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Yesterday New York City’s Panel on Climate Change released their updated projections of what the future climate will likely hold for the city, and in a world that has seen the last 339 consecutive months of globally averaged temperatures exceed the 20th century average (that’s right, anyone under the age of 28 is yet to experience a month in their lives of at or below average temperatures!), it should come as no surprise that the outlook has worsened from the Panel’s previous projections made only three years ago.

In roughly 40 years from now the city could have more than 800,000 of its residents living in flood zones — an 101% increase from those presently living in flood zones over an area that will cover more than 1/4 of the entire city.  The one to two and a half foot rise from present day sea-level by the 2050’s will not only cause almost 10% of the city to potentially flood at high tide, which occurs twice daily, but help cause the storm surge of a once-in-a-century storm to exceed the record 14-foot storm surge generated by Hurricane Sandy by 5 or more feet.

Sandy_Taxi_flooding

For those not directly impacted by rising seas in NYC, you get to look forward to a mid-century climate that will resemble the deep south more than what’s outside today. In a city that already sees it’s fair share of unbearable heat during the summer, by 2050 the number of 90-degree days per year in NYC could increase to what is now normal for Birmingham, AL. Even on a daily basis, average temperatures by mid-century could be as much as 7 degrees hotter than today.

In the face of these stark projections, Mayor Bloomberg announced plans today that outline adaptation and resiliency measures to enhance the city’s defenses against human-induced changes in climate that already (notice, this is not a problem for future generations but one we face today) threaten the city’s (and anyone living just about anywhere…) sustainability and livelihood — which will be drastically amplified by mid-century should man-made GHG emissions continue to go unmitigated. In a world that has been historically “reactive” to the impacts of climate change instead of “proactive” in an effort to reduce damages, costs and loss of life, it was a nice breath of fresh air to hear “[we] have to look ahead and anticipate any and all future threats, not only from hurricanes and other coastal storms but also from droughts, heavy downpours and heat waves – many of which are likely to be longer and more intense in the years to come” from the mayor.

While his plan will cost an aggregate of $20 billion over 10 years in what would initially appear to be another typical hefty price tag that those hesitant to address climate change typically point to, it’s essential to take into consideration the reality that Sandy (one storm) cost the city $19 billion in a matter of days, and is estimated to cost $90 billion if a similar storm were to occur roughly 30 years from now.  In a country and world of extreme weather and climate events that are occurring in greater frequency and intensity as a result of man-made climate change — and the overwhelming consensus from climate scientists is that this trend will continue in a warming world —

NOAA_extreme_weather_events_chart

the cost-benefit analysis makes this plan a sound, viable investment for NYC that can serve as a model for what other cities, states, and even nations should be doing.

If I were a climate change skeptic my standard follow-up question to any case being made for a substantial investment to address impacts of climate change would be “where’s the money for this going to come from?” While I fight the urge to write a few paragraphs addressing the “beliefs” of climate change skeptics (and present the scientific facts), this is a great question, and the answer in this case is yet another reason I love the mayor’s plan. Unlike some comprehensive proposals to address climate change that have hand-wavy explanations as to where the necessary funding would come from, the mayor clearly outlines that roughly half of the investment over a 10-year period will be covered by federal and city money already allocated in the capital budget, and from $5 billion in appropriations already committed to by Congress through programs developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. This leaves $5 billion to be accounted for, and while I’m yet to be able to fully absorb the 430-page document it is already widely reported that the plan outlines numerous additional ways to raise funds to account for the remaining cost, and in the grand scheme of things finding an average of  $500 million a year (i.e. less than 0.6% of the NYC’s annual budget) over the next 10 years doesn’t strike me as an insurmountable challenge. Also worth noting is that for each $1 invested in the city’s resiliency to climate change there are monetary savings each time sections of the city are spared from what would be otherwise costly impacts if not for these renovations.

While describing aspects of his new climate plan Mayor Bloomberg’s speech highlighted a key message that needs to be better understood by the American people and other developed countries: climate change is not a problem to be faced by future generations in a third-world country, but is instead a destructive beast that we not only created but injected with steroids and let lose in our own backyard. Looking close enough you might just make out the “S” under the mayor’s shirt or part of the untucked cape showing below his jacket,

superman_Bloomberg

but if we’re going to defeat this three-headed monster we’ve all had a hand in creating…

Climate_change_beast

we’ll need more than a super-man to address climate change…we’ll need you.

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Happy Memorial Day weekend folks! Summarizing my posting efforts of late as “slacking” would be a compliment, but this week’s vacation to Sandbridge, VA has got my climate change blood a flowin’!

A born and raised Virginian who’s family ties to the state date back far enough that my first name comes from an ancestor who was a nurse (fun childhood growing up as a boy with a girls name…) at Bull Run during the Civil War, you could say I think the most populated state WITHOUT a major sports franchise (how is this possible?!) is kind of a big deal. So while I keep track of all things Virginia personally and all things climate and weather professionally, I somehow overlooked how sea-level rise has been impacting the state until my trip to Sandbridge, VA this week.  My oversight of these local scale impacts of climate change highlight a common misperception throughout the United States that impacts of climate change are a next generation or third-world country problem. The reality is that the costs and impacts of climate change are already draining our wallets and are in our backyards, have been for some time, and will become more amplified the longer we wait to comprehensively address the issue both domestically and abroad.

As for my “awakening” to the issue in VA, turns out that sea-level rise is occurring faster in the Hampton Roads area than anywhere along the East Coast, rising 14.5 inches in the last 80 years — 80% more than the 8 inches of average global sea level rise over the last 140 years.  The rising sea combined with sinking land (in part due to a ginormous crater caused by a meteor, which actually created the Chesapeake Bay) along the Virginia coast has been threatening the existence of coastal communities like Sandbridge, VA for decades, resulting in local home owners now paying a special tax that funds beach renourishment projects critical to their survival. What is beach renourishment you ask? Well, the short version is a multi-million dollar operation that takes place all 24 hours of the day in front of the beach house you rented for a week without being given any notice by the real estate company eight months ago when you made the reservations (any lawyers reading this?).

photo

The project I’ve been given a front row seat to this week has a price tag of $15 million. So while enjoying my beachfront view of porta johns and pipes these last few days I was inspired to dig deeper into sea-level rise and how it’s impacting the state.  A bit choppy due to intermittent breaks for beer pong, Canasta, and making a family Harlem Shake video, but here we go:

Hampton Roads possesses the second largest concentration of military capacity and activities in the United States, and is home to the world’s largest naval base – Naval Station Norfolk. According to the former Commanding Officer of Naval Station Norfolk, Joe Bouchard, almost all major military facilities in Hampton Roads are threatened by sea-level rise, and as sea level continues to rise so will the likelihood that some of those facilities will need to be relocated. Since 46% of the local economy comes from Department of Defense spending, this makes Hampton Roads uniquely vulnerable to sea-level rise. In addition, the Hampton Roads area is second only to New Orleans, LA, as the largest population center at risk from sea-level rise in the country.

Virginia’s state and local governments have recently taken the initiative to assess the threat of sea-level rise and increased coastal flooding, but it’s clear that much more is needed. If Virginia’s coastal communities are to withstand rising seas in the coming decades, initiatives that proactively address the threat of sea-level rise will be necessary. This is especially important around Hampton Roads, given that around half of historical sea-level rise in the area has been from the sinking of land (i.e., subsidence), which is anticipated to remain constant in the region while sea-level rise caused by climate change is expected to accelerate in the future.

VIRGINIA’S VULNERABILITY AND COST ESTIMATES

– Hampton Roads is second only to New Orleans as the area in the country most impacted by sea-level rise.

– The Norfolk-Virginia Beach Metropolitan Area ranks 10th in the world in value of assets exposed to an increase in flooding from sea-level rise.

– The 1933 hurricane – widely known as the “Storm of the Century” – was significantly more powerful than Hurricane Isabel in 2003. While the 1933 hurricane produced a storm surge in Hampton Roads 21 percent higher than Isabel, the maximum water level for both storms was roughly the same. This was a result of the average monthly sea level being 1.4 feet higher during Hurricane Isabel than during the 1933 hurricane, which was mostly due to the increase in sea-level rise that occurred in the 70 years between the two storms.

– Although Hurricane Isabel made landfall in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Virginia still experienced $925 million in damages to insured properties.

– According to the former Commanding Officer of Naval Station Norfolk, Joe Bouchard, the base would need to spend up to $460 million to replace old piers already degraded by sea-level rise and hundreds of millions more to protect onshore infrastructure critical to the base’s maintenance, training, and logistics missions.

– Ron Williams Jr., Assistant City Manager of Norfolk, said the city needs a total investment of $1 billion in the coming decades, including $600 million to replace current infrastructure, to keep the water in its place and help make homes and businesses more resilient.

Paul Fraim, Mayor of Norfolk:“We deal with storm­water flooding in the city now on a monthly basis.”19 “A severe Category 2 or Category 3 storm, if we were to receive a direct hit, almost all of the city would be underwater.”

– According to the recent Old Dominion University study “Climate Change, Global Warming and Ocean Levels,” when assuming a mid-range estimate of a 3.7-foot increase in local sea level by 2100: “From north to south, vast areas of Mathews, Gloucester and York counties, most of Poquoson, and much of the cities of Hampton, Norfolk, Chesapeake and the Virginia Beach oceanfront will be under­water unless protected by dikes and levees.”

– According to a recent study by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC), costs from three feet of sea-level rise in the Hampton Roads region are expected to range between $12 billion and $87 billion.

LOCAL CONCERNS AND GOVERNMENT RESPONSES TO SEA-LEVEL RISE

During a project led by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation, Virginia Beach residents surveyed about sea-level rise stated that the issue:

– Is a long-term problem – 98%

– Should be a priority for local governments – 92%

– Requires immediate action to be taken to deal with the effects – 86%

– Is a very important issue in the Virginia Beach area – 86%

An HRPDC study focused on analyzing the potential future impacts of sea-level rise on the region’s population, built environment, infrastructure, economy, and natural environment.

Key Findings

Residents currently living in or near areas that could be inundated, permanently or regularly, by 3 feet of sea-level rise:

– Low estimate: 59,059 residents (or the equivalent of more than four times the estimated population of Williamsburg, VA)

– High estimate: 176,124 residents (or the equiva­lent of 84 percent of the estimated population of Richmond, VA)

Roads currently in or near areas that could be inundated, permanently or regularly, by 3 feet of sea-level rise:

– Low estimate: 162 miles (or more miles than driving from Charlottesville, VA to Newport News, VA)

– High estimate: 877 miles (or more than four times the miles travelled when driving from Washington, DC to Virginia Beach, VA)

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Memorial Day is just about here, and summer is peaking around the corner. BBQs, tubing trips, baseball games, sleepovers, and pool parties (Hot Child in the City) are in your near future and you need a couple summer reminders. As you already know, I think everything in our environment, and all the actions we take are interconnected and affect our health and well-being and our wallet.

I came across this Top Ten List on the benefits of local food from Fox News (omg yes Fox News, everything is ok). You can find the full list here, but here are a few of my favorites:

1. Locally grown. Items at farmer’s markets have not “travelled” far. The carbon footprint to transport from nearby farms is teeny compared to what’s consumed over hundreds and thousands of miles by sea, air or long-distance trucking. Also, local produce is stacked in wooden crates, which avoids the environmentally polluting packaging, which protects produce from bruising or extends its time before perishing in long-distance transport.

2. Cleaner and safer. Farmer’s markets produce is grown organically or with far less use of chemicals. Produce sold in regular stores is full of toxic pesticides, fungicides, and other chemical fertilizers and sprays. Similarly, breads & baked goods aren’t pumped full of unhealthy preservatives that extend shelf life.

3. Keeps our communities healthy, too. The more we support local farmers who grow food in healthy ways, the more they–and their beautiful farmland–will flourish. Buying at local markets puts money directly into the pockets of local farmers and craftspeople rather than industrial conglomerates.

4. Free exercise. We can often walk or bike to the markets, getting free exercise. Besides, simply walking in the open air is a good way to get vitamin D.

Lastly, on biking and how it does a body good (which I’m sure you’re in the know about), D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare company released the results of its recent membership survey.  I admit I have a love affair with Capital Bikeshare; although its riders may be nuts, I appreciate what the company has accomplished (remember when I posted about Capital Bikeshare last year?). Riders saved an estimated $800 on transportation costs annually!  After obtaining a membership they were 76% more likely to ride to work.  Membership is still mostly within D.C., and now the company hopes to expand to areas like the Anacostia (Northeast D.C.) so that those neighborhoods can see the health benefits as well.  All communities should have access to safe and healthy transportation options.

Here is a summary of a few of the health benefits from the bikeshare survey: “Nearly 27 percent reported improved stamina after joining the system, 31.5 percent said their stress levels diminished, and 18.4 percent reported losing weight thanks to bicycle sharing. The numbers of members who consider themselves in good or excellent condition increased, while figures for those who consider themselves in poor, average, or fair health decreased.”  You can read the full article here.

Enjoy those tasty local foods, and bike/walk/public transit more. Cheers.

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It has been a tough few weeks.  Between the Boston Marathon, Texas plant fire, poison-laced letters to a senator and the President, and your average local shenanigans that never make it on CNN because it’s not scary enough, it’s a lot to hear. I’m here to tell you that you can smile because more people are apparently caring about the environment and their health – our road-structured nation is actually driving less!

Bloomberg reported on a few new studies which have shown major increases in bicycle riding (did you know that D.C.’s bike share program broke a record for most bikes rented since its inception during this year’s Cherry Blossom festival – thank you tourists!), walking destinations, and a decrease in receipt of driver’s licenses. There are also your common contributing factors such as unemployment and high gas prices. A Frontier Group study published in April 2012 found the following:

From 2001 to 2009, 16- to 34-year-olds took 24 percent more bike trips and were 16 percent more likely to walk to their destinations. Meanwhile, from 2000 to 2010, the share of 14- to 34-year-olds without drivers’ licenses increased from 21 percent to 26 percent.

In summary, the 34 and younger crowd loves to live where they can walk, bike, or take public transportation (the Bloomberg article said that too).  I know in D.C. those are all top selling points for many homeowners and renters, as I’m sure it is for other cities too. Encourage your local decision makers to improve bike lanes and public transportation in your neighborhood so that you’re not always in a car.  I know it’s easier said then done, so at least think of all the tiny switches you can make in your daily routine to change up your long car habits. Check out Craigslist for bike ads, ask your neighbors and friends to do a walking or running group, or even better search online for your town’s bus schedule.  It could never hurt.  It will save you money, and exercise is always good for your health.

When you do go for a walk, here’s some proper form from the Mayo Clinic:

https://i0.wp.com/www.mayoclinic.com/images/image_popup/fsm7_walker.jpg

Hope you did your part for Earth Day this year. Cheers.

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To our Spinach readers and web searchers – Happy Earth Day!  This month is my one-year anniversary with the Spinach blog and I will say it has been a happy one-year relationship.

Here is my Top 10 List of things you should do this Earth Day:

  1. Take your trash out and dump it in the closest park near your home
  2. Go for a very long drive, in a Land Rover
  3. Pour some hazardous chemicals in your street drain
  4. Cut down one tree for every year of your age
  5. Start a bonfire with random materials like Styrofoam, asbestos and tires
  6. Throw some grocery store plastic bags in the ocean or river near your house
  7. Make sure your house is being supplied by oil or coal power ONLY
  8.  Spray extra untested pesticides on your fruit and vegetables
  9. Sit idle all day, don’t even move to refill your soda, keep the soda bottle at your feet
  10. Put your newspapers , junk mail, and cardboard boxes in your regular trash; actually put those in the bonfire, see #5

I hope those gave you a laugh.  Continue to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors, use public transportation, and only use the energy you really need – you’ll find it will save you money and it will be better for your health! Have a great day!

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Do you live in the Washington D.C. area and have an occasion to celebrate?  I have a new recommendation for you. I would like to introduce you to a bar on wheels called the Trolley Pub of Arlington, VA.

You're telling me I can drink and bike and not get a DUI?

You’re telling me I can drink and bike and not get a DUI?

Warm weather is approaching in the Northeast and Midwest and this might be your cure for those cold weather blues.  Get 6-14 of your friends together (heck you and your buddy could just ask random people to join, who wouldn’t want to do this?!) for a two hour tour (that will run you $420 total, or $30 per person) and get your pedaling legs and drinking arm (you might need both hands to keep a steady grip on your brew, what about potholes?) ready for a good time.  Smaller tours for groups of 1-6 are $35 per person. The tour promises to stop at your favorite local watering holes in the Claredon, VA neighborhood (that’s right, I’m calling a Spinachead outing and we’ll report back to you), or you can cruise with minimal stops while people watching.

Have no fear there is a conductor who will do all the steering for you, he even has an electric backup in case you get distracted (or have one too many) while pedaling. The tour options are not yet published on their website (a route should be planned for the National Mall), but you can follow Trolley Pub’s updates on their website here. We at Spinach appreciate public transportation, such has bike systems, and we also appreciate a good brew – our favorite things combined into one.  This also gets you outdoors, another thing we like.

Consider this the best heads up you’ve gotten on this first day of Spring 2013.  Trolley Pub is booking requests now. We’ll let you know how it is.

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#prospective

This grandma was told she should be green.

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truly recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

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