Uncharted Territory: WHO Warns on Climate Change

The Guardian reported on the World Health Organization’s report recent assessment of record temperatures in 2016 and implications for the future. “Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO’s world climate research programme.

Here’s a clip:

2016 saw the hottest global average among thermometer measurements stretching back to 1880. But scientific research indicates the world was last this warm about 115,000 years ago and that the planet has not experienced such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 4m years.

2017 has seen temperature records continue to tumble, in the US where February was exceptionally warm, and in Australia, where prolonged and extreme heat struck many states. The consequences have been particularly stark at the poles.

“Arctic ice conditions have been tracking at record low conditions since October, persisting for six consecutive months, something not seen before in the [four-decade] satellite data record,” said Prof Julienne Stroeve, at University College London in the UK. “Over in the southern hemisphere, the sea ice also broke new record lows in the seasonal maximum and minimum extents, leading to the least amount of global sea ice ever recorded.”

CNP Fellow Anthony Lucio in the Daily Iowan

Nice profile on former Climate Narrative Project fellow Anthony Lucio in the Daily Iowan, highlighting Anthony’s role on campus and in the community.

Here’s a clip:

For Anthony Lucio, there are many reasons to bike. Despite the weather, he can be seen riding around campus year-round.

Lucio, a fifth-year graduate student in the University of Iowa Chemistry Department, said, “Even if it’s raining, I’ll bike to work.”

Lucio and wife Molly Lucio moved to Coralville in 2015, and he said biking was a form of transportation he had yet to try and a stress reliever as well.

“There are several reasons I enjoy biking,” he said. “I would consider myself a sustainability-minded person, but on top of that, it’s a money-saver as well.”

Anthony Lucio said he bikes 50 to 100 miles a week sometimes, and that is just to and from work.

Last fall, he participated in a bike-checkup event sponsored by the Office of Sustainability in which he was “tasked with tire inflation and pumped tires to the corresponding tire pressure.”

Outside of biking, he works for chemistry Assistant Professor Scott Shaw.

“[The Shaw Group] studies the liquid-solid interface,” Lucio said. “Basically, if you had a glass of water, we study the molecule of water that brushes against the molecule of glass.”

Down the road, he said, there are many applications to the work.

“It will definitely be relevant in future battery-storage applications, as well as environmental components as well,” he said.

Although the work is very fundamental in nature, Lucio said, it is crucial to understanding the interactions between liquid and solid molecules.

Continuing Lucio’s sustainable efforts, he was a fellow in last year’s Climate Narrative Project.

Economic Payoffs of Regenerative Copenhagen

Energy specialist John Berger showcases the economic benefits of climate action and regenerative development in Copenhagen, in a series of Huffington Post blogs. The big news: “Every time Copenhagen spends one dollar on its climate plan, it generates $85 in private investment elsewhere in the city, according to the city’s climate director Jørgen Abildgaard. It takes the form of investment in new buildings, in building retrofits, in different kinds of mobility services, and in new infrastructure, such as the city’s new incineration plant and district heating system.:

Here’s a clip:

Abildgaard emphasized that, when seeking cooperation with climate plan measures, it’s “extremely important” to make an economic case for them and to have a dialogue with building owners, investors, construction companies, and “with all the people that are behind the investments,” to show them the benefits. “Without that, we would never get to the target.”

“[Measures] should not be more expensive either for the city, for citizens, or in socioeconomic calculation,” he added. When benefits don’t all appear on the bottom line, he noted, they may nonetheless improve a corporation’s reputation as a socially responsible business.

In the case of a new and older buildings alike, energy efficiency investments can add value for the developer because the buildings or the flats are likely to have lower operating costs. “That is also a value for the new owner,” Abildgaard explained.

Economic studies by the city indicate that the its climate plan will generate an economic surplus of close to $1 billion over the lifetime of the initiatives comprising the plan.

American Forests: North American Forests in the Age of Man

American Forests is a non-profit working towards the reforestation of woodlands both nationally and globally. Though, their “Community Releaf” program is where they shine. With these green endeavors, the organization “aims to bring national attention to the value of our urban forests and reaches geographically distributed and culturally diverse communities across the United States.”

Their community inclined projects typically work to restore tree canopies in urban areas. With their project in Oakland, they intersect social justice with ecological justice.

Here’s an excerpt from a report on the matter:

“Several studies have found correlations between city trees and public health in neighborhoods with low tree canopy — increased respiratory illness, particularly among children and senior citizens, and more incidents of diabetes and heart disease. In terms of psychosocial benefits, a lack of access to green space can negatively impact mental well-being and stress levels, the latter a foreboding allusion to the potential climate change risks highlighted in the recent IPCC report.

Recognizing that tree canopy can be an important factor in understanding and addressing income disparity and supporting sustainable development — both environmentally and economically — a recent study by American Forests examined tree canopy by Oakland council district in correlation with several demographic and socioeconomic factors, including income, poverty rate, unemployment rate, population and age. The information that was derived can help identify the districts where additional trees can provide the greatest positive impacts for communities.”

They have also published a digestible history on the American forest since human civilization has taken root. Here’s a look:

“Human impacts, from colonial times to the present, have drastically changed not just the size, but the nature of American forests, whether you consider the baseline for what is natural to be 1492 CE or 15,000 BP.

The trees in mature forests are adapted to soil characteristics, light intensities and moisture levels created by the forest’s species themselves. Remove these species, and all those factors change. The resulting forest is now composed of pioneer species — those first to grow in a tree-less location, like aspen, birch and alder. The old-growth forest species must wait until the pioneer species recreate their required soil, light and moisture conditions to reemerge. Similar changes in forest composition are created by natural events such as fires and wind storms, and the mature forest regenerates naturally. The difference is that most managed forests today are harvested so frequently that they never reach the optimal conditions for the species that prefer mature conditions. Instead of a complex, old-growth structure of multi-layered canopies with a spectrum of young to ancient trees and tree fall gaps, decaying down wood, standing dead trees and high species diversity, forests today have relatively young, dense, even-aged and even-canopied stands of fewer species.

Simply replanting trees does not always mean the forest has returned. In places where timber companies have replanted with native trees — whether in rows on a plantation or less orderly in wilder areas — the new forest is a monoculture of commercial species that lacks most of the biodiversity associated with the original forest. Smaller patches of forest, or forest fragmentation, has also reduced forest biodiversity because the smaller fragments cannot support wide-ranging wildlife species. In addition, the small, isolated populations of other species, including some trees, are more susceptible to local extinction.”

BBC Story on Invasive Species–More to Come with Climate Migration?

BBC Newshour ran a story today on the Brown Tree Snake, an invasive species that is causing quite a problem for the ecosystem in Guam. Dr. Haldre Rogers, Assistant Professor in the
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology at Iowa State University, calls the snake the “poster child” for invasive species and their impact. Believed to be brought over in the 1940s, the snake has since wiped out much of the local bird populations. The birds were essential to spreading the seeds of certain local trees and many of these trees are dying out. One invasive species can have a huge ripple effect on entire ecosystems.

 

Humans are not the only forced climate migrants. Animals are quickly losing their habitat and moving to new areas newly hospitable to them. The migration changes are altering ecosystems in ways we cannot predict–and we can assume will continue to do so as the global climate changes.

 

BBC Newshour 3/8/17 jump to minutes 18-23 for referenced interview.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04vd1mx

Aziza Chaouni and The Fez River

Hello Friends,

I recently stumbled upon a TED talk that I found particularly interesting. It discusses how a civil engineer named Aziza Chaouni helped develop a project in which the river that bisects the city of Fez, Morocco is being revitalized after years of being used as a dump as well as being physically covered over with concrete slabs. It seems like Iowa City and other river cities that have neglected their rivers could see this as inspiration to increase walkability while improving the overall health of rivers in communities across America.

Here’s a short transcript of what Aziza has to say about the Fez River Restoration Project:

“As the project progressed and received several design awards, new stakeholders intervened and changed the project goals and design. The only way for us to be able to bring the main goals of the project ahead was for us to do something very unusual that usually architects don’t do. It was for us to take our design ego and our sense of authorship and put it in the backseat and to focus mainly on being activists and on trying to coalesce all of the agendas of stakeholders and focus on the main goals of the project: that is, to uncover the river, treat its water, and provide public spaces for all.”

 

Do you think projects like the ones that Aziza helped bring to fruition would work here in Iowa and across the United States? Would projects like this even get people excited to walk or bike more often in cities and towns?

Guardian: Poem a Day on Climate Change

In 2015, the Guardian newspaper, as part of its Keep It in the Ground series, ran a poem a day on climate change for the month of June.

Famous actors read the poems—you can listen here.

Here’s one of the poems:

California Dreaming by Lachlan Mackinnon

Almonds and vines and lawns
drink up the last
of shallow, short-term water

then suck on the black depths
with a draw mightier
than the moon’s. And suck.

In sudden places the ground
puckers and caves.
Far westward, China smokes.

Nobody sees the rains fail
until they have.
Tableland mesas crack.

In the mountains the snowpack thins,
meltwater now brown
reluctant drops.

Cities gasp in the sun’s stare.
Faucets cough
and families turn inwards.

There must be somebody to blame.
Better ourselves than no-one.
We brag

of damage done
but whether we could truly
dry all rain, bake all earth,

science does not know.
The wastefulness was all
ours but this fetid heat

could be a planetary
impersonal adjustment
like an ice age,

so it might well be wise
to keep always
facepaint and ash about us.

When the last clouds
wagon-train off,
loincloth and invocation will be

the one hope for last
woman and last man discovering
she’s pregnant.

Effects of Global Warming on Display in Antarctica

http://www.npr.org/2017/03/08/519170712/effects-of-global-warming-on-display-in-antarctica

NPR’s Morning Edition interview about the acceleration of ice melting in Antarctica.

Clip:

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let’s visit the bottom of the earth, Antarctica. It’s late summer there, and the high season for science is drawing to a close. We had a conversation about climate change earlier this morning with a researcher there, James McClintock. He’s a marine biologist with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and he was at Palmer Station, a research center operated by the National Science Foundation. McClintock described the first time he saw a chunk of ice break off from the nearby glacier.

JAMES MCCLINTOCK: It was quite exciting, 15 years ago, to see a calving, a big chunk of ice, hit the water up in the bay next to the station. The entire station staff would leap up and run down the halls and throw open the doors and look out the windows and watch this big event as the waves came down the bay. And when I arrived here several weeks ago, I was struck immediately by the changes in the glacier and the fact that it was lopping off these huge pieces of ice, instead of once a week, several times a day. So dramatic changes just in front of my eyes over this 15-year period.