Sea Level Rise to Flood Major U.S. Cities
By Jessica Corbett
As an iceberg the size of Delaware broke away from an ice shelf in Antarctica Wednesday, scientists released findings that up to 668 U.S. communities could face chronic flooding from rising sea levels by the end of the century.
More than 90 communities are already grappling with "chronic inundation" from sea level rise caused by climate change—meaning they have crossed the threshold for when "flooding becomes unmanageable for people's daily lives," disrupting "people's routines, livelihoods, homes and communities."
Coastal sections of Louisiana and Maryland account for the majority of the communities that are currently experiencing heavy flooding, but UCS researchers predict these unmanageable floods will reach the Jersey Shore and Florida's Gulf Coast by mid-century.
By 2100, they calculate 40 to 60 percent of all oceanfront communities on the East and Gulf Coasts, and a growing number of West Coast communities, will be inundated with chronic flooding. At-risk regions include major cities like Boston, Savannah, Fort Lauderdale, Newark and four of New York City's five boroughs.
"We hope this analysis provides a wake-up call to coastal communities—and us as a nation—so we can see this coming and have time to prepare," said Erika Spanger-Siegfried, a UCS senior analyst and co-author of the report, the first study of its kind to examine potential flood risks for the entire coastline of the lower 48 states.
The UCS researchers also considered which cities may be spared from the worst of the flooding if the Paris agreement goals are met. Although Donald Trump withdrew from the climate agreement, many U.S. state and community leaders have committed to upholding it.
"Meeting the long term goals of the Paris agreement would offer coastal communities facing chronic flooding their best chance to limit the harms of sea level rise," said Rachel Cleetus, UCS's lead economist. The UCS researchers considered which cities may be spared from the worst of the flooding if the Paris agreement goals are met.
Although "large-scale reductions in global warming emissions," which are among the Paris agreement's main goals, "may slow the rate at which sea level rise is accelerating and save many communities," the report noted for many communities, it's too little, too late.
"For hundreds of other cities and towns," it said, "increased flooding is inevitable, and adaptation is now essential."
Some communities are already making efforts to address flooding by raising roads, raising or constructing sea walls and installing pumping systems. Miami Beach has started work on a major flood prevention project that is expected to cost the city hundreds of millions over the next several years. Although Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has been lauded for embracing climate science and taking action to address the flooding, his plan has also been criticized by climate deniers and experts alike.
"There's no playbook for this," Levine said to the Miami New Times. "There's no one saying, 'Here, mayor, follow these 20 easy steps and you'll be OK."
The scientific community is increasingly looking for ways to engage with policymakers and the public. The UCS report made a number of policy recommendations based on its analysis, and this week, a group of more than 300 scientists from around the world are meeting in New York City to review current sea-level science and beginning discussions about collaborating on future research.
"We have a special responsibility to help society respond to the climate issue," said Guy Brasseur of the World Climate Research Programme, one of the conference organizers, urging the conference attendees to invest heavily in sea-level rise research.
But even with access to robust scientific information about these issues, environmental policies can take a backseat when certain social issues are more politically convenient, or in communities without the financial means to develop and implement massive prevention projects like the one in Miami Beach.
More than half of the 170 communities most at-risk for flooding over the next two decades encompass socioeconomically vulnerable neighborhoods, the UCS report noted—"similar to the proportion of today's chronically inundated communities."
The Eastern Shore of Maryland, one of the regions currently experiencing some of the worst chronic flooding, "is home to a large elderly population on fixed incomes and a large African American population, two groups that have traditionally had fewer resources to cope with environmental disasters and change," the report noted.
Report authors also acknowledged that these communities will require more assistance to address rising flood concerns:
"This analysis brings attention to the fact that these communities will need more resources and more capacity in order to prepare for the impacts of sea level rise. Fair solutions will be those that include considerations of socioeconomic vulnerability and are implemented equitably across communities."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
'Kicking Ass for Her Generation': Applause for 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg as EU Chief Pledges $1 Trillion to Curb Climate Threat
By Julia Conley
Sixteen-year-old climate action leader Greta Thunberg stood alongside European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Thursday in Brussels as he indicated—after weeks of climate strikes around the world inspired by the Swedish teenager—that the European Union has heard the demands of young people and pledged more than $1 trillion over the next seven years to address the crisis of a rapidly heating planet.
In the financial period beginning in 2021, Juncker said, the EU will devote a quarter of its budget to solving the crisis.
‘Plastic Is Lethal’: Groundbreaking Report Reveals Health Risks at Every Stage in Plastics Life Cycle
With eight million metric tons of plastic entering the world's oceans every year, there is growing concern about the proliferation of plastics in the environment. Despite this, surprisingly little is known about the full impact of plastic pollution on human health.
But a first-of-its-kind study released Tuesday sets out to change that. The study, Plastic & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet, is especially groundbreaking because it looks at the health impacts of every stage in the life cycle of plastics, from the extraction of the fossil fuels that make them to their permanence in the environment. While previous studies have focused on particular products, manufacturing processes or moments in the creation and use of plastics, this study shows that plastics pose serious health risks at every stage in their production, use and disposal.
Air pollution within the home causes 3.8 million deaths a year, according to the World Health Organization. A recent University of Colorado in Boulder study reported by The Guardian found that cooking a full Thanksgiving meal could raise levels of particulate matter 2.5 in the house higher than the levels averaged in New Delhi, the world's sixth most polluted city.
But soon, you will be able to shop for a solution in the same place you buy your budget roasting pans. IKEA is working on a specially-designed, air-purifying curtain called the GUNRID.
A rare species of giant tortoise, feared extinct for more than 100 years, was sighted on the Galápagos island of Fernandina Sunday, the Ecuadorian government announced.