Climate Change Risks to Mountain Ecology and Communities

Typical Climate Related Risks in Mountains

Alfthan, B., Gjerdi, H.L., Puikkonen, L., Andresen, M., Semernya, L., Schoolmeester, T., Jurek, M. (2018). Mountain Adaptation Outlook Series – Synthesis Report. United Nations Environment Programme, and GRID-Arendal, Nairobi, Vienna, and Arendal. www.unenvironment.org, www.grida.no – Original Link

Also see: Alfthan, B., Gupta, N., Gjerdi, H.L., Schoolmeester, T., Andresen, M., Jurek, M., Agrawal, N.K. 2018. Outlook on climate change adaptation in the Hindu Kush Himalaya. Mountain Adaptation Outlook Series. United Nations Environment Programme, GRID-Arendal and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Vienna, Arendal and Kathmandu. www.unep.org, www. grida.no, www.icimod.org

 

Putting the Camp Fire in perspective

The Great Fire of 1910 (original link)

This is a report on the Fire of 1910, which burned over 3,000,000 acres/4,700 sq. miles over a weekend. (Likely started by flaming cinders from a steam train.) The Camp Fire burned about 100,000 acres. The 1910 fire lead to the fire suppression policies by the US Forest Service that ultimately contributed to current fires. (These were co-opted by the timber industry, so it is not clear what the forest service on its own might have done through time as it saw the effects of the policies.) But the nature of temperate coniferous forests is that they burn, and even in a state of nature, large areas may burn. As with flooding, it is only an issue when people enter the picture, turning a natural phenomenon into a disaster.

The 1910 fire was not the biggest or most deadly:

https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/10-of-the-worst-wildfires-in-us-history

Fire resistant construction and community design is not significantly more expensive than conventional construction and has additional benefits by increasing resistance to wind damage. It is pretty expensive to retrofit, however. The principles have been known for a long time, but the political will to impose the construction standards has been limited. Our insurance folks will know better, but at least until the most recent fire seasons, the cost of fire insurance has not been high enough in these areas to incentivize better construction. Part of the reason is that the homeowners and their communities do not pay the cost of firefighting, which usually can save the houses. Thus the risk is subsidized, as with flood insurance and flood control projects. (Fire insurance for high end homes in fire areas does include the cost of firefighting, which is what brings in those private teams to foam the house and the area when a fire threatens.)

Mississippi Supreme Court finds that artificial beach is public trust property

Harris v. State, 2018 WL 5839607 (Miss. Nov. 8, 2018).

Abutting landowners brought an action against the State of Mississippi, a city, and a county to confirm title to waterfront properties. A trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the landowners on the issue of tideland boundaries, confirmed the landowners’ title, and ruled that the government parties failed to prove adverse possession or public prescriptive easement. On appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Following a trial, the lower court held that Mississippi held title to the sand beach in front of landowners’ properties as public-trust tidelands and granted easements to the county and city. The landowners appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court held that the beach was public-trust tidelands; the trial court acted within its discretion in relying on lay witness testimony that the beach was man-made; the expert report did not establish that beach was natural rather than man-made; and the pumping of sand along the shoreline did not constitute an uncompensated taking.

(Thanks for Mississippi Sea Grant National Law Center)

Hurricane Florence and Climate Change

The human influence on Hurricane Florence – a real time forecast based on climate change information

For Hurricane Florence, we present the first advance forecasted attribution statements about the human influence on a tropical cyclone. We find that rainfall will be significantly increased by over 50% in the heaviest precipitating parts of the storm. This increase is substantially larger than expected from thermodynamic considerations alone. We further find that the storm will remain at a high category on the Saffir­Simpson scale for a longer duration and that the storm is approximately 80 km in diameter larger at landfall because of the human interference in the climate system.

 

Court Requires More Detailed NEPA Inquiry for Federal CAFO Loan

Food & Water Watch v. United States Dep’t of Agric., No. CV 17-1714 (BAH), 2018 WL 4283568 (D.D.C. Sept. 7, 2018)

From the opinion:

The plaintiff, Food & Water Watch (“FWW”), has filed a nine-count complaint against three defendants, the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), the Farm Service Agency (“FSA”), and Deanna Dunning, in her official capacity as an FSA Farm Loan Officer (collectively, “defendants”), under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 551, et seq., and the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321–70, seeking an order and judgment setting aside an environmental assessment completed by the defendants in connection with a nonparty farm’s “application for a guaranteed loan to construct and operate a poultry concentrated animal feeding operation,” “[d]eclaring that Defendants violated NEPA by failing” to complete an adequate environmental impact statement in connection with the loan application, and “[e]njoining implementation of Defendants’ loan guarantee.” Compl. ¶¶ 1, 5, ECF No. 1. The defendants have moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), contending that the plaintiff’s claims are moot and that the plaintiff lacks standing, see generally Defs.’ Mot. J. Pleadings (“Defs.’ Mot.”), ECF No. 17, while the plaintiff has moved to compel the complete Administrative Record (“AR”), see generally Pl.’s Mot. Compel AR (“Pl.’s Mot. Compel”), ECF No. 18.1 For the reasons described below, the plaintiff’s claims are not moot and the plaintiff has standing to pursue this lawsuit. Accordingly, the defendants’ motion is denied while the plaintiff’s motion is granted.2

Military Expert Panel Report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission, 2nd Edition

Military Expert Panel Report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission, 2nd Edition (2018)

From the Report WWW page:

The Center for Climate and Security’s Military Expert Panel Report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission, 2nd Edition concludes that sea level rise risks to coastal military installations will present serious risks to military readiness, operations and strategy, and includes new information regarding military installation vulnerabilities, including to the energy and transportation infrastructure that these installations depend on.

Stafford Act – Keystone of Federal Disaster Response

Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (as amended August 2016)Download

The Stafford Act includes a limitation of liability provision which provides, in relevant part that: 

The Federal Government shall not be liable for any claim based upon the exercise or performance of or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of a Federal agency or an employee of the Federal Government in carrying out the provisions of this chapter. 42 U.S.C § 5148.

Stafford Act immunity for Katrina debris removal decisions by FEMA – St. Tammany Parish v. Federal Emergency Management Agency, 556 F.3d 307 (5th Cir. 2009)

Order Denying FEMA Extension – SANTOS v FEMA, No. CV 18-40111-TSH, 2018 WL 4168993 (D. Mass. Aug. 30, 2018)

CRS, Federal Disaster Assistance Response and Recovery Programs: Brief Summaries (2018)

The Geology and Hydrology of the Mississippi Delta

Master WWW page

Ellet, Charles. Report on the overflows of the delta of the Mississippi. AB Hamilton, 1852.

Humphreys, A. A., & Abbot, H. L. (1861). Report upon the physics and hydraulics of the Mississippi river: Upon the protection of the alluvial region against overflow; and upon the deepening of the mouths … Submitted to the Bureau of Topographical Engineers, War Department, 1861. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.

Fisk, H.N., 1944, Geological investigation of the alluvial valley of the lower Mississippi River: U.S. Department of the Army, Mississippi River Commission, 78p.

Fisk, Harold Norman. Geological investigation of the Atchafalaya Basin and the problem of Mississippi River diversion. Waterways Experiment Station, 1952.

Roger T Saucier, Recent geomorphic history of the Pontchartrain Basin, Louisiana, (1962).

James M Coleman & Lynn D Wright, Analysis of Major River Systems and Their Deltas: Procedures and Rationale, with Two Examples., (1971).

Moore, Norman R. Improvement of the lower Mississippi River and tributaries, 1931-1972. Vicksburg, Miss.: Mississippi River Commission, 1972.

Kazmann, Raphael Gabriel, and David B Johnson. “If the Old River Control Structure Fails?” (1980).

Saucier, R. T., 1994, Geomorphology and Quaternary Geologic History of the Lower Mississippi Valley: U. S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Map – Quaternary Geology of The Lower Mississippi Valley, Louisiana Geological Survey, 1989.

Louis D Britsch & E Burton Kemp III, Land loss rates: Mississippi River Deltaic Plain (1990).

Joseph B Dunbar, Louis D Britsch & EB Kemp III, Land Loss Rates. Report 2. Louisiana Chenier Plain (1990).

Joseph B Dunbar, LD Britsch & E Burton Kemp, Land loss rates. Report 3. Louisiana Coastal Plain (1992).