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Janie Chen’s Blog

Water/Climate News Digest: 7/15/2013 - 7/26/2013

Janie Chen

Posted July 26, 2013

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Welcome to the first W/C News Digest, a bi-weekly roundup of all news water and climate:

Climate change will disrupt energy supplies, DOE warns, USA Today

USA Today

Two weeks after President Obama announced his climate action plan, the U.S. Department of Energy released a report that emphasized the impact of climate change and extreme weather on energy supplies.  Rising temperatures and sea levels, water shortages, and extreme storms will likely cause more disruptions to the nation’s power system in the coming years. 

Last year, a Connecticut power station had to shut down a reactor because the cooling water, drawn from Long Island Sound, was too warm.  Hydroelectric power generation decreased by 8% due to reduced snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and low water levels in the Mississippi River stopped the transportation of oil and coal.

"It (climate change) is a very serious problem and it will get worse," says Jonathan Pershing, who oversaw the report's development. While impacts will vary by region, "no part of the country is immune," he says. He adds that climate change is exacerbating extreme events.

Great Lakes ‘ground zero’ for water needs, The Toledo Blade

Toledo Blade

Water shortages will not only impact energy supplies, but food supplies as well.  Holding 20% of the world’s fresh surface water, the Great Lakes region role in food production will become more and more critical. Great Lakes states are already starting to see water-intensive industries and food producers move into the region as droughts and water scarcity plague other parts of the nation. 

“The coming water crisis will affect everyone and everywhere, including everyone and every community in the Great Lakes region and basin,” said Jim Olson, a Traverse City water-rights lawyer.

Goodbye, Miami, Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone

While some regions are suffering from droughts and water shortages, other places face severe flooding and rising sea levels.  Most notably: the city of Miami, built less than five feet above sea level.  With 75% of its 5.5 million people living on the coast, South Florida is face-to-face with a climate change crisis.  Its unique circumstances—built on a porous limestone plateau, governed by climate-deniers, drawing from a disappearing aquifer, located near nuclear power plant, and relying on a state-subsidized flood insurance program—create a perfect storm, destined to drown the city.

Jan Nijman, the former director of the Urban Studies Program at the University of Miami, called 20th-century Miami "a citadel of fantastical consumption." Floods would come and go and hurricanes might blow through, but the city would survive, if only because no one could imagine a force more powerful than human ingenuity. That defiance of nature – the sense that the rules don't apply here – gave the city its great energy. But it is also what will cause its demise.

City in Iowa Rebuilds From Flooding but Remains Vulnerable, New York Times

New York Times

Flooding is not just a threat to coastal communities.  Cedar Rapids, Iowa suffered from billions of dollars of damage and nearly drowned when the Cedar River flooded its banks.  As climate change triggers more frequent occurrence of extreme storms, it is likely Cedar Rapids will face another extreme flood.  However, the city has already built new community structures on the river’s edge in hopes of revitalizing its downtown area. The question remains: should cities rebuild despite the risk or does should it move away from the waterfront and floodplains?

But there is a growing chorus of conservationists and public officials who say that some land, no matter how prime it is for real estate, might be best returned to nature. They argue that it makes little sense to rebuild in flood-prone areas that will require taxpayer bailouts when the water rises again. Flooding in urban areas can send pollution downstream, and artificial protection built around cities only shifts the flooding farther down.

“Somehow we’ve grown into this belief that we have an entitlement for a community to stay exactly where it is,” said Larry Larson, the senior policy adviser for the flood plain association.

In other water and climate change news…

Montana Public News praised President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and encouraged leaders to reduce the health impacts of climate change… The Atlantic Cities mapped out just how freakin’ hot it’s been and cites NRDC’s heat-related deaths report… Science Daily featured a new study that estimates global sea levels will rise about 2.3 meters for every increase in degree (Celsius) over the next thousands of years… New York Times reflected on a different summer weather story—one of climate change… Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an op-ed by the POTUS himself, on why we must tackle the threat of a changing climate…

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