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

CCI

“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:

interactivegraphic

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.

Not one for the refrigerator

reportcardonfridge

Remember when you came home with a great report card, which had great grades – maybe all As – but also a great prognosis for what expectations the teachers had for you in the future?  Remember that?  Huh?

Sigh…..Well, OK, neither do I.

But still, it’s a great metaphor, or simile, or analogy, or whatever (see, told you – not so great in school!).

A few hours ago the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee, a group of 60 respected scientists and administrators, released the draft of the National Climate Assessment, issued every four years.  We’re not talking about Greenpeace members here.  These are folks from MIT, Monsanto corporation, Louisiana State University, Chevron corporation, the University of Michigan, Computer Sciences Corporation, and many other respected institutions.  Thirteen US Federal agencies also are part of the effort.

It’s not a good report card, and it’s not a good prognosis.  Without doing any further evaluation, we provide for your reading (sit down before you do that) the draft of the executive report.

Report Findings [DRAFT -12-Jan-2013]

1. Global climate is changing, and this is apparent across the U.S. in a wide range of observations. The climate change of the past 50 years is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels.

U.S. average temperature has increased by about 1.5°F since 1895, with more than 80% of this increase occurring since 1980. The most recent decade was the nation’s warmest on record. Because human-induced warming is superimposed on a naturally varying climate, rising temperatures are not evenly distributed across the country or over time (Ch. 2).

2. Some extreme weather and climate events have increased in recent decades, and there is new and stronger evidence that many of these increases are related to human activities.

Changes in extreme events are the primary way in which most people experience climate change. Human-induced climate change has already increased the frequency and intensity of some extremes. Over the last 50 years, much of the U.S. has seen an increase in prolonged stretches of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, and in some regions more severe droughts (Ch. 2, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23).

3. Human-induced climate change is projected to continue and accelerate significantly if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to increase.

Heat-trapping gases already in the atmosphere have committed us to a hotter future with more climate-related impacts over the next few decades. The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades depends primarily on the amount of heat-trapping gases emitted globally, now and in the future (Ch. 2, 27).

4. Impacts related to climate change are already evident in many sectors and are expected to become increasingly challenging across the nation throughout this century and beyond.

Climate change is already affecting human health, infrastructure, water resources, agriculture, energy, the natural environment, and other factors – locally, nationally, and internationally. Climate change interacts with other environmental and societal factors in a variety of ways that either moderate or exacerbate the ultimate impacts. The types and magnitudes of these effects vary across the nation and through time. Several populations –including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, tribes and other indigenous people – are especially vulnerable to one or more aspects of climate change. There is mounting evidence  that the costs to the nation are already high and will increase very substantially in the future, unless global emissions of heat-trapping gases are strongly reduced (Ch. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 32 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25).

 

5. Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food, and water, and threats to mental health.

Climate change is increasing the risks of heat stress, respiratory stress from poor air quality, and the spread of waterborne diseases. Food security is emerging as an issue of concern, both within the U.S. and across the globe, and is affected by climate change. Large-scale changes in the environment due to climate change and extreme weather events are also increasing the risk of the emergence or reemergence of unfamiliar health threats (Ch. 2, 6 , 9, 11, 12, 16, 19, 20, 22, 23).

 6. Infrastructure across the U.S. is being adversely affected by phenomena associated with  climate change, including sea level rise, storm surge, heavy downpours, and extreme heat.

Sea level rise and storm surges, in combination with the pattern of heavy development in coastal areas, are already resulting in damage to infrastructure such as roads, buildings, ports, and energy facilities. Infrastructure associated with military installations is also at risk from climate change impacts. Floods along the nation’s rivers, inside cities, and on lakes following heavy downpours, prolonged rains, and rapid melting of snowpack are damaging infrastructure in towns and cities, farmlands, and a variety of other places across the nation. Extreme heat is damaging transportation infrastructure such as roads, rail lines, and airport runways. Rapid warming in Alaska has resulted in infrastructure impacts due to thawing of permafrost and the loss of coastal sea ice that once protected shorelines from storms and wave-driven coastal erosion (Ch. 2, 3, 5, 6, 11, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25).

7. Reliability of water supplies is being reduced by climate change in a variety of ways that affect ecosystems and livelihoods in many regions, particularly the Southwest, the Great Plains, the Southeast, and the islands of the Caribbean and the Pacific, including the state of Hawai`i.

Surface and groundwater supplies in many regions are already stressed by increasing demand for water as well as declining runoff and groundwater recharge. In many regions, climate change increases the likelihood of water shortages and competition for water among agricultural, municipal, and environmental uses. The western U.S. relies heavily on mountain snowpack for water storage, and spring snowpack is declining in most of the West. There is an increasing risk of seasonal water shortages in many parts of the U.S., even where total precipitation is projected to increase. Water quality challenges are also increasing, particularly sediment and contaminant concentrations after heavy downpours (Ch. 2, 3, 12, 26 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23).

8. Adverse impacts to crops and livestock over the next 100 years are expected. Over the next 25 years or so, the agriculture sector is projected to be relatively resilient, even though there will be increasing disruptions from extreme heat, drought, and heavy downpours. U.S. food security and farm incomes will also depend on how agricultural systems adapt to climate changes in other regions of the world.

Near-term resilience of U.S. agriculture is enhanced by adaptive actions, including expansion of irrigated acreage in response to drought, regional shifts in crops and cropped acreage, continued technological advancements, and other adjustments. By mid-century, however, when temperature increases and precipitation extremes are further intensified, yields of major U.S. crops are expected to decline, threatening both U.S. and international food security. The U.S. food system also depends on imports, so food security and commodity pricing will be affected by agricultural adaptation to climate changes and other conditions around the world (Ch. 2, 6, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19).

9. Natural ecosystems are being directly affected by climate change, including changes in biodiversity and location of species. As a result, the capacity of ecosystems to moderate the consequences of disturbances such as droughts, floods, and severe storms is being diminished.

In addition to climate changes that directly affect habitats, events such as droughts, floods, wildfires, and pest outbreaks associated with climate change are already disrupting ecosystem structures and functions in a variety of direct and indirect ways. These changes  limit the capacity of ecosystems such as forests, barrier beaches, and coastal- and freshwater-wetlands to adapt and continue to play important roles in reducing the impacts of these 9 extreme events on infrastructure, human communities, and other valued resources (Ch. 2, 3, 10 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15, 19, 25).

10. Life in the oceans is changing as ocean waters become warmer and more acidic.

Warming ocean waters and ocean acidification across the globe and within U.S. marine territories are broadly affecting marine life. Warmer and more acidic waters are changing the distribution of fish and other mobile sea life, and stressing those, such as corals, that cannot move. Warmer and more acidic ocean waters combine with other stresses, such as overfishing and coastal and marine pollution, to negatively affect marine-based food production and fishing communities (Ch. 2, 23, 24, 25).

11. Planning for adaptation (to address and prepare for impacts) and mitigation (to reduce emissions) is increasing, but progress with implementation is limited.

In recent years, climate adaptation and mitigation activities have begun to emerge in many sectors and at all levels of government; however barriers to implementation of these activities are significant. The level of current efforts is insufficient to avoid increasingly serious impacts of climate change that have large social, environmental, and economic consequences. Well-planned and implemented actions to limit emissions and increase resilience to impacts that are unavoidable can improve public health, economic development opportunities, natural system protection, and overall quality of life (Ch. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 27 26, 27, 28).

Stay tuned to EarthPM.  We will get you the latest info not only on climate change and reports like this, but the connection to projects, programs, and our discipline of project management.  As you read through this, we hope you’ll see the connection(s), such as:

  • Effects on projects
  • Effects on resources
  • Potential new programs and projects
  • Motivation to add sustainability thinking into your projects

More later.