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Archive for the 'Environmental Studies' Category

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Fact or Fiction: how much do you know about the future of the US economy?

Building the New American Economy

This week, our featured book is Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable, by Jeffrey D. Sachs, with a foreword by Bernie Sanders. For the final day of the week’s feature, we are happy to present a quiz, based on Building the New American Economy, that tests your knowledge of the present and future of the American economy.

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Press roundup – Jeffrey Sachs

Building the New American Economy

“The key to resolving America’s ills depends on greater fairness, decency, and honesty lie within our own borders, notably on how we share the benefits of advanced technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence, and the booming profits they are producing. The real counterpart of falling American working-class incomes is not the rise of Mexican incomes but the soaring profits and incomes now going to the 1 percent. The key solutions for American workers are right at home, not in overseas military adventures, new arms races or self-defeating trade wars.” — Jeffrey Sachs

This week, our featured book is Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable, by Jeffrey D. Sachs, with a foreword by Bernie Sanders. For today’s post, we feature a roundup of some of Sachs’ recent writing for major national newspapers.

This past month, Professor Sachs has contributed multiple op-eds to The Boston Globe just a few of which we will describe here. On February 5th, he wrote on “Donald Trump’s dangerous China illusions,” exploring China’s recent history as an emerging global superpower and warning that the United States can no longer assume that it maintains primacy in world affairs as President Trump has argued. On January 29th, Prof. Sachs argued in “The balance sheet on ‘America First’” that only one of President Trump’s economic assertions has a grain of sense in it: that there should be a cutback in federal military spending. Otherwise, Sachs asserts, Trump’s directions in trade and investment policies are misguided. Third, in January 22nd’s “The shifting global landscape,” Prof. Sachs looks back at the publication in 1776 of Adam Smith’s foundational economic text The Wealth of Nations and finds parallels to today’s global climate that indicate a changing of the guard in how we think about and experience economic issues.

Sachs has also written frequently for Project Syndicate, where this month he published pieces on “Why Millenials Will Reject Trump” – the keys are their diversity, the particular nature of the economic challenges they face, and their awareness of the effects of climate change – and on “Learning to Love a Multipolar World,” exploring the roots of the vastly changed position the United States finds itself in in international politics.

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Bernie Sanders on creating an economy that works for all

Building the New American Economy

“What I heard and what I continue to hear is that Americans have had enough of establishment politicians and establishment economists who have claimed for far too long that we must choose between economic growth, economic fairness, and environmental sustainability. They have sold us a bill of goods that says we can’t have all three. Well, they are wrong. To my mind, widely shared prosperity, economic fairness, and environmental sustainability must go hand in hand.” — Bernie Sanders

This week, our featured book is Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable, by Jeffrey D. Sachs, with a foreword by Bernie Sanders. Today, we are thrilled to present an excerpt from Bernie Sanders’s foreword.

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Why We Need to Build a New American Economy

Building the New American Economy

“My core contention is that with the right choices, America’s economic future is bright. Indeed, we are the lucky beneficiaries of a revolution in technologies that can raise prosperity, slash poverty, increase leisure time, extend healthy lives, and protect the environment.” — Jeffrey Sachs

This week, our featured book is Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable, by Jeffrey D. Sachs, with a foreword by Bernie Sanders. To start the week’s feature off, we are happy to present an excerpt from the first chapter, in which Sachs explains his purpose in writing the book, and starts to delve into what it would take to build a new American economy for all.

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Building the New American Economy, by Jeffrey D. Sachs

Building the New American Economy

“Jeffrey Sachs remains one of the most thought-provoking economists in the world today because he dares to challenge presidents of both parties and the orthodoxies that bind them to disastrous policies. His critiques are fierce and his solutions fearless in the face of political and academic groupthink. That makes Professor Sachs a rarity in public life and this book an absolute necessity.” — Joe Scarborough

This week, our featured book is Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable, by Jeffrey D. Sachs, with a foreword by Bernie Sanders. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Conserving the Environment is Crucial but Simple

Endangered Economies

“External costs pose the biggest threat to the environment by preventing nature and the economy from working together. External costs occur when a third party must pick up the tab for the negative consequences of a transaction. A transaction that occurs every day is a good example: let’s say I buy gasoline, burn it in my car, and harm people who inhale the exhaust fumes or whose climate is altered by greenhouse gases generated. The people who are injured did not purchase and burn the gas—I did. Yet I do not pay for the harm done.” — Geoffrey Heal

This week, our featured book is Endangered Economies: How the Neglect of Nature Threatens Our Prosperity, by Geoffrey Heal. Today, we are happy to present a guest post from Heal, in which he argues that environmental conservation is crucial to our prosperity, and indeed to the future of our civilization, and is easier than most people think. He also provides four relatively simple reforms that will transform how our economies interact with the environment and make a pristine environment compatible with growth and prosperity.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Endangered Economies!

Conserving the Environment is Crucial but Simple
By Geoffrey Heal

Our dependence on nature runs deep. There is no denying that a pristine environment improves our health, lengthens our lives and makes us more productive. Yet in our lifetimes, catastrophic environmental change will occur because of four basic, correctable errors in the design of our economic systems. We can fix the most egregious flaws in the system to correct our neglect of nature and allow the economy and the environment to coexist and nurture one other.

External costs pose the biggest threat to the environment by preventing nature and the economy from working together. External costs occur when a third party must pick up the tab for the negative consequences of a transaction. A transaction that occurs every day is a good example: let’s say I buy gasoline, burn it in my car, and harm people who inhale the exhaust fumes or whose climate is altered by greenhouse gases generated. The people who are injured did not purchase and burn the gas—I did. Yet I do not pay for the harm done. There are many ways of solving problems like this – problems that involve a social cost. We can levy a charge to reflect the costs to third parties, we can give damaged parties the right to sue, we can regulate activities that affect third parties, and more. What we can’t afford is to continue to ignore this harmful error in our economic policies. (more…)

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Environment and Economy—No Conflict

Endangered Economies

“External costs pose the biggest threat to the environment by preventing nature and the economy from working together. External costs occur when a third party must pick up the tab for the negative consequences of a transaction. A transaction that occurs every day is a good example: let’s say I buy gasoline, burn it in my car, and harm people who inhale the exhaust fumes or whose climate is altered by greenhouse gases generated. The people who are injured did not purchase and burn the gas—I did. Yet I do not pay for the harm done.” — Geoffrey Heal

This week, our featured book is Endangered Economies: How the Neglect of Nature Threatens Our Prosperity, by Geoffrey Heal. To start off the week’s feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s first chapter, in which Heal explains why there’s no real conflict in trying to save the environment and improve the economy.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Endangered Economies!

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Endangered Economies: How the Neglect of Nature Threatens Our Prosperity, by Geoffrey Heal

Endangered Economies

“In this passionate and readable book, Heal sets out the measures needed to reconcile economic progress with preservation of the planet. They are surprisingly simple and attainable. Heal demonstrates that there is not a trade-off between growth and environmental protection, but that they can and must go hand-and-hand, that growth is not attainable over the long run without protecting the environment.” — Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics

This week, our featured book is Endangered Economies: How the Neglect of Nature Threatens Our Prosperity, by Geoffrey Heal. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Video: Michael Mann Discusses “The Madhouse Effect”

In the following video, Michael Mann discusses The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy, which includes illustrations from Tom Toles, the editorial cartoonist for The Washington Post. Mann explains how Toles’s cartoons uses humor, irony, and satire to expose the hypocrisies of climate change deniers. While Mann criticizes the pseudoscience of those who deny climate change as well as the way they have politicized the issue, he also argues that with new agreements and awareness, we are beginning to turn a corner.

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

Michael Mann and Tom Toles Name 9 Prominent Climate Change Deniers

The Madhouse Effect

“Yet we have a Republican presidential nominee who has repeatedly called climate change a ‘hoax.’ ‘Perhaps there’s a minor effect,’ Donald Trump told The Washington Post’s editorial board, ‘but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.’ So it goes in the madhouse of the climate debate. Even as the evidence has become unmistakable, and even though the alarm has been sounded several times, public policy has been paralyzed—sometimes from ignorance, sometimes from uncertainty, but often from a campaign of deliberate misinformation.”—Michael Mann and Tom Toles

Michael Mann and Tom Toles’s The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy examines and seeks to refute those who manipulate scientific data and the media to deny the truth about climate change.

In a recent piece for The Washington Post, Mann and Toles name 9 prominent deniers “clouding the climate change debate.” In addition to naming the figures, Toles and Mann also provide a quote from each that encapsulates their view on climate change:

1. Donald Trump, politician and businessman: “Perhaps there’s a minor effect but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.”

2. S. Fred Singer, founder of think tank, the Science and Environmental Policy Project: “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. On the contrary, it makes crops and forests grow faster.”

3. Steve Milloy, lawyer and commentator for Fox News: “We don’t agree . . . that man-made emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases are having either detectable or predictable effects on climate.”

4. Marc Morano, former communications director for James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.): “[Climate scientists] deserve to be publicly flogged.”

5. Joe Barton, Republican congressman from Texas and a former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee: “The science is not settled, and the science is actually going the other way. . . . We may in fact be going into a cooling period.”

6. Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska: ““Climate science is to this century what eugenics was to the last century.”

7. Rupert Murdoch, founder and head of News Corporation: ““Climate change has been going on as long as the planet is here. There will always be a little bit of it. We can’t stop it.”

8. David and Charles Koch, head of Koch Industries, ““Climate does fluctuate. It goes from hot to cold. We have ice ages.” — David Koch

9. Bjorn Lomborg, author and adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School: “On average, global warming is not going to harm the developing world.”

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Book Giveaway! “The Madhouse Effect,” by Michael Mann and Tom Toles

This week we are very excited to be featuring The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy, by Michael E. Mann and Tom Toles.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Madhouse Effect to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, October 21 at 1:00 pm.

The book has already won praise from everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Naomi Oreskes. Bill McKibben writes:

Michael Mann is one of the planet’s great climate scientists, and Tom Toles may be the great climate communicator–together they are a Category 5 storm of information and indignation, wreaking humorous havoc on those who would deny the greatest challenge humans have ever faced.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Fighting Deforestation and Climate Change

Capital and the Common Good

“REDD was originally premised on the idea that forest conservation could attract significant financial resources by allowing verified reductions in emissions to generate credits that could be used for compliance in cap-and-trade programs in other countries. With the delayed development of these compliance markets in places like the United States, the REDD framework has evolved as a kind of innovative finance development assistance, relying primarily on public sources of funds.” — Georgia Levenson Keohane

This week, our featured book is Capital and the Common Good: How Innovative Finance Is Tackling the World’s Most Urgent Problems, by Georgia Levenson Keohane. Today, we are happy to present part of an excerpt from Capital and the Common Good, originally posted at impactalpha, in which Keohane looks at the way that REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is attempting to combat deforestation in Brazil through innovative finance.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Capital and the Common Good.

Fighting Deforestation and Climate Change: REDD Financing Lessons from Brazil and Indonesia
By Georgia Levenson Keohane

REDD — Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation — is a pay-for-success program designed to create economic incentives to protect forests and the carbon they contain. First introduced into the UN climate talks in 2005, by scientists and environmental advocates from Brazil and the U.S. using the term “Compensated Reductions,” REDD has evolved to include a range of innovative financing approaches to reduce emissions related to deforestation.

The motivation behind REDD is as much long-term sustainable development as it is forests per se. Among the primary drivers of growth in countries like Brazil have been the development of commodities like palm oil, soy, and beef, often through deforestation—clearing trees to raise crops and cattle. REDD’s pay-for-success design is meant to motivate less carbon-intensive production. That means improving economic output while decreasing emissions. (more…)

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

The Sierra Club as Book Publisher — An Excerpt from The Man Who Built the Sierra Club

The Man Who Built the Sierra Club: A Life of David Brower, Robert Wyss

“Brower was now the darling of publishing, the upstart who had proven that the commercial publishers were wrong. He had created a new genre, an expensive, sprawling book that openly touted an environmental message.”—Robert Wyss, The Man Who Built the Sierra Club

In the late 1950s David Brower wanted to produce a book of Ansel Adams photographs celebrating nature. It would be a big, slick, oversized book of very high quality. But commercial book publishers scoffed at the proposed book, saying it was too expensive and it would never sell. Brower convinced the Sierra Club to assume the risks and thus was born the first in a series of what were called Exhibit Format books. Brower edited or oversaw virtually all of the books, which were wildly successful and changed both the club, and publishing.

Today we excerpt from The Man Who Built the Sierra Club: A life of David Brower, the story behind one of the early books published by Eliot Porter.

In 1950 Eliot Porter’s wife suggested that Porter do a book on Henry David Thoreau. “Your pictures remind me so much of him,” she told Porter. “They show his Walden as it is.” No one was more qualified than Porter, who ten years earlier had given up a career in medicine and research at Harvard to take photographs of nature.

What catapulted Porter’s reputation, bringing Brower and the Sierra Club books along for the ride, was the color Porter could achieve. His chemistry background enabled him in his own darkroom to experiment with Eastman Kodak Company’s new Kodachrome film at a time when other photographers shunned it. Porter spent years experimenting, but the result was clear, crisp color transparencies that dazzled. They pushed Porter to the forefront of photography as the popularity of color surged and that of black and white waned.

It took Porter ten years to finish the Thoreau book, and the expense of printing it scared publishers until it got to Brower. The beauty of the proposed book overwhelmed Brower, and he told Porter in a letter in February 1961 that he would be willing to begin a life of crime to pay for its publication. He knew he would need lots of cash to undertake the book and he finally convinced a local businessman, Kenneth Bechtel to provide $50,000 in loans and grants to subsidize the book. Bechtel was an interesting choice. His family owned an engineering and construction company based in San Francisco that was best known for building oil refineries, power plants, and facilities. In later years Brower would rail against such projects.

The next challenge was to find a printer capable of reproducing Porter’s superb color photographs. It took months before Barnes Press of New York passed muster on the samples it showed to Brower and Porter. Barnes needed to produce ten thousand copies of Porter’s seventy-two color prints and to get the four colors to balance and register on the presses. The firm used a sixteen-plate form, with four rows of four, each of a different photographic image. The yellows, reds, blues, and blacks had to be matched perfectly in trial runs, with paper spewing off the presses. These experimental runs took an inordinate amount of time and often forced another trial. Brower recalled one evening when he stayed to supervise, while Porter and the owner of the press, Hugh Barnes, went to dinner around seven. Barnes returned at nine. Brower stayed until eleven and returned to his hotel. Porter, who had slept after dinner, returned at one and stayed until dawn. This kind of pattern was not unusual at Barnes, and Brower’s journal for years in the 1960s was filled with entries of his returning to the printing company at odd hours of the day or night.

Finally, on a day in August 1962, Brower, Porter, Barnes, and others gathered around press number 3 and watched the first 2,500 sheets roar off the presses. The men examined them at a table, using lenses carefully.

They were excellent, recalled Brower, but they were not perfect.

Hugh Barnes agreed. “How about it, Dave, shall we throw out the first 2,500 sheets, and will you go fifty-fifty with me on the cost of the paper?”

How much would that cost? Barnes said $200 for each of them. For Brower, that was equal to the amount of dues the club got in a year from twenty-five members, but he agreed.

Barnes returned a few minutes later. “You did the right thing,” he said. “Now they (the Barnes workers) really know that this is a fussy job.”

Even though this book would be sold at an incredibly expensive $25 (the equivalent of nearly $200 fifty years later), the first five thousand books of In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World quickly sold out, as did the next nine reprints. Critics praised the book. “Only a bold photographer could try to capture Thoreau’s vision again and again. But Mr. Porter succeeds triumphantly,” declared the Christian Science Monitor.

In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World, Eliot Porter

(more…)

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Who Was David Brower — A Post by Robert Wyss

The Man Who Built the Sierra Club: A Life of David Brower, Robert Wyss

“What mattered [to David Brower] was the long term, not for what his contemporaries thought of him. ‘Environmentalists make terrible neighbors,’ he often said, ‘but great ancestors.’ And Brower was both.”—Robert Wyss, author of The Man Who Built the Sierra Club

The following post is by Robert Wyss, author of The Man Who Built the Sierra Club: A Life of David Brower:

John McPhee writing in the New Yorker in 1971 called him the Archdruid, a moniker he expanded upon when he wrote Encounters With An Archdruid.

Two documentary films were produced about Brower during his lifetime and the titles say a great deal about the duality of the man they were profiling. One was For Earth’s Sake and Brower liked it so much he borrowed it for one of the several memoir-type books he produced. The other was even more grandiose — Monumental.

Those productions along with a vast trove of newspaper and magazine stories including obituaries after Brower’s death in November, 2000 were what I had to go on when I began working on my biography, The Man Who Built the Sierra Club: A Life of David Brower.

It turned out that Brower was a far more complicated character than I ever imagined. In some respect, a researcher’s delight because of all of the trails he took me down. But in others, a writer’s challenge.

Here’s what I wrote in the book’s introduction:

Over the years, David Brower has been called many things—tireless, unyielding, passionate, visionary, bold, influential, uncompromising, handsome, charismatic, opinionated, and articulate. He became a circuit-riding prophet, the environmental movement’s conscience who defined conservation and environmentalism from the mid-1950s until his death in 2000. He was an angry trailblazer responsible more than any other for turning environmentalism from hiking and bird-watching into a social and political force.

Those same admirers also called Brower stubborn, contentious, controversial, irascible, impossible, polarizing, impolitic, impolite, and a notorious curmudgeon. He on occasion would willingly stretch facts into falsehoods, was so unwilling to tamp down his views that he destroyed lifelong friendships, and refused to take orders even from those in institutional positions above him. He was frustratingly independent.

And yet he did all of this for one selfless reason—to sustain the earth’s natural environment. He wanted to save as much of the planet as possible from humans. He wanted to preserve what remained of the natural world and safely pass it to future generations.

Two related stories illustrate the opposing sides of Brower, the idealist conservationist who awakened a new movement and the messianic hubris that prompted him to engage in willful insubordination.

In 1966 Brower was engaged in his greatest conservation battle of his days as executive director of the Sierra Club, and he was losing. The federal government wanted to build two dams in the Grand Canyon, and as outlandish as this plan was, few seemed alarmed.

Brower placed full-page advertisements in some of the nation’s largest newspapers. The most famous declared: “Should We Also Flood the Sistine Chapel So Tourists Can Get Nearer the Ceiling?”

The next day the U.S. Internal Revenue Service told the Sierra Club it was under investigation because the club was violating its’ tax exempt status by engaging in political activity. This was a blow—the Sierra Club depended on such donations for its financial survival.

Brower announced that the federal government was trying to censor the Sierra Club and the story literally exploded in the news. Why was the club losing its tax status? Because we’re trying to save the Grand Canyon, Brower said. Newspapers were irate, so was the public.

It was the tipping point. Dam builders were quickly on the defensive and they never recovered. Within months the dam project was dead.

(more…)

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

An Interview with Robert Wyss, author of “The Man Who Built the Sierra Club”

The Man Who Built the Sierra Club, Robert Wyss

“[David] Brower was a true bellwether, a man ahead of his time.”—Robert Wyss

The following is an interview with Robert Wyss, author of The Man Who Built the Sierra Club: A Life of David Brower:

Question: What was the status of the environmental movement when David Brower began as the head of the Sierra Club in 1953?

Robert Wyss: Weak. It was called the conservation movement and there was a plethora of volunteer organizations from (women’s) garden clubs to professional science organizations to a very few broad based groups like Audubon. But only a handful employed even a single full-time employee. Brower was the first at the Sierra Club. Washington D.C. was also far smaller in those days so it was possible for either prominent volunteers of these organizations (or their paid directors) to meet and have personal relationships with people who headed the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service. But they had very little clout in Congress. In contrast, a little known agency such as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for decades made massive changes in America’s landscape by erecting these massive dams. Dams created jobs and both voters and Congress appreciated those federal dam builders.

Q: How did Brower’s approach to environmental conservation differ from others?

RW: Brower was absolutely fearless. While his colleagues refused to directly challenge the Bureau of Reclamation, Brower took them on and soon he was also criticizing the Forest Service and even those who should have been his friends running the national parks. The incident that first began to build Brower’s national reputation occurred during the fight to oppose the construction of two dams in Dinosaur National Monument. Reclamation officials had made a very basic math mistake in their calculations to justify the dams but it dealt with an arcane issue few understood. Engineers told Brower that while the mistake was obvious, it would be foolhardy to confront Reclamation. No one would believe the dam builders made such a mistake. Brower ignored the advice, he publicly confronted the Bureau in a Congressional hearing, and ultimately Reclamation engineers backed down. Such reckless, plucky daring can be found throughout Brower’s career.

Q: How did he change the Sierra Club from the mission set by John Muir?

RW: John Muir founded the club in 1892 to encourage his friends in the greater San Francisco area to hike and camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Muir was a pretty radical conservationist for his era, but after he died in 1914 the club became politically conservative. It was a California-based hiking and social club that preferred to work through gentlemanly channels to protect natural resources. That was changing after World War II when a new, younger board of directors hired Brower. Brower expanded the club’s focus nationally and it became increasingly confrontational. Older members were immediately uncomfortable with this approach and as Brower (over the years) became more radical he began to lose the support that would contribute to his firing in 1969. But in many respects Brower was only following in the footsteps of Muir. They both strongly believed in protecting natural resources over anything else.

(more…)

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Book Giveaway! The Man Who Built the Sierra Club

This week we are featuring The Man Who Built the Sierra Club: A Life of David Brower, by Robert Wyss.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Man Who Built the Sierra Club to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, July 8th at 1:00 pm.

In their review of the book Library Journal wrote, “A riveting…. extensively researched, balanced account…. This absorbing portrait of a flawed yet fascinating figure, beloved and scorned, who defined America’s national parks will engage all biography lovers.”

You can also read the Introduction:

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Developers Don’t Get It: Climate Change Means We Need to Retreat from the Coast

Retreat from a Rising Sea

“It is time for a profound new outlook—where we construct smaller, less expensive and perhaps mobile structures and do not replace buildings destroyed and damaged in storms. It is time we prepare to retreat from the rising sea.”—Orrin H Pilkey, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, and Keith C Pilkey

Earlier this year in an incisive and impassioned op-ed published in The Guardian, Orrin H Pilkey, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis and Keith C Pilkey, authors of Retreat from a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change, pointed out the continued folly of developing in coastal areas. 13.1 million people along the U.S. east coast will be at risk of flooding at the end of the century. While such statistics suggest the need to retreat from coastal areas, development continues.

Particularly vulnerable is the Florida coast where multibillion-dollar construction projects are underway. The Pilkeys cite several cities heading down the wrong path, including Miami:

In Miami, a city perilously perched atop a very porous limestone, two multibillion-dollar construction projects are under way, despite the fact that parts of the city routinely flood during high tides and that widespread flooding by the rising sea in a few decades is a virtual certainty. No sea walls, levees or dikes can stop the rising waters from flowing through the underlying spongy limestone and into the city. Miami is ultimately doomed.

Ft. Myers is also adding new hotels and restaurants to its coast using seawalls in the hopes of protecting them from flooding. The authors provide some succinct and much-needed advice on why that’s a bad idea:

If you need to build a seawall to protect your construction project, you should not be building at that site. Remember – seawalls destroy beaches.

(more…)

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Is New York City Prepared for Climate Change? — An Excerpt from Retreat from a Rising Sea

Retreat from a Rising Sea

“New York’s poststorm actions show at this point, the city is best situated to respond to the challenges it faces from climate change and sea-level rise (while also revealing that we are in only the earliest stages of the response).” — From Retreat from a Rising Sea

In the following excerpt from Retreat from a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change, Orrin H. Pilkey, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, and Keith C. Pilkey examine the state to which New York City is ready to handle climate change. As they write (see above), New York City is perhaps the best-prepared of all U.S. cities for future threats to coastal areas. While the authors praise former Mayor Bloomberg for the City’s preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy, there is still much work to be done in terms of planning and the recognition that the New York City might need to “retreat” from the coast.

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Orrin Pilkey on the Costs of Ignoring the Rising Sea

Retreat from a Rising Sea

“We can prepare now and respond to the sea-level rise in a planned fashion, or we can act later in response to natural catastrophes (storms). Responding to the rising sea now will be painful, but ignoring the rising sea will produce catastrophic pain.” — Orrin Pilkey

Now that summer is officially here, many of us will undoubtedly be heading to the beach. However, as Orrin Pilkey points out in a recent op-ed in the Fayetteville Observer, many of our coastal areas are in serious danger. Ignoring these problems and continuing to develop these areas, Pilkey warns, will have serious and long-lasting consequences.

Pilkey is most recently the coauthor with Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, and Keith C. Pilkey of Retreat from a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change, which examines a variety of coastal areas in danger. In his article for the Fayetteville Observer, “Why N.C. can’t ignore the rising sea,” he focuses on North Carolina’s failure to take any action at all:

In spite of these alarming suggestions, North Carolina has taken virtually no action or done any planning for response to the future sea-level rise. It’s fair to say, viewing the action of the Coastal Resources Commission and other environmental agencies, that the state’s coastal management program has crashed.

The science panel of the CRC was ordered to produce a report on the sea-level rise expected only for the next 30 years. Frank Gorham, CRC chairman, has written that the science panel itself chose that 30-year number, but that is incorrect. The 30-year time limit was a political decision forced upon the science panel to avoid comment on the post 30-year time frame when sea-level rise is expected to accelerate.

The short 30-year time span is out of sync with all other government entities concerned with sea-level rise in the U.S. and globally. By comparison, the UN’s climate change panel (IPCC) looks out 100 years, Holland plans out 200 years and has designed its storm gates for a 10,000-year storm (a bit of a stretch), and Germany looks out 500 years.

In the United States, North Carolina stands alone in doing basically nothing of consequence in sea-level rise planning and even discourages state employees from mentioning global climate change. New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia are planning, as well as taking baby steps, in an effort to start responding to sea-level rise. These states recognize the huge implications of the rising sea on developed shorelines.

Instead, the response of North Carolina has been to hold the shoreline in place at great cost and even encourage further development. The recent projected sea-level rise virtually dooms much of North Carolina’s beachfront development by this century’s end, especially the Outer Banks.

In even more danger from the rising sea is the northeastern corner of the state behind the Outer Banks. Here, the slope of the land is so gentle that a one-foot sea-level rise could push the water inland four miles or more.

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Monday, June 20th, 2016

Book Giveaway! “Retreat from a Rising Sea”

This week we are featuring Retreat from a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change, by Orrin H. Pilkey, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, and Keith C. Pilkey.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Retreat from a Rising Sea to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, June 24 at 1:00 pm.

In their review of the book Publishers Weekly wrote, “This accessible, impassioned argument considers the scientific, political, and socioeconomic dimensions of climate change and fervently presses for Americans to come to terms with the disastrous changes to the world’s oceans sooner rather than later.”

You can also read the chapter,”Control + Alt + Retreat”: