Global internet connectivity at risk from climate disasters

Read the full story at Climatewire.

The flow of digital information through fiber-optic cables lining the sea floor could be compromised by climate change.

That’s according to new research published in the journal Earth-Science Reviews by scientists from the United Kingdom’s National Oceanography Centre and the University of Central Florida. They found that ocean and nearshore disturbances caused by extreme weather events have exposed “hot spots” along the transglobal cable network, increasing the risk of internet outages.

Damage from such outages could be enormous for governments, the private sector and nonprofit organizations whose operations rely on the safe and secure flow of digital information.

Investigating the connection between farming and crop resilience

Read the full story from Indiana University.

Highly variable precipitation is causing headaches for farmers across the Midwest, as they contend with the effects of climate change. To bolster crop yields, more farmers in Indiana and elsewhere are turning to irrigation to offset hot, dry periods. This practice, however, may undermine a natural drought-tolerance strategy that is less costly and doesn’t draw upon limited freshwater resources: soil microbes that help plants survive drought.

IU researchers are leading a unique collaboration between social scientists and biologists to study farmer decision making and the presence of soil microbes that help plants tolerate drought. The work is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Indiana cities and towns face barriers to take advantage of federal climate and resilience funding

Read the full story from Indiana University.

Between the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the US federal government has committed to investing billions of dollars to decarbonize cities and towns across the country, including funding for urban parks and forests, home energy efficiency, pollution mitigation, and more.

A recent report by Indiana University researchers, however, finds that around 4 out of 5 Hoosier cities and towns lack the resources to apply for sustainability-focused federal grant funding and would need additional staff to manage funds if they received it. The findings come as the Biden administration rolls out new details on how local governments can apply for funding.

Environmental Resilience Institute, IU Press announce environmental change book series

Read the full story from Indiana University.

As Indiana communities, businesses, and residents increasingly recognize the threat posed by climate change to Hoosiers’ health and livelihood, Indiana University Press and the Environmental Resilience Institute are teaming up on a new book series focused on environmental change—its challenges as well as solutions.

James Shanahan, a professor in The Media School at IU and former ERI associate director, announced the collaboration during a Jan. 18 event at IU Bloomington celebrating the publication of Climate Change and Resilience in Indiana and Beyond (IU Press), a book detailing how the Hoosier State can navigate the stresses posed by environmental change. The volume, released in November 2022, served as inspiration for the new book series.

Climate Change: Options to Enhance the Resilience of Agricultural Producers and Reduce Federal Fiscal Exposure

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What GAO Found

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has efforts underway to encourage agricultural producers to enhance their resilience to climate change. Specifically, USDA has taken some steps to develop and disseminate information about climate change to producers and has goals to better integrate climate resilience into agency decision-making through annual updates to its climate adaptation and resilience plan. In addition, some USDA programs may provide indirect incentives for producers to enhance their climate resilience.

Through a review of literature and interviews with experts, GAO identified 13 potential options for USDA to enhance producers’ climate resilience (see table). Each option has strengths and limitations. For example, regional climate resilience strategic planning could improve coordination, but achieving consensus across a diverse set of stakeholders could be challenging.

Potential Options for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to Help Enhance Producers’ Climate Resilience
1.  Collect data on practices that enhance climate resilience.
2.  Expand technical assistance to prioritize and promote climate resilience.
3.  Prioritize climate resilience in whole-farm conservation planning.
4.  Expand the capacity and expertise of USDA’s Climate Hubs.
5.  Develop an agricultural climate resilience plan that addresses regional needs.
6.  Establish standards for climate-resilient agricultural operations.
7.  Revise the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Practice Standards to include climate resilience.
8.  Expand conservation program eligibility criteria to include and prioritize climate resilience.
9.  Expand the capacity of USDA’s conservation programs.
10.  Research the feasibility of incorporating climate resilience into crop insurance rates.
11. Require producer adoption of climate-resilient practices to claim crop insurance premium subsidies.
12. Offer crop insurance premium subsidies for climate-resilient operations.
13. Require producer adoption of climate-resilient practices to maintain Farm Bill Title I program eligibility.
Source: GAO analysis. | GAO-23-104557

Implementing multiple options offers the most potential to improve the climate resilience of agricultural producers, according to experts and GAO’s analysis using the Disaster Resilience Framework. This framework states that integrating strategic resilience goals can help decision makers focus on a wide variety of opportunities to reduce risk. USDA officials said that some of the options could be implemented administratively through resilience planning updates required by executive orders, while others would require additional authority. The appropriate mix of options is a policy choice that requires complex trade-off decisions. By analyzing options and incorporating them, as appropriate, in future climate resilience planning efforts, USDA could help meet its obligations under executive orders and inform legislative efforts to reduce fiscal exposure from the federal crop insurance program and agricultural disaster assistance programs.

Why GAO Did This Study

Agricultural production is projected to decline in regions with increased frequency and duration of climate change impacts, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment. Congress has appropriated more than $15 billion in agricultural disaster relief in recent years. Extreme weather events also create fiscal exposure from the federal crop insurance program. In 2021, this program insured over 100 agricultural commodities, with a total program liability of $136.6 billion. In 2013, GAO added Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks to its High Risk List. Enhancing climate resilience—acting to reduce potential losses by planning for climate hazards—can help manage risks.

GAO was asked to review federal efforts to enhance the climate resilience of agriculture agricultural producers. This report examines (1) USDA’s efforts in this area and (2) potential options to further enhance them. GAO reviewed laws and regulations related to USDA’s climate resilience efforts; analyzed literature; interviewed experts and agency officials; and used GAO’s 2019 Disaster Resilience Framework to evaluate federal climate resilience activities.


GAO is recommending that USDA further analyze the options and integrate them into its ongoing climate resilience planning, as appropriate. USDA agreed with GAO’s recommendation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency AffectedRecommendation
Department of AgricultureThe Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Climate Change Program Office, located within the Office of the Chief Economist, analyzes the options to enhance the climate resilience of agricultural producers that were identified in this report and integrates them, as appropriate, into USDA’s future climate resilience prioritization and planning efforts. Such analysis should include an explanation of USDA’s decision to prioritize or not prioritize the options identified in this report and the identification of any additional authority and resources that USDA would need to implement the options. (Recommendation 1)

Action Plan for a Resilient Great Lakes Basin

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The action plan helps to prioritize efforts and forms a roadmap to advance climate resilience in the Great Lakes basin. The action plan leverages existing efforts and supports collaboration among jurisdictions to promote shared learning and resources, and to create strategic partnerships that accelerate efforts for a more resilient and adaptive Great Lakes basin and that the waters of the Great Lakes are fishable, swimmable, and drinkable for everyone in the region

Climate change trauma has real impacts on cognition and the brain, wildfire survivors study shows

The 2018 Camp Fire killed 85 people and destroyed 20,000 buildings in and around Paradise, Calif. Marcus Yam /Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

by Jyoti Mishra, University of California, San Diego

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

Psychological trauma from extreme weather and climate events, such as wildfires, can have long-term impacts on survivors’ brains and cognitive functioning, especially how they process distractions, my team’s new research shows.

Climate change is increasingly affecting people around the world, including through extreme heat, storm damage and life-threatening events like wildfires. In previous research, colleagues and I showed that in the aftermath of the 2018 fire that destroyed the town of Paradise, California, chronic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression were highly prevalent in the affected communities more than six months after the disaster.

We also found a graded effect: People whose homes or families were directly affected by fire showed greater mental health harm than those where who were indirectly effected, meaning people who witnessed the event in their community but did not have a personal loss.

In the new study, published Jan. 18, 2023, our team at the Neural Engineering and Translation Labs, or NEATLabs, at the University of California San Diego, wanted to understand whether the symptoms of climate change-related trauma translate to changes in cognitive functioning – the mental processes involved in memory, learning, thinking and reasoning.

We evaluated subjects’ cognitive functioning across a range of abilities, including attention; response inhibition – the ability to not respond impulsively; working memory – the ability to maintain information in mind for short periods of time; and interference processing – the ability to ignore distractions. We also measured their brain function while they performed cognitive tasks, using brain wave recordings obtained from electroencephalography, or EEG.

A man at  a keyboard with a cap that has nodes on it.
A wireless EEG cap records brain activity as a person responds to cognitive tests. The image on the right shows significant differences in electrical brain activity recorded on the scalp between people directly exposed to wildfires and a control group, with greater activity in left frontal cortex (red) for the group directly exposed. Grennan et al., 2022, PLOS Climate, CC BY

The study included three groups of individuals: people who were directly exposed to the fire, people who were indirectly exposed, and a control group with no exposure. The groups were well matched for age and gender.

We found that both groups of people exposed to the fire, either directly or indirectly, dealt with distractions less accurately than the control group.

We also found differences in the brain processes underlying these cognitive differences. People who were exposed to the wildfire had greater frontal lobe activity while dealing with distractions. The frontal lobe is the center for the brain’s higher-level functions. Frontal brain activity can be a marker for cognitive effort, suggesting that people exposed to the fires may be having more difficulty processing distractions and compensating by exerting more effort.

Why it matters

With climate change fueling more disasters, it is incredibly important to understand its impacts on human health, including mental health. Resilient mental health is what allows us to recover from traumatic experiences. How humans experience and mentally deal with climate catastrophes sets the stage for our future lives.

There are strategies people can use to help reduce the stress. Psychosocial research suggests that practicing mindfulness and developing healthy lifestyles, with regular exercise and enough sleep, can protect mental well-being in these scenarios, along with developing strong social bonds.

What’s next?

There is much work to be done to understand if the effects we found are replicable in large sample studies. In this work, we focused on a total of 75 study participants. Scientists also need to understand how these effects evolve as climate disasters like wildfires occur more often.

We are also pursuing research with community partners to implement interventions that can help alleviate some the impacts we observed on brain and cognitive functioning. There is no one-size-fits-all solution – each community must find the resiliency solutions that work best in their environmental context. As scientists, we can help them understand the causes and point them to solutions that are most effective in improving human health.

Jyoti Mishra, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego

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

Enhancing Community Resilience through Social Capital and Connectedness Stronger Together!

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Disasters caused by natural hazards and other large-scale emergencies are devastating communities in the United States. These events harm individuals, families, communities, and the entire country, including its economy and the federal budget. This report identifies applied research topics, information, and expertise that can inform action and opportunities within the natural hazard mitigation and resilience fields with the goal of reducing the immense human and financial toll of disasters.

Motivating Local Climate Adaptation and Strengthening Resilience Making Local Data Trusted, Useful, and Used

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Local communities are already experiencing dire effects caused by climate change that are expected to increase in frequency, intensity, duration, and type. Public concern about climate-related challenges is increasing, available information and resources on climate risks are expanding, and cities across the country and the globe are developing approaches to and experience with measures for mitigating climate impacts. Building and sustaining local capacities for climate resilience requires both resilient physical and social infrastructure systems and inclusive, resilient communities.

At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Motivating Local Climate Adaptation and Strengthening Resilience provides guidance for active and ongoing efforts to move science and data into action and to enable and empower applied research that will strengthen capacities for hazard mitigation and resilience in communities, across the nation, and around the world.

Seize the moment for climate action, mayors group says

Read the full story at Smart Cities Dive.

“The federal government is making unprecedented investments in climate action,” and implementation efforts in 2023 will prove critical, said ​​​​​​Madison, Wisconsin’s mayor, the network’s new chair.