Predictions for the next century have wide margins of uncertainty. They are likely to err on the low side, as new instabilities in polar ice masses and ocean currents are recognized. Cities are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, through their location, infrastructure, social and economic inequality, and the constraints on their power to govern themselves imposed by higher levels of government.
At the same time, cities are also particularly empowered to combat the effects of climate change and prepare well for natural disasters, through their population size, economic and human resources, closeness to the problems of climate change, and potential for acting collectively within and among cities. None offers all the answers, but each contributes important parts of the picture. Jeff Goodell, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone , reports firsthand from the Greenland ice sheets, Obama's Air Force One, and coastal cities where rising seas have forced a reckoning with climate change.
Goodell tells the history of the development of Florida, starting from 14, years ago when sea levels were much lower, interweaving accounts of his wading through flooded streets with local organizers and scientists. Miami gets special attention.
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If you need to be dissuaded from buying Florida real estate, read this book. Besides, by that time, I'll be dead, so what does it matter? In fairness, Goodell reports that some developers combine an appreciation of facts with conscience. The aim of the event was to get real estate developers to start thinking about their options.
Both will hurt real estate values.
The flight from reality in Miami is not the most outrageous one Goodell describes. A far more frightening story of denial and blindness concerns civilian political interference in the future of US military preparedness for rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change.
But the costs would be enormous. We're talking hundreds of billions of dollars.
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Dominion Energy's burning of fossil fuels contributes directly to the rise in sea levels that is drowning Naval Station Norfolk. Until recently, the US Congress encouraged this disregard for the military impacts of climate change. Now it is the turn of the Executive Branch to enforce this refusal to prepare for climate change's effects on national security.
In , President Donald Trump signed a defense policy law that required the Department of Defense to list the top 10 military bases most vulnerable to climate changes over the next 20 years and to specify measures and their costs that would make the bases more resilient to climate change. Not one was overseas. Not one was in the Marine Corps. No detailed mitigation plans were offered. If a revised report exists, it was not announced by that date. He urges cities to prepare in the short term by tightening building codes in flood zones and hardening coastal infrastructure, for example.
He leaves open the larger question of whether and how cities can help wean the world from fossil fuels. Dawson discusses the Red Hook Houses, built in the late s for dockworkers. Red Hook Houses were one of the first and largest federal housing projects in the country and are the largest public housing development in Brooklyn. Since the s, the neighborhood has suffered a long economic decline as containerized shipping replaced workers and waterfront jobs fled.
By the time superstorm Sandy struck New York City, the New York City Housing Authority had shut down electricity, and consequently elevators, boilers, and water pumps, in public housing in the areas at the highest risk of flooding, including Red Hook. This preventive action left roughly eight thousand residents with no heat, water, or electricity.
The Red Cross and the federal government did not bring supplies to the neighborhood for days. With the support and contributions of hundreds of volunteers, for three days Red Hook Initiative collected and distributed key supplies including food and water. A colleague dispatched medical delegations to check on vulnerable elderly residents of Red Hook Houses. Notwithstanding Dawson's belief that capitalism drives urbanization, cities grew before capitalism existed and still grow in today's least capitalist countries.
Demographers say that urban populations grow from natural increase births minus deaths , net migration immigrants minus emigrants , annexation as when the five boroughs united to form New York City , and reclassification when formerly rural, now densely settled areas are recognized as urban. Economic development including but not limited to that driven by capitalism , cultural development, and environmental quality make cities attractive to their natives and to migrants.
Dawson's solutions are necessary but not sufficient. Despite political differences, the two men have long collaborated in plans to reduce New York City's negative effects on climate change. They quote a common estimate that cities are the source of at least 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Estimates vary widely. Few cities measure their greenhouse gas emissions. New Yorkers also consume less water and electricity per person and produce less garbage per person than people in the average American city.
Respondents were also given a green and a pink highlighting pen and asked to "use the green highlighter pen to mark any portions of the essay that you feel are especially clear or helpful, and use the pink highlighter pen to mark any portions of the essay that are particularly confusing or unhelpful.
When respondents finished the reading, they were asked to describe in an open-ended format their "general reaction to this essay.
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For each portion of the essay they marked in green, they were subsequently asked: "What about each of these sentences was especially clear or helpful to you? Based on this review, we iteratively developed eight thematic categories that captured the range of statements made by respondents. Two graduate student coders were then trained to code each statement into one of the thematic categories. The coders were also instructed to assess the overall valence of each respondent's statements - the first of our dependent measures - rating them as: -1 entirely negative comments ; 0 mixed, including both positive and negative comments ; or 1 entirely positive comments.
Following standard content analysis procedures, we tested inter-coder agreement on approximately 50 statements, making sure that a full range of possible types of coding decisions were required of the coders. To assess reliability, we used Krippendorff's alpha [ 24 , 25 ], a conservative measure that corrects for chance agreement among coders; a K-alpha of. For 7 of the 8 thematic categories, we achieved a reliability of.
After establishing reliability, the two coders then went on to categorize the rest of the remaining statements from the sample of respondents. Composite scores were created for each of the four sections of the essay - the opening, the threat section, the benefit section, and the conclusion - by summing the sentence-specific scores in the section and dividing by the number of sentences. A composite score for the entire essay - the second of the dependent measures in our hypothesis - was created by summing the sentence scores across each segment and dividing by the number of respondents per segment.
Population estimates, which can be taken solely as preliminary indicators given the non-probabilistic nature of our sampling, were estimated by weighting the mean values for each of the six segments according to its prevalence in the U. To test the between-segment differences in our dependent measures - overall reactions to the essay i. To test if the median response to the essay on each dependent measure was greater than zero i.
Lastly, for both dependent measures, we used the Wilcoxon signed rank test to test our hypothesis that five of the six segments the Dismissive being the one exception would respond positively to the essay; the null hypothesis was that the median score for each of the five segments did not differ from zero. The Wilcoxon signed rank test is appropriate for small sample sizes and non-normal distributions, both of which are the case for at least some segments in our data.
Average valence of respondents' general essay comments. The mean valence of respondent comments when asked their general reactions to the public health essay by audience segment and by a national population estimate. Composite essay scores by segment. Scores reflect respondent average values by segment for the difference between the number of times each of 18 sentences were marked "especially clear or helpful" and "especially confusing or unhelpful" with a full range of possible values between 18 and To examine the possibility that the essay's later focus on the public health benefits of mitigation-related policy actions was seen by respondents as clearer and more useful than the essay's earlier focus on public health-related threats, we calculated the difference between the re-scaled by a factor of 10 average response to both the benefit and the threat sections and then used the Wilcoxon signed rank test to test, by segment, whether the median of these differences was greater than zero.
We then evaluated the overall main effect of the essay - across all segments - using the weighted t-test on the differences with weights corresponding to the frequencies of the segments in the population. Essay evaluations by sentence: Alarmed, Concerned and Cautious segments. Sentence-specific evaluations of the public health essay by respondents in the Alarmed, Concerned and Cautious segments and by a national population estimate.
The national population estimate was created by weighting the values for each of the six segments according to their relative proportion of American adults.
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Essay evaluations by sentence: Disengaged, Doubtful and Dismissive segments. Sentence-specific evaluations of the public health essay by respondents in the Disengaged, Doubtful and Dismissive segments and by a national population estimate. Essay evaluations by section opening, threat, benefits, closing. Average section-specific evaluations of the public health essay by respondents in each of the six audience segments and by a national population estimate.
Note: Scores reflect the difference between the number of sentences within each section marked by a respondent as "especially clear or helpful" and those marked as "especially confusing or unhelpful" with those values averaged across the number of sentences per section and rescaled by a factor of The national population estimate was created by weighting the mean values for each of the six segments according to their relative proportion of American adults.
Lastly, to examine for the possibility that the concluding framing section of the essay was perceived by respondents as clearer and more useful than the opening framing section, we calculated the difference between the re-scaled average response to both the opening and the concluding sections and then used the Wilcoxon signed rank test to test, by segment, whether the median of these differences was greater than zero.
We then evaluated the overall main effect - across all segments - using the weighted t-test on the differences with weights corresponding to the frequencies of the segments in the population. The average valence scores - on a scale of 1 to -1 - spanned from. The average sentence-specific composite scores - on a scale of 18 to - ranged from 9. The Wilcoxon signed rank tests indicated only partial support for our hypothesis.
In sum, there was clear evidence that the Alarmed and Concerned segments responded positively to the public health essay, and mixed evidence that the Cautious and Disengaged responded positively. There was no evidence that the Doubtful responded positively. It is worthy of note, however, that all six segments agreed with the essay's opening frame device O1 that "good health is a great blessing," suggesting that human health and wellbeing is a widely shared value.
Across segments, not surprisingly, a substantial proportion of comments focused on the presentation of evidence or the stylistic tone of the essay. For the Alarmed and Concerned segments, roughly a third of their statements reflected personal agreement with the essay.
In contrast, among the Dismissive, roughly a third of their statements characterized the essay as biased or alarmist. The Dismissive segment showed the largest difference between the sections of the essay 6. Using a weighted t-test, the estimated gain from the Threat to Benefits sections across all segments was 3. In short, the health benefits associated with mitigation-related policy actions were seen as clearer and more useful than the preceding threat statements in the essay.
The largest differences were seen in the Concerned segment 4. Again using a weighted t-test, the estimated increase from the Opening to Concluding sections across all segments was 3. On the whole, people who read our public health-framed essay about climate change reacted positively to the information.
People in the Alarmed and the Concerned segments demonstrated consistent positive response to the information, while people in the Cautious, Disengaged, and Doubtful segments were less consistent. Although we did not treat it as a dependent measure per se, many of the respondents in all five segments made open-ended comments about the essay that demonstrated a positive engagement with the material.
Moreover, the ascending sentence-specific evaluations between the opening and concluding sections of the essay, for the sample overall and for all of the segments excluding the Dismissive , suggest that the value of the public health frame may not be immediate, but rather may manifest more fully after people have had time to consider the evidence, especially when this evidence is presented with specific mitigation-related policy actions that are likely to have human health benefits.
One of the most intriguing findings in the study - albeit not definitive due to the order effect of the information in the essay - is the robustness of the response across all six segments to information about the health benefits of taking action to address global warming. Overall, we interpret these collective findings as providing partial support for our hypothesis that information about climate change framed in ways that encourage people to consider its human health context provides many Americans with a useful and engaging new frame of reference and that this new interpretation may broaden the personal significance and relevance of the issue.
Our methods were exploratory, however, and additional research on this question is needed. To that end, we are further analyzing the data already collected to determine more systematically which specific ideas are most and also least resonant with members of each segment.