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Society saves $6 for every dollar spent on climate change resilience

This story was originally published by CityLab and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

In financial terms, 2017 was the worst year for natural disasters in American history, costing the country $306 billion. Scientists agree that hurricanes, floods, and fires are now turbo-charged by climate change, which the president and many top Republican leaders still refuse to acknowledge. But even while the federal government fails to address the root of the problem, there are ways to limit the damage from these increasingly frequent events — in property, and, more importantly, in human life.

A new report from the National Institute of Building Sciences finds that for every dollar spent on federal grants aimed at improving disaster resilience, society saves six dollars. This return is higher than previously thought: A 2005 study by NIBS found that each dollar from these grants yielded four dollars in savings.

“A lot of things have happened since 2005,” said NIBS’s Ryan Colker, who contributed to the report. “Katrina, Sandy, and the increasing … frequency of disasters prompted us to look at what has changed.”

NIBS, a nonprofit group authorized by the U.S. Congress, took into account grants from FEMA, HUD, and the Economic Development Administration, whose staffs collaborated with NIBS to produce the report. $27 billion spent in mitigation grants over the past 23 years has yielded $158 billion in societal savings, they found. Many of the interventions the grants funded were simple, like installing hurricane shutters, replacing flammable roofs, and clearing vegetation close to a structure.

Summary of the savings attributable to federal disaster-mitigation grants (NIBS)

In addition to federal grants, the report also examines the financial benefits of private developers exceeding local building resilience standards. These interventions — such as elevating homes higher than required in flood-prone areas and building structures to be more rigid than required by seismic safety rules — yield four dollars in savings for every dollar spent. Unlocking these benefits is more difficult, however, since they are contingent on the decisions of private builders.

“As we continue to produce information about the benefits of resilience,” Colker said, “I think you can see an increased recognition from builders that people are willing to pay for this. There’s value associated with it.”

The study finds that developers accrue a small benefit from these long-term investments in disaster mitigation, but not nearly as much as tenants and property owners.

Net benefits to various stakeholders for exceeding local safety requirements in new buildings (NIBS)

Some regions benefit disproportionately from both federal disaster-mitigation grants and better building practices. Stretches of the Gulf Coast, for instance, see a high benefit-cost ratio (BCR) on dollars spent to elevate buildings above the legally mandated height.

Benefit-cost ratio of raising new buildings above required threshold in coastal areas (NIBS)

Large swaths of Southern California, Idaho, and (somewhat surprisingly) Florida derive particularly great benefits from investment in fire-mitigation efforts in new construction.

Benefit-cost ratio of implementing various fire safety measures in new buildings (NIBS)

Ironically, the federal grants that this study reveals to be more effective than previously thought are on the chopping block in Trump’s first budget request. Specifically, FEMA’s pre-disaster mitigation grants would be cut in half; HUD’s Community Block Grant Program would be ended, and the EDA would be eliminated.

Meanwhile, FEMA’s Trump-appointed administrator, Brock Long, “is very much interested in increasing investment in mitigation up front,” according to Colker. It will be interesting to see how the administration’s intent to cut city and state grants of all kinds will square with Long’s position, which is now supported by empirical evidence from the NIBS report.

If the president and Congress are unwilling to act on climate change, at least FEMA has a proven strategy for mitigating its effects. That is, of course, if the agency has the money to implement it.

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Society saves $6 for every dollar spent on climate change resilience

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8 Climate-Friendly Superfoods

Superfoods?are gaining popularity?and for good reason. They directly?support the immune system, reduce?inflammation, support mental health,?pack a nutritional punch,?and boost energy, stamina and longevity.

Here are eight?superfoods that are not only good for you, but also good for the planet:

1. Crickets

Crickets are loaded with protein. They also ?thrive in hotter climates and survive off decaying waste and very little water and space,??Mother Jones?reported.?For this reason, crickets and other insects have?been?hailed?as the ?next climate-friendly superfood.? They can be ground into baking flour or protein powder, and added?to cookies, brownies or?milkshakes.

While eating crickets?or any type of insect for that matter?hasn?t completely caught on in the U.S., it?s making progress. Last year, fast food chain?Wayback Burgers?put out?a fake press release as an?April Fool?s joke?about insect-filled milkshakes, but the idea was so popular that they?rolled out their?Oreo Mud Pie Cricket Protein Milkshake.

Related: Are Your Ready for Cricket Flour Cookies?

2. Pulses

They?re the dried seeds of lentils, beans and chickpeas?and they’re super healthy. They already make up 75 percent of the average diet in developing countries, but only 25 percent in developed ones, according to the UN.

That could all change, though. Pulses contain 20 to 25 percent protein by weight, approaching the protein levels of meat, which average?30 to 40 percent. They also require far less water than meat to produce.

3. Amaranth

?Amaranth is the new quinoa,? trend expert Daniel Levine told?The Huffington Post. It?s a grain-like seed that cooks quickly and can be added to salads, soups and stews. It?s a complete source of protein just like quinoa, and it is loaded with?fiber,?B vitamins and?several important minerals. Additionally, it?s been?shown?to reduce inflammation, and lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

4. Kefir

Kefir?is the trendiest?fermented?food right now (sorry, kombucha and kimchi).?It?s high in nutrients and?probiotics, and is incredibly beneficial for digestion and?gut health.?Many people consider it to be a healthier and more powerful version of?yogurt.

To make it,??grains? (yeast and lactic acid bacteria cultures) are added to cow or goat milk. The concoction ferments over a 24-hour period and then the grains are removed from the liquid.

Related: 10 Vegan Sources of Probiotics

5.?Teff

Sometimes written as tef or t?ef, this pseudo-grain (it?s technically a seed)?has a high nutritional profile and a taste similar?to that of amaranth or quinoa. This?ancient grain?has survived for centuries without much?hybridization or processing.?Like most other ancient grains, it?s high in fiber, calcium and iron.

Traditionally cultivated in?Ethiopia and Eritrea, teff can be grown in a variety of conditions.?Teff ?thrives in both waterlogged soils and during?droughts, making it a dependable staple wherever it?s grown. No matter what the weather, teff crops will likely survive, as they are also relatively free of plant diseases compared to other cereal crops,??Whole Grains Council?said.

?Teff can grow where many other crops won?t thrive, and in fact can be produced from sea level to as high as 3,000 meters of altitude, with maximum yield at about 1,800-2,100 meters high,? the council said. ?This versatility could explain why teff is now being cultivated in areas as diverse as dry and mountainous Idaho and the low and wet Netherlands.?

6. Moringa

It?s often called the ?the miracle tree? or the ?tree of life,? according to?TIME. It?s commonly found in?Asian and African countries, and almost every part of it?pods, leaves, seeds and roots?is edible. It?s a?good source?of Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and iron. Not only does it pack a nutritional punch, it?s also a?fast-growing, drought-tolerant plant?that is a promising biofuel and medicinal source.

Related: Why Moringa is Known as ‘The Miracle Tree’

7. Kelp

Kelp grows super fast (up to two feet per day), and requires neither freshwater nor fertilizer. ?And rather than contributing to our carbon footprint, as many fertilizers and food sources do, seaweed cleanses the ocean of excess nitrogen and carbon dioxide,??Mother Jones?reported. One kelp?farmer on the Long Island Sound even?claims?he?s?restoring?the ocean while producing a sustainable food and fuel source.

8. Waste-Based Food

This isn?t as weird as it sounds. In order to reduce?food waste, restaurants are finding?creative ways?to use the edible?parts of plants and animals that are often thrown out. Last year, award-winning chef Dan Barber held a?two-week pop-up?at Blue Hill, his restaurant in New York City, where he cooked with spent grain, cocoa beans, pasta scraps and?vegetable?pulp.

Written by Cole Mellino. Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.?

Related Stories:

Is Climate Change Making Chocolate Taste Better?
Climate Change is Putting Your Favorite Foods at Risk
How Climate Change is Bad For Our Pets

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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8 Climate-Friendly Superfoods

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We just got our disaster bill and it was $306 billion

Highways turned into rivers with white-capped waves in Texas. Wildfire smoke reddened the sky in California. And the country’s signature “amber waves of grain” were parched by drought, leaving farmers with fields of gray, cracked soil in Montana.

In all, the United States was hit by 16 weather events last year that cost more than $1 billion each, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calculated. Piece them together, and you get the story of a climate transformed by human activity — and a country racked by wild weather that cost us a record-shattering $306 billion.

That price tag is four times more than average over the past decade, adjusted for inflation. It was nearly off the charts.

2008, 2011, 2012, and 2017 experienced one or more tropical cyclones.Grist / Amelia Bates / NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information

Last year blew past the previous record for disasters, $215 billion, set in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck. The priciest natural disasters tend to be hurricanes, which explains why 2017 was so different. Harvey, Irma, and Maria were three of the five most expensive hurricanes in U.S. history, and they all hit in one year. The three accounted for 87 percent of the bill. 

Western wildfires racked up $18 billion in damages, tripling the price tag of the previous worst wildfire year, 1991.

Severe storms, flooding and drought afflicted people across the country. But the Northeast was the only region spared from a disaster that caused $1 billion or more in damages.

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information

Given how much time we’ve devoted to talking about climate change’s fingerprints on everything, you’d suspect its criminal record would be well-documented. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how climate change affects a particular storm or heatwave, scientists are getting better at untangling the connection. For example, researchers calculated that the chances of a Harvey-esque storm hitting Texas was made six times more likely because of climate change.

Oh, and did we mention that last year was the third-hottest on record? Thank goodness it’s over. But don’t get excited — extreme weather is already creeping in to the new year. In just the first nine days of 2018, the weather has already dealt us deadly mudslides and a bomb cyclone.

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We just got our disaster bill and it was $306 billion

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Spineless – Juli Berwald

READ GREEN WITH E-BOOKS

Spineless

The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone

Juli Berwald

Genre: Nature

Price: $13.99

Publish Date: November 7, 2017

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


A former ocean scientist goes in pursuit of the slippery story of jellyfish, rediscovering her passion for marine science and the sea's imperiled ecosystems. Jellyfish are an enigma. They have no centralized brain, but they see and feel and react to their environment in complex ways. They look simple, yet their propulsion systems are so advanced engineers are just learning how to mimic them. They produce some of the deadliest toxins on the planet and yet are undeniably alluring. Long ignored by science, they may be a key to ecosystem stability. Juli Berwald's journey into the world of jellyfish is a personal one. Over a decade ago she left the sea and her scientific career behind to raise a family in landlocked Austin, Texas. Increasingly dire headlines drew her back to jellies, as unprecedented jellyfish blooms toppled ecosystems and collapsed the world's most productive fisheries. What was unclear was whether these incidents were symptoms of a changing planet or part of a natural cycle. Berwald's desire to understand jellyfish takes her on a scientific odyssey. She travels the globe to meet the scientists who devote their careers to jellies, hitches rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild, raises jellyfish in her dining room, and throughout it all marvels at the complexity of these alluring and ominous biological wonders. Gracefully blending personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, Spineless reveals that jellyfish are a bellwether for the damage we're inflicting on the climate and the oceans and a call to realize our collective responsibility for the planet we share.

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Spineless – Juli Berwald

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FEMA director calls San Juan mayor’s concerns ‘political noise.’

Sorry to ruin the party, but a report from the Food Climate Research Network casts doubt on recent suggestions that pasture-raised cattle could sequester massive amounts of carbon in the soil.

By nibbling plants and stimulating new root growth, the old argument goes, cows can encourage deeper root networks, which suck up more carbon. Proponents of grass-fed meat have embraced these findings, saying that pasture-raised livestock could mitigate the impact of meat consumption on the environment.

The new report — cleverly titled “Grazed and Confused?” — acknowledges that pastured cattle can be carbon negative, but this depends on the right soil and weather conditions. In most places, according to the report, grazers produce much more greenhouse gas than they add to the ground. It is an “inconvenient truth,” the authors write, that most studies show grass-fed beef has a bigger carbon footprint than feedlot meat. “Increasing grass-fed ruminant numbers is, therefore, a self-defeating climate strategy,” the report concludes.

Fortunately, grass-fed beef is not the only solution being bandied about: Research shows that a small dose of seaweed in livestock feed could drastically reduce methane emissions. And if you really want to reduce your impact on the climate you could, you know, stop eating meat.

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FEMA director calls San Juan mayor’s concerns ‘political noise.’

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California plans to reject a controversial natural gas plant, embracing a cleaner future.

Sorry to ruin the party, but a report from the Food Climate Research Network casts doubt on recent suggestions that pasture-raised cattle could sequester massive amounts of carbon in the soil.

By nibbling plants and stimulating new root growth, the old argument goes, cows can encourage deeper root networks, which suck up more carbon. Proponents of grass-fed meat have embraced these findings, saying that pasture-raised livestock could mitigate the impact of meat consumption on the environment.

The new report — cleverly titled “Grazed and Confused?” — acknowledges that pastured cattle can be carbon negative, but this depends on the right soil and weather conditions. In most places, according to the report, grazers produce much more greenhouse gas than they add to the ground. It is an “inconvenient truth,” the authors write, that most studies show grass-fed beef has a bigger carbon footprint than feedlot meat. “Increasing grass-fed ruminant numbers is, therefore, a self-defeating climate strategy,” the report concludes.

Fortunately, grass-fed beef is not the only solution being bandied about: Research shows that a small dose of seaweed in livestock feed could drastically reduce methane emissions. And if you really want to reduce your impact on the climate you could, you know, stop eating meat.

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California plans to reject a controversial natural gas plant, embracing a cleaner future.

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Obama’s FEMA chief: To rebuild after hurricanes, let’s talk climate change

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief has some advice for the Trump administration after back-to-back hurricanes in the past month: You have to look at climate change science if you want smarter disaster relief.

Drawing on eight years of experience leading FEMA under President Barack Obama, Craig Fugate warned on Tuesday that flood-prone areas can’t simply “rebuild to the past” using historical data on 100-year flood risk. Instead, he said at an event at the liberal Center for American Progress, the country needs to “build to future risk.”

The situation is especially critical now that Congress will be appropriating billions in aid to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Climate change is helping make these disasters bigger and nastier, but Fugate said they are only natural hazards that “become natural disasters when we’re pricing risk too low. We’re putting vulnerable populations and your tax dollars at risk.”

Fugate refused to discuss President Donald Trump’s or FEMA’s response in Puerto Rico in his remarks or in conversations with the press on Tuesday, but his discussion of the Obama administration’s response to Superstorm Sandy in 2013 presented a stark contrast. He recounted how Obama gave him a specific charge after Sandy, saying that “we need to start talking about climate adaptation” to better cope with the new risks posed by rising global temperatures.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had the opposite response after the hurricanes, saying a discussion of “a cause and effect isn’t helping.” When Trump was asked about climate change after Harvey, he said only, “We’ve had bigger storms.”

Just 10 days before Harvey’s record rainfall in Houston, Trump reversed Obama’s 2015 executive order to hold federal infrastructure spending to higher elevation standards in floodplains. Building even a foot or two above the existing standards saves money, and potentially lives, in the long-term, Fugate said. “Putting more money in the front end, we save the taxpayer in the long run,” he said. He also criticized the federal flood insurance program for pricing risk so low that it encourages overdevelopment in vulnerable areas, shifting the losses from flooding to the federal taxpayer.

Speaking to reporters at the event, Fugate gave an example of why climate adaptation is necessary. If, after a natural disaster, you rebuild a fire station at the same elevation, to the same building codes, then you risk losing critical emergency resources when they’re needed most. But if you build it to withstand the future risk we know is coming, then the fire station stays intact to help residents through the disaster.

“In many cases we’re doing things that just don’t make sense … and you’re saying you’re building back better,” Fugate said, adding, “We have to rebuild [Puerto Rico] back for a Maria.”

Mother Jones AJ Vicens has been reporting on the ground from Puerto Rico; read his story about how FEMA supplies and assistance have been slow to reach some communities, including one just 45 minutes from the capital, San Juan.

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Obama’s FEMA chief: To rebuild after hurricanes, let’s talk climate change

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EPA employees eagerly leak documents from their mandatory anti-leaking class.

“If you just look at the energy sector, we need about a trillion a year,” Barbara Buchner says about the gap between between our climate goals and the amount of investment in developing solutions.

To spur those needed investments, Buchner’s group, The Lab, just launched a new crop of projects aimed at making it easier for investors to put money into green investments. Projects include partnerships between hydropower operators and land conservation and restoration efforts and “climate smart” cattle ranching initiatives in Brazil, as well as more esoteric exploits in private equity and cleantech development.

There are three main barriers that keep investors away from innovative projects, Buchner says: lack of knowledge of new projects, perception of higher risk, and an unwillingness to go in alone on unproven projects.

Breaking down these barriers is important because that climate investment gap can’t be closed by government spending alone.

“It’s the backbone, it’s the engine behind overall climate finance,” Buchner says of these early, targeted projects by governments and non-governmental organizations. “But the private sector [investors] really are the ones that make the difference.”

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EPA employees eagerly leak documents from their mandatory anti-leaking class.

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Here’s how the avocado-toast bubble will burst.

“If you just look at the energy sector, we need about a trillion a year,” Barbara Buchner says about the gap between between our climate goals and the amount of investment in developing solutions.

To spur those needed investments, Buchner’s group, The Lab, just launched a new crop of projects aimed at making it easier for investors to put money into green investments. Projects include partnerships between hydropower operators and land conservation and restoration efforts and “climate smart” cattle ranching initiatives in Brazil, as well as more esoteric exploits in private equity and cleantech development.

There are three main barriers that keep investors away from innovative projects, Buchner says: lack of knowledge of new projects, perception of higher risk, and an unwillingness to go in alone on unproven projects.

Breaking down these barriers is important because that climate investment gap can’t be closed by government spending alone.

“It’s the backbone, it’s the engine behind overall climate finance,” Buchner says of these early, targeted projects by governments and non-governmental organizations. “But the private sector [investors] really are the ones that make the difference.”

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Here’s how the avocado-toast bubble will burst.

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Hurricane Maria poses a catastrophic threat to the Caribbean

This post has been updated to reflect Maria’s upgrade to Category 5.

The already miserable hurricane season is about to get worse, as Hurricane Maria barrels toward a storm-weary Caribbean.

Maria rapidly strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane on Monday, packing winds of at least 160 mph as it neared the eastern Caribbean island country of Dominica — one of the fastest intensifying hurricanes in history. Meteorologists with the National Hurricane Center warned that the storm would likely keep growing stronger as it moves closer to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, home to more than 3.5 million people. Ocean waters on its path are much warmer than normal, and atmospheric conditions are nearly ideal for a storm to intensify.

The latest forecast takes Maria ashore in Puerto Rico early Wednesday as a Category 5 — a worst-case scenario. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló declared a state of emergency to help the island prepare and speed the flow of disaster aid.

All this comes less than two weeks after Irma struck the Caribbean as one of the strongest hurricanes in history. The damage from Irma in the U.S. Virgin Islands was so severe that local officials, whose economy depends on tourism, have told visitors to stay away. Cruise ships have been put into service as rescue vessels. In some of the hardest hit islands, like Barbuda, Anguilla, and St. Martin, recovery could take years.

Even though the wounds of Irma are still fresh, it’s important to remember that a hurricane as strong as Maria is exceedingly rare in the Caribbean. According to weather records dating back to 1851, no Category 5 hurricane has ever struck Dominica. Hurricane David, in 1979, was the only Category 4 to do so. That storm ruined the local economy and left roughly three-quarters of the population homeless.

Irma was a powerful Category 5, but its center moved past Puerto Rico without a direct landfall, so although the island experienced massive power outages, Irma could have been much worse.

Maria will likely be much worse.

Weather models show Maria crossing the center of Puerto Rico at peak strength, becoming the first Category 5 to do so since 1928, and only the second in recorded history. The result could be catastrophic, with heavy rainfall leading to inland flooding and landslides, winds in excess of 170 mph battering coastal cities, and storm surge of six to nine feet inundating homes and businesses along the shoreline.

It’s impossible to overstate how serious a storm like Maria is. The U.S. Virgin Islands’ Governor Kenneth Mapp warned of high winds and torrential rain and called on islanders to prepare, even as relief supplies for Irma continued to pour in. “If your home is damaged,” he said, “do not ride out this storm in your home.”

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Hurricane Maria poses a catastrophic threat to the Caribbean

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