Saturday, December 6, 2008

Governor tells staff to prepare for warming

Not waiting for the line to get drawn in Santa Barbara, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, issued an executive order in November for State agencies to prepare reports on the impacts of sea-level rise due to climate change. Here is the text of the order:

Not waiting for the Governor, The New Media Studio and the Donald Bren School at UCSB initiated its own study of the impacts of sea-level rise on the City of Santa Barbara last March. And so, by the time the State is just convening its first conference on sea-level rise, Santa Barbara is going to have an initial study completed and ready to use as a model for other cities and coastal regions in California. The City has been very helpful and cooperative with this study, and again Santa Barbara has an opportunity to take a leading position in addressing the challenges of climate change.

As lightblueline also noted, the expected sea-level rise this century is potentially up to 1.5 meters, which, using a conservative linear estimation puts the sea level up more than seven meter in 500 years.

The point of gathering information about future impacts is to assess the various responses we can make, from cutting carbon in the near term, to hardening the coastline if we fail to stop the progress of climate change. Knowing the relative costs of all the options lets us determine, in purely economic terms, the best path. In terms of keeping Santa Barbara's ocean down by the waterfront, for reasons that include economics, but also include our moral obligation to our children's childen to leave the planet like we found it, there is no substitute for reducing greenhouse gasses in the short term as a world-wide goal. This is where the Governor will soon have help from the new White House.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama promises to put the US on the forefront of fighting climate change

This makes local action much more proactive and much less reactive. Once we have a federal plan to limit carbon (to match the California and the Santa Barbara plans), and once the current administration handlers are not censoring their own scientists, I would guess we will be better prepared to talk about climate change and its longer-term local impacts.

Of course the only reason property values tanked in Santa Barbara was because we didn't paint the line (thanks Jerry!).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Just in time for the republican convention

I looked at the National Hurricane Center and saw that Gustav is headed directly for New Orleans and should arrive there just in time to remind the nation and the planet how seriously deficient the Bush administration's job was with Katrina, and just how much more of the same we would expect from a McCain administration. We can only hope that the people on the coast are finding safety this time around, although the preparations for the next hurricane might still leave New Orleans swamped again.  
Georgie, that's a heck of a job you're doing!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Kris Krug: Meeting Facilitator Extraordinaire

On a non Climate Change note: I've been working at UC Santa Barbara on a project to plan a whole new Web 2.0 academic social network service. We gathered forty experts from all over the nation to do a one day design charrette. Wanting to get the most out of the day I turned to another expert, this time an expert meeting facilitator: Kris Krug from Rain City Studios in Vancouver, BC.

Kris has done a number of barcamps and other meetings, so I was confident he could keep these uber-nerds on topic for the whole day. With Kris at the helm of the open-space-style meeting day we had probably the best single day meeting most people in the room can remember. At the end of the day one participant said that she'd never had so much fun working so hard. We ended up with seven vision graphic posters and 56 report outs in one day.

Since then a number of participants have asked me how I did it.  So I take a lot of the credit whenever possible... :-)  only I could not have done it at all without Kris.  Kris kept the whole room moving at the speed of conversation. So if you're looking for someone to take control of your next one-day workshop... you know who to call.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment

I'm at the University of New Hampshire, where we are getting a report on current situation of climate change. This study is also outlined at ClimateChoices .  Note: this website also looks at California. Cameron Wake is outlining the difference between two futures... one that could be catastrophic and the other, which can be adapted to. Under the high-emissions scenario, New Hampshire's summers will feel like those in North Carolina by the end of the century. 

A range of expected climate features can be predicted. For example, the models all point to more extreme precipitation events. The "100 year" floods might happen every ten years. These events also impact waste water treatment plants around the area.  Under the higher emissions scenario, most of the maple forests in the Northeast will be gone by the end of the century.

In terms of the IPCC (conservative) 17 inch sea level rise, the 100 year flood plain puts large parts of Boston at risk. The current 100 year flood plain becomes the 2 year flood plain. One event like the 100 year flood under the new sea level would cost Boston 70-90 billion dollars in damage.

All of these changes can be, at least in part, avoided if we reduce carbon emissions in the short term.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

SLAP Happy in Ventura: Where the lightblueline has been painted

Last weekend, the lightblueline project was very happy to be invited by the City of Ventura and the Ventura SLAP (Sea Level Awareness Project) effort to paint 100 feet of line on the side of the beachfront parking garage. The main action for the day was the SLAP effort to create ten information poles along the waterfront. These poles contained messages from teenagers about their concerns over climate change, sea level rise, and the need for the community to step up and do the right thing. 

Unlike Santa Barbara, Ventura does not have to deal with a self-appointed media bully masquerading as a newspaper. So the entire public information/art project was performed without lawyers and vitriolic invective against the volunteer artists. Now the public can weigh in on their response to the art as planned and executed. 

It was a day when dozens of school kids came out to tell their peers and their parents to get wise about climate change. That the lightblueline showed up in Ventura before Santa Barbara says much about the problems we face here in Santa Barbara, and the need to keep pushing for a real public conversation about climate change. lightblueline continues to work toward that conversation. We are here and will be back.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

State Street is ready for the Line

While one can normally count on State Street to be a bastion of conformity and bourgeois manners, not withstanding the antics of tourists and occasional juvenile hijinks. But today was a day of small revelations. On a day like this one, we can again imagine a town ready for art and conversation.

Outside of Barnes and Noble there was Greg, whose busking talent lay (literally) at his feet: a dog, a cat, and a rat in blissful harmony. Greg is energetic, enthusiastic, and likes to talk about which YouTube video does his pets the most justice.

About the time I ran into Greg, it began to rain. Here is the problem. It began to rain, a serious squall, but the sun shone brightly and not a single cloud darkened the sky. Pedestrians stood and stared at the sky. A young girl threw her arms up and cried "It cannot be raining, it just can't!" Five minutes later the rain stopped. 

Each of us on the street had a new answer to the old Creedence song, "Have you ever seen the rain?" (coming down on a sunny day).  

That's a big "yes."

Further up the street, now in the bright sun, couples and families were sitting out at Andersons bakery. A street performer, probably homeless, carrying a guitar, went from table to table passing out five-dollar bills. The first one he gave to a young girl, who showed it to her father. "It's real." He handed it back to her. The second on he laid on a table of another family. The third he gave to a couple, who tried to give it back.

"Take it," he ordered. "That's the last of my money. The final 15 dollars in my pocket. Now it's up to my guitar to save me."  

He strode away toward the Art Museum, challenging pedestrians to listen to a new song of his. We all watched him go, I was wondering what medication had he forgotten to take today. Come supper time, he'd likely want his 15 dollars back.  

The spectacle of street-people giving money away on a rainy-sunny day made the stroll up State Street just about perfect.   What with the dog-cat-rat, all it needs now is a lightblueline.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Note 2 from DC: Uncertainty in our Climate Understanding

Tom Karl, Director of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) at NOAA, began his talk with the problem that human-induced climate change brings for our understanding of the climate system.

"For the first time," he noted, "the current climate observations are no longer reliably connected with the record from the past." 

What this means is that the uncertainties that human-induced climate change bring for our future global climate also have impacts on our current ability to use historical climate information to understand the future. As we venture into what can only be called a "new climate" the lessons we have from the "old climate" are less reliable.

This is another reason to be "climate conservatives." We need to help preserve the climate we were born into, to pass on to our children the benefits of this climate and also the benefits of knowing how to predict weather and other climate extremes.

Karl notes that models predict for the US that a day so hot it occurs once every 20 years will, by 2100 become a one in 2 year event.

Another projection about the weather is that the really heavy rainfall days... the types of storms that flood Santa Barbara, that might occur once every 20 years will occur once every 8 years by 2100. 

Note from DC: The Case for a Climate Service

I'm listening to Chet Koblinsky, Director of the Climate Program Office at NOAA ,talk about the need for a nation "Climate Service" along the lines of the weather service. He began by pointing out how extreme events in our weather increasing need to be attributed to either normal forcings or to forcings due to change in the longer term climate. We have a greater predictive understanding of the longer term climate trends, but not a lot of current knowledge on how to pin today's weather to these trends. Recently, Congress, following the lead of mayors and governors who have demanded more information on regional and local climate information, is moving toward the idea of a comprehensive climate information service for the national need.

NOAA spends about 250 million dollars a year on climate science and information. Much of this is spent on maintaining observation posts and information streams. The remainder is spent on analysis, modeling, and information services to the public. 

In order to fill the emerging need for a climate service, NOAA would need to expand its ability to assemble and predict climate features at the regional level. This means creating new observation capabilities and also models with higher resolution (a major computer challenge). 

Because climate research and information services are also done at NASA and other agencies, the proposed service would need to be a multi-agency effort. A good example of a prototype for this service is the National Integrated Drought Information Service that the Western Governors Association requested in the late 1990s. Authorized by Congress in 2006, this service provides regional predictions for drought across the US.

So we can look ahead to NOAA and other agencies that are compiling global climate and weather information to come together to provide governors, mayors, and other decision makers with the regional climate information they need... 

more soon