Where’s the Climate Change Game?

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 10:41 am

You may have noticed that the structure of the ‘game’ is not completely spelled out.  Like many strategic planning games, I envisioned discussions of possible things people might implement in response to the the game scenario. Cost/benefit & impementation times would lead to reasonable proposals for communities to consider. Very dry.

The BBC has come up with a snazzy game for those anxious to be the President of the Europeon Union and address global warming. (forget being a lowly community planner). Of course, I’ve already given my opinion on the inherent uselessnes of politicians in dealing with scary problems (as opposed to just difficult problems).

 Thanks to  Climate Change Elucidated and Resilance Science for pointing me at the game.


Who Knew the UK Drank So Much Tea? Maybe Their Streets Are Dark?

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 4:06 pm

I generally keep away from the causes of global warming and whether & which mitigating factors should be pursued because:

1) What if the skeptics are right & it really issun spots, 6 billion people breathing out, too many cows not fed NO-GAS, aliens, or whatever making it hot – we still may end up with a rather unpleasent problem on our hands.

2) Many sites already address things that may mitigate one of the few things we can control – CO2 emissions.

3) I’m more interested in communities taking local actions to plan for problems on the long-range horizon.

Given that, I couldn’t resist this mitigation technique from tearfund.org:

Only boil the water that you need for your cup of tea. If everyone boiled just the water they needed, the energy saved could power over three-quarters of the UK’s streetlights.


Zone Roof Gardens to Plan For Abrupt Climate Change (the game)

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 5:09 pm

If you knew global warming would bring an abrupt climate change, roof gardens might be close to a first response. (See premise for the game.) Better yet, they offer immediate benefits.

Roof gardens are of two types. There are shallow gardens that use between 1 to 4 inches of dirt and are relatively low maintenance called extensive roof gardens. There are also intensive roof gardens that are often landscaped retreats that have at least 8 inches of soil, irrigation systems and can require significant roof reinforcement. Both offer immediate benefits of extended roof life, energy conservation, runoff control, air pollution mitigation, and ambient air temperature reduction in urban areas.

If you were only concerned with peak storm runoffs, global warming or energy conservation you might start zoning to encourage moving towards all roofs having extensive roof gardens. If you know you need to be able to maximize food production, you might start tax breaks for intensive garden roofs. Growing your food on your roof not only greatly increases the fertile area that may be available to some communities, it may provide added security for crops in the scenario postulated by the community planners game.

This is long-range strategy that could take 40 – 50 years to become fully functional. Even with great tax incentives (even more hypothetical than abrupt climate change) roofs will primarily be replaced as they wear out or as new homes are built. If new homes are built now with extensive roofs, it is expected that it will be 40 years before they require a new roof.


Insurance Companies – the Unexpected Ally in Long-term Planning for Disaster

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 9:38 pm

In the US, insured climate-related losses have gone up 10 times faster than premiums or economic growth since 1971. Lloyds of London issued a report in June, 2006 Climate Change: Adapt or Bust. outlining the challenges facing the insurance industry and their analysis of insurer’s risk from global climate change.

They recommend spending much more money on improving long-range climate forecasting models, using the models to be more aggressive in pricing insurance to reflect the weather expected for the coming season rather than pricing based on historical patterns, and presuming that climate change will occur much faster than predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

I don’t think communities will be in a position to similarly raise taxes precipitously and mobilize a response if abrupt climate change occurs.


Deer and the Abrupt Climate Change Game

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 6:54 am

Deer are currently nothing more than a nuisance in the Northeast – areas with deer tend to have endangered tulips but don’t contend with massive outbreaks of Lymes Disease. Communities tolerate leveled hostas and even an occasional car accident out of a respect for co-existing with nature or a desire to not kill Bambi.

Does your view change if you know the climate will change? (See the rules for the game forthe changes we assume will occur – I know these aren’t terribly likely – that’s not the point.) According to th US Global Change Research Program , a taxpayer funded article that probably could have been written by the editors of Readers Digest, climate change could cause the deer population to explode and consequently cause an explosion in deer ticks. Since we’re working from a different climate model, one that predicts cold winters, would we want to put out feed for the worst parts of the winter as a relatively easy way to keep a source of meat nearby? Do we replace all the deer with sheep?

Assuming you decide deer present too great a risk to the gardens you are depending on for food, do you:

  1. Direct the community to call the police department every time they spot a deer?
  2. Declare an open season on deer in the town and tell all the non-hunter residents to stay inside that day?
  3. Import Indians from the Smokey Mountains who would like to hunt deer as part of their manhood rites and have a shortage in their area (don’t forget to contract for killing x does for every buck, since bucks are more desirable.)
  4.  Give does annual contraceptive shots and hope the vets don’t give themselves the shots. (you think it’s easy to inoculate a thrashing deer?)


Victory Gardens as Community Insurance

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 5:28 pm

Let’s pretend that at some point in the future a deep freeze knocks out the west coast agriculture for the coming season and a long January hot spell followed by extreme cold destroys this year’s NE apple and other fruit tree crop.
                                                      – Oh wait, that just happened.

Send Eco-elegant flowers

If climate swings occur in a strategic number of places around the globe, world food production would drop. The US Northeast could be in a position to help with the crisis if they can turn into a net food exporter.

Turning a portion of everyone’s backyard into a viable vegetable garden can be very effective. Victory gardens planted by approximately 20% of the population helped supply 40% of the food the US needed during World War II. However, getting crops to maturity can be a challenge, especially if the climate is not cooperating.

Hazard tape might keep Joe Jr. out of the garden but it won’t stop the bunnies enjoying your labor. The effect of not paying close attention to evening temperatures can be approximated by throwing a cucumber in the freezer for a few hours. Even experienced gardeners might be a bit chagrined to dig up 1” carrots at the end of the season because they didn’t know the ground carried blight. (I’m not sure if I said that right but I was definitely chagrined.)

Get a jump on the gardening learning curve in your community by starting a victory garden challenge. Form teams. Find a 4’ by 8’ plot of ground the team can farm. Figure out how the team would make the best use of the garden for the next 12 months. Measure the size of each of your crops and calculate how many calories you produced. Donate the results to the local food bank (or eat it yourself.)

If all 10th graders took this on as a challenge they could help local food kitchens deal with the rising price of food and would have a basic knowledge of gardening in case we ever were called on again to help with the food supply


Should Communities Support Seed Banks?

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change, Uncategorized at 3:09 pm

Send Eco-elegant flowers

Norway, awash in oil revenue and significantly at risk if an abrupt climate change event occurs, has been working on a seed bank. They are planning to hollow out a mountain, install failsafe climate control and rent out space to governments to store seeds against cataclysmic disasters like abrupt climate change, asteroid strikes or nuclear war.
Planning is great and they have the money to do it, but if one of these disasters occurs how are the client governments going to get to the seed bank? Who, exactly, will be authorized to make the withdrawal? Somehow I can’t picture an asteroid hitting the Midwest and the Agricultural Department riding out 10 years later, after the dust settles, to claim our corn. (Of course they did find the one mad cow in the US, so maybe I am underestimating them.)
More to the point, the USAD appears to maintain a seed bank in Colorado. Would it make more sense for communities or regions to fund local programs at local agricultural colleges? Any disaster big enough to wipe our seed stock is almost certainly going to wipe out our means to travel long distances to replace it.

Seed bank article from bbc


How Likely Is It That The Gulf Stream Will Actually Stop?

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 5:10 pm

There’s only about a 10% possibility (very unlikely) that there would be an abrupt climate change event in the 21st century according to the 2006 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (p. 16) It assumes things are too uncertain for projections past this century.  I believe it is based on the scenario (p. 18, A1B) that there is a rapid development and implementation of new efficient technology and a variety of fuels are used across the globe.  (That means everyone throws out their old refrigerators every 10 years and gets a new car frequently.)

Does considering that a 30-year old male with a new baby will probably buy life insurance for the next 20 years on his 5 1/2% chance of dieing put this in perspective? I’d keep working on the plan and really hope that we’re in the 90% scenario but don’t get too crazed over it.

Culprit Tax (Carbon Tax) to Pay For Disaster Preparedness

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 4:13 pm

An astute reader may have noticed I haven’t pushed carbon dioxide offsets or other mitigation strategies to slow or stop abrupt climate in the game. I’m looking at things that will make a community better able to deal with a range of future disasters. Guilianni probably didn’t think a terrorist attack would take out his command center on 9/11, but because NYC had thought hard about disasters in general they were able to rebuild the facilities they needed in record time in the midst of dealing with a disaster.

That said, paying for disaster preparations takes some money & taxing the culprit to both generate the funds needed for planning and as a deterrent makes sense.

Carbon taxes raise the price of fuel and encourage conservation. They’re easy for a state or community because a fixed percentage can be added to the existing tax structure and can be presented with a clear rational of the social good expected from paying the higher cost. Similarly, property taxes in potential flood zones can be used to discourage development or ‘escrow’ funds to pay for the inevitable recovery effort that will be needed. (This need is independent of global warming needs – if people insist on living in 100-year flood plains, we know that the area will flood, even if only once every 100 years and the community will have to rescue the inhabitants.) Can a disaster tax help / be administered to encourage more global anti-disaster positions?

A Humvee is not only a polluting disaster, it’s excessive weight wears down roads faster and escalates fatalities of others in a crash (the Humvee occupants rate to survive). The least expensive refrigerators are often the least efficient and are another slow-moving environmental disaster. Items made in developing countries not only benefit from cheap labor, they don’t pay environmental costs more developed countries force on their manufacturing facilities. Can sliding taxes on these items encourage more socially good choices?

Can technology make this workable? Start with an initial tax rate – for cars – a sliding scale tax rate based on their weight or – for imports – a fixed amount based on the environmental impact of the source country or state. Exemptions from the tax could be applied for on a wiki. Allow manufacturers to post a non-pollution claim with documentation to the wiki and invite evaluations from the public. Broad public scrutiny may help determine if the comments by Highly Energetic People IN Favor of Humvees (HEPINFOH) is the union of distracted drivers transporting badly-behaved children who would like a vehicle that protects them and their charges from accidents or the knitting circle of highly-paid vehicle-manufacturing executives’ wives. HEPINFOH’s claims can then be evaluated accordingly. Periodically accept or deny exemption claims based on current input to the initial claim. Since the evaluations would be publicly available more than one region could use the exemption bureaucracy.


One Way to Think About A Community Disaster

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 9:24 am

Here’s a picture from PostSecret, a blog in the running for best American blog & best of year for 2006 (vote here through February 2, 2007). Not necessarily the way I’d like to think about disaster but perhaps something to keep in mind if you didn’t plan anything (or those days when the plans really aren’t helping.)

The picture was removed – basically a very cheery shot of a city in primary colors with the message:

“I can’t wait for the apocalypse to see what I am made of.”