For a hoax invented by the Chinese, climate change is having some very real impacts on the United States and its people. As the evidence grows that the Earth will continue to get warmer — something even the Trump maladministration admits is true — the US government continues to ignore the obvious as it coddles the Koch Brothers and the fossil fuel industry to the detriment of its own citizens.
Devastation Of National Parks
A new study published September 24 by IOP Science finds that America’s national parks will likely warm twice as much as the rest of the country. According to lead author Michael Gonzalez, a climate scientist at UC Berkeley, national parks are especially vulnerable to climate change because they tend to be in arid areas or at higher elevations. The atmosphere at higher altitudes tends to heat up more quickly and reduced rainfall will put additional stress on already parched areas.
Gonzalez is also the primary climate scientist for the US Parks Service, but cannot speak for the record in that capacity because all Park Service employees are prohibited from addressing the subject. According to High Country News, the Interior Department, now headed by avowed climate denier Ryan Zinke, has decreed that the Park Service not rely on climate science when making future plans.
The Park Service office for New England has deleted all reference to climate change and flooding risks from its website, according to Reveal. This is a little like Russian authorities ordering all reference to Josef Stalin deleted from history books and the Chinese government prohibiting any mention of Tiananmen Square. Willful ignorance substitutes for knowledge throughout the corrupt Trump maladministration.
Gonzalez warns in the study that 90% of the Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park will not survive higher temperatures. The glacier in Glacier National Park will soon be little more than a YouTube relic. Yellowstone National Park may experience up to ten times as many devastating forest fires as it does today. His research indicates parts of the national parks system could warm by as much as 9º Celsius by the end of this century.
That is fine with Trump and his supporters, as there is lots of oil and gas buried underneath national parklands. If the parks are destroyed, there will be less opposition to extracting those resources. Hooray.
Jonathan Jarvis was the director of the National Park Service director under Barack Obama. He now is at UC Berkeley. He tells The Guardian, “The park service manages these assets, these places, for the benefit of the American people, and they should be based on the best available sound science in the long-term public interest, not for some short-term political agenda.” Only a fool would manage any enterprise based on ideology instead of facts. Enough said.
Climate Change And The Electrical Grid
Another study, this one conducted by researchers at the University of Buffalo and Purdue University and published in the journal Risk Analysis, warns that the utility industry is not accounting for climate change adequately when planning for the future of the nation’s electrical grid.
The researchers say current prediction models commonly used by the industry fail to properly account for the impact of higher average temperatures in the future. It offers a new model that includes key climate predictors — mean dew point temperature and extreme maximum temperature — that permit a more accurate view of how climate change will alter future electricity demands.
“Existing energy demand models haven’t kept pace with our increasing knowledge of how the climate is changing,” says the study’s lead author Sayanti Mukherjee, PhD, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Buffalo. “This is troublesome because it could lead to supply inadequacy risks that cause more power outages, which can affect everything from national security and the digital economy to public health and the environment.”
“The availability of public data in the energy sector, combined with advances in algorithmic modeling, has enabled us to go beyond existing approaches that often exhibit poor predictive performance. As a result, we’re able to better characterize the nexus between energy demand and climate change, and assess future supply inadequacy risks,” says co-author Roshanak Nateghi, PhD, assistant professor of industrial engineering at Purdue.
The key to accurate forecasting of electrical demand is dew point — the temperature at which the atmosphere becomes saturated and cannot hold any more water. As the dew point rises, so does demand for electricity the researchers say. Using heat maps for the state of Ohio, they say a moderate rise in the dew point, which typically happens in the summer, leads to an increase in electrical demand of up to 20%. A sharper rise in dew point could lead to a 40% increase in demand.
By contrast, the Public Utility Commission of Ohio — which does not consider climate change in its models — predicts a residential demand increase of less than 4% through 2033. In the commercial sector, the increase is less — 14% — but still significantly more than the 3.2% rise expected by the PUC.
The new prediction model seems to agree with a study by researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK who say the demand for air conditioning will skyrocket as average temperatures increase. They warn that electricity to run cooling equipment could devour every kilowatt available from renewable sources by 2050.
A New American Migration
Over the next several decades, tens of millions of Americans are expected to migrate in search of higher ground and lower temperatures. About 13 million American homes — 6 million of them in Florida — are likely to be rendered uninhabitable due to rising sea levels and frequent flooding. And what is the US government doing about it? Absolutely nothing. Instead, it is pursuing a policy of willful ignorance that will promote more fossil fuel extraction which will lead inexorably to even hotter average temperatures. This is what passes for leadership in the age of Trump.
Orrin Pilkey, professor emeritus of coastal geology at Duke University and author of a new book entitled Sea Level Rise Along Americas Shores: The Slow Tsunami, tells The Guardian he envisions a stream of climate migrants — many from South Florida — spreading out across America. “I don’t see the slightest evidence that anyone is seriously thinking about what to do with the future climate refugee stream,” he says. “It boggles the mind to see crowds of climate refugees arriving in town and looking for work and food.”
“They will not be the bedraggled families carrying their few possessions on their backs as we have seen in countless photos of people fleeing wars and ethnic cleansing, most recently in Myanmar and Syria,” Pilkey says. “Instead, they will be well-off Americans driving to a new life in their cars, with moving trucks behind, carrying a lifetime of memories and possessions.”
Philip Stoddard, mayor of South Miami, adds some color to the story of the coming apocalypse. “Most people will wait for the problem to be bad to take action, that’s what I worry about. We can buy a lot of time, but in the end we lose. The sea level will go over the tops of our buildings.” Sanitation will be an enormous issue. “If you’re using a septic tank and your toilet starts to overflow into your bathroom because of water inundation, that’s a basis-of-civilization problem,” he says. “A medieval city wasn’t a nice smelling place and they had a lot of diseases.”
Jesse Keenan, a climate adaptation expert at Harvard, has his own perspective, “Including all climate impacts, it isn’t too far-fetched to imagine something twice as large as the Dustbowl,” he says. It will plunge the US into an utterly alien reality. “It is very difficult to model human behavior under such extreme and historically unprecedented circumstances,” Keenan says.
Build A Wall!
All one needs to do is notice the vehemence of the anti-immigrant crowd today to imagine what things will be like when strangers from other parts of the country begin flooding into communities across America. People in Phoenix are already starting to look to Flagstaff and its lower temperatures for relief from the scorching sun.
“As it gets hotter, we are getting a lot of climate refugees,” says Coral Evans, mayor of Flagstaff. “We don’t mind people moving to Flagstaff at all. But about 25% of our housing is now second homes. The cost of living is our number one issue. We don’t talk much about what climate change means for social justice. But where are low-income people going to live? How can they afford to stay in this city?”
“The tenor in the town is ‘Stop building. Build a wall,’” says Jenny Niemann, a climate and energy specialist for the city of Flagstaff. “People joke about that. But I think it’s fair to say the town feels incredibly stressed by the increasing prices, as well as the development.”
“People will get very grumpy and upset with very hot temperatures,” says Amir Jina, an environmental economist at the University of Chicago. “Even if you have air conditioning, some areas start to look less habitable. By the middle of the century parts of the south-west and south-east won’t look attractive to live in. That insidious climate migration is the one we should worry about. The big disasters such as hurricanes will be obvious. It’s the pressures we don’t know or understand that will reshape population in the 21st century.”
Pay Now Or Pay Later
Some communities severely affected by rising sea levels are already being paid by the federal government to pick up stakes and move to higher ground. How much could it cost to do that for all 13 million Americas who will be affected by climate change? If it costs $1 million per family, the bill could come to a staggering $13 trillion. (If you think that’s high, you haven’t looked at real estate prices in Miami lately.) Climate deniers scoff at the idea of a carbon fee to encourage low emissions technology. “It’s too expensive!” they cry. But so is doing nothing.
“We won’t see whole areas abandoned but neighborhoods will get sparse and wild looking, the tax base will start to crumble,” said South Miami’s mayor. “We don’t have the laws to deal with that sort of piecemeal retreat. It’s magical thinking to think someone else will buy out your property. We need a plan as to what will be defended because at the moment the approach is that some kid in a garage will come along with a solution. There isn’t going to be a mop and bucket big enough for this problem.”
“Magical thinking.” What a perfect way to describe the Republican approach to dealing with reality.
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