Friday, October 28, 2011

New study suggests link between mercury in the Yukon River Basin and climate change

Yukon River Basin (USGS)
The Yukon River Basin, which spans parts of Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory, has been found to contain 32 times the amount of mercury than other comparable sites. A five-year study, recently published in Environmental Science and Technology, shows that the Yukon River delivers more than five tons per year to the surrounding environment. Although the researchers believe there is no immediate threat to fish, wildlife, and humans, they are concerned that continued atmospheric deposition and more rapid permafrost thawing caused by increasing temperatures could exacerbate the issue. Reducing non-climate stressors like pollution may help decrease overall system vulnerability.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Recommendation for our kind readers...

Are you all subscribed to the Climate Adaptation Exchange blog? You really should be. Not just because it's one word away from CAKE's full name but also because it's written by Joyce Coffee, who's really sharp and has great things to say, especially around climate adaptation and the private sector. Subscribe to the feed here and follow her on Twitter (@joycecoffee).

EPA's Climate Resilience Evaluation & Awareness Tool (CREAT) Upcoming Information Sessions

Please check out the following flyer from our friends at the EPA's Climate Ready Water Utilities for information about upcoming webinars on CREAT. Also be sure to check out the related case study on CAKE here!

Monday, September 26, 2011

EcoAdapt's Dr. Jennie Hoffman and fellow working group members receive DOI Partners in Conservation Award!!!

By Rachel M. Gregg

This news certainly deserves multiple exclamation points.

Congratulations to the Vulnerability Assessment Workgroup Members who produced Scanning the Conservation Horizon: A Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for their recent Department of the Interior Partners in Conservation Award! They were nominated by the U.S. Geological Survey and received the award because the "...guidebook is being used across...DOI bureaus and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives to guide standardized vulnerability assessment of the resources it manages and will allow comparison of risk across DOI bureaus for a common understanding of the impacts of climate change."

Vulnerability Assessment Workgroup Members include:
Naomi Edelson, National Wildlife Federation (Chair)
Nancy Green, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Co-Chair)
Rocky Beach, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Molly Cross, Wildlife Conservation Society
Carolyn Enquist, The Nature Conservancy
Deborah Finch, U.S. Forest Service
Hector Galbraith, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences
Evan Girvetz, The Nature Conservancy
Patty Glick, National Wildlife Federation
John Gross, National Park Service
Katharine Hayhoe, Texas Tech University; ATMOS Research and Consulting
Jennie Hoffman, EcoAdapt
Doug Inkley, National Wildlife Federation
Bruce Jones, U.S. Geological Survey
Linda Joyce, U.S. Forest Service
Josh Lawler, University of Washington
Dennis Ojima, The Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment
John O’Leary, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
Bruce Stein, National Wildlife Federation
Bruce Young, NatureServe

For more on other award recipients, please click here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Vulnerability and Readiness Rankings on the Global Adaptation Index

By Rachel M. Gregg

Check out the Global Adaptation Index, which summarizes the vulnerability and readiness of countries around the world. The index considers exposure, sensitivity, and socioeconomic factors with relation to climate change.

The highest ranked on the index are Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. The lowest ranked are Ethiopia, Chad, Burundi, Zimbabwe, and the Central African Republic. The United States, Canada, and most European countries are in the top 20.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Adaptation Mavens: A rose is a rose is a rose, or is it resilience?

Dear Adaptation Mavens,

I was reading through the NWF's recent report on "Moving the Conservation Goalposts: A Review of Climate Change Adaptation Literature" (2011). They brought up the question of Resilience and whether or not that is the right goal for adaptation. I'm curious about your thoughts. Is resilience the right approach? Or, does it imply too much focus on maintaining the current social-ecological conditions and not allow enough space for transformation and taking advantage of the opportunities presented by a changing climate?
Sascha Petersen, Adaptation International

Dear Sascha,
Read the rest over on CAKE...

Storms, hurricanes, and climate change, oh my!

By Rachel M. Gregg

For those of you who have heard or read that the links made between climate change and extreme storms like Hurricane Irene are tenuous at best, I'd encourage you to check out the piece Joseph Romm, editor of Climate Progress, wrote the other day over at Grist: Climate change makes hurricanes like Irene more destructive. He discusses the typical back-and-forth about climate change (or, dare we say "global warming") that comes with an event like Hurricane Irene and suggests that the media plays a role in the confusion by asking the wrong questions. He cites a Climate Central post:
The question: Is this weather disaster caused by climate change?
Wrong question.
Here's the right question: Is climate change making this storm worse than it would have been otherwise?
Answer: Absolutely.
In Climate Savvy, Drs. Lara Hansen and Jennie Hoffman touch on this question:
The science surrounding the effect of climate change on hurricane or cyclone frequency and intensity is not yet clear, and the nature of historical trends is controversial due to the patchy nature of storm detection prior to the advent of global satellite coverage in the 1970s. From a theoretical standpoint, the expected effect of climate change on storm frequency and intensity depends on the relative importance of various elements of the climate system, such as absolute sea surface temperature, relative sea surface temperature across ocean basins, lower stratospheric temperature, and wind shear. If absolute sea surface temperature alone is the primary determinant of storm frequency and intensity, we can expect an unprecedented increase in storminess. If wind shear is more important, some regions would see a decline in storm intensity and frequency. Recent models incorporating a variety of factors and climate models suggest an overall trend toward fewer but more intense storms, with more rain carried by each storm.

Regardless of long-term trends in storm frequency and intensity, sea level rise will increase flooding and erosion risk along coasts. The increase in heavy development along the world's coastlines as well as increasing deforestation along vulnerable hillsides greatly increases the vulnerability of both human and natural communities to large storm events.
Like Elizabeth Kolbert writes over on The New Yorker site, "[we] can comfort ourselves by saying that this particular storm was not necessarily caused by global warming. Or we can acknowledge the truth, which is that we are making the world a more dangerous place and, what’s more, that we know it."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sea level rising? No worries - live on the water.

By Rachel M. Gregg

In addition to the hilarious comments, I enjoyed reading the 10 innovative ideas that let us live on water piece over at the Mother Nature Network site this morning.

There's the Lilypads, recycled plastic islands, and Swimming cities, but my favorite is the Water-Scraper, not so much for its aesthetic design but because it's so just clever:

"The creators of the Water-Scraper believe that the effects of climate change mean it’s 'only a natural progression that we will populate the seas someday,' so they designed this livable, sustainable structure for humans to occupy. The Water-Scraper uses wave, wind and solar power, and its bioluminescent tentacles provide sea fauna a place to live while collecting energy through kinetic movements. This floating structure even generates its own food through farming, aquaculture and hydroponics. A small forest is nestled on the top of the Water-Scraper, along with wind turbines, a garden and livestock, and the living areas are located just below sea level where natural light is best."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Follow up to yesterday's climate justice blog

Another development in the case of climate justice issues to follow up on yesterday's entry, Environmental Justice: The Good, the Bad, and the Unavoidable of a Changing Climate. A new report has been released by our friends at the National Wildlife Federation entitled, Facing the Storm: Indian Tribes, Climate-Induced Weather Extremes, and the Future for Indian Country. It covers some of the major economic, social, cultural, and ecological vulnerabilities of Native American tribes and nations in the United States.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Environmental Justice: The Good, the Bad, and the Unavoidable of a Changing Climate

By Rachel M. Gregg

Environmental justice is essentially “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).” When people suffer disproportionately from environmental risks or hazards, it’s a case of environmental injustice; when viewed through the climate lens, that is climate injustice. The heaviest burden of global climate change will fall on low-income, already impoverished communities.

There have been a few interesting articles and reports recently about the disproportionate effects of climate change on various human communities:

The Good: Incorporating Climate Justice Issues into National Policy
The Environmental Protection Agency is required to develop an EPA-specific Climate Change Adaptation Plan by June 2012. Administrator Lisa Jackson states that environmental justice implications of climate change will be key to the agency's policy.

The Bad: Global Food Security Issues
Increasingly shorter growing seasons associated with climatic changes also pose food security issues for already impoverished people living in the tropics. For example, the recent report by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research’s Program on Climate Change Agriculture, and Food Security (CGIAR CCAFS), Mapping Hotspots of Climate Change and Food Insecurity in the Global Tropics, states that over the next 40 years, these shorter seasons will drastically affect food access for millions of people. Farmers may have to consider drastic changes to their practices, including altering crops harvested. A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself is a great article from the June 4th edition of the New York Times by Justin Gillis about food production and pricing in a changing climate.

The Unavoidable: Forced Relocation and Migration of Entire Countries or Communities
The June 3rd edition of the Sydney Morning Herald featured an article about The Hungry Tide, a documentary that focuses on climate justice issues facing the village of Tebekenikoora on Kiribati. Many of the locals on Kiribati live about 6 feet above sea level, so even minimal changes in sea level have caused massive erosion and saltwater contamination of drinking water supplies. The president of Kiribati has stated that relocation is likely the only option available. Forced relocation is already happening in other areas; for example, the Native Villages of Kivalina, Shishmaref, and Newtok are in various stages of relocation because of massive erosion, melting sea ice, and increasing storm surges along the coast of Alaska.

Adaptation for all: It is clear that adaptation is needed since we are already committed to a certain amount of climate change. How can adaptation investments be adequately distributed among the citizens of the world? How can we support innovative solutions to major global challenges?