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AASHTO Extreme Weather Events Symposium

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AASHTO Extreme Weather Events SymposiumMay 21, 2013Joseph Casola speaks on trends and projections.

Joseph Casola will speak on trends and projections.

Global temps are still above average

Some skeptics have seized on a recent article in The Economist noting an apparent “hiatus” in global warming to argue that climate change is a fiction and efforts to address it are misguided. Those interpretations, which were voiced by some representatives at a recent House hearing on climate science, misrepresent both the article and the science it examines.

So what are the facts?

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Coping with coastal flood risk

Political leaders in the Northeast have very different ideas about how to treat coastal properties ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. Some aim to reduce development along exposed coasts while others say let’s rebuild. How they proceed could set important precedents for managing rising flood risk along the nation’s coasts. 

Motivated by concerns about more frequent and intense extreme weather, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to buy back damaged coastal properties from homeowners willing to sell and preserve the land as undeveloped public spaces. Cuomo’s plan would use funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which requires that purchased properties not be developed.  

Governor Cuomo proposes action to reduce coastal flood risk

Hurricane Sandy inflicted tremendous damage on New York’s coastal communities.  The threat of more intense, more frequent storms driven by climate change has led Gov. Andrew Cuomo to propose limiting development in vulnerable locations. Just as Sandy provided a preview of future climate risks, the governor’s proposal may offer an example of one effective response.

Recapping a year of weather extremes

President Obama’s forceful call for climate action in his inaugural address came after a year when climate change was barely whispered in the presidential campaign but its effects were loud and clear here in the United States and around the world.

How climate change amplified Sandy’s impacts

As Hurricane Sandy moves out of the region, people in affected areas are beginning to take stock of the damage. Flooding in parts of New Jersey and New York from the storm surge hit record levels. The 13.8-foot surge measured at Battery Park in Lower Manhattan surpassed the all-time record of 11.2 feet set in 1821, flooding the New York subway system and two major commuter tunnels.  Along the Eastern Seaboard, an estimated 7.5 million people lost power. Farther inland, blizzard conditions dropped as much as 2 feet of snow as Sandy crashed into arctic air over the Midwest. While early estimates indicate direct damages from the hurricane may be as much as $20 billion, the total economic losses, including losses in consumer and business spending, could be more than twice that amount.

A number of climate change-related factors may well have intensified the storm's impact: higher ocean temperatures, higher sea levels, and an atmospheric traffic jam that may be related to Arctic melting.  Hurricane Sandy is also a clear reminder of how vulnerable our homes and infrastructure already are to extreme weather — and this risk is growing.

Elliot Diringer's Statement on Hurricane Sandy

Statement from Elliot Diringer
Executive Vice President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Oct. 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy is a stark reminder of the rising risks of climate change. While climate change didn’t cause the hurricane, a number of warming-related factors may well be intensifying its impact.

Higher ocean temperatures, in this case 5 degrees above normal, contribute to heavier rainfall. Higher sea level means stronger storm surges. And new research suggests that Arctic melting may be increasing the risk of the kind of atmospheric traffic jam that is driving Sandy inland.

But whatever’s behind it, Sandy clearly highlights our vulnerabilities to extreme weather. We’ve loaded the dice and events we once thought of as rare are becoming more common.

At a minimum, this is another foretaste of what we face in a warming world. It tells us two things: We’d better do all we can to reduce the risks by reducing our carbon emissions, and we’d better strengthen our defenses against future impacts that it’s already too late to avoid.

To get in touch with a C2ES science expert, contact Laura Rehrmann at rehrmannl@c2es.org or 703-774-5480.

About C2ES

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address the twin challenges of energy and climate change. Launched in November 2011, C2ES is the successor to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
 

Climate silence will cost the United States

I recently replied to ta question on the National Journal blog, "How is the absence of discussion about global warming going to affect our ability to do something about it?"

You can read more on the original blog post and other responses at the National Journal.

Here is my response:

Increasing extreme weather is costly in many ways

A report released this week by two senior members of Congress notes that the unusual number of extreme weather events in 2012 has cost the country billions of dollars and that the unusual frequency of these events is consistent with what scientists have predicted from climate change.

The staff report, “Going to Extremes: Climate Change and the Increasing Risk of Weather Disasters” is from the offices of Reps. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA), the prime movers behind the last attempt at significant climate legislation. It cites information from a variety of sources, including NOAA, the news media and the private sector to show how rising weather risk costs real money.  

Their report comes a week after Congress headed home for the elections having accomplished very little to address climate change. Nearly half the bills introduced by the current Congress would block or hinder climate action, though none of these have been enacted into law.

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