June 15, 2013

Climate debate shifting to adaptation

Even Al Gore writes about coping with rising seas and temperatures as well as cutting emissions.

By SETH BORENSTEIN The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Giant removable floodwalls would be erected around lower Manhattan, and levees, gates and other defenses could be built elsewhere around the city under a plan proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to protect New York from storms.

The Associated Press

Rich nations have pledged, but not yet provided, $100 billion a year to help poor nations adapt to global warming and cut their emissions. But the $20 billion cost for New York City's efforts shows the money won't go far in helping poorer cities adapt, said Brandon Wu of the nonprofit ActionAid.

At U.N. climate talks in Germany this past week, Ronald Jumeau, a delegate from the Seychelles, said developing countries have noted the more than $50 billion in relief that U.S. states in the Northeast got for superstorm Sandy.

That's a large amount "for one storm in three states. At the same time, the Philippines was hit by its 15th storm in the same year," Jumeau said. "It puts things in context."

For poorer cities in the United States, what makes sense is to buy out property owners, relocate homes and businesses and convert vulnerable seashores to parks so that when storms hit "it's not a big deal," Williams said. "I think we'll see more and more communities make that decision largely because of the cost involved in trying to adapt to what's coming."

FOCUS ON IMPACTS

It's not just rising seas.

Sacramento has to deal with devastating droughts as well as the threat of flooding. It has a levee system so delicate that only New Orleans has it worse, said Johnson, the California capital's mayor.

The temperature in Sacramento was 110 this past week. After previous heat waves, cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., have come up with cooling centers and green roofs that reduce the urban heat island effect.

Jacobs said cities from Miami to Virginia Beach, Va., are coping with changes in zoning and building codes, raising the elevation of roads and runways, moving and hardening infrastructure. None of it grabs headlines, but "the sexiness is in the results," she said.

For decades, scientists referenced average temperatures when they talked about global warming. Only recently have they focused intensely on extreme and costly weather, encouraged by the insurance industry, which has suffered high losses, Bierbaum said.

In 2012, weather disasters -- not necessarily all tied to climate change -- caused $110 billion in damage to the United States, which was the second highest total since 1980, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last week.

Now officials are merging efforts by emergency managers to prepare for natural disasters with those of officials focused on climate change. That greatly lessens the political debate about human-caused global warming, said University of Colorado science and disaster policy professor Roger Pielke Jr.

"If you keep the discussion focused on impacts I think it's pretty easy to get people from all political persuasions," said Pielke, who often has clashed with environmentalists over global warming. "It's insurance. The good news is that we know insurance is going to pay off again."

 

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