Migration induced by sea-level rise could reshape the US population landscape

Journal of Nature, Climate Change: Many sea-level rise (SLR) assessments focus on populations presently inhabiting vulnerable coastal communities, but no studies have yet attempted to model the destinations of these potentially displaced persons. With millions of potential future migrants in heavily populated coastal communities, SLR scholarship focusing solely on coastal communities characterizes SLR as primarily a coastal issue, obscuring the potential impacts in landlocked communities created by SLR-induced displacement. Here I address this issue by merging projected populations at risk of SLR with migration systems simulations to project future destinations of SLR migrants in the United States. I find that unmitigated SLR is expected to reshape the US population distribution, potentially stressing landlocked areas unprepared to accommodate this wave of coastal migrants—even after accounting for potential adaptation. These results provide the first glimpse of how climate change will reshape future population distributions and establish a new foundation for modelling potential migration destinations from climate stressors in an era of global environmental change. Read the full article here >>

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.

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.


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 >>

Miami joins MetroLab Network’s cities for urban innovation

metlab-logoThe MetroLab Network is pleased to announce that Miami – including Miami-Dade County and the Cities of Miami and Miami Beach – has officially joined the network, along with the City of Los Angeles and the City of San Francisco.  The University of Pittsburgh has also joined the existing partnership between the City of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. The network now includes 40 partnerships between local governments and their university partners, focused on incorporating data, analytics, and innovation into local government programs. Members of the network research, develop, and deploy technologies and policy approaches to address challenges facing the nation’s urban areas.  MetroLab Network was launched by 21 founding city-university pairings in September 2015 at the White House as part of the Obama Administration’s Smart Cities Initiative.

MetroLab Network’s city-university partnerships are relationships in miami-fiu-brickellwhich the university serves as a research and development arm, and the city serves as a test-bed for technologies and policies. Faculty members and students gain access to real-world laboratories to develop and test tools and programs that utilize information technology, data analytics, sensing, and more. Cities benefit from their technical expertise, leading to solutions that reduce the cost of infrastructure and services, make cities more sustainable and resilient, and improve citizens’ quality of life. Current members are working on more than 100 “research, development, and deployment” projects aimed at addressing challenges facing urban areas. The MetroLab Network connects these city-university partnerships via a national, collaborative platform that will facilitate the sharing of information and the scaling of technology and solutions across the country. More information >>

July 2016: another warmer month, second warmest in Florida

PHOTO- iStock 17832634-White Sands New Mexico-80516-800x450-LandscapeJuly’s reputation for sizzle didn’t disappoint, bringing record warm temperatures to Florida and New Mexico and much above-average temperatures across the South, the East Coast and Alaska.

The average July temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 75.3 degrees F, making it the 14th  warmest July on record, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. July precipitation averaged 2.87 inches (0.40 inch above average). From January through July, the average temperature for the Lower 48 states ranked as the third warmest on record at 54.3 degrees F, 3.0 degrees above average. Thirty-eight states were much warmer than average. More information >>

EPA’s College/Underserved Community Partnership Program at FIU

The College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP) provides a creative approach to partnering and delivering technical assistance to small, under-served communities from local colleges and universities at no cost to the communities.  By leveraging partnerships with colleges and universities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Native American Colleges and Universities, the program combines environmental justice concerns and mission-related objectives of multiple agencies with core curriculum objectives of local colleges and universities.

Communities benefit from the investment of innovative technical assistance and approaches provided by students attending nearby academic institutions. Students benefit by utilizing their learned curriculum to gain practical experience that can serve as a resume builder, while earning course credits through their academic institution.  Federal agencies benefit from the inter-agency collaboration by seeing an improvement in the effective and efficient use of resources. More information >>

Program Examples from Florida International University

  • Students at FIU developed a storm water mitigation plan.
    FIU student and community member discussing care for tomato plants
    FIU student and community member discussing care for tomato plants

    Community vegetable gardens in Medley, FL
    Community vegetable gardens in Medley, FL
  • A communication plan was created to preserve and protect fresh water resources.
  • A food garden was designed and planted to address food desert issues; residents were also taught how to maintain it.
  • Students will be working with the city to develop a sustainable economic development plan

US GAO and the National Flood Insurance Program: Addressing Affordability Concerns

GAO reportTo address concerns over potential flood insurance premium increases, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to identify options for policyholders who may face affordability issues if charged with full-risk rate premiums. The GAO report describes options to target assistance to policyholders, estimates of eligible policyholders and associated costs of these options, and mechanisms for delivering assistance. They also reviewed literature on approaches for targeting and delivering assistance, interviewed 18 organizations familiar with flood insurance and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other agencies, and analyzed premium data from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the most recent Census income data. Options for targeting assistance to subsidized policyholders who may experience difficulty paying full-risk rates for NFIP policies include assistance based on the income level of policyholders or geographic areas, setting premium caps, and basing assistance on the cost of mitigating the risk of damage to their homes. More information >>

Carson’s Sea Level Rise Commission issues final report and recommendations to Rhode Island

kayak-narragansett-bayRep Lauren Carson’s Special House Commission to Study Economic Risk Due to Flooding and Sea Level Rise issued its final report today, and has made several recommendations as to how Rhode Island can mitigate the effects of climate change. These recommendations include:

  • Updates to local comprehensive plans, zoning ordinances, and building codes
  • Additional support for academic and scientific research on sea level rise
  • Increased communication on financial impact of natural disasters, flooding
  • Development of statewide property preparedness program for property owners

Having determined that “Rhode Island needs to more fully understand the economic implications of sea level rise,”  the commission recommends “a community by community analysis resulting in aggregate data that determines Rhode Island’s total economic exposure due to sea level rise.  State agencies should review all vulnerable assets and prioritize resiliency adaptation based upon the rate of return on their investment.” More information >>

Englander: “New US Military Report Shows Fallacy to Predict Future Sea Level”

SERDP SLR Report Cover APR 2016A new study about sea level rise and coastal risk management claims that due to the high degree of uncertainty regarding the rate of sea level rise, planners must abandon the normal design and engineering concept of “predict, then act” and instead refer to a range of scenarios for planning purposes. The report was done by the US Department of Defense (SERDP), NOAA, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Oceanographer of the Navy, and uses clear language:

“The decision-making paradigm must shift from a predict-then-act approach to a scenario-based approach. As a decision-maker, the fallacy and danger of accepting a single answer to the question “What future scenario should I use to plan for sea-level change?” cannot be stressed enough. Those used to making decisions based on a “most likely” future may have trouble relating to this reality; however, a variety of uncertainties, including the uncertainties associated with human behaviors (i.e., emissions futures), limit the predictive capabilities of climate-related sciences. Therefore, although climate change is inevitable and in some instances highly directional, no single answer regarding the magnitude of future change predominates. Traditional “predict then act” approaches are inadequate to meet this challenge.”

Read more on John Englander’s blog, or get the full report here >>