Sunday, December 6, 2015

Insanity Checks

Now that the COP-21 Paris climate confab has devolved into muddling over short-term economic privilege instead of the physical threat of global warming, let's see how this sharpens our focus of future first-order impacts nearer to home.  Taking at face value the effects listed in the draft 2015 Maryland Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Plan, we can assume that the worst case is now the most likely within most of our lifetimes, since Maryland's and most other parties' minuscule contributions to the solution will be of little consequence against the outpouring of fossil fuel and peat gas emissions arising from the Far and Middle East.  Here are aspects of Maryland's inescapable future environment and some checks on future decisions that could prove insane if we follow our usual course.

  1. Sea Level Rise over 4 feet: The U.S. Navy has new port real estate at the Solomons Recreation Center in lieu of the industrial area.  Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy can make it to their seamanship classes only if they can skillfully navigate a boat through the canals leading to Luce Hall.  All over the shoreline, beaches have become cliffs and cliffs have become beaches. The value of waterfront property declines precipitously.  Implications for infrastructure: question any decisions involving new development near the Bay.
  2. North and South Polar Ice Melts: Solomons Island is now an island, indeed.  The Chesapeake Biological Laboratory has a 360-degree view of their subject matter.  Your fortunate friends who once gazed from their patios at the water are now unfortunate (former) friends who now envy your choice of more insular habitat.  The Cove Point Community that once stood up to Dominion Power must now flee King Neptune.  Broomes Island is swept away.  The 231 bridge to Benedict is gone.  The Atlantic Test Range Facilities are put to the ultimate Atlantic test. The U.S. Naval Academy holds all training now in lifeboats.  Both Baltimore and Washington, DC have soggy bottoms, but nothing in comparison to Norfolk, VA.  The U.S. Navy's Atlantic Fleet is nearly defunct. Implications for infrastructure: don't tear down any upland facilities of sound construction, as possible substitutes for those washed out to sea.
  3. Heavy Precipitation Events: Occasional flooding of streams and rivers endangers properties situated thereon, devaluing them, as well. Untreated sewage pours into rivers and bays, making parts of the region resemble scenes out of India.  Implications for infrastructure: higher ground is more valuable real estate, but rainwater catchment becomes critical.
  4. Heat Waves: Maryland is the lazy South. It's slow down or die from heat stroke. Traditional crops fail from daytime heat and lack of cool nights. Biochar saves the day for those with the foresight to deploy it early. Meat is a luxury as livestock are ever more difficult to sustain. Implications for infrastructure: Make solar power a priority, especially where large air conditioning demand exists.  Value trees that shade your roof. Use biochar in your garden or farm.
  5. Ecosystems shifting: Changes in climate are too extreme for many species to adapt, causing imbalances to established equilibria, leading to species extinctions, causing loss of biodiversity, spiraling into devastation of ecosystems.  Ecosystem services are no longer available.  Life suffers. Implications for infrastructure:  forests and forest gardens, linked by corridors, can prop up some of the hardier species to maintain adequate ecosystems that may resurge once the human population is sufficiently extinguished due to its own folly.
  6. Increases in pests: Winter, which often eradicates insect and microbe pests, is now mild allowing pestilence to gain strength earlier in the growing season, reducing agricultural yields. Implications for agriculture: Disease resistance and crop diversity is more important in seed selection and propagation.  Mono-cropping big ag has to give way to small-holders who are allowed to save seed.  This is a reversal from current trends in Maryland.
  7. Ocean Acidification: Crustaceans cannot grow their shells. Food chains are disrupted. Implications for Maryland: pick a new state symbol.  Crabs will be a relic (except the softshell variety).  Any sea life is probably not a good choice.
You can see it all as just weather, and say that the rain falls on the just and the unjust equally, or you can see it as Noah did and start doing something to try to save your family, or perhaps even your community, state or region.

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