Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Climate Catastrophe Policy: Triage - 12

"You need insurance."
I. Introduction

A blogger, commenting on the prudence of having insurance, wrote: "[as] far as frequency you could figure that 0.317% of households ... 0.276% of housing units had a fire in the year."

Nevertheless, fire insurance is not only required for mortgages, it is also a custom of our culture to have fire insurance, and in fact even with those very low odds (less than 1%) that our own fire insurance protection will be used in the context of catastrophic circumstances, as a society we still practice "better safe than sorry" insurance ideology.

II. What About Global Flooding Insurance?

How should that cultural norm of having insurance, even when the chance of using it is slight, inform us about insuring ourselves in sea level rise (SLR) scenarios?

How can we be safe, rather than sorry?

The SLR scenario has both certainties and uncertainties:
"A key area of glaciological study in recent years is ice sheet mass balance. The mass balance of an ice sheet is the difference between its total snow input and the total loss through melting, ablation, or calving. So long as an ice sheet gains an equal mass through snowfall as it loses through melt, ablation, and calving from glaciers and ice shelves, it is said to be in balance. Because ice sheets contain so much ice and have the potential to raise or lower global sea level so dramatically, measuring the mass balance of the ice sheets and tracking any mass balance changes and their causes is very important for forecasting sea level rise. Scientists monitor ice sheet mass balance through a variety of techniques. No measurement method is perfect, however, and ice sheets' sheer size makes exact measurement difficult."
(NSIDC SOTC: Ice Sheets, emphasis added). In other words it is not easy to watch SLR exactly, but since it is critical, we have to try our best.

If we have in fact historically been trying our best, then we are very bad at it (The Agnotology of Sea Level Rise Via Ice Melt).

This post is part of a series that has been quite critical of the lax attention to AGW and SLR (New Climate Catastrophe Policy: Triage, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

That lax is tantamount to only 1% of home owners having fire insurance, instead of a very high percentage having it.

III. Measurements Are The Best Ever Now

There is enough information to inform those with common sense that perfection should not get in the way of improvement in the form of an extremely serious and energetic reaction.

Acceleration, as expressed in the following quotes, is one clear reason for an emergency call to action :
Coastal sea levels along continental margins often show significant year-to-year upward and downward fluctuations. These fluctuations are superimposed on a longer term upward trend associated with the rise in global mean sea level, with global mean sea level rising at roughly 3 mm per year during the recent 20 years of accurate satellite measures. For society, it is the regional changes along any particular coastal zone that are most important. Our analysis of multi-decadal tide gauge records along the North American east coast identified an extreme sea-level rise event during 2009–2010. Within this relatively brief two-year period, coastal sea level north of New York City jumped by up to 128 mm. This magnitude of inter-annual sea level rise is unprecedented in the tide gauge records, with statistical methods suggesting that it was a 1-in-850 year event.

On May 22nd, 2014, global sea surface temperature anomalies spiked to an amazing +1.25 degrees Celsius above the, already warmer than normal, 1979 to 2000 average. This departure is about 1.7 degrees C above 1880 levels — an extraordinary reading that signals the world may well be entering a rapid warming phase.
It is very rare that land or ocean surface temperatures spike to values above a +1 C anomaly in NOAA’s Global Forecast System model summary. Historically, both measures have slowly risen to about +.35 C above the 1979 to 2000 average and about +.8 C above 1880s values (land +1 C, ocean +.6 C). But since late April, sea surface temperatures have remained in a range of +1 C above 1979 to 2000 values — likely contributing to NOAA and NASA’s temperature indexes hitting first and second hottest in the climate record for the month. During May, ocean surface heating entrenched and expanded, progressing to a new high of +1.17 C last week. As of this week, values had exceeded +1.2 C and then rocketed on to a new extreme of +1.25 C (See Deep Ocean Warming is Coming Back to Haunt Us).

"Since the beginning of the 20th century, the seas have continued to rise at an average rate of 1.7 ± 0.5 mm per year, according to the IPCC  ... first noted increase ... 1963 ... 1.8 ± 0.5 mm per year ... 1993 to 2003 ... 3.1 ± 0.7 mm yr ..."

Measurements from ESA’s CryoSat mission have been used to map the height of the huge ice sheets that blanket Greenland and Antarctica and show how they are changing. New results reveal combined ice volume loss at an unprecedented rate of 500 cubic kilometres a year.
The resulting maps reveal that Greenland alone is reducing in volume by about 375 cubic kilometres a year.
The researchers say the ice sheets’ annual contribution to sea-level rise has doubled since 2009. [Table 1 type contribution - i.e. thermal sea level rise (additional) is not included in that doubling]

Glaciologist Angelika Humbert, another of the study’s authors, added, “Since 2009, the volume loss in Greenland has increased by a factor of about two and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet by a factor of three."
(Will This Float Your Boat - 5). That post discusses the specific target catastrophe we should pull out all stops to avoid: that catastrophe is "a 3 ft. SLR."

IV. Is Triage / Adaptation Insurance Enough?

The reason for such an emergency effort becomes clear with the contemplation of the answers to a certain question.

What would "a 3 ft. SLR" paralyzation of sea ports, and/or paralyzation of international sea-based trade, do to civilization?

Here is why that question matters:
"By volume, more than 95 percent of U.S. international trade moves through the nation's ports and harbors, with about 50 percent of these goods being hazardous materials."
(NOAA PORTS, emphasis added; cf. Ports & Harbors). If our ports and harbors are destroyed or paralyzed by a 3 ft. SLR, civilization is in for trouble.

Nevertheless, all these signs and signals of things to come are evidently not sinking into the minds of those who deal with harbors, bays, and ports:
"As ports are operational hubs for the logistics supply chain, it is appropriate for ports to undertake an assessment in partnership with key logistics providers and /or local governments. While climate change may impact ports locally, it is often disruptions to the supply chain and local infrastructure that compound disruptions at the actual port, emphasising the need to work collaboratively on a broader climate risk and adaptation strategy [think global SLR impact].

However, several barriers to climate adaptation have been recognised (Becker 2011, IAPH 2011, UKCIP 2007), including inconsistency between organisational planning timeframes (5 – 15 years) compared with climate projections of 30 – 90 years; as well as the uncertainty of local climate projections leading to decision-makers delaying action until there is perceived to be more certainty. To help address these concerns, this report proposes a hybrid “risk / vulnerability” approach to understanding and adapting to climate change. That is, consideration of current day vulnerabilities to extreme weather events, integrated with an assessment of future climate risks." (Climate Resilient Ports, emphasis added).

"First proposed more than 20 years ago, the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project has been studied and delayed more times over the past two decades than anyone can count. So it’s no surprise that the big news at the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) this year has been the approval of the massive project to deepen the Savannah River and harbor to expand the Port of Savannah’s capacity.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) finally got the go-ahead in October – 15 years after it first received a congressional OK in 1999 – when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the GPA signed a Project Partnership Agreement (PPA). After years of studies, delays and lawsuits that both stalled the project and pushed projected costs sky high, construction was scheduled to begin by the end of 2014 on what has been called the most critical infrastructure development project in Georgia in decades." (Georgia Trend, emphasis added).
(The Agnotology of Sea Level Rise Via Ice Melt). We hear repeatedly several "solutions" to the SLR we face as a civilization: 1) denying that SLR is caused by civilization (some "solution" eh?), 2) greenhouse gas emission reductions, 3) switching away from fossil fuels, or 4) continuing business as usual but with additional "adaptation" mechanisms.

"Adaptation" really means "triage" (clean up the mess, bury the bodies, but don't stop doing what is causing the problem).

V. Unintended Consequences

There are also unintended consequences that have either not been, or cannot be, addressed in much of the planning for "adaptation."

That is because "adaptation" is an idea floated by Oil-Qaeda to preserve their imaginary status quo, which cannot and will not be maintained.

The only real solution is to leave the petroleum in the ground.

The increase in SLR around the globe, when ice melts and leaves the polar regions to join the oceans, will cause tidal torque, trigger earthquakes, bring strong and unprecedented pressures to harbors and ports, and maybe even some disruptions to magnetic fields (Is A New Age Of Pressure Upon Us?, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

There are scientifically documented cases revealing scenarios where tidal movements in the Earth's surface crust, compelled by surface pressure and/or gravity, contribute to triggering major earthquakes (Tidal Triggering, PDF).

Now, think about one of the many port cities that built a port using concepts and engineering from long ago.

Concepts during a time, near the beginning of the industrial revolution, when sea level was at a relative low, perhaps 21 cm. lower than its level is today.

Think of the stresses on those old ports as the tides change, stronger tidal currents flow, and the weight of it all shifts daily during the transitions from low, to neap, to high tide, and back again.

Now, add, one, two, three, and more feet to that sea level and its stresses, impacting those old ports all around the entire globe.

Since there will be major pressure redistribution everywhere in those ports, it becomes a complex system dynamic.

The weaknesses will be found out before Harbor & Port Czars address them (water finds all holes).

On another crustal movement front, the land level of Antarctica and Greenland are rising as the weight of ice is removed by melt, then redistributed over the crust down under the sea.

A crust that is historically accustomed to different pressures than these new melt induced, sea level rise induced, torques of easing here but increasing there.

This is not like putting one, two, three and more feet of water slowly into the backyard swimming pool.

We are talking about a lot of mass, weight, and force being taken away here to be redeposited there, impacting upon the many weak spots around the globe.

VI. Conclusion

Some cities are conceptually more on top of things than other cities are:
"Los Angeles, a metropolis perched on the edge of a coast, can expect to experience sea level rise of as much as two feet due by 2050 due to climate change, according to current projections."
(Los Angeles' Vulnerability to SLR, emphasis added; cf. here). The idiom err on the side of caution means to "act in the least risky manner in a situation in which one is uncertain about the consequences."

Thus, the greater the consequences the greater the caution should be.

Being "conservative" under-estimators, as most establishment climate scientists have been about the dangers approaching, and therefore consistently underestimating them ("don't be a chicken little"), is the opposite of erring on the safe side.

It is, rather, erring on disaster's side.

That is not insurance against disaster, instead, it is insuring disaster.

The previous post in this series is here.


  1. It was amazing to see mainstream officials expecting 2 ft. of sea level rise in only 35 years when IPCC conservative estimates are way less than that.

    It is usually considered "kooky" to expect that kind of sea level rise.

  2. Good point Randy.

    Fires too have become both more frequent and more destructive than the stats you've posted above, Dredd. With all the methane blowing around in the atmosphere (and it's INCREASING), this will continue into the future until we reach the firestorm stage (that someone pointed to as the end result of a 50 gigaton 'burp').
    So even on THAT front things are getting worse.

    SLR may not be slow and steady either - there have been suggestions that as the atmosphere heats up, a significant melt of glaciers, polar ice and ocean expansion can combine to rise "suddenly" a foot or more, and locally (say on Pacific Islands) by even more than that.

    Another aspect 'they' are not looking at is the increase in storm strength and precipitation due to the (over) heated ocean giving up more moisture (ala Boston this winter and typhoons wrecking Indonesia and elsewhere), so flooding becomes much more 'normal' than it was in decades past.


  3. Those who err on disasters side are on disaster's side.

  4. With the impending crash of the global economic system on top of all the above, the insurance industry will be another casualty.


    1. Tom,

      One reason they have not already gone down is that, on some issues, like climate change, they have been out in front.

      For example, flood insurance in certain "risk zones" is a no-no to them, because they know about the real risk.

      So, through their lobbyists and compliant pols, the damage is "socialized" (think about the shakespearean play "Hurricane Sandy Relief").

      Thus, Oil-Qaeda, the ultimate perpetrator of those climate change disasters, is not called on to pay for the damage (See e.g. A Case of Big Oil vs. Climate Change, 2).

      The Comer case illustrates the irredeemable corruption of the federal courts down in Oilandia.

      There, a substantial percentage of federal judges worked as Oil-Qaeda lawyers before being appointed to the federal bench (Here Come De Conservative Judges, 2, 3).

      Those with their eyes open saw that coming too.

    2. More lawsuits may be coming, around the world, for those who facilitate climate change (link).