Houston and rapid_climate_change

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  • 1. A Change of Climate: Houston, Texas and Adaptation Planning Paul Martin Suckow Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs Urban Planning and Environmental Policy Ph.D. Program TSU Research Day, April, 2007

2. Abrupt climate change More heat in atmosphere, More humidity, drier land , greater floods, Gulf Stream slowing,Climate zones advancing northward, Greatest changes always in past 5 years. 3. Uncertainty not if but how bad? Approximate heat imbalance at Earths surface: +2 W/Sq M. 4. Facts, nonfiction

    • Consensus: solidified by 1996-2005 detailed ice core studies: covering almost a million year period, 12 past ice ages.
    • Modern humans by GHG production have already ended the Holocene age in which they ascended.
    • Current changes already unprecedented in the entire fossil record, so effects must be ruled uncertain.

5. Facts, nonfiction

    • Natural examples from the fossil record of abrupt climate changes are associated with each of the five major extinctions.
    • Scientists believe that the sixth major extinction now underway may include half of the Earths species.
    • Biotic diversity will require 20,000 human generations to recover to mid-20 thcentury levels.

6. Abrupt climate change

    • Throughout the fossil record, the climate has shifted between two average stable states:
      • The Hot-box Earth: No surface ice.
      • The Cold-box Earth:Some glaciers and snow .
    • Such changes resulted from the natural confluence of highly sensitive cycles:
      • Solar output, orbital position, tilt and wobble .
      • Planetary collisions, superplume convection, biotic- material-atmospheric evolution.

7. Abrupt climate change evidence

    • Within the cold box world of life as we know it, cyclic variation:
    • Long ice ages
    • Warmer interstadials
    • Turbulence between (see Younger Dryas)

8. Abrupt climate change triggers

    • Albedo cooling
    • Greenhouse warming
    • Feedback effects
      • Ocean,
      • Cryosphere,
      • Atmosphere,
      • Biosphere, all interact.

Thus far, computer models still do not incorporate sufficient resolution, hierarchies, and feedback mechanisms to understand the velocity and magnitude of recorded features. 9. Abrupt climate change actors

    • Oceans.
      • 10 100 times the heat capacity of land surfaces, and 773 times that of air.
      • Primary climate shaper through heat transport via salinity/density changes.
      • Three distinct near-global floods of ice sheet melt waters have occurred:
        • 14,600 years ago (Meltwater Pulse 1A: +20m)
        • 12,700 years ago (Younger Dryas warming: +100m)
        • 8,450 years ago (Legends of Gilgamesh, Noah: +20m)

10. Abrupt climate change actors

    • Cryosphere
      • Ice and snow cover
        • Sea ice chills planet,
        • Lowers moisture,
        • Stabilizes weather.
      • Glaciers and snows
        • Maintain cold state,
        • Fresh surface water,
        • Stabilizes biotic growth.

Ice and snow cover reflect back to space 90% of the radiation received. Sea and land surfaces absorb 90% of solar irradiation. 11. Abrupt climate change actors

    • Atmosphere
      • Rapidly propagates a climate forcing from one place to all others.
      • Primary shaper of Earths energy fluxes.
      • Wind fields linked to ocean upwelling, surface currents and wave action.

A Parcel of air (and the dust/moisture/pollutants it carries) typically moves by wind from Houston to Illinois or the Appalachians within two days. 12. Abrupt climate change actors

    • Biosphere
      • Performs regulatory role.
      • Large rain forests act as planetary lungs in the carbon cycle, as well as an evolutionary nursery.
      • Coastal wetlands mop up pollutants and slow dangerous wind conditions.
      • Moving plant and animal niches will strand many species without food or shelter, while asynchronous bloom/birth cycles will cut off much reproduction.

On average, climate zones and the biological niches they harbor are moving about 100 feet northward per year already, with greater change inevitable over the next century. 13. Expected effects upon Houston 10% - 40% increased disease risk Exotic/re-evolving diseases -Malaria (shown) -Dengue (break bone) fever 14. Expected effects upon Houston

    • Lower crop yields
    • Larger croplands
    • 10%-20% decreases in Texas cotton and sorghum crops.
    • 40% - 70% decreases in Texas wheat crop.

15. How to supportgreater understanding

    • 24 hour and year round use of public and quasipublic facilities, including those in the built environment and on the internet, should enable more of the free association that empowers democratic governance.
    • Maximizing available structural and energy resources should encourage stimulating educational/recreational gatherings as well as quiet refuge for those of all interests.

16. Adaptation to Climate Change

    • Understanding patterns of abrupt climate change can help reduce vulnerability and increase adaptive activity.
    • The human potential to exceed Earths environmental carrying capacity is very real and may already have happened.
    • The choice between environmental stewardship vs. economic development is a false choice.
    • Environmental stewardship will proceed directly with future development, or humanity will end.

17. Adaptation to Climate Change

    • Greater human involvement in the management of formerly natural and wilderness environs is an unavoidable consequence of historical anthropogenic greenhouse gas production.
    • Until the global climate can be stabilized and managed satisfactorily, humanity should commit itself to a new project of minimizing losses of life and civilization as we know it.

18. Gulf Coast Adaptation

    • Ocean coastal properties cannot be expected to survive routine future hurricanes.
    • Structures elevated below 28 feet above sea level are already at risk of destructive storm surge today.
    • As aquifer withdrawal continues to subside irrigated landforms and sea level rises due to icecap melt water/thermal expansion, these storm surges will ride higher over time.
    • Because 80 feet of sea level rise is likely during any new structures lifetime, new development should be located higher than 110 feet above sea level.

19. Expected effects: Sea level rise

  • IPCC Report #3 (2001)
      • 1 meter rise before 2100
      • 400 meters of coastal plain lost
    • NASA (Hansen) Model (2005)
      • 25 +-10 meters (80 ft) at meltdown of Greenland and West Antarctic Icecaps (before 2100?)
      • 10+-4 km of coastal plain lost
      • Houston Downtown and IAH at risk from storm surges of sea water
    • Total cryosphere loss
      • 67 m (220 ft) at full meltdown (before 2150?)