Snoring? Boring? Ignoring? Or…should you be exploring?


“Americans are noticing changes all around them. Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours. People are seeing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that thrive in their gardens, and the kinds of birds they see in any particular month in their neighborhoods.”

Who says?

This is from the National Climate Assessment, an 1,100 page report from the US Federal Government.

Yawn.  Can you think of anything more boring?  This screams (well, drones in a monotone) all of the hallmarks of boredom.

Report.  1,100 pages.  Federal Government.   Phew!  Almost didn’t get through even typing that line.   Must…stay…awake….

But wait!  This report is different in two ways.

1. It’s got strikingly real, current, findings about what is happening, to us, right now.

2. It’s available in the form of a highly-interactive, well-designed, attractive and sleek website.

Here’s a little more from the report:

Other changes are even more dramatic. Residents of some coastal cities see their streets flood more regularly during storms and high tides. Inland cities near large rivers also experience more flooding, especially in the Midwest and Northeast. Insurance rates are rising in some vulnerable locations, and insurance is no longer available in others. Hotter and drier weather and earlier snow melt mean that wildfires in the West start earlier in the spring, last later into the fall, and burn more acreage. In Arctic Alaska, the summer sea ice that once protected the coasts has receded, and autumn storms now cause more erosion, threatening many communities with relocation.

Scientists who study climate change confirm that these observations are consistent with significant changes in Earth’s climatic trends. Long-term, independent records from weather stations, satellites, ocean buoys, tide gauges, and many other data sources all confirm that our nation, like the rest of the world, is warming. Precipitation patterns are changing, sea level is rising, the oceans are becoming more acidic, and the frequency and intensity of some extreme weather events are increasing. Many lines of independent evidence demonstrate that the rapid warming of the past half-century is due primarily to human activities.

We recently blogged on our other site (People, Planet, Profit, and Projects) about the need for you to “get your head outta the sand“.  Well, here’s a great way to do it.  Explore this knowledge in a fun and easy way, taking advantage of the obvious work that went into taking what could have been a dreadfully unreadable glob of information and making it accessible and meaningful.

Here’s an example:


On the site, there are many charts like this in which you can interact directly with the graphic, in this case by looking at year-by-year observations of temperature change, and at your option, adding or subtracting the natural factors so that you can see the added contribution of humans starting in the 1960s.

The project management angle here?  It’s multifaceted.  One we already mentioned; the need to be conversant on this topic, regardless of your opinions on it.  The other related aspect – the responses to climate change in the US will end up needing projects, and of course, project managers.

From the report:

As the impacts of climate change are becoming more prevalent, Americans face choices. Especially because of past emissions of long-lived heat-trapping gases, some additional climate change and related impacts are now unavoidable. This is due to the long-lived nature of many of these gases, as well as the amount of heat absorbed and retained by the oceans and other responses within the climate system. The amount of future climate change, however, will still largely be determined by choices society makes about emissions. Lower emissions of heat-trapping gases and particles mean less future warming and less-severe impacts; higher emissions mean more warming and more severe impacts. Efforts to limit emissions or increase carbon uptake fall into a category of response options known as “mitigation,” which refers to reducing the amount and speed of future climate change by reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases or removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.13

The other major category of response options is known as “adaptation,” and refers to actions to prepare for and adjust to new conditions, thereby reducing harm or taking advantage of new opportunities. Mitigation and adaptation actions are linked in multiple ways, including that effective mitigation reduces the need for adaptation in the future. Both are essential parts of a comprehensive climate change response strategy. The threat of irreversible impacts makes the timing of mitigation efforts particularly critical. This report includes chapters on Mitigation, Adaptation, and Decision Support that offer an overview of the options and activities being planned or implemented around the country as local, state, federal, and tribal governments, as well as businesses, organizations, and individuals begin to respond to climate change. These chapters conclude that while response actions are under development, current implementation efforts are insufficient to avoid increasingly negative social, environmental, and economic consequences.

Example: A coastal ecosystem restoration project in New York City integrates revegetation (a form of green infrastructure) with bulkheads and riprap (gray or built infrastructure). Investments in coastal ecosystem conservation and restoration can protect coastal waterfronts and infrastructure, while providing additional benefits, such as habitat for commercial and recreational fish, birds, and other animal and plant species, that are not offered by built infrastructure.

So there you have it.  You could look at this report as a threat – an 1,100-page yawner… or as an opportunity to learn and maybe even find your next job, or to contribute to something even more…. planetary.

We suggest that you at least give this site a chance.

Like oil and water…


First, a science lesson.

We’ve heard that oil and water don’t mix.  Why not?

From the Argonne National Laboratory: Water molecules have strong bonds with one another, called “hydrogen bonds.” This consists of an extraordinarily strong attraction that the hydrogens of one H2O have for oxygens of nearby H2O molecules. Oil molecules also have very strong bonds with one another, but not hydrogen bonds. Oil molecules are bonded to one another by what are called “London forces,” or sometimes”dispersion forces.” This is a little harder to explain in simple terms, but basically the large oil molecules tend to clump together because of these forces. However, an oil molecule does not hydrogen bond with a water molecule, and an oil molecule’s dispersion attraction to a water molecule is weak compared to the oil-oil attraction. So, the water stays separate from the oil, giving rise to the old chemistry saying “like dissolves like.”

Now, why the science lesson?  We think about the Gulf oil spill, and if water and oil don’t mix, what’s the problem?  Well, the problem is that the oil is carried by the water to sensitive shoreline ecosystems, causing significant and possibly long-lasting damage.

We blogged back on 22-May regarding Kevin Costner’s investment in Ocean Therapy – a special fleet of boats equipped with high-powered centrifuges that can very effectively separate out the oil and the water from the Gulf oil spill.  We covered this in the context of responding to the threat of the spill with a workaround.  Project managers have a lot to learn from the Gulf spill in terms of identifying, preparing for, responding to, and knowing the secondary and residual risks of their projects.

From today’s news we find that BP has finally decided to buy these boats and use them to help remove the oil.

We hope that this solution will provide some movement towards removing the oil from the water (as opposed to using dispersants – which have their own secondary risks).  We also continue to hope, of course, that the oil leak is properly capped, and that real risk treatment– like always drilling a relief well – are used in the future.  Always drilling a relief well, you ask, isn’t that expensive?

Sure it is.

But ask BP about the damage to their stock value, their image, their very survivability.  Ask the residents and fisherman and others who rely on the Gulf’s fragile ecosystem.  We think the P x I (Probability x Impact) equation yields a risk factor (or risk score) that is high enough to justify that type of investment.  And as a project manager, keep these things in mind as you analyze risk.