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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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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California Communities File Suits Over Climate Change

Coastal Communities Suing Fossil Fuel Companies

Three California communities are suing 37 of the world’s largest oil, gas and coal companies for knowingly contributing to climate change.

San Mateo and Marin counties, as well as the city of Imperial Beach, have filed suit against companies like Exxon, Shell, and Chevron, which they claim produced roughly 20 percent of all greenhouse emissions between 1965 and 2015.

The communities are now seeking relief from the costs of climate change, which include rising sea levels and carbon dioxide pollution.

climate change policy

“As a low-income coastal community, we have no capacity to pay for the adaptation measures needed to protect ourselves from these impacts,” Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said. “It is unfair to force citizens, business owners and taxpayers to fend for ourselves when the source of the problem is so clear.”

Marin County, meanwhile, argues that the effects of flooding caused by climate change will cost the community upwards of $15.5 billion (£11.9 billion) in the next 15 years alone.

The communities further claim that the companies knew about the effects of climate change for at least 50 years, but failed to act. The companies, they allege, took steps to secure their own assets, but did nothing to warn the larger community.

Previous investigations have claimed that Exxon Mobil sat on findings from one of their senior scientists about the effects of climate change, starting as early as 1977. Exxon claims they never sought to hide these findings.

A spokeswoman for Shell told The Guardian that the company believes climate change is a “complex societal challenge that should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change … not by the courts”. A spokesman for Statoil pointed out that previous, similar cases had been dismissed for being outside the scope of the judiciary.

Similar complaints have seen some success against the tobacco industry, after local governments sued cigarette manufacturers for health-related expenses. The most prominent of these claims was settled outside of court, for a substantial sum.

According to Columbia Law Professor Michael Burger, however, causation may be more difficult to prove in the case of climate change.

air pollution and climate change

“Proving that these particular emissions that came from these fossil fuel companies led to this particular level of sea level rise and contribute X amount to harms that have happened or will happen – that’s a long chain of causation,” Mr Burger told Insideclimate News.

“There are a number of significant legal hurdles,” he added.

Climate News

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Are Cities Ready For The Next Major Hurricane

Coastal Cities Unprepared For Extreme Storms

By Nick Stockton, Wired

After the storm, after the flooding, after the investigations, the US came to realize that what happened to New Orleans on August 29, 2005 was not a natural disaster. The levee system built by the US Army Corps of Engineers had structural flaws, and those flaws were awaiting the right circumstances. In that way, what happened was all but inevitable.

sustainable cities and climate change

And just as the storm is not to blame, New Orleans is not unique in its vulnerability. The city endured a lot of scolding in the aftermath of Katrina, as if the storm was the climax to a parable about poor urban planning. Sure, the city sits below sea level, at the end of hurricane alley, and relies heavily on an elaborate (and delicate) system of infrastructure. But where the city’s geography is unique, its vulnerability is anything but. Just about every coastal city, state, or region is sitting on a similar confluence of catastrophic conditions. The seas are rising, a storm is coming, and critical infrastructure is dangerously exposed.

The basic math of carbon dioxide is pretty simple: Generally, as CO2 levels rise, the air will warm. Warmer air melts glaciers, which drip into the sea—even as the water itself warms, too. Both cause the oceans to rise. Even if the entire planet stopped emitting carbon dioxide, Earth would continue to suffer the effects of past emissions.

“We’ve got at least 30 years of inertia in terms of sea level rise,” says Trevor Houser, a Rhodium Group economist who studies climate risk. And even if the sea weren’t rising, the rate of urban growth will more than double the area of urban land at high flood risk, according to a study Global Environmental Change published earlier this year.

But the sea is rising, at about .13 of an inch per year, for the past 20 years. (It was rising before then, too, but at about half the rate for the preceding 80 years.) Another recent study calculated that the world should expect about 4 feet of sea level rise for every degree Fahrenheit the global average temperature rises. This puts nearly every coastal city, in every coastal state, in danger of floods. Climate Central has an extensive project looking at sea level risk, if you’re curious about your city’s risk.

Warm air also holds more moisture, and moisture holds more energy, hence stronger (though not necessarily more frequent) storms. Those storms combine with high sea levels to create a danger greater than the sum of their parts. In a combined flooding event, a severe storm traps a city between rainfall and surging seas. Higher sea levels cause rivers to back up, water tables to saturate, shorelines to shorten. Storms—which are likely to be stronger than before—have fewer options to run off, so they pool and flood. And America built its coastal civilization oblivious to their threat.

hurricane Katrina

Take Florida, the most climate-threatened swath of American soil. It’s low, flat, built on porous limestone, and hurricane prone. According to a new analysis by disaster insurance agency Karen Clark and Co., Florida has four of the 10 US cities most vulnerable to combined flooding events.

Florida, knowing its place in the world, has copious levees and seawalls. But the levees are there mostly to protect against the Everglades. The seawalls are about as good at breaking a hurricane as a hood ornament is at breaking the wind. And all of that infrastructure is of little use in the face of combined flooding events—the sea will simply come up from below. Miami flooded last year when the storm sewers backed up because the water table was too high to drain them.

The Sunshine State’s geography makes it an easy target for blame (not to mention hurricanes). But if there’s anything the US should have learned in the decade since Katrina, it’s that storms don’t always hit where you expect them—because, you know, Sandy. “Florida is definitely the most vulnerable place, but you also have places like Norfolk that are built on the coastal floodplain, and parts of New England where there is a lot of sunk infrastructure very close to the increasingly vulnerable coast,” says Houser. The pattern repeats itself all along the Atlantic coastal plain: Physical protections are largely insufficient to protect against a new class of climate threats.

And then, sometimes, that infrastructure falls apart entirely. Louisiana’s levees couldn’t have held off Katrina entirely, but it was their collapse, not the hurricane itself, that turned the Big Easy into a bathtub. “Some were improperly designed, some were improperly constructed, the rest were improperly maintained,” says Sandy Rosenthal, the director of Levees.org, an infrastructure watchdog group.

That same sentence could apply to key infrastructure nationwide. A lot of the country’s infrastructure—its bridges, transportation corridors, airports, seaports, water supply systems, electrical grids, flood control, and so one—were built poorly, hastily, or both. A lot of it is old and neglected. In a 2013 survey, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave US infrastructure a D+ grade.

“A lot of infrastructure went up in the midcentury,” says Solomon Hsiang, a UC Berkeley economist who studies public policy. “Now we’re reaching the end of the natural lifetime of that infrastructure, and we need to decide that we can no longer ride on all the investment that occurred 50 or 60 years ago.” Much of this stuff is directly vulnerable to climate change. Earlier this year, the Army Corps of Engineers released two surveys describing hundreds of dams and thousands of levees vulnerable to rising seas and stronger storms. Threats identified—but not yet remedied.

Sustainable City News via http://climatedesk.org/2015/08/no-one-is-ready-for-the-next-katrina/

Papua New Guinea Village Relocates To Avoid Rising Sea

Islands Sinking As Planet Warms

Ursula Rakova was born in a tropical paradise. The tiny, low-lying islet of Han is part of the Carteret Atoll in the southwest Pacific, with clear blue waters lapping at its palm-fringed shores. Fish was plentiful and so was taro, the staple food.

climate change sinking islands
Islanders are already feeling the pressures if rising sea levels.

The atoll community is matrilineal, and Rakova’s mother passed ownership of Han islet to her – but the island paradise is disappearing, one of the first places to fulfill scientists’ predictions that climate change will submerge many coastal communities.

The rising sea level split Han islet in two while Rakova was in high school. The atoll, made up of six islets, then suffered saltwater intrusion, contaminating freshwater wells and making it impossible for the islanders to farm taro.

Shorelines were eroded. King tides – unusually high tides – which used to come every five or 10 years, started appearing every year. Low tides are retreating further, leading to bleaching of the offshore coral. Today, the gap between the two parts of what used to be Han islet is big enough for canoes to pass through and is growing wider, Rakova said.

“The sea that we love to swim in is now turning against us,” she told participants in the first “Summit on Women and Climate” in Bali, Indonesia this week. “Our shorelines are eroding so fast. The food that we normally eat has disappeared. Year in, year out, every day, it is a struggle for my people,” she said. “It’s frightening. It gives you a feeling of anxiety – what’s going to happen next?”

Indonesia islands and climate change
Sea rise will impact thousands of islands just in Indonesia.

Fish and other seafood is getting harder to find. The islanders now have to rely on the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government for food, but they are given rice, which is not their staple food, Rakova said.

The Carterets’ Council of Elders, tired of waiting for the government to act and aware of the need for change, asked Rakova in 2006 to help plan their future. Rakova, a 50-year-old social studies graduate born and bred on the atoll, had worked on human rights and environmental issues with numerous organisations including Oxfam New Zealand.

Her first move was to set up an action plan dubbed Tulele Peisa, meaning “sailing in the wind on our own” in the local language. It is an apt description of the programme, which has made tremendous progress under her leadership despite continuous challenges. Her struggles also highlight the obstacles facing many women grassroots leaders looking after their communities and their environment.

Rakova’s plan was far-reaching: she is leading the permanent resettlement of some 2,000 climate refugees from the atoll to mainland Bougainville, a three-hour ride on a wooden boat on a good day. She is also making sure the islanders will be self-reliant in their new homeland.

“The islands are isolated so the culture has been intact. We also more or less know everyone and it’s very peaceful,” Rakova said in an interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We are a very loving people and the island provided everything we needed.” The atoll is becoming increasingly uninhabitable, but resettling some 2,000 people – the total population is around 2,700 but the elderly do not want to move to the mainland – requires more than just dumping them in a strange place. “We had to look at the education of the younger people, health facilities, economic opportunities for the islanders, and trauma counselling for the families that we’re moving as well as the host community,” she said.

All of this requires money, which was not forthcoming, from the government or anywhere else. The big donors wanted them to be registered, have their books audited, see the cash flow — when they didn’t even have a few thousand dollars to their name, Rakova said. The local administration, far from helping, was creating more obstacles. Funding “has been a very very hard struggle and to some extent, a lone struggle,” Rakova said, her friendly, generous face looking sad for once. Small amounts of seed money from the New Zealand High Commission in PNG and the Global Greengrants Fund helped them work out an 18-step process which included community profiling and community assessment, and resulted in the islanders owning land, a home and a sustainable way of living in their new location.

Thankfully, the local community on Bougainville hails from the same clan as the islanders and was welcoming – largely thanks to the exchange of chiefs and elders of the two groups that Rakova’s organisation set up before any relocation started. This gave the mainlanders an understanding of the islanders’ situation. The Catholic Church, which owns vast swathes of land in Bougainville, provided the islanders with four parcels of land.

The first group of families – 86 people in total – have moved into their new homes and started farming again. Rakova remains concerned about the impact on the islanders of Bougainville’s social problems, including that posed by marijuana, which is grown on the mainland but not on the island.

“It’s not a case of ‘living happily ever after,’ it’s a continuous struggle,” she added. Building the first set of homes brought more funding problems. Donors wanted cheaper houses and Rakova told them to keep their money, arguing that cheaper buildings would not last. The bureaucracy was frustrating, that of both international donors and her own government, which has tens of thousands of dollars earmarked for the climate adaptation of islands and atolls but says funds could not be used for house building. So Rakova set up Bougainville Cocoa Net Limited – to enable the settlers to grow and export organic cocoa. The cash earned from this will help to accelerate the relocation. The settlers are already starting to export to Hamburg in north Germany, after receiving funding from a German organisation.

The next step is to obtain fair trade certification and grow the market, she said. Though carrying the burden of the community’s future, Rakova is a gentle, loving soul who is always ready for a joke and has an uproarious laugh. Despite winning the 2008 Pride of PNG award for her contribution to the environment and the 2014 Equator Prize, she remains humble and helpful. She was amused by how long it took her to get to Bali from her islet – five days, involving a boat trip, a car ride, and two flight changes. She missed one connection and had to stay inside Sydney airport for 24 hours as she had no Australian visa. Her sense of humour remains intact, which she attributes to being a woman and an islander. “We want the world to know that we also want to make a living. We want to move to this new location so we are growing our own cash crops to sustain our own family income but we need support,” she said. “We want to have markets in the United States. This will sustain our programme so that we won’t have to beg for relocation funds all the time,” she added. “We’ve had enough of chasing donors and funders. We want to do it ourselves.” The one thing the islanders can’t do is hold back the sea. “The sea has to play its part. It’s displacing us,” Rakova said stoically. Source: http://www.preventionweb.net/english/professional/news/v.php?id=38885

Massachusetts Investing $50 Million To Defend Coastlines From Rising Sea Level

Grants Available To Cities, Towns

The Patrick Administration has announced a grant program to reduce or eliminate risks associated with coastal storms, erosion and sea level rise through natural and nonstructural approaches called green infrastructure. The grants, available to cities, towns and nonprofit groups, are part of the Patrick Administration’s US$50 million investment in climate change initiatives.

climate change coastal cities
Rising tides have coastal communities nervous. Massachusetts is trying to outrun the next storm and the rising tide.

“As we face the challenges associated with climate change and sea level rise, we need to implement effective approaches for protecting our coastal communities while preserving the natural resources that define our Massachusetts coastline,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan.

“These grants demonstrate the Patrick Administration’s commitment to innovation and infrastructure, by promoting local pilot projects that reduce erosion and storm damage, minimize impacts to shoreline systems and neighboring properties and protect or enhance natural habitat.”

“Green infrastructure projects offer a range of benefits to our communities and the shoreline itself, including storm damage and flooding protection, habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species and support for the recreational values of natural systems,” said Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Director Bruce Carlisle. “The Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience Pilot Grants will help advance the use of these emerging techniques in Massachusetts by providing coastal property owners the opportunity to stabilize their shoreline while enhancing the natural benefits of our coast.”

Earlier this year, Governor Patrick announced a strategic plan to address the present and future impacts of climate change in Massachusetts. The investments will assess and address vulnerabilities in public health, transportation, energy and the built environment.

The latest announcement is part of US$10 million in investments for critical coastal infrastructure and dam repairs. The plan also includes a US$40 million municipal resilience grant program that will enable cities and towns to harden energy services at critical sites using clean energy technology.

Administered by CZM, the Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience Pilot Grants Program will provide up to US$1.3 million in funding and technical resources for natural approaches addressing coastal erosion and flooding problems.

Grants can be used for planning, feasibility assessment, design, permitting, construction and monitoring of green infrastructure projects that use natural approaches instead of hard structures such as seawalls and groins.

Potential projects include building and enhancing dunes and beaches by adding sand, planting beach grass and other erosion-control vegetation, building natural oyster or mussel reefs, restoring salt marshes or implementing bioengineering techniques that stabilize eroding shorelines.

Source: http://www.sandandgravel.com/news/article.asp?v1=18455

Sea Level Rise Will Reshape Coastal Cities

Rising Tides Will Sink Major Cities

Armed with new data from the University of California Irvine and NASA, Climate Central highlighted previously released data and images this week to show how an unstoppable melting Antarctic glacier will impact the U.S.

climate change sinking cities
Art as prophecy–as depicted in the movie Planet Of The Apes.

The rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is expected to lead to at least 4 feet of global, sea-level rise over the next two-plus centuries, and at least 10 feet thereafter. Climate Central gave artist Nickolay Lamm some of its data related to rising sea levels with the idea of him reenacting famous scenes from U.S. cities under the premise of a 12-foot-or-more rise.

The organization republished those “photorealistic” scenes a day after the Cal-NASA report. They which include Venice Beach, Harvard University’s campus and other famous, coastal locations that would be at risk if the research were to hold true (click on the link at the end of the story to view the images).

Climate Central also released a slew of interactive maps and data this week indicating which cities and regions of the U.S. would be most impacted following the rise. The organization estimates that we could lose 28,800 square miles of land, which is home to about 12.3 million people today.

Based on 2012 data from Climate Central, more than half the area of 40 large cities is less than 10 feet above the high-tide line. Twenty-seven of those cities are in Florida. About 85 percent of all current housing in Florida’s Miami-Dade and Broward counties is below the critical line, making each county more threatened than any other entire state other than Florida, Ben Strauss writes.

“Each [county] sits on bedrock filled with holes, rendering defense by seawalls or levees almost impossible,” according to Strauss.

With a low-lying population of more than 700,000, New York City is by far the most-threatened city among those with the most people living on land less than 10 feet above the high-tide line. The value of threatened property in New York and New Jersey is more than $300 billion.

Affected land in Florida contains more than 32,000 miles of road and $950 billion of property. Examine maps and potential impacts of various cities by clicking here.

Source: http://ecowatch.com/2014/05/15/coastal-u-s-melting-antarctic-glacier/

South Florida Considers Greater Investment Against Rising Seas

Climate Change Casting New Clouds Over South Florida

Editor’s Note; The following is a transcript that PBS posted recently about flood preparations in South Florida. A link to the video follows at the end of the transcript.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s often difficult to see how climate change is altering the environment in our daily lives. To counter that and draw attention to the issue, the White House today launched a new website to visualize scientific data on droughts, wildfires and the rise in sea levels. As you will see in this report, the residents of South Florida are already noticing how higher water is changing their local landscape.

climate change resilient cities
Rising tides have Florida’s coastal communities nervous.

Special correspondent Kwame Holman narrates our story. It was done in collaboration with the South Florida public media station WPBT, and it begins with longtime fishing boat Captain Dan Kipness.

DAN KIPNESS, Fishing Boat Captain: I have lived in Florida my whole life. I’m actually a native. And, more importantly, I have been on Miami Beach for like 55 years, and I’m a captain.

Captains are used to looking at the ocean. If you look at it long enough — and I have had enough time to look at it — you can see small changes turn into big changes over a period of time. You’re going to see water coming out of Biscayne Bay, up the storm sewers, and onto the streets until it’s about a foot deep.

And that’s not freshwater. That’s saltwater. There’s no rain. There’s not a cloud in the sky. Everyone can see that. Some people go, oh, we broke a sewer main or a water main broke. That’s not what it is. That’s sea level rise.

KWAME HOLMAN: Miami Beach is a barrier island that is mostly only a few feet above water level. High tides are higher than they were in the past, and the risk of torrential rainstorms has worsened with climate change.

In recent years, increased flooding from high tide and weather events has been a stark wakeup call for people living on South Beach.

WOMAN: I remember people taking pictures and laughing when we saw people canoeing down West Avenue, but then a lot of people started asking questions. It’s scary in a lot of ways that what could actually happen here.

KWAME HOLMAN: Dr. Hal Wanless, professor and chair of the Department of Geologic Sciences at the University of Miami, has been studying sea level rise for decades.

DR. HAL WANLESS, University of Miami: The two big things that have been and will affect sea level are the expanding ocean as it warms. The second big factor affecting sea level rise now is ice melt. And the ice melt’s a totally different game. Ice can melt at rapidly accelerating rates.

I videoed this time-lapse footage in Greenland in August of 2013. As these icebergs melt, they add to sea level rise.

KWAME HOLMAN: South Florida political leaders have adopted a unified sea level rise projection, calculated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. the projections indicate sea levels will rise three to seven inches by 2030 and nine to 24 inches by 2060.

Pete Harlem knows these projections all too well. He is the geographic coordinator at Florida International University, and pioneered the precise mapping of sea level rise for South Florida.

PETE HARLEM, Florida International University: Two feet of sea level rise is projected from roughly from 2040 to 2060 some time. And so, when we get to that point, we’re going to see this as the Miami Beach of that near future.

So, now taking that water level to four feet, it’s just not going to be a place you want to live in a house.

KWAME HOLMAN: And it’s not just people living on barrier islands who need to be concerned about sea level rise. Most of South Florida is susceptible to flooding, as infrastructure becomes overwhelmed by rising seas or heavy rainfall.

Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera is the chief modeler and an expert in South Florida’s complicated hydrologic system.

DR. JAYANTHA OBEYSEKERA, South Florida Water Management District: We have regional flood control system that was designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly with the state about 50 years ago.

And at that time, sea level rise wasn’t a major factor, that they didn’t worry about. But now some of the infrastructure we have on the coastal belt are basically not working as they were designed.

KWAME HOLMAN: When there is heavy rainfall, the canals receive and move the excess water. That water is released into the bays and estuaries and eventually into the ocean.

The system was designed for the water to flow by gravity, with the water flowing from the higher canal levels to the lower ocean levels. As the sea rises, however, gravity will no longer do the job and so there could be more flooding on the land as the water has nowhere to go.

Richard Grosso is the director of the Environmental and Land Use Law Clinic and a professor of law at Nova Southeastern University.

RICHARD GROSSO, Environmental and Land Use Law Clinic: It’s been the local utility directors, people who run water treatment plants, people who run sewage treatment plants, people who maintain roads, who have been required to institute very expensive retrofits.

KWAME HOLMAN: The Miami Beach Public Works Department is working on improvements now.

ERIC CARPENTER, Miami Beach Public Works Department: We have done our storm water management master plan that was adopted in 2012, and that had identified approximately $200 million worth of improvements that we needed to do over the next 20 years in order to keep pace with sea level rise and addressing flooding concerns within the city of Miami Beach.

KWAME HOLMAN: Some of that infrastructure includes pumps.

RICK SALTNICK, Senior Capital Projects Coordinator: Everything collects on the inlets on the streets and then runs through those white pipes down there. They’re PVC pipes. They then all drain via gravity to the storm water pump station, and then pumped out of the storm water pump station and injected into the ground 80 to 100 feet down.

We’re sizing these pumps to provide the proper level of service 20 years from now and at the sea level 20 years from now.

KWAME HOLMAN: Miami Beach is not alone in addressing sea level rise. South Florida has become a model for regional cooperation on this issue.

Projections by a four-county climate change compact were turned into an action plan with more than 100 recommendations. Those now are being reviewed. Some have been adopted by county governments.

Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs has been at the forefront of South Florida climate change discussions and has earned national recognition for her work.

KRISTIN JACOBS: I see one of the biggest hurdles for us in going forward is term limits, when you consider the leaders that are necessary, the cheerleaders that are necessary to continue pulling this very heavy train forward.

And without that leadership, the one that casts the vote, the one that decides the budget, the one that directs their staff resources to any given priority, if you don’t have that, at any point in time, all of this could all fall apart.

KWAME HOLMAN: But the plans come at a high price, something always politically difficult. As a member of the compact, former County Commissioner Katy Sorenson has been an advocate for planning for the coming changes.

KATY SORENSON, Good Government Initiative: No one wants to pay increased taxes or fees, but if people want to live here, we have to make these investments to do the infrastructure planning, the pump systems, all the stuff that needs to be done so that we can stay habitable.

RICHARD GROSSO: One of the biggest challenges we have in South Florida and across the country is this disconnect between the best long-term investment and economic strategies for a community vs. a political process that is short-term in terms of its rewards.

For most local elected officials, they’re not going to be around to reap the rewards of those smart, thoughtful decisions that they made 10, 20 years ago. And so that system still puts pressure on the folks who do have the power, who do have the votes to continue to make short-term gain kinds of decisions. That is our biggest challenge presented by sea level rise right now.

KWAME HOLMAN: Recently, commissioners for the city of Miami Beach voted on measures that are expected to double to $400 million, the cost of keeping water out of its city streets.

GWEN IFILL: You can read more about the White House’s new climate data initiative, and find a link to a full documentary on rising sea levels.

New York City Unveils Sustainability Plans

NYC Mayor Bloomberg presented a creative, thoughtful plan to protect the city from the inevitable impacts of climate change, setting a precedent for other cities to follow.

The $20 billion plan, “A Stronger, More Resilient New York,” includes a wide range of projects, from restoring dunes and wetlands to vegetating streets and rooftops to absorb water, and building levees, flood walls and other defenses. Bulkheads of stone would hold shorelines in place and protect against rising sea levels throughout the 520 miles of the city’s waterfront.

It modifies the building code and allocates funds to flood-proof homes and other buildings like hospitals, upgrades to power and telecommunications infrastructure and sets standards for phone and Internet providers to get systems back online after major storms.

“Instead of colliding with ocean-facing homes, waves rushing toward our city will hit breakwaters and wetlands that will help sap their strength and break their momentum,” says Bloomberg.

Some of his recommendations would literally reshape parts of the city, such as Lower Manhattan’s waterfront and a potential new “Seaport City” on the East Side.

The plan avoids the really expensive, difficult stuff, like moving people out of coastal communities and building major projects like sea barriers with gates and levees.

Rather, it focuses on lower tech responses, many of which focus on returning nature to its role of protecting the land and combining uses of protective structures so they are also function as elevated parks and boardwalks, for example.

Staten Island, among the hardest hit areas, would get protection that doubles as a new boardwalk:

NYC Staten Island boardwalk

“This is urgent work, and it must begin now,” says Bloomberg. “As bad as Sandy was, future storms could be even worse. In fact, because of rising temperatures and sea levels, even a storm that’s not as large as Sandy could – down the road – be even more destructive… We have to look ahead and anticipate any and all future threats, not only from hurricanes but also from droughts, heavy downpours and heat waves – which may be longer, and more intense, in the years to come.”

The plan is based on the recommendations of the New York City Panel on Climate Change, the task force that created PlaNYC in 2008 (the city’s ambitious sustainability plan) and which he reconvened after Hurricane Sandy. During the past six months, they conducted a crash process that included input from state and federal agencies, community organizations and citizens.

Their data shows what NYC faces:

  • Sea levels could rise at a faster rate than forecast just four years ago – potentially by more than 2.5 feet by the 2050s. By mid-century. 25% the city’s land area will be in the floodplain, according to FEMA’s new flood maps. That puts 800,000 residents at risk – more than 40 miles of waterfront would flood on a regular basis, just during normal high tide.
  • By the 2050s, the city could have three times as many days at or above 90 degrees – the Alabama-style heat would threaten public health and the power system, among other infrastructure systems.
  • The number of days with more than two inches of rainfall will rise dramatically – NYC had record rains this week of over 4″ in one day.
  • Costs of storms will increase: Sandy totaled $19 billion in damage and economic loss; in 2025, that cost grows to $35 billion and by 2055, $90 billion.

City and federal funds for Sandy relief cover $15 billion, and the rest could be raised through municipal bonds or even a small surcharge on homeowners’ insurance – about $1 a month on a $1,000 premium.

While some may scoff at the $20 billion price of implementing the plan, it’s exactly the cost for cleanup after Sandy.

The panel’s report creates comprehensive plans for strengthening 15 critical areas including coastal defense, buildings, utilities, fuel and food supply, healthcare, transportation, and telecommunications.

It examines all 15 areas from top-to-bottom examining their infrastructure, governance, how they were impacted by Sandy, the most significant risks they face from climate change, and what exactly can be done to better prepare them for future weather events.

The report also zooms in on areas that suffered the most damage from Sandy. The panel examined and addressed each community’s specific vulnerabilities with a tailored plan to make them more resilient.

NYC surge barrier

Bloomberg has less than seven months in office, but he plans to get a head start before he leaves, with the hope that the next mayor will continue the work.

Source: http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/24973

Turning Concrete Jungles Into Centers of Sustainability

Sustainable Urbanization Is Wave Of Future–If We Have One

The tangled web of international organizations that constitutes global governance has become so remote and ineffective that few count on it to deliver results anymore. Now, after decades of turf wars and self-marginalization, international organizations must rally around an increasingly pressing global priority: Sustainable urbanization.

BeFunky_TheBridge.jpgThe world is undergoing an unprecedented and irreversible wave of urbanization, with the share of the global population living in cities set to reach 60 percent by 2030. But rapid urbanization is driving up industrial fossil-fuel consumption and household water consumption, and is increasing demand for food in areas where arable land is scarce. In short, the current urbanization trajectory is not sustainable.

But existing efforts to alter the situation remain woefully inadequate. While the United Nations General Assembly has tasked its agency for human settlements, UN-Habitat, with promoting sustainable urbanization, the agency lacks the influence to ensure that this vital issue makes it onto the global agenda.

Moreover, international development players–including UN agencies, NGOs, corporate citizenship programs, and other charitable organizations–rarely coordinate their activities, even though their interventions are increasingly concentrated in densely populated cities.

Given that promoting sustainable urbanization and improving coordination would bolster progress in other priority areas (including women’s rights, climate change, youth unemployment, and literacy), sustainable urbanization must become a bureaucratic priority. And it must be complemented by a technological disruption, with investments channeled toward developing and distributing innovations that would make cities more livable, efficient, and sustainable.

In fact, many useful innovations, such as energy-generating building materials and zero-emissions transportation, already exist; they simply need to be made accessible to those who need them most. Devices like small-scale water-filtration systems, portable heart monitors, and low-cost tablet computers are already dramatically improving the lives of the world’s poorest citizens and helping to level the economic playing field.

The future impact of global governance rests on forging new alignments that facilitate the flow of vital knowledge and technologies from an increasingly diverse array of sources to urban populations worldwide. The tools needed to make urban life more sustainable are no longer flowing only from North to South and West to East. China has taken the lead in exporting solar photovoltaic cells, while clean-tech parks are arising even in the Arab world.

Governments, companies, supply-chain managers, corporate-citizenship strategists, NGOs, and others should commit to reducing their carbon footprints and to leveraging their resources to contribute to sustainable urbanization. Opportunities to make such contributions are appearing constantly across all sectors.

In construction, for example, contractors are forming partnerships with labs to test materials that better reflect heat while absorbing energy to power cooling systems, and utility companies are leveraging new software tools to deploy smart meters in homes and offices. Two US cities–New York and Seattle–have raised efficiency standards for new construction to record levels.


Similarly, automobile manufacturers, mobility-services companies, and local governments are working together to advance sustainable transportation by providing incentives for efficient non-ownership of vehicles. Now, carpooling is gaining prevalence in cities like Berlin.

Furthermore, MIT has developed the foldable electric CityCar, four of which can fit into a parking space. At last year’s Rio+20 conference, the eight largest multilateral development banks pledged $175 billion (5.2 trillion baht) to develop sustainable transportation.

Information technology can also reduce stress on the transportation system. For example, Singapore is harnessing its near-complete fiber-optic network to reduce urban congestion by introducing a spate of measures encouraging workers to telecommute. As these measures take effect, self-sufficient satellite towns will likely develop, reducing transportation-related energy consumption further, while fostering a more active civil society.

Singapore is one of the cleanest and most efficient cities/countries in the world.
Singapore is one of the cleanest and most efficient cities/countries in the world.

Singapore is leading the way in another area as well: Production and distribution of potable recycled water. Many cities worldwide are following its example, expanding their water catchment and treatment programs.

Meanwhile, vertical farm experiments–which aim to augment urban food supplies by cultivating crops in skyscraper greenhouses–are proliferating from the American Midwest to Osaka, Japan. And India has become a leader in converting biomass and food waste into energy.

Of course, the billions of farmers and villagers worldwide should not be forgotten. Interventions like rural electrification, the provision of drought-resistant seeds and agricultural technology, and the expansion of micro-insurance are vital not only to rural populations’ welfare, but also to catalyze a new ”Green Revolution,” without which city dwellers will face severe food shortages.

With new, innovative solutions appearing every day, the real challenge lies in bringing them to scale–and that requires international cooperation. But the ”smartest” cities are not necessarily the most technologically advanced. Rather, they are the places where technology and public policy support citizens’ welfare and aspirations. This crucial fact will guide discussion at the New Cities Foundation’s second annual summit next month–the theme of which is ”The Human City”–the heart of sustainable urbanization initiatives.

By Parag Khanna, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, is Director of the Hybrid Reality Institute and the author of The Second World, How to Run the World, and Hybrid Reality. 2013 Project Syndicate

Source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/351832/human-cities-must-replace-concrete-jungles