• Climate threatsLimiting warming to 1.5°C still possible

    Significant emission reductions are required if we are to achieve one of the key goals of the Paris Agreement, and limit the increase in global average temperatures to 1.5°C; scientists say. A new study, investigating the geophysical likelihood of limiting global warming to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C,” concluded L limiting the increase in global average temperatures above pre-industrial levels to 1.5°C, the goal of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, is not yet geophysically impossible, but likely requires more ambitious emission reductions than those pledged so far.

  • Climate change threats1-in-20 chance of warming causing catastrophic, or even existential, damage by 2050

    A new study evaluating models of future climate scenarios has led to the creation of the new risk categories “catastrophic” and “unknown” to characterize the range of threats posed by rapid global warming. Researchers propose that unknown risks imply existential threats to the survival of humanity. The researchers identify a one-in-20 chance of temperature increase causing catastrophic damage or worse by 2050.

  • Post-disaster reconstructionRethinking where/whether to rebuild after Hurricanes Irma, Harvey

    Though our natural instinct is to put everything back exactly where it was before a disaster, Mark Abkowitz, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Environmental Management Studies said people need to seriously rethink where and how to rebuild. “We’re talking hurricanes now, but it could be inland flooding, tornadoes, drought, wildfires, earthquakes. The question really comes up: If we had things the way they were and they suffered the level of catastrophic impact that they did, what’s the reasoning behind putting it back exactly the way it was before?” asks Abkowitz.

  • Hurricane HarveyHouston's “flood czar” says Harvey has brought the city to a decision point on flood control

    By Neena Satija and Kiah Collier

    In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s record floods, the city of Houston is poised to receive billions — maybe even tens of billions — of recovery dollars in the coming years that may cover significant improvements to the city’s woefully inadequate drainage system as well as other projects to reduce flooding. Stephen Costello, Houston’s chief resilience officer, expects to play a big role in how Houston spends it Hurricane Harvey recovery dollars.

  • Post-Harvey reconstructionDesigning a post-Harvey Houston for the future

    Being honest about the extent and urgency of the Houston-Galveston region’s flooding problem will not harm the community but will form the basis for recovery, according to a paper by an engineering and environmental expert. “Denying fundamental truths and moving forward with business as usual will be the economic death knell for the Houston region,” Rice University’s Jim Blackburn wrote in a paper highlighting fifteen policies and actions that are meant to initiate a conversation about designing a Houston for the future. “And make no mistake about it — how we respond to this horrible reality will determine the economic future of our region.”

  • DisastersAre catastrophic disasters striking more often?

    By Jay L. Zagorsky

    Two major storms — Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma – in as many weeks raise this question: Is the number of major natural disasters striking the United States actually increasing, or does the media’s natural tendency to overhype conflict only make it seem so? Since 1980 there have been 212 disasters, which NOAA calculates resulted in over $1.2 trillion in damage. My analysis of the NOAA data shows that the number of billion-dollar disasters has indeed been increasing over time. A typical year in the 1980s experienced on average 2.7 such disasters in the U.S. In the 1990s and 2000s, that average had climbed to 4.6 and 5.4 a year, respectively. Since then, the frequency of costly disasters has soared. In this decade so far, each year has seen an average of 10.5 disasters. The scale of this increase amounts to one additional billion-dollar disaster every four years.

  • Water securityWater supply, quality in U.S. West affected by increased wildfire-caused erosion

    A growing number of wildfire-burned areas throughout the western United States are expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sediment to be present in downstream rivers and reservoirs. The area burned annually by wildfires has increased in recent decades and is expected to continue to increase this century. Many growing cities and towns rely on water from rivers and reservoirs that originates in watersheds where wildfire and sedimentation are projected to increase. Increased sedimentation could negatively impact water supply and quality for some communities.

  • Climate & transportationKeeping the trains running on time in the face of climate change

    There are many railway bridges around the world. In the United Kingdom alone there are more than 40,000 railway bridges. Each nation has employed its own methodology for maintenance and repairs of this essential infrastructure, but new, daunting challenges created by climate change — extreme heat, extreme cold, and severe flooding — require yet more rigorous solutions.

  • Urban challengesMontreal: The infrastructure cost of climate change

    Montreal’s climate is changing and will continue to do so at a rapidly increasing rate and with much more spatial variability in the future. “Climate plays a key role in the design and operation of urban infrastructure and to a large extent determines water and energy demands. As a result, changes in climate conditions will have direct impacts on how we design almost any aspect of the city, from its drainage system to its energy use,” explains one expert.

  • Hurricane HarveyHarvey’s losses “would reach $190 billion or 1 percent of the nation's GDP”: AccuWeather

    AccuWeather’s Dr. Joel N. Myers predicts that “The total losses from this storm would reach $190 billion or 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), countering the expected growth in the economy for the rest of this year.” The one percent loss that AccuWeather is predicting will be spread out over the next 12 months, but the bulk of it will occur over the next four months. “This is the costliest and worst natural disaster in American history,” Myers said.

  • Hurricane HarveyClimate change is part of every story now, including Harvey

    “Climate is not central [to the Houston story], but by the same token it is grossly irresponsible to leave climate out of the story, for the simple reason that climate change is, as the U.S. military puts it, a ‘threat multiplier,’” David Roberts writes. “Everything human beings do, we do in a climate (except hang out on the space station, I suppose). Our climate has been in a rough temperature equilibrium for about 10,000 years, while we developed agriculture and advanced civilization and Netflix. Now our climate is about to rocket out of that equilibrium, in what is, geologically speaking, the blink of an eye. We’re not sure exactly what’s going to happen, but we have a decent idea, and we know it’s going to be weird. With more heat energy in the system, everything’s going to get crazier — more heat waves, more giant rainstorms, more droughts, more floods. That means climate change is part of every story now.”

  • Hurricane Harvey“Mother nature always bats last, and she always bats 1,000": Rob Watson

    “[T]here’s an uncomfortable point that, so far, everyone is skating around: We knew this would happen, decades ago. We knew this would happen, and we didn’t care. Now is the time to say it as loudly as possible: Harvey is what climate change looks like. More specifically, Harvey is what climate change looks like in a world that has decided, over and over, that it doesn’t want to take climate change seriously” (Eric Holthaus).

  • Hurricane HarveyDon’t blame climate change for the Hurricane Harvey disaster – blame society

    By Ilan Kelman

    Yes, climate change can and does influence hurricanes. But climate change does not affect people’s vulnerabilities to the hurricane. Neither the climate nor the hurricane’s characteristics made Houston an industrial center of 2.3m people (2017 estimate), an increase of 40 percent since 1990. They did not force Texans to build along the coast or in floodplains without adequate measures, as occurs around the United States. They did not pave over green spaces leading to reduced rainfall absorption. Because vulnerability is not natural, many disaster researchers avoid the phrase “natural disaster.” A hurricane need not become a hurricane disaster – but society let a disaster happen. Blaming climate change, or even just the weather, for the hurricane disaster distracts from individuals’ and society’s responsibility for where we live, how we live and how we support people who cannot help themselves. This vulnerability, not nature and not climate change, causes hurricane disasters.

  • Hurricane HarveyAnalysis: Four things Houston-area leaders must do to prevent future flooding disasters

    By Kiah Collier and Neena Satija

    An unprecedented amount of rain has fallen on the Houston area in the past few days, causing what is likely the worst flooding event that the nation’s sixth-largest metropolitan area has ever experienced — even worse than 2001’s Tropical Storm Allison. This may seem like a freak occurrence. But it is the third catastrophic flooding event this region of 6.5 million people has experienced in three years. And scientists and other experts say that much of the devastation could have been prevented. Here are four steps local leaders could have done to protect the Houston region from Harvey-related flooding — and what they must do to prevent such disasters in the future: Preserve and restore as much prairie land as possible; restrict development in floodplains and buy flood-prone homes; plan for climate change; educate the public.

  • Hurricane HarveyHarvey likely to erode, over-wash, inundate 94 percent of Texas beaches

    New projections from the U.S. Geological Survey indicate Hurricane Harvey is likely to cause significant beach erosion along the Texas coastline, with water overtopping dunes and in some cases inundating areas. USGS Coastal Change Forecast model is predicting that 94 percent of Texas’s 367 miles of coastline will undergo some level of beach erosion from the storm surge and large waves Hurricane Harvey produces.