Monday, May 15, 2017

Climate Change and the Butterfly Effect

And the way that I look at a lot of climate change things is, at a certain point, you have nice, friendly oscillations in the weather cycle, globally. And, at a certain point, the string on your pendulum breaks and things go flying off. Or another way to think of it is, things are pretty steady state, up until the point when you tip the system such that your state slides down.” Dr. Pamela Gay (January 10, 2017, Ep. 435: The Butterfly Effect, Astronomy Cast.) 

If we understood Climate Change properly, we would appreciate that the time for emergency measures for protecting our infrastructures is now, if not sooner. The Butterfly Effect relates to Climate Change, resulting from the dramatic increase in greenhouse gas emissions starting with the industrial revolutions around 200 years ago, and having already led to many local consequences. Temperature increases and ocean acidification have already begun a chain of effects, some perhaps unstoppable. One of the local consequences is the increase in heavy precipitation. The pre-Pruitt EPA explained how our state’s precipitation patterns have been changed by Climate Change:

Increasing Temperature and Changing Precipitation Patterns Rising temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns are likely to increase the intensity of both floods and droughts. Average annual precipitation in the Northeast has increased 10 percent since 1895, and precipitation from extremely heavy storms has increased 70 percent since 1958. During the next century, annual precipitation and the frequency of heavy downpours are likely to keep rising. Precipitation is likely to increase during winter and spring, but not change significantly during summer and fall. Rising temperatures will melt snow earlier in spring and increase evaporation, and thereby dry the soil during summer and fall. As a result, changing the climate is likely to intensify flooding during winter and spring, and drought during summer and fall (What Climate Change Means for New York, August 2016, EPA)

Because of Climate Change, emergency responses to infrastructure damage will likely occur more often unless we finally start planning and getting ahead of them. We’ve known for some time now that our infrastructure, the bloodlines of our way of existence, are going to be under tremendous strain due to more extreme weather, warming, and a history of their not getting maintained. 

We won’t fix our infrastructure by frantically looking for emergency solutions every time something disastrous happens. Unless we plan for Climate Change on a massive scale, we are soon going to be overwhelmed. (I know, this is what scares the bejesus out of the proponents of small government, free market fundamentalism, and climate deniers. But as the local consequences of Climate Change get worse, we’ll be forced to look to our governments for a strategic plan to deal with all of this.)  

Expediting state aid for municipalities for water infrastructure Lawmakers gathered Thursday in a flooded area of a Webster tavern to announce legislation that would expedite emergency funding for counties and towns dealing with water infrastructure issues. The entertainment area and rear docks of the Bayside Pub on Irondequoit Bay are submerged. State officials used that as a backdrop to announce that legislation which would provide emergency assistance immediately for municipalities has passed the Senate and is now in the Assembly. (May 11, 2017) WXXI News [more on Climate Change in our area] 

Not only has this recent spate of heavy rainfall in our area been predicted by climate studies, some media are reporting on this responsibly:

Historic flooding in Quebec probably linked to climate change: experts Some may blame the gods, Hydro-Québec or their own bad luck, but climate change scientists say the heavy rains and terrible flooding plaguing Quebec this spring are almost certainly caused by global warming. “There is a very clear picture emerging that we’ve changed the chemistry of the atmosphere with our greenhouse gases and we are really seeing the consequences now,” Paul Beckwith, a climate systems scientist who teaches at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, told the Montreal Gazette in an interview Tuesday. Record amounts of rain this spring in Quebec and Ontario have meant the soil is saturated and can’t absorb any more water. The run-off adds to the water levels in already bloated rivers and streams. Lake Ontario has now hit its highest recorded level since 1880, when record-keeping began. The St. Lawrence River is about 1.2 meters higher than it normally is this time of year. (May 9, 2017) Montreal Gazette [more on Great Lakes, Water Quality, and Climate Change in our area]

xperts link the present major flooding around Lake Ontario to Climate Change. Our local media should start to reflect this reality. But nary a word in our Rochester local news about this connection. They have not even mentioned a possibility of a connection between the very hard flooding in our area and Climate Change—though it has been predicted in many climate models.

There is a reason why people still continue to vote for climate deniers, and one of them is media’s unwillingness to report current events as the local consequences of Climate Change. The public needs to see how Climate Change is already dramatically affecting our lives—not some nebulous time in the future as is now in fashion. We need to plan for the future, which in our region is a lot more heavy precipitation, which means our homes and infrastructure need to be made more resilient and robust.

The Butterfly Effect in Climate Change also means that at some point our relatively stable climate can suddenly become very chaotic. Ignoring this possibility means emergency responses won’t be nearly enough.

Time passes.

Check out: “Heat waves, heavy downpours, and sea level rise pose growing challenges to many aspects of life in the Northeast. Infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised. Many states and cities are beginning to incorporate climate change into their planning.”(Northeast, National Climate Assessment)

Check out: “Heavy rainfall has increased over the last 50 years, Trend projected to continue Localized flash flooding. Flooding has the potential to increase water pollution Water treatment plants mainly on floodplains” from Hell and High Water: Climate Change Effects in the Empire State 


Check this out from Climate Change in New York State Refined and Updated Projections “Projections for New York State Updated climate models and methods have helped scientists refine their previous projections for higher average temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and sea level rise in New York State. Scientists also project an increase in the frequency of extreme events, such as heat waves, heavy downpours, and coastal flooding.” Climate Change in New York State Refined and Updated Projections 

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