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Climate Change City by City: Norwalk, Connecticut

CITY BY CITY: NORWALK, CT

Connecticut towns along Long Island Sound are actively working to protect their coastal zones, warding off deleterious effects of climate change, especially from rising sea levels. Of great concern is the drowning of the salt marshes that protect Connecticut’s coastal towns. Connecticut is the first coastal state to study in detail how flooding will impact each parcel of land. The 2014 study, the first of its kind by the Nature Conservancy entitled “Salt Marsh Advancement Along Connecticut’s Coast” predicts that by 2080 rising sea levels will push marsh areas inland, flooding roads, homes and businesses; overall, the study predicts the state will lose 24,000 acres of land to sea-level rise, 29.4 percent of that space is occupied by roads and buildings. Also, sections of Interstate 95 are expected to be flooded twice a day at high tide. Connecticut will be more impacted than every other state except Florida.

Norwalk SLR

Towns such as Norwalk, whose population is 85,603, are looking into coastal buffers and including resiliency programs in the town’s new 10-year conservation plan. At a recent, standing-room only public meeting in Norwalk with Norwalk Land Trust (NLT) members, Adam Whelchel, director of science at the Nature Conservancy of Connecticut in New Haven spoke about the impact of sea level rise and its impact on 24 coastal municipalities. Last November (2016) the NLT received a federal grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for $20,000 to restore 5 – 8 acres of degraded salt marsh. The Western Connecticut council of Governments (WestCOG) has produced a Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) for the states coastal towns of Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Westport, and Wilton informs residents about emergency preparedness including the impacts of sea level rise. The HMP is required for funding from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The climate change discussion is also going on in Norwalk schools, especially in science classes. Statistics show that 70% of Americans over 25, and 72 percent of Connecticut residents, agree that global warming is already impacting our lives. For young people, it climate change has been around their entire lives and is being taught in many Connecticut environmental classes. Science teacher Mark Linsky at Brien McMahon High School has been teaching AP Environmental Science at the school. Linsky told The Hour, a Connecticut news outlet, that he “had a couple of students enter the class skeptical of the idea of climate change — and man’s role in it — based simply on what they’ve seen on TV or heard at home. “Their generation finally has access to this treasure trove of scientific evidence that we’ve collected from people being curious about this for the past 30 years.” A similar course is being taught at Norwalk High School.

Connecticut schools, along with other American schools, working on convert their science curriculum to the Next Generation Science Standards, www.nextgenscience.org/, an inquiry-based program created by several states, the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Under the standards, teachers will increase the number of lessons on climate change and environmental topics.  But climate change is minimally discussed in freshman physical science classes, says Linsky, because current curriculum doesn’t support a more in depth study. Apparently if students want to know more about climate change they have to take an AP Environmental Science class where students learn about the carbon cycle, what influences climate change and tackle ideas on solutions to global warming.

 
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Building Greener by City-Tech Blogger Dave Persaud

I came across an article on ClimateYou that discussed building passive homes. Passive homes are homes that are built to a high standard which are very energy efficient and requires little heat to warm the house. The house is built using very good insulation and sealed air tight to maintain the temperatures inside. It uses solar energy and coupled with a simple wood burning stove, could heat the whole house along with “electric radiant floors,” powered by solar power. The cost of the house is high, ranging $500,000 and up with materials meaning it may not be easy to implement but in Europe there are many already built. These homes work well for the winter but have not proved the same in the heat. If any changes need to be made they must first be presented to a consultant and computer program that then runs it by metrics to determine if the change lives up to the standards of passive homes. These homes may not be the next big rave in construction but it does seem like a step in the right direction.

In a recent article in the New York Times, it looks at the prospect of passive homes quickly becoming zero-energy-use-homes and references Katrin Klingenberg, the director of the Passive House Institute-U.S. in Urbana, Ill., who considers homes as power generators that can produce and then feed electricity back to the grid.

 
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Drought, Wild Fires and Climate Change by CityTech Blogger Henry Ovalle

Around this time of year is when wildfire season is as its peak, affecting the Midwestern region of the United States. But this season has a lot of Americans worried because of extreme drought conditions during the winter, caused by little rains and high temperatures. For example, eastern Oklahoma and surrounding areas has seen 133 wildfires that had shriveled substantial amount of land breaking the previous record. Due to the warmer winter temperatures and lack of precipitation, the dead vegetation is a fuel for wildfire.

wild fires

Salon.com reports “Wildfires fueled by gusting winds, hot, dry weather, and desiccated plant life have burned nearly 900,000 acres of Oklahoma so far this year, a record, as well as parts of Kansas and Texas. The blazes have destroyed dozens of buildings and killed seven people as well as hundreds of cattle.”  Climate Central connects the drought and fires to climate change.

Climate change is expected to impact many of the factors, such as precipitation, that can contribute to wildfires. But exactly how it might affect future wildfire risks in the central and southern Plains is an open question, and one that has seen relatively little attention to date.

 
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The Future & Sea Level Rise by CityTech Blogger Henry Ovalle

nyc SLR OvalleAccording to a recent report, sea level has increased 14 centimeters in the last century. That means, it has increased at a rate of 1.4 centimeters every year. But according to the report the ocean is currently rising at a rate of 3.4 centimeters per year. We all have to contribute to reduce the carbon emissions we release to the atmosphere, otherwise our city will look like Venice or even worse.

sea level rise Ovalle

 

According to the experts, by the year 2100 the sea level could rise up to 4.2 feet. If the sea level rise gets to that point NYC bridges will be history, even the Verrazano Bridge which is the tallest in NYC.

 
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Trying to Save the Coral Reefs by City-Tech Blogger Dave

The article that I have found this week is about how ocean scientists will test 50 coral reefs around the world and test ways to limit damage from climate change, pollution and over fishing. They say record breaking heat, pollution and over-fishing threaten to wipe out 90 percent of all reefs by 2050. Last year was the warmest on record which caused damage to coral reefs all around the world.  Scientists want to first change the course of coral losses by attempting to safeguard corals. Some ways to do this include establish no fishing zones and cut pollution in coastal seas. The article says that some of the most disastrous effects of climate change are out of sight on the ocean floor. Warm waters can bleach corals by driving away algae. One in four types of fish spend part of their lives in coral reefs.

 
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