The 2021 Governors’ Climate Resilience Playbook outlines 12 foundational steps to set and achieve an effective state-level climate resilience agenda. This Playbook updates the 2018 U.S. Climate Alliance (USCA) New Governors’ Climate Resilience Playbook based on U.S. Climate Alliance member feedback and seeks to account for changing climate and political developments and conditions and capture some of the momentum around climate resilience action over the past few years. While the 2018 Playbook outlined what states should do to further the climate resilience agenda across states, the 2021 Playbook is focused on how to make it reality.
Read the full story in the New York Times.
No longer insulated from the climate crisis, the Global North has the power to lead the charge against the pollution it has long enabled.
Climate change has implications for both the effectiveness and hazard risk potential of many projects and activities undertaken or reviewed by natural resource management agencies. Failing to evaluate the potential vulnerability of a project or action prior to implementation or approval can lead to missed opportunities to improve design, optimize siting or otherwise reduce risk.
This tool is designed to help you determine if given climate change your project will continue to deliver intended benefits.
Read the full story in the New York Times.
When a plane crashes, its flight recorder is critical to piecing together the missteps that led to calamity. Now the planet is getting its own in case it self-destructs.
Read the full story in Hakai Magazine.
A new estimate puts the cost of adapting and repairing coastal infrastructure damaged by climate change in the United States at hundreds of billions annually. The sooner adaptation planning begins, the less expensive it will be.
Failing to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is one of the greatest risks facing the world today. However, even dramatic cuts in emissions at this stage will only begin to slow the rate of climate change. As of the middle of 2021, ever dramatic impacts of climate change are already here, and we need to aggressively cope with additional impacts that will occur in the coming decades, potentially even centuries.
In the world of national and global climate policy, the Paris Agreement from 2015 becomes an active, living document in 2021 as countries begin to implement their climate mitigation and adaptation commitments as expressed in their climate plans, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). But these NDCs vary widely in quality and ambition. Converting NDCs into operational priorities and projects is expected to be difficult. The world is relying on these NDCs to deliver on both mitigation and adaptation; adaptation is especially challenging to define in practice.
Coping with climate change will require shifting away from business as usual along two dimensions. Conceptually, we must recognize the deep uncertainties surrounding climate change and move beyond traditional conceptions of sustainability and adaptation to embrace concepts of “deep resilience”. Are we simply reacting to climate impacts, or are we redefining growth and prosperity for an age of ongoing change? Operationally, nature-based solutions (NBS) must be embedded within the NDCs as strategic assets for ensuring deep economic, ecological, and community resilience.
To support effective, credible implementation of NDCs that support deep resilience, this brief seeks to clarify: Why we need to rethink how adaptation is approached and what coping measures the NDCs must consider. Why NBS will be central to coping effectively with climate change. A companion piece will delve into guidance on implementation; how to operationalize NBS within the NDCs. View resource
Read the full story in the Washington Post.
If you grab your fishing pole and head to a river in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, you may easily make a catch.
But thanks to human-caused climate change, that fish is more likely to be a nonnative species.
A study in Science Advances shows that Montana’s changing climate is causing native trout to dwindle — and facilitating the rise of invasive species.
Read the full story in the Washington Post.
Industrializing countries around the world — from Europe and the United States in past centuries to southeast Asia in the 21st century — drained vast areas of peatlands, drying them and releasing immense wafts of carbon dioxide as well as smaller quantities of nitrous oxide, another potent greenhouse gas. The mass conversion of peatland into farmland over the centuries is estimated to have released as much as 250 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Congo wants what the rest of the world got from its peatlands: an economic development boost. The enormous Central African country is near rock-bottom on key development indicators, including life expectancy, access to education and electrification.
But herein lies one of the great paradoxes of our age: Industrialization has already irreversibly and harmfully changed our climate, and the countries responsible for most of those emissions are tasked by the United Nations with helping the rest of the world develop without repeating the mistakes of the past.
If Congo were to drain its pristine peatlands, it is near certain that hundreds of millions or even billions of tons of carbon dioxide would be emitted into the atmosphere.
Read the full story at The Hill.
The impacts of climate change will restrict where future Winter Olympics can take place in the Northern Hemisphere, a study from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, has found.
Researchers from Canada, Austria and the U.S. determined that if global greenhouse gas emissions do not dramatically decline, only one of 21 cities that have previously hosted the Winter Olympic Games — Sapporo, Japan — would be able to furnish safe and reliable conditions for snow sports by the 2080s. Six cities would be considered “marginal,” while 14 would be deemed “unreliable.”
The deadly tornado outbreak that tore through communities from Arkansas to Illinois on the night of Dec. 10-11, 2021, was so unusual in its duration and strength, particularly for December, that a lot of people including the U.S. president are asking what role climate change might have played – and whether tornadoes will become more common in a warming world.
Both questions are easier asked than answered, but research is offering new clues.
I’m an atmospheric scientist who studies severe convective storms like tornadoes and the influences of climate change. Here’s what scientific research shows so far.
Climate models can’t see tornadoes yet – but they can recognize tornado conditions
To understand how rising global temperatures will affect the climate in the future, scientists use complex computer models that characterize the whole Earth system, from the Sun’s energy streaming in to how the soil responds and everything in between, year to year and season to season. These models solve millions of equations on a global scale. Each calculation adds up, requiring far more computing power than a desktop computer can handle.
To project how Earth’s climate will change through the end of the century, we currently have to use a broad scale. Think of it like the zoom function on a camera looking at a distant mountain. You can see the forest, but individual trees are harder to make out, and a pine cone in one of those trees is too tiny to see even when you blow up the image. With climate models, the smaller the object, the harder it is to see.
Tornadoes and the severe storms that create them are far below the typical scale that climate models can predict.
What we can do instead is look at the large-scale ingredients that make conditions ripe for tornadoes to form.
Two key ingredients for severe storms are (1) energy driven by warm, moist air promoting strong updrafts, and (2) changing wind speed and direction, known as wind shear, which allows storms to become stronger and longer-lived. A third ingredient, which is harder to identify, is a trigger to get storms to form, such as a really hot day, or perhaps a cold front. Without this ingredient, not every favorable environment leads to severe storms or tornadoes, but the first two conditions still make severe storms more likely.
By using these ingredients to characterize the likelihood of severe storms and tornadoes forming, climate models can tell us something about the changing risk.
How storm conditions are likely to change
Climate model projections for the United States suggest that the overall likelihood of favorable ingredients for severe storms will increase by the end of the 21st century. The main reason is that warming temperatures accompanied by increasing moisture in the atmosphere increases the potential for strong updrafts.
Rising global temperatures are driving significant changes for seasons that we traditionally think of as rarely producing severe weather. Stronger increases in warm humid air in fall, winter and early spring mean there will be more days with favorable severe thunderstorm environments – and when these storms occur, they have the potential for greater intensity.
What studies show about frequency and intensity
Over smaller areas, we can simulate thunderstorms in these future climates, which gets us closer to answering whether severe storms will form. Several studies have modeled changes to the frequency of intense storms to better understand this change to the environment.
We are already seeing evidence in the past few decades of shifts toward conditions more favorable for severe storms in the cooler seasons, while the summertime likelihood of storms forming is decreasing.
For tornadoes, things get trickier. Even in an otherwise spot-on forecast for the next day, there is no guarantee that a tornado will form. Only a small fraction of the storms produced in a favorable environment will produce a tornado at all.
Several simulations have explored what would happen if a tornado outbreak or a tornado-producing storm occurred at different levels of global warming. Projections suggest that stronger, tornado-producing storms may be more likely as global temperatures rise, though strengthened less than we might expect from the increase in available energy.
The impact of 1 degree of warming
Much of what we know about how a warming climate influences severe storms and tornadoes is regional, chiefly in the United States. Not all regions around the globe will see changes to severe storm environments at the same rate.
In a recent study, colleagues and I found that the rate of increase in severe storm environments will be greater in the Northern Hemisphere, and that it increases more at higher latitudes. In the United States, our research suggests that for each 1 degree Celsius (1.8 F) that the temperatures rises, a 14-25% increase in favorable environments is likely in spring, fall and winter, with the greatest increase in winter. This is driven predominantly by the increasing energy available due to higher temperatures. Keep in mind that this is about favorable environments, not necessarily tornadoes.
What does this say about December’s tornadoes?
To answer whether climate change influenced the likelihood or intensity of tornadoes in the December 2021 outbreak, it remains difficult to attribute any single event like this one to climate change. Shorter-term influences like the El Niño-Southern Oscillation may also complicate the picture.
There are certainly signals pointing in the direction of a stormier future, but how this manifests for tornadoes is an open area of research.