Veneto Council Flooded Two Minutes After Rejecting Climate Action, Councilor Says
The historic "acqua alta" that swamped Venice Tuesday night also flooded the Veneto regional council for the first time, just moments after it had apparently rejected measures to address the climate crisis.
The council chamber, which is located on Venice's Grand Canal in the Ferro Fini Palace, began to flood around 10 p.m. Tuesday, CNN reported. At the time, the councilors were discussing the 2020 budget for the northeastern Italian region of Veneto, of which Venice is the capital.
"Ironically, the chamber was flooded two minutes after the majority League, Brothers of Italy, and Forza Italia parties rejected our amendments to tackle climate change," Democratic Party councilor and environment committee deputy chairman Andrea Zanoni wrote in a Facebook post reported by CNN.
The League and Brothers of Italy are far-right parties, and Forza Italia is a center-right party, HuffPost explained.
The rejected amendments included plans to fund renewable energy, replace diesel buses with cleaner and more efficient vehicles, replace high-polluting stoves and tackle plastic pollution, Zanoni said.
Zanoni further said that Veneto regional president and League member Luca Zaia presented a budget "with no concrete actions to combat climate change," CNN reported.
Zanoni joined Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro in blaming climate change for Venice's massive flooding Tuesday, according to HuffPost, though he acknowledged it was one of many factors responsible. The city saw its highest tide in more than 50 years when water levels peaked at more than six feet.
There are no words to express all this #VeniceFloods #ClimateEmergency https://t.co/Kufh6NhPqm— Giovanni Antonelli (@Giovanni Antonelli)1573763552.0
"If the voters of Veneto continue to close their eyes, Zaia's League will bring us all underwater," Zanoni said, according to HuffPost.
Regional council spokesman Alessandro Ovizach confirmed to CNN that the flooding occurred during the 2020 budget discussion, but did not specify which budget items were being addressed at the time.
But council president and League member Roberto Ciambetti disputed Zanoni's depiction of the council's actions on climate.
"Beyond propaganda and deceptive reading, we are voting (for) a regional budget that spent €965 million over the past three years in the fight against air pollution, smog, which is a determining factor in climate change," he said in a statement to CNN. "To say that we do nothing is a lie."
Ciambetti did acknowledge the flooding, and posted videos of it on his Facebook page.
"Never had such a situation occurred here (at the Council)," he told local paper Giornale di Vicenza, according to CNN.
The Italian government declared a state of emergency Thursday to help Venice recover, NPR reported.
The flooding has also continued after Tuesday, though at lower levels. On Thursday, the high water mark came to three feet, eight inches, and rain is expected to bring more flooding to the city.
"It hurts to see the city so damaged, its artistic heritage compromised, its commercial activities on its knees," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, according to NPR.
Flooding damaged almost a third of the city's raised walkways, destroyed hundreds of books in the Acqua Alta Library and filled the crypt of St. Mark's Basilica, causing major damage. The Teatro La Fenice opera house was also damaged, The Guardian reported.
#AquaAltaVenezia Ecco la situazione marciana dopo l'eccezionale marea del 12 novembre scorso. Venticinque cm d'acqu… https://t.co/AVvQJzBDoQ— Biblioteca Marciana (@Biblioteca Marciana)1573719222.0
"An apocalypse happened," Antonella Rossi, who owns a handmade jewelry store on St. Mark's Square, told The Guardian. "We haven't seen anything like this in 55 years. The water has destroyed everything, and I will have to redo so much – work that took a lifetime was wrecked in seconds."
BBC News meteorologist Nikki Berry explained how the climate crisis contributed to the historic flooding. While it is difficult to attribute any one extreme weather event to climate change, five of Venice's 10 highest tides took place in the last 20 years. Since Venice is sinking, it is especially susceptible to sea level rise.
The storm surge that contributed to the flooding also shows the fingerprints of climate change, Berry explained:
The weather patterns that have caused the Adriatic storm surge have been driven by a strong meridional (waving) jet stream across the northern hemisphere and this has fed a conveyor belt of low pressure systems into the central Mediterranean.
One of the possible effects of a changing climate is that the jet stream will be more frequently meridional and blocked weather patterns such as these will also become more frequent. If this happens, there is a greater likelihood that these events will combine with astronomical spring tides and hence increase the chance of flooding in Venice.
Conte said the government would work to "accelerate" construction on the long-delayed Mose project, designed to protect Venice from flooding using a series of barriers, according to BBC News.
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By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
Tropical Storm Josephine Also No Threat to Land<p>Meanwhile, the season's record-earliest tenth named storm, Tropical Storm Josephine, was also struggling with high wind shear as it traced out a path over the open ocean.</p><p>At 5 a.m. EDT Saturday, Josephine was located about 310 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, moving west-northwest at 15 mph with top sustained winds at 45 mph. Josephine is expected to bring one to three inches of rain over portions of the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico over the weekend. Josephine will encounter steadily rising wind shear through Monday, peaking at a very high 30 – 35 knots. This high shear is likely to destroy Josephine's circulation by Monday, before the storm can affect any other land areas.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/08/tropical-storm-kyle-forms-unlikely-to-affect-land/" target="_blank">Yale Climate Connections</a>. </em><em></em></p>
By Ute Eberle
In May 2017, shells started washing up along the Ligurian coast in Italy. They were small and purple and belonged to a snail called Janthina pallida that is rarely seen on land. But the snails kept coming — so many that entire stretches of the beach turned pastel.
The Ligurian coast has been swept by snails turning its color pastel.
A World Between Worlds<p>The neuston comprises a multitude of weird and wonderful creatures. </p><p>Many, like the Portuguese man-of-war, which paralyzes its prey with venomous tentacles up to 30 meters long, are colored an electric shade of blue, possibly to protect themselves against the sun's UV rays, or as camouflages against predators.</p><p>There are also by-the-wind sailors, flattish creatures that raise chitin shields from the water like sails; slugs known as sea dragons that cling to the water's surface from below with webbed appendages; barnacles that build bubble rafts as big as dinner plates; and the world's only marine insects, a relation of the pond skater.</p><p>They live "between the worlds" of the sea and sky, as Federico Betti, a marine biologist at the University of Genoa, puts it. From below, predators lurk. From above, the sun burns. Winds and waves toss them about. Depending on the weather, their environment may be warm or cool, salty or less so.</p>
Sea snails can make up the neuston.
Velella velella jellyfish living on the surface of the ocean.<p>But now, they face another — manmade — threat from nets designed to catch trash. A project called <a href="https://theoceancleanup.com/" target="_blank">The Ocean Cleanup</a>, run by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, has raised millions of dollars in donations and sponsorship to deploy long barriers with nets that will drift across the ocean in open loops to sweep up floating garbage. </p>
Collecting With the Current<p>"Plastic could outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050. To us, that future is unacceptable," <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/green-entrepreneur-sets-sights-on-great-pacific-garbage-patch/a-38855785" target="_blank">The Ocean Cleanup</a> declares on its website.</p><p>But Rebecca Helm, a marine biologist at the University of North Carolina, and one of the few scientists to study this ecosystem, fears that The Ocean Cleanup's proposal to remove 90% of the plastic trash from the water could also virtually wipe out the neuston.</p><p>One focus of Helm's studies is where these organisms congregate. "There are places that are very, very concentrated and areas of little concentration, and we're trying to figure out why," says Helm.</p><p>One factor is that the neuston floats with ocean currents, and Helm worries that it might collect in the exact same spots as marine plastic pollution. "Our initial data show that regions with high concentrations of plastic are also regions with high concentrations of life."</p>
Waste collection in the Pacific Ocean heralded by The Ocean Cleanup.<p>The Ocean Cleanup says Helm's concerns are based on "misguided assumptions."</p><p>"It's true that neustonic organisms will be trapped in the barriers," says Gerhard Herndl, professor of Aquatic Biology at the University of Vienna and one of project's scientific advisors. "But these organisms have dangerous lives. They're adapted to high losses because they get washed ashore in storms and they have high reproductive rates. If they didn't, they'd already be extinct."</p><p>Helm says they just don't know how quickly these creatures reproduce, and in any case recovering from passing storm is very different from surviving The Ocean Clean Up's systems which could be in place for years.</p>
Communication Breakdown<p>The Ocean Cleanup invited Helm to a symposium on the topic in December, where both sides presented their points of views and didn't seem to find much common ground. Since then, direct communication between them has stopped, says Helm. "They're not interested in talking to me anymore."</p><p>Both sides agree that much is still unknown about the neuston. But one thing that has been established is that most of the oceans' fish spend part of their lifecycle in the neuston. "More than 90% of marine fish species produce floating eggs that persist on the surface until hatching," Betti says.</p><p>The Ocean Cleanup has undertaken one of the few studies into this ecosystem, collecting data on the neuston on the relative abundance of neuston and floating plastic debris in the eastern North Pacific Ocean during a 2019 expedition to the Pacific Garbage Patch, an area where plastic pollution has accumulated on a vast scale. But it is not yet sharing what it has found. The information was being prepared for publication in an as of yet unspecified journal, probably some time next year, an Ocean Cleanup spokesperson said. </p>
Inshore Solution?<p>Helm believes the best way to tackle the marine plastic problem would be to position the barriers closer to land — across river mouths and bays — to catch garbage before it reaches the sea.</p><p>"Stopping the flow of plastic into the ocean is the most cost-effective — and literally effective — way to ensure that it's not entering our environment," she says. </p><p>As for the plastic already floating in open waters, she does not believe it is worth sacrificing parts of neuston and wants to see more research first. </p><p>The Ocean Cleanup has made barriers across rivers a part of its mission. But it is also going ahead with its original vision of pulling trash from the open water. In late 2018, the project deployed a 600-meter, u-shaped prototype net into the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/environment-conservation-plastic-oceans/a-54436603" target="_blank">Great Pacific Garbage Patch</a>. </p><p>The system ran into difficulties, failing to retain plastic as hoped, and needing to be brought shore for repairs and a design upgrade, after which Ocean Cleanup says it gathered haul of plastic that it will recycle and resell to help fund future operations.</p><p>Over the next two years, the project hopes to deploy up to 60 such barriers to collect drifting flotsam. Helm isn't the only one concerned about these plans.</p><p><span></span>"We should think twice about every action we take in the sea," Betti says. "In nature, nothing is as easy as we think, and often, we've done a lot of damage while trying to do a good thing."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/environment-conservation-plastic-oceans/a-54436603" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.<a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2646992655#/" target="_self"></a></em><em></em></p>
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