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Its an Emergency: People at Risk by CityTech blogger Angel Orellana

Many African Americans live in a place where they are exposed to toxic air pollution from from the fossil fuel industry. The study revealed that “more than 1 million African Americans live within a half-mile of natural gas wells, processing, transmission, and storage facilities, and 6.7 million live in counties with refineries, potentially exposing them to an elevated risk of cancer due to toxic air emissions.” This means that a lot of African Americans that live near these fossil fuel wells are exposed to hazardous air pollution which could result in cancer or health diseases. The president of the National Medical Association Doris Brown, is worried about air pollutants that the people are breathing, because in the future it could cause health diseases. The study used the U.S. EPA National Inventory and the National Air Toxic Assessment data which concentrates on emissions and health by county to make an astonishing find. The study found that the oil and gas emissions were attributed to 138,000 asthma attacks and 100,000 missed school days each year among African-American children. This is a big problem because kids are not only sick, but then fall behind in school. It is also an environmental issue because it affects the atmosphere which results in greenhouses gases and global warming. We have to find ways to reduce emissions or stop the fossil fuel industry because in the future it will affect a lot of people’s lives.

Photo Credit: Credit: Bill Abbott/CC-BY-SA-2.0

 
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Climate Change in the Home of the Paris Agreement by Barnard Blogger Sonia Cisneros

Paris, a city of light, love, and climate change. Over the past few years Paris has both propelled itself forward as the home of the Paris Agreement, as well as has been plunged into the deep end of climate change with record storms and floods in 2016, and the onset of smog over the city over the past year.

In December 2015, Paris played the role of host to the Paris Agreement (or Paris Climate Accord) which through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) works to unite 196 of the world’s nations in a single agreement on tackling climate change. The main goals of the agreement are to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2ºC, to limit greenhouse gas emissions to just that which the planet can naturally absorb, to review each county’s emissions every 5 years, and to provide climate finance to developing nations to allow them to skip fossil fuels and move straight towards renewable energy sources. These goals are large and long term, with projects such as cutting net greenhouses emissions being planned for as far in the future as 2100, but the hope is to begin cutting emissions by 2020 and not let them continue to rise thereafter.

With the absence of the United States, the second-largest producer of greenhouse emissions, from this Accord, the future of climate change control is uncertain. Issues of money, actual emissions reductions, and the reliability of other countries to remain in the agreement are unclear. Along with the ambiguous conditions of the Paris Agreement are the effects already making themselves apparent in Paris itself. In the summer of 2016 Paris saw its worst floods since 1910, and in December of 2016 the appearance of smog over the city was a cause for alarm and resulted in restriction of in-city car use and free public transportation for nearly an entire week.

The summer flooding in 2016 which brought the Seine to a record high of 6.1m, was mirrored again in 2017 with incredible amounts of flash flooding in July. The two-hour storm on July 9, 2017 dropped 54mm of rain on Paris, with 49.2mm of it falling in just an hour, making it the heaviest rainfall on record. Both floods brought anxiety for multiple facets of the city, with the 2016 floods creating a concern for the Louvre and Musée D’Orsay archives, which are both stored below ground level. The 2017 flood created sudden chaos when it shut down at least 20 different metro stations and generated 1,700 emergency calls in one evening.

http://www.france24.com/en/20161207-paris-winter-air-pollution-worst-10-years

In December of 2016 heavy smog enveloped the city of Paris, supposedly as emissions from cars and wood burning accumulated under a stagnant pool of air over the city. Mayor Anne Hidalgo mandated a restriction on motor vehicles in the city and opened public transportation up for free for nearly a week in an attempt to alleviate the situation. The restrictions helped to regulate the situation in the short term, and the free transportation proved to be popular. However, it was clear from the rapid accumulation of poor air quality at that time (which caused eye and throat irritation), that Paris needs to do more in the future to keep up with its emissions not only to prevent long term climate change but to limit health problems for its current residents.

Paris still struggles with pollution emissions from vehicles in the city, particularly in areas of congestion such as the Boulevard Peripherique and La Defense. If the pattern of the last two years continues, Paris could see more severe weather and flooding coming its way. Paris may not hold the record for ‘city with the worst greenhouse gas emissions’, but it is the namesake of an agreement that is attempting to combat climate change in huge ways. The issues with Paris’ own public and environmental health are ones which need to be addressed as soon as possible. Then Parisians will follow through as a leader in the world of action against climate change and forge a path to a better future for global health.

 
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Climate Change Adaptation and New Jersey’s Widening Coastline by Barnard Blogger Samantha Goldberg

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy wrought destruction upon my hometown of Port Monmouth, New Jersey, along with many other communities on the New York-New Jersey coastline. With a storm surge of nearly 9 feet, my neighborhood was entirely inundated — to the effect that my neighbors down the street had to be rescued by boat after they failed to evacuate. In the wake of the storm, some $50 billion worth of damage was incurred: homes were unhinged from their foundations; the surviving ones remained powerless for weeks; and the familiar streets of New Jersey’s beach towns were buried under mountains of sand. Sandy’s near perpendicular landfall in New Jersey represents a rare weather event, with an estimated return period of 714 years. Given such infrequency, many news outlets were quick to link her origins to anthropogenically- induced climate change. Indeed, global warming is projected to increase the intensity (and reduce the frequency) of hurricanes, but given limitations in attribution science, climate scientists still cannot definitively ascribe Sandy to climate change. Nevertheless, New Jersey has begun to alter its topography in anticipation of new flood risks posed to the coast by climate change.

When I returned home from college my freshman year in 2015, I was surprised to find a beach that was wider than the one I had left. Termed “beach replenishment,” this was one of the flood mitigation projects undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers (on the agenda for over a decade but stalled by lack of funds) to restore the sand lost to storm erosion and protect the New Jersey coastline from future storm surge and sea level rise, increasingly expected with climate change. This year, four more towns in Ocean County, New Jersey, began a similar project. Adding 11 million cubic yards to 14 miles of beaches, these beach replenishment efforts constitute one of the largest replenishment projects in history and have received abundant pushback from homeowners, who are challenging the Army Corps’ invocation of eminent domain over the coastline. In light of such undertakings, a debate has emerged surrounding the efficacy of beach replenishment as a climate change adaptation strategy. Though these projects, which consist of moving sand usually from offshore onto the coastline, protect against coastal property damage and can shelter shoreline habitats from salt water intrusion, some have questioned the ability of beach replenishment to provide long-term solutions to the coastal issues that climate change will exacerbate, particularly because beach replenishment does not inhibit future erosion and thus requires constant maintenance.

Moreover, the environmental impacts extend beyond the beach itself. When sediments are displaced from nearshore areas, the dredge pits have been shown to alter wave patterns and turbidity, which can ultimately expedite coastal erosion. As a result of this sediment transfer, marine ecosystems are inevitably disrupted, with varying abilities to recover. One particularly damaging period occurs during the transport of dredged sediment, when significant portions of the material may leak into unintended areas. When Rockaway Beach was undergoing beach replenishment in the 1970s, for example, it was estimated that 10% of excavated sediment never made it to the desired location. When such sediment is accidentally deposited in marine communities, it can cloud the water, inhibiting light penetration and vegetation growth, or cover sea grasses and coral reefs, putting undue weight them.

Many of the environmental concerns embodied in beach replenishment can be reduced by careful impact assessments and planning, but given the costs of these projects now and into the future, carefully considering alternatives is definitely warranted. They become all the more enticing when one remembers New Jersey’s failed beach replenishment projects, such as the $2.5 million Ocean City project in 1982 that was completely blown away a mere two months after completion. These alternatives may take the form of building hard structures, such as seawalls or revetments (which, albeit, could be even more expensive), but it may also be worth asking whether such extreme measures should be taken to delay inevitable coastal losses to erosion and sea level rise at all.

 
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California Hit Hard by Climate Change by Barnard Blogger Lily Farr

When we returned to school this fall, the biggest headlines were about the fires in Northern California. Everywhere I went, a Californian shared their fears. My friend from San Francisco told me her family was forced to stay inside, due to the extremely low air quality. Another friend called to tell me her dad’s house in Santa Rosa had burned down. I have never lived in California, but I’ve always heard it’s idyllic. Friends from California, whom I know because they’ve relocated to cold, dirty New York, always ask each other, “Why did we ever leave?”  Although it’s always felt like paradise, with beaches and big trees, in the past few years, California has been hit by climate change—hard.

We learned about the drought in pieces, when things like the almond shortage would pop into the news. When I visited my cousins in California, they pointed out a sign in the median of the highway, where men were watering flowers with hoses: “Flowers Watered with Gray-Water”. My cousins explained they weren’t allowed to water with drinking water. Although it had been in the back of my brain, I never realized that in the past 10 years, California has experienced record-breaking levels of drought. In 2014, a state-level “drought emergency” was declared. This drought was not caused by climate change alone. The three-year drought that began in 2012 came from the same source as most California droughts historically: a ridge of high pressure in the Pacific Ocean preventing storms from reaching California. However, the impacts of this drought have intensified due to higher global temperatures; water evaporates quicker and soils dry faster.

In his paper on the California droughts, A. Park Williams calculates that climate change is responsible for 15 to 20 percent of the soil moisture deficit. When talking about the fires from this October, Californians do not agree on causes. In an article from Scientific American, multiple residents of Northern California are quoted, some see climate change as a factor in the fires, some who do not. The fires are extremely recent, and scientists have had little time to draw firm conclusions on the cause of the wildfires. However, it’s clear that the fires were influenced by the high temperatures and drought California has seen in the 21st century.

 

 

 

 

 
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Adapting to Drought in California by Barnard Blogger Lauren Hayashi

I have chosen to write about my personal experience involving climate change in my hometown of San Luis Obispo, California. I was in my senior year of high school when the drought of 2013/2014 occurred. During this drought, California experienced its driest twelve- month period on record. The state only had one-third of its average precipitation. Over the years I have had the pleasure of witnessing a change of culture to adapt to increasingly scarce water resources. But it was the 2013/2014 drought that galvanized the community effort to conserve water.

There were a few unique practices that were brought upon by living in a drought-affected community that were meant to promote water conservation. For example, in communities where car washes are commonplace, kids often write with their fingers “Wash Me.” However, once our community became aware of deficient water resources, there was a trend to replace “Wash Me” with “Save Water.” The dust was almost a trophy of saving water because it showed an effort to look past the dust on the windows in order to skip the car wash and save water. Another practice was how students were taught in school to minimize the amount of water wasted. It was hammered into our minds to avoid running the sink when brushing our teeth, to have minimal faucet flow while washing the dishes, to only run the dish washer and laundry machine when there were full loads, and to take showers as quickly as possible. In fact, in some of our local gym locker rooms, there were systems installed in the showers to keep the person taking a shower cognizant of the length of the shower.  A yellow light would flash after five minutes in the shower and then a red one after seven minutes. A big change that was seen was in the concept of grass.  The slogan “gold is the new green” was applied where it was frowned upon to maintain lush green grass – a sign of frequent watering. Many of my neighbors let their grass turn gold by turning off their sprinklers; my family let our grass die and eventually the land turned into a dirt covered by dry leaves. Some neighbors changed their land by switching the grass for a rock garden with plants that do not require large amounts of water such as cacti. Sometimes the owners would even post a small sign with a water conservation message to promote this practice. To further the modifications with respect to grass, the local government outlawed turning on sprinkler systems during the day and urged home owners to set the system to water the grass at night to minimize evaporation.

My community took a negative consequence of climate change, a severe drought, and turned it into a community endeavor for water conservation. The drought made our perception of water change from an unlimited resource that we can mindlessly use to it being a valuable resource that we must ration. I still remember how happy I was when my mother called me and told me that Gov. Jerry Brown announced the end of the drought. I believe that our practices contributed to the end of the drought – although we could not manipulate weather we could manipulate how we used our resources. I can only hope that we continue the practices of conserving water, and that other communities follow as well.

 

 

 

 
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