By Janet Fang
Posting in Cities
The NRDC has launched a new web tool that shows you how vulnerable your county is to climate change's effects on extreme heat, infectious diseases, air pollution, drought, and flooding.
By zooming in to your state – and in some cases, city – on 5 different maps, you can see how your health is vulnerable (and learn about some steps to take to protect yourself and possibly combat the change).
“We need to start connecting the dots between climate change and our health,” says NRDC senior scientist Kim Knowlton. "If we stay on our present course, we can expect many of these trends and conditions to accelerate,” she adds.
These are the maps, and I’ve included what each has to show about California and New York:
1. Average number of extreme heat days (extreme heat vulnerability)
- CA: An extreme heat wave in 2006 sent an excess 16,000 people to the emergency room. By the end of the century, there could be up to 100 more days per year with temperatures above 90F (32C) in Los Angeles.
- NY: Heat-related mortality in the metropolitan New York region is projected to increase 70% by mid-century as temperatures soar.
2. Areas vulnerable to dengue fever (infectious disease vulnerability, more mosquitoes for longer)
- CA: Between 1995-2005, 35 cases of dengue fever were reported. Between 1999-2010, there were 2,982 reported cases of West Nile virus.
- NY: Between those same time periods, there were 208 cases of dengue fever reported and 518 cases of West Nile virus.
3. Ozone smog and allergenic ragweed (air pollution vulnerability)
- CA: Asthma sickens an estimated 881,500 kids and 2,294,800 adults per year. Los Angeles is one of few counties that have both ragweed and unhealthy smog levels. And smoke pollution from wildfires make bad air days worse; the number of fires is expected to increase as much as 55% by late-century.
- NY: Asthma sickens an estimated 415,900 kids and 1.3 million adults.
4. Average number of extreme low flow days (drought vulnerability)
- CA: About 83% of the counties now face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of climate change. Parts of the state are likely to see limitations on water availability as demand exceeds supply by 2050.
- NY: About 26% of the state's counties now face higher risks of water shortages.
5. Average number of extreme high flow days (flood vulnerability)
- CA: Combined sewer overflows are a health risk for Sacramento and San Francisco. California has been declared a disaster area 6 times since 2000, due to damage from severe storms and flooding.
- NY: What was once considered a 100-year flood could occur 10 times as often by mid-century. Changing rainfall and rising temperatures can increase risks of harmful, toxic algal blooms along New York's shorelines and in fresh water bodies.
"We need to prepare our community systems and health systems to meet a changing climate future," Knowlton says.
Only 13 states (AK, CA, FL, ME, MD, MI, NH, NY, OR, PA, VA, WA, WI) have developed climate adaptation strategies or state climate action plans that include at least one climate-health adaptation measure.
"Regardless of how successful we are at mitigating the greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change, serious climate-related impacts are unavoidable in California, and we must be ready to respond," says Lester Snow, the state's secretary for natural resources.
California’s climate adaptation plan includes developing heat-warning systems, expanding electronic reporting system to continuously monitor asthma cases, and reducing air pollution in ‘toxic hot spots.’
New York’s strategy includes employing smart grid technology to warn of power outage risks during high heat and pollution days and having a state green roof tax abatement program for those that use drought-resistant plants.
Aug 4, 2011
Here in Texas, we are suffering from an extreme drought, and a heat wave. Bad as it is, it pales in comparison to the drought of 1947-1957. "water experts and historians say the 1950s drought blows this one out of the water". It's hot and dry, but not as bad as the 1930s Dust Bowl. Our hottest summer ever was in 1980. Our coldest July ever was 2007.
West Nile virus didn't hit America until about 1999, starting on the east coast. Therefore, its incidence here in America cannot be compared with times when the climate was cooler because no such statistics exist. Also, there are a lot of open questions about its incidence after it did arrive. I live in Boulder, CO. When West Nile reached here around 2005 or so, our county had the highest reported incidence of West Nile in the country (it was somewhere around 1000 or so reported cases and a few deaths). So far this year, Boulder County has had only one reported case of West Nile and no deaths. Nobody is sure why the incidence has gone down so dramatically. It could be a reporting issue (people aren't as vigilant about reporting it as when it first arrived), or it could be that most people here have already contracted the disease and are immune (often West Nile doesn't even cause symptoms). But if anything the climate is hotter now than in 2005, so you can't correlate West Nile strongly with climate change.
...since you put quotes around the "1995 through 2006," I did a search on the NRDC site (http://www.nrdc.org/health/climate/) and did not find a single match. Are we talking about the same site? The bottom line is still the same: they are not looking at long term historical trends, rather they are monitoring current extreme events and pinpointing current threats, and the compilation of maps is appropriate for that. With a bit more work, they could analyze the frequency, duration and intensity of those extreme events and be able to detect whether or not those extreme events is increasing over time.
Here is a report on it from the Texas State Climatologist: http://blog.chron.com/climateabyss/2011/08/texas-drought-a-fingerprint/
They are using less than 20 years of data to claim a base line for climate behavior and predicting the future compared to that base line. Even if they avoid the use of the words, that is stating historical trend and they reference it with their theories on what will happen. Any legitimate climatologist will tell you 20 years or less of data for a base line is absurd.
You claim the website is for charting historic trends, then trash it for using data from 1995 to 2006. There are only two things wrong with this: 1) Nowhere in either this article or the NRDC website is the term "historic trends" used. This is entirely your language and irrelevant to what they are trying to do, which is to monitor the increasing frequency of extreme events, a prediction about the coming years. For this purpose, the website is perfectly suited. 2) They are only using data from 1995 until 2006? Actually there is one chart using data from 1995-2005 (Dengue fever); the Ozone data is from 2002 to 2006; the rest are from 2000 to 2009. Once again, perfectly suitable for what they are tracking: the increasing frequency of extreme events. They will no doubt update this information when they can. If I were to make a suggestion to NRDC, it would be to do some kind of annual frequency, intensity and duration data so it would be easier to track the frequency to see if it's going up as predicted, and to what extent. Otherwise, this is a very useful website
That report only reinforces the fact that rainfall varies greatly in Texas over long periods of time. It is well known and generally accepted that many of the water allocations the federal government made for western US rivers like the Colorado and the Rio Grande were based on water flow measurements taken during exceptionally wet years. Unfortunately several states have built up huge populations dependent on those miscalculations and they are fighting all efforts to adjust water allotments down to more realistic levels. Yes climate changes, but there is no evidence this drought is anything other than a normal cyclical change in rainfall. And as previously stated, it is not even the worst drought to hit the area in recorded history. I would love to know where those measurements were taken in Texas seeing that more than 90% of the state got 8 inches or less of rain in 1953 and the state wide average was about 10 inches for the year. The lowest annual rainfall on that graph is about 25 inches in 1918.
You still don't seem to get the fact that we're not charting a shift in climate means, which requires long time frames, rather we are looking at increased frequency of extreme meteorological events. Here's what Peter Hoeppe, head of Geo Risks Research Dept. of Munich Re, an international insuror says: "For me the most convincing piece of evidence that global warming has been contributing already to more and more intense weather related natural catastrophes is the fact that while we find a steep increase in the number of loss relevant weather events (about tripling in the last 30 years) we only find a slight increase in geophysical (earthquake, volcano, tsunami) events," Munich Re happens to maintain the largest database of natural catastrophic events in the world, but what does Hoeppe know?
All of the data I saw was from 1995 to 2006. The site is full of references to 'this is what will happen compared to what happened from 1995 through 2006' That is claiming historic trends.
But if it continues for a year or two it will be. I believe the graph is for average precipitation over the whole state of Texas, not for any specific location in the state. As the 2nd graph shows it has been the driest 7 month period in state history by a long shot. To quote the article: "The year-to-date precipitation (7-month accumulation period) for 2011 is about 6 inches. The next lowest value is about 9 inches, and most curves seem to be concentrated around the 15-20 inch mark."
Notice the term "meteorological events." Listen carefully: meteorological events are not climate trends! This website is tracking extreme meteorological events, not climate trends! Just as El Nino and La Nina are meteorlogical phenomena, not climate trends, this is not climate! Increased frequency of extreme meteorological events could eventually lead to a long term climate trends, but that is for considering well down the road. Is it important to monitor El Nino and La Nina? You bet it is. Is it important to monitor extreme meteorological events? You bet it is. And is it important to monitor climate trends? Of course, but you study climate trends very differently than either ENSO monitoring or other meteorological phenomena. What I find fascinating tho, is Hoeppe's observation that there IS increasing evidence of a long term trend of increased meteologically extreme events--a threefold increase in the past 30 years. While the NRDC website doesn't attempt or claim to quantify long term shifts, it appears that this may indeed be happening and no doubt someone is studying that.
How is "looking at increased frequency of extreme meteorological events" different from tracking trends. You cannot claim increased frequency of events over a 10 year span when the long term trend spans 100 years. You are double talking yourself into a corner.