Beach erosion before/after Florence

If someone is tipsy and about to step in a hole, should you tell them?
Common courtesy would say yes, but what if the person is an angry, delusional, abusive drunk?

New column from Sara Peach, my colleague at Yale Climate Connections.

Sara Peach at Yale Climate Connections:

Dear Sara,

My friend is a Republican who owns a very expensive mansion on Fisher Island in Miami. I’m fairly sure my friend believes that climate change is real but does not know how serious the situation may get within her or her children’s lifetimes. What year will I tell her is the last I’ll be able to visit her there, because it will be underwater? How many years ahead of that will she need to sell it before it’ll be rendered worthless? I’m thinking of getting her a garden gnome wearing a snorkel. – Climate Concerned in New York City

Let’s begin with the facts, which are straightforward. Sea-level rise is not just a problem for 50 or 100 years from now. It’s already begun. Today, under certain conditions – when there’s an unusually high tide, for example – water spills into basements and low-lying streets across South Florida.

The problem will get worse. Another 6 to 10 inches of sea-level rise is expected in South Florida by 2030, and perhaps more than two feet by the time today’s high-school seniors turn 60. In response, Miami Beach, a wealthy community on a barrier island just north of your friend’s home on Fisher Island, is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to elevate roads, raise seawalls, and install pumps to suck the water away.

But the construction projects bring their own problems: “Constant detours, constant dust, constant pounding,” said Dan Kipnis, a retired fishing captain and Miami Beach native, when I visited him last November. “It makes me grumpy and agitated and angry, and sometimes I say or do things that I probably shouldn’t.”

Kipnis told me he’s decided to sell his house and leave the area rather than put up with ever-worsening flooding and construction. (As of this writing, his home has been on the market for more than two years.)

All of this is to say that it’s impossible to know precisely when, if ever, your friend’s home will be fully submerged. But if she had sent me this question, I would tell her that so-called “nuisance” flooding is the more serious near-term threat to many coastal homes.

Within the next 30 years — that is to say, during the term of a new 30-year mortgage, more than 300,000 properties in the contiguous U.S. could be at risk of chronic, disruptive flooding, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. And long before real estate actually goes underwater, people will start selling, because their quality of life will be degraded. In fact, one recent analysis found that sea-level rise has already begun to affect coastal real-estate markets, shaving off more than $7 billion in property values in Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas. “If those homes become uninsurable and unmarketable, the values of the homes will plummet, perhaps to zero,” warned mortgage giant Freddie Mac. “Unlike the recent experience, homeowners will have no expectation that the values of their homes will ever recover.”

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I’m not a farmer, but my son is. I like to think it’s an indicator that perhaps I did something right in life.

Farming is hard.
A farmers job is to scratch a living off a piece of land in a way that is sustainable for him and for his children going forward. If he’s lucky, he makes enough money to put food on the table, send his kids to school, and provide for some kind of retirement.
His job is to steward the land and all that lives on it and in it, preserve the rural character of the community from sprawl and careless development, feed himself, and in doing so, feed the rest of us – in a world that is rapidly heading toward 9 billion hungry mouths.

His job is not to provide an unchanging pastoral backdrop for some city folk’s imagined retirement or second home lifestyle – but that is the weapon that is being used by cynical fossil fuel interests to bludgeon small town councils and boards and intimidate residents into restrictive wind ordinances.

The farmers and enlightened land owners are fighting back, and I’m doing everything I can to help them. Stay tuned.

Bright spot – Jeff Berardelli on CBS.

Media Matters:

CBS and PBS each aired fewer segments on the links between climate change and hurricanes than they did last year during coverage of Harvey. In 2017, as Hurricane Harvey menaced parts of Texas, Media Matters tracked the number of TV news segments about the hurricane that mentioned climate change. Harvey, like Florence, was the first major hurricane of the year to make landfall in the continental U.S. In comparing last year’s Harvey coverage to this year’s Florence coverage, we found that networks overall did a worse job of drawing links between climate change and hurricanes this year.

During its Harvey coverage, CBS aired three segments discussing the ways that climate change influences hurricanes, but it aired just two such segments during Hurricane Florence coverage. NBC was the only network that improved its coverage: Last year, it aired zero segments mentioning the climate-hurricane connection in the context of Harvey while this year it aired one during its Florence coverage. ABC failed to air any segments mentioning climate change during coverage of either Harvey or Florence. We also analyzed weekday episodes of PBS NewsHour and found that its coverage had declined: Last year, the show aired three segments about Harvey that discussed climate change. This year, it aired only two such segments about Florence.

ABC was the only network that did not mention climate change in its coverage of Florence at all. ABC’s failure on this score was not surprising, as the network has a history of neglecting climate change. Earlier this year, it was the only major broadcast network to make no mention of climate change in relation to the deadly heat wave that affected much of the U.S., and it spent less time last year reporting on climate change on its nightly and Sunday shows than did CBS and NBC.

CBS aired just two segments that addressed the effects of climate change on hurricanes. Both of the segments, which ran during the September 15 episode of CBS This Morning, included strong analysis. The first mentioned Hurricane Florence in the broader context of the Global Climate Action Summit, which took place in San Francisco from September 12-14. CBS correspondent John Blackstone noted, “For activists here, Hurricane Florence provided an example of the kind of extreme weather scientists have predicted would come more often in a warming world.” The second segment immediately followed the first, and featured meteorologist Jeff Berardelli discussing how climate change can influence hurricanes. (see above and below.


Lakes across Alaska and Siberia have started to bubble with methane, and the release of this highly potent greenhouse gas has scientists worried.

Last month NASA released footage showing the bubbling Arctic lakes, which are the result of a little known phenomenon called “abrupt thawing.” It occurs when the permafrost—ground that has been frozen for potentially thousands of years—thaws faster than expected.

Scientists have long known that the thawing permafrost has the potential to release large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. As the organic matter that has been locked up in the ground defrosts it decomposes, releasing carbon and methane (a hydrocarbon) in the process.

If all this was released into the atmosphere, the impact on climate change would be huge. In total there is about 1,500 billion tons of carbon locked up in the permafrost—almost double the amount of carbon in the atmosphere right now.

Thawing permafrost has currently been causing problems across the Arctic. In Siberia, huge craters have opened up across the tundra. While not confirmed, it is believed that as the permafrost thaws, pockets of methane are formed. When the pressure gets too high, these pockets explode.

Methane was also thought to be causing the ground to wobble—video released in 2016 showed patches of grassland bobbing up and down when researchers stood on it.

As the thawing continues, it will eventually cause major problems for the towns and cities located in these northern regions—as the ground becomes softer, roads warp and buildings start sinking into the ground.

In a NASA-funded study published in Nature Communications, scientists have now discovered a source of methane that has not been accounted for in climate models—methane coming from “thermokarst” lakes.

These lakes form when the permafrost thaws at a faster rate and deeper into the ground than normal. The thawing creates a depression, which then fills with rain water, ice and snow melt. The water then speeds up the rate of the permafrost thaw at the shores of the lake.

The process—abrupt thawing—could speed up the release of methane into the atmosphere.

“Within decades you can get very deep thaw holes, meters to tens of meters of vertical thaw,” Katey Walter Anthony, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said in a statement. “So you’re flash thawing the permafrost under these lakes. And we have very easily measured ancient greenhouse gases coming out.”

Washington Post:

The first time Walter Anthony saw Esieh Lake, she was afraid it might explode — and she is no stranger to the danger, or the theatrics, of methane. In 2010, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks posted a video of the media-savvy ecologist standing on the frozen surface of an Arctic lake, then lighting a methane stream on fire to create a tower of flame as tall as she is. It got nearly half a million views on YouTube.

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Climate Messaging 101

September 23, 2018


Connect on Shared values.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

Now that we’ve gotten through Hurricane Florence, Americans should be completely up to speed when it comes to dealing with disasters that have been amplified by anthropogenic climate change, right?

Not so fast.

Judging from the various news stories in the past year—since Hurricane Irma devastated the Caribbean and the Florida Keys—the United States seems to be stuck in a rut, responding to climate disaster with all five of the chronological stages of grief—simultaneously. These stages are often labeled with the acronym DABDA, meaning denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, and memorably summed up in this episode of The Simpsons.

Substitute the word “amnesia” for “anger,” and the parallels are striking.

Denial: The Guardian just ran a story titled “ ‘It’s hyped up’: Climate change skeptics after Hurricane Florence.” According to the author, while scientists say global warming is behind the increase in the number and intensity of severe storms, many who face them don’t think humans are the problem.

Amnesia: “We have an incredible capacity for amnesia and denial in this country,” Julie Rochman, head of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, told Bloomberg  last March. (Yes, that’s right: in March, long before the current hurricanes.) In a telling example, the institute examined building policies in 18 Atlantic and Gulf Coast states and found that despite the increasing severity of natural disasters, many of those states have relaxed their approach to building codes—or have yet to impose any whatsoever. It’s all summed up in the article’s headline: “As Storms Get Stronger, Building Codes Are Getting Weaker.” Read the rest of this entry »

Skip to 4:11 if rushed.

Trump spokesman recently named in court documents “of slipping an abortion pill into his pregnant girlfriend’s smoothie”. (is there anyone that doubts this?)
Climate denier, natch.

Conservative’s pathological hatred of Al Gore is based on the deep seated recognition that George Bush, who was handed the Presidency with a minority vote, (due to a Supreme Court judges his Father had appointed)  was, until recently, the worst President ever.

The only psychological resolution for them is that Al Gore has to be a demon.

It’s irrational, but its all they have.

Continuing the theme of bioremediation.

Be a Coal Miner!

September 22, 2018

Public Service spot from the UK, 1975.
Back when coal mining was glamorous, I guess.

GOP is dusting this off to recruit millennials to , I guess.