Farmers Insurance Drops Climate Change Lawsuits Against Chicago-Area Cities

Who should pay for the impacts of climate change? This conundrum was at the center of nine class action lawsuits filed by Farmers Insurance in April against dozens of cities in the Chicago area for failing to prepare for the floods that hit Illinois last spring. The insurance company argued that local governments should have known that rising global temperatures would result in heavier rains and did not do enough to secure sewers and storm drains. But, in a surprising turn of events, Farmers withdrew the suits last week, the Chicago Tribune reported.

In a statement, company spokesman Trent Frager said that Farmers initiated the lawsuits to recover money on behalf of its policyholders for losses that could have been avoided by municipalities, as well as to encourage cities and counties to take more preventative actions to reduce the risks of future natural disasters. But it seems the threat of legal action was enough to accomplish the insurance giant’s goals.

Read the full article here.



A Last Look at California’s Glaciers

California’s glaciers are disappearing at a rapid rate.

Screenshot 2014-06-16 13.27.01          Photo credit: Tim Palmer

Many people don’t realize that glaciers even exist in California. In fact, we have about 130.

Most cling to steep slopes of the Sierra Nevada, but they’re disappearing at a rapid rate. Geologist Greg Stock of Yosemite National Park reports that even Lyell Glacier—second-largest in the Sierra—no longer has the mass required for it to creep downhill, which is one condition that defines a glacier.

Among all the changes wrought by global warming—heat waves, raging floods, rising seas, menacing droughts—the melting of the glaciers is the most immediately visible for anyone who ventures high enough to see them.

One might reason that California’s glaciers are already small and of little consequence, but the same forces that are melting them are also reducing the mountains’ entire snowpack, which will diminish this century by 30 to 70 percent, according to scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. That snowpack accounts for 60 percent of the water used in California.

Read the full article here.





Tuesday June 17th, 2014 from 1:30pm-2:30pm EDT

Key Findings of the Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability) Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report

Presenter: Dr. Stewart J. Cohen, Senior Researcher, Climate Research Division, Environment Canada

This webinar is being delivered jointly by ICLEI Canada and the Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT) at Simon Fraser University.

The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report consists of four volumes, one of which is the Working Group II report entitled “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.” The Summary for Policymakers, based on the underlying report, was approved by governments on March 31, 2014, and contains information on observed and projected impacts, and adaptation.

Dr. Stewart Cohen, a Senior Researcher with the Climate Research Division, Environment Canada will present key findings from the Working Group II report on this webinar.  Dr. Cohen contributed to Canada’s first national climate change assessment report, “Canada Country Study”, as well as the 2007 National Assessment, and “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” published in 2009. Since 1992, he has contributed to publications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. For the IPCC 5th Assessment Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, he is a member of the author team of the chapter “Foundations for Decision Making” as well as a member of the core writing team for the Summary for Policymakers which was released on March 31.
Climate Change: Implications for Cities, a summary report of key findings from the 5th Assessment, will also be presented.  The newly launched report, produced by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the University of Cambridge, synthesizes the most pertinent findings of AR5 specifically for the “city sector”.


ICLEI Canada is hosting a series of webinars on various climate change and sustainability issues at the local level.  The In Session series offers expert-led presentations on many subject areas as they relate to sustainability planning, biodiversity management, communicating climate change, municipal best practices, capacity building, and research.


Presentation slides and recordings of past webinars can be found on our Resources page: Past Webinars


Job Posting: City of Vancouver Planner II (Senior Sustainability Specialist)

City of Vancouver job posting : Planner II (Senior Sustainability Specialist)

Click here for details.



Norfolk gets evidence of climate change every high tide

NORFOLK — where the sea is rising faster than anywhere else on the East Coast.


When Debbie Miller and husband Gary Chiaverotti had four feet added to the foundation of their Norfolk, Virginia home, seen Oct. 23, 2007, the Federal Emergency Management Agency paid 95 percent of the $140,000 cost. (Photo: Family photo/The Washington Post)

At high tide on the small inlet next to Norfolk’s most prestigious art museum, the water lapped at the very top of the concrete sea wall that has held it back for 100 years. It seeped up through storm drains, puddled on the promenade and spread, half a foot deep, across the street, where a sign read, “Road Closed.”

The sun was shining, but all around the inlet people were bracing for more serious flooding. The Chrysler Museum of Art had just completed a $24 million renovation that emptied the basement, now accessible only by ladder, and lifted the heating and air-conditioning systems to the top floor. A local accounting firm stood behind a homemade barricade of stanchions and detachable flaps rigged to keep the water out. And the congregation of the Unitarian Church of Norfolk was looking to evacuate.

“We don’t like being the poster child for climate change,” said the Rev. Jennifer Slade, who added that the building, with its carved-wood sanctuary and soaring flood-insurance rates, would soon be on the market for the first time in four decades. “I don’t know many churches that have to put the tide chart on their Web site” so people know whether they can get to church.

On May 6, the Obama administration released the third National Climate Assessment, and President Obama proclaimed climate change no longer a theory; its effects, he said, are already here. This came as no surprise in Norfolk, where normal tides have risen 1½feet over the past century and the sea is rising faster than anywhere else on the East Coast.

Continue reading article.


Will California’s Drought Bring About $7 Broccoli?

The end of cheap fruits and veggies draws nigh. Here’s why.

—Tom Philpott | May/June 2014 Issue of Mother Jones

california-drought-broccoli630Illustration: Christoph Hitz

When people tell you to “eat your veggies,” they’re really urging you to take a swig of California water. The state churns out nearly half of all US-grown fruits, vegetables, and nuts; farms use 80 percent of its water. For decades, that arrangement worked out pretty well. Winter precipitation replenished the state’s aquifers and covered its mountains with snow that fed rivers and irrigation systems during the summer. But last winter, for the third year in a row, the rains didn’t come, likely making this the driest 30-month stretch in the state’s recorded history. So what does the drought mean for your plate?

Read the full article here to find out!


Resilience Thinking and the Future of Watersheds: POLIS webinar June 26th

You are invited to the next webinar in POLIS’ 2013/2014 Creating a Blue Dialogue webinar series.

WHAT: Resilience Thinking and the Future of Watersheds

DATE: Thursday, June 26th, 2014

TIME: 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. PT (12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET)


**Space is limited**

In this webinar, Ryan Plummer (Director, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre; Senior Research Fellow, Stockholm Resilience Centre) will explore the concept of “resilience thinking,” which involves the ability to deal with change and crises in a watershed context. Using progressive examples from Sweden and Canada, he will discuss new tools for dealing with both foreseen (e.g. climate change) and unforeseen (e.g. flooding or drought) crises, and the crucial roles of collaboration and learning in watershed-based decision-making. Following this, Simon Courtenay (Scientific Director, Canadian Water Network) will discuss the work of the Canadian Watershed Research Consortium (CWRC) and its focus on supporting regional cumulative effects monitoring and decision-making regarding land-use management, natural resource management, and impact mitigation.

**SPACE IS LIMITED** Register online at http://polis.adobeconnect.com/resilience/event/event_info.html


Putting a Price Tag on Nature’s Defenses

ecosrvcsCoral reefs have proved valuable to coastal regions by helping to blunt shore erosion from storm waves.



June 5, 2014

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the United States Army Corps of Engineers got to work on a massive network of levees and flood walls to protect against future catastrophes. Finally completed in 2012, the project ended up costing $14.5 billion — and that figure didn’t include the upkeep these defenses will require in years to come, not to mention the cost of someday replacing them altogether.

But levees aren’t the only things that protect coasts from storm damage. Nature offers protection, too. Coastal marshes absorb the wind energy and waves of storms, weakening their impact farther inland. And while it’s expensive to maintain man-made defenses, wetlands rebuild themselves.

Protection from storms is just one of many services that ecosystems provide us — services that we’d otherwise have to pay for. In 1997, a team of scientists decided to estimate how much they are actually worth. Worldwide, they concluded, the price tag was $33 trillion — equivalent to $48.7 trillion in today’s dollars. Put another way, the services ecosystems provide us — whether shielding us from storms, preventing soil erosion or soaking up the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming — were twice as valuable as the gross national product of every country on Earth in 1997.

Dr. Costanza and his colleagues have now updated the 1997 estimate in a new study, published in the May issue of the journal Global Environmental Change, and concluded that the original estimate was far too low. The true value of the services of the world’s ecosystems is at least three times as high, they said.

Read the full article here.



What is the paradox of increasing Antarctic sea ice really telling us?

IceThe Ross Sea: one of the places where sea ice extent is increasing. Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY

This year could well see a new record set for the extent of Antarctic sea ice – hot on the heels of last year’s record, which in turn is part of a puzzling 33-year trend in increasing sea ice around Antarctica.

Unsurprisingly, these records have provided fodder for those wishing to cast doubt on climate science or to resist action on climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) itself states that while hypotheses exist for Antarctic sea ice trends, they are “incomplete and competing” (see page 909 here).

But far from waving the white flag, or falling on their ice corers, Antarctic sea ice researchers are relishing this grand puzzle of the Southern Ocean.

In terms of natural experiments, they don’t come much bigger or more exciting than those unfolding across the Antarctic climate system right now. What’s more, the science is beginning to yield answers.

Read the full article here.





solarIf you want to know what addressing climate change will really be like for business and investors, then take a look at today’s electricity and energy markets. Driven by climate policy, technology development, business innovation, NGO campaigns and investment risk analysis, creative destruction is inflicting itself upon the sector with a vengeance – and the process has just begun.

Value is being destroyed at an incredible scale with just one example being European utilities losing $750 billion in market cap in recent years. Another is the huge losses in value for coal companies and the cancellation of a large number of new coal mining projects around the world as the forecast growth in China and India evaporates. As I argued in my last Chronicle, Carbon Crash Solar Dawn, this is not a temporary market blip but a fundamental shift. Company strategies and business models that have been working for generations are collapsing. In parallel we see the creative side of the process, with new industries being built, entrepreneurs flourishing and massive wealth being created. Now the market is working, as it should, allocating capital to the places where risk and return are best aligned. It is at once a beautiful and brutal process to observe.

Read the full article here.




Buyer Beware: Home Insurance, Extreme Weather and Climate Change

In many parts of the country, climate change is mixing with natural variability to pile on the risk of damage to Australian homes. Where Australians live, the design of settlements, the cost of housing, and whether homes are insurable or not are not issues of the future, but very much issues of today.

The Climate Institute, together with CHOICE, commissioned independent risk analysts Climate Risk to take a snapshot of how the home insurance industry is responding to climate risk. The study, Buyer Beware: Home Insurance, Extreme Weather and Climate Change, offers a preliminary analysis of changes in premiums, policies, and insurability. The research reveals the growing risks for homeowners and also offers important new tools to assist homebuyers to assess current and future risk to what is often the biggest asset purchase of their lives.

Access the full report here.





Ticking Time Bomb? Climate Change and Ixodes scapularis


The black-legged (a.k.a. deer) tick transmits Lyme disease to humans. Removing a tick within 24 hours of being bitten can prevent transmission of the bacteria responsible for the disease. © Kent Wood/Science Source

Sharon Levy is a freelance science journalist and contributing editor to OnEarth, the magazine of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, first emerged in the northeastern United States in the 1970s. Since then, the geographic range of the illness has expanded to the west, south, and north, and it has become by far the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in North America. Evidence is mounting that, on its northern front, the expanding range of Lyme disease is driven by climate change; warming temperatures allow new populations of the tick vector, Ixodes scapularis, to establish themselves in regions that were once too cold. Now a new study in EHP has quantified the relationship between warmer temperatures and the tick’s expansion into Canada.

Some historical and genetic evidence suggests Lyme disease was widespread in much of the contiguous United States prior to European settlement. The new work shows, however, that I. scapularis may now be spreading into regions it never occupied before, paving the way for disease to follow.

Read the full article here.


Canadian economy will lose billions to climate change: report

By 2050, as much as $43 billion could be sapped from the Canadian economy because of natural disasters.

climatefloodA road crew foreman surveys the washed-out lanes of northbound MacLeod Trail in Calgary, Alta., Monday, June 24, 2013. Heavy rains caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuations across Southern Alberta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

By:  Staff Reporter, Published on Mon Apr 14 2014

A new report on the financial implications of climate change notes that while natural catastrophes are estimated to cost Canadians $21-$43 billion per year by 2050, popular economic measures like GDP fail to capture the escalation, discouraging preventative investment.

The TD report follows a recent and alarming warning by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that governments are ill-prepared for a warming world. If action is not immediately taken, the UN report projected risks could become unmanageable.

Monday’s report detailed the Canadian perspective on increasingly frequent natural catastrophes — the average number per year has doubled over the past three decades — and how by 2020 they will sap an estimated $5 billion from the economy.

Read the full report here.


Five Canadian cities tearing up asphalt to help reduce flash-flooding risk

OTTAWA — They paved paradise, and put up a flood zone.

TO flood

A woman gets gets back in her car in flood water during a storm in Toronto on July 8, 2013. Photograph by: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn , Postmedia News

Five cities across Canada will see some of their asphalt torn up and replaced with porous brick and gravel this summer to help mitigate the flash flooding that frequently follows extreme rainfall.

Modern cities are ever more sheathed in concrete and pavement, sealing off the absorbent ground and leaving heavy rain with nowhere to go — except basements, subway tunnels and underground corridors.

Last year, Calgary and Toronto homeowners and businesses were hit with severe flooding that was aggravated by sealed topsoil that could not absorb the sudden influx of water, costing billions in damages.

The University of Waterloo, Ont., and insurer Intact Financial Corp. announced a 20-project initiative today aimed at helping communities better survive the extreme weather that is the inevitable result of climate change.

The so-called “Depave Paradise” pilot projects are set for Calgary and the Ontario communities of Mississauga, Peterborough, Kingston and Ottawa.

The projects in five provinces range from construction of so-called bio-swales — which work as temporary holding tanks for excessive rainfall — to restoring urban wetlands, to carrying out home audits in Calgary so owners can flood-proof their properties.

Read the full article here.




Climate Adaptation: Advice for cities in the South

RosarioCities in developing countries with quality health, housing and water drainage systems, can more easily adapt to a changing climate, says the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

David Satterthwaite, a leading expert on human settlements and one of the two coordinating lead authors of the urban chapter in the IPCC report, told IRIN the report’s message for urban centres in developing countries is: “Good development provides the basis for climate change adaptation both in the sense of resilient infrastructure (piped water, drains, all-weather roads) and better quality houses… Providing these, also develops the institutional and financial base for climate change adaptation.”

Urban centres in developing countries often have to make difficult decisions on how much expenditure to allocate to development versus climate change adaptation, but the report’s authors say a successful balance can be achieved with clear policy direction, committed and informed staff, knowledge, and of course money.

The UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED – where Satterthwaite is a senior fellow) produced case studies on three cities facing significant development problems and at the same time trying to make their residents more resilient to extreme natural events.

Read the full article here.



A risk management framework improves health systems’ resilience to high-impact weather

According to a new study by the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Policy Program, a risk management framework can improve the resilience of healthcare facilities and services to high-impact weather such as tornadoes and hurricanes. The report is based on a recent AMS Policy Program workshop, A Prescription for the 21st Century: Improving Resilience to High-Impact Weather for Healthcare Facilities and Services, held in Washington, DC in October 2013.

The purpose of the study was to explore methods for improving the resilience of the health system. The report outlines a process for reducing the structural and operational risks that healthcare facilities often face. The study presents a systematic strategy for improving resilience through a three-step process that first seeks to understand risks, then addresses the vulnerabilities of health facilities, and finally prepares for the continuity of health services in the event of disruptions.

The AMS Policy Program workshop included many diverse and engaged parties. The insurance sector and healthcare accreditors represented the stakeholders who assess risk. Those who plan and construct hospitals were represented by land developers, building engineers, and urban designers. Discussions on the continuity of healthcare services addressed pharmaceutical supplies, health IT, and clinical services.

“Two of our key findings involve new concepts,” Shalini Mohleji, Policy Fellow at the AMS Policy Program and director of the study, said. “First, resilience can be increased through successful risk management, and second, redundant systems promote efficacy, not inefficiency.”

Healthcare facilities and services provide a key foundation for a thriving community. Therefore, ensuring their resilience to high-impact weather is critical. High-impact weather events present a challenge in that they disrupt health facilities and services and decrease the ability to provide healthcare at a time when a community’s needs increase due to injuries and illness associated with the event. As more communities will emerge in areas vulnerable to high-impact weather, the need will grow for resilient  and services.

“Our health facilities are too vulnerable to  and climate events. We need to protect them more effectively and a comprehensive framework to assess and manage risk can help do that.” said Paul Higgins, Director of the AMS Policy Program.

Explore further: Financial decision makers need weather and climate information to manage risks

More information: The full report is available at the AMS Policy Program website at www.ametsoc.org/hfs

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