Stormwater

The Climate Report

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A topic of conversation around our office—and very likely around yours—is the climate report released the day after Thanksgiving. At more than 1,600 pages, it’s the second volume of the National Climate Assessment, released by a team of 13 federal agencies; the first volume was released last year. The federal government is required to produce the assessment every four years.

This most recent report agrees in many respects with the previous 2014 assessment, but it is much more specific in terms of the potential economic effects. It warns that, unless something changes in the meantime, climate change could reduce the US gross domestic product by one-tenth by 2100. Specifically, as this New York Times article summarizes, that includes “$141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise, and $32 billion from infrastructure damage by the end of the century.”

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The report predicts, among other effects, the eventual need to abandon some coastal properties because of coastal inundation, and more frequent and intense wildfires—about twice the area has burned in the last three and a half decades than would have been the case without the increased heat and drought caused by climate change. It also cites extreme weather events around the world as a factor that will harm US trade and supply chains.

There are many different ways to approach the material in the report—by concentrating on what needs to be done, on what we’re not doing, or on what the effects will be on the environment, human health (everything from tainted drinking water to heat-related deaths to increased populations of disease-carrying insects), or the economy. The last full report, in 2014, spurred some changes such as the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Given that the current administration has been pursuing policies of environmental deregulation, do you think the new report’s stronger emphasis on economic consequences will have an effect on policy decisions going forward?

You can find the report (and a link to volume 1) online here. Chapter 3, Water, includes some interesting discussion of changing weather patterns, the state of major US aquifers, and a discussion of the state of water infrastructure. The report also includes regional breakdowns on the effects of climate change.

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  1. The earth’s climate has been in a state of continuous change for as long as the earth has existed. Sometimes the change is so catastrophic that it wipes out a large community of people or causes the extinction of a species that’s unable to adapt to the change. It’s nothing new, it’s not an emergency and it’s not the end of the world. The only thing that’s different is that when a hurricane, flood or fire ravages an area today, instead of destroying a community of mud huts or log cabins it damages millions of dollars worth of property & infrastructure because our standard of living is so much higher than it ever was previously. If we want to break the cycle of spending billions of dollars rebuilding various communities after natural disasters, we’ll have to make some hard choices about what we build and where we build in the future. We can’t predict when or where an F5 tornado will strike, but we know that communities built close to water, on top of fault lines, near volcanoes, etc. will eventually be destroyed by recurring natural events. We either build farther away from those kinds of hazards, build better to survive them (if that’s even possible), or require companies and individuals who build in naturally hazardous areas to carry enough insurance to rebuild without the government’s assistance. The frequency and severity of natural disasters is cyclical, but they’re never going to stop happening no matter what steps we take.

  2. The details of the IPCC report, and the subsequent report by the National Climate Assessment are ominous indeed. Fortunately, a smaller percentage of humans believe that mankind is not the cause of global warming than believed that the Earth was flat in 1492. Hopefully, there will be a massive people led response to reverse the trend and limit the damage. This can be accelerated by sound government policy. There is a bipartisan bill in congress right now, “The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, H.R 7173”. It will not pass (barring a Christmas miracle) before the next congressional session which begins 01/04/2019. I encourage you all to find out more about this bill and contact your representatives in the house and senate to give them the political will to sign on as co-sponsors. You can find out more about this at http://citizensclimatelobby.org
    I also encourage you to be as thoughtful as possible with your personal carbon footprint. It’s going to take all of this and more to keep armageddon at the minimum. Let’s show “the greatest generation” that their claim to that title was only temporary.

    1. I live on a canal on the Great South Bay in Long Island since 1991. Still observing the levels of High High Tide to Low Low Tide. Hasn’t changed yet!
      Storms are storms and will definitely affect the level of the seas and bays.
      Weather predictions are missed locally .. and yet Global predictions are accurate?
      I remember reading that by 2010 Miami was to be underwater by 2010..
      We need to stop frightening everyone, but I agree we have a responsibility to keep clean our environment clean.

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