Geoengineering makes climate change less polarizing! It’s still a bad idea.

sardar sarovar dam

About 20 minutes after I posted my piece yesterday arguing that we are nowhere near ready to begin researching geoengineering, the Washington Post‘s new Energy and Environment section ran its own piece on the topic. But this post, by Puneet Kollipara, took a vastly different tone. Rather than delving into the NRC report, it looked at a study in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, which explored various tactics to make debate around climate change less polarizing. The researchers broke participants into three groups and laid out the reality about climate change. One was told that the best approach was to curb carbon pollution, the second heard a pro-geoengineering message, and the third group acted as a control. From the post: Conventional wisdom might hold that telling people about geoengineering would make them less concerned about climate change’s risks by making them complacent about it; if geoengineering works, then maybe climate change isn’t … Continue reading

The NRC is wrong – we’re nowhere near ready to research geoengineering

mr burns solar shade

Last week, the National Research Council released a lengthy, two-volume report on geoengineering. The central crux of the report and the surrounding debate seems to be that, sure, geoengineering is a crazy idea, but, we need to at least research it, because we’ve gotten ourselves into this mess, and we need every tool available at our disposal. Even the IPCC has dipped a toe in the water, noting in its Fifth Assessment Report that we will most likely end up surpassing the 2ºC warming threshold if we exceed 450ppm of CO2. The only way to get back under that threshold is through the “widespread deployment of bioenergy with carbon dioxide capture and storage (BECCS) and afforestation in the second half of the century.” Given these realities, it seems logical to at least start researching geoengineering, right? It’s better to have that arrow in the quiver and never need it than need it and not … Continue reading

At this rate, Ohio will fully fund transit sometime in the 22nd century

e 79th rapid station

Governor John Kasich released his biennial budget proposal for 2016-2017 last week, and there’s some good news for transit users in Ohio: the budget actually proposes increasing state transit funding! In this budget, the Governor lays out plans to increase the amount of money that the Ohio Department of Transportation allocates from the state’s General Revenue Fund to $8.3 million from $7.3. This proposal represents the first year-over-year increase in state transit spending since 1998. Given that the state has reduced GRF spending on transit by an astonishing 83.5% since its peak in the year 2000, even this modest increase is kind of a big deal. While $1 million is a drop in the bucket in the big picture – it doesn’t even take the state back to 2011 funding levels – it may signal that Ohio is at least slowing the rate at which it has slashed transit spending. … Continue reading

Minnesota’s DOT is ready for climate change. ODOT? Not so much.

duluth flood damage

Climate change will have profound and diverse impacts upon infrastructure throughout the United States, including transportation infrastructure. Rising sea levels, stronger storm surges, more severe flooding, land subsidence, soil erosion, melting permafrost, and more frequent freeze-thaw cycles will all strain our already aging, deteriorating roads, bridges, and ports. The American Society of Civil Engineers has consistently given the country’s infrastructure a D or D+ on its annual report card since 1998, and the US slipped from fifth place in 2002 to 24th by 2011 in World Economic Forum’s transportation rankings. Throw in profound and unpredictable changes to the climate that facilitated the rise of human civilization, and you have a recipe for disaster. It is for this reason that the President Obama’s administration has attempted to drag the federal government into the 21st century on climate change planning, despite considerable institutional inertia, not to mention stalwart opposition from Congressional Republicans and special interests. … Continue reading

Watch: Find out why rivers change their courses in 3 minutes

cuyahoga river 1917 straighten

Rivers. They’re pretty amazing things. They provide humans with water for drinking, irrigation, and sanitation. They give us fish and other aquatic animals for food. They can be harnessed to power grind our grain, run our looms, and even power our cities. Their seasonal floods can bring rich silt to our fields or destruction and devastation to our lives. Sometimes, with just a little bit of help, they can even catch on fire. It’s no mistake that the first major human civilizations – Egypt, Mohenjo-Daro, Sumeria – developed along the banks of the world’s great rivers. But rivers are much more than servants of (wo)man. They are dynamic ecosystems rich with biodiversity that shape and are shaped by the world around them. Any entity that can literally carve the Grand Canyon is pretty damn powerful. And so rivers change. They top their banks, meander downstream, shift their paths. Sometimes, rivers … Continue reading

Don’t blame it on the rain: On the root causes of Northeast Ohio’s flooding problems

Floodwaters submerged vehicles in the parking lot at Great Northern mall in North Olmsted on May 12 (courtesy of Cleveland.com).

“Après moi, le déluge” – King Louis XV (1710-1774) Northeast Ohio has a flooding problem, as anyone affected by the severe storms last evening can attest. The region has experienced at least four major flooding events in the past few months, the most serious of which occurred five months ago on May 12, when torrential rains caused widespread flooding in several communities. As the hydrographs below demonstrate, this severe deluge caused several rivers and streams to overflow their banks throughout the western and southern portions of Greater Cleveland. Flash floods also occurred in several areas; one raging flash flood nearly washed away a vehicle containing legendary meteorologist Dick Goddard, who apparently did not heed that famous National Weather Service saying: “turn around, don’t drown.” Who is to blame? Since these floods occurred, people have been looking for answers or, in many cases, someone to blame. Those individuals whose property and piece of … Continue reading

How Afghanistan is quickly becoming a resource conflict

mineral resource map afghanistan

Why don’t people who don’t know I exist (and wouldn’t care if they did) follow advice that they had no way of knowing I’d even written? Back in the winter/spring of 2012, I took a course on post-war peacebuilding with Dr. Charles Call, an expert who has worked with both the United Nations and US governments and penned Why Peace Fails: The Causes and Prevention of Civil War Recurrence. In the course, Dr. Call broke the class into groups, each of which studied and analyzed a recent civil war and the subsequent international peacebuilding effort. Naturally, I ended up focusing on Afghanistan, because duh. For our final project, each group had to assess the risks of civil war recurrence for its respective country and identify the potential triggers that could foment such unrest. Being the only environmental policy student in a class full of peace and conflict resolution researchers, I was … Continue reading

Sorry, Roger Pielke, climate change is causing more disasters

typhoon haiyan damage

Back in March, controversial political scientist Roger Pielke, Jr. published his first post for FiveThirtyEight.com. The piece centered on the argument that climate change is not contributing to an increase in scale of disasters globally; rather, Pielke argued, “the numbers reflect more damage from catastrophes because the world is getting wealthier.” The piece immediately drew consternation and criticism from a number of individuals and even prompted Nate Silver to commission a formal response from MIT climate scientists Kerry Emanuel. In particular, Emanuel and fellow climate scientist Michael Mann criticized Pielke’s decision to normalize GDP data. As Emanuel wrote, To begin with, it’s not necessarily appropriate to normalize damages by gross domestic product (GDP) if the intent is to detect an underlying climate trend. GDP increase does not translate in any obvious way to damage increase; in fact, wealthier countries can better afford to build stronger structures and to protect assets (for … Continue reading

Catching up on my sustainability efforts for Gay Games 9

cleveland gay games skyline

Now that Gay Games 9 has ended and I’m not averaging 14-15 hour work days, I finally have some time to work on the site again. I am beginning to pull together some information on our sustainability initiatives for a sustainability report – more on that in the coming weeks – but, in the mean time, The Guardian posted a piece last week that discusses our sustainability plan in the context of environmentalism in the LGBT community. It doesn’t quote me or mention me by name, but that’s fine with me. Here’s a snippet: “You don’t have to be gay, you don’t have to be good, you just have to be 18,” is the unofficial slogan of the 2014 Gay Games. Perhaps what goes without saying is that it’s best to be eco-friendly as well. Personal commitment to environmentalism is more pronounced in the US LGBTQ community than in the heterosexual population, according … Continue reading

Ohio’s Clean Energy Bond Proposal Is A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

ohio statehouse

So this is a bit delayed, but I wrote this post for Plunderbund at the end of July: On Monday, July 7, Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that he had certified the petition language for the so-called Ohio Clean Energy Initiative. This initiative, which would be an amendment to the state Constitution – provided it gets the necessary 385,253 certified signatures – would require the state of Ohio to issue $1.3 billion in bonds per year over the course of 10 years to finance clean energy investments. This marks the fourth separate time that the group behind the idea, Yes for Ohio’s Energy Future, has attempted to put it before voters. Now, on the surface, this proposal seems like a good idea, particularly in light of the recent Republican-led efforts to smother the growth of Ohio’s clean energy industry. Due to the combined effects of SB 310 and HB 483, which Governor Kasich … Continue reading