Climate Change Earns Nobel Prize For Economists

Sustainability Pushed Back Into Spotlight

William Nordhaus and Paul Romer, pioneers in adapting the western economic growth model to focus on environmental issues and sharing the benefits of technology, won the 2018 Nobel Economics Prize.

In a joint award that turned the spotlight on a rapidly shifting global debate over the impact of climate change, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the duo’s work helps answer questions about promoting long-term, sustainable prosperity.

Romer, of New York University’s Stern School of Business and best known for his work on endogenous growth – a theory rooted in investing in knowledge and human capital – said he had been taken by surprise by the award, but offered a positive message.

“I think one of the problems with the current situation is that many people think that protecting (the) environment will be so costly and so hard that they just want to ignore them,” he told a news conference via telephone.

“We can absolutely make substantial progress protecting the environment and do it without giving up the chance to sustain growth.”

Hours before the award, the United Nations panel on climate change said society would have to radically alter the way it consumes energy, travels and builds to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

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U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly called climate change a hoax, and last year announced that he would withdraw the United States from a global pact to combat it reached in 2015 – calling the deal’s demands for emissions cuts too costly.

Nordhaus, a Professor of Economics at Yale University, was the first person to create a quantitative model that described the interplay between the economy and the climate, the Swedish academy said.

“The key insight of my work was to put a price on carbon in order to hold back climate change,” Nordhaus was quoted as saying in a Yale publication this year. “The main recipe …is to make sure governments, corporations and households face a high price on their carbon emissions.”

Nobel committee chair Per Stromberg told Reuters Monday’s award was honoring research into the negative effects of growth on the climate and to make sure that this economic growth leaves prosperity for everyone.

Romer had shown how economic forces govern the willingness of firms to innovate, helping some societies grow many times faster than others. By understanding which market conditions favor the creation of profitable technologies, society can tailor policies to promote growth, the academy said.

While on leave from the Stern School, Romer served as chief economist and senior vice president at the World Bank until early this year. His work on endogenous growth theory is not universally admired.

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Global Warming Producing More Powerful Hurricanes

Hurricanes, Cyclones Gathering Strength

Editor’s Note: This study was published just weeks before Hurricane Michael rearranged the Florida panhandle.

The IPCC AR5 presents a strong body of scientific evidence that most of the global warming observed over the past half century is very likely due to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. But what does this change mean for hurricane activity? Here, we address these questions, starting with those conclusions where we have relatively more confidence. The main text then gives more background discussion. Detectable change refers to a change that is large enough to be clearly distinguishable from the variability due to natural causes. Our main conclusions are:

  • Sea level rise–which very likely has a substantial human contribution to the global mean observed rise according to IPCC AR5–should be causing higher storm surge levels for tropical cyclones that do occur, all else assumed equal.
  • Tropical cyclone rainfall rates will likely increase in the future due to anthropogenic warming and accompanying increase in atmospheric moisture content. Modeling studies on average project an increase on the order of 10-15 percent for rainfall rates averaged within about 100 km of the storm for a 2 degree Celsius global warming scenario.
  • Tropical cyclone intensities globally will likely increase on average (by 1 to 10 percent according to model projections for a 2 degree Celsius global warming). This change would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm, assuming no reduction in storm size.  Storm size responses to anthropogenic warming are uncertain.
  • The global proportion of tropical cyclones that reach very intense (Category 4 and 5) levels will likely increase due to anthropogenic warming over the 21st century.  There is less confidence in future projections of the global number of Category 4 and 5 storms, since most modeling studies project a decrease (or little change) in the global frequency of all tropical cyclones combined.
  • In terms of detection and attribution, much less is known about hurricane/tropical cyclone activity changes, compared to global temperature.  In the northwest Pacific basin, there is emerging evidence for a detectable poleward shift in the latitude of maximum intensity of tropical cyclones, with a tentative link to anthropogenic warming.  In the Atlantic, it is premature to conclude that human activities–and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming–have already had a detectable impact on hurricane activity. Reduced aerosol forcing since the 1970s probably contributed to the increased Atlantic hurricane activity since then, but the amount of contribution, relative to natural variability, remains uncertain. There is some evidence for a slowing of tropical cyclone propagation speeds globally over the past half century, but these observed changes have not yet been confidently linked to anthropogenic climate change.  Human activities may have already caused other changes in tropical cyclone activity that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of these changes compared to estimated natural variability, or due to observational limitations.

climate change and hurricanes

Global Warming and Atlantic Hurricanes

A. Statistical relationships between SSTs and hurricanes

Observed records of Atlantic hurricane activity show some correlation, on multi-year time-scales, between local tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and the Power Dissipation Index (PDI) —see for example Fig. 3 on this EPA Climate Indicators site. PDI is an aggregate measure of Atlantic hurricane activity, combining frequency, intensity, and duration of hurricanes in a single index. Both Atlantic SSTs and PDI have risen sharply since the 1970s, and there is some evidence that PDI levels in recent years are higher than in the previous active Atlantic hurricane era in the 1950s and 60s.

Model-based climate change detection/attribution studies have linked increasing tropical Atlantic SSTs to increasing greenhouse gases, but proposed links between increasing greenhouse gases and hurricane PDI or frequency has been based on statistical correlations. The statistical linkage of Atlantic hurricane PDI to Atlantic SST suggests at least the possibility of a large anthropogenic influence on Atlantic hurricanes.

If this statistical relation between tropical Atlantic SSTs and hurricane activity is used to infer future changes in Atlantic hurricane activity, the implications are sobering.

The large increases in tropical Atlantic SSTs projected for the late 21st century would imply very substantial increases in hurricane destructive potential–roughly a 300 percent increase in the PDI by 2100.

On the other hand, Swanson (2008) and others noted that Atlantic hurricane power dissipation is also well-correlated with other SST indices besides tropical Atlantic SST alone, and in particular with indices of Atlantic SST relative to tropical mean SST. This is in fact a crucial distinction, because while the statistical relationship between Atlantic hurricanes and local Atlantic SST shown in the upper panel of Figure 1 would imply a very large increases in Atlantic hurricane activity (PDI) due to 21st century greenhouse warming, the alternative statistical relationship between the PDI and the relative SST measure shown in the lower panel of Figure 1 would imply only modest future long-term trends of Atlantic hurricane activity (PDI) with greenhouse warming. In the latter case, the alternative relative SST measure in the lower panel does not change very much over the 21st century, even with substantial Atlantic warming projections from climate models, because, crucially, the warming projected for the tropical Atlantic in the models is not very different from that projected for the tropics as a whole.

A key question then is: Which of the two future Atlantic hurricane scenarios inferred from the statistical relations in Figure 1 is more likely? To try to gain insight on this question, we have first attempted to go beyond the ~50 year historical record of Atlantic hurricanes and SST to examine even longer records of Atlantic tropical storm activity and second to examine dynamical models of Atlantic hurricane activity under global warming conditions. These separate approaches are discussed below.

B. Analysis of century-scale Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane records

To gain more insight on this problem, we have attempted to analyze much longer (> 100 yr) records of Atlantic hurricane activity. If greenhouse warming causes a substantial increase in Atlantic hurricane activity, then the century scale increase in tropical Atlantic SSTs since the late 1800s should have produced a long-term rise in measures of Atlantic hurricanes activity, similar to that seen for global temperature, for example.

Existing records of past Atlantic tropical storm or hurricane numbers (1878 to present) in fact do show a pronounced upward trend, which is also correlated with rising SSTs (e.g., see blue curve in Fig. 4 or Vecchi and Knutson 2008). However, the density of reporting ship traffic over the Atlantic was relatively sparse during the early decades of this record, such that if storms from the modern era (post 1965) had hypothetically occurred during those earlier decades, a substantial number of storms would likely not have been directly observed by the ship-based “observing network of opportunity.” We find that, after adjusting for such an estimated number of missing storms, there remains just a small nominally positive upward trend in tropical storm occurrence from 1878-2006. Statistical tests indicate that this trend is not significantly distinguishable from zero (Figure 2). In addition, Landsea et al. (2010) note that the rising trend in Atlantic tropical storm counts is almost entirely due to increases in short-duration (<2 day) storms alone. Such short-lived storms were particularly likely to have been overlooked in the earlier parts of the record, as they would have had less opportunity for chance encounters with ship traffic.

If we instead consider Atlantic basin hurricanes, rather than all Atlantic tropical storms, the result is similar: the reported numbers of hurricanes were sufficiently high during the 1860s-1880s that again there is no significant positive trend in numbers beginning from that era (Figure 3, black curve, from CCSP 3.3 (2008)). This is without any adjustment for “missing hurricanes”.

The evidence for an upward trend is even weaker if we look at U.S. landfalling hurricanes, which even show a slight negative trend beginning from 1900 or from the late 1800s (Figure 3, blue curve). Hurricane landfalling frequency is much less common than basin-wide occurrence, meaning that the U.S. landfalling hurricane record, while more reliable than the basin-wide record, suffers from degraded signal-to-noise characteristics for assessing trends.

While major hurricanes (Figure 3, red curve) show more evidence of a rising trend from the late 1800s, the major hurricane data are considered even less reliable than the other two records in the early parts of the record. Category 4-5 hurricanes show a pronounced increase since the mid-1940s (Bender et al., 2010) but again, we consider that these data need to be carefully assessed for data inhomogeneity problems before such trends can be accepted as reliable.

The situation for various long-term Atlantic hurricane records and related indices is summarized in Figure 4. While global mean temperature and tropical Atlantic SSTs show pronounced and statistically significant warming trends (green curves), the U.S. landfalling hurricane record (orange curve) shows no significant increase or decrease. The unadjusted hurricane count record (blue curve) shows a significant increase in Atlantic hurricanes since the early 1900s. However, when adjusted with an estimate of storms that stayed at sea and were likely “missed” in the pre-satellite era, there is no longer any significant increase in Atlantic hurricanes since the late 1800s (red curve). While there have been increases in U.S. landfalling hurricanes and basin-wide hurricane counts since the since the early 1970s, Figure 4 shows that these recent increases are not representative of the behavior seen in the century long records. In short, the historical Atlantic hurricane record does not provide compelling evidence for a substantial greenhouse warming-induced long-term increase.

There is medium confidence for a detectable human contribution to past observed increases in heavy precipitation in general over global land regions with adequate coverage for analysis (e.g., IPCC AR5) and over the United States (Easterling et al. 2017), although an anthropogenic influence has not been formally detected for hurricane precipitation alone.  Several recent studies (e.g., van Oldenborgh et al. 2017; Risser and Wehner 2017) have concluded that Hurricane Harvey’s (2017) extreme rainfall totals, though primarily due to the storm’s slow movement over eastern Texas, were likely enhanced by anthropogenic warming.  Physically, a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor that can enhance moisture convergence and rainfall rates in storm systems such as hurricanes.  The statistical analyses in these Hurricane Harvey studies focused on extreme precipitation in general, to which hurricanes contributed, but were not analyses of extreme rainfall only from hurricanes.

C. Model simulations of greenhouse warming influence on Atlantic hurricanes

Direct model simulations of hurricane activity under climate change scenarios offer another perspective on the problem. We have developed a regional dynamical downscaling model for Atlantic hurricanes and tested it by comparing with observed hurricane activity since 1980. This model, when forced with observed sea surface temperatures and atmospheric conditions, can reproduce the observed rise in hurricane counts between 1980 and 2012, along with much of the interannual variability (Figure 5). Animations showing the development and evolution of hurricane activity in the model are available here.

Turning to future climate projections, current climate models suggest that tropical Atlantic SSTs will warm dramatically during the 21st century, and that upper tropospheric temperatures will warm even more than SSTs. Furthermore, most of the CMIP3 models project increasing levels of vertical wind shear over parts of the western tropical Atlantic (see Vecchi and Soden 2007). Both the increased warming of the upper troposphere relative to the surface and the increased vertical wind shear are detrimental factors for hurricane development and intensification, while warmer SSTs favor development and intensification. To explore which effect of these effects might “win out”, we can run experiments with our regional downscaling model.

Our regional model projects that Atlantic hurricane and tropical storms are substantially reduced in number, for the average 21st century climate change projected by current models, but have higher rainfall rates, particularly near the storm center. The average intensity of the storms that do occur increases by a few percent (Figure 6), in general agreement with previous studies using other relatively high resolution models, as well as with hurricane potential intensity theory (Emanuel 1987).

Knutson and Tuleya (2004) estimated the rough order of magnitude of the sensitivity of hurricanes to climate warming to be about 4 percent per deg C SST warming for maximum intensities and about 12 percent per deg C for near-storm (100 km radius) rainfall rates (see also Knutson and Tuleya (2008) abstract here). Such sensitivity estimates have considerable uncertainty, as a subsequent assessment of multiple studies (Knutson et al. 2010) projected total increases by 2100 of about 2-11 percent for tropical cyclone intensity, and roughly 20 percent for near-storm rainfall rates.  Our more recent late 21st century projections of hurricane activity continue to support the notion of increased intensity (~ 4 percent) and near-storm rainfall rates (~ 10 to 15 percent) for the Atlantic basin (Knutson et al. 2013)  as well as for most other tropical cyclone  basins (Knutson et al. 2015). Wright et al. (2015) found model-projected increases in rainfall rates for U.S. landfalling tropical cyclones using this modeling system.

A review of existing studies, including the ones cited above, lead us to conclude that:

“It is likely that greenhouse warming will cause hurricanes in the coming century to be more intense globally and have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes.”

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Turning now to the question of the frequency of very intense hurricanes, the regional model of Knutson et al. (2008) has an important limitation in that it does not simulate such very intense hurricanes. For example, the maximum surface wind in the simulated hurricanes from that model is less than 50 m/s (which is borderline category 3 hurricane intensity). Furthermore, the idealized study of Knutson and Tuleya (2004) assumed the existence of hurricanes and then simulated how intense they would become. Thus, that study could not address the important question of the frequency of intense hurricanes.

In a series of Atlantic basin-specific dynamical downscaling studies (Bender et al. 2010Knutson et al. 2013), we attempted to address both of these limitations by letting the Atlantic basin regional model of Knutson et al. (2008) provide the overall storm frequency information, and then downscaling each individual storm from the regional model study into the GFDL hurricane prediction system. The GFDL hurricane model (with a grid spacing as fine as 9 km) is able to simulate the frequency, intensity, and structure of the more intense hurricanes, such as category 3-5 storms, much more realistically than the regional (18 km grid) model.

Using this additional downscaling step, the GFDL hurricane model reproduces some important historical characteristics of very intense Atlantic hurricanes, including the wind speed distribution and the change of this distribution between active and inactive decadal periods of hurricane activity (Fig. 1 of Bender et al. 2010). The model also supports the notion of a substantial decrease (~25 percent) in the overall number of Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms with projected 21st century climate warming. However, using the CMIP3 and CMIP5 multi-model climate projections, the hurricane model also projects that the lifetime maximum intensity of Atlantic hurricanes will increase by about 5 percent during the 21st century in general agreement with previous studies.

The Bender et al. (2010) study projected a significant increase (+90 percent) in the frequency of very intense (category 4 and 5) hurricanes using the CMIP3/A1B 18-model average climate change projection. Subsequent downscaled projections using CMIP5 multi-model scenarios (RCP4.5) as input (Knutson et al. 2013) still showed increases in category 4 and 5 storm frequency. However, these increases were only marginally significant for the early 21st century (+45%) or the late 21st century (+39 percent) CMIP5 scenarios (based on model versions GFDl and GFDN combined). That study also downscaled ten individual CMIP3 models in addition to the multi-model ensemble, and found that three of ten models produced a significant increase in category 4 and 5 storms, and four of the ten models produced at least a nominal decrease. While multi-model ensemble results are probably more reliable than individual model results, each of the individual model results can be viewed as at least plausible at this time.  Based on Knutson et al. (2013) and a survey of subsequent results by other modeling groups, at present we have only low confidence for an increase in category 4 and 5 storms in the Atlantic; confidence in an increase in category 4 and 5 storms is higher at the global scale (see below).

Returning to the issue of future projections of aggregate activity (PDI, as in Fig. 1), while there remains a lack of consensus among various studies on how Atlantic hurricane PDI will change, no model we have analyzed shows a sensitivity of Atlantic hurricane PDI to greenhouse warming as large as that implied by the observed Atlantic PDI/local SST relationship shown in Figures 1 (top panel). In other words, there is little evidence from current dynamical models that 21st century climate warming will lead to large (~300 percent) increases in tropical storm numbers, hurricane numbers, or PDI in the Atlantic. As noted above, there is some indication from high resolution models of substantial increases in the numbers of the most intense hurricanes even if the overall number of tropical storms or hurricanes decreases.

Finally, one can ask when a large increase in Category 4-5 hurricanes, as projected by our earlier Bender et al. (2010) study, would be expected to be detectable in the Atlantic hurricane records, if it occurred in the real world. Owing to the large interannual to decadal variability of SST and hurricane activity in the basin, Bender et al (2010) estimate that detection of an anthropogenic influence on intense hurricanes would not be expected for a number of decades, even assuming a large underlying increasing trend (+10 percent per decade) occurs. While there is a large rising trend since the mid 1940s in observed category 4-5 numbers in the Atlantic, our view is that these data are not reliable for trend calculations, until they have been further assessed for data homogeneity problems, such as those due to changing observing practices.

D. Other possible human influences on Atlantic hurricane climate

Apart from greenhouse warming, other human influences conceivably could have contributed to recent observed increases in Atlantic hurricanes. For example, Mann and Emanuel (2006) hypothesize that a reduction in aerosol-induced cooling over the Atlantic in recent decades may have contributed to the enhanced warming of the tropical North Atlantic, relative to global mean temperature. However, the cause or causes of the recent enhanced warming of the Atlantic, relative to other tropical basins, and its effect on Atlantic tropical cyclones, remains highly uncertain (e.g., Booth et al. 2012Zhang et al. 2013;Dunstone et al. 2013Villarini and Vecchi 2013). A number of anthropogenic and natural factors (e.g., aerosols, greenhouse gases, volcanic activity, solar variability, and internal climate variability) must be considered as potential contributors, and the science remains highly uncertain in these areas. IPCC AR5 concluded that there is medium confidence that reduced aerosol forcing contributed to the observed increase in Atlantic tropical cyclone activity since the 1970s, but does not state any estimate of the magnitude of contribution.  They also conclude that it remains uncertain whether there are any detectable changes in past tropical cyclone activity.

Sea level rise must also be considered as a way in which human-caused climate change can impact Atlantic hurricane climate–or at least the impacts of the hurricanes at the coast. The vulnerability of coastal regions to storm-surge flooding is expected to increase with future sea-level rise and coastal development, although this vulnerability will also depend upon future storm characteristics, as discussed above. All else equal, tropical cyclone surge levels should increase with sea level rise.  There are large ranges in the 21st century projections for both Atlantic hurricane characteristics and for the magnitude of regional sea level rise along the U.S. coastlines. However, according to the IPCC AR5, the average rate of global sea level rise over the 21st Century will very likely exceed that observed during 1971-2010 for a range of future emission scenarios.

E. Summary for Atlantic Hurricanes and Global Warming

In summary, neither our model projections for the 21st century nor our analyses of trends in Atlantic hurricane and tropical storm counts over the past 120+ yr support the notion that greenhouse gas-induced warming leads to large increases in either tropical storm or overall hurricane numbers in the Atlantic. While one of our modeling studies projects a large (~100 percent) increase in Atlantic category 4-5 hurricanes over the 21st century, we estimate that such an increase would not be detectable until the latter half of the century, and we still have only low confidence that such an increase will occur in the Atlantic basin, based on an updated survey of subsequent modeling studies by our and other groups.

Therefore, we conclude that despite statistical correlations between SST and Atlantic hurricane activity in recent decades, it is premature to conclude that human activity–and particularly greenhouse warming–has already caused a detectable change in Atlantic hurricane activity. (“Detectable” here means the change is large enough to be distinguishable from the variability due to natural causes.) However, human activity may have already caused some some changes that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of the changes or observation limitations, or are not yet confidently modeled (e.g., aerosol effects on regional climate).

We also conclude that it is likely that climate warming will cause Atlantic hurricanes in the coming century have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes, and medium confidence that they will be more intense (higher peak winds and lower central pressures) on average. In our view, it is uncertain how the annual number of Atlantic tropical storms will change over the 21st century. All else equal, tropical cyclone surge levels should increase with sea level rise as projected for example by IPCC AR5. These assessment statements are intended to apply to climate warming of the type projected for the 21st century by prototype IPCC mid-range warming scenarios.

The relatively conservative confidence levels attached to our tropical cyclone projections, and the lack of a claim of detectable anthropogenic influence on tropical cyclones at this time contrasts with the situation for other climate metrics, such as global mean temperature. In the case of global mean surface temperature, the IPCC AR5 presents a strong body of scientific evidence that most of the global warming observed over the past half century is very likely due to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

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Global Tropical Cyclone Activity and Climate Warming

The main focus of this web page is on Atlantic hurricane activity and global warming. However, an important question concerns whether global warming has or will substantially affect tropical cyclone activity in other basins.

In terms of historical tropical cyclone activity, recent work (Kossin et al. 2014; see GFDL Research Highlight; Kossin et al. 2016) indicates that the latitude at which the maximum intensity of tropical cyclones occurs has expanded poleward globally in recent decades.  The poleward shift in the Northwest Pacific they conclude is unusual compared to expected variability from natural causes but consistent with general expectations of such a shift due to anthropogenic warming seen in climate model experiments.  The poleward shift has been found in both hemispheres, but is not seen in the Atlantic basin.  Human activities may have already caused other changes in tropical cyclone activity that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of these changes compared to estimated natural variability, or due to observational limitations.

For future projections, GFDL atmospheric modelers have developed global models capable of simulating many aspects of the seasonal and year-to-year variability of tropical cyclone frequency in a number of basins, using only historical sea surface temperatures as input. Examples of the performance of these models on historical data are provided on this web page.

Our 2015 study examines the impact of 21st-century projected climate changes (CMIP5, RCP4.5 scenario) on a number of tropical cyclone metrics, using the GFDL hurricane model to downscale storms in all basins from one of the lower resolution global atmospheric models mentioned above. Key findings from these experiments include: fewer tropical cyclones globally in a warmer late-twenty-first-century climate (Figure 8), but also an increase in average cyclone intensity, the number and occurrence days of very intense category 4 and 5 storms in most basins (Figure 9) and in tropical cyclone precipitation rates (Figure 10).

Based on our published results and as well as those of other modeling groups, we conclude that at the global scale:  a future increase in tropical cyclone precipitation rates is likely; an increase in tropical cyclone intensity is likely; an increase in very intense (category 4 and 5) tropical cyclones is more likely than not; and there is medium confidence in a decrease in the frequency of weaker tropical cyclones.  Existing studies suggest a tropical cyclone windspeed increase of about 1-10% and a tropical cyclone precipitation rate increase of about 10-15 percent for a moderate (2 degree Celsius) global warming scenario. These global projections are similar to the consensus findings from a review of earlier studies in the 2010 WMO assessment.  [There is already medium confidence for a detectable human contribution to past observed increases in heavy precipitation in general over global land regions and for the United States, although this increase has not been formally detected for hurricane precipitation alone.]

These global-scale changes are not necessarily projected to occur in all tropical cyclone basins. For example, our 2015 study projects an increase in tropical storm frequency in the Northeast Pacific and near Hawaii, and a decrease in category 4-5 storm days over much of the southern hemisphere basins and parts of the northwest Pacific basin–both at variance with the global-scale projected changes. These differences in responses between basins seem to be linked to how much SSTs increase in a given region compared to the tropical mean increase in SST. Basins that warm more than the tropical average tend to show larger increases in tropical cyclone activity for a number of metrics.

Our 2015 study simulations also project little change in the median size of tropical cyclones globally; the model  shows some skill at simulating the differences in average storm size between various basins in the present-day climate, lending some credibility to its future climate change projections of tropical cyclone size.

WMO Expert Team 2010 Assessment of Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change

Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change“, an assessment by a World Meteorological Organization Expert Team on Climate Change Impacts on Tropical Cyclones is now available. This assessment was published in Nature Geoscience (March 2010). For more information on the expert team, see this WMO web page.

This report assesses published research on “Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change” from the international scientific literature.

Early GFDL Research on Global Warming and Hurricanes

The strongest hurricanes in the present climate may be upstaged by even more intense hurricanes over the next century as the earth’s climate is warmed by increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Although we cannot say at present whether more or fewer hurricanes will occur in the future with global warming, the hurricanes that do occur near the end of the 21st century are expected to be stronger and have significantly more intense rainfall than under present day climate conditions. This expectation (Figure 11) is based on an anticipated enhancement of energy available to the storms due to higher tropical sea surface temperatures.

The results shown in Figure 11 are based on a simulation study carried out by Thomas R. Knutson and Robert E. Tuleya at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). In this study hurricanes were simulated for a climate warming as projected to occur with a substantial build-up of atmospheric CO2. An increase of intensity of about one-half category on the Saffir-Simpson scale was simulated for an 80 year build-up of atmospheric CO2 at 1 percent/yr (compounded). For hurricane wind speeds, our model shows a sensitivity of about 4 percent per degree Celsius increase in tropical sea surface temperatures, with a larger percentage increase in near-storm rainfall.

Read The Full Story About Global Warming And Hurricanes

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Florida’s Red Tide Fueled By Sewage

Wastewater Treatment Plants Dumping Sewage On Farms, Open Space

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for seven counties in Southwest Florida over an unusually severe red tide outbreak. Unfortunately, red tide is now another symptom of sewage mismanagement on land. Florida, like most states, now thinks of sewage as fertilizer.

Red tide, which scientists call a harmful algae bloom, is partly caused by a naturally occurring alga (a plant-like microorganism) called Karenia brevis or K. brevis. When K. brevis appears in large quantities – typically in the Gulf of Mexico – it can turn ocean water red, brown or green. K. brevis is fueled by some of the harmful toxins that it encounters in the ocean, much of which comes from sewage and surface water runoff from cities and rural areas alike. The toxins absorbed by red tide can impact the nervous systems of fish, birds and mammals (including humans).

Ironically, at least one form of agriculture fertilizer also attacks the nervous system—human sewage. Some health advocates believe that water runoff from these farms and dumping sites are fueling the red tide and the rise in neurodegenerative disease around the world.

Red tides are not unusual in the Gulf of Mexico and the western coast of Florida. The strong smell; eye, nose, and throat irritation; and large fish kills related to the event have been documented as far back as the 1840s. Red tides are caused by tiny algae that grow on the surface of the ocean, occasionally giving it a reddish-brown tint. Thus, scientists can use satellite imagery to map the extent of red tides and monitor how they spread over time. Satellites detect changes in the way the sea surface reflects light. These changes can be linked to concentrations of chlorophyll, showing where algae and other ocean plants are concentrated in the ocean.

red tide Florida

In his declaration, Gov. Scott’s office made two points: The state is supporting communities struggling with the scourge, and in an attempt to defend the agriculture industry he said that the siege of seafaring microorganisms is “naturally occurring.” Unfortunately, the problem and the solution aren’t that simple.

The declaration will provide money and resources to address a problem that’s lingered since October in Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

At 10 months, the current bloom is testing the resilience of communities and the priorities of government. Red tides have lasted as long as 24-months in southwestern Florida since the turn of the century. The frequency and the duration of these deadly tides appears to be rising.

Indeed, scientists and historians note fish kills triggered by the infestations dating back as early as the 1500s. While scientists today acknowledge the natural roots of Florida’s red tides, they also are investigating the possibility that persistent blooms, like the one besetting the Gulf Coast this summer, might be getting a “booster shot” from man-made pollutants that spill into the ocean.

Both the coastal red tide and the inland blue-green algae have beset South Florida through the summer, killing vast numbers of fish and other wildlife, including dozens of dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, sharks and eels. Humans also have been sickened by brevetoxins, which are emitted by the tiny organisms — karenia brevis — that create the red tide. Breathing the fallout can constrict the lungs’ bronchioles and send asthmatics to emergency rooms with coughs and shortness of breath.

Scott last month declared an emergency because of the blue-green algae bloom that began in giant Lake Okeechobee, before spreading to multiple rivers and canals. 

The declaration helped pave the way for assistance, including the deployment of biologists and other scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to rescue wildlife and to clear away the innumerable creatures that could not be saved.

Along with Scott’s action comes a $900,000 grant to Lee County, home to Fort Myers and the epicenter of the red tide, to help cope with the cleanup. That brings the total amount granted to the county, where some tourists have cut short their summer vacations, to $1.3 million.

Another $500,000 will go to Visit Florida, so the agency can support local tourism officials in mounting a campaign to try to bring visitors back to the red tide zone — which stretches more than 100 miles from Sarasota nearly to the tip of the state.

“We will continue to deploy all state resources and do everything possible to make sure that Gulf Coast residents are safe and area businesses can recover,” Scott said in a statement.

The red tide initially tends to thrive in low-nutrient environments, where it does not have to compete with other organisms. But when the blooms take hold and move closer to shore, they can thrive on nitrogen and other elements that could be fueled by pollution.

One researcher recalled his recent sampling trip along the coast, seeing the pollutants that brought the blue-green algae to the Caloosahatchee River spill into the Gulf just a couple miles from where the red tide exploded, near Fort Myers.

“It seems pretty damned obvious there is a connection,” Mitsch said, adding a cautionary note: “But that doesn’t mean there actually is one. That is why we are investigating. We have to dig deeper.”

Farming fertilizers already are blamed for fueling another Florida plague — the blue-green algae that chokes inland lakes, rivers and canals in the south part of the state, including giant Lake Okeechobee. This farm runoff also includes tons of human sewage, which has been pawned off on farmers as fertilizer since the early 1990s. Wastewater treatment plants throughout the east and southeast are paying farmers and other managers of open space, including golf courses, parks and playgrounds, to dump this toxic, infectious waste (biosolids). Florida and other states in the southeast get more than their share. It’s killing more than fish.

Such a finding likely would reinvigorate calls for greater regulation of the prime source of the pollutants —agricultural runoff from sugar cane and other farms in South Florida.

Read The Full Story About Florida’s red Tide

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Teens Discuss Climate Change

Students Produce Films About Global Warming

At the end of June, 15 middle and high school students from across southern Colorado and New Mexico journeyed to the University of Colorado Boulder to explore—in film—the effects of environmental change on their lives and in their communities. Through an immersive, CIRES-hosted science-education experience, these Upward Bound Math Science students took a deeper look at climate change topics, and used their new knowledge to create short, educational movies.

The Lens on Climate Change (LOCC) program, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST), targets students who may be the first in their families who are college-bound. The workshop asked them to think harder about the effects of climate change on their everyday lives. CIRES and Colorado Film School mentors worked closely with the students throughout the week, as they explored critical environmental issues through creative brainstorming, research, and film-making.

lens on climate change

Students split themselves into teams based on common interests. One team formed from a group of outdoors enthusiasts: all four team members shared a love for outdoor recreation like hiking, camping, and fishing. They also shared some key observations about local water sources in their individual communities, which span southern Colorado and New Mexico.

“I used to go fishing all the time, but things have changed over the past decade—there isn’t enough water to sustain the fish we used to catch,” said Erik Morales, a student from Gadsden High School in Anthony, New Mexico. Morales traveled over 600 miles to participate in the program.

Supported by two graduate students—CIRES’ Patrick Chandler (CU Boulder Environmental Science) and Catherine Sullivan (Colorado Film School)—the students put their observations under the spotlight to investigate the role of climate change on water resources and outdoor recreation in the West. They worked together to create a concept map and script for their film. The students interviewed CIRES scientist Jeff Lukas, a researcher in CIRES’ Western Water Assessment program. They also toured Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Bellvue Watson Fish Hatchery to learn about sustainable fishing practices.

“The students quickly found a topic that they all truly cared about and were not afraid to bring their emotion and vulnerability into the film,” said Chandler, a graduate researcher working with CIRES Fellow and CSTPR director Max Boykoff. “Although it would be admirable to see a group of any age do so, it was especially meaningful for a group of high school boys to come together and create something with open hearts and minds in order to produce the best film they could.”

To celebrate the students’ accomplishments, the LOCC team held a public film screening on Saturday, June 30. About 40 people, including mentors, students, and members of the community, watched the films the students had created. Topics ranged from water quality in Flint, Michigan to drought in the West. View the videos here.

“LOCC is about giving middle and high school kids the tools to investigate climate change effects in their community and start dialogues about those effects,” said Erin Leckey, program manager of LOCC. “We hope that through making their films that kids learn to be change makers and build resilience for their communities. The empowerment is as important as STEM skills they gain.”

The workshop was the first of three LOCC programs happening this summer. For the next sessions, the CIRES Education & Outreach team will travel to both the Coldharbour Institute in Gunnison, Colorado, and to Arecibo, Puerto Rico to educate and inspire local students.

Climate Change and Future Generations

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States Leading America Through Climate Change

Time For U.S. Government To Back Paris Agreement

By Governors Jerry Brown, Andrew Cuomo and Jay Inslee

The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change was a landmark moment in human history. It crystallized decades of negotiations into a framework embraced by every country in the world to confront the existential threat of climate change and work together to solve the challenge.

President Trump’s announcement exactly one year ago that he intended to withdraw from the Paris Agreement raised global concerns that the agreement could weaken or unravel. Instead, Trump’s retreat has catalyzed leaders in America and around the world to stand shoulder to shoulder and press forward with climate solutions.

climate change policy

June 1 is not the anniversary of an end to one of the world’s greatest acts of consensus; it is a celebration of what Americans have done to fill the federal void. On the same day Trump abdicated climate leadership last year, we formed the U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the Paris Agreement commitment in our states. In just one year, the alliance has grown into a bipartisan coalition of 17 governors representing 40 percent of the U.S. population and a $9 trillion economy — larger than that of every country in the world but the U.S. and China.

President Trump’s announcement last year centered on his allegation that the Paris Agreement hurts the U.S. economy. The fact that our collective economies are stronger than the states not in the alliance proves just the opposite. Alliance states are not only reducing emissions more rapidly than the rest of the country, but we are also expanding our per capita economic output  twice as fast. Alliance states are attracting billions of dollars in climate and clean energy investments that have created 1.3 million clean energy jobs. The Alliance states are not alone: meeting the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement is projected to save the world $30 trillion in avoided economic damages.

While the Paris Agreement is one of the greatest tests in global collaboration, this interstate effort stands as one of the biggest and most important experiments in American policymaking. From modernizing power grids to scaling up renewable energy and reducing pollution, we are saving money and cleaning our air.

We will do everything in our power to defend and continue our climate actions. This includes continuing to oppose any federal proposal to cancel the Clean Power Plan, weaken clean car and appliance standards or expand offshore drilling. One year after President Trump’s abdication, the rapid economic growth of states within the U.S. Climate Alliance remain a beacon to all Americans and to every other nation that Americans are still in the Paris Agreement and will not retreat.

climate change and extreme weather

Despite President Trump’s Paris Agreement decision, the world continues to move forward and not backward on climate. One year after the president’s announcement, every other nation on earth has signed onto the Paris Agreement.

China canceled plans for more than 100 coal-fired power plants in 2017, offshore wind energy is competing without subsidy in northern Europe, and several countries are making plans to shift cars from gas and diesel to electric, including China, France, India, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom. 

We will work in lockstep with the nations of the world and continue our work to uphold the Paris Agreement. However, it is clear that we cannot meet the climate challenge alone. We need commitment from every U.S. state and we need the federal government to get back in the game. We invite others to join us and mark June 1 not as an anniversary of retreat, but as the moment when a bold, new movement of climate action took root in America.

Democratic Govs. Jerry Brown of California, Andrew Cuomo of New York and Jay Inslee of Washington are co-chairs of the U.S. Climate Alliance.

Read The Full Letter From The Governors

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Insurance Companies Not Ignoring Climate Change

Climate Change Risks Spark New Types Of Insurance Policies

Coral reefs, mangroves and even some fish could soon have their own insurance policies as the industry seeks new ways to boost protection for those affected by the ocean changes wrought by climate change.

Warmer sea temperatures have led to more intense storms in the Atlantic Ocean, contributing to $320 billion in disaster losses from weather and climate-related events last year, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Only about a quarter of these were insured.

climate change and extreme weather

But despite high payouts, industry experts speaking at the Ocean Risk Summit in reinsurance hub Bermuda said so-called “ocean risk” – which encompasses storms and hurricanes as well as marine diseases and declines in fish stocks – can present opportunities for insurers if the risks are modeled correctly.

One way to increase coverage is to devise new financial instruments to insure “green infrastructure” – such as coral reefs, mangroves and salt marshes that act as natural barriers against storms and can reduce devastating losses on land.

“There is a new role for insurance companies in the context of development strategies for countries most vulnerable to ocean risk,” said Falk Niehörster, director of Climate Risk Innovations, a risk management consultancy.

Niehörster has urged the creation of new insurance products to cover the $1.5 trillion global “blue economy” including fisheries, marine transport and other sectors.

Mark Way, a former reinsurance official who helped Swiss Re implement a policy for dozens of kilometers of coral reef and beach in Mexico this year – a world first – said his charity was inundated with calls from other insurers after the concept was announced.

sustainable cities and climate change

“There’s a lot of capital looking for investment opportunities so there are incentives to find innovative new ways to provide cover,” Way, head of global coastal risk and resilience for The Nature Conservancy, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the summit last week.

Governments also have a keen interest in such insurance policies since they can reduce the human and infrastructure losses on land that devastated parts of the Caribbean last year. Kedrick Pickering, deputy premier of the British Virgin Islands, which was hit by Hurricane Irma last year, said reef insurance was something the country would consider.

The Mexican reef insurance model works by automatically triggering payouts once storm-force winds hit a certain level. The same concept theoretically could be applied to damage to fish stocks causes by El Niño, based on changes to water current. Payouts would go to fishermen in that case.

“There is a whole host of ideas and we are just scraping the surface,” Way said.

However, some risks – such as pollution and overfishing, which scientists say could contribute to the loss of as much as 90 percent of global reefs by 2050 – are not covered under the novel Mexican insurance model.

And many species that have an enormous value to ocean ecosystems, such as crucial oxygen-generating bacteria, do not have easily quantifiable benefits to humanity, so are difficult to insure.

“Insurance can’t solve all the problems and we need to be mindful of the blindspots,” said Rashid Sumaila, director of the fisheries economics research unit at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre.

But so far even clearly identified threats to established markets remain largely uninsured. The nearly $23 billion a year northeastern US fisheries market, which includes high-value species such as lobster, scallops and cod, is expected to suffer from rising sea temperatures but so far remains largely uninsured, for instance.

Experts say more data and research on the oceans, such as plans to map the ocean’s resources as well as an ambitious project to create an ocean risk index by the end of this year, may help provide the missing pieces for insurers.

“Insurers are already developing products in response to ocean risk but an index could accelerate and deepen their engagement,” said Robert Powell, a senior consultant with the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is formulating the risk index.

Creating insurance products for marine assets could also build incentives to protect them against threats, or at least the ones local communities can control, Way said.

“If you can make the case successfully that it’s worth investing in an insurance policy then why spend that money if you are going to kill the reef through nutrient run off or pollution?” he asked.

Still, conservationists say there is a limit to what insurance can do and other protection will have to come from regulation, such as reducing illegal fishing and implementing a UN goal to transform 10 percent of the world’s oceans into protected areas by 2020.

Another shortcoming is that insurers, who tend to offer policies on short time horizons, are only likely to be interested in providing coverage against ocean risks in milder global warming scenarios.

Under the Paris Agreement on climate change, countries aim to hold average global temperature risk to “well below” two degrees Celsius, with an aim of one and a half degrees. So far, however, inadequate global plans to cut emissions suggest temperatures could rise three degrees or more.

“At three-degrees [temperature increase] you are looking at a structural challenge for billions of people that creates a whole new level of economic and social challenges for which insurance may not have all the answers,” said Rowan Douglas, head of capital, science and policy practice at global advisory firm Willis Towers Watson.

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Cities Celebrate Earth Day

Cities Part Of Environmental Problems, Solutions

When Earth Day began in 1970, the dire state of cities had a lot to do with it. Urban industrialism had literally become lethal: During a particularly warm Thanksgiving weekend in 1966, the smog in New York City killed nearly 200 people.

A lot has changed in the intervening decades. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed after the first Earth Day, and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts followed. Cities have cleaned up their air and water, and many have stepped up as forces for environmental progress. San Francisco is now striving for zero waste by 2020, and Portland, Oregon, is working toward cutting the city’s carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030.

sustainable cities

According to Kathleen Rodgers, the president of Earth Day Network, thousands of events will happen around the world this weekend in honor of Earth Day, which is officially on Sunday. They are intended to draw public attention to issues that environmentalists wrestle with year-round: climate change, habitat loss, and plastic pollution, to name a few.

But for many city dwellers, the goal is a little simpler: to engage with their communities in an Earth-friendly way and have a good time. Here are a few of the more unusual ways that American cities will be advocating for a healthy planet this weekend.If you live in Baltimore, you may have spotted Thomas Dolby driving his motorboat around the city’s harbor. “I don’t have a car, but I have a little motorboat, and I use that to get around,” Dolby told CityLab. “You’ll often see me out there on my way to Safeway to get groceries, or on my way to Fells Point to get breakfast.”

Those who don’t know Dolby from his jaunts around the Baltimore Harbor may remember the British musician’s 1982 hit, “She Blinded Me With Science.” Baltimore’s Peabody Heights Brewery has partnered with Dolby to release a new Belgian wheat ale.” Fittingly, the label will feature an image of Professor Trash Wheel, the newest googly-eyed trash-collecting device on the Inner Harbor. Proceeds from the beer will benefit the Healthy Harbor Initiative, whose goal is to make the harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020. The beer will be released in Baltimore and around the region on Saturday, just in time for Earth Day.

“I think people should get enjoyment out of their harbor,” said Dolby, who is currently a professor of the arts at Johns Hopkins University. “The harbor is already a great center of gravity for Baltimore events … but it would certainly be nice if there were a beach or two.”

trees a climate change solution

There are plenty of other untraditional Earth Day celebrations happening around the country. In Milwaukee on Saturday night, REmodel Resale Fashion Boutique will host an Earth Day Fashion Show to promote recycling and refurbishing clothing. In Dallas, thousands of Tesla owners will gather on Saturday at the city’s EarthX conference to admire each other’s cars and endorse the benefits of electric vehicles. In Monterey, California, a group of divers plans to remove a dumpster’s worth of garbage from the sea. And on Sunday in Corpus Christi, Texas, there’s going to be a Plogging Party, where runners will pick up garbage while jogging through town.

“We don’t use the word ‘celebration’ inside Earth Day, though we recognize that people use Earth Day to connect with each other or do things that are cool or funny,” Rogers said. “For the most part, our work is entirely focused on getting communities to make commitments around what they’ll do for the next 365 days.”public affairs and public relations firmCrossbow Communications is an international marketing and public affairs firm. It specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting sustainable, resilient and livable cities. Please contact Gary Chandler at to join our network.

Shell Offers Proposal To Tackle Climate Change

Company Supports Paris Climate Agreement

By Christopher Mooney and Steven Mufson, Washington Post

Royal Dutch Shell just outlined a scenario in which, by 2070, we would be using far less of the company’s own product — oil — as cars become electric, a massive carbon storage industry develops, and transportation begins a shift toward a reliance on hydrogen as an energy carrier.

The company’s Sky scenario was designed to imagine a world that complies with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, managing to hold the planet’s warming to “well below” a rise of 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels. Shell has said that it supports the Paris agreement.

The scenario, which finds the world in a net-zero emissions state by 2070, is based on the idea that “a simple extension of current efforts, whether efficiency mandates, modest carbon taxes, or renewable energy supports, is insufficient for the scale of change required,” the oil company document reads.

trees a climate change solution

“The relevant transformations in the energy and natural systems require concurrent climate policy action and the deployment of disruptive new technologies at mass scale within government policy environments that strongly incentivize investment and innovation.”

The company also cautioned that Sky is only a scenario — a possible future dependent on many assumptions — not a reality that will definitely be realized.

Shell is one of the globe’s largest publicly traded oil companies and produced 3.7 million barrels of oil equivalent per day last year. But the company’s own recent investments reflect a slight change in focus or, at least, a hedging of its bets. In October, it purchased NewMotion, an electric-vehicle charging company. Shell now operates a small number of stations providing hydrogen fuel to vehicles in the United States and Europe, and is involved in pursuing carbon capture and storage technologies through its Quest project in the Canadian oil sands and the enormous Gorgon project in Australia.

The company has also acquired BG Group, a major natural gas company, as part of placing greater emphasis on producing natural gas, which releases fewer greenhouse gases during combustion than oil or coal. The company is being pressured by some shareholders to do more on climate change, though some investors support the current state of the company.

“Anytime we see a forecast looking out many decades, it can be an interesting talking point but does not seriously influence investor decisions,” said Pavel Molchanov, energy analyst at the investment firm Raymond James, said in an email. “Even for long-term-oriented investors, that is simply too distant a time frame.”

Royal Dutch Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden in past interviews with The Washington Post has acknowledged that “climate change is real” and that “action is needed” but has asserted that the world will need to keep burning fossil fuels even if renewable energy catapults forward.

“It doesn’t mean we have to kiss hydrocarbons goodbye. In fact, we can’t,” he said.

In November, the company said it would cut the carbon footprint of making (not burning) its own petroleum products by 20 percent by 2035 and by about half by 2050. Shareholder groups, however, have noted that if Shell increases its overall fossil fuel production, then it will undercut some of those gains. Last year, shareholders overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by an environmental group calling for Shell to set and publish annual targets to reduce carbon emissions.

In the Sky scenario, the world’s consumption of oil would rise through 2025 before starting to decline. Global oil consumption would begin to drop in 2030 and fall below current levels in 2040.

“Liquid hydrocarbon fuel consumption almost halves between 2020 and 2050 and falls by 90 percent by 2070 in the sector,” the document says.

“It is striking that a company built on energy flow commodities sees them declining permanently after 2040,” said Peter Fox-Penner, director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Boston University, in an emailed comment on the scenario.

Other changes are just as massive. Nuclear power would triple, the total use of electricity would expand fivefold, and the world would be equipped with 10,000 carbon capture and storage (CCS) installations.

Read The Full Story At…e-climate-change/

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Recycling Humans Via Sewage, Biosolids

Bodies Liquified, Dumped In City Sewers, Dumped On Food Crops

By Natural News

A new recycling technology has added new meaning to the phrase “you are what you eat.”

Bio-cremation liquefies the dead, then dumps their liquid remains into city sewers where solid and liquid waste are collected as sewage sludge and reclaimed wastewater to be dumped on food crops and much more. Those crops, in turn, are fed back to humans as part of the mainstream food supply.

In a shocking true story that’s part The Matrix and part Soylent Green, a company based in Smith Falls, Ontario has devised a bio-cremation system that it calls an “eco-friendly alternative to flame-based cremation or casket burials,” reports Canada’s CBC News. The company is called Hilton’s Aquagreen Dispositions and touts its approach to dissolving dead bodies as “eco-friendly alkaline hydrolysis.”

wastewater treatment and disease

According to CBC News, dead bodies are liquefied with a “process that blends water with an alkali solution…” The company’s website describes the body liquefaction process as follows:

Bio Cremation creates a highly controlled and sophisticated environment that uniquely combines water, alkali, heat and pressure. This process biochemically hydrolyzes the human body, leaving only bone fragments. During a typical Bio Cremation cycle, the body is reduced, bone fragments are rinsed and the remaining by-product is a sterile (but not benign) fluid.

There’s no mention of handling the mercury and other toxic heavy metals that would survive such a process, of course. Those metals would obviously end up in the city’s sewer system.

“The company came under fire in 2016 when it was revealed the liquid byproduct is then drained into the town’s sewage system,” reports CBC News.

Cities across North America — including Toronto — collect sewage into so-called “biosolids” or “biosludge,” which is trucked out of the city’s sewage treatment center and dumped on food crops in rural areas.

sewage sludge treatment and disposal

In effect, the practice of “bio-cremation” means that dead humans would be liquefied and fed to plants which are then eaten by other humans. This process is almost militantly called recycling by proponents of biosludge and bio-cremation operations. It’s all pushed under the agenda of “green living.”

On the other hand, the current practice of pumping dead bodies full of toxic chemical preservatives and burying them in cemeteries inside overpriced wooden caskets also seems insane. It makes us wonder: Why hasn’t modern civilization come up with a dignified, eco-friendly way to honor the dead without either contaminating the soil or eating their remains?

It turns out the real answer is as old as human life itself: Bury your loved ones without injecting them with toxic chemicals first, and let nature reclaim the molecules with the help of soil microbes. It requires no electricity, no pressure chamber, no added heat, no artificial chemicals, no overpriced casket and no makeup for the body. Oh yeah, it’s also the way people have handled dead bodies for nearly the entire history of human civilization.

Read The Full Story About Recycling Humans and Sewage.

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Jakarta Sinking Below Sea Level

Threats Rising Due To Climate Change, Development

By Michael Kimmelman, New York Times

With climate change, the Java Sea is rising and weather here is becoming more extreme. Earlier this month another freakish storm briefly turned Jakarta’s streets into rivers and brought this vast area of nearly 30 million residents to a virtual halt.

One local climate researcher, Irvan Pulungan, an adviser to the city’s governor, fears that temperatures may rise several degrees Fahrenheit, and the sea level as much as three feet in the region, over the coming century. That, alone, spells potential disaster for this teeming metropolis.

But global warming turned out not to be the only culprit behind the historic floods that overran Rasdiono’s bodega and much of the rest of Jakarta in 2007. The problem, it turned out, was that the city itself is sinking.

Indonesia Jakarta climate change

In fact, Jakarta is sinking faster than any other big city on the planet, faster, even, than climate change is causing the sea to rise — so surreally fast that rivers sometimes flow upstream, ordinary rains regularly swamp neighborhoods and buildings slowly disappear underground, swallowed by the earth. The main cause: Jakartans are digging illegal wells, drip by drip draining the underground aquifers on which the city rests — like deflating a giant cushion underneath it. About 40 percent of Jakarta now lies below sea level.

Coastal districts, like Muara Baru, near the Blessed Bodega, have sunk as much as 14 feet in recent years. Not long ago I drove around northern Jakarta and saw teenagers fishing in the abandoned shell of a half-submerged factory. The banks of a murky canal lapped at the trestle of a railway bridge, which, until recently, had arched high over it.

Climate change acts here as it does elsewhere, exacerbating scores of other ills. And in Jakarta’s case, a tsunami of human-made troubles — runaway development, a near-total lack of planning, next to no sewers and only a limited network of reliable, piped-in drinking water — poses an imminent threat to the city’s survival.

Sinking buildings, sprawl, polluted air and some of the worst traffic jams in the world are symptoms of other deeply rooted troubles. Distrust of government is a national condition. Conflicts between Islamic extremists and secular Indonesians, Muslims and ethnic Chinese have blocked progress, helped bring down reform-minded leaders and complicated everything that happens here, or doesn’t happen, to stop the city from sinking.

“Nobody here believes in the greater good, because there is so much corruption, so much posturing about serving the public when what gets done only serves private interests,” as Sidney Jones, the director of the local Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, put it. “There is no trust.”

climate change policy

Hydrologists say the city has only a decade to halt its sinking. If it can’t, northern Jakarta, with its millions of residents, will end up underwater, along with much of the nation’s economy. Eventually, barring wholesale change and an infrastructural revolution, Jakarta won’t be able to build walls high enough to hold back the rivers, canals and the rising Java Sea.

And even then, of course, if it does manage to heal its self-inflicted wounds, it still has to cope with all the mounting threats from climate change.

As far the eye can see, 21st-century Jakarta is a smoggy tangle of freeways and skyscrapers. Spread along the northwestern coast of Java, this capital of the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population used to be a soggy, bug-infested trading port for the Hindu kingdom of Sunda before local sultans took it over in 1527.

They named it Jayakarta, Javanese for victorious city.

Dutch colonists arrived a century later, establishing a base for the East India territories. Imagining a tropical Amsterdam, they laid out streets and canals to try to cope with water pouring in from the south, out of the forests and mountains, where rain falls nearly 300 days out of the year. Thirteen rivers feed into the city.

After independence in 1945, the city began to sprawl. Today, it is virtually impossible to walk around. Parks are rarer than Javan rhinos. A trip to the nearest botanical garden requires the better part of a day in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

“Living here, we don’t have other places to go,” said Yudi and Titi, a young professional couple who one recent Sunday had made the roughly hour’s round trip from western Jakarta to the center of the city just to spend a few minutes walking up and down a chaotic, multilane freeway briefly closed to traffic. “Without cars, at least you can breathe for a few minutes,” Titi said.

The most urgent problems are in North Jakarta, a coastal mash-up of ports, nautically themed high-rises, aged fish markets, abject slums, power plants, giant air-conditioned malls and the congested remnants of the colonial Dutch settlement, with its decrepit squares and streets of crumbling warehouses and dusty museums.

Some of the world’s most polluted canals and rivers weave a spider’s web through the area.

It is where the city is sinking fastest.

That’s because, after decades of reckless growth and negligent leadership, crises have lined up here like dominoes.

Jakarta’s developers and others illegally dig untold numbers of wells because water is piped to less than half the population at what published reports say are extortionate costs by private companies awarded government concessions.

The aquifers aren’t being replenished, despite heavy rains and the abundance of rivers, because more than 97 percent of Jakarta is now smothered by concrete and asphalt. Open fields that once absorbed rain have been paved over. Shores of mangroves that used to help relieve swollen rivers and canals during monsoons have been overtaken by shantytowns and apartment towers.

There is always tension between immediate needs and long-term plans. It’s a similar story in other sinking giants like Mexico City. Here, all of the construction, combined with the draining of the aquifers, is causing the rock and sediment on which Jakarta rests to pancake.

Read The Full Story About Jakarta, Indonesia

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