Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Why Coastal Cities Must Build Sustainably

Soft shoreline vs. Hardshoreline

Soft shorelines create spaces for the water to go.

Obama Presidential Adviser, John Holdren, said of the challenge of climate change, “We will end up with a mix of prevention, adaptation and suffering. It is for us to determine the ratio.”

By Linn Smith

September 18, 2017 ——With the recent flooding in Texas and Florida, it is evident that the rising seas from climate change will affect us by chronic flooding, which will become more frequent. There will be continued flooding and devastation from weather as our climate and seas warm up.
The Union of Concerned Scientists ask the question, “If flooding continues, how many times does it have to happen before you stop thinking of rebuilding and start thinking of relocation? Each community has a threshold for sea level rise and chronic flooding beyond which sustaining normal routines becomes impossible.”

climate change

Mitigation Vs. Prevention

Mitigation or Prevention

Scientist have worried for years that melting sea ice and ocean warming would cause a rise in sea levels, extreme weather and more severe and frequent hurricanes. What is our government’s responsibility? Do we continue to spend our tax dollars on mitigation, cleaning up the aftermath of the increasingly destructive power of storms? Do we continue to rebuild coastal areas that are vulnerable to climate change or do we have a responsibility to reconstruct cities and coastal areas against the coming vulnerability of our changing climate?

William V. Sweet, Scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated, “Once impacts become noticeable, heavy rains and extensive flooding are going to be upon us quickly. It’s not 100 years off anymore.” Higher seas mean higher storm surges. As seas rise in an area, the coastal creeks and marshes will rise and bring salt water inland. Many coastal trees will be affected by the saltwater rise.

Storm Surges

Protection from Storm Surges

Reducing the Impact of Rising Seas

What are our choices? Keep spending tax dollars on rebuilding coastal properties or rebuild naturally to reduce the impact of rising seas. A soft shoreline maintains the natural dynamics of the shoreline, with a healthy movement of the sand and improving habitats of sea life. It allows the coastline to do what it does naturally, without the build-up of asphalt and man-made dwellings. A living coastline has natural barriers, vegetation and salt marshes that make it a stronger buffer, against flooding, but also moves and changes as any undeveloped shoreline would.

Obama Presidential Adviser, John Holdren, said of the challenge of climate change, “We will end up with a mix of prevention, adaptation and suffering. It is for us to determine the ration.” There are consequences of inaction!

Hard Structures vs. Soft Defenses Against Wave Energy

What we’ve done with much of our coastal lines to deter flooding is to construct impervious surfaces and blockages to dissipate the wave energy. But there are natural designs that absorb water from storms and channel it back into nature, creating spaces that navagate the water naturally.
The current method of deterring sea wave energy are hard structures. Hard structures, such as sea walls, deflect the wave energy to adjacent areas, redirecting the wave to a neighboring property. These properties witness a greater destructive energy than the original destination of the wave. Walls can fail and waves can erode sand at the base of the seawalls. Walls can also be destructive to the surrounding flora and fauna, which may be preventing a more serious flooding disaster. Hard structures won’t save our cities from rising seas!

The better approach according to Rachel Gittman, Ecologist, is to create living shorelines. A living shoreline is site specific according to the natural habitat of the location. She states that for calmer waters, build water absorbing marshes with sill-like ledges made of rocks, oyster shells or coconut fiber logs. A shoreline may also benefit from planting mangroves, which firmly anchor the shoreline in place.

Rising Seas

Cities affected by the rising waters.

Natural Barriers of Wave Energy

Steven Scyphers, Coastal Scientist, states, “It starts with a good understanding of what the natural conditions along the shoreline once were. It could mean restoring what existed on the shore, whether oyster reefs, coral reefs or other living breakers that can dissipate the wave energy. These natural barriers become more suitable over time as the plants, roots and reefs grow.”

By 2100, 490 communities could be chronically flooded including Boston, L.A. and most of NYC. Communities will have to decide what will be best for them, flood walls, living shorelines, elevating structures or to retreat. Cities that are below sea level probably won’t be benefited from natural shorelines.

In the meantime we need to change our behaviors to slow down climate change!

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The Galapagos UNESCO Heritage Site in Danger

Galapagos islands at risk from climate change

Home to many rare species of plants and animals

“In 2007 UNESCO listed the Galapagos as threatened, as a number of the most unusual creatures found on the islands were in decline.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

August 11, 2017—-The Galapagos Islands are located about 600 miles west of the coast of Ecuador. There are 13 major islands in the group, in addition to dozens of smaller rock outcrops. They were discovered in 1535 by sailors engaged in exploration. These islands are a unique treasure on our Planet.

The Galapagos Islands have been designated a UNESCO Heritage Site. When explorers first described the islands to people on returning to their home ports, most people did not believe the stories that were told.

The Galapagos Islands are significant for a variety of reasons. First, there is no other island ecosystem like it. They are home to many species of plants and animals not found anyplace else on the planet. The animals include blue footed boobies and marine iguanas. Second, it is the setting for the work of Charles Darwin in formulating the theory of evolution that was published as The Origin of Species. Charles Darwin visited the islands in the year 1835. At the time, the islands were known as Las Encantatas or the enchanted ones.

Galapagos Islands and climate change

Galapagos animals and plants are at risk due to global warming.

Climate Change is Altering Life on the Islands

Global warming has already raised the temperatures over the islands. The islands generally receive little rainfall. Parts of the islands depend on cool season fog to provide condensation for plants. Additional warming may eliminate this weather pattern which is the only source of moisture for vegetation is some areas. Increased rainfall that may come with a changing climate may also lead to the decline in many species of plants.

The warmer conditions are causing vegetation zones to move to higher elevations. The rising temperature is also affecting the ratio of males to females in some turtles. Warmer temperatures tend to produce more female offspring, a phenomenon that has been observed at different locations around the world.

The mean temperature of the surrounding ocean of the islands is rising. Like other regions that lie astride the equator, coral bleaching has now been observed to occur in the reefs around the islands. The bleaching is an indication of not only global warming of the atmosphere, but of the warming of the tropical oceans. While corals live in warm water they will not live in water that is even a few degrees above their optimum temperature range. As the ocean warms they are also expected to become more acidic. This will increase the rate at which minerals are dissolved from the reefs.

Sea level has been rising and is expected to rise even more. The only question is how much more it will rise. Estimates of sea level rise by 2100 vary  with the highest estimates rising 30 inches. Rising sea level may destroy many of the mangrove forests which are home to some unique species of birds including some species of finch.

Galapagos Islands and climate

Galapagos Islands are at risk due to climate change

Invasive Species

There is a second problem which may be a greater threat than climate change to the uniqueness of the islands. This is the introduction of plants and animals not native to the islands. It is believed there are now more than 1400 introduced species on the islands of which more than half are plants.

Many of the introduce species have been accidentally introduced. Probably among the first were rats, which jumped ship over the years. The rats thrived and the population grew rapidly. Many other species of insects and plants were probably introduced at the same time. The accidental introduction continues as other species of plants and animals come to the islands along with the importing of merchandise.

Other species of plants and animals have been deliberately introduced. Among the first were domestic goats. They were often kept aboard ship for the purpose of supplying meat and milk for a ship’s crew. On the Galapagos some of the goats escaped to become wild. Their numbers increased and they began devastating the natural vegetation. In recent years major programs to eliminate the goats have been initiated, especially on the smaller islands. In 2006, for example, a massive effort was mounted to eliminate some introduced species from several islands.

Largely due to problems related to the invasion of species, in 2007 UNESCO listed the Galapagos as threatened, as a number of the most unusual creatures found on the islands were in decline. This includes sea lions which depend on a declining food supply off shore. The changing of the plant communities is a threat to many native birds. Some of the very species of finches which were the foundation of Darwin’s theory of evolution are in danger of becoming extinct.

On the plus side, most native species are expected to survive if invasive species can be controlled. But again, additional climate warming may eliminate the weather pattern necessary for plant and animal survival!

The Galapagos Islands

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Coral Reefs Succumb to Global Warming

Bleaching of the Coral Reefs

Oceans warm and the Coral Reefs die.

“During a visit to St. John a couple of months ago I was able to see the damage first hand, snorkeling over a reef at Salt Pond Bay where there was essentially no living coral visible.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

June 10, 2016—Coral reefs are one of the richest ecosystems on the planet. They differ from land ecosystems in that the major populations making up the system are animals rather than plants. Land ecosystems include forests, grasslands and deserts. Coral reefs essentially consist of animals. The huge variety of animals includes those with backbones and those without. The most prevalent animals are those without backbones such as sponges, snails, clams, scallops and squid. Better known animals are starfish and sea urchins. The primary food for the animals is algae. The algae supply the animals with sugars and oxygen in return for shelter and carbon dioxide. These microscopic algae produce the basic color for the reefs.

Dying of the Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are dying at an unprecedented rate. The dying of the reefs is attributed to a process known as bleaching. The bleaching is actually the result of the death of the microscopic algae that both color and feed the coral. When sea water gets too warm for prolonged periods of time, corals become stressed, causing them to expel the algae. This expelling of the micro-organisms leaves the coral appearing bleached or whitened. Coral can survive for a period of weeks without the algae but, in longer periods of time, the algae begins to die. A number of factors can cause the algae to die but only warmer than average water temperature can cause widespread loss. It can occur with sea temperatures being as little as 1°C (2°F) above normal monthly temperatures.

Climate Change and Reef Bleaching

Climate Change causes warming of the oceans leading to dead coral reefs.

Coral bleaching in the Caribbean Sea

Ocean temperatures are rising due to global warming. Other events such as El Ninos can further warm the water. It often takes only a small increase in water temperature to start bleaching. Records show the water temperature in 2005 was the warmest in the last century. In the fall of 2005 there was massive bleaching in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. At Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, up to 97 % of the coral colonies surveyed bleached when water temperatures rose to 32°C (89°F). Since it is this algae that gives the coral its basic color when the algae dies the coral begins to whiten. It takes only a week or so of bleaching to kill coral.

The Reefs of the Virgin Islands

One of the Caribbean islands which has suffered major losses to coral reefs is St John, one of the the U.S. Virgin Islands. There have been two major bleaching events so far in the 21st Century. The first was in 2005. This event was the worst on record to date. Bleaching was first noticed in July of 2005 and it continued into 2006 as disease also took a toll. Most coral around the island showed some bleaching and more than half of the reefs died. The most recent event was in 2010 when average sea water temperature was unusually warm from August through October.

Warming of the oceans cause dying of the reefs.

An example of a dead coral reef.

During a visit to St. John a couple of months ago I was able to see the damage first hand. Snorkeling over a reef at Salt Pond Bay where there was essentially no living coral visible. There were occasional living organisms visible but for the most part it was simply without life. Nearby was Trunk Bay which faced the open ocean and the rocky beach was covered by bits of broken bleached coral. An interesting feature on this beach was that visitors have used the broken bits of coral to create images of all kinds. These reefs have the ability to regrow if water temperatures would remain below 89 degrees F. However, since average ocean temperatures are rising it seems most likely that there will be more losses in the future.

Pacific reefs suffer again in 2016

The Great Barrier Reef lies off the coast of Australia. It is the earth’s largest system of coral reefs and, in 1981, was listed as a World Heritage Site. It is one of the largest heritage sites covering an area of more than 336,000 square kilometers (130,000 Square miles). It consists of nearly 3,000 individual reefs of varying sizes and almost 1,000 islands, also of varying sizes. At the time of this writing, a greatly expanded area of coral bleaching has been detected off the east coast of Australia. Almost all of the reefs, from the city of Cairns northward, show evidence of bleaching.

Since Australia is in the southern hemisphere water temperatures are the warmest on the north end of the reef, but decrease southward. In all, nearly half of the reef is suffering bleaching. In the northern, where the water is the warmest, bleaching is affecting nearly 93% of the great barrier reef. Southward to the region offshore from Cairns, the bleaching is affecting an average of 25 t0 50 percent of the reef. In recent months water temperatures have been warmer than usual and the area of bleaching is expanding southward.

One Third of World’s Coral is Dead or Dying

Reefs around the world are being affected by bleaching. More than 30 nations have reported losses to offshore reefs. The United Nations Environment Program indicates that a third of the world’s coral is dead or dying. They also predict that 60% of all reefs will be lost by 2030. Another increase of 1°C (33.8° F) in global temperatures will increase bleaching substantially. Coral bleaching in the tropical oceans by 2030 may alter the entire global ocean ecology. Large numbers of species of fish and other organisms will simply cease to exist.

This year NASA is beginning a new program to monitor the extent of coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean. The program is the Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory. It will combine satellite data with surface data for a year and focus on entire reef systems. The demise of the coral reefs is becoming part of the sixth mass extinction the planet is experiencing. The evidence of global warming and its effects keep piling up! It is past time for determined action!


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A Handbook for Climate Deniers

The real purpose of active climate change deniers is to create doubt in the minds of people.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

January 27, 2016—Ever since the Kyoto Conference of 1997 there has been a well-organized and vigorous campaign to deny the findings and actions of that conference. Of the active deniers of global warming, the majority are not scientists. They are conservative journalists, writers, and people paid to prepare literature, TV and newspaper ads. They are also representatives of corporations that want to protect profits. With decades of rising temperatures, some have grudgingly admitted that the planet may be warming, but insist it is due to natural causes. These deniers try to convince us that it is useless to do anything about climate change. Politicians that express denial repeatedly vote against limiting carbon emissions!

How to Deny the Existence of Climate Change

The book “Climate Change: The Facts” was published in 2015 by the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne, Australia. It is edited by Alan Moran and consists of essays by 23 contributors who are known for their conservative beliefs and for being climate change deniers. Anyone wanting information on how to deny the existence of climate change can find support here. It is literally a resource handbook for climate change deniers!

The Deniers vs. the Real World

Following are a few topics discussed in this book. The “real world” facts presented here are currently accepted by the general population and the majority of scientists:

A. The deniers: There is no evidence of global warming this century.

B. The real world: Temperature records go back to 1880. The warmest year globally in the twentieth century was 1998. That year began a period of unusually high annual temperatures. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1997. The warmest year for the earth was 2014. It should be pointed out that not every location had record high temperatures at any one time. Recent data shows 2015 was warmer than 2014. The increase over 2014 was the largest annual temperature increase on record.

A. The deniers: 150 years of data is not long enough to support the possibility of climate change.

B. The real world: Most of the global population growth has been in the last 150 years. The seven billion plus people now on earth must deal with the climate of the current time on a daily basis. The huge changes over geologic time are not the current problem.

A. The deniers: There has never been a public debate about climate change

B. The real world: Debate over global warming began in the late 1800’s. There have been many, many conferences including scientists and many reports including scientific data. It is necessary only to mention the Kyoto conference of 1997, the IPCC reports every seven years, and the Paris conference (COP21) of 2015. Each and every one of these involved debate over the issues.

A. The deniers: Greenhouse gases are not unusually high. They have been much higher in the past.

B. The real world: The concentration of greenhouse gases has grown rapidly since the beginning of the industrial revolution. They are now at the highest level in thousands of years. The most rapid growth has been during the lifespan of those now living on the planet.

A. The deniers: It is stated that the suggestion that we are facing a global catastrophe due to climate change is the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on mankind.

B. The real world: For many of Earth’s people, global warming and climate change is now life changing, if not a catastrophe.

A. The deniers: Sea Level is not rising, the island nations are sinking.

B. The real world: Global warming and climate change affect all of planet Earth. Among the areas that are already severely impacted are the island nations of Kirabati, Maldives, Marshall Islands, and Tuvalu. Changing wind patterns, more severe storms, salt water intrusions, and rising sea level are currently creating substantial physical and economic problems for the islands. These islands have climate change problems now that may make many of the islands uninhabitable long before they disappear below the rising sea. Some have already been abandoned and others may be uninhabitable within 20 years. Scientific projections suggest that sea level will rise from two to as much as seven feet by 2100. If the rise in sea level reaches even the conservative estimates these nations will simply cease to exist.

Denying Climate Change=Denying Rational Thought

The real purpose of active climate change deniers is to create doubt in the minds of people. What can be stated with some certainty is that this book contains a litany of arguments for denying climate change, some that defy rational thought!

Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Coastal States Reject Climate Change and Sea Level Rise

North Carolina and Climate Change

The rising sea waters will greatly effect the coast of North Carolina.

Today the evidence of change due to human activity is clear and its causes have become even more obvious.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

North Carolina renounces forecasts of future sea level rise

March 30, 2014—-The sea levels are rising as a result of ocean waters expanding due to global warming and the melting of our earth’s ice sheets and glaciers. In past decades sea levels have risen at a rate of 14 inches per century. However, the rate of rise is increasing and expected to rise even more rapidly in future decades.

The state of North Carolina, in the eastern United States, has an extensive coastline. Along the coast are a series of off-shore islands known as the Outer Banks. In places the Outer Banks, the sandbars build by storms, are only 300 feet wide and less than 20 feet in height. In the past hurricanes and Nor’easters have sent water over the islands creating new inlets to the sound and closing others. During one hurricane, in 1954, the storm surge was so high that the only land above water on one island was Jockey’s Ridge. This was the hill from which the Wright brothers launched their first airplane flight. If storms 70 years ago could inundate the island, the prospects for future inundations looms rather large.

North Carolina and global warming impact

Scientific data shows the impact of the rising oceans.

In light of all the debate regarding climate change and the sea , the North Carolina Coastal Commission asked its science panel to examine the effect of rising sea level on North Carolina. The panel prepared a report and presented it in 2010. It estimated that sea levels could rise from 15 to 50 inches in the next century. For planning purposes, the panel suggested a rise of 39 inches by 2100. It was clear from the maps generated that the rise would completely alter the coast of North Carolina. This rise would divide existing banks into pieces and preclude a continuous road along the banks. Coastal counties were suppose to use this estimate to plan future developments of the islands.

Immediately the developers and real estate interests began efforts to discredit the report. They claimed that the science of forecasting was not adequate. In 2012 the general assembly objected to the 39 inch forecast and ordered a new forecast. The governor appointed a new person from the coal and gas industry to head the commission. This person promptly reduced the forecast period to 30 years. However, the commission accepted the current estimates for sea level rise. The planning projections were for an 8 inch rise in the next 30 years. To cap the forecasting problem a state law was passed which barred the Coastal Commission from using any forecasts of future sea level rise for a period of four years.

Florida Officials Ban the use of “Global Warming” and “Climate Change”.

In the U.S. Florida is the state that probably has the most to lose from the rising sea level. Not only does it have a very long coastline, over a thousand miles, but much of the coastline and the area inland is only slightly above sea level. State officials do not acknowledge that the sea level is rising, even though there is clear evidence of the danger it imposes in Florida. The coastal line is already being affected by higher tides and frequent street flooding. Several influential state officials in Florida are anti-climate change. In 2009, Jeb Bush, stated that he was skeptical of global warming and the current governor of Florida, Rick Scott, simply avoided the issue by stating that he was not a scientist. An investigative report published in the Miami Herald determined that in the Department of Environmental Protection, employees were being told not to use the phrases “global warming’ and “climate change’. Additional terms to be avoided were “sea level rise” and “sustainability”. The head of the organization insists there is no department policy to this effect. However, it is clear that the terms are being avoided.

Following the Kyoto conference in 1999, Wall Street launched a major campaign to prove there was no climate change. As more and more evidence of a changing climate has come into existence, they have changed their attack from the non-existence of climate change to the attitude of “existent but not man-made–only a natural change.”

Today, the evidence of change due to human activity is clear and its causes have become even more obvious. It seems incredible that states are being forced to make substantial investments to reduce existing flooding as their leaderships make statements denying the causes of the flooding.

In many cases, states are using anti-science politics and policies to hide the simple facts of rising sea level.

North Carolina and Florida: Addressing changes to the future of the rising coastal waters.


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Island Nations in Trouble

Laura Beach, the Marshall Islands

An enlargeable satellite image of Marshall Islands

An enlargeable satellite image of Marshall Islands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By John J. Hidore ( my uncle, who has written about Climatology and global warming for many years)

July 13,  2013—Global warming and climate change affect all of planet Earth. Among the areas that are already severely impacted are the island nations of the Maldives, Marshall Islands, and Tuvalu. Changing wind patterns, more severe storms, salt water intrusions, and rising sea level are currently creating substantial physical and economic problems for the islands.

The Maldives are a small group of islands in the Indian Ocean that are already suffering the effects of changes in storm tracks and rising sea level. The islands are largely remnants of coral reefs and most of the land area is within three feet of mean sea level. Coral reefs surrounding the islands act as natural breakwaters. Recent storms have damaged the reefs. This has allowed waves to attack the shoreline more frequently and to result in extensive beach damage. There is a net loss of beach, and hence land area, on over half the islands.

In April 1987 a large storm in the Indian Ocean generated large swells that traveled through the Maldives. There was a huge loss on the islands in terms of the economy, public utilities, and the land. Some of the islands were permanently evacuated. It is worthy to note that the Maldives was the first country to sign the Kyoto Protocol on 16th March 1998 and the first nation to ratify the Protocol on 30 December, 1998.

The Marshall Islands are best known as a testing ground by the United States for nearly 70 nuclear weapons between 1946 and 1958. Now different threats face the island. In addition to those affecting the other island nations a severe drought has resulted in a shortage of fresh water. This has resulted in health problems due to polluted water. In May of this year the foreign minister declared climate change to be the number one threat to the country.

Tuvalu is another small island nation consisting of some 11,000 people living on nine small atolls in the South Pacific. The people there are also adjusting to existing and future changes taking place on the islands. A representative of the nation spoke at a recent UN conference and asked for help in adapting to the changes.

These islands have climate change problems now that may make many of the islands uninhabitable long before they disappear below the rising sea. Scientific projections suggest that sea level will rise from two to as much as seven feet by 2100. If the rise in sea level reaches even the conservative estimates these nations will simply cease to exist.

Sources:
“Pacific islands deadly threat from climate change”, Washingon Post, May 30, 2013
weather.com. “Are simultaneous floods, drought an omen in the Pacific” 2013