Monday, August 28, 2017

Delusional approaches to solving Climate Change problems in the Rochester region

Impacts to the Great Lakes. Lake ecosystems will also be affected by the changing climate. Warmer temperatures may cause more algal blooms, which can harm fish and degrade water quality. If severe storms become more frequent, then sewer overflows will become more frequent, and more pollutants are likely to run off from the land into the Great Lakes, which could threaten water supplies and require recreational beaches to be closed more often for health reasons (Page, 4, What Climate Change Means for Upstate New York, Rochester’s Climate Action Plan)

It isn’t just the flooding

Some of us in the Northeast are often astonished when we read stories about continual flooding in Southeast coastal cities and, despite all evidence, state agencies are discouraged from using ‘Climate Change’ when planning for damaging sea level rise.

The Republican-controlled state legislature drew ridicule in 2012 for attempting to “outlaw” climate change by prohibiting state agencies from planning for sea-level rise. In this year’s election, which includes a close governor’s race, the subject is so contentious that climate change barely comes up, if at all. (Scientist Goes It Alone on Climate Change to Save His State, 10/28/2016 National Geographic)

This thinking is befuddling and creates delusional planning because the oceans are rising, our water quality is diminishing, and flooding is occurring faster than ever before.

Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun Scientists’ warnings that the rise of the sea would eventually imperil the United States’ coastline are no longer theoretical. Yet Congress has largely ignored these pleas, and has even tried to block plans by the military to head off future problems at the numerous bases imperiled by a rising sea. A Republican congressman from Colorado, Ken Buck, recently called one military proposal part of a “radical climate change agenda. ”The gridlock in Washington means the United States lacks not only a broad national policy on sea-level rise, it has something close to the opposite: The federal government spends billions of taxpayer dollars in ways that add to the risks, by subsidizing local governments and homeowners who build in imperiled locations along the coast. (September 3, 2016 New York Times)

The same kind of denial is happening here in the Rochester area with the rise of flooding (71% since 1958) and untreated sewage releases, while more lakes are producing harmful algae blooms. Even so, these issues are not being characterized in the media, which is to say communicated to the public, as the consequences of Climate Change. If Climate Change was mentioned at this meeting on the proliferation of blue green algae in “the list of now 60 waterways” the press didn’t mention it.  

Pooling resources against algae An event Wednesday in Geneva focused on protecting water quality from blue green algae Keuka Lake became one of the latest Finger Lakes this summer to fall victim to harmful blue green algae. While some beaches on that lake were reopened within a few days, on Aug. 9, after health officials deemed them safe, the threat remains on Keuka and other waterways statewide. So far this summer, Canandaigua hasn’t joined the list of now 60 waterways — including Honeoye Lake — affected statewide by blue green algae. Harmful algae blooms can be deadly to animals and harmful to humans, causing vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, allergic reactions or difficulty breathing. (August 10, 2017) Daily Messenger [more on Water Quality in our area]

You cannot solve sewage problems, algae problems, or flooding problems if you are constantly having to convince yourself that Climate Change is a hoax. We are squandering away too much time and energy trying to appease climate deniers.  As a result, we are trying to address Climate Change problems by focusing only on the symptoms. It’s delusional. It’s like trying to stop lung cancer with a cough suppressant.

As of today, the EPA has this factsheet posted: “Impacts of Climate Change on the Occurrence of Harmful Algal Blooms” (You should probably download and keep this document before the Pruitt EPA removes it. Just saying …)

Climate change is affecting everything in the Great Lakes basin

Climate Change is affecting every aspect of the Great Lakes, which means all communities in this largest of freshwater basins (which includes Rochester and Monroe County) must work together for solutions. Problems around rising surface temperatures, water quality, precipitation, extreme weather, harmful algae blooms, fish and wildlife, ice coverage, water levels, tourism, shipping and recreation, and much more are being amplified and accelerated by Climate Change. Our media, our politics and elections, our planning for the future, and our jobs should all reflect the relationship between Climate Change and the largest freshwater system in the world.

How is climate change affecting the Great Lakes? Across the globe, climate change is increasing temperatures, spurring on extreme weather, harming ecosystems and raising sea levels. But what does it mean for the Great Lakes? For the 30 million Americans and Canadians who live in the Great Lakes basin, climate change, primarily attributed to human activities increasing greenhouse gas emissions, is a real threat to the home of 84 percent of North America’s surface fresh water. Rising temperatures could lower water levels in the lakes, intensify harmful algal blooms and threaten fish and wildlife. Here’s what the research says about how the globe's shifting climate affects these vast bodies of water in terms of temperature, precipitation, extreme weather, water quality and harmful algal blooms, fish and wildlife, ice coverage, water levels, shipping, tourism and recreation. (August 15, 2017) [more on Great Lakes and Climate Change in our area]

Sewage into our drinking water

Climate Change in our Rochester region is bringing more heavy rains, which causes more flooding, and which in turn causes more raw sewage to flow into our waters. Our region and all communities in the Great Lakes basin must get together and help fortify all our sewage systems so that they don’t overflow raw sewage as more heavy rains come. And more flooding is coming. We must plan; we must plan together to address Climate Change. This sewage issue and flooding are the most salient ways we in this region are experiencing the consequences of Climate Change. We should not dismiss the climate denial in other regions, if we cannot face the problem ourselves.  

Spring rain caused severe sewage overflows in Lake Ontario This spring's heavy rains caused record-breaking flooding along Lake Ontario's shoreline. But what happened to the lake itself? New data from U.S. and Canadian cities shows that the rain pushed millions of gallons of raw sewage into the lake. This spring's heavy rain in the Lake Ontario region had quite an impact on homeowners, but it also affected the water offshore. The rainfall overwhelmed sewage systems in cities around the lake, and pushed millions of gallons of raw sewage into the water. Mike Garland is director of environmental services for Rochester and the rest of Monroe County, NY, which means he's in charge of showing off the county's wastewater treatment center. “It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it,” he says, as he walks through the center. Garland says this facility treats about 100 million gallons of sewage per day. Most days, everything works as it should, and no untreated sewage winds up in Lake Ontario. (August 14, 2017) North Country Public Radio [more on Climate Change, Water Quality and Great Lakes in our area]

Algae increasing

In a warmer world, we are likely to see a more 'perpetually toxic lake', which are the dickens to recover from. We need to address Climate Change now so our lakes don’t become toxic.

“Lake Neatahwanta illustrates the increasing frequency of blue-green algae in a warmer world, and how hard it is to get rid of harmful blooms once they're established. Local and state officials have been working on a multi-pronged plan since 1991 to clean up the lake and finally re-open a beach. It's a long, expensive process with no guarantee of success.” (Can a 'perpetually toxic lake' in Upstate NY be made swimmable again? (August 10, 2017) [more on Water Quality in our area]

Recently, there are troubling signs of algae in Rochester’s water supply:

Blue-green algae found again in Rochester water supply Potentially toxic blue-green algae turned up in one of the lakes that provide drinking water to the city of Rochester for the second time this summer. Like the first discovery, this one did not result in any impact whatsoever on city drinking water. But to be safe, the city is continuing enhanced surveillance of the two lakes from which it draws water. The bloom in Canadice Lake, discovered Aug. 1, released no toxin and dissipated later the same day it was found, city and New York state officials said. "Rochester water customers should have no concern," said Patricia Bedard, the city's manager of water production. (August 22, 2017) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle [more on Water Quality in our area]

(BTW: isn’t this code for Climate Change “With algal blooms becoming more and more commonplace in New York and other states …”)

Solutions that are not delusional

We are seeing Climate Change in our region, as in other regions. But because our media’s inconsistency in connecting effect to cause, too many people in our region don’t appreciate the certainty and the urgency behind this existential problem. It’s time for our media to explain how all regions of the world are warming up, our local environments in particular.  

There are solutions to addressing Climate Change in our region that aren’t delusional. They are based on how likely they are to address the problem; not how unlikely they are to inconvenience those in climate denial.
  • ·         Reduce the amount of water that runs into our sewers so they don’t overflow. This can be done with rain barrels, more green spaces, green roofs, and reducing impervious surfaces (like great big parking lots).  
  • ·         Work with other communities around the Great Lakes basin because we are all in this together—and with Rochester being at the end of the Great Lakes system, we get other communities’ waste too.
  • ·         Have discussions with our candidates about making sure they’re dealing with a warming world. Check this out: “Candidates Talk Climate: Mayoral Primary Forum” Wednesday, August 30 at 6:30 PM - 8 PM | Kate Gleason Auditorium, Central Library of Rochester, 115 South Ave. 14604.
  • ·         Contact your media and government officials and challenge them when they do not integrate Climate Change into information about increased sewage in our waters, more flooding, and more of our lakes getting nailed by blue-green algae.

Read the City’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). Talk about it with your family, friends, and groups you are associated with. Check out solutions in the CAP and see what you and your groups can do to help.  
Time passes.

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