard to accept is the gradual change – ever so slight – of weather, planet behavior, environmental degradation and other subtleties such as the effect of eliminating forests, open chemical drainage and destroying estuaries and tidal plains in the name of real estate development.
A record-setting amount of damage has occurred across the planet – including the United States – that no longer can be denied. Something is different. It is destructive, expensive and takes lives. Storms are stronger; rain is heavier; drought is prolonged; atmospheric quality affects health. If mariner may use an analogy, visiting with a cow and calf is pleasant until more cows come running; and even more cows come running. A pleasant interlude with one cow becomes a life-threatening stampede. Since about 1970-90, the rate of change has shifted slowly from arithmetic to geometric, that is, the rate of change was moving along at 1,2,3,4,5,6…. Recently, the rate of change has shifted to 1,2,4,8,16,32….
Even the US Congress, bless them, is preparing a disaster relief bill with a budget in the billions and both parties are collaborating. Climate change must be serious!!! The cost of climate change perhaps is the most threatening aspect, capable of bringing the nation’s economy to its knees.
USNews just released an article that begins to provide measurable data. A summary is below; remember that when the term “in the next century” is used, that doesn’t mean it will start in the next century; it indeed already has begun. Metaphorically, the cows already are multiplying.
[USNews] A report released Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that the homes of nearly 3.9 million Americans are at risk of flooding by the next century if the sea level rises one foot, as many climate scientists have predicted. While usual suspects such as New Orleans, southern Florida and the Manhattan section of New York City are at great risk, some more surprising areas also have large populations living less than a meter above sea level. Ben Strauss, director of the Program on Sea Level Rise at Climate Central, told us which states are most at risk of devastating floods during the next 100 years.
Georgia – 28,000 people living in 127 square miles of low-lying land are at risk of being flooded.
Massachusetts – Only about 32 square miles of Massachusetts is vulnerable to being flooded, but it’s a dense area, with about 52,400 people at risk.
North Carolina – 58,000 people living in more than 40 towns and municipalities in North Carolina are in danger of flooding, according to Strauss’ report. The state is prone to hurricanes, although it has largely avoided major damage in recent years.
South Carolina – In 1989, hurricane Hugo pounded downtown Charleston with five-foot high walls of water, damaging three quarters of homes in the historic district. Strauss says the area is especially vulnerable to flooding. In the state, 60,000 residents live in dangerous low-lying areas.
Virginia – Strauss says Norfolk is at the most risk in Virginia—about 75,000 people live in the state’s 120 square miles of low-lying dry land.
New Jersey – New Jersey only had 67 square miles of dry land in the “danger zone,” but more than 154,000 people live in those areas, putting the Garden State at risk.
New York – Last month, a researcher said that storm swells could easily devastate Manhattan over the next 100 years, and Strauss wrote that the city had a “one-inch escape from Hurricane Irene.” Manhattan has sea walls, but with 300,000 people living less than a meter above sea level, they’re at risk, Strauss says.
California – “In southern California, you never think of coastal floods,” Strauss says. Southern California often gets storms that push the high tide line three feet above sea level, but it rarely goes above that. “By middle century, when you have a foot of sea level rise, they’ll be seeing water to four feet regularly. There’s a lot of development and assets between three and four feet,” Strauss says, adding that relatively flat areas such as Huntington Beach and Long Beach are at the most risk. More than 325,000 people live less than a meter above sea level.
Louisiana – “The odds for extreme coastal floods have already increased dramatically for most locations we’ve studied,” says Strauss. No one knows that better than the people of Louisiana, who were devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. More than 888,000 people live in the 1,180 square miles of dry land less than a meter above sea level, by far the largest vulnerable area in the United States.
Florida – More than 1.6 million people live in the 638 square miles of Florida’s coast that are less than one meter above sea level. Strauss says South Florida will likely have to migrate to higher ground, because the bedrock off the coast of Miami is “like Swiss cheese,” making it impossible to build a sea wall.
Globally, there are ten nations that may not survive economically:
Bangladesh – Climatic changes: A tropical monsoon country, Bangladesh is prone to floods, tropical cyclones, and tornadoes, which occur almost every year, and now the low-lying country is suffering increased rainfall, cyclones and rising sea levels. Over the coming decades it is estimated that 20 million climate refugees will emerge from Bangladesh.
Guinea Bissau – Not to be confused with Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, or Papua New Guinea, Guinea Bissau is soon to be placed on the map in its own right, no longer to be mixed up with other similar-sounding countries.
Guinea Bissau experiences a monsoon-like rainy season alternating with hot, dry winds blowing from the Sahara. Rainfall has become irregular and unpredictable. The coastal lowlands are exposed to increasing rising tides due to thermal ocean expansion, which in turn increases the risk of flooding. Damage to infrastructure and loss of water security are already felt keenly, as is the loss of food security due to the loss of fish stocks and coral reefs, soil degradation and decreased agricultural yields. Guinea Bissau already is heavily dependent on foreign aid.
Sierra Leone – Sierra Leone’s climate is tropical, with a rainy season and a dry season which brings cool, dry winds from the Sahara. The population is now threatened by climate change-related droughts, storms, floods, landslides, heatwaves and altered rainfall patterns. Crop production is highly vulnerable to prolonged droughts interspersed with heavy rainfall, rendering Sierra Leone another country at high risk from threats to food and water security.
Haiti – Haiti’s climate is characterized by two seasons: the wet and the dry. Heavier rainfall is now occurring in the wet season, hurricanes are more frequent and less predictable, and sea level rise is a major concern. Climate projections, however, indicate a hotter and drier future for Haiti with decreased precipitation overall. Unseasonable droughts have caused widespread crop failure in recent years. Less than 2% of Haiti’s forest cover remains since the 1915-1934 US occupation, which oversaw the majority of deforestation due to concentrated land ownership for plantations.
South Sudan – South Sudan’s climate is tropical equatorial with a humid rainy season – with vast amounts of precipitation – and a drier season. However, climate change has delayed and shortened the rainy season, and drought has become an increasing concern.
Nigeria – Nigeria’s oil-based economy is set to suffer greatly, likely impacting the funds required to address climate change. Nigeria is already experiencing drier weather, particularly in the northern Sahel region, and droughts are increasing in frequency and severity.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – The DRC is the richest nation on earth in terms of natural resources, and the most biodiverse African country, yet one of the poorest nations on Earth, with 70% of the population living below the poverty line. The predicted increase in frequency of floods, droughts and heatwaves, is expected to impact agricultural productivity and livelihoods. Deforestation and land degradation due to mining are exacerbating these climate-related disasters
Cambodia – Climate change is expected to amplify already existing problems of water scarcity, agricultural failure and food insecurity. Extreme flooding is predicted to endanger the agriculture that supports the majority of the population. Extreme heat is also predicted.
Philippines – The term super-typhoon is set to become a fixture in climate-related vocabulary. Rising sea levels place the Philippines in a particularly vulnerable position, and increase the threat of storm surges that inundate vast coastal regions, threatening their populations who will be forced to migrate en masse if they are to escape the effects of food insecurity and loss of shelter and livelihood that result.
Ethiopia – Small-scale farmers – which make up 85% of the Ethiopian population – are expected to bear the brunt of climate change-induced drought in Ethiopia, resulting in water scarcity and food insecurity. Crops have failed and cattle are dying; it is probable that Ethiopia will experience more famines on the scale for which the nation is famed.
Mariner is confident of two situations occurring: Even as the world has not figured out how to deal with emigration, emigration will continue to worsen especially in a decade or two when the effects of climate change dramatically change weather patterns; migration of US citizens will cost billions and affect everything from housing to jobs. The second is a global depression. GDP will suffer significantly at the same time the cost of climate change is beginning to affect national economies.
Thanks to USNews, Shift Magazine and Maplecroft.com for providing much of the detail in this post.
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Barbara Res, a construction manager in the early 1980s, recalled:
“We met with the architect to go over the elevator-cab interiors at Trump Tower, and there were little dots next to the numbers. Trump asked what the dots were, and the architect said, “It’s braille.” Trump was upset by that. He said, “Get rid of it.” The architect said, “I’m sorry; it’s the law.” This was before the Americans With Disabilities Act, but New York City had a law. Trump’s exact words were: “No blind people are going to live in this building.” [June Atlantic]