RISING WATERS: Research & Reports

Add these dozen reports and research studies to your online library on rising waters, coastal erosion  and climate change!

Hurricane Sandy Oct 29 2012 Courtesy of NASA Godard

Hurricane Sandy Courtesy of NASA Godard

50 Cities in Climate Change Study: Columbia University’s Earth Institute and City University of New York (CUNY) have produced a new international report (full report)  that addresses climate change in 48 cities around the world and concludes that rising sea level, along with increased heat waves and drought, must be urgently addressed with adaptation policies and mitigation plans. “This… should serve as a wake-up call about the need to make cities a key focus of global climate change research and response efforts,” said Cynthia Rosenzweig, one of the co-editors (climate impacts scientist at NASA Goddard and the Center for Climate Systems Research, the Earth Institute). Among cities investigated: Athens, Dakar, Delhi, Harare, Kingston, London, Melbourne, New York, São Paulo, Shanghai, Tokyo and Toronto.

*A few conclusions: Cities are emerging as most threatened by climate change, and are the first responders.

*Coastal cities can expect to experience more frequent and damaging flooding from storm events. Strongly at-risk populations include those living in slums in lagoon areas (e.g. Lagos Nigeria).

Cities and Climate Change: Global Report on Human Settlements 2011, UN HABITAT (Full report $58). This 250-page report reviews the linkages between urbanization and climate change, and how their effects are converging in ways that are damaging and deadly. The report identifies strategic ways that urban areas play a role in the climate change with adaptation and mitigation. Check out trends in the synopses of individual report areas. Saving Cities excerpts

Urban Areas and Climate Change: UCAR researcher Dr. Patricia Romero Lankao’s studies appear in a special issue of Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability (Elsevier/April 2011) and in a synthesis piece coming at the end of 2011 in European Planning Studies. Romero Lankao, a sociologist specializing in climate change and urban development, surveyed policies in cities worldwide, as well as drawing on a number of recent studies of climate change and cities.

“‘Climate change is a deeply local issue and poses profound threats to the growing cities of the world,” says Romero Lankao. “‘But too few cities are developing effective strategies to safeguard their residents…’” from sea level rise, heat waves and other climate change factors.

Dr. Romero Lankao is generously sharing her issues paper with Green News Update readers, Urban Areas and Climate Change: Review of Current Issues and Trends (101 pp) that served as background for the 2011 UN Habitat report (above).

Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and other Scenes from a Climate Changed Planet. Heidi Cullen’s 2010 book (352 pp, Harper/Harper Collins) now in paperback, looks at weather extremes, both summer and winter, that are now part of our landscape. There’s plenty here to digest, from early warnings – for Katrina, she says, “We saw it all coming…from studies 20 years ago” – to flooding events, storm surges, and creeping sea level rise. Among the cities she believes are highly vulnerable to weather extremes: New York, Miami, Las Vegas and Fairbanks AK. In a recent radio interview, she opines, “This is real – get started now. It’s as important as getting to the moon….” Fresh Air interview (30 mins). Cullen is a senior research scientist with Climate Central, a journalism and research organization. Book excerpt

Thirsty for Answers: Preparing for the water-related impacts of climate change: An NRDC climate change report on cities (July 2011) indicates that some of the most significant and far-reaching impacts of climate change in cities will be water related – including rising sea level, violent storms and drought. This is a peer-reviewed report that incorporates findings from 75 scientific studies as well as government agency data on a dozen highly at-risk American cities. Report author Michelle Mehta says the bottom line is: “Communities nationwide, regardless of size, should get plans up and running to reduce their unique vulnerabilities and prepare for impacts.”

Financing the Resilient City: A demand driven approach to development, disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation. ICLEI founder and author Jeb Brugmann prepared this 48-page port for ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (2011). Free PDF

Climate Central’s Ben Strauss and University of Arizona’s Jeremy Weiss and Jonathan Overpeck, take a closer look at the problem of sea level rise in a new study (2011). According to their research, rising sea levels could threaten an average of 9% of the land within 180 U.S. coastal cities by 2100. They also zero in on 20 US cities at risk.

Ghanaian Coastal Communities May Be Displaced: A modeling study has predicted that flooding brought on by rising sea levels in three communities in the Dansoman area of Accra will displace an estimated 650,000 people by 2100, as the shoreline recedes by more than 200 meters. Kwasi Appeaning-Addo, lead author from the University of Ghana, concludes from the study that natural and industrial sites will be submerged, and buildings made of commonly used sandcrete will likely be destroyed by flooding. Other impacts? Disease outbreaks, loss of land and biodiversity, and decreased fishing. Link includes access to full study. 

The Next 500 Years of Sea Level Rise: Climate Central’s Michael D. Lemonick reports on the findings of a new report accepted for publication in Global and Planetary Change (abstract). The authors project how much sea level will rise out to the year 2500. “The most likely numbers, say [Aslak] Grinsted and his co-authors: about 2.5 feet of sea-level rise by 2100, and about 6.5 feet by 2500.” However, if we don’t stop churning new GHG into the atmosphere, the authors assert that figure could rise to – are you sitting down?— 3.5 feet by 2100 and 18 feet by 2500. Grinsted, who is a glaciologist at the University of Copenhagen says: “’The one thing that’s clear…is that that sea level will continue to rise for hundreds of years no matter what emissions path we choose to take.’” Article on the study 

Sea Level Is Rising Along U.S. Atlantic Coast: A study by an international team of environmental scientists under the lead of the University of Pennsylvania has produced what is called “the first accurate dataset for sea-level rise for the U.S. Atlantic coast.” Results show that sea-level rise along the Atlantic Coast was 2 millimeters faster in the 20th century than at any time in the past 4,000 years. The rise is moving in a southerly direction from Maine to South Carolina – one of the nation’s most populous regions and chock full of major cities (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk). The study indicates that “…mid-Atlantic coastlines of New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland [were] subsiding twice as much as areas to the north and south.” Read more to see how the researchers used sediment cores and sea-level data from corrected tidal gauges to draw their conclusions. Results appeared in the journal Geology (Dec 2009) The study was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Thouron Family and the University of Pennsylvania.

Additional Atlantic coastal sea level research published June 2011 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicate the rate of sea level rise along the U.S. Atlantic coast is greater now than at any time in the past 2,000 years–and has shown a consistent link between changes in global mean surface temperature and sea level. Researchers from University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, Penn State, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Potsdam Institute for Climate Research (Germany) and the Aalto University of Engineering conducted the study.

Impacts on the Beach Economy: Climate Central reports on a San Francisco State University study of California coast locations that projects how sea level rise will affect local and state economies that depend upon coastal beach tourism dollars. Economist Philip King (research leader) anticipates economic impacts from “the effects of temporary flooding, beach and upland (cliffs and dunes) erosion.” He used scenarios of sea level rise ranging from one to-two meters (6.5 feet) by the end of the century.