The Climate Requirement

Dr. Christopher Jones is a Professor at UC Berkeley and the Director of the CoolClimate Network. Like many who have examined the climate crisis thoroughly, he has told everyone the truth. The problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand. In other words, we know what to do. However, a better definition of the problem is to find out why global implementation will not occur.

The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.

EPA

After a half-century of work by esteemed scientists, the paradox of self-interest continues to allow for thousands of successful micro-projects to be funded. Yet, at the same time, the implementors consistently agree to a global failure. Despite tangible micro-efforts and these life-affirming successes, it seems the global breakdown is not regulatory, nor is it architectural or engineering. It is not due to the inadequate investment in technology or the lack of enforcement. The truth is far more fundamental.  Members of the fossil fuel industry passively accept a different path regarding global action on climate change. They will play the barometric-bomb game on a rapidly spinning climate roulette wheel. This is a strategic business decision well outside of tactical public controls. Perhaps a nonstrategic approach is an essential complement to the required response of science. After all, since the very first crack of lightning threw Homo sapiens to the ground, wind, rain, and thunder have been numinously controlling.

Now that sustainability is lost, what is being done? First, the psychology of resilience is supported as a hedge on all standing and proposed assets. Second, four business drivers provide an evaluative framework for daily decisions. These monitor 1) regulatory changes, 2) litigation trends, 3) technological transformations, and 4) specified barriers linked to market operations associated with climate change. Third, these steps involve advanced practices associated with the large businesses undergoing consolidation against significant dislocation threats and climate risk. The top example involves the operations of 20 fossil fuel companies linked to a third of all GHG emissions in the modern era. With precise data, the mysterious Doppelgänger of Climate Change is presented. The climate requirement is to grapple with this knowledge. We are not in the presence of weather as an expression of divinity – it’s twenty fuel companies.

Fingers and Toes Solution

A fingers-and-toes acquisition is available to reset reinvestment patterns to 100% clean energy. This is not a radical step. According to Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute, as reported by Matthew Taylor and Jonathan Watts for The Guardian, twelve of the 20 companies are state-owned. Climate accountability is possible because the problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand.

Actual climate impact costs are embedded in evasion processes. They are challenging to discuss openly due to the presumption of confidential business information and its exposure. The solution at hand is an eminent domain style acquisition of the industry. Acquiring one-third of the industry would eliminate the complaint of unstandardized metrics within and across GHG-producing fossil fuel industries. The global acquisition resolves the data obfuscation problem and reduces portfolio risk factors associated with environmental and social issues. A global taking of just one-third of the industry is possible as mitigation today, as it is inevitable and dispositive. The requirement is to force recognition of three facts. The problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand.

Fingers

The global and national policy framework states all people live with risk. That policy includes recognizing a scale that exhibits risk levels by location, occupation, socioeconomic conditions, and many other factors. This, too, is an evasion process. The actuarial tables are available to anyone capable of conducting a premium price check by zip code. In a grueling process, a team of public-interest research individuals can work with web-crawling sites such as Policy Genius to analyze sophisticated pricing that obscures the public cost.

Toes

The American Risk and Insurance Association (ARIA) is a worldwide group of leaders in insurance risk management. Reading the “walking papers” of the two presenters tells a story between the lines in their 2019 Annual Meeting presentation entitled: Rethinking Risk and Resiliency (here). Large swaths of the country are not hazard insured. FEMA, the national guard, and other public entities are the single-payer in this system. The federal and state agencies are the ones who will be called to that number on the roulette wheel in response to a hazard. In all cases, the response will be too little, post-trauma, neatly administered under the Grace of God policy banner regarding your place on the climate change roulette wheel.

Solution

Once again, the problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand when research (here) proves that 20 fossil fuel companies account for 480 billion tons of GHGs, representing 35% of carbon emissions since 1965. Yet, as the climate continues to collapse, the current policy allows individuals to perish alone in that notch on the roulette wheel. Searching for research papers on the subject reveals how and why public policy is weak. One of those papers will be found here.

The climate requirement is clear. Conduct an appropriate remix on the mathematic and the mysterious. Some insight into the remix issue is (here). It is an examination concerning how people live is about where they live. Added motivation on this point is (here) on the issue of fire and the stumbling leadership in architecture (here) that includes a modest pitch for hope from Peter Calthorpe.

On the other hand, this new assignment has aimed at the writers, videographers, policy wonks, and strong modern activists regarding the existential crisis handed to succeeding generations. Thank all of you for sharing (here).

Megawatts for Megabytes

“New Yorkers, if the ride isn’t killing us; the megabytes might.”

These three books are among many that challenge our understanding of the world and the sense of place that we need. Builders still hope for a complete urban place, but face terrifying possibilities of failure. The cause of the troubles that David, Peter, and Charles attempt to define have one thing in common — the megawatts we want for megabytes? It is a conundrum – it is both the solution and the problem.

The megawatts needed for megabytes could become a serious source of Green House Gas (GHG). Wally Broeker would know. He is the Columbia University chemist who coined the phrase “global warming.”

“The climate system is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks.”

Wally Broecker (here)

God rest his soul. There is the more optimistic Peter Brannen’s, The Ends of the World: (Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions) who says,

“Life on earth constitutes a remarkably thin glaze of interesting chemistry on an otherwise unremarkable, cooling ball of stone, hovering like a sand grain in an endless ocean of space.”  

He was an optimist about life, not humans.

The consciousness-raising chronology of Earth Day 1963 to the recent present (here) began with Earth-rise — the Apollo 11 photo of the earth from the moon. Earth Day reminds us that our sense of place today is about a tiny cooling 4.5 billion-year-old rock. Our sense of time on this rock has become the last few “seconds” on a geological clock. The place and time of the earth are now defined by the warming of that glaze of chemistry we call air. To change that from the negative it appears to be today to a positive in the future would be a first in all these billions of years. There is nothing like a “first” to get humans interested in change.

The density of urban life lowers energy costs per capita, and the energy systems put in place will become containable and capable of 100% GHG capture as renewable sources bring increasing promise. Nevertheless, the world of 5G energy includes acknowledging the cost goes up to 1,000 times. Energy is a design problem in energy use, and solutions are evident when the dense urban world is measured separately. This simple step of separation puts a significant portion of the world on a renewable, reinvestment, and resilient path. It sets up good examples for replication. An excerpt, from “Density,” describes growing recognition of the earth as a whole due to the Apollo photographs (here).

Concerns over energy efficiency are occurring in conferences about 5G deployments, and methods for reducing energy consumption have begun, only after the facts. Even the political forces surrounding net neutrality are those that seek to create price structures connected to solving this problem, but there are no laws on the subject. It therefore slumps into the demand for resetting priority. The most well known is the call to eliminate the rank unfairness in the world’s social structures defined by the newest indicator of stress. That would be access to data and the capacity to share our common problems.

In brief, it is possible to recognize devices whose energy consumption scales with traffic, and devices (including the end accessories) measuring energy intensity in energy per data and in energy per time (i.e., power only) as load. An electrical load is carried by a component that consumes electricity.  Internet energy intensity (energy consumption per data transferred) have estimates differing from 136 kWh/GB (Koomey et al., 2004 – here) down to 0.0064 kWh/GB (Baliga et al.,2011 – here), a factor of 20,000.

Reviewing this literature through 2020 is similar to the tobacco lobby talking to Congress, the discussion is different, but the addiction is similar. Finally, it is in the Uninhabitable Earth that David Wallace-Wells says we have assembled, “out of distrust of one another and the nations behind the ‘fiat currencies’, a program to wipe out the gains of several long, hard generations of green energy innovations.” He was talking about the immense energy requirement world is demanding from the full implementation of 5G to the operation of electric vehicles. We are addicted, but as full implementation is likely by 2050 the world can read about 200 million climate refugees at 20 Gig per second or more. Silly, are we not?

EPA Saved Cities

11 Ways the EPA Has Helped Americans

March 17, 2017 by

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

The budget proposal Donald Trump’s administration announced yesterday will slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding by nearly a third, crippling an agency that has played a key — but often unnoticed — role in American life for nearly a half-century.

The main target of the president’s ire seems to be the agency’s programs that address climate change. “We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at a press conference. But cuts so large won’t just affect climate change-related programs — they will trickle down, affecting all of the agency’s work and the state environmental protection offices it supports.

Even Scott Pruitt, Trump’s climate science-denying EPA administrator, seems to feel Trump’s cuts go too far. When an initial budget proposal surfaced slashing the EPA’s funding from $8.2 billion to $6 billion, Pruitt expressed concern about the effect a reduced budget would have on programs aimed at cleaning up and repurposing toxic and polluted sites, a function of the agency that he supports. The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush and Coral Davenport report that Pruitt lobbied Trump to rethink the cuts, but his appeal, apparently, didn’t work: Trump’s finalized budget flouts his EPA administrator’s wishes by calling for even deeper cuts than initially proposed, slashing the agency’s budget to about $5.7 billion.

That budget isn’t final. It will still have to get through a Congress where even Republicans who have staunchly opposed the agency in the past are worried about what the funding cuts will mean for their districts. So, given that some in Congress might be deciding if and when to take a stand, we thought it would be a good time to take a look back at some of what the EPA has accomplished over the last 46 years since Richard Nixon signed an executive order in 1970 bringing the agency into existence. These successes were, almost unanimously, won despite the strenuous and well-financed objections of recalcitrant polluters, and are, almost unanimously, now taken for granted.

1. Patching the Ozone Hole

Remember the ozone hole? We don’t really either. But ozone concerns were front-and-center in the ‘80s when, frighteningly, scientists discovered that pollution was causing the part of the upper atmosphere that protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation to deteriorate. The issue came to a head when, in 1985, British scientists announced that an expanding hole had formed in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

The president at the time was Ronald Reagan, a zealous proponent of deregulation who did not seem to have strong feelings about environmental protection. But he surprised his advisers by vigorously backing the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty between 197 nations that banned chlorofluorocarbons, a chemical that was used as a refrigerant and was also found aerosol sprays, and was to blame for the hole. (Why did Reagan take up the cause? No one is quite sure. One theory is that Reagan’s own experience with skin cancer made him particularly sensitive to the topic.)

Once the Montreal Protocol was signed, Congress amended the Clean Air Act to give the EPA the power to enforce a ban on chlorofluorocarbons and protect the ozone layer. The agency’s success in doing so, along with the efforts of environmental regulators worldwide, helped the hole begin to repair itself — and also, it turns out, lessened climate change. Though scientists didn’t realize it at the time, chlorofluorocarbons contribute to global warming. If not for the Montreal Protocol, climate change’s effects might be twice as bad.

2. Cleaning up America’s Harbors

When the EPA was created in 1970, the water around America’s cities was in a notably different state than it is today. Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River was, famously, so thick with combustible industrial chemicals that it often caught fire. Manhattan was dumping some 150 million gallons of raw sewage into the Hudson River each day. Around the same time, a failing wastewater treatment plant in Boston was also spitting out huge amounts of sludge, leading health officials to warn that anyone who fell into Boston’s Charles River or the harbor it emptied into should go immediately to the hospital to be assessed by a doctor.

It was the EPA’s job to deal with these problems. The Clean Water Act of 1972 charged the agency with cleaning up America’s waters, and provided billions of dollars to do so. Among other responsibilities, the EPA was tasked with laying down minimum standards for wastewater treatment before cities could release it. The EPA was also responsible for regulating city sewer systems so they didn’t overflow, spilling sewage into the streets during heavy rains.

This made a big difference in America’s cities. New York brought a large, new sewage treatment plant online in 1986, solving Manhattan’s dumping problem. In Boston, a series of lawsuits prompted federal action. “Secondary treatment of sewage is a national standard, which means no more Boston Harbors,” said Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell, who, as a former commissioner of Massachusetts’s Department of Environmental Protection, worked hand-in-hand with the EPA to clean up the water around the city. Boston Harbor is now one of the cleanest in the country.

3. Cracking Down on Lead

For years, industrial players who used lead fought regulation, with disastrous effects for Americans. A 1985 EPA study estimated that as many as 5,000 people died each year from lead-related heart disease. Tackling lead poisoning was one of the agency’s founding agenda items, and it did so over strenuous objections from the industries that put it in their products. The metal is now virtually illegal, leading to dramatic improvements in public health.

Legislation in the 1970s effectively banned lead from paint, and a 1985 EPA order required that the amount of lead in gasoline be cut by 90 percent by the following year. Five years later, a 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act demanded that lead be completely removed from gasoline by 1995. The EPA also reduced the amount of lead that could be emitted by smelters, mines and other industrial operations, leading to an 85 percent decrease in the amount of airborne lead pollution between 1990 and 2015.

The effort, of course, was imperfect. A December 2016 Reuters report following Flint, Michigan’s lead crisis found 1,100 areas around the country where lead levels were regularly four times what they were at the peak of Flint’s contamination. Many, like Flint, were in poor regions neglected by state and federal policymakers. Unlike other toxic chemicals, lead does not break down over time. But the agency’s efforts did have an enormous effect. A 2002 study found that the level of lead in young children’s blood fell by more than 80 percent from 1976 to 1999, and that IQs increased as a result.

4. Making the Air Safe to Breathe

The agency also cracked down on other forms of air pollution, leading to a decrease in particulate matter and chemicals in the air that cause asthma. Their efforts meant a visible decrease in the smog that often choked cities in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

To do this, the agency cracked down on vehicle emissions and the pollutants coming from the smokestacks of factories and power plants. As the number of miles Americans travel per year has steadily climbed and the amount of power Americans consume has grown, emissions have fallen.

That saved hundreds of thousands of lives per year, and meant millions fewer cases of asthma and respiratory diseases. According to a peer-reviewed EPA study, these regulations in particular meant 165,000 fewer deaths per year in 2010 than in 1990 and 1.7 million fewer cases of asthma. One recent study found that, thanks to these air pollution controls, children in Southern California have lungs that are 10 percent larger and stronger than children’s lungs were 20 years ago.

5. Cleaning Up Industrialism’s Legacy

Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, residents of Love Canal, New York noticed an odd smell coming from the 99th Street School. And they noticed that odd things were happening too: Childrens’ sneakers melted to the pavement; dogs burned their nose when they sniffed it. Turns out, the school was built on top of a toxic waste dump. The “canal” for which the town is named was filled with toxic waste by the Hooker Chemical Company for three decades — 22,000 tons in all — before, in 1955, the area was paved over and a school was built on top of it. The chemical company had sold the property to the city for $1 — part of the deal, the “Hooker clause,” was that the company would not be liable if anyone got sick or died in the school.

When residents of Love Canal uncovered this sordid history, it provoked national outrage. Efforts to regulate toxic chemicals had already been in the works — in 1976, Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act as part of an effort to respond to concerns about illegal, toxic dumping, and the Toxic Substances Control Act, which gave the EPA the authority to protect public health by regulating toxic chemicals. But in 1980, largely in response to Love Canal and other toxic disasters that garnered headlines, Congress established a program to make use of a “superfund” that would clean up America’s most toxic places, and throughout the ’80s the EPA put the money to work, cleaning up heavily polluted sites from landfills to oil spills, factory fires to sludge pits, throughout the US. A program for less-urgent but still important cases, the Brownfields Program, was launched in 1995, tasked with cleaning up sites where contamination was an impediment to putting a vacant property to better use.

These programs, taken together, amounted to a formalized, government-supported environmental justice initiative, improving toxic sites that were unjustly distributed across America’s poor and minority neighborhoods. But, in recent years, shrinking appropriations from congress have slowed cleanup efforts.

6. Making Water Safe to Drink

In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, giving the EPA the ability to regulate the water that came out of Americans’ taps. The agency ended up banning more than 90 contaminants from the water supply and cracking down on companies whose business practices poisoned Americans.

The EPA also issues “revolving funds” to communities to for improvements to the infrastructure that brings water to homes and to water supplies.

7. Controlling Pesticides

The EPA has also played a role in regulating pesticides, which helps keep our food safe. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, a law that dates back to the Progressive Era, was put under EPA’s responsibility in 1972.

One of the agency’s first acts was to ban DDT, a pesticide that first came into use in the 1940s but poisoned wildlife and humans as well as bugs. The chemical’s effects were, famously, documented in Rachel Carson’s 1962 New Yorker serial Silent Spring, but the chemical industry, lead by Monsanto, fought bitterly to keep it in use. The EPA’s decision to ban it was a major environmental victory.

8. Attacking Acid Rain

We heard a lot about acid rain in the ’90s but don’t so much anymore. Congress took up the issue in 1990 — George H.W. Bush had, in fact, campaigned on addressing it. Despite opposition from electric utilities, Congress passed an amendment to the Clean Air Act so that the EPA could regulate the chemicals that were to blame: sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

It worked. “Despite the doomsday warnings from some in the power industry that the regulations would cause electricity prices to spike and lead to blackouts, over the last 25 years, acid rain levels are down 60 percent — while electricity prices have stayed stable, and the lights have stayed on,” former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote in 2015.

9. Paving the Way for Indoor Smoking Bans

Back in 1993, the EPA, in response to overwhelming research, classified secondhand smoke as a pollutant likely to cause cancer. At the time, this position was braver than it might seem today. Tobacco companies had waged a multidecade-long campaign to keep Americans smoking by questioning the link between cigarettes and cancer, even going so far as to suppress their own internal research that indicated otherwise.

The following year, tobacco CEOs admitted in testimony before Congress that cigarettes were dangerous, though their lobbying efforts against regulation would continue for years (a PR effort spearheaded by, among others, Myron Ebell, who resurfaced on Trump’s EPA transition team). But the EPA’s decision prompted a wave of city- and statewide indoor smoking bans; the majority of states now have them in place. And in the decade and a half following the EPA classification, the number of Americans who smoke — and, in particular, the number of high school-aged Americans who smoke — decreased dramatically.

10. Building a Cache of Public Data

One of the EPA’s greatest resources is the vast supply of information it has collected over four decades, some of which is available to the public through the internet. This data provides excellent documentation of the threat posed by climate change, but it isn’t limited to that. Spread across dozens of databases, the numbers include such information as the chemical compositions of various toxic pollutants and the locations in the US that those pollutants affect. The databases document the trends in air and water pollution, acid rain and the health of beaches and watersheds. It tracks which companies have been inspected and cited for enforcement.

Scientists are worried about the fate of this data under Trump, and have been scrambling to preserve it. “There is no reason to think the data is safe,” Gretchen Goldman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, recently told The Guardian. “The administration, so far, hasn’t given any indication it will respect science and scientific data, especially when it’s inconvenient to its policy agendas.”

11. Beginning to Address Climate Change

The US government’s effort to address the greatest climate threat to face the modern world will — at least for the time being — be cut short. But during Barack Obama’s second term, the EPA began the work of figuring out what serious US efforts to address climate change would look like. In the face of an intransigent Congress, Obama ordered the agency to take the lead, and under Administrator Gina McCarthy it did, drawing up plans to, among other things, raise the number of miles per gallon gas vehicles were required to achieve and to cut pollution from US power plants.

Both of those initiatives will be tossed out by the Trump administration. While they were on the books, they were enough of an indication of America’s commitment to dealing with the climate crisis that other large polluting nations — notably China — came to the negotiating table in good faith. That lead to the Paris Agreement, a pact that the US looks likely to either pull out of or ignore, but that the world appears likely to continue to uphold without us.

James Baldwin

I have no idea if Aeon Video is a good source to use, but these few minutes of James Baldwin are vitally important to recall as words spoken a half-century ago. Even more instructive is the obsequious British joy in gaining Balwin’s participation in their instruction and then of the insight of Buckley who became an apologist for racism while defending American values as he has learned of them.

Nowhere else can one see more clearly how the knowledge and experience of hypocrisy carried by Baldwin contrast with a white male intellectual who sees his world as one designed specifically to conduct “a win” at the expense of all others. The community’s authentic voice is diverse, and it is this built-in strangeness that every agency or agent for change struggles to understand.

Do you know how a disaster (flood, fire) in a city will strengthen resolve while drought will have people at each other’s throat? I do. We are in that drought, and the political premise is correct — we do overvalue consensus because people want it to exist.  A bit of core knowledge in the people of the color world is that change tends to be for the worse, exceptions prove the rule, and there is a pedagogy of the oppressed. These core perceptions are poorly understood and that when “the white world of capital investment” comes knocking at the door and says we are here to x, y, and z you all. It becomes incredibly disappointing. The things to which you, we, or they can agree to “at least somewhat” do not built well on contradictory and unevaluated value systems. Not once in my long life has a developer entered the room saying we are racist. We represent a racist system. What is said is you have a role to play. If you move outside of that role (caste) and exact a price on the change we propose, we will label your efforts extortion. Not once have they ever said we accept full responsibility as system representatives. We commit ourselves to finance a way for you, for all of us to being that way starting now and forever.

Eye on the Mountain Top

snow covered mountains
Photo by Patrick Doyle on Pexels.com

Political Waters

Jeff Goodell at Long Now Foundation

Goodell is a journalist focused on energy systems and climate change. At the end of his talk, Jeff Goodell was asked what he would do with $200 billion. His answer was surprising. He said he would spend it all on finding ways to improve the quality of political change and its ability to adapt to solving big long-term problems. He said we have the intelligence and capacity to deal with the problem of a constantly rising sea. Still, first, it must be recognized as daily and inevitable by our leadership. He adds this is a problem that will last for several centuries, so we might as well get started.  His full discussion of “The Water Will Come” is available at the Long Now Foundation.  His five main points are below. Buy “The Water Will Come.”

1. Gravity

Sea rise is like the existence of gravity. It is all around us; it is happening now every day. Like gravity, the increase in seawater is subtle, and it is a fixed part of the world because you cannot make water go away. All you can do is watch it get redistributed. In every locality, the hydrology of the rise will be unique. The conservation of matter remains the physical driving principal – added moisture in the atmosphere; the higher intensity in storm surges is part of a global system with a deep billion-year-old history.  The need for action to deal with sea-level rise and adapting to it is not physical. It is the hyper-political “not on my watch” principal. They are incompatible. What we can do today is the value to instill in leadership.

2. Rate of Change

The geological record covering billions of years shows 25 to 60 feet of sea-level rise is part of the system, leaving the central question’s time and rate. Jeff refers to Richard Alley as the world’s top ice analyst (climate scientist) who finds the rise of 15 feet by 2100 “is not out of the question.” The geological record also suggests the sea rise occurs in pulses, but the historical average is 13 feet per century. Huge unknowns remain. How will trillions of tons of water change the sea due to the catastrophic collapse of Antarctica? How big and fast questions will last for a century and vary in probable impact in places worldwide. Definitive answers to these questions drive political policy toward resilience. For example, the effect of climate change in the form of “storm surge” on the value of the coastal property is top on the list. The political response, on the other hand, is little more than a finger in the dike.

3. Value

Long before any individual city or region comes up with mitigation resources, the “troubles” will have spoken and measured in dollars. A part of the American culture is that it tends to leave the important things unsaid. For example, the coastal states are losing property value. People are selling (caveat emptor) and moving to get ahead of their sea rise fears following one experience: a sunny day flooding or a crushing surge in the ocean’s new normal. Others take advantage of generous publicly funded encouragements to sustain tax revenues with “move to the shore,” campaigns deemed essential to borrow long term financing for local “fixes” (higher roads, bigger dunes, pumps, and so on) and. In political words, what we have here is a capital mess with a Catch 22 attached.

4. Resilience is Now

There is no way to know what plan will work best or who will call for spending and take the win/lose leadership responsibility to protect against the impact of sea rise. Goodell has traveled the world and has seen brilliance and stupidity. Some jurisdictions pump the water from one place to another. Others raise buildings, but protecting a city is a very different problem. The who is in and outside a mitigation area screams substantial social justice issues on why protections planned for one locality are not in another. Resilience policies are in response to ongoing “chaos costs” because it is too late to achieve sustainable development for five main reasons outlined by Dennis Meadows over a decade ago.

  1. Public discourse has difficulty with subtle, conditional messages.
  2. Growth advocates change the justification for their paradigm rather than changing the paradigm itself.
  3. The global system is now far above its carrying capacity.
  4. We act as if technological change can substitute for social change.
  5. The time horizon of our current system is too short.

5. Why “Catastrophic” Resolution?

The business models used to treat climate change as an economic opportunity is often disguised by waiting for catastrophe. Nevertheless, there are places far less driven by profit-making than the quality of life that may be getting it right and doing so in a timely way.  Lagos is a floating place to live, others in the Netherlands and similar geographies find ways for the sea to take what it will. The re-building design for a flooding world is easily envisioned across the economic spectrum of engineering. Geo-engineering work will attempt to physically alter the atmosphere by buying time or opening Pandora’s box but will not stop the sea-level rise. The question “what now” will help regions know what to do, the skills exist, and get them. To get creativity from skill, it will be necessary to make climate change risks transparent to get the markets and governments to function.

What?

North America’s coastlines are urban, dense, and represent 80% of the nation’s GDP. From the islands of New York City to Virginia’s shipyards to the North and South Carolina beaches’ soft links and from Savannah to Miami, the sea is rising. From hot and sunny New Orleans, Louisiana to San Diego, California, and way up north to the cold and wet of Seattle, Washington, the sea is rising. It took three centuries to build this coastline, and this investment continues.

To sustain these economic giants as viable will require a new force capable of combining political will, economic genius, design, and engineering brilliance and bringing it to the forefront of our thinking. They are all unique urban environments requiring solutions specific to each place’s geology and hydrology, but they are all equally threatened. There are no “need to know” problems, only the need to make an effort. The alternative to a successful push for democratic transparency on these problems will be an authoritarian process that will choose winners and losers the way despots have always chosen.