NY Times: As Climate Change Accelerates, Floating Cities Look Like Less of a Pipe Dream

Photo from the Seasteading Institute: A rendering of the artificial floating island project in French Polynesia. The project has raised about $2.5 million from more than 1,000 interested donors.

The New York Times: You might call it a Noah’s Ark for an era of melting polar ice sheets — An audacious plan to respond to climate change by building a city of floating islands in the South Pacific is moving forward, with the government of French Polynesia agreeing to consider hosting the islands in a tropical lagoon.

The project is being put forward by a California nonprofit, the Seasteading Institute, which has raised about $2.5 million from more than 1,000 interested donors. Randolph Hencken, the group’s executive director, said work on the project could start in French Polynesia as early as next year, pending the results of some environmental and economic feasibility studies.

“We have a vision that we’re going to create an industry that provides floating islands to people who are threatened by rising sea levels,” Mr. Hencken said.

The group’s original founders included Peter Thiel, a billionaire investor and prominent supporter of President Trump, although Mr. Thiel is no longer donating to the institute, Mr. Hencken said.

Mr. Hencken said that the project’s pilot islands would cost a total of $10 million to $50 million and house a few dozen people and that the initial residents would most likely be middle-income buyers from the developed world. He added that the institute was seeking to build the islands in what would be a nautical version of a special economic zone and that it would showcase innovations in solar power, sustainable aquaculture and ocean-based wind farms.

NOAA: 2016 marks three consecutive years of heat for the planet

Fort McMurray Wildfire – Chris Schwarz, Alberta

The following report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) details findings that the past three years have seen record highs in global average temperatures, with 2016 as the warmest year on record. Read the full report on NOAA’s website >>

With a boost from El Nino, 2016 began with a bang. For eight consecutive months, January to August, the globe experienced record warm heat.  With this as a catalyst, the 2016 globally averaged surface temperature ended as the highest since record keeping began in 1880, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces in 2016 was 58.69 degrees F or 1.69 degrees F above the 20th century average. This surpassed last year’s record by 0.07 degrees F. Since the start of the 21st century, the annual global temperature record has been broken five times (2005, 2010, 2014, 2015, and 2016).

Despite the cooling influence of a weak La Nina in the latter part of the year, the year ended with the third warmest December on record for the globe, with an average temperature 1.42 degrees F above the 20th century average.  In a separate analysis of global temperature data released at the same time, scientists from NASA also found 2016 to be the warmest year on record.

More noteworthy findings from 2016:

  • The globally averaged sea surface temperature was the highest on record, 1.35 degree F above average.

  • The globally averaged land surface temperature was the highest on record, 2.57 degrees F above average.

  • North America had its warmest year on record; South America and Africa had their second; Asia and Europe had their third; and Australia had its fifth.

  • The average Arctic sea ice extent for the year was 3.92 million square miles, the smallest annual average since record-keeping began in 1979.

  • The average Antarctic sea ice extent for the year was 4.31 million square miles, the second smallest annual average since record-keeping began in 1979.

Interdisciplinary Sea Level Solutions Research and Design Studio scheduled for Spring 2017

No other place in the nation has higher risk to assets than Miami, Florida, and Florida ranks very high among states that are least prepared for climate change impacts. The gravest climate change impact and threat to Miami is from sea level rise. Rising sea levels are creating challenges for both natural and human communities, and will impact the lowest elevation communities first. Understanding the causes, effects, and responses to sea level rise requires an interdisciplinary approach to short- and long-term strategies for mitigating the causes and effects of sea level rise. A holistic, system-oriented approach is posed that provides design and analysis toward decision-support for how we can adapt and even mitigate sea level rise now and into the future.

The Sea Level Solutions Center, in partnership with FIU by Design and faculty from Colleges of Architecture and the Arts, Engineering and Computer Sciences, Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, and College of Arts, Sciences, and Education, is convening its second year of the Interdisciplinary Sea Level Solutions Research and Design Studio. This studio will provide the basis for an interdisciplinary framework for developing and conducting design and analyses for the natural-built environment under scenarios of future sea level rise and storm surge.

Faculty from multiple FIU colleges are among instructors who will provide lectures, training and analytical tools. Lectures from other leading scholars will be provided by webcast. The studio is scheduled to include a scoping charrette that engages stakeholders from the outset to guide the vision of the studio products. The course will culminate in delivery of several products that enable decision-support for an “optimized solution”, with information, data and analyses for each solution. The course is open to Honors College undergraduate students with instructor consent and graduate students from any discipline. Please contact Dr. Tiffany Troxler (troxlert@fiu.edu) with any questions about the course.

The dark side to solar power

Photo courtesy of PCGS
Photo courtesy of PCGS newsletter

Have you ever thought about the expiration date of solar panels? The Kiran C. Patel College of Global Sustainability (PCGS) at the University of South Florida recently posted a bit of information on the lifetime of solar power panels, and the need to include them in recycling plans:

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are made with heavy metals and other toxic materials. They cannot simply be thrown away, because they are so harmful to the environment and to people. That is precisely why PCGS Alumna Karla Kemp is talking about the End of Life Cycle Management of Solar Panels at the Renewable Energy World International conference on December 14th, in Orlando, FL. Photovoltaic cells (otherwise known as solar cells) are cells that convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV solar panels became widely available between the 1970’s and the 1990’s and with an average lifespan of 25-30 years. Now, we are seeing the first big group of them reaching the end of life.

“With high level of toxicity involved, standard end of life waste management practices are not feasible, leaving a serious problem for waste management and public health concerns,” Karla said. “Recycling options are dependent on factors such as regulatory framework, panel design, recycling process, material recovery and price, thus creating the necessity for uniform regulatory practices.”

End of life management for these PV solar panels is essential to further the renewable energy movement. “Research and development in new technological advances will enable significant improvements in technological efficiency, availability, and successfully be able to eliminate the reliance on fossil fuels,” Karla said. “[All] while eliminating potential environmental impacts, enhancing the market share of renewable power.” See here for the news post.

Sea level rise and the Florida Everglades

gaiser-podcast-slr-and-fceIn this week’s episode of the America Adapts podcast, FIU ecologist Evelyn Gaiser talks about what makes the Everglades so unique, and so vitally important to the inhabitants of South Florida. Dr. Gaiser also discusses what it means to conduct research on climate change and sea level rise in the political minefield that exists in Florida. Many local communities – especially Miami – are taking action and relying on experts at FIU to provide guidance on adaptation planning for sea level rise. Dr. Gaiser describes how FIU’s Sea Level Solutions Center will help communities prepare for projected climate impacts, and how everyone can get involved. Learn more and listen to the podcast here >>

SLSC faculty publishes on changing environments due to sea level rise

news-neoliberalism-and-miami%c2%b9s-fragmented-urban-space_c1SLSC Affiliated Faculty member Dr. Robert E. Gutsche, Jr. in the Department of Journalism + Media has published a new co-authored book on Miami spaces during a time of changing environments due to sea level rise. The book also includes a Foreword by SLSC Affiliated Faculty member Dr. Juliet Pinto, Interim Executive Director of the School of Communication + Journalism. The book is coauthored by Dr. Moses Shumow.

News, Neoliberalism, and Miami’s Fragmented Urban Space (https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498501996/News-Neoliberalism-and-Miami’s-Fragmented-Urban-Space) uncovers and interrogates how news media – in an era of globalization and the rapid acceleration of free market ideologies – are both harnessed by and are complicit in the capture and re-appropriation of spatial consciousness throughout South Florida.

At the center of this critique of neoliberalism’s role in the transformation of Miami’s neighborhoods and the city’s mediatized geographies is an emphasis on the role of news media as a means for promoting very specific, and yet often veiled, political and economic agendas. The book’s focus on Miami’s changing environment places the neoliberal messages as critical to understanding during massive alterations to how people live and work in South Florida today and tomorrow.

 

CBS: Supermoon elevates flooding risk in South Florida

supermoon-flooded-street-tiffany-troxler-cbsThe extra-bright “supermoon” has been lighting up the sky all over the world, and its stronger gravitational pull is amplifying the seasonal “king tide” and creating heightened flood risks in places like South Florida. In Fort Lauderdale, king tides happen once or twice a year, bringing seawater into low-lying neighborhoods. While the supermoon is making this tide more extreme, flooding has become a persistent problem throughout South Florida, leading to aggressive and expensive solutions. On South Bayshore Lane in Coconut Grove, the bay came ashore at high tide Sunday night, with six inches of water in the street.

“By 2030, we expect up to another six inches of sea level rise to occur,” Dr. Tiffany Troxler, director of Florida International University’s Sea Level Solutions Center, told CBS. “We might see another six inches on top of this.”

With rising sea levels, seasonal king tides are swamping storefronts and submerging city streets.  But scientists say this month’s flooding is expected to be even worse, thanks to the so-called supermoon — when the moon is closer to the Earth than normal.

“That additional gravitational pull has caused our high tides to be a little bit higher than they would have been without that supermoon,” Dr. Troxler said.

supermoon-floods-storefrontsScientists say flooding incidents in Miami Beach have increased at least 400 percent in the last 10 years, and if Miami Beach’s sea level were to rise just two feet, the area would undergo a radical transformation. Desperate times lead to desperate measures: The city is spending at least $400 million trying to keep the tourist mecca higher and drier. Fifty temporary pump stations have been installed, and more permanent ones are on the way, similar to those in New Orleans. And Miami Beach is actually raising the city streets and elevating flood walls. Dr. Troxler says this has gone beyond a debate over climate change.

“What’s happening is that we have sea level rising in our neighborhoods and we need to do something about it now,” she told CBS.

Most people in Fort Lauderdale live about five feet above sea level. According to one study, South Florida could see a six-inch increase in sea level by 2030 — four years before the next supermoon. Read the full CBS report here >>

Dr. Susan Jacobson Selected as Inductee to the CLEO Leadership Circle

jacobson-200x300 Dr. Susan Jacobson, Associate Professor in the School of Communication + Journalism’s Department of Journalism + Media, has been selected as an inductee to the CLEO Leadership Circle. CLEO (Climate Leadership Engagement Opportunities) is one of the largest climate engagement organizations in South Florida, reaching more than 40,000 citizens with their initiatives. Dr. Jacobson was selected for this honor based on her work as the Project Lead of the Eyes on the Rise Sea Level Toolbox app. The app lets residents enter their address into a Google Map and, with a visualization developed by FIU’s GIS Center, allows them to see the potential impact of sea level rise on their neighborhoods.

Dr. Jacobson developed a crowdsourcing slsday-students2-300x238tool for the app, which lets citizens document sunny day flooding during the King Tides in South Florida. In collaboration with the Sea Level Solutions Center, she has been involved in organizing citizen scientists to visit low-lying areas at the time of the King Tides, take photos and videos of flooding, measure water depth and measure water salinity.

More than 60 FIU students and citizens gathered at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on October 16 to receive training on how to document floods during Sea Level Solutions Day, and worked in groups to document flooding around Miami. You can see a map of some of their work here.

Click here to see more from the article in CARTA News >>

Sea Level Solutions Day success

flooded-lincoln-rdOn Sunday, October 16th, the Sea Level Solutions Center teamed up with FIU’s Office of University Sustainability and School of Communication & Journalism, as well as the CLEO Institute and Miami-Dade’s Office of Resilience to collect data on the recent king tides that have been amplified by sea level rise. Teams of volunteers included students, teachers, local officials and concerned citizens, who came out to learn more about the link between sea level rise and higher flood levels, and to get involved with local efforts to spread awareness of hazardous community flooding. Participants were given “citizen science kits” which allowed them to measure flood depths and salinity at various low-lying sites, in order to tie sunny day flooding to sea level rise by showing that seawater from the Bay is partially overwhelming local storm water drains. The data were recorded, submitted, and displayed via the Eyes on the Rise app, which allows citizens to not only view flood projections in their local areas, but also input valuable data on flooding as it occurs on events like these. King tides represent the highest tides of the year — occurring in the spring and fall — and these seasonal high tides are only expected to be exacerbated by rising sea levels. More information can be found here >>

Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainable Research Network: year 1 in review

miami-urexsrnUrban Resilience to Extremes Sustainable Research Network (UREx SRN): The Miami team has been meeting with city practitioners, beginning in April 2016 to review research co-production processes. Four key vulnerabilities correlated to city-defined extreme weather events are: poorly functioning or loss of infrastructure; risks to critical sources of local income; risks to insurance and financing of residential and commercial properties; and, the degradation of natural resources.

The research and co-production teams will consider sustainability and resiliency plans that include transportation and stormwater master plans, utility and roadway upgrades, land development regulation amendments, dune and beachfront management, green infrastructure, water quality, urban reforestation, and creation of a sustainability and resiliency fund. The Miami team is collaborating with Chambers of Commerce and Hotel Association, and following closely work of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Sea Level Rise, in addition to inviting conversations with local industry. We will continue to pursue independent community engagement grant opportunities to support city-wide initiatives.

The Sea Level Solutions Center at FIU was launched in Summer of 2015 to foster creative solutions to the complex issues of climate change through collaborative research, education, public outreach and engagement. Key partners in all of these activities include researchers from other universities, the Florida Climate Institute, scientists, practitioners, business and community leaders and the general public. More information >>