Climate Change: Adaptation / Relocation
(Note: Moderators, if this doesn’t have to be in the Controversial Topics area, please move it to allow greater visibility.)
Warning And Disclaimer
This is a thread for people to discuss adaptation and/or relocation as a response to man-influenced climate change.
If you agree that most scientists who study weather and climate are of the opinion that man-influenced climate change has happened and continues to accelerate… If you don’t want to argue about it and if you understand that as individuals, we can’t make significant-enough change society, governments, corporations, etc… Then let’s discuss what we can do about it on a personal and familial level. In other words, if you are not a skeptic and you want a safe place to discuss personal actions you can take to adjust or cope with climate change, and/or plans to move or places in the United States or in the world to consider moving to, then let’s talk here because we already agree on the above.
This is NOT the place if you are looking to debate the issue of man-influenced climate change! Any violations will be flagged. Such a place exists on this site, however. Please visit and comment there instead of here. See link immediately below:
- The Definitive Global Climate Change (aka Global Warming) Thread
Back To The Topic
So in light of shifting weather patterns, climate change, and overall global temperature rises, we likely will continue to see:
- More intense, varied, and unusual weather
- Increases in the incidence of natural, weather-related disasters
- Rising sea levels, melting glaciers and ice caps, ocean acidification, increasing species extinction
- Production demands creating problems with top soil loss, aquifer depletion, deforestation (not really climate change)
Since there isn’t much that we as individuals can do at a social or political level (though certainly you are encouraged to continue to vote, donate, volunteer, protest, etc.), I think it’s important to think of adaptation and possible relocation.
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 1990 versus 2012
To start off, I’d like to share these images comparing USDA plant hardiness zones drawn in 1990 versus 2012. (I am going to try to place them side by side below.)
If you want a larger image to really see the changes, click on either picture. The original link at the Washington Post, where you can draw a slider between the two maps for visual effect, can be found here:
USDA Upgrades Plant Hardiness Zone Map (January 25, 2011)
Water Supply Sustainability
Another image I would like to share. This one is a map entitled Water Supply Sustainability Index (2050) With Climate Change Impacts.
(For an alternate image source, if above becomes missing, click here.)
Articles related to the above Water Supply Sustainability map:
- Reuters: Water Crisis Seen Big Threat To U.S. West, South (July 20, 2010)
- National Geographic: U.S. Great Plains, Southwest At Extreme Risk Of Running Dry, Report Warns (July 20, 2010)
"More than one-third of all counties in the U.S. lower 48 states face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of global warming, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said today."
So… What are your plans, if any? I don’t suspect any of us will be moving to Phoenix, Arizona, the Maldives, or Kiribati anytime soon, right? 🙂
I’m already planning for this.
Firstly, but mainly because I can’t tolerate even the hot weather currently “normal” here, I’m planning to move 1500 miles/2200 km further away from the Equator.
IF you’re looking to move because of AGW, stick to the coast, because diurnal temperature variations are less extreme where the sea can act as a heat storage tank, stabilising temperature in the process. Having said that, I wouldn’t live any lower than 50m ASL (150ft).
You need to think about where your water comes from, does the source of your streams come from somewhere that might dry out for instance, or if you’re catching rain water, will precipitation reduce (as evaportation rises in hotter conditions)? Seriously consider flooding potential as well….. don’t go building a house that can go underwater in severe rain events, or grow critical crops that you utterly rely on for survival in flood plains (and yes I know that’s where the most fertile soil is!)
Best of all, teach yourself Permaculture which incorporates design strategies to capture, store and/or retain water. Find out what grows best in the sort of climate predicted in the future for your area…
A crystal ball’s handy too…… the one thing that concerns me most is the lack of accurate predictability, not knowing FOR SURE exactly how bad things will get…
As can be seen on the above “water supply sustainability index” NYS and New England are in pretty good shape waterwise. In the immediate area where I live, we have lake effect off Lake Erie and Lake Ontario that dumps lots of snow on us in the winter and keeps us pretty well watered the rest of the year.
However, there is one issue that anyone thinking of moving to the region should bear in mind. Bill McKibben discussed it at some length in eaarth. That is freakish storms that are becoming increasingly frequent throughout the region. I discussed it on the other climate change threads, but if you’re thinking of living here, you should be aware where you are in a watershed and make sure you aren’t in a flood plain. Most of the northeast is hilly and/or mountainous with many small steep watersheds and villages in the valleys.
McKibben lives in one of those watersheds and so do I. Two years ago we had disastrous flooding when a freak storm dumped 7″ of rain on us in 1 1/2 hours. I sit at the very top of the watershed. Any water on my property flows north, but literally across the street everything flows south. The village four miles and 300′ elevation downstream caught the brunt of our storm. Roads and bridges were washed out. Big trees were flung about like match sticks. Several houses and other buildings were destroyed outright and many more had to be razed later. Two people were killed. Something similar but even more devastating happened last year in the Schoharie Valley north of the Catskill Mountains in the eastern part of the state. Read eaarth for several more examples.
To me the bottom line for our region is that I don’t think we will have many serious water shortages like much of the rest of the country, but the lowlands are at risk for more previously unheard of weather events.
On the bright side, our growing season is getting longer.
This morning the news is that our area is under a “red flag” warning. I have not previously heard of such a warning, but the news caster explained that it is a warning against starting outside fires due to unusually dry conditions. He said that these warnings happen no more than once every few years. The fact that it is happening in early April sets off alarm bells in my head. This is normally a time of year when the ground is still saturated from snow melt and we are still getting slushy snow falls and cold rain. I happen to know this personally because I used to coach LL baseball and trying to get practices and games in is normally a nightmare in early April due to rain, snow and/or mud. This year the fields are dry and we are beginning to see sprinklers in use. Very weird season in a very weird year so far.
I think the sea level rise possibilities like Mike has mentioned, as well as the really unusual weather Doug has mentioned are signs. Globally, we’ve had far more signs in the last twenty years than before, I think.
As another example: New England had pretty much no snow in November or December, after the freak Halloween snow event when leaves had not even fallen off the trees – these are things to make one thing.
Another thing worth considering is this chart of projected changes in agricultural productivity by 2080:
There would have to be changes (positive or negative) every year, to get to those projections by 2080.
Although not exactly precise, the map appears to show me in a borderline +15%-+35% range. That doesn’t really suprise me as I have observed growing seasons expanding somewhat over the years. Hopefully, our rainfall won’t be negatively affected. I would expect it to stay about steady or increase a little. One thing I have noticed is more frequent and stronger winds.
Whether you are planning your yearly garden or your longer term fruit and nut trees, try to make allowances for unexpected weather.
As things get more variable, monocultures are going to be a decidedly bad idea. Unless Mike can find that crystal ball, we all have to think more about maximizing the likelihood of an adequate annual harvest and not the maximimum possible annual harvest. A larger garden with multiple varieties of tomatoes, potatoes or whatever other veggies you are growing with a selection of varieties that thrive under wetter, drier, hotter conditions would help to ensure that at least some come through well.
Long term crops get trickier too. Growing apples is a no brainer in New England but if things keep going the way they are, then the next planting should probably be peaches. If we don’t come to our senses your kids might even be contemplating oranges by the end of the century.
The lengthening growing seasons are a bit of a mixed bag since the season doesn’t just get longer it gets more variable. This winter has been a non event. We haven’t had freezing temperatures since February so everything is leafed out and blooming. However, tonight we are tapping 32. One hard freeze at this point would make a mess of a lot of early growers.
Your advice is spot-on. Edible plants that are hardy and able to tolerate a wide variety of conditions – i.e. generalist rather than specialist – may be the best bet.
I came across and purchased a book called The Weather-Resilient Garden: A Defensive Approach to Planning & Landscaping, by Charles W. G. Smith:
However, the emphasis seems be on non-edible plants for flowers and landscapes, rather than edibles.
Still, some of the defensive strategies are worth looking into.
Just another heads up. Increased CO2 concentrations have been shown to increase the rate of growth of many plants. Unfortunately, in field tests, it increases the rate of growth for weeds much more than crops. It also tends to make them more resistant to herbicides. Another reason to go organic!
Worth reading the agriculture portion of the Global Change Impacts in the U.S. document (link)
I’m going to cross post this here and in the public forums because I think the ideas discussed in the linked article are universal. One of the conversants in this article, Paul Kingsnorth, claims to have been in the environmental movement for 20 years, half his life, and to have “given up” on the movement because the fight is effectively lost. I have been on the periphery of that movement for 40 years and have allowed the same dark thoughts to cross my mind.
The author of the article, Wen Stephenson, apparently shares Kingsnorth’s views of the environment, but thinks there is still a chance for the movement to change course. The exchange is thought provoking.
The primary focus of this site is energy and economy. The third E, environment, has largely been banished to the CT dungeon with only passing references to the environment outside of the dungeon. Tar sands are devastating vast stretches of landscape (yawn), mountain top removal is destroying entire ecosystems and ways of life (move along, move along), ecosystem destruction is extirpating so many species that we are in the 5th or 6th great extinction event in earth’s history (I really don’t care about all those creapy crawlies), the world’s great waterways are becoming little more than avenues of transportation and introduction of invasive species (I don’t swim, fish or boat, what do I care) and arable farmland is disappearing and being degraded everywhere (I’ll just farm my backyard if the stores run out of food).
I know most of us are fixated on the financial crisis, but my pov is that if the economy collapses in the worst possible way, it will probably be good for the environment because we won’t be able to screw it up on such a grand scale. The remaining humans will muddle along somehow. An environmental collapse, OTOH, could mean curtains for most of the highly evolved (i.e. specialized) species on earth. There may be time to save us from such a collapse, but I see little effort or willingness on the part of tptb or even posters on this site in that direction. Instead, we hoard gold, silver and other resources and try to get “off grid” to the extent possible. That’s not to say these things are bad, just short sighted. My point is we spend way too much time and energy on economy and energy, and virtually none on environment.
Not everyone is quite ready to hear, or accept, what Paul Kingsnorth has to say.
An English writer and erstwhile green activist, he spent two decades (he’ll turn 40 this year) in the environmental movement, and he’s done with all that. And not only environmentalism — he’s done with “hope.” He’s moved beyond it. He’s not out to “save the planet.” He’s had it with the dream of “sustainability.” He’s looked into the abyss of planetary collapse, and he’s more or less fine with it: Collapse? Sure. Bring it on.
These are precarious and unprecedented times … Little that we have taken for granted is likely to come through this century intact.
We don’t believe that anyone — not politicians, not economists, not environmentalists, not writers — is really facing up to the scale of this … Somehow, technology or political agreements or ethical shopping or mass protest are meant to save our civilization from self-destruction.
Well, we don’t buy it. This project starts with our sense that civilization as we have known it is coming to an end; brought down by a rapidly changing climate, a cancerous economic system and the ongoing mass destruction of the non-human world. But it is driven by our belief that this age of collapse — which is already beginning — could also offer a new start, if we are careful in our choices.
The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop.
Kingsnorth tossed a grenade in the January/February issue of Orion Magazine with his controversial essay “Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist.” There, Kingsnorth gets to the heart of his case. “We are environmentalists now,” he writes, “in order to promote something called ‘sustainability.’ What does this curious, plastic word mean? … It means sustaining human civilization at the comfort level that the world’s rich people — us — feel is their right, without destroying the ‘natural capital’ or the ‘resource base’ that is needed to do so.”
Ouch. But he isn’t finished.
If “sustainability” is about anything, it is about carbon. Carbon and climate change. To listen to most environmentalists today, you would think that these were the only things in the world worth talking about. … Carbon emissions threaten a potentially massive downgrading of our prospects for material advancement as a species. … If we cannot sort this out quickly, we are going to end up darning our socks again and growing our own carrots and other such unthinkable things.
I do think that climate change campaigners like yourself should be more upfront about what you’re trying to ‘save.’ It’s not the world. It’s not humanity either, which I’d bet will survive whatever comes in some form or another, though perhaps with drastically reduced numbers and no broadband connection. No, what you’re trying to save, it seems to me, is the world you have grown used to.
“Sustainability” is, as far as I can see, a project designed to keep this culture — this lifestyle — afloat. The modern human economy is an engine of mass destruction. Of course, I am conflicted about this. I live at the heart of this machine; like you, I am a beneficiary of it. If it falls apart, I will probably suffer, and I don’t want to.
I think this debate is where we really need to focus more attention if we hope that “localization” is really going to save us.