Check out this cool site sponsored by NASA that compiles all of the surface temperature data from around the world, dating as far back as 1880 in some places. Pretty cool stuff. And no, it isn’t your imagination, it is getting much hotter in Miami.
- Beginning January 1 2010 the EPA will begin to collect greenhouse gas (GHG) data from large emitters of heat-trapping emissions under a new reporting system. The new program will cover approximately 85 percent of the nation’s GHG emissions and apply to roughly 10,000 facilities. (EPA)
- The 2009 Global Energy Outlook from the International Energy Agency has announced a drop in the amount of atmospheric carbon:
In the first big study of the impact of the recession on climate change, the IEA found that CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels had undergone “a significant decline” this year – further than in any year in the past 40. The fall will exceed the drop in the 1981 recession that followed the oil crisis.For the first time, government policies to cut emissions have also had a significant impact. The IEA estimates that about a quarter of the reduction is the result of regulation, an “unprecedented” proportion. Three initiatives had a particular effect: Europe’s target to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020; US car emission standards; and China’s energy efficiency policies.
Meanwhile down at the rig: oil companies are hyping recent discoveries of oil in a lame attempt to offset the upcoming release of the Global Energy Outlook 2009. The report will provide a sobering assessment of dwindling supply and its effects on future prices. (NY Times)
Thanks to my friend Justin Falango for sending these shots of high tide on Miami Beach taken this morning. Keep in mind, it hasn’t rained in more than 24 hours.
31 street & Indian Creek Drive
31 street & Indian Creek Drive (same intersection as above)
This wasn’t caused by a huge rainstorm or hurricane, just a normal high tide in September. Our watertable reaches its highest level in October (due to the rainy season). Now this wouldn’t be a problem except that the Miami Beach storm drainage system is already at or below the high water level (and it is a gravity based system). It is very telling that on days like today, when it hasn’t rained, water creeps comes backward through the drain at high tide. Consider what will happen when it does rain. It won’t take a huge rainstorm (like the one this past June) to see the streets of Miami Beach completely under water. Welcome to the future present Miami Beach.
This is the future map of Dade County with a 4′ rise in sea level. It could happen in 30 years, it could happen in 80 years, but make no mistake, it is coming. Pretty sobering. It’s time to start shoring up our waterfront edges (bayside and riverside) and abandon those areas that simply cannot be saved (like the Northwest ‘lake district’, areas surrounding Homestead Airforce base, parts of the Redlands…etc.). Luckily these areas are not heavily populated. As you can see, the area of highest elevation is on the Miami Rock Ridge, which runs through our population centers, and contains most of our mass transit infrastructure. This is where we need to concentrate our development efforts moving forward. No more westward expansion. To foes of height and density in Miami 21: look at the map. The areas being considered for three story height limits are precisely those that need to accommodate our density.
Adapting to the changes that are coming to our region is the second step in the Climate Change battle. Step 1 is mitigating our contribution to the greenhouse gas problem. This is where transit plays a pivotal role. We cannot sit idly by and let the rest of the world make grand plans to limit ghg’s while we are one of the places most at risk. We need to make some serious changes to the way we move people and goods around Dade County. It is embarrassing how behind the ball we are, and we are all to blame. We need transit alternatives, and we needed them yesterday. Wake up Dade county, this is your future.
PS. I didn’t cut out Miami Beach intentionally (just the way the map is formatted). Unfortunately, its future does not look dry.
Miami-Dade County: where is your climate change adaptation plan?? Seems that New York City is aggressively pursuing a plan to protect its infrastructure from the threat of rising seas.
World-wide, cities in 40 countries depend on dikes or seawalls. The seaside of the Netherlands is protected by storm surge barriers big enough to be seen from space. In Venice, Italy, engineers are completing a $7 billion barrier to block high tides that flood the city 100 times a year. In New Orleans, construction crews have started a $700 million barrier to help prevent hurricane floods. In California, it could cost $14 billion to protect 1,100 miles of vulnerable urban coastline with reinforced sea walls and $1.4 billion a year to maintain them, the Pacific Institute reported in March.
To be sure, the city that never sleeps is rarely dry even now. Every day, transit crews pump 14 million gallons of water from city subways. Authorities recently installed $400 million of more powerful pumps. Last year, they started installing higher sidewalk grates — disguised as street art, bike racks and benches — to help keep storm water away from subway rails. (WSJ)
Meanwhile, down here on the farm, in arguably one of the places most at risk of catastrophic damage from climate change, we still don’t even have a mitigation strategy, much less an adaptation plan. I attend the Miami-Dade Climate Change task force meetings, and some opinions are still mixed as to what the plan should say. Some are afraid that being honest about how in danger we really are will further exacerbate our real estate woes, and send people flocking away from the Magic City. I say, it is what it is. We are going to have to live with it, might as well let people know the truth. Our climate change map is much more sobering than New York’s, I can tell you that. At a 1 foot sea level rise, you can say goodbye to parts of South Miami Dade, Key Biscayne, and yes, Virginia Key.
A new report from the National Research Council shows that compact development, if done correctly, can result in reductions of VMT’s of up to 25% - over the next 40 years.
Requested by Congress and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Special Report 298: Driving and the Built Environment: The Effects of Compact Development on Motorized Travel, Energy Use, and CO2 Emissions examines the relationship between land development patterns and motor vehicle travel in the United States.
According to the committee that wrote the report, the most reliable research studies estimate that doubling residential density in a metropolitan area might lower household driving between 5 percent and 12 percent. If higher density were paired with more concentrated employment and commercial locations, and combined with improvements to public transit and other strategies to reduce automobile travel, household driving could be lowered by as much as 25 percent. By reducing vehicle use, petroleum use and CO2 emissions would also be lessened.
You can read the full report here. The long time horizon means that while compact development will play an important role in mitigating our carbon footprint in the long term, it will not be enough to slow the brunt of climate change in the short term.
Clif Bar, the purveyor of well-known and quite tasty energy bars, has long been an eco-conscious company. However, they have taken their advocacy to a new level with the Clif Bar 2 Mile Challenge.
Their fantastic website gives you the facts about climate change, connects it to human behavior, allows you to build your bicycle (assuming you don’t already have one) and map out a two mile radius from where you live so that you may see all that is accessible within a relatively easy bicycle ride.
Why 2 miles? Well, if you visit the website you will learn that 40% of urban travel in America is two miles or less. 90% of such trips are undertaken with automobiles, which generate approximately 25% of our nation’s carbon emissions. Bottom line: American’s are lazy and we pollute.
However, as Clif Bar rightly asserts, such trips are easy to replace with a bicycle which in turn helps you get fit, connect to your neighborhood and city in a new way, and have little to no impact on the environment. If you take the challenge but once a week, your will be doing yourself, city and world a bit of good.
So go ahead Miami, Take the challenge!
There are several reasons why widening highways is usually a futile strategy to combat traffic congestion. For one, highway widening projects are costly and time consuming. It has also been well documented that adding new capacity to highways creates induced demand, which essentially means it will generate more traffic on the road. Consequently, over time the widened highway gradually fills up with additional traffic until it reaches a threshold, and is congested again. Of course, just the principle of widening highways is flawed because it encourages driving, it’s unsustainable, and it raids funds for other major transportation projects that are much more sustainable, such as transit. However, research from the Sightline Institute points out that widening highways also leads to substantial increases in GHG emissions in the mid-to-long term.
Conventional dogma preached by road-widening enthusiasts claims that additional capacity will decrease GHG emissions by easing traffic congestion. According to Sightline, this limited benefit only holds true in the short term, if at all. In the medium-to-long term, however, adding one mile of new highway lane will result in an increase in CO2 emission by more then 100,000 tons over 50 years. To quantify that, at current rates of emissions, 100,000 tons of CO2 equals the 50-year climate footprint of about 100 typical U.S. residents.
Image: Sightline Institute
I was up in Brevard County yesterday on business when I got caught in the middle of pure pandemonium on my way home. On my back country drive (I-95 and US-1 were closed, so I was seeking an alternate route) I witnessed people watering their homes/businesses, school evacuations, and extreme congestion.
From the SFWMD:
Effective April 18, 2008
In response to improved regional water resource conditions, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) modified emergency water restrictions across most of the agency’s 16-county region, transitioning from one-day-week landscape irrigation restrictions to two-day-a-week watering.
Guess not! What’s the deal with having a green lawn anyway?
Update: Well apparently the fires were deliberately set and not a direct cause of the lack of rain, but still, whose bright Idea was it to ease the water restrictions when we are still well below our normal rain levels?
Update #2: See, I’m not kidding…
The following article below is a reprint from NPR.org on April 1, 2008:
Atlanta Family Slashes Carbon Footprint
Atlanta resident Malaika Taylor used to live the typical suburban life — the kind that helps make America the world’s top contributor to climate change. But four years ago, fed up with commuting, Taylor and her 11-year old daughter, Maya, moved from the suburbs to the city.
And their “carbon footprint” shrank.
“There are some weekends when I don’t even use my car,” says Taylor.
The Taylors live in Atlantic Station, a new community in mid-town Atlanta designed to put jobs, homes and shopping all in one place, close to public transportation. Developments like Atlantic Station are springing up around the country, and proponents say they help cut car pollution, including the carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change.
Atlantic Station: A Climate Change Model
On a typical morning, Taylor walks her daughter to the bus stop and then keeps going 10 minutes to her job as a property manager at an apartment complex.
“I have to admit, if it’s raining or really cold, I drive,” she says.
Her mile-long commute is unusual in Atlanta, where the federal government estimates the average resident drives 32 miles each day. Early surveys show the people who live and work in Atlantic Station drive about a third that much, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“We don’t often think of a development as a way to solve environmental problems. But this is really a unique example of kind of growing your way into better environmental quality,” says Geoff Anderson, who helped steer the Atlantic Station project through the regulatory process for the EPA. Anderson now heads Smart Growth America, an environmentally friendly development advocate.
At first, the EPA supported Atlantic Station as a way to help Atlanta fight its unhealthy smog problem. Anderson says now the agency sees the community as a model of how America can fight climate change.
“The two biggest things we do from a carbon perspective are, we heat our houses or cool them, or we drive. And when you combine that, that’s going to add up to a big chunk of your personal carbon footprint,” Anderson says.
A Smaller Impact
Reducing her carbon footprint was not Taylor’s intent when she moved. She just wanted her life back.
But living in the city has cut the small family’s impact on global warming to about half the national average for a family of two.
When they lived in the suburbs, Taylor filled up her gas tank three or four times every two weeks. Now she fills up once in two weeks.
Her other energy bills shrank, too.
In the winter, her gas bill to heat her suburban house was almost $200. Now she uses electricity to heat and cool their compact, two-bedroom loft. That bill tops out around $80, about 20 percent less than the average bill for an Atlanta household.
Apartments often have lower energy costs because of shared walls and smaller spaces. Americans send more than 1 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air, or about a fifth of the nation’s total emissions. If lots of Americans lived like the Taylors, then the nation’s greenhouse-gas pollution could drop by hundreds of millions of tons.
Of course, the move didn’t come without tradeoffs.
“I can’t afford to buy a house in the city. It took me four garage sales to get rid of enough stuff to fit into my apartment. I thought I purged, and it still wasn’t enough, and I had to purge again,” says Taylor.
Gaining a Life
On one recent rainy afternoon, Taylor drives to pick up Maya at the bus stop. It takes them almost no time and hardly any gas or greenhouse gas emissions.
What’s more, when it’s time to take a trip to the grocery store, it takes only two minutes to get there, and she’s is back home within 15 minutes.
“That’s hands down one of the biggest perks about living here. The convenience, convenience, convenience,” Taylor says.
It’s only 4:20 p.m. Maya has already made a big dent in her homework. And Malaika has a few hours to kill.
“Maybe I’ll work out. Maybe we’ll play a game. It makes a huge difference just in the quality of our life,” Taylor says. “We get to spend a lot more time together. I think she’s happier. I’m happier. It makes life a lot better.”
The Herald is reporting that the county commission overturned Mayor Alvarez’s veto in favor of moving the Urban Development Boundary for a Lowe’s at 8th St and 137th Ave and a retail center at Kendall Drive and (gulp), 167th Avenue (i.e. the Everglades). More sprawl, more self-interests, more incompetence. We’ll have lots more on this later.
Miami may be one of “America’s cleanest cities,” but it certainly is not one of the most bicycle-friendly. This fact was recently recognized in the June 2008 issue of Bicycle Magazine, which bestowed Miami with the dubious distinction of joining Dallas and Memphis as one of the three worst cities in America for bicycling. The excerpt, linked above states the following:
In Miami, the terrain lies pancake-flat and the sun shines bright nearly every day-perfect conditions for cycling. But Miami-Dade County has done little to foster safer streets for bikes, despite the fact that Florida ranks second in the nation in bicycle fatalities and that much of Miami’s poorer population relies on bikes for transportation. The county enacted the Bicycle Facilities Plan in 2001, but it failed to state any specific goals. The city of Miami has no finished lanes, and the only one under construction is less than a mile long. The rest of the county’s lanes are just as short, appearing randomly and disappearing a few blocks later. “We’re so far behind and in the dark with bikes it’s absurd,” bike-shop owner Chris Marshall told the Miami New Times in January. “I’d say we’re stuck in the ’60s, but it’s worse than the ’60s. In the ’60s you could still get around by bike.”
I agree that we are far behind, but the article fails to mention Mayor Diaz’s new Bicycle Advisory Committee, which is working under the umbrella of the Office of Sustainable Initiatives to create a bicycle master plan that dovetails with Miami 21. It’s an uphill battle, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Interestingly, the City of Boston, another cycling-poor city in which I have lived, repeatedly received similar honors from Bicycling Magazine. However, thanks to an aggressive agenda to improve cycling conditions the city is quickly altering its reputation. Let’s hope Miami is not too far behind.
- Free Miami Beach WiFi to Launch by Spring…sort of (Miami Sunpost)
- Miami DDA Director Nottingham Under Fire (Miami Today News)
- Miami Beach Planning Commission Makes Big Changes (Miami Sunpost)
- Bush Administration Sticks it to Transit (National Corridors Initiative)
- Downtown Parks Anchor Great Cities (Eugene Weekly)
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