Climate Change: Enhancing Federal Resilience

Download the document and see the related story at Smart Cities Dive.

To reduce federal fiscal exposure to climate change, the federal government needs a cohesive, strategic approach, with strong leadership and the authority to manage risks.

Nigerian company turns e-waste into solar powered lanterns

Read the full story at Reuters.

Quadloop, a Nigerian based company, has found a way to turn electronic waste into solar lanterns and other products which will have a lower impact on the environment.

Dozie Igweilo, founder of Quadloop, told Reuters he came up with the idea after discovering a market for affordable, locally produced electrical goods, for which components were not available in the country.

Chicago may end natural gas hookups for new homes, businesses

Read the full story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

As Chicagoans maneuver around torn-up streets and sidewalks while utility crews install new underground gas pipelines, City Hall announced a climate-fighting plan Thursday that envisions the end of fossil fuel hookups to homes and buildings.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration announced more than two dozen recommendations from outside advisers representing advocacy, business and labor interests to cut emissions from homes and buildings that add to the climate crisis.

Among the recommendations, Chicago would require new residential or commercial construction to be built without any gas or other fossil fuel-burning equipment, such as heating systems or appliances. A “fossil fuel mitigation fee” would be added to construction that chooses to use gas.

Environmental groups want to shift oversight of Ohio injection wells

Read the full story from the Vindicator.

Environmental groups urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take over regulation of oil and gas injection wells in Ohio have filed a petition seeking the change with the federal regulatory agency.

On Thursday, they tried to raise awareness of their effort that would revoke the state department’s primacy over Class II injection wells.

‘The System Needs to Be Changed’

Read the full story at Inside Higher Ed.

A new paper suggests that introductory STEM courses disproportionately push underrepresented minority students out of the natural and applied sciences.

A Common GOAL: OVG, sports team partners create new membership platform to exchange sustainability best practices

Read the full story in Sports Business Journal.

Sports venue operators interested in running their spaces more sustainably have long been left mostly on their own in figuring out how to do so.

Oak View Group wants to change that with the launch of GOAL (Green Operations and Advanced Leadership), a membership platform that will help venues operate in more environmentally friendly ways by accessing Amazon Web Services (AWS)-powered software that includes a tactical roadmap, a library of resources like vetted vendors lists, progress tracking tools and the free exchange of knowledge and experience among GOAL member venues. OVG partnered with the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena, Fenway Sports Group, and green building architect Jason McLennan, all of whom have equity in GOAL, to get the initiative off the ground.

Barrier islands are natural coast guards that absorb impacts from hurricanes and storms

Cumberland Island National Seashore off the coast of Georgia. NPS, CC BY-SA

by Anna Linhoss, Auburn University

When storms like Hurricane Ian make landfall, the first things they hit often are barrier islands – thin ribbons of sand that line the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It’s hard to imagine how these narrow strips can withstand such forces, but in fact, many of them have buffered our shores for centuries.

Barrier islands protect about 10 percent of coastlines worldwide. When hurricanes and storms make landfall, these strands absorb much of their force, reducing wave energy and protecting inland areas.

They also provide a sheltered environment that enables estuaries and marshes to form behind them. These zones serve many valuable ecological functions, such as reducing coastal erosion, purifying water and providing habitat for fish and birds.

Many barrier islands have been developed into popular tourist destinations, including Florida’s Sanibel Island and South Carolina’s Pawleys Island, both of which suffered heavy damage from Hurricane Ian. Islands that have been preserved in their natural state can move with storms, shifting their shapes over time. But many human activities interfere with these natural movements, making the islands more vulnerable.

Ocean City, Maryland is built on Fenwick Island, an Atlantic barrier island. USACE

Islands on the move

Barrier islands are made of sandy, erodible soil and subject to high-energy wave action. They are dynamic systems that constantly form and reform. But this doesn’t necessarily mean the islands are disappearing. Rather, they migrate naturally, building up sand in some areas and eroding in other areas.

New islands can form out in the ocean, either because local sea level drops or tectonics or sediment deposition raises the ocean floor. Or they may shift laterally along the shore as currents carry sediments from one end of the island toward the other. On the East Coast, barrier islands usually move from north to south because longshore currents transport sand in the same direction.

And over time many barrier islands move landward, toward the shore. This typically happens because local sea levels rise, so waves wash over the islands during storms, moving sand from the ocean side to the inland side.

How longshore drift moves sediment along a beach.

1=beach. 2=sea 3=longshore current direction 4=incoming waves 5=swash 6=backwash USGS

Building on shifting sands

Building hard infrastructure such as homes, roads and hotels on barrier islands interrupts their lateral migration. Needless to say, beach communities want their dunes to stay in place, so the response often is to build control structures, such as seawalls and jetties.

This protects buildings and roads, but it also disrupts natural sand transportation. Blocking erosion up-current means that no sediments are transported down-current, leaving those areas starved of sediment and vulnerable to erosion.

Many sandy tourist beach towns along the East Coast also turn to beach nourishment – pumping tons of sand from offshore – to replace sand lost through erosion. This does not interrupt natural sand transportation, but it is a very expensive and temporary fix.

For example, since the 1940s Florida has spent over US$1.3 billion on beach nourishment projects, and North Carolina has spent more than $700 million. This added sand will eventually wash away, quite possibly during the next hurricane to hit the coast, and have to be replaced.

What kind of protection?

In some cases, however, leaving barrier islands to do their own natural thing can cause problems for people. Some cities and towns, such as Miami and Biloxi, are located behind barrier islands and rely on them as a first line of defense against storms.

And many communities depend on natural resources provided by the estuaries and wetlands behind barrier islands. For example, Pamlico Sound – the protected waters behind North Carolina’s Outer Banks – is a rich habitat for blue crabs and popular sport fish such as red drum.

Survey images of barrier islands of Alabama, Mississippi and southeast Louisiana, collected to document changes resulting from Hurricane Isaac in August 2012. USGS

Unmanaged, some of these islands may not move the way we want them to. For example, a storm breach on a barrier island that protects a city would make that city more vulnerable.

Here in Mississippi, a string of uninhabited barrier islands off our coast separates Mississippi Sound from the Gulf of Mexico. Behind the islands is a productive estuary, important wetlands and cities such as Biloxi and Gulfport.

Because the Mississippi River has been dredged and enclosed between levees to keep it from spilling over its banks, this area does not receive the sediment loads that the river once deposited in this part of the Gulf. As a result, the islands are eroding and disappearing.

To slow this process, state and federal agencies have artificially nourished the islands to keep them in place and preserve the cities, livelihoods and ecological habitats behind them. This project filled a major breach cut in one island by Hurricane Camille in 1969, making the island a more effective storm buffer for the state’s coast.

When to retreat?

Geologically, barrier islands are not designed to stay in one place. But development on them is intended to last, although critics argue that climate change and sea level rise will inevitably force a retreat from the shore.

Reconciling humans’ love of the ocean with the hard realities of earth science is not easy. People will always be drawn to the coast, and prohibiting development is politically impractical. However, there are some ways to help conserve barrier islands while maintaining areas for tourism activities.

First, federal, state and local laws can reduce incentives to build on barrier islands by putting the burden of rebuilding after storms on owners, not on the government. Many critics argue that the National Flood Insurance Program has encouraged homeowners to rebuild on barrier islands and other coastal locations, even after suffering repeated losses in many storms.

Aerial view of a causeway with water and sediment flowing through a gap in the center
Hurricane Ian breached the causeway connecting Sanibel Island, Florida to the mainland, forcing residents to leave by boat after the storm passed. Image taken Sept. 30, 2022. Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images

Second, construction on barrier islands should leave dunes and vegetation undisturbed. This helps to keep their sand transportation systems intact. When roads and homes directly adjacent to beaches are damaged by storms, owners should be required to move back from the shoreline in order to provide a natural buffer between any new construction and the coastline.

Third, designating more conservation areas on barrier islands will maintain some of the natural sediment transportation and barrier island migration processes. And these conservation areas are popular nature-based tourism attractions. Protected barrier islands such as Assateague, Padre and the Cape Cod National Seashore are popular destinations in the U.S. national park system.

Finally, development on barrier islands should be done with change in mind and a preference for temporary or movable infrastructure. The islands themselves are surprisingly adaptable, but whatever is built in these dynamic settings is likely sooner or later to be washed away.

Anna Linhoss, Associate Professor of Engineering, Auburn University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Pumpkin farms in Illinois and elsewhere adapt to improve soil, lower emissions

Read the full story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

This Thanksgiving, your pumpkin pie might have a lower carbon footprint.

On the central Illinois farms that supply most of the world’s canned pumpkin, farmers are adopting regenerative techniques designed to reduce emissions, attract natural pollinators like bees and butterflies and improve the health of the soil.

The effort is backed by Libby’s, the 150-year-old canned food company, which processes 120,000 tons of pumpkins each year — or about 85% of the world’s total canned pumpkin — from these Illinois fields.

Want a career saving the planet? Become an electrician.

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Over the past several years, the mantra of energy experts has been that we need to electrify everything — and then switch electrical power generation over to clean sources of power like wind, solar, geothermal and nuclear. Doing so will rapidly decrease carbon emissions and help to stave off dangerous levels of warming.

But installing all of that electrical stuff — the solar panels, the heat pumps, the transmission lines — will require something that the United States doesn’t have: lots and lots of electricians.

According to the nonprofit group Rewiring America, which focuses on electrification, shifting the economy away from fossil fuels will require no fewer than 1 billion new electrical appliances, cars and other items in American households alone.

Can power plant wastewater be valuable?

Read the full story at Power Magazine.

The rise and rapid adoption of the circular economy—a systems solution framework that seeks to keep materials, products, and services in circulation for as long as possible—is triggering an interesting shift in how wastewater is being viewed. One view posits that wastewater should no longer be seen as waste, owing to the possibility that industry may recover several valuable resources from it. These include water, energy, fertilizers, biofuels, biopolymers, and critical minerals.

This type of resource recovery has thrived, primarily in higher-income countries, as part of established efforts relating to general wastewater treatment. However, their uptake in the power industry has suffered setbacks, given complex water quality. Still, several research and development efforts in recent years suggest promise.