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This Week in Climate Change News
American cities have faced record-breaking droughts and superstorms throughout 2012, as well as a contentious presidential campaign that simultaneously and inexplicably ignored the topic of climate change.
However, the reelection of President Barack Obama gives us the hope that, for at least another four years, U.S. politics might favor science (Bill Nye, I’m looking at you). And perhaps the good folks at Foggy Bottom might finally, resolutely, turn the public discourse to the facts that predicate the need for urban sustainability.
In other words: Let’s talk about climate change. Afterall, the media sure is.
NPR ran a very interesting piece today about the dangerously low, post-drought levels of the Mississippi River and how it is negatively affecting the business of local towboat operators in southern Illinois.
According to the piece, the Mississippi River stood at 45′ last year, and it’s just 5.5′ today. The low water and rocky, underwater outcroppings make navigating the river dangerous in this area, so the local towboat operators want the Army Corp of Engineers to:
- Divert water from the Missouri River to this area of the Mississippi
- Smooth the bottom of the Mississippi River by blasting away the rocky outcroppings
The Corp, for their part, says they can’t do it.
Allow me to also direct you to a piece aired 18 months ago, also on NPR, that discusses the economic impact to southern Illinois’ towboat operators because of extreme flooding of that region of the Mississippi River.
File it under: The Economic Impacts of Global Weirding.
Meanwhile in the east, the tri-state region struggles to bounce back from the impacts of Hurricane Sandy. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand testified this week before a (seemingly empty?) Senate committee, where she told the heartbreaking story of two toddlers in Staten Island that were washed away from their mother’s arms during the storm.
Unemployment surged following Superstorm Sandy, as workers were forced to stay home or wait for their businesses to rebuild. The overall cost of the storm is estimated to be over $70+ billion in New York and New Jersey alone, and new estimates put the death toll at 125.
After years of denying that climate change event existed, the discussion in the U.S. has shot past mitigation and settled on adaptation. It’s about time. We are, as they say, a little late to the party. But thankfully, that means that other governments have been working on climate adaptation for years and we have examples in London, Rotterdam, Hamburg and Tokyo that we can adopt, and adapt, as our own.
The challenge now isn’t money, as Michael Kimmelman writes in the New York Times, “considering the hundreds of billions of dollars, and more lives, another Sandy or two will cost.” The problem is politics. How can we get the needed urban-adaptation projects passed through our vitriolic political system?
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Read more from the CityMinded.org Blog
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
In recent years, a variety of forces (economic, environmental, and social) have quickly given rise to “shared mobility,” a collective of entrepreneurs and consumers leveraging technology to share transportation resources, save money, and generate capital. Bikesharing services, such as BCycle, and business-to-consumer carsharing services, such as Zipcar, have become part of a sociodemographic trend that has pushed shared mobility from the fringe to the mainstream. The role of shared mobility in the broader landscape of urban mobility has become a frequent topic of discussion. Shared transportation modes—such as bikesharing, carsharing, ridesharing, ridesourcing/transportation network companies (TNCs), and microtransit—are changing how people travel and are having a transformative effect on smart cities.
A study by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 2008 found that the impact of routine weather events on the US economy equates annually to about 3.4% of the country’s GDP (about $485 billion). This excludes the impact of extreme weather events that cause damage and disruption – after all, even “ordinary” weather affects supply of and demand for many items, and the propensity of businesses and consumers to buy them. NCAR found that mining and agriculture are particularly sensitive to weather influences, with utilities and retail not far behind.
Many of these, disaster management included, are the focus of smart city innovations. Not surprisingly, therefore, as they seek to improve and optimize these systems, smart cities are beginning to understand the connection between weather and many of their goals. A number of vendors (for example, IBM, Schneider Electric, and others) now offer weather data-driven services focused specifically on smart city interests.