Congress reports U.S. will lose $54 billion annually to storms

May 1, 2019 by  
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A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office predicts an alarming $54 billion in hurricane and flood damage over the next few years — much of which can be avoided by spending money upfront to protect and prevent against losses. The frequency of what are called “billion-dollar storms” appear to be increasing. In 2018, there were 39 “billion-dollar” disasters around the world — 16 of which were in the U.S. Already in the first four months of 2019, the U.S. has endured winter storms Quiana and Ulmer, and each one caused more than a billion dollars  in damage to infrastructure and homes. The new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) focuses on hurricanes, which are the mostly costly natural disasters according to NOAA. Since 1980, tropical cyclones have caused a combined $927.5 billion in damages and are also the most expensive individual storm events in both financial cost and lives lost. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way Of the annual losses predicted by the CBO, $34 billion is estimated in damage to homes, plus $12 billion for the public sector and $9 billion for private businesses. The direct cost to taxpayers is estimated at approximately $17 billion per year. However, the CBO report also underscores several preventive actions that could significantly reduce these costs. By some analyses , mitigation measures (such as flood prevention or watershed protection) could save Americans $6 dollars in losses for every $1 spent in preparation. Solutions to mitigate hurricane damage The following suggestions from the report include environmental and policy-level recommendations to reduce loss in infrastructure and lives from tropical storms and hurricanes. Reduce carbon emissions Hurricanes, and their rising frequency and intensity, are intricately tied to climate change . Increasing temperatures melt glaciers and cause sea level rise, which leads to higher storm surge levels and more destructive flooding. The rising temperatures have also been linked to increased rainfall. Climate change is a result of greenhouse gas emissions; therefore,  reducing emissions would slow and prevent some of the future damage caused by intense storms and extreme flooding. One primary way to reduce emissions, according to the CBO, is by expanding cap-and-trade programs. These programs incentivize companies to keep emissions below designated thresholds and allow the purchasing of emission credits between companies that pollute less and companies that pollute more. However, the CBO also acknowledges that limiting emissions may negatively impact the economy by increasing the cost of goods and services and reducing jobs. Likewise, the CBO argues that such strategies must be enforced at a global scale, otherwise corporations will relocate to countries that allow unfettered pollution. Increase funding for flood mapping The weather is changing, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is struggling to keep up. Rapid urban development in wetlands and flood zones, combined with sea level rise and erosion, are changing the landscape of flood risk. The scale of this need is overwhelming — in 2018, FEMA spent $452 million on flood mapping and data collection, but it was nowhere near enough. Expand flood insurance coverage Flood insurance agencies need accurate spatial data and maps in order to adequately provide coverage, charge appropriate rates and adequately inform the public about their specific risks. Most people simply do not buy flood insurance and of those that do, 25 percent drop their plan within the first year. More accurate data and delineated risk zones can help inform residents of their direct risks and incentivize homeowners to implement mitigation measure, such as relocating heating and cooling equipment above of the predicted flood level. Accurate risk data will also help justify changes for long-standing insurance policy holders who have been “grandfathered” into plans that grossly underestimated their vulnerability before climate science and spatial mapping were widely available. An estimated 20 percent of insurance policy holders are paying rates lower than their appropriate risk level, which is good news for the policy holder up until a storm hits and they are in need of benefits that correspond to the damage they endured. Encourage local and state governments to share recovery costs When the president declares a disaster emergency, municipalities receive federal dollars to provide basic needs and support recovery efforts. Though the federal government plans to ramp up funding for preventive measures, such as sea walls, the CBO believes that if local and state governments had to foot more of the bill, they would be more inclined to enforce important mitigation policy . For example, if local and state governments expected to have to pay for damage to infrastructure, they would be more strict about limiting new development in flood zones — something they have more power to control from a local level. The message is clear — mitigation efforts are worth every penny. The National Weather Service already predicted more severe flooding this hurricane season than previous years. As evidence piles up in favor of mitigation, the only question remaining is ‘where do we start?’ + CBO Via The Weather Channel Image via Raquel M  and Pamela Andrade ( 1 , 2 )

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Congress reports U.S. will lose $54 billion annually to storms

Congress reports U.S. will lose $54 billion annually to storms

May 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

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A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office predicts an alarming $54 billion in hurricane and flood damage over the next few years — much of which can be avoided by spending money upfront to protect and prevent against losses. The frequency of what are called “billion-dollar storms” appear to be increasing. In 2018, there were 39 “billion-dollar” disasters around the world — 16 of which were in the U.S. Already in the first four months of 2019, the U.S. has endured winter storms Quiana and Ulmer, and each one caused more than a billion dollars  in damage to infrastructure and homes. The new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) focuses on hurricanes, which are the mostly costly natural disasters according to NOAA. Since 1980, tropical cyclones have caused a combined $927.5 billion in damages and are also the most expensive individual storm events in both financial cost and lives lost. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way Of the annual losses predicted by the CBO, $34 billion is estimated in damage to homes, plus $12 billion for the public sector and $9 billion for private businesses. The direct cost to taxpayers is estimated at approximately $17 billion per year. However, the CBO report also underscores several preventive actions that could significantly reduce these costs. By some analyses , mitigation measures (such as flood prevention or watershed protection) could save Americans $6 dollars in losses for every $1 spent in preparation. Solutions to mitigate hurricane damage The following suggestions from the report include environmental and policy-level recommendations to reduce loss in infrastructure and lives from tropical storms and hurricanes. Reduce carbon emissions Hurricanes, and their rising frequency and intensity, are intricately tied to climate change . Increasing temperatures melt glaciers and cause sea level rise, which leads to higher storm surge levels and more destructive flooding. The rising temperatures have also been linked to increased rainfall. Climate change is a result of greenhouse gas emissions; therefore,  reducing emissions would slow and prevent some of the future damage caused by intense storms and extreme flooding. One primary way to reduce emissions, according to the CBO, is by expanding cap-and-trade programs. These programs incentivize companies to keep emissions below designated thresholds and allow the purchasing of emission credits between companies that pollute less and companies that pollute more. However, the CBO also acknowledges that limiting emissions may negatively impact the economy by increasing the cost of goods and services and reducing jobs. Likewise, the CBO argues that such strategies must be enforced at a global scale, otherwise corporations will relocate to countries that allow unfettered pollution. Increase funding for flood mapping The weather is changing, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is struggling to keep up. Rapid urban development in wetlands and flood zones, combined with sea level rise and erosion, are changing the landscape of flood risk. The scale of this need is overwhelming — in 2018, FEMA spent $452 million on flood mapping and data collection, but it was nowhere near enough. Expand flood insurance coverage Flood insurance agencies need accurate spatial data and maps in order to adequately provide coverage, charge appropriate rates and adequately inform the public about their specific risks. Most people simply do not buy flood insurance and of those that do, 25 percent drop their plan within the first year. More accurate data and delineated risk zones can help inform residents of their direct risks and incentivize homeowners to implement mitigation measure, such as relocating heating and cooling equipment above of the predicted flood level. Accurate risk data will also help justify changes for long-standing insurance policy holders who have been “grandfathered” into plans that grossly underestimated their vulnerability before climate science and spatial mapping were widely available. An estimated 20 percent of insurance policy holders are paying rates lower than their appropriate risk level, which is good news for the policy holder up until a storm hits and they are in need of benefits that correspond to the damage they endured. Encourage local and state governments to share recovery costs When the president declares a disaster emergency, municipalities receive federal dollars to provide basic needs and support recovery efforts. Though the federal government plans to ramp up funding for preventive measures, such as sea walls, the CBO believes that if local and state governments had to foot more of the bill, they would be more inclined to enforce important mitigation policy . For example, if local and state governments expected to have to pay for damage to infrastructure, they would be more strict about limiting new development in flood zones — something they have more power to control from a local level. The message is clear — mitigation efforts are worth every penny. The National Weather Service already predicted more severe flooding this hurricane season than previous years. As evidence piles up in favor of mitigation, the only question remaining is ‘where do we start?’ + CBO Via The Weather Channel Image via Raquel M  and Pamela Andrade ( 1 , 2 )

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Congress reports U.S. will lose $54 billion annually to storms

Two abandoned 1960s buildings in the middle of a desert become a chic eco retreat

May 1, 2019 by  
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London-based practice Anarchitect has breathed new life into two stone buildings from the 1960s that had laid vacant in the United Arab Emirates’ Sharjah desert for years. Using the crimson landscape as inspiration, the firm converted the abandoned buildings into the Al Faya Lodge , a light-filled eco retreat that was built with a variety of resilient materials to withstand the remote area’s extreme temperature fluctuations. Set into the foothills of Mount Alvaah and surrounded by miles of desert, the boutique hotel  required a very strategic design that would enable the structures to be resilient against the harsh climate. According to Anarchitect founder Jonathan Ashmore, the location was challenging to say the least. “Desert conditions present extreme heat in summer with intense and prolonged sun exposure,” Ashmore said. “It is important to consider these factors when first designing the form and mass of the building and secondly the selection of suitable and robust materials, which go hand-in-hand.” Related: Off-grid eco-retreats reconnect you to serene nature in Brazil Using the existing frames of the old buildings (formerly a grocery store and cafe) as a guide for the layout, the architects selected a number of robust materials to create a resilient design that would stand up to the elements for years to come. Locally-sourced stone and concrete were chosen to create a heavy thermal mass, which would help keep the interior spaces at a comfortable temperature year-round. Additionally, using concrete and stone also protects the building from the harsh weather that often sees driving rain, sand storms and freezing overnight temperatures. In addition to these materials, the hotel was clad in a vibrant mixture of weathered steel and teak hardwood to add a refined industrial aesthetic to the design. Large floor-to-ceiling panels let in optimal natural light throughout the interior and provide a strong connection with the amazing setting found outdoors. While guests to the lodge can enjoy stunning views of the mountains and desertscape from the hotel’s dining area, reception room and outdoor fire pit, the rooftop terrace is the place to be at sunrise and sunset. All of the five guest rooms feature large skylights for stargazing. When looking for a little downtime from exploring the area, guests can also take in a luxurious soak in the open-air saltwater pool. + Anarchitect + Al Faya Lodge Via Archdaily Photography by Fernando Guerra via Anarchitect

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Two abandoned 1960s buildings in the middle of a desert become a chic eco retreat

"Once-in-a-1000-years" flood batters Maryland town for the second time in two years

May 30, 2018 by  
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Ellicott City, Maryland was devastated in 2016 by a flash flood — the type of event that many people said happens only once in a lifetime. But now, disastrous flooding is happening again. More than 300 residents have been evacuated, and on Sunday afternoon, there were over 1,000 calls to 911. This is a second video from my sister on #EllicotCity Main Street. This is as high, if not higher than 2 years ago. She is safe for now, no idea if everyone made it out of the 1st floors. @WJZDevin @wjz @FOXBaltimore @CairnsKcairns @wbaltv11 @weatherchannel : video via Kali Harris pic.twitter.com/KOQUH0aBwp — Jeremy Harris (@JeremyHarrisTV) May 27, 2018 Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and said, “They say this is a once-every-thousand-years flood, and we’ve had two of them in two years.” Seven to nine inches of rain poured down on Ellicott City, about 10 miles west of Baltimore. Main Street transformed into a rushing, muddy river. Cars were swept down the street like toys.  Army National Guardsman Eddison Hermond died after trying to help a woman and her cat. pic.twitter.com/9XifLkyTK6 — Zachary Landow (@zrlandow) May 27, 2018 Related: California’s wild extremes of flooding and drought will only get worse as the planet warms Slate reported Ellicott City is a 250-year-old river town that’s been hit with flooding in the past. But the 2016 flash flood and this recent one have been different than previous floods. Typically, the Patapsco River rises and causes flooding. With these flash floods, the Tiber and Hudson tributaries — one of which runs beneath Main Street — overflowed, according to a 2016 Baltimore Sun investigation . Water is back up, and more rain coming our way. pic.twitter.com/RCMjcIkPFn — Libby Solomon (@libsolomon) May 27, 2018 University of Maryland Baltimore County geography professor Jeffrey Halverson told NPR  that the rain storms in this region have been getting more intense recently, and the flooding is connected to changes in the area’s land surface. Halverson said, “[Ellicott City] is heavily paved, there’s lots of narrow streets that act as very rapid conduits of water — so the [2016] flood was as much about the nature of the underlying land surface as it was the large amount of rain falling from the sky.” This is partly how Ellicott City flooding gets so bad. The water takes cars, dumpsters and other pieces of debris, smashes them into storm culverts, the culverts get blocked, and the water coming behind has no where to go and overflows in all directions. pic.twitter.com/N2WwJeyFzA — Kevin Rector (@RectorSun) May 28, 2018 “There are a lot of people whose lives are going to be devastated again, and they’ve been working so hard to come back,” Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said. “I couldn’t imagine what they went through two years ago, and now it’s even worse.” Via Slate , NPR , The Baltimore Sun ( 1 ,  2 ) and CNN Image via MarylandGov Pics and Preservation Maryland

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"Once-in-a-1000-years" flood batters Maryland town for the second time in two years

This lightweight, soda can-sized air purifier destroys mold, VOCs and odors

May 30, 2018 by  
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Did you know that indoor air pollution can be as bad as or worse than outdoor air pollution? From off-gassing chemicals in paints to mold and dust, the contaminated air inside our homes and offices negatively impacts our health and can lead to fatigue and dizziness, or even respiratory diseases in the long-term. Fortunately, air purification technology has improved in recent years to offer easy and affordable ways to combat indoor air pollutants. Read on to see our review of one such product, the Luft Qi , an on-the-go and filter-free air purifier billed as the smallest of its kind in the world. About Luft Qi Developed by Taiwanese company Titus & Wayne, the Luft Qi air purifier is described as the “first compact air purifier using nanotechnology.” The air purifier uses a method called photocatalytic oxidation (PCO), a technology originally invented by NASA to prevent food spoilage — for instance, by removing bacteria in meat or pesticides from fruits and vegetables — and has since been applied to air purification. Here’s how it works: broad-spectrum ultraviolet light — Luft Qi uses UV-A LEDs  — is combined with a tungsten oxide modified titanium oxide (TiO2) filter to create highly reactive oxidizers that break down harmful molecular-sized and microbial pollutants. Luft Qi isn’t the first to use PCO technology for air purification; followers of Ellen DeGeneres might remember her shout-out to the Airocide PCO air purifiers on her show in 2013. Advantages of Luft Qi Unlike Airocide, however, Luft Qi is much smaller and more compact. Made of aluminum , the soda can-shaped device only weighs 160 grams and its modern design, available in six different colors, means it probably won’t clash with your existing setup. Moreover, since Luft Qi only uses PCO, the device is conveniently filter-free, meaning that you’ll never need to buy or replace the filter. When plugged in, Luft Qi will gently draw air in through its perforated base, where pollutants are then broken down through photocatalytic oxidation. The purified air is then pushed through the top, with carbon dioxide and water molecules as byproducts. PCO technology has also proven effective at removing ultra fine particulates, airborne mold spores and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde and exhaust fumes. Luft Qi is designed for on-the-go convenience and comes with a standard 3.3-foot-long USB-C to USB-A cable that can plug into a laptop or any USB port adapter outlet. The startup says that the device can be safely used 24 hours a day and attribute its minimal electricity demands of 2.5W to an energy-efficient design. The air purifier uses a hidden brushless fan — the same as those used for computer servers — with a measurable noise level of around 25 decibels, which isn’t very quiet, but isn’t loud enough to be distracting either; it is quieter than most air purifiers. Luft Qi is estimated to last at least 4.5 years without replacement. Disadvantages of Luft Qi Despite Luft Qi’s many benefits, there are several downsides to the product. Firstly, since Luft Qi only uses PCO technology instead of filters, the device cannot remove larger particulates like traditional devices with HEPA filters can. This means Luft Qi will not eliminate pollen, dust, dust mites or pet dander, which are among the major contributors to poor indoor air quality and allergies. Due to its small size, Luft Qi also requires a long time to achieve desirable results and is best used in contained rooms such as bedrooms or car interiors. And while Luft Qi does eliminate odors, it also does so at a fairly slow rate; carbon filters are a better choice for odor removal. Moreover, PCO technology produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct. While the amount produced is likely small, those who want to keep Luft Qi turned on 24 hours a day will need to introduce adequate ventilation. Speaking of constant use, Luft Qi’s PCO technology also has its drawbacks for those hoping to sleep with it plugged in at night. While the constant fan noise can be dismissed as white noise, the device’s bright blue light can be distracting in an otherwise dark room. Putting Luft Qi on the ground isn’t a good option either; the air purifier should be elevated above the floor since it relies on the surrounding environment’s air circulation to work optimally. Should You Buy Luft Qi? Overall, Luft Qi isn’t the best air purifier given its small size and the limitations of PCO technology. If you really want to get rid of indoor air pollution, it’s best to use PCO technology in conjunction with air purifiers with filters. Luft Qi’s relatively steep price may also put buyers off. However, if you’re mainly interested in removing VOCs, microbial pollutants, odors and mold spores in small, contained environments, Luft Qi is a good choice. This particularly holds true in small offices or rooms in tropical and humid environments where mold is an ever-present concern, like Taiwan, where the Luft Qi startup is based. Furthermore, the product is nicely designed, well-constructed and doesn’t become hot to the touch. Titus & Wayne launched Luft Qi on Indiegogo in a successful crowdfunding campaign that’s since raised more than $215,000. From now until mid-June, Luft Qi is available for $99 , not including shipping, in an early-bird special with an estimated delivery in July 2018. The product’s regular retail price is $169. + Luft Qi Images via Luft Qi

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This lightweight, soda can-sized air purifier destroys mold, VOCs and odors

California’s wild extremes of flooding and drought will only get worse as the planet warms

April 24, 2018 by  
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Between 2011 and 2017, California suffered through one of the worst droughts in its history. After the drought broke last year in what would be California’s wettest winter in a century, extreme flooding caused severe damage and killed several people. In a study recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change , researchers predict that similar patterns of polarized weather will continue to define California’s climate well into the 21st century, particularly if greenhouse gas emissions are not immediately and significantly reduced. If emissions continue to grow until 2100, the drastic wet-dry weather patterns could double in frequency, wreaking havoc in the state. California is not unfamiliar with bouts of strong drought and flooding . In 1862, what is known as the Great Flood devastated California in a weather event that has not be repeated since. Much of the state has a Mediterranean climate, which is conducive to dry summers, wet winters, and powerful shifts between those two extremes. However, as with much of the extreme weather expected from climate change, the frequency and intensity of such weather events are increasing. As the weather becomes more destructive, the authors predict that California could face serious challenges, particularly in water storage/access and flood control. Related: Federal court orders first hearing on the science of climate change In order to prepare for a more hostile climate, California must upgrade its infrastructure. “Few of the dams, levees and canals that currently protect millions living in California’s flood plains and facilitate the movement of water from Sierra Nevada watersheds to coastal cities have been tested by a deluge as severe” as the Great Flood of 1862, wrote the researchers.  On the other side of the world, Europe faces a drier future, with another study predicting that the percentage of drought-prone area will double if global average temperatures continue to rise beyond a 3 degrees Celsius increase. Even if the goals of the Paris agreement are met, which at the moment seems doubtful , Africa is still expected to endure potentially destabilizing extreme weather as a result of foregone climate change .   Via Phys.org Images via Wikimedia (1) (2)

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California’s wild extremes of flooding and drought will only get worse as the planet warms

NASA researchers says Harvey flooding pushed Houston down two centimeters

September 11, 2017 by  
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Harvey unloaded around 33 trillion gallons of water in the United States, the weight of which is capable of bending the Earth’s crust . From satellite data , it looks like this is what happened in Houston . Scientist Chris Milliner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted a map with GPS data revealing Houston has been pushed down by around two centimeters (or about 0.8 inches). Milliner’s map included Nevada Geodetic Laboratory data revealing the area around Houston was actually pushed down because of the weight of all the water from the tropical storm . One gallon of water weighs around 8.34 pounds, so if Harvey dumped 33 trillion gallons of water, that’s about 275 trillion pounds. Related: Arctic warming likely turned Harvey into “an extreme killer storm” GPS data show #Harveyflood was so large it flexed Earth's crust, pushing #Houston down by ~2 cm! #EarthScience #HurricaneHarvey #txflood pic.twitter.com/88lNScJBq9 — Chris Milliner (@Geo_GIF) September 4, 2017 It’s not the first time scientists have documented how the weight of water can alter the land. The Altantic cited a 2012 study focusing on the Himalayas that found a seasonal flux in the mountains’ height as water fell and then made its way down the mountains into Asian rivers. They also noted a 2017 study found “vertical surface displacement [with] peak-to-peak amplitudes” of 0.5 to one centimeter in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The Atlantic suggested the changes around Houston could be seen as a “fast-action version” of what takes place in mountain ranges during the seasons. The change could be due to soil beneath GPS stations compacting because of the weight of the water, Milliner said. But he thinks crust deformation was the main means of the change, since some of the GPS stations are on bedrock and also saw the depression. The ground has already been sinking in Houston, because we’ve pumped groundwater out of the city’s aquifers, according to The Atlantic. Milliner clarified the phenomenon he saw after Harvey is in addition to subsidence the city has experienced. Via The Atlantic Images via Chris Milliner on Twitter and U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf

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NASA researchers says Harvey flooding pushed Houston down two centimeters

Could maglev hovering homes be the answer to rising sea levels?

April 4, 2016 by  
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Magnetic levitation (aka “ maglev ”) technology is mostly associated with high-speed trains, but could someday cross over into the world of architecture. That’s if Lira Luis gets her way. Luis has developed a concept for a ‘floating’ house that could help communities threatened by rising sea levels survive without having to abandon their hometowns. The idea is starting small, with a tiny model, but Luis has her sights set big. In fact, she wants to build a whole floating village. Read the rest of Could maglev hovering homes be the answer to rising sea levels?

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Could maglev hovering homes be the answer to rising sea levels?

SC Sen. Lindsey Graham requests federal aid for flood victims, despite denying the same after Sandy

October 7, 2015 by  
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In South Carolina, at least 11 counties have requested the declaration of a state of emergency following the floods caused by Hurricane Joaquin over the weekend. Torrential rains forced thousands of residents to flee their homes across the state’s low-lying areas, and at least 14 people have lost their lives as a result of the high waters. Senator Lindsey Graham (R) was quick to ask the federal government for aid following the floods in his home state. His request doesn’t seem all that unreasonable, given the extent of the flooding and devastation to local communities that were unprepared for the torrential rain. The troubling thing about Sen. Graham’s request is that he adamantly opposed similar federal aid to New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2013. And he doesn’t remember it. Read the rest of SC Sen. Lindsey Graham requests federal aid for flood victims, despite denying the same after Sandy

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SC Sen. Lindsey Graham requests federal aid for flood victims, despite denying the same after Sandy

Ultra-efficient GRoW Home stays green year-round with solar and thermal energy

October 7, 2015 by  
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