Houston and rapid_climate_changePresentation Transcript
A Change of Climate: Houston, Texas and Adaptation Planning Paul Martin Suckow Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs Urban Planning and Environmental Policy Ph.D. Program TSU Research Day, April, 2007
Abrupt climate change More heat in atmosphere, More humidity, drier land , greater floods, Gulf Stream slowing, Climate zones advancing northward, Greatest changes always in past 5 years.
Uncertainty not “if” but “how bad?” Approximate heat imbalance at Earth’s surface: +2 W/Sq M.
Consensus: solidified by 1996-2005 detailed ice core studies: covering almost a million year period, 12 past ice ages.
Modern humans by GHG production have already ended the Holocene age in which they ascended.
Current changes already unprecedented in the entire fossil record, so effects must be ruled uncertain.
Natural examples from the fossil record of abrupt climate changes are associated with each of the five major extinctions.
Scientists believe that the sixth major extinction now underway may include half of the Earth’s species.
Biotic diversity will require 20,000 human generations to recover to mid-20 th century levels.
Abrupt climate change
Throughout the fossil record, the climate has shifted between two average stable states:
The Hot-box Earth: No surface ice.
The Cold-box Earth: Some glaciers and snow .
Such changes resulted from the natural confluence of highly sensitive cycles:
10%-20% decreases in Texas cotton and sorghum crops.
40% - 70% decreases in Texas wheat crop.
How to support greater understanding
24 hour and year round use of public and quasipublic facilities, including those in the built environment and on the internet, should enable more of the free association that empowers democratic governance.
Maximizing available structural and energy resources should encourage stimulating educational/recreational gatherings as well as quiet refuge for those of all interests.
Adaptation to Climate Change
Understanding patterns of abrupt climate change can help reduce vulnerability and increase adaptive activity.
The human potential to exceed Earth’s environmental carrying capacity is very real and may already have happened.
The choice between environmental stewardship vs. economic development is a false choice.
Environmental stewardship will proceed directly with future development, or humanity will end.
Adaptation to Climate Change
Greater human involvement in the management of formerly natural and wilderness environs is an unavoidable consequence of historical anthropogenic greenhouse gas production.
Until the global climate can be stabilized and managed satisfactorily, humanity should commit itself to a new project of minimizing losses of life and civilization as we know it.
Gulf Coast Adaptation
Ocean coastal properties cannot be expected to survive routine future hurricanes.
Structures elevated below 28 feet above sea level are already at risk of destructive storm surge today.
As aquifer withdrawal continues to subside irrigated landforms and sea level rises due to icecap melt water/thermal expansion, these storm surges will ride higher over time.
Because 80 feet of sea level rise is likely during any new structure’s lifetime, new development should be located higher than 110 feet above sea level.
Expected effects: Sea level rise
IPCC Report #3 (2001)
1 meter rise before 2100
400 meters of coastal plain lost
NASA (Hansen) Model (2005)
25 +-10 meters (80 ft) at meltdown of Greenland and West Antarctic Icecaps (before 2100?)
10+-4 km of coastal plain lost
Houston Downtown and IAH at risk from storm surges of sea water
Total cryosphere loss
67 m (220 ft) at full meltdown (before 2150?)
New shoreline at San Antonio/Austin/Dallas
Downtown Houston will be covered by over 100 feet of sea water
Gulf Coast Adaptation
This consideration makes all of the rebuilding along the Gulf Coast after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, by definition, a temporary redevelopment.
Offshore (oil, gas and wind) infrastructure may require major modifications to withstand future hurricanes on top of sea level rise, or to be converted into tightly anchored breakaway structures.
Gulf Coast Adaptation
A majority of Florida and Louisiana land ultimately will not remain above water if this century’s global temperature increase exceeds two (2) degrees Celsius.
Computers project between 2 and 5 degrees Celsius as the likely increase.
An alternative to business-as-usual is mandatory for success in these two states.
New infrastructure and development between now and 2050 should be located at or above 110 feet above the current sea level.
west of Downtown Houston.
west of the North Fwy I-45.
west of the South Fwy 288.
Any building below 110 feet should be considered a temporary structure.
The land below 110 feet above sea level should return to coastal wetland salt marshes over time.
That wide belt of coastal Texas land between downtown Houston and the salt marshes might better be used for organic agriculture to grow local food supplies, than for dense human occupancy.
The clearly unsustainable oil infrastructure east of Houston poses environmental and health threats, and should be mitigated when it is intentionally retired.
These threats include water contamination by spills of oil and oil products, air contamination by volatile organic compounds, explosive hazards, radioactive scaling inside the pipes, and decreasing integrity under saltwater intrusion .
Houston’s transportation network can be expected to remain within current rights of way, even if rebuilt after disaster damage.
To make most efficient use of rights-of-way, immediate efforts to provide bus rapid transit and rail alternatives should continue.
Future guide way rapid transit options should plan to occupy all freeway corridors, and some arterials.
The use of both private and public automobiles should continue, but be increasingly limited to shorter-ranged fully electric vehicles refueled from on- or off-site solar electro voltaic panels, wind or tidal/wave power.
Decentralized alternative power sources should be planted throughout the power grid.
All new electrical power plants should be developed to use 100% closed loop systems with complete carbon sequestration.
Stack emissions should become a thing of the past.
Such non-emitting oil/coal processing plants could safely form the core of future urban development, providing organic material processing and production employment close to residences that maximize human values and human powered transport options.
Increasing mobility by use of light personal electromagnetic flying rigs should be encouraged, along with general aeronautical education.
Trans-city shipment and transport options should use electromagnetic power trains.
Air and ocean transport options using fossil fuel technology currently only emits about 5% of global CO2 gasses. These should be allowed to double those emissions to expand capacity, safety and redundancy.
Seagoing vessels should increase in size for safety and economic reasons.
A tiered system of port interaction with larger vessels should be developed to enhance safety, security and efficiency of distribution.
Increasingly seagoing vessels should be converted to nuclear power with single-use closed containment of fuels for deep-sea burial upon emergency or expiration.