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  • Jan 16 / 2015
  • 0
Harvesting oysters in Yaquina Bay, Ore. (NOAA)
Climate Change, Ecology, Food, Agriculture, Pollution, Sustainability

Marine animal extinctions and increasing dangers for oceans

Human activity has negatively affected animal populations on land for tens of thousands of years, with numerous instances where unsustainable hunting practices or deliberate, widespread acts of eradication have led to what scientists call “defaunation” — the human-caused global extinction of a species.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has found that since the year 1500, human activity has cause the extinction of 514 animal species — from the passenger pigeon and thylacine to the great auk and the quagga. Despite extensive overfishing and pervasive water pollution, marine animals have fared better, with only 15 known human-caused global extinctions over the past 500 years. This may be changing, however: Many species have become “locally extinct” in particular ocean habitats, the Chinese river dolphin is now thought to be “functionally extinct” and many more are threatened, including species of sharks, rays, turtles and whales.

Rising ocean temperatures because of human-induced climate change increasingly imperil many ocean creatures. This dynamic is contributing to a set of geochemical changes in the oceans called acidification, which is happening faster than at any time in the past 300 million years, according to a 2012 paper published in the journal Science. Separate analyses from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) note that land and ocean temperatures globally in 2014 were the hottest since records began to be kept in 1880. Further, human changes of all kinds can interact to destroy vital habitat, with coral reefs contracting and becoming bleached at alarming rates, for example.

A 2015 research review published in the journal Science, “Marine Defaunation: Animal Loss in the Global Ocean,” suggests because of the oceanic impacts of global warming, we could be facing a sweeping loss of species in the near future. The researchers — Douglas J. McCauley, Francis H. Joyce and Robert R. Warner, all at U.C. Santa Barbara; Malin L. Pinsky of Rutgers; Stephen R. Palumbi of Stanford; and James A. Estes of UC Santa Cruz — note that there are three additional types of extinctions below the category of total global loss: local habitat extinctions, where a species permanently dies in one location but survives in others; ecological extinctions, where populations still exist but the species no longer plays its normal, evolved role in the environment; and commercial extinctions, whereby fishing and harvesting is no longer viable because of population decline.

Key points in the study include:

  • “Marine extinction rates today look similar to the moderate levels of terrestrial extinction observed before the industrial revolution…. Rates of extinction on land increased dramatically after this period, and we may now be sitting at the precipice of a similar extinction transition in the oceans.”
  • “Aggregated population trend data suggest that in the last four decades, marine vertebrates (fish, seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals) have declined in abundance by on average 22%. Marine fishes have declined in aggregate by 38%, and certain baleen whales by 80% to 90%.”
  • “Marine defaunation is already affecting human well-being in numerous ways by imperiling food sustainability, increasing social conflict, impairing storm protection, and reducing flows of other ecosystem services…. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 40 times more wild animal biomass is harvested from the oceans than from land.”
  • Human-induced climate change can be expected to continue to have deleterious effects: “The effects of rising ocean temperature extend well beyond coral reefs and are predicted to affect both the adult and juvenile stages of a diverse set of marine species, to reshuffle marine community composition, and to potentially alter the overall structure and dynamics of entire marine faunal communities.”

“We are not necessarily doomed to helplessly recapitulate the defaunation processes observed on land in the oceans: intensifying marine hunting until it becomes untenable and then embarking on an era of large-scale marine habitat modification,” the researchers conclude. “However, if these actions move forward in tandem, we may finally trigger a wave of marine extinctions of the same intensity as that observed on land. Efforts to slow climate change, rebuild affected animal populations and intelligently engage the coming wave of new marine development activities will all help to change the present course of marine defaunation.”


Keywords: oceans, water, marine life

    • Sep 05 / 2014
    • 0
    Climate Change, Ecology

    Impact of whaling on the ocean carbon cycle

    When humans hunt and fish, they tend to favor animals that provide significant resources. In the oceans, whales, sharks and other large vertebrates have been targeted for centuries, and while the international ban on whaling has helped some species recover in select areas, many populations have fallen to a fraction of their natural levels.

    This has a negative effect on species and ecosystems, and can also impact the climate: When whales and other large animals flourish in the ocean, they carry a substantial amount of carbon to the sea floor upon dying. Whales and other large marine vertebrates could effectively function as carbon credits. To better understand this process, researchers from the University of Maine, Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the University of British Columbia conducted a study, “The Impact of Whaling on the Ocean Carbon Cycle: Why Bigger Was Better.” The research was published in 2010 in PLoS ONE, a peer-reviewed, open-access online publication.

    The key findings include:

    • Compared to pre-exploitation levels, the current populations of large baleen whales store 9.1 million fewer tons of carbon.
    • About 160,000 tons of carbon per year could be removed from the atmosphere if whale populations were restored to pre-industrial levels. This amount is equivalent to adding 843 hectares of forest.
    • Restoring the whale populations compares favorably with unproven schemes such as iron fertilization in removing carbon from the ocean surface.

    The authors propose the development of better mechanisms to quantify the benefits of rebuilding whale populations and incentivize organizations to do so.

    Keywords: biodiversity, carbon, global warming, greenhouse gases, biodiversity, wildlife

      • Mar 14 / 2012
      • 1
      Climate Change, Ecology

      The geological record of ocean acidification

      In the past, studies of large-scale changes to the Earth’s oceans have been restricted both by the limited nature of physical sampling and the reality that often these changes occur over great lengths of time.

      A 2012 paper published in the journal Science, “The Geological Record of Ocean Acidification,” takes a new approach by examining the geological record to determine levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, global temperatures and ocean acidification over the past 300 million years. The goal of the study — which was the combined work of scientists from nearly 20 research universities — was to find periods of the Earth’s history that are analogs for current and future global conditions.

      Findings of the paper include:

      • The current rate of ocean acidification is faster than at any time in the past 300 million years.
      • The most recent de-glacial transition phase, while similar in temperature and increases in CO2 levels, was “two orders of magnitude slower than current anthropogenic change.”
      • The period 56 million years ago known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum was determined to be the closest future analog. This period of sustained CO2 release was associated with a decline in ocean pH of between 0.25 and 0.45 units. However, current acidification is occurring at almost 10 times this rate.
      • Historically sustained periods of acidification and CO2 increase — which were similar but not as extreme as the last 1,000 years — have led to the collapse of coral reefs and, in one instance, to the extinction of 96% of marine life.

      The authors conclude that the geological record reveals that “the current rate of [CO2] release stands out as capable of driving a combination and magnitude of ocean geochemical changes potentially unparalleled in … Earth history, raising the possibility that we are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change.”

      In related research, a 2012 study published in Climatic Change estimates that ocean acidification could lead to economic losses for the shellfish industry in excess of $100 billion over the course of this century.

      Tags: science, greenhouse gases, global warming, oceans

        • Dec 13 / 2016
        • 0
        Environment, Finance, Lobbying, Pollution, Public Health, Sustainability

        The good and the bad of plastic bag bans: Research review

        Plastic bags kill wildlife, clog waterways and pack landfills. Discarded bags can spread malaria if they collect rainwater, offering mosquitos a casual breeding ground. In recent years, local and national governments have begun phasing out or banning lightweight plastic shopping bags. But alternatives are not necessarily greener: People buy more plastic trash bags when shopping bags are unavailable. And a British government study found single-use paper bags contribute more toward global warming than plastic bags.

        Not so straightforward:

        For some activists, the effort to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags is both urgent and too late. According to a 2008 estimate in Waste Management, people around the world discard between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags a year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lists single-use plastic bags as a major contributor, along with food wrappers and fishing nets, to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — vast, shifting waves of trash that often arrive via storm drains and rivers and can entangle marine life or be ingested. According to a 2014 estimate published in PLOS ONE, more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic (not all from bags) weighing a combined 250,000 tons are floating in the world’s oceans.

        Yet substitutes also offer cause for concern. A comprehensive 2011 study by the British environmental agency argued that plastic bags are greener than many alternatives. A paper bag must be used four or more times “to reduce its global warming potential to below” that of conventional plastic bags. The reason is that paper production — from the felling of trees to the emissions and effluent from paper factories — is dirty. The study found “no significant reuse of paper bags,” not even as trash-can liners.


        With a referendum in November 2016, California became the first state to ban single-use plastic bags, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures, which keeps an active list of American laws. Thicker, reusable bags are still available for purchase for 10 cents. Before California, cities often organized the bans: In 2016, for example, Cambridge became the first Massachusetts city to ban plastic bags altogether and require merchants to offer paper bags for a fee of no less than 10 cents. By contrast, Missouri’s legislature in 2015 forbid cities and counties in the state from enacting plastic bag bans.

        The European Union passed legislation in 2015 aiming to cut plastic bag use in half by 2019 and half again by 2025. E.U.-member France went further, banning single-use plastic bags on July 1, 2016, and phasing in other, more restrictive bans in the upcoming years – including the prohibition of plastic cooking utensils by 2020.

        Do these bans work? They do appear to reduce the number of shopping bags used, but the effect on demand for (potentially pernicious) alternatives is unknown.

        • Five years after Ireland instituted a 15 Euro cent levy on plastic bags in 2002 – Irish stores had been giving out 1.2 billion each year for free – a paper published in Environmental and Resource Economics suggested a 90 percent reduction in use.
        • One year after its ban San Jose reported “a reduction in bag litter of approximately 89 percent in the storm drain system, 60 percent in the creeks and rivers, and 59 percent in city streets and neighborhoods.”
        • Researchers at Cardiff University, in the United Kingdom, found that a fee for plastic bags introduced in October 2015 has led to a sharp decline in the number of shoppers who take single-use bags at checkout, from 25 percent to 7 percent after one year.
        • China, which banned many types of plastic bags in 2008, claims some successes. But some reports suggest the rule has been difficult to enforce.

        Academics have measured consumer behavior and public opinion on plastic bags in many countries, including Turkey, Uganda and Canada. A 2016 study in Social Marketing Quarterly examines how shoppers respond to different incentives for bringing their own shopping bags – such as avoiding a fee or paying a tax – and remarks “that a penalty framed as a tax may be more effective in motivating shoppers to bring reusable bags.”

        “Biodegradable” plastic bags:

        In 2010, raw plastics production in the U.S. used the energy and natural gas equivalent of 172 million barrels of oil, government figures suggest. But some newer plastics are made from vegetable matter, allowing manufacturers to claim their plastics are biodegradable. In theory, that means these plastics can be used to feed bacteria that convert them into water, carbon dioxide and biological matter. But the process rarely works in a landfill – these products need to be composted with the right microbes. When they’re not, they may not break down at all or can release methane, a greenhouse gas. So-called starch-polyester bags, made from a blend of vegetable matter and synthetic plastics, had the highest global warming impact in the 2011 study conducted by the British environmental agency “due to the high impacts of raw material production, transport and the generation of methane from landfill[s].”

        The European Union hosts an online forum to discuss biodegradable plastic bags.

        Researchers have looked into the policy challenges of biodegradable plastics, how they break down in the ocean and wider environmental impacts.

        Our health:

        Besides assuming a deviant place in marine ecosystems, there are concerns about the synthetic compounds in plastic that may be oozing into our food. One of the main building blocks of plastics, bisphenol A (also known as BPA), has been shown to stimulate breast cancer cells and damage the quality of rat sperm. Phthalates are another subject of disquiet.


        Another plastic causing concern is the microbeads found in some exfoliating facial scrubs and toothpastes, which are rinsed down drains into rivers, lakes and oceans. A 2015 study in the Marine Pollution Bulletin estimated that between 4,594 and 94,500 microplastic particles pass into the sewer during each use (between 16 and 86 metric tons annually in Britain alone). A forthcoming study in Chemosphere finds that microbeads do not accumulate in the gut when fed to goldfish, though both studies recognize their chemical effect in the food chain is unknown. In 2015, President Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act to ban microbeads in hygienic products, though they continue to be used in other countries.

        Arguments for plastic:

        Proponents of plastic bags argue that they are hygienic and cheap and preserve foods that would otherwise spoil. A number of lobbies have worked to confound legislation that would reduce the availability of plastic bags. In California, for example, The Washington Post found that the American Progressive Bag Alliance – a Washington-based group run by a plastics lobby – spent over $3 million in the fourth quarter of 2014 to oppose California’s attempts then to legislate a ban.

        Plasticfilmrecycling.org (a project of the American Chemistry Council) is supported with funds from large multinationals like Dow Chemical and ExxonMobil. Some organizations – such as the Plastics Industry Association, which directs visitors to the American Progressive Bag Alliance and bagtheban.com — support recycling as a solution, rather than less plastic.

        Plastic shopping bags are widely reused as trash-can liners, the British environmental agency study points out. When they are banned, the study adds, consumers purchase more plastic trash bags: “The reuse of conventional HDPE [plastic] and other lightweight carrier bags for shopping and/or as bin-liners is pivotal to their environmental performance and reuse as bin liners produces greater benefits than recycling bags.”

        Anti-plastic lobbying and activism:

        The California plastic bag ban received support from the California Grocers Association. Grocery stores stood to benefit because the law mandated they charge 10 cents for reusable bags.

        Other resources:

        • This 2011 E.U. study shows, among other things, that residents of eastern E.U. members and Portugal use the most plastic bags in the union.
        • Journalist’s Resource profiled a 2016 paper on gender stereotypes and environmentally friendly behavior that found some people think recycling is feminine.
        • A 2015 paper in the Journal of Marketing found that people who bring reusable grocery bags on their shopping trips may purchase more junk food.
        • NOAA has fact sheets on microplastics in the ocean and plastic marine debris.


        Keywords: Trash, pollution, waste, plastics, regulations, petrochemicals, chemical lobby

          • Sep 12 / 2016
          • 0
          Climate Change, Inequality, Infrastructure, Race

          Rich and poor, black and white: Moving after Gulf hurricanes

          The issue: With the rising seas lashing America’s coasts, how residents react is a growing area of interest. Man-made global warming threatens to inundate coastal areas of the United Stateshome to 40 percent of the country’s population. Local and federal governments say they need billions of dollars to prepare critical infrastructure, such as drainage pipes and roads.

          Reporters covering hurricanes often describe damage and the rebuilding process. Yet slow demographic and population changes also impact long-term policy and government spending.

          How do people living in these areas assess their options? A new paper looks at the Gulf Coast across 35 years.

          An academic study worth reading: “Trapped in Place? Segmented Resilience to Hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, 1970–2005,” published in Demography, August 2016.

          Study summary: This study, led by John Logan of Brown University, looks at which residents affected by hurricanes in the southern United States are likelier to move during the three years following a major hurricane. The authors ask whether some demographic groups are more “resilient” than others — meaning they are either able to stay behind after a devastating storm and thrive, or have the means to uproot and plant themselves elsewhere. Logan and his colleagues call this movement “segmented withdrawal.”

          The authors use National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data to estimate damage from all hurricanes to hit the Gulf Coast between 1970 and 2005 — both major wind damage and flooding from storm surges. With census data, they look at 476 counties within 200 miles of the coast in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and the Florida panhandle — areas that were home to over 26 million people in 2005.

          They compare two risk factors: proximity to coast (“locational vulnerability”) and capacity to deal with disaster (“social vulnerability”). Often it is “minorities, elders, and low-income groups,” the authors hypothesize, who are most hazard-prone and least able to move. After Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, for example, the poorest were less able to evacuate because of a lack of transportation.

          Though this paper does not specifically address global warming, rising seas are deluging the same coastal communities affected by hurricanes.


          • White people are more likely than black people to leave when their communities face major damage from flooding and high winds. The damage leads to a reduction of the black population over three years by 0.5 percent; of the white population by 1.1 percent — twice as much. This outflow continues for three years after a storm.
          • Overall, major hurricane damage and storm surge reduces a county’s population by about 1 percent over the three-year period, with departures continuing into the third year after a storm.
          • The elderly are less likely to move from high-risk areas than young people. Over three years, after a storm causing substantial wind damage and flooding, there is a 1.6 percent decline in a county’s young population, but only a 0.4 percent decline in its elderly population. “Our view is not that the elderly are more resilient, but that they are more vulnerable: they are more rooted in place and have more difficulty arranging a move.”
          • The poor are less likely to leave. In the first year after a destructive hurricane, there was a 0.8 percent population decline in a county with low rates of poverty. By contrast, the authors found a 0.12 percent population increase in a high-poverty county. Over three years, low-poverty counties saw a 2.04 percent population decline while high-poverty counties saw a 0.44 percent population increase. The authors suggest future research may explain these tendencies.
          • These poverty findings cut across race: “Both blacks and whites appear to be more likely to remain in place after hurricanes in poorer counties but to leave more affluent counties.”
          • Poorer communities bear the brunt of both damage and woe after a storm because they are less likely to have insurance, have less access to decision makers, and are more likely to live in poorly constructed (“most subject to damage”) homes. “People who remain [during or after a hurricane] in the face of risk may simply be trapped in place.”
          • There were no signs that departures from one county boosted the population of a neighboring county — i.e. no signs that neighboring counties take in the displaced.
          • In the 1950s, wealthier people and white residents tended to live in higher-risk areas closer to the coast; the areas were considered more desirable because of their proximity to water. But a shift occurred. By 2000, blacks “became more exposed” to these risks than whites. And by 2010, the wealthier were less likely to live in high-risk areas than the poor were.
          • Overall, despite the population reductions described here, the Gulf region as a whole saw 80 percent population growth over the period studied.

          Other resources:

          The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a U.S. government agency, has extensive data on weather and global warming in general, as well as more specific tools like maps that visualize coastal flooding related to rising seas.

          A list of other government data sources is available here.

          The federal government’s subsidized flood insurance program encourages residents to rebuild in areas hit by hurricanes. Over the years, the program has spent tens of billions of taxpayer dollars, often in areas sure to be hit again in the future. The New York Times reported in 2012 on how the program has helped Dauphin Island in Alabama, one of the nation’s most vulnerable areas, rebuild over and over. 

          Journalist’s Resource has a tip sheet on covering hurricanes that includes lists of resources available in emergencies.

          Other research:

          A research roundup by Journalist’s Resource focuses on global warming’s impact on coastal American cities.

          We have also profiled research on flood trends, crime and access to credit following natural disasters and recovery after major storms like Hurricane Sandy.


          Keywords: weather, storms, moving, preparedness, oceans, sea level rise, disaster, migration, Hurricane Katrina, Gilbert, Elena, Allen, Andrew, Ivan

            • Sep 07 / 2016
            • 0
            Cities, Climate Change, Infrastructure

            Global warming, rising seas and coastal cities: Trends, impacts and adaptation strategies

            Rising seas are one of the central impacts of global warming, and they’re not some abstract challenge for a future day: Areas of the United States now routinely have “sunny-day flooding,” with salt water pushing up through drains even in the absence of storms. When London built the Thames Barrier in 1982, it was expected to be used two to three times a year at most, but has since been employed at twice that rate, a pace that is expected to accelerate. U.S. Army facilities in coastal Virginia already see “recurrent flooding,” according to the Department of Defense. And longer range, things get even more challenging: For example, because of a sea-level “hotspot” on the Northeastern U.S. coast, tides could rise as much as 7.5 feet by 2100 in cities such as Boston. Proposals for a “Venice by the Charles River” are anything but far-fetched.

            Yet even as the seas are rising, coastal areas are booming: From 1970 to 2010, the population in the coastal United States grew 39 percent, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which expects the population in these areas to increase another 8 percent between 2010 and 2020. As of 2010, 123 million Americans lived in coastal counties, at population densities more than four times higher than those of the country as a whole. The same pattern holds around the globe: 60 percent of cities with populations over 5 million are within 60 miles of the sea, and they’re growing rapidly. This rush to the shore puts more lives, wealth and infrastructure in harm’s way, increasing losses when storms inevitably hit. A 2013 study in Global Environmental Change estimates that by 2100 sea-level rise could put up to 7.4 million U.S. residents at risk — many of already disadvantaged — and cut the country’s GDP by as much as $289 billion.

            While climate change remains a politically charged issue in the U.S. despite the overwhelming evidence, efforts are underway to better understand the risks, prepare for the future and increase community resiliency. The Department of Defense, per its “Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” of October 2014, has sought to adapt its facilities to a projected sea-level rise of 1.5 feet as early as 2034, though congressional Republicans have blocked efforts to fund the research. The landmark Paris Climate Accord, negotiated under the the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was endorsed by 174 nations in April 2016. That notably included both the United States and China, though the U.S. has not yet ratified it. The pact lays out ways to limit or reverse harmful trends in greenhouse-gas emissions, with many suggestions that are “actionable” by state and local governments, businesses and individuals. Resources like FloodTools and the National Flood Insurance Program’s FloodSmart website aim to educate citizens about flood risks and preparedness measures, while the Georgetown Climate Center has page on state and local adaptation plans. And such adaptations can be effective: A 2014 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that large-scale urban adaptation strategies have the potential to counteract some of the effects of long-term global climate change.

            Below is a series of studies examining climate-change related risks and the regions and demographic groups most threatened by them; efficacy of attempts thus far to mitigate these risks; and adaptive solutions for coastal regions. Many recent studies focus on particular communities facing inundation around the world.


            “Trapped in Place? Segmented Resilience to Hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, 1970–2005”
            Logan, John R.; Issar, Sukriti; Xu, Zengwang. Demography, 2016. doi:10.1007/s13524-016-0496-4.

            Abstract: “Hurricanes pose a continuing hazard to populations in coastal regions. This study estimates the impact of hurricanes on population change in the years 1970–2005 in the U.S. Gulf Coast region. Geophysical models are used to construct a unique data set that simulates the spatial extent and intensity of wind damage and storm surge from the 32 hurricanes that struck the region in this period. Multivariate spatial time-series models are used to estimate the impacts of hurricanes on population change. Population growth is found to be reduced significantly for up to three successive years after counties experience wind damage, particularly at higher levels of damage. Storm surge is associated with reduced population growth in the year after the hurricane. Model extensions show that change in the white and young adult population is more immediately and strongly affected than is change for blacks and elderly residents. Negative effects on population are stronger in counties with lower poverty rates. The differentiated impact of hurricanes on different population groups is interpreted as segmented withdrawal—a form of segmented resilience in which advantaged population groups are more likely to move out of or avoid moving into harm’s way while socially vulnerable groups have fewer choices.”


            “A Comprehensive Review of Climate Adaptation in the United States: More Than Before, but Less than Needed”
            Bierbaum, Rosina; et al. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, March 2013, Vol. 18, Issue 3, 361-406. doi: 10.1007/s11027-012-9423-1.

            Abstract: “We reviewed existing and planned adaptation activities of federal, tribal, state, and local governments and the private sector in the United States to understand what types of adaptation activities are underway across different sectors and scales throughout the country. Primary sources of review included material officially submitted for consideration in the upcoming 2013 U.S. National Climate Assessment and supplemental peer-reviewed and grey literature [working papers]. Although substantial adaptation planning is occurring in various sectors, levels of government, and the private sector, few measures have been implemented and even fewer have been evaluated. Most adaptation actions to date appear to be incremental changes, not the transformational changes that may be needed in certain cases to adapt to significant changes in climate. While there appear to be no one-size-fits-all adaptations, there are similarities in approaches across scales and sectors, including mainstreaming climate considerations into existing policies and plans, and pursuing no- and low-regrets strategies. Despite the positive momentum in recent years, barriers to implementation still impede action in all sectors and across scales. The most significant barriers include lack of funding, policy and institutional constraints, and difficulty in anticipating climate change given the current state of information on change. However, the practice of adaptation can advance through learning by doing, stakeholder engagements (including “listening sessions”), and sharing of best practices.”


            “Future Flood Losses in Major Coastal Cities”
            Hallegatte, Stephane; Green, Colin; Nicholls, Robert J.; Corfee-Morlot, Jan. Nature Climate Change, August 2013, 3:802-806. doi: 10.1038/nclimate1979.

            Abstract: “Flood exposure is increasing in coastal cities owing to growing populations and assets, the changing climate, and subsidence. Here we provide a quantification of present and future flood losses in the 136 largest coastal cities. Using a new database of urban protection and different assumptions on adaptation, we account for existing and future flood defenses. Average global flood losses in 2005 are estimated to be approximately U.S. $6 billion per year, increasing to U.S. $52 billion by 2050 with projected socio-economic change alone. With climate change and subsidence, present protection will need to be upgraded to avoid unacceptable losses of U.S.$1 trillion or more per year. Even if adaptation investments maintain constant flood probability, subsidence and sea-level rise will increase global flood losses to U.S.$60–63 billion per year in 2050. To maintain present flood risk, adaptation will need to reduce flood probabilities below present values. In this case, the magnitude of losses when floods do occur would increase, often by more than 50%, making it critical to also prepare for larger disasters than we experience today. The analysis identifies the cities that seem most vulnerable to these trends, that is, where the largest increase in losses can be expected.”


            “Increasing risk of compound flooding from storm surge and rainfall for major U.S. cities”
            Wahl, Thomas; et al. Nature Climate Change, 2015. doi:10.1038/nclimate2736.

            Abstract: “When storm surge and heavy precipitation co-occur, the potential for flooding in low-lying coastal areas is often much greater than from either in isolation. Knowing the probability of these compound events and understanding the processes driving them is essential to mitigate the associated high-impact risks. Here we determine the likelihood of joint occurrence of these two phenomena for the contiguous United States (US) and show that the risk of compound flooding is higher for the Atlantic/Gulf coast relative to the Pacific coast. We also provide evidence that the number of compound events has increased significantly over the past century at many of the major coastal cities. Long-term sea-level rise is the main driver for accelerated flooding along the US coastline; however, under otherwise stationary conditions (no trends in individual records), changes in the joint distributions of storm surge and precipitation associated with climate variability and change also augment flood potential. For New York City (NYC)—as an example—the observed increase in compound events is attributed to a shift towards storm surge weather patterns that also favour high precipitation. Our results demonstrate the importance of assessing compound flooding in a non-stationary framework and its linkages to weather and climate.”


            “Relative Sea-level Rise and the Conterminous United States: Consequences of Potential Land Inundation in Terms of Population at Risk and GDP Loss”
            Haer, Toon; Kalnay, Eugenia; Kearney, Michael; Moll, Henk. Global Environmental Change, September 2013, 23:1627-1636. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.09.005

            Abstract: “Global sea-level rise poses a significant threat not only for coastal communities as development continues but also for national economies. This paper presents estimates of how future changes in relative sea-level rise puts coastal populations at risk, as well as affect overall GDP in the conterminous United States. We use four different sea-level rise scenarios for 2010–2100: a low-end scenario (Extended Linear Trend) a second low-end scenario based on a strong mitigative global warming pathway (Global Warming Coupling 2.6), a high-end scenario based on rising radiative forcing (Global Warming Coupling 8.5) and a plausible very high-end scenario, including accelerated ice cap melting (Global Warming Coupling 8.5+). Relative sea-level rise trends for each U.S. state are employed to obtain more reasonable rates for these areas, as long-term rates vary considerably between the U.S. Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts because of the Glacial Isostatic Adjustment, local subsidence and sediment compaction, and other vertical land movement. Using these trends for the four scenarios reveals that the relative sea levels predicted by century’s end could range — averaged over all states — from 0.2 to 2.0 m above present levels. The estimates for the amount of land inundated vary from 26,000 to 76,000 km2. Upwards of 1.8 to 7.4 million people could be at risk, and GDP could potentially decline by USD 70–289 billion…. Even the most conservative scenario shows a significant impact for the U.S., emphasizing the importance of adaptation and mitigation.”


            “Risks of Sea Level Rise to Disadvantaged Communities in the United States”
            Martinich, Jeremy; Neumann, James; Ludwig, Lindsay; Jantarasami, Lesley. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, February 2013, Vol. 18, Issue 2, 169-185. doi: 10.1007/s11027-011-9356-0.

            Abstract: “Climate change and sea level rise (SLR) pose risks to coastal communities around the world, but societal understanding of the distributional and equity implications of SLR impacts and adaptation actions remains limited. Here, we apply a new analytic tool to identify geographic areas in the contiguous United States that may be more likely to experience disproportionate impacts of SLR, and to determine if and where socially vulnerable populations would bear disproportionate costs of adaptation. We use the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) to identify socially vulnerable coastal communities, and combine this with output from a SLR coastal property model that evaluates threats of inundation and the economic efficiency of adaptation approaches to respond to those threats. Results show that under the mid-SLR scenario (66.9 cm by 2100), approximately 1,630,000 people are potentially affected by SLR. Of these, 332,000 (∼20%) are among the most socially vulnerable. The analysis also finds that areas of higher social vulnerability are much more likely to be abandoned than protected in response to SLR. This finding is particularly true in the Gulf region of the United States, where over 99% of the most socially vulnerable people live in areas unlikely to be protected from inundation, in stark contrast to the least socially vulnerable group, where only 8% live in areas unlikely to be protected. Our results demonstrate the importance of considering the equity and environmental justice implications of SLR in climate change policy analysis and coastal adaptation planning.”


            “Coastal Flood Damage and Adaptation Costs under 21st Century Sea-level Rise”
            Hinke, Jochen; et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 2014, Vol. 111, No. 9, 3292-3297. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1222469111.

            Abstract: “Coastal flood damage and adaptation costs under 21st century sea-level rise are assessed on a global scale taking into account a wide range of uncertainties in continental topography data, population data, protection strategies, socioeconomic development and sea-level rise. Uncertainty in global mean and regional sea level was derived from four different climate models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5, each combined with three land-ice scenarios based on the published range of contributions from ice sheets and glaciers. Without adaptation, 0.2–4.6% of global population is expected to be flooded annually in 2100 under 25–123 cm of global mean sea-level rise, with expected annual losses of 0.3–9.3% of global gross domestic product. Damages of this magnitude are very unlikely to be tolerated by society and adaptation will be widespread. The global costs of protecting the coast with dikes are significant with annual investment and maintenance costs of US$12–71 billion in 2100, but much smaller than the global cost of avoided damages even without accounting for indirect costs of damage to regional production supply. Flood damages by the end of this century are much more sensitive to the applied protection strategy than to variations in climate and socioeconomic scenarios as well as in physical data sources (topography and climate model). Our results emphasize the central role of long-term coastal adaptation strategies. These should also take into account that protecting large parts of the developed coast increases the risk of catastrophic consequences in the case of defense failure.”


            “Climate Change Risks to U.S. Infrastructure: Impacts on Roads, Bridges, Coastal Development and Urban Drainage”
            Neumann, James E.; et al. Climatic Change, January 2014. doi: 10.1007/s10584-013-1037-4.

            Abstract: “Changes in temperature, precipitation, sea level, and coastal storms will likely increase the vulnerability of infrastructure across the United States. Using four models that analyze vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation, this paper estimates impacts to roads, bridges, coastal properties, and urban drainage infrastructure and investigates sensitivity to varying greenhouse gas emission scenarios, climate sensitivities, and global climate models. The results suggest that the impacts of climate change in this sector could be large, especially in the second half of the 21st century as sea-level rises, temperature increases, and precipitation patterns become more extreme and affect the sustainability of long-lived infrastructure. Further, when considering sea-level rise, scenarios which incorporate dynamic ice sheet melting yield impact model results in coastal areas that are roughly 70% to 80% higher than results that do not incorporate dynamic ice sheet melting. The potential for substantial economic impacts across all infrastructure sectors modeled, however, can be reduced by cost-effective adaptation measures. Mitigation policies also show potential to reduce impacts in the infrastructure sector — a more aggressive mitigation policy reduces impacts by 25% to 35%, and a somewhat less aggressive policy reduces impacts by 19% to 30%. The existing suite of models suitable for estimating these damages nonetheless covers only a small portion of expected infrastructure sector effects from climate change, so much work remains to better understand impacts on electric and telecommunications networks, rail, and air transportation systems.”


            “Increased threat of tropical cyclones and coastal flooding to New York City during the anthropogenic era”
            Reed, A.J.; et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1513127112.

            Abstract: “In a changing climate, future inundation of the United States’ Atlantic coast will depend on both storm surges during tropical cyclones and the rising relative sea levels on which those surges occur. However, the observational record of tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic basin is too short (A.D. 1851 to present) to accurately assess long-term trends in storm activity. To overcome this limitation, we use proxy sea level records, and downscale three CMIP5 models to generate large synthetic tropical cyclone data sets for the North Atlantic basin; driving climate conditions span from A.D. 850 to A.D. 2005. We compare pre-anthropogenic era (A.D. 850–1800) and anthropogenic era (A.D.1970–2005) storm surge model results for New York City, exposing links between increased rates of sea level rise and storm flood heights. We find that mean flood heights increased by ∼1.24 m (due mainly to sea level rise) from ∼A.D. 850 to the anthropogenic era, a result that is significant at the 99% confidence level. Additionally, changes in tropical cyclone characteristics have led to increases in the extremes of the types of storms that create the largest storm surges for New York City. As a result, flood risk has greatly increased for the region; for example, the 500-y return period for a ∼2.25-m flood height during the preanthropogenic era has decreased to ∼24.4 y in the anthropogenic era. Our results indicate the impacts of climate change on coastal inundation, and call for advanced risk management strategies.”


            “Reducing Coastal Risks on the East and Gulf Coasts”
            Committee on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Science, Engineering, and Planning: Coastal Risk Reduction; Water Science and Technology Board; Ocean Studies Board; Division on Earth and Life Studies; National Research Council. 2014, the National Academies Press.

            Summary: “Hurricane- and coastal-storm-related economic losses have increased substantially over the past century, largely due to expanding population and development in the most susceptible coastal areas… This report calls for the development of a national vision for managing risks from coastal storms (hereafter, termed “coastal risk”) that includes a long-term view, regional solutions, and recognition of the full array of economic, social, environmental, and life-safety benefits that come from risk reduction efforts. To support this vision, a national coastal risk assessment is needed to identify those areas with the greatest risks that are high priorities for risk reduction efforts. Benefit-cost analysis, constrained by other important environmental, social, and life- safety factors, provides a reasonable framework for evaluating national investments in coastal risk reduction. However, extensive collaboration and additional policy changes will be necessary to fully embrace this vision and move from a nation that is primarily reactive to coastal disasters to one that invests wisely in coastal risk reduction and builds resilience among coastal communities.”


            “The Role of Ecosystems in Coastal Protection: Adapting to Climate Change and Coastal Hazards”
            Spalding, Mark D.; Ruffo, Susan; Lacambra, Carmen; Meliane, Imen; Hale, Lynne Zeitlin; Shephard, Christine C.; Beck, Michael W. Ocean and Coastal Management, March 2014, 90:50-57.

            Abstract: “Coastal ecosystems, particularly intertidal wetlands and reefs (coral and shellfish), can play a critical role in reducing the vulnerability of coastal communities to rising seas and coastal hazards, through their multiple roles in wave attenuation, sediment capture, vertical accretion, erosion reduction and the mitigation of storm surge and debris movement. There is growing understanding of the array of factors that affect the strength or efficacy of these ecosystem services in different locations, as well as management interventions which may restore or enhance such values. Improved understanding and application of such knowledge will form a critical part of coastal adaptation planning, likely reducing the need for expensive engineering options in some locations, and providing a complementary tool in hybrid engineering design. Irrespective of future climate change, coastal hazards already impact countless communities and the appropriate use of ecosystem-based adaptation strategies offers a valuable and effective tool for present-day management. Maintaining and enhancing coastal systems will also support the continued provision of other coastal services, including the provision of food and maintenance of coastal resource dependent livelihoods.”


            “Sea Level and Global Ice Volumes from the Last Glacial Maximum to the Holocene”
            Lambeck, Kurt; Rouby, Hélène; Purcell, Anthony; Sun, Yiying; Sambridge, Malcolm, Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, September 2014. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1411762111.

            Abstract: “Several areas of earth science require knowledge of the fluctuations in sea level and ice volume through glacial cycles. These include understanding past ice sheets and providing boundary conditions for paleoclimate models, calibrating marine-sediment isotopic records, and providing the background signal for evaluating anthropogenic contributions to sea level. From ~1,000 observations of sea level, allowing for isostatic and tectonic contributions, we have quantified the rise and fall in global ocean and ice volumes for the past 35,000 years. Of particular note is that during the ~6,000 years up to the start of the recent rise ~100−150 years ago, there is no evidence for global oscillations in sea level on time scales exceeding ~200-year duration or 15−20 cm amplitude.”


            “Sea-level rise due to polar ice-sheet mass loss during past warm periods”
            Dutton, A; et al. Science, 2015. doi: 10.1126/science.aaa4019.

            Abstract: “Interdisciplinary studies of geologic archives have ushered in a new era of deciphering magnitudes, rates, and sources of sea-level rise from polar ice-sheet loss during past warm periods. Accounting for glacial isostatic processes helps to reconcile spatial variability in peak sea level during marine isotope stages 5e and 11, when the global mean reached 6 to 9 meters and 6 to 13 meters higher than present, respectively. Dynamic topography introduces large uncertainties on longer time scales, precluding robust sea-level estimates for intervals such as the Pliocene. Present climate is warming to a level associated with significant polar ice-sheet loss in the past. Here, we outline advances and challenges involved in constraining ice-sheet sensitivity to climate change with use of paleo–sea level records.”


            “The Multimillennial Sea-level Commitment of Global Warming”
            Levermann, Anders; et al. Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, June 2013. Vol. 110, No. 34. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1219414110.

            Abstract: “Global mean sea level has been steadily rising over the last century, is projected to increase by the end of this century, and will continue to rise beyond the year 2100 unless the current global mean temperature trend is reversed. Inertia in the climate and global carbon system, however, causes the global mean temperature to decline slowly even after greenhouse gas emissions have ceased, raising the question of how much sea-level commitment is expected for different levels of global mean temperature increase above preindustrial levels. Although sea-level rise over the last century has been dominated by ocean warming and loss of glaciers, the sensitivity suggested from records of past sea levels indicates important contributions should also be expected from the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets…. Oceanic thermal expansion and the Antarctic Ice Sheet contribute quasi-linearly, with 0.4 m °C−1 and 1.2 m °C−1 of warming, respectively. The saturation of the contribution from glaciers is overcompensated by the nonlinear response of the Greenland Ice Sheet. As a consequence we are committed to a sea-level rise of approximately 2.3 m °C−1 within the next 2,000 years. Considering the lifetime of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, this imposes the need for fundamental adaptation strategies on multicentennial time scales.”


            “From the extreme to the mean: Acceleration and tipping points of coastal inundation from sea level rise”
            Sweet, William V.; Park, Joseph. Earth’s Future, 2014. doi: 10.1002/2014EF000272.

            Abstract: “Relative sea level rise (RSLR) has driven large increases in annual water level exceedances (duration and frequency) above minor (nuisance level) coastal flooding elevation thresholds established by the National Weather Service (NWS) at U.S. tide gauges over the last half-century. For threshold levels below 0.5 m above high tide, the rates of annual exceedances are accelerating along the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts, primarily from evolution of tidal water level distributions to higher elevations impinging on the flood threshold. These accelerations are quantified in terms of the local RSLR rate and tidal range through multiple regression analysis. Along the U.S. West Coast, annual exceedance rates are linearly increasing, complicated by sharp punctuations in RSLR anomalies during El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phases, and we account for annual exceedance variability along the U.S. West and East Coasts from ENSO forcing. Projections of annual exceedances above local NWS nuisance levels at U.S. tide gauges are estimated by shifting probability estimates of daily maximum water levels over a contemporary 5-year period following probabilistic RSLR projections of Kopp et al. (2014) for representative concentration pathways (RCP) 2.6, 4.5, and 8.5. We suggest a tipping point for coastal inundation (30 days/per year with a threshold exceedance) based on the evolution of exceedance probabilities. Under forcing associated with the local-median projections of RSLR, the majority of locations surpass the tipping point over the next several decades regardless of specific RCP.”

            Keywords: research roundup, Katrina, Sandy, preparedness, global warming, water, oceans, sea level rise

              • Jun 03 / 2016
              • 0
              Climate Change, Government, Health Care, Infrastructure, Municipal

              Covering hurricanes and tropical storms: Key resources for journalists

              Hurricane season in the U.S. generally runs from late spring to late fall. Hurricane season in the Atlantic basin, which encompasses the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, starts June 1 and ends Nov. 30. It’s slightly longer for the Eastern Pacific basin, which includes the waters off the nation’s west coast. Its season lasts from May 15 to Nov. 30.

              News agencies nationwide, especially those in coastline communities, monitor the weather closely during this period, keeping an eye out for tropical storm watches and hurricane warnings. Tropical storms are milder than hurricanes but still are dangerous because they can cause flooding, knock down trees and power lines and wash out roads and bridges. Hurricanes, on the other hand, can be catastrophic, destroying homes and businesses and leaving some areas flooded and without power for days to months. For example, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was responsible for more than 1,800 deaths and an estimated $151 billion in damages, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

              A journalist’s role is critical when it comes to reporting on tropical storms and hurricanes. The public relies on news reports for the most up-to-date weather information as well as guidance on how to prepare and when to start preparing for dangerous conditions. In the midst of weather-related emergencies, government agencies look to news organizations for help quickly distributing details about evacuations, school closures, shelters, medical care, transportation, food and clean water.

              Reporters who write about weather as part of their beats and even those who only pitch in on such stories occasionally should familiarize themselves with emergency-management procedures in their cities, counties and states. They also should know which local and national organizations monitor weather patterns and issue warnings and advisories. It is a good idea to identify key sources, including media liaisons and press officers, and to establish relationships with these individuals before they are needed.

              To help journalists cover this important topic, Journalist’s Resource has compiled a list of reports, tip sheets, research studies and other resources that should be useful to media professionals of various experience levels.



              Understanding weather terms, concepts

              The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has put together a glossary of terms related to hurricanes as well as a list of weather-related acronyms.

              The NHC also has created an easy-to-understand chart describing the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, a 1-to-5 rating system that is based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed and is used to estimate potential property damage. This scale can help journalists differentiate between Category 3 and Category 5 hurricanes.

              The center’s website offers a detailed explainer on storm surges, including the dangers associated with them.


              Historical context

              The NHC has compiled data on major hurricanes since 1900, with details such as death tolls, local economic impacts and interactive maps for each hurricane.

              free online tool from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) allows you to enter a zip code and access more than 150 years of Atlantic hurricane tracking data for a specific area.

              The U.S. Census Bureau has gathered data and reports related to Hurricane Katrina, the deadliest U.S. hurricane since 1928.

              A 2006 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Journal of Safety Research looks at non-fatal injuries among residents and relief workers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


              Building weather maps

              Storybench, part of the Media Innovation program at Northeastern University’s School of Journalism, offers step-by-step instructions on using the online mapping tool CartDB in a guide titled “How to Build a Weather Map in CartoDB.


              Tips on writing weather stories

              “How to Build a Better Weather Story: Tips for Reporting Before, During and After the Storm”

              This guide from Investigative Reporters & Editors highlights important steps to covering hurricanes and storms.


              “Writing the Weather Story: A Step-by-Step Guide”

              This explainer from Mark Leccese, a journalism professor at Emerson College, appears on Boston.com.


              “Weather Reporting as Beat Journalism”

              Scott Libin, a former news director at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis, wrote this tip sheet for The Poynter Institute.


              “Tragedies & Journalists”

              This 40-page guide from the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma at Columbia Journalism School is aimed at helping reporters improve their coverage of natural disasters and other tragedies.


              Federal agency resources

              National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

              NOAA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, monitors hurricanes as they form and works with various agencies to help communities prepare for dangerous weather. Each year, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center offers hurricane-season predictions for the Atlantic, eastern Pacific and central Pacific basins.

              National Hurricane Center (NHC)

              This is a division of NOAA that focuses on hurricanes. Its website offers a host of resources that can be helpful to journalists, including five-day weather outlooks, satellite images and a latitude-longitude distance calculator.

              National Weather Service

              Also affiliated with NOAA, this agency’s mission is to “provide weather, water, and climate data, forecasts and warnings for the protection of life and property and enhancement of the national economy.” It has 122 weather forecast offices located throughout the U.S. Annually, it issues about 1.5 million forecasts and 50,000 weather-related warnings.


              This government website offers information about how the public should react when the National Weather Service issues an alert for a hurricane watch or warning. It offers, among other things, tips on what to do when a hurricane is 36 hours from arriving and when a hurricane is just six hours away.

              U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

              The CDC website offers guidance on preparing for hurricanes, including collecting supplies, getting the family car ready and determining whether or not to evacuate.

              Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA)

              FEMA, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, helps coordinate government responses to national disasters, including major hurricanes.

              U.S. Department of State

              The federal agency’s website warns travelers of the dangers of visiting parts of the world that often experience hurricanes and other dangerous weather conditions. It includes a chart of storm seasons across the globe.


              A sampling of hurricane-related research studies

              “Potential Increases in Hurricane Damage in the United States: Implications for the Federal Budget”
              Dinan, Terry; et al. Working paper prepared for the Congressional Budget Office, June 2016.

              Summary: “Damage from hurricanes is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades because of the effects of climate change and coastal development. In turn, potential requests for federal relief and recovery efforts will increase as well. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the magnitude of the increases in hurricane damage and the associated amounts of federal aid if historical patterns hold. In addition, CBO examined three approaches to reducing the amount of such federal assistance: limiting greenhouse gas emissions; shifting more costs to state and local governments and private entities, thereby reducing coastal development; and investing in structural changes to reduce vulnerability to hurricanes. The accompanying working paper provides a detailed discussion of the data and methodology CBO used to estimate hurricane damage.”


              “Danger and Dementia: Caregiver Experiences and Shifting Social Roles During a Highly Active Hurricane Season”
              Christensen, Janelle J.; Castañeda, Heide. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 2014, Vol. 57. doi: 10.1080/01634372.2014.898009.

              Abstract: “This study examined disaster preparedness and decision-making by caregivers of community-dwelling persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia (ADRD). Interviews were conducted with 20 caregivers in South Florida. Twelve of these interviews include caregiving experiences during the highly active 2004–2005 hurricane seasons. Results indicate that persons in earlier stages of ADRD can, and often do, remain engaged in the disaster preparation and planning process. However, during the early stages, persons may also resist evacuation, even if the caregiver felt it was necessary. During later stages of the disease, caregivers reported less resistance to disaster-related decisions, however, with the trade-off of less ability to assist with preparation.”


              “Who Leaves and Who Stays? A Review and Statistical Meta-Analysis of Hurricane Evacuation Studies”
              Huang, Shih-Kai; Lindel, Michael K.; Prater, Carla S. Environment and Behavior, 2015. doi: 10.1177/0013916515578485.

              Abstract: “This statistical meta-analysis (SMA) examined 38 studies involving actual responses to hurricane warnings and 11 studies involving expected responses to hypothetical hurricane scenarios conducted since 1991. The results indicate official warnings, mobile home residence, risk area residence, observations of environmental (storm conditions) and social (other people’s behavior) cues, and expectations of severe personal impacts, all have consistently significant effects on household evacuation. Other variables — especially demographic variables — have weaker effects on evacuation, perhaps via indirect effects. Finally, the SMA also indicates that the effect sizes from actual hurricane evacuation studies are similar to those from studies of hypothetical hurricane scenarios for 10 of 17 variables that were examined. These results can be used to guide the design of hurricane evacuation transportation analyses and emergency managers’ warning programs. They also suggest that laboratory and internet experiments could be used to examine people’s cognitive processing of different types of hurricane warning messages.”


              “Evacuation During Hurricane Sandy: Data from a Rapid Community Assessment”
              Brown, Shakara; Parton, Hilary; Driver, Cynthia; Norman, Christina. PLoS Currents, 2016. doi: 10.1371/currents.dis.692664b92af52a3b506483b8550d6368.

              Summary: “In anticipation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, New York City officials issued mandatory evacuation orders for evacuation Zone A. However, only a small proportion of residents complied. Failure to comply with evacuation warnings can result in severe consequences including injury and death. To better ascertain why individuals failed to heed pre-emptive evacuation warnings for Hurricane Sandy, we assessed factors that may have affected evacuation among residents in neighborhoods severely affected by the storm.”


              “The Economic Impact of Hurricane Katrina on its Victims: Evidence from Individual Tax Returns”
              Deryugina, Tatyana; Kawano, Laura; Levitt, Steven. Working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, November 2014. doi: 10.3386/w20713.

              Abstract: “Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than 200,000 homes and led to massive economic and physical dislocation. Using a panel of tax return data, we provide one of the first comprehensive analyses of the hurricane’s long-term economic impact on its victims. Katrina had large and persistent impacts on where people live; small and mostly transitory impacts on wage income, employment, total income, and marriage; and no impact on divorce or fertility. Within just a few years, Katrina victims’ incomes fully recover and even surpass that of controls from similar cities that were unaffected by the storm. The strong economic performance of Katrina victims is particularly remarkable given that the hurricane struck with essentially no warning. Our results suggest that, at least in this particular disaster, aid to cover destroyed assets and short-run income declines was sufficient to make victims financially whole. Our results provide some optimism regarding the costs of climate-change driven dislocation, especially when adverse events can be anticipated well in advance.”


              Keywords: Tropical cyclone, tropical systems, tropical depression, tropical weather, hurricane strike, recovery efforts, climatology, climate prediction, wind scale, major hurricane, hurricane advisory



                • May 17 / 2016
                • 1
                Environment, Food, Agriculture, Government, International

                Global fisheries: Benefits, trade-offs of alternative approaches to recovering depleted fisheries

                The dangers for the world’s seas and oceans are many — from climate change and warming waters to overfishing related to the needs of growing world populations. As a major 2015 paper in the journal Science noted, extinction of many species is a looming reality, given the current decline in quality of aquatic ecosystems. The perils for large marine mammals, sharks and other large fish are well known to the public. But there are many other dangers. For example, the rapid rate of ocean acidification, which appears to be unprecedented in Earth’s history, threatens to decimate shellfish populations.

                Of course, debates about overfishing and sustainable management practices rage in virtually every fishery across the world. These policy debates are seldom simple to resolve and involve complex tradeoffs: Traditional fishing rights versus government regulation; short-term profits versus longer-term sustainable growth; local population food needs versus larger ecological and stewardship concerns. Organizations such as the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations keep statistics on the state of fisheries and their relative health. The FAO’s annual The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture provides a comprehensive overview. For U.S. reporters and editors covering these issues on the nation’s coasts, it is worth getting to know some of the long and complex policy and regulatory history in this area, which for nearly four decades has been governed by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

                As marine science evolves and the available data get more precise, researchers are able to make more definitive estimates about how exactly ocean resources should be managed over the coming decades. It is also the case that relying more on sophisticated economic analysis can help provide a better basis on which to resolve difficult conflicts and competing values. A 2016 study, “Global Fishery Prospects under Contrasting Management Regimes,” published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) provides one of the most comprehensive analyses to date of various policy options. The study analyzes current data and makes forecasts out to the year 2050 to explore what the world’s fishing resources could look like if alternative methods for management were implemented. A dozen researchers from three institutions — the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara; the Environmental Defense Fund; and the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington — produced a comprehensive database of 4,713 fisheries globally, representing 78 percent of the world’s fishing grounds. Taking into account the current state of health of the fisheries, the relative profits and other relevant factors, the scholars model how different management practices would affect health, sustainability, capacity and commercial potential over the long run.

                The researchers compare three scenarios: 1) business-as-usual management; 2) fishing to maximize long-term catch; 3) rights-based fishery management (RBFM), where economic value is optimized. The three main variables of interest considered in the analysis were: profit; catch size; and total biomass of fish in the sea.

                The concept of rights-based management is complicated and multi-dimensional, but for the purposes of this study it is defined as the “harvest trajectory that maximizes the net present value (NPV) of profit in the fishery over a long time horizon”; and it assumes that “recovery is ‘optimal’ from an investment perspective – no other harvest path can achieve higher NPV of that fishery.” Under rights-based scenarios, “catches are specifically chosen to maximize the long-term sustainable economic value of the fishery.” This approach, the scholars note, “has been shown to increase product prices (primarily due to increased quality and market timing) and reduce fishing costs (primarily due to a reduced race to fish).”

                The study’s findings include:

                • Most fisheries worldwide are facing substantial problems: “The median fishery is in poor health (overfished, with further overfishing occurring), although 32 percent of fisheries are in good biological, although not necessarily economic, condition.”
                • If new management practices are not implemented, the coming decades will see massive, negative and perhaps sudden change in the world’s productive waters, particularly among fisheries that are already on the brink. The “business-as-usual scenario projects further divergence and continued collapse for many of the world’s fisheries.”
                • If rights-based management practices to maximize economic value were implemented, the global benefit would be enormous over the next few decades, compared to business-as-usual scenarios. Global maximum sustainable yield would increase to 98 million metric tons (MMT), “substantially larger than the 80 MMT reportedly caught across the globe in recent years.”
                • Global fishery profits could increase by 64 percent. “Applying sound management reforms to global fisheries in our dataset could generate annual increases exceeding 16 million metric tons (MMT) in catch, $53 billion in profit, and 619 MMT in biomass relative to business as usual.”

                Overall, the researchers find, “if reform efforts are put in place now, the median time to recovery would be just 10 [years], and by midcentury, the vast majority (98 percent) of stocks could be biologically healthy and in a strong position to supply the food and livelihoods on which the world will increasingly rely.”

                Related research: A 2015 research review that appeared in the journal Science, “Marine Defaunation: Animal Loss in the Global Ocean,” looks at the oceanic impacts of global warming.


                Keywords: overfished, sustainable fishing, marine life, fisheries reform, fisheries management, fishery recovery, fish biomass

                  • Mar 23 / 2016
                  • 0
                  Juliette Kayyem (Kent Dayton)
                  Conflicts, Congress, Infrastructure, U.S. Foreign Policy

                  Reporting on crisis, disaster, homeland security: Tips from Juliette Kayyem

                  Juliette Kayyem is a national leader in homeland security and crisis management. When she served as President Obama’s assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, she played a key role in the government’s response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Previously, she had been the homeland security adviser to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

                  Today, Kayyem owns Juliette Kayyem Solutions, a Massachusetts-based consulting and analysis company, and lectures on public policy as part of Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. She’s also a national security, intelligence and terrorism analyst for CNN. In 2015, she launched a new podcast, “Security Mom,” for WBGH News in Boston. Her new book, Security Mom: An Unclassified Guide to Protecting Our Homeland and Your Home, is scheduled for release in 2016.

                  As part of Journalist’s Resource’s ongoing “research chat” series, we recently sat down with Kayyem to ask her about the media’s role in covering crises such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks. During the interview, she offered us insights on how U.S. governments handle emergencies. She also gave us a number of tips on how journalists can do a better job covering these high-profile events, including taking a more critical view of government’s actions and decisions.

                  Some key takeaways for journalists:

                  • Familiarize yourself with the federal government’s Incident Command System (ICS) and that of your local and state governments. An ICS is a hierarchical management system that allows governments to respond to emergencies through the coordination of various agencies, personnel, equipment and facilities. Being familiar with these systems will help you understand what you are observing when you are in the field covering an emergency. Knowing how these systems are set up and work also will help you spot potential problems and ask more probing questions.
                  • Develop relationships with officials who oversee emergency management before an emergency occurs. And those relationships should extend beyond police and fire departments. Often, the top-level officials who coordinate emergency responses will not be law-enforcement officers or firefighters.
                  • Read case studies. Government leaders read case studies to understand the dynamics of emergencies that already have occurred and to scrutinize governments’ past responses to those emergencies. A good resource is the book Managing Crises: Responses to Large-Scale Emergencies, edited by Arnold M. Howitt and Herman B. Leonard.
                  • Review local governments’ emergency-management plans to understand their individual roles better. This will give you a chance to identify potential problems and ask questions before an emergency occurs. It is a good idea to also sit in on some of the regular meetings that government officials hold to discuss and fine-tune their emergency-management plans. Ask to be allowed to observe simulations.
                  • Be cautious about acting on or reporting about assumptions. Journalists who are under intense pressure to get information quickly sometimes make assumptions and present them as facts. Not only can this mislead your audience and hurt your professional reputation, but it also could have unintended consequences in terms of audience reactions to the bad information.

                  Denise-Marie Ordway of Journalist’s Resource spoke with Kayyem. The following is an edited transcript:


                  Journalist’s Resource: As you know, journalists often are among the first responders to the scene of a tragedy, whether it’s a major accident, a terrorist attack or a natural disaster such as a tornado or earthquake.  Can you share your thoughts about this and help us understand government and emergency officials’ perspective? For example, are journalists seen as a help or a hindrance in this respect?

                  Juliette Kayyem: I always begin with the story that circulates in emergency-management circles: When you get the phone call at 3 o’clock in the morning, go back to sleep. The joke is because in 15 minutes, the news you heard will either be proven false or you will have needed those 15 minutes to regroup and then go out and deal with the disaster. In other words, disasters are called disasters for a reason. They unfold in organized ways in a lot of circumstances, but also require a lot of pivoting by first responders. So the lack of clarity to a journalist looking at it does not mean that there is a lack of clarity.

                  So one of the first things that I always recommend to journalists is to familiarize yourself with the basic attributes of disaster management. It’s something called Incident Command System, or ICS, if I can recommend it. You can just go online and I think there is an “ICS for non-first responders.” It just explains how an incident-command structure looks so that when you come to the disaster, it may look like a bunch of parallel things going on, but they’re actually managed through quite a hierarchical system run by an incident commander. And when the incident commander is weak like in Hurricane Katrina, that’s when you see the system fall apart.

                  I think there has been a tremendous change in disaster management vis-à-vis journalists, mostly because of the feeling that what you can’t beat, you better join. I think because of the onslaught of Twitter and Facebook and, you know, no one really waits for the press conferences anymore, I think people in my field are much more receptive to the power of the media to get information out. To protect people, which is of primary importance, but also to describe what is going on. So I think that there has been a change and so people in the field now are much more receptive. Now look, there are still those traditional cops who are like “Ah, I hate the media.” But, for the most part, I think people have come to accept the need to engage the media because bad information on Twitter or wherever else can actually risk lives.

                  JR: At Harvard, you teach graduate students who will be new leaders in the areas of emergency management and homeland security. What do you tell them about working with the media?

                  Juliette Kayyem:  I talk to them mostly about mistakes because I think that’s the only way you can have lessons learned. I think, in some ways, there is a philosophical challenge between the media wanting to focus on the bad and disaster management being about trying to minimize the bad. So there is always going to be a disconnect because, obviously, there is going to be bad news. It’s a fricking disaster. There’s no good news here – at least not for a while. I was director of incident command for the BP oil spill and I look back at that now and I think, operationally, it wasn’t ideal. I think we did pretty good. I mean, I like to say we saved an ocean. And the fact that we don’t talk about the BP oil spill anymore was success. I think on the media side, though, we failed in setting the conditions of success. I think we failed affirmatively and then we failed by omission.

                  Affirmatively, I think we — the government, the Obama administration — made it sound like we were doing so much that we were in control of this disaster. Well, you know we had 29 days between the time the rig went down and the time oil hit shore. Anyone who has worked with oil and water knows to dream on if you think you’re going to capture everything. So we, unfortunately, set the criteria of success as no oil on shore – no oil on shore is failure, instead of [saying] “Look, everyone, oil is going to hit shore because anyone who mixes oil and water knows it’s impossible to get oil out.” So our standard of success is less oil hitting shore than would have but for our effort. It’s really hard to set the conditions of success that way because we like binary. In a disaster, it’s not binary. If there’s anything to learn it is to educate or at least try to amplify what the conditions of success are. You know,  in my field,  let’s just be honest here – it’s totally legitimate to say only 3,000 people died in the Twin Towers when you think there might have been 47,000 people there on any given Tuesday morning. You can’t say that, right? Because, of course, it’s a tragedy that 3,000 people died. But in a world in which fewer people dying, less oil hitting shore is success, we’ve got to learn to communicate that better. And my field is bad at that.

                  JR: What websites, blogs, journals or other resources would you recommend to journalists who write about emergency management as part of their beat or who are required to write about a tragic event on occasion?

                  Juliette Kayyem: People don’t realize disaster management is a policy and it’s called the Incident Command System or NIMS, which is the National Incident Management System. But, basically, if you type up “Incident Command System,” I think you can take an online tutorial for like an hour and it’s free.  FEMA gives them for free. You can just figure out, “Oh wait, what does a disaster look like? What does this system look like?” In short, the Incident Command System is a hierarchical system run by an incident commander who may be a cop, but may be a fire chief, may be an emergency manager. And it’s a way of organizing all the pieces of a disaster. They’re called  … you know, like housing, transportation, public health, sheltering — all the different pieces that you’re going to want to focus on in a disaster. They’re called Emergency Support Functions. It just describes sort of how this hierarchical system folds out so that when someone comes to a disaster and they see a bunch of people who look like they’re not doing anything, they may be the people running finance, which is really important in a disaster. You need to move money fast. So the fact that it looks like they’re just on phones or they’re waiting for something — it means nothing. So get yourself familiar with the system.

                  The other thing is I think most people view homeland security at large as simply TSA [Transportation Security Administration]. And that’s not good. So there are a number of guides to what is homeland security. The National Governors Association has written a new governors’ guide to homeland security that sort of lays out every piece of homeland security because it’s such a big docket. And it’s something to look at to just sort of see, from the states’ side, what it looks like. And then on the federal side, the Department of Homeland Security has written QHSR — Quad Homeland Security Review — policy and it sort of lays out the pieces that the department touches. Now those are all government resources, but at least it will give reporters some understanding of how the system works. Doesn’t mean it works every time, but that’s essentially it.

                  JR: Do you draw on academic materials?

                  Juliette Kayyem:  The academic literature is just starting to be a more rigorous academic discipline in the homeland security field. But it’s not there yet. There are not a lot of books solely on disaster management. So what I often rely on are case studies. The [Harvard] Kennedy School and other schools have great case study programs. I think [for] leadership and disasters, understanding disaster, you just have to look at old disasters. What happened with the tsunamis, what actually happened with Hurricane Katrina? Arnold Howitt and Dutch Leonard have a great book of case studies of disasters. They don’t really answer the tough questions. They just sort of lay out all of the dynamics that were happening that explain why some things weren’t working and others were and some of the challenges for leadership. So that’s another thing that I recommend. For me, it’s always the case studies.

                  JR: As someone who has spent many years organizing government responses to major crises in both state and federal government, I’m sure you’ve made observations about what journalists generally do well and what they generally don’t do well when covering such issues. Can you share some examples of what journalists don’t usually do well and how they might do things better?

                  Juliette Kayyem: I think I don’t have the journalist gene even though I was a columnist. Like this desire to be first — I just don’t get. Because I believe it will inevitably be wrong or it will screw up in some way. I kind of feel like: “Why does it matter?” But that’s just me.  I work for CNN and they obviously feel otherwise. During the Boston Marathon, I was on air with John King when he falsely stated an arrest had been made. Now I knew an arrest had not been made because I’d been in major cities where an arrest had been made and it did not feel like it. You know, when a major arrest has been made, there are helicopters everywhere and everything. I said on air: “I’m not so sure about this.” That was really hard to do. But I think that sort of stands as a perfect example in which a mayor or a leader will talk in a certain way. [Mayor] Menino was simply suggesting we knew who the guys were. In other words, we had their pictures. We had no idea who they actually were. That was mistranslated. So I would say to journalists: Are you speaking the same language as the person who’s talking to you? When a mayor or someone says “We know who they are,” what does that actually mean? You say you think you know what it means. So that really hurt a company that has been very good to me, a media company that’s been very good to me — a media company that, whatever its flaws, people turn to CNN. They want it to be right.

                  When reporters stick with the story, I think it’s really important. These disasters … the BP oil spill was an odd example because it was so long term. It was 100 days. But going back and seeing, you know, what does resiliency look like and what actually was the story there? Those are all really important. Or sticking around. The reporters that stick around past the limelight are the ones who I think get the most honest stories.

                  JR: What about things they do well? Does anything stand out? A particular news agency or scenario?

                  Juliette Kayyem:  You know, it’s going to be so case specific. Long form for disaster – long form is always so interesting. Magazine articles or books on Hurricane Katrina or even novels that relate it. A lot of documentaries do it well because they get the nuance of the disaster. The daily reporting – generally, it is good. I just think it’s just so over the top. Not everything is breaking news – let’s just put it that way.

                  JR: In times of tragedy – especially immediately after tragedy has struck — journalists and government officials usually are working in an environment filled with stress and uncertainty. Can you offer some tips to help journalists work better with emergency officials and government officials to get accurate and up-to-date information?

                  Juliette Kayyem:  Well I mean, look, there is going to be the formal joint-information command system through which they are going to be getting information. I think trying to be paired with emergency managers — not even the head person, but someone else who is going out in the field — just to see how it works. I think understanding that government never would view itself as being the sole first responder. I often tell journalists coming to disasters: “Do you know how many people work at FEMA?” And they are always off by multiples of thousands. It’s 2,700 people. FEMA is an organizing entity that brings together all the different stakeholders at a disaster, including private sector — like a Walmart or nonprofits, like churches, synagogues, others. So a lot of times, I think reporters can think ‘government’ or ‘not government’ and think that there’s a gap or a tension. I think one way is to go out and see that government can create the web where others engage. It doesn’t mean they’re in conflict. It means, actually, that they are working together or that they are trying to work together.

                  So I think that can only be seen out in the field. That means not just sticking around government. How are non-governmental entities engaging in the disaster and the response?  How are individuals engaging in the response and then also the private sector? What Walmart did during Hurricane Katrina that FEMA couldn’t was just absolutely remarkable. You know, it’s often viewed as “Walmart came to the rescue.” I don’t think Walmart saw it that way. I think Walmart thought: “Government needs our help. We’re going to engage in this enterprise to try to save people.” So I think that that’s an interesting way to see these dynamics.

                  JR: You recommend that journalists pair up with officials from emergency management to learn how things are done. Should that happen before tragedy occurs?

                  Juliette Kayyem: Before hurricane season, if you’re a local journalist, don’t wait to go to the bunker of the emergency-management agency. Ask: “Can I go through a walk through?” and “How are you gearing up for this?” Ask to sit in on a table top. Government agencies with NGOs [Non-Government Organizations] and private-sector partners constantly are exercising, doing simulations, exercises — what we call table tops. Ask to sit in there — no attribution. Just to get a sense of “Oh my gosh, how would this actually work?” And get a sense of the gaps in the planning. And so, have a strong working relationship with the emergency-management apparatus as compared to the police officers. Because very few disasters are going to be cop-run. In fact, in natural disasters, they are going to be part of public safety and security. They’re [law enforcement] not going to be in charge. So make sure that reporters access the right piece of the apparatus.  And, for example, if you are in a maritime community, get with the Coast Guard. Because chances are if you’re going to have a maritime disaster, Coast Guard will be lead.

                  JR: How difficult would it be for a journalist to get that kind of access?

                  Juliette Kayyem:  I think in a non-disaster relationship — if you show good-faith interest — relatively easy. Because for the most part, our jobs are waiting and they’re exercising and planning and figuring out budgets and getting people trained. So if someone is interested during those gap times, then people are thrilled. Because then what happens, after a bad thing happens, it’s a freaking disaster and everyone knows it’s bad. There are only bad stories. And the incident command officer is there saying: “Where the heck were all of you when we were saying, ‘If something bad happens, here’s how it’s going to work?’” You know? And so I think we need to explain what the apparatus looks like.

                  JR: There has been a lot of discussion about how Mexico, in October 2015, was able to escape the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere with no deaths. Some say the country escaped serious tragedy because it had prepared well for Hurricane Patricia. Can you talk about the role of journalists in emergency preparedness? Does the news media do a good job preparing communities for the kinds of disasters for which you can prepare on some level?

                  Juliette Kayyem: It’s the government’s responsibility to engage people — utilizing the media, but preparing them [people] for the things that they can actually do. I’m very critical of my apparatus. You know, we spent 15 years talking in a way that either made people freak out or tune out — one or the other, and nothing in between. And I think it’s really, really important that we empower people with the tools necessary. And I think journalists can amplify that. I think the Mexico hurricane — or non-hurricane– is the perfect example. That was a reaction guided by science. And if the science changes, who cares? “Thank God” is all I have to say. Everything went well with that. People were going to die if the weather didn’t change. I think the way that the media amplified it was really important because I think it just told people there’s no messing around here.

                  JR: Are journalists asking the right questions when it comes to emergency-preparedness issues?

                  Juliette Kayyem:  The best question to ask is: “What is success, what’s the standard of success?” Because in a disaster, it’s hard to judge. And then begin to think about it. An incident commander will have that answer. Our first priority is to get the roads open. They’re going to have a list of successes. Part of it is having the journalists understand the standards of success, knowing we start from a bad-news story.

                  JR: What can they be doing to better hold these agencies accountable?

                  Juliette Kayyem:  Hold them to the standard of success. A journalist can’t come into a disaster and think: “Well, this is a mess. It’s bad, and they’re not doing their job.” Yes, it’s bad. This is not a Disney cruise. This is really bad stuff happening. So holding government accountable to the delivery of services, to the training and practices that they hold themselves to is really important. But they [journalists] have to know those things first. That’s why you have to educate yourself beforehand. And I think the apparatus is very receptive to that.


                  Other resources: A May 2015 report from the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma at Columbia University, “Covering Natural Disaster in Nepal,” offers insights into the challenges of covering earthquakes in Nepal. The Dart Center also offers a 40-page guide for reporters, titled “Tragedies & Journalists: A Guide for More Effective Coverage.” The International Center for Journalists’ guide “Disaster and Crisis Coverage” also provides important insights and tips.


                  Keywords: terrorism, disaster, Hurricane Katrina, BP oil spill, Deepwater Horizon, trauma

                    • Jan 24 / 2016
                    • 0
                    Ads, Public Opinion, Climate Change

                    Research on what “global warming” and “climate change” mean, and when to use the terms

                    The growing threat of rising levels of greenhouse gases has been in the news for a good 30 years now, and a range of terms have been used to describe the consequences of inaction: “climate change,” “global warming,” “climate disruption,” and more. The scientific community tends to use “climate change” in peer-reviewed literature, and many large international organizations, first and foremost the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tie their identity to that term. Journalists often use the two terms interchangeably, the implicit assumption being that readers understand them to mean the same thing and that they have the same connotations.

                    A May 2014 study reveals that people can react to them differently, however, with significant implications for science journalism and communications. The study, What’s in a Name? Global Warming Versus Climate Change,” is based on two nationally representative surveys, one conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change and the other by the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. (The research team consisted of Anthony Leiserowitz, Geoff Feinberg and Seth Rosenthal of Yale; Nicholas Smith of University College London; Ashley Anderson of Colorado State University; and Connie Roser-Renouf and Edward Maibach of George Mason University.)

                    In their introduction, the authors note that despite being used widely to describe the same set of phenomena, “climate change” and “global warming” are different:

                    Global warming refers to the increase in the Earth’s average surface temperature since the Industrial Revolution, primarily due to the emission of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels and land use change, whereas climate change refers to the long-term change of the Earth’s climate including changes in temperature, precipitation and wind patterns over a period of several decades or longer.

                    Use of the terms has gone back and forth, the researchers indicate, sometimes for ideological reasons: In 2001 President George W. Bush used “global warming” in several environmental addresses, but his administration was advised by Republican strategist Frank Luntz to employ “climate change” instead: “While ‘global warming’ has catastrophic connotations attached to it, ‘climate change’ suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge,” Luntz wrote. The White House followed his advice, and began to use “climate change” consistently. Internet data indicate that the public searches for the term “global warming” far more frequently, but that searches decreased significantly with the onset of the economic crisis.

                    To better understand how people react to the two terms and to explore their use, the researchers conducted two surveys in late 2013 and early 2014. The first asked 1,027 respondents about their familiarity with the terms, how often they heard them and which of the two they used more often. The second survey asked a nationally representative sample of 1,657 people a series of questions about the phenomena. For half of those surveyed, the questions used the term “global warming” and the other half, “climate change.” Respondents were classified by age (Generation Y, 18-30; Generation X, 31-48, Baby Boom, 49-67; and Greatest Generation, 68 or older) as well as gender, race, political views, and religious convictions.

                    The surveys’ results included:

                    • Based on the survey data, Americans are equally familiar with the two terms, but are four times more likely to report that they heard “global warming” in the public discourse. They are also twice as likely to say that they use the term “global warming” rather than “climate change” in conversations.
                    • For Republicans, the terms “global warming” and “climate change” are regarded as synonyms — neither is more engaging than the other, though “global warming” did result in stronger perceptions of personal or familial threats.
                    • Use of “climate change” appears to reduce engagement on the issue for a range of subgroups across age, political and gender lines. These included Democrats, independents, liberals and moderates; men, women and minorities; and different generations.
                    • In some cases, the difference in peoples’ reactions could be significant: “African-Americans (+20 percentage points) and Hispanics (+22) are much more likely to rate global warming as a ‘very bad thing’ than climate change. Generation X (+21) and liberals (+19) are much more likely to be certain global warming is happening. African-Americans (+22) and Hispanics (+30) are much more likely to perceive global warming as a personal threat, or that it will harm their own family (+19 and +31, respectively). Hispanics (+28) are much more likely to say global warming is already harming people in the United States right now. And Generation X (+19) is more likely to be willing to join a campaign to convince elected officials to take action to reduce global warming than climate change.”
                    • Use of “global warming” caused more intense worry about the issue, particularly among men, Generation Y, Generation X, Democrats, liberals and moderates. For men, Generation X, and liberals, use of “global warming” produced greater certainty that it was happening; for independents, greater understanding that human activities are the primary cause; and for independents and liberals, a greater understanding of the scientific consensus.
                    • “Global warming” was also associated with events such as melting glaciers, world catastrophe and other extreme phenomena. “Climate change” was associated more with general weather patterns.

                    “These diverse results strongly suggest that global warming and climate change are used differently and mean different things in the minds of many Americans,” the researchers conclude. “Scientists often prefer the term ‘climate change’ for technical reasons, but should be aware that the two terms generate different interpretations among the general public and specific subgroups.”

                    Related research: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offers a number of reports related to climate change, including one titled “What’s the Difference Between Global Warming and Climate Change?” that includes several data graphics. The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri offers a guide to covering and defining what it calls “climate adaptation.”


                    Keywords: climate change, global warming, greenhouse gases, fossil fuels, science communication, climate politics, adaptation