The Best Shade Tree

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 10:30 am

 If you’re new to the Community Planner Game on Abrupt Climate Change see the premise here. (You don’t need to be a Community Planner to give your ideas.)

Oaks and maples seem to be very popular for municipal shade trees.  But if your community needs to be a net food exporter at some point (a goal of the game) what about nut trees?Yes, they can be messy but nut trees need approximately 20 years to mature and they can withstand colder temperatures. Some nut trees will ‘poison’ the ground below them so you can’t plant vegetables even after you take down the trees. Is it worth the aggravation to have a future source of protein along the town streets?A grant may get you going http://www.americanforests.org/news/display.php?id=160

Info on:

 Black Walnuts http://www.americanforests.org/productsandpubs/magazine/archives/2002summer/inprofile.php

Carpathian Walnuts




Do you have better sites to evaluate trees? Let me know.




Grow Corn for Food or Fuel

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 9:12 am

 The game assignment is is turn your town into a net food exporter. Could you turn the town park into a corn field? Should you? Here’s a 2004 corn yield map from the US Agricultural Dept. (2004)


If a Dam Breaks will You be Swamped?

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 8:47 pm

Although there’s some evidence that dams might not be maintained the way you might hope for expected rainfalls (courtesy of MYWAY.com) what will happen to your community if rainfalls increase in intensity during the spring & fall? The National Inventory of Dams gives you an idea of all the dams around you that could fail.  (After you load an annoying but harmless activeX control.) The name links to a page with detailed information on the dam – like the last inspection was in 1945. The presentation is by state with no apparent way to sort the data.  It can be copied & pasted into a spreadsheet on your computer. I created a spreadsheet for the Northeast (5.5 M) which I will link to as soon as I figure out how to put it somewhere useful. I sorted by latitude then checked dams to the north & south of me.  A Name of river sort is mildly interesting if you want to see how many dams upstream could fail on a major river that crosses state lines.


Why can’t I be President and Order Everyone to Fix Global Warming? – It’s Just A Game.

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 9:01 pm

Politicians can’t effectively handle threats that have a long planning horizon.  Any attempt to address a very scary possibility will result in the politician being voted out of office as a wing-nut that isn’t paying attention to more immediate problems. Trying to pass broad, expensive-to-someone regulations give that someone an immediate incentive to spend money to confuse the issue and try to stop the regulations. It doesn’t matter that cutting soot emissions will save enormous amounts in health care later. Only a fraction of the population is willing to pay attention to the conduct of their politicians now for future benefits unless there has been a huge PR campaign. Usually the one financing the campaign isn’t the one with the greater community good in mind.

Community planners have a shot at effective long-range planning.  Since Community Planners take their jobs seriously and are usually in it because they love their communities they are willing to work at not getting snowed by special interests. Especially after Katrina, Community Planners can weigh the town survival against lower probability events. If higher precipitation might cause half of the downtown area to slide down the mountain they can see the benefit of increasing building code requirements.  Similarly, if higher water loads would just cause a couple of high-priced homes that would be covered by insurance to fall into the ocean but wouldn’t really effect the survival of the town, codes might not change. Community planners can do cost/benefit analyses for very small areas. 


Why Abrupt Climate Response Is a Game

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 9:10 pm

Check out Jean-Marc Jancovici on what might lead us to think the Gulf Stream will stop with some nice grounding in why no one is sure exactly what might happen.    Check out the whole site on the range of things that could happen.
 The bottom-line take-away is that the environment will change.  Like a school exercise, I’m going to simplify your life and tell you which changes to assume will occur.  To keep things interesting and because there is no certainty, the assumptions will change periodically. With luck we’ll come up with structural changes we can make now that will help us survive later (& not cost too much if things don’t change drastically.)


Why Plan for Abrupt Climate Change Now?

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change, Uncategorized at 5:38 pm

“I’ve read the news. People say we don’t have to worry about global warming / abrupt climate change for another 40-100 years. I plan to be dead by then.” 

Must make life insurance planning easy.

The estimates that the Arctic ice cap will melt by 2080 are based on the decrease in ice surface area measured by satellites. Unfortunately the ice thickness seems to be shrinking much faster than expected. http://www.imarest.org/news/ProfWadhams.pdf (Not a peer-reviewed article but based on his credentials, http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/pw11/ , he should be authoritative.

What do you mean the Gulf Stream stopped?

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 10:47 am

Did Poseidon just put a trident in front of it? Wouldn’t the water just go around the prongs?

I said no discussion of the premise and already you’re asking how the Gulf Stream stopped.

The short answer is that fresh water from the melting of the Arctic ice cap and Greenland ice sheet dilute hot salty surface water coming north in the Gulf Stream.  When cold Arctic winds cool the water it should sink, dragging more surface water northwards while flowing south along the bottom of the ocean.  If extra fresh water comes into the Gulf Stream faster than it is being moved south, the water becomes less salty, sinks more slowly or not at all, and the Gulf Stream slows.  If the surface of the Gulf Stream becomes too ‘unsalty’ the water is no longer heavier than the water below it so the Gulf Stream ‘stops.’

William Curry, Director, Ocean and Climate Change Institute, gives a nice overview.  Please note that Curry says the Gulf Stream won’t stop, it just won’t go as far north. For our purposes we’re going to say it stopped.

Premise For The Abrupt Climate Change Game for Community Planners

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 8:58 am

You are a community planner charged with regulating land use in your Northeast US community. (After I see how this one works I’ll open up other areas.) You can influence building codes, school programs and other local responses because you are an active member of the community.

Your community has not given you a war-mandate – no unlimited funds, no ‘crazy’ ideas (at least in the main proposals.) Even though God appeared in the heavens to reveal what will happen, 40% of the community was sleeping and either hasn’t woken up yet or thinks the planners have lost their minds. Get too impractical and this forty percent will convince others that they shouldn’t smoke pot in their old age – it’s just not the same as when they were kids & God’s message was really an illusion.

State & Federal programs might follow your lead but will not give seed money or support in any kind of timely fashion.  Working out what you would need from the Feds and how you could get it under existing programs is legal but you need a fall-back plan in case every other community jumped on the Federal bandwagon and congress didn’t authorized enough resources. (If you are a state or federal politician reading this please repeat a mantra of ‘this is a game, this is a game, this is a game.’ We know that if God appeared to your community you would instantly try to pass all necessary state & federal laws –especially when 60% of your constituents saw the revelation – but your colleagues were all in the 40% sleeping.)

The Situation – we know that the Gulf Stream will stop in two-18 years. (This is not The Weekly World News – we did not get an exact date.) There will be 10 years of climate instability. A new climate pattern will emerge for the next 100-1000 years.

The Mission – Arks are neither needed nor appropriate. (Arks are for families and only Florida, the Gulf Coast & my brother’s house on the Chesapeake Bay might need them anyway.)

You need to come up with a plan to:

  1. Maximize safe, efficient housing for the new conditions
  2. Turn your municipality into a net food exporter

Good Luck.