Florida’s climate preparation grade: C-
How well prepared are the states for climate change impacts? According to a report by Climate Central, states vary greatly, from five states getting A grades—California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania—to five getting F’s—Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, and Texas.
“States at Risk: America’s Preparedness Report Card” is a national analysis of how well each state is prepared for extreme heat, drought, wildfires, inland flooding, and coastal flooding. The analysis looks at states’ preparation in terms of transportation, energy, health, water, and communities.
Florida’s grade of C- reflects especially poor preparation for extreme heat, inland flooding, and coastal flooding. The state receives B+ grades for preparation for drought and wildfires.
“Extreme heat is the most pervasive threat, affecting every state, particularly in the Southeast and along the Gulf Coast where the combination of heat and humidity is projected to cross thresholds dangerous for human health within the next decade,” the report says. (emphasis added)
The Climate Central report quotes NOAA’s warning that “…communities would be well-served to look beyond the range of past extreme events to guide future resiliency efforts.” Inadequate preparation today will increase the costs of recovery tomorrow.
Coastal flooding puts a billion people at risk by 2060
A report by the British charity organization Christian Aid warns that by 2060 more than a billion people living in coastal areas could be at severe risk to sea-level rise. China, India, and the US have the most cities at risk. In terms of assets, Miami tops all cities with an estimated $3.5 billion at risk by 2070, according to the report.
Coral bleaching in Great Barrier Reef
Warming has devastated coral reefs, but Florida scientists offer hope of restoration
Coral bleaching has become a part of the climate change story, along with extreme heat, melting ice packs, and rising seas. It has long been thought that warming ocean waters cause corals to expel the algae that give them their color. But now a study of the major bleaching event in the Great Barrier Reef off the coastline of Australia in March has strengthened the understanding of the connection between warming oceans and damage to the coral symbiotic communities.
The analysis reported by Climate Central concluded that warming surface ocean temperatures were the cause of the Great Barrier Reef bleaching and that increasing ocean temperatures would likely bring about more damage to the world’s coral reefs. Coral reefs provide protection for many species of fish and help to maintain the diversity of species. They are also provide income and sustenance for people who depend on the fish and the tourism the reefs attract. And coral reefs also help to control the amount of CO2 in the oceans.
“Much of the carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere dissolves into the ocean,” explains Ocean World. “In fact, the oceans have absorbed about 1/3 of the carbon dioxide produced from human activities since 1800 and about 1/2 of the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels.”
Hope amidst the gloom: rapid regrowth of corals
A more hopeful story comes from the Atlantic in an online video, “A Coral Reef Revival.” The magazine offers this summary of the revival effort:
“David Vaughan works on the Florida Reef Tract, the third largest coral reef in the world and a vastly important ecosystem for sustaining underwater life. He and a team of scientists are working to combat the crisis in the world’s coral reefs—that is, that human beings have lost 25 to 40 percent of the world’s corals in recent decades due largely to seawater temperature rise and continued acidification of the ocean. Vaughan has developed a technique called “microfragmenting” that allows corals to grow more than 25 times faster than normal, which could rapidly restore the dwindling population of healthy coral reefs. The Atlantic went inside the Mote Tropical Research Laboratory in Summerland Key, Florida, where Vaughan is the executive director, to uncover how the process works and understand how much hope there is to reverse the damage caused by humans.”
“Assisted evolution” could save corals…but preventing harm is best
Elizabeth Kolbert writes in the April 18 New Yorker about efforts to use “assisted evolution” and genetic engineering to save corals and the American Chestnut tree. Scientists using these technologies believe that using all the tools at our disposal to intervene in ocean and forest ecosystems to save and restore corals and trees is perfectly appropriate—and actually urgently necessary—since human intervention is what has led to their demise.
Kolbert concludes the article by quoting Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, offering a cautionary note on our efforts to find technological solutions to the devastation of human impacts on the environment: “There is a danger of thinking we’ve found the technological solution, so therefore we can keep damaging reefs, because we can always fix them in the future.” The scientists working on these noble and quite amazing efforts to restore what we have damaged might argue that we need both—we need to alter our devastating ways and we need to continue our search for technologies for restoring what has been lost. But few will argue with Hughes when he says, “In terms of protecting ecosystems like coral reefs or rain forests, prevention is always better than cure.”
♦ Discussion Point: Identify an environmental problem in the Pensacola region and discuss its cause and possible remedies. Does this problem call for major changes in the way we live on the land? Are there technological remedies you can imagine that might also contribute to the solution?
Conservative Republicans increasingly accept climate change as real, survey finds
A new survey by Yale University and George Mason University finds that three quarters of registered voters think that global warming is happening, an increase of 7% over the 2014 survey. Fewer than half (47%) of conservative Republicans agree, but this represents an increase of 19% in two years—the biggest shift of any group. Note that the survey uses the term “global warming.”
Other key findings of the 2016 survey:
- On the question the causes of global warming, belief that it is mostly caused by human activities divides along political lines: 56% of all registered voters believe the human cause as dominant, including 75% of Democrats (82% of liberal Democrats), 49% of moderate and liberal Republicans, and 26% of conservative Republicans.
- More than half of Americans (57%) are worried about global warming, with this view shared by 88% of liberal Democrats, 49% of Independents, 48% of moderate/liberal Republicans, and only 21% of conservative Republicans.
- Do people who are worried about global warming communicate their concern to government officials? Very few do–only 17% of liberal Democrats and 4% of conservative Republicans. (Hint hint to readers of this blog.)
- More registered voters today say they will vote for a presidential candidate who strongly supports action on global warming—43% in 2016, up by 7% from last October’s survey. Only 14% of voters say they are less likely to vote for a strong supporter of action on global warming. Many more voters will vote against a candidate who strongly opposes action on global warming than will vote for such a candidate—45% versus 11%.
- Voters say that global warming will be among the issues that are important to them in their vote to president—78% of liberal Democrats, 67% of all Democrats, and 49% of Independents.
- Among issues that will influence voters’ decisions in November, global warming ranks 19th in importance among the 23 issues listed in the survey. Among Democrats, it was the 10th most important issue.
Half of energy consumers considering solar, international survey finds
More than half of energy consumers are considering buying or leasing rooftop solar panels within five years, according to a survey of 11,000 owners of homes and businesses in 21 countries. The 2015 survey by Accenture, a multinational management consulting company, was reported in “The New Energy Consumer: Unleashing Business Value in a Digital World.”
Largely because of falling prices, Deutsche Bank, the German global banking and financial services company, reports that solar is on track to achieve “grid parity” throughout the US and in 80% of global markets by next year. Wikipedia says grid parity “occurs when an alternative energy source can generate power at a levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) that is less than or equal to the price of purchasing power from the electricity grid.”
The energy consumer survey and the Deutsche Bank report were highlighted in a blog by Opower, a company that serves the utility industry and their customers with cloud-based software and other technologies. Opower (https://blog.opower.com) provides information on how utility companies are adjusting to a changing energy market.