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.
Santa Barbara Becomes First California City to Pass Resolution Against Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling
The Santa Barbara City Council approved a resolution Tuesday opposing new drilling off the California coast and fracking in existing offshore oil and gas wells. The resolution is the first in a new statewide campaign to rally local governments against proposals to expand offshore fossil fuel extraction in federal waters.
The vote—which makes Santa Barbara the first California city to oppose both fracking and new offshore drilling—follows President Trump's April 28 executive order urging federal agencies to expand oil and gas leasing in federal waters. The order could expose the Pacific Ocean to new oil leasing for the first time in more than 30 years.
Starting Wednesday, the vast majority of Americans can learn about every potentially harmful chemical in their drinking water and what scientists say are the safe levels of those contaminants. The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) new national Tap Water Database is the most complete source available on the quality of U.S. drinking water, aggregating and analyzing data from almost 50,000 public water systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The organization has earned a reputation for ambitious data-mining research projects that shake up policy debates and consumer markets. EWG's online Farm Subsidy Database, listing millions of subsidy recipients, and its Skin Deep guide to more than 70,000 personal care products, draw tens of millions of visitors every year.
By Stacy Malkan
Ever since they classified the world's most widely used herbicide as "probably carcinogenic to humans," a team of international scientists at the World Health Organization's (WHO) cancer research group have been under withering attack by the agrichemical industry and its surrogates.
In a front-page series, The Monsanto Papers, the French newspaper Le Monde described the attacks as "the pesticide giant's war on science," and reported, "to save glyphosate, the firm [Monsanto] undertook to harm the United Nations agency against cancer by all means."
The lengthy report from the Energy and Policy Institute uses reams of archival documents to demonstrate that utility industry representatives knew as far back as 1968 that burning fossil fuels could trigger "catastrophic effects" on the climate.
By Sharon Kelly
The Pennsylvania's Environmental Hearing Board ordered Sunoco Pipeline LP Tuesday to temporarily halt some types of work on a $2.5 billion pipeline project designed to carry 275,000 barrels a day of butane, propane and other liquid fossil fuels from Ohio and West Virginia, across Pennsylvania, to the Atlantic coast.
On July 19, three environmental groups presented Judge Bernard Labuskes, Jr. with documentation showing that the project had caused dozens of drilling fluid spills and other accidents between April and mid-June.
By Andy Rowell
The UK has followed France in banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, as part of its plan to tackle chronic air pollution in cities. The government has been coming under intense pressure to act, with an estimated 40,000 people dying prematurely a year from air pollution.
By Colleen Curry
People traveling across America today can, if they're lucky, pitch a tent in the same exact spot that early American explorers and map-makers Lewis and Clark did, amid the jagged rocks and sweeping plains of the Upper Missouri River Breaks in central Montana.
Brent Rose, a journalist and filmmaker who has been traveling around the U.S. in a van for two years, was one of the lucky ones.
Kyara, a killer whale born at SeaWorld San Antonio just three months ago, died Monday at the park, as reported in this video from Newsy. Kyara is the last orca to be born in captivity under the SeaWorld breeding program, which shut down in 2016.
In a statement, SeaWorld said the cause of death was "likely pneumonia" and that "Kyara had faced some very serious and progressive health issues over the last week."