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 >>

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 >>

SWAGG: Student Workshops on Acidification and Greenhouse Gases

8LxOjeweyiXmBj11zqAOSgoqfZs7_VhDjbvDufJQpO0This Fall, FIU will have a new student organization that focuses on the science, politics and dissemination of climate change research related to greenhouse gas emissions and ocean acidification. The Student Workshops on Acidification and Greenhouse Gases (SWAGG) is catered to both undergraduate and graduate students, and creates a platform for cross-disciplinary discussions and understanding of climate change. Meetings will feature discussions with guest scientists, conservationists and policy-makers, as well as field trips to areas where the impacts of climate change can be discussed within the context of water chemistry, carbon and greenhouse gases. 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 >>