St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Kennesaw is one of 11 members the Catholic Pilot Project. This project, whose full name is the “Laudato Si’ Action Plan Pilot Project,” came to life when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta decided to run a pilot project to support this group of parishes and schools in making environmental improvements. “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home” is Pope Francis’ encyclical about caring for the earth and each other.
Temperatures rise, ice melts and sea levels rise. That is the basic science behind the conclusion in the new book, The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, published in 2017 by Jeff Goodell. Goodell is contributing editor to Rolling Stone Magazine and author of several environmental books on climate change. Jeff visited numerous cities in the US, Europe and Asia that are facing the impacts of sea level rise now and more seriously in the future.
A major focus of Goodell’s book is the future of a submerged Miami by rising seas, and he discusses the business ramifications of this man-made catastrophe as awareness grows. Loss of real estate value due to tightening of mortgages in threatened areas, withholding of insurance, population exodus with the ultimate loss of the tax base needed to fund infrastructure improvements and fund basic services such as road repair, garbage collection, police and ambulance coverage. There is no state income tax, thus local governments are mostly funded by property taxes.
In Miami Beach, he experiences “blue sky” street flooding caused by rising sea level in combination with high tides. He discusses infrastructure needs on Miami Beach and limits on infrastructure development due to costs and concerns about scaring tourists and real estate buyers. He speaks with the biggest condo developer, Jorge Perez, and notes he does not even want to talk about sea level rise nor prepare for it fearing public awareness will hurt waterfront condo sales. “We build to code” is one answer he gave, while another was “I will be dead, so what does it matter.” The Risky Business Project, made up of Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and Henry Paulson, estimate that Florida real estate valued between $15-23 billion will be underwater by 2050. Even worse, by 2100 the value of submerged real estate could go as high as $680 billion. An evolving awareness of this real estate dilemma is happening and many owners in vulnerable areas are hedging their bets and timing when they will make their exit according to Goodell. Generally, in the coastal areas, it is the pessimists selling to the optimists.
Norfolk, Virginia is home to the US Navy Atlantic fleet at Naval Station Norfolk. It is the largest naval base in the US and employs over 75,000 military and civilians to run the base. It will soon need to be relocated due to sea level rise according to former vice president Al Gore. Due to soil subsidence and sea level rise, a rainstorm is enough to currently flood major portions of the base. As water levels rise higher, access to the base will be cut off. In the meantime, four new double decker piers are being built at a cost of $250 million. To complete all the piers, the cost swells past $500 million. Despite these improvements, the life expectancy of the base is about 20-50 years. A former commander of Naval Station Norfolk estimates that it will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to relocate the base to more protected areas. Military assets at risk around the world are staggering, the Pentagon manages over 555,000 facilities and 28 million acres of land that will be affected by sea level rise to some degree. One of the problems is that requesting funding to mitigate the impacts of climate change is not well received in the current Congress, so “code” must be used to try to sneak requests by the climate deniers. Saying piers need to be elevated due to recurring flooding instead of sea level rise is one method. The tremendous cost of addressing this current and future vital national security issue is not something that can wait.
In Rotterdam, Netherlands, the government is experienced with living near water and dealing with violent storms flooding their lands. As the result of the 1953 storm, they have constructed a series of surge gates on the Rhine River, known as the Maeslant Barrier, which close in the event of a violent storm. These were tremendously expensive ($450 million in 1997), and have been used only once in preventing flooding in the city. These like the proposed one in Venice (MOSE barrier) are built to deal with today’s storms and a slight sea level rise (a couple feet). They are not designed to address the rise (up to 9 feet according to Jim Hansen) that is expected as Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt faster than anticipated. Why not build to the higher levels? Costs and long planning periods are two reasons. To add a few more feet to these flood structures would be cost prohibitive.
During Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, 88,000 buildings were damaged by flooding and 44 people were killed resulting in $19 billion in damages and lost economic activity in New York City. You might say Hurricane Sandy changed the minds of many climate deniers there. One of the city’s resiliency efforts now includes building a 10-foot-high wall around Manhattan (informally known as the Big U), estimated at $3 billion and rising. Today, $129 billion in real estate is located in flood zones. The Big U would protect against a Hurricane Sandy level event, but not much more according to Goodell.
While talking about solutions, Goodell stresses the need to stay below the IPPC 2-degree C estimate, and momentarily delves into some geoengineering ideas such as spraying sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to cut sunlight; a topic in his book, How to Cool the Planet. In my opinion, a global ecosystem cannot be engineered, despite the conviction of some engineering firms and professionals. Ecosystems are too complex and engineering solutions are too simplistic. The two do not mix – the channelization of the Kissimmee River in central Florida and its deleterious effects on the Everglades is a prime example. Now, the US and Florida are spending billions trying to restore the Kissimmee River to some semblance of its former self.
The overall conclusion, I came away with after reading The Water Will Come is that the majority of people are just plain ignorant of what is coming. Those cities and others that are aware seem to be building or proposing solutions based on low-ball estimates of sea lever rise, without factoring in the rapidly evolving events in the Arctic and Antarctic. This is mainly due to costs, but scientific information is changing so rapidly that many cannot keep up or do not know what to believe.
In the US, the National Flood Insurance Program continues to allow homes and other buildings to be rebuilt in high hazard areas at the expense of the public. A much stricter program needs to be developed to provide disincentives for moving into high hazard flood prone areas. In 2017, natural disasters (mostly hurricanes and western fires) across the US cost $306 billion according to NOAA. Hurricane Harvey in Texas resulted in $125 billion in damages, Hurricane Maria caused $90 billion in Puerto Rico and still counting, while Hurricane Irma in Florida caused $50 billion in damages to buildings and infrastructure. An important ending thought: this is just the beginning.
Saint Anne’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta Awarded $10,000 GIPL Matching Grant for Energy Efficiency Project
During the December 2017 grant committee meeting, the committee was very impressed with the completed and on-going energy efficiency projects Saint Anne’s Episcopal Church and Preschool had completed within the past couple years. Two projects in particular are its solar panels and upgrading its insulation. 10 kWh solar arrays became operational in 2016 and its projected energy savings in 2017 are expected to be $1,600. They have also upgraded insulation in its administrative offices and day school. The insulation in the administrative offices was assisted by a $2,500 matching grant in 2016 from the GIPL Power Wise Program. In their 2017 grant application, they requested $10,000 (the maximum award) to upgrade all preschool lighting to LED as recommended in their April 4, 2016 Power Wise energy audit.
Atlanta women surprised by billboards honoring their clean-energy work
Mark Ruffalo’s ATL100 campaign applauds “Atlanta Power Women” for their leadership on clean energy
ATLANTA – Three Atlanta women got big surprises today, and if you look up as you’re driving around town, you might see them. Mark Ruffalo’s ATL100 campaign surprised these “Atlanta Power Women” by unveiling billboards honoring their leadership in advancing 100% clean energy.
The billboards underline the leading role that women are playing in making clean energy more accessible and affordable for all people, regardless of income, zip code or race.
This past Sunday, we welcomed over 125 participants at our first annual Green Team Summit. We’re celebrating that at least 57 congregations were represented at the event! We were inspired by the Keynote Presentation by Veronica Kyle and the many workshop leaders who covered engaging topics on sustainability. We are grateful to The Temple for hosting us and the Rothschild Social Justice Institute. We are convinced this was the perfect way to launch GIPL’s 15th Anniversary this year! Plans are underway for the 2019 Green Team Summit, and we hope you’ll join us.
The GIPL Team is growing strong! This past month we welcomed two stellar new team members who bring a passion for faithful action in service to all of Creation. Their particular skills will ensure that GIPL’s mission has an expanding reach into more faith communities across Georgia. Through their service here at GIPL, allow us to help your own congregation expand its Creation care work in 2018 and beyond!
Whitney Brown, Staff Associate for Communications & Administration
Whitney just completed her first year at Candler School of Theology, where she is pursuing her Masters of Divinity. She was born and raised in Atlanta and grew up in the Baptist Church. After a stint of exploring denominations, she landed in the Episcopal Church. Whitney intends to utilize her seminary education to become a licensed social worker/counselor. She has a passion for working with youth and young adults, college students exploring their faith, LGBT families, and the arts–specifically musical theatre as well as looking at connections between faith and the rest of our busy lives and world we live in. When she’s not working, she enjoys attending concerts of all sorts, baking, hiking, and binge-watching crime dramas.
Having previously worked for Agnes Scott College, Whitney is putting to good use her creative talents by coordinating GIPL’s extensive communications efforts and helping to keep the GIPL headquarters organized. Whitney calls Holy Trinity Episcopal Parish in Decatur her current church home.
Codi Norred, Staff Associate for Programs & Policy
Codi comes to GIPL with an array of experiences in local, national, and international non-profit and human rights organizations as well as a deep passion for environmental stewardship. He has been involved with environmental justice campaigns and the philosophy of sustainability since college. After working with environmental organizations such as Oakleaf Mennonite Farm and Emory’s Office of Sustainability, Codi began to see how our relationship and treatment of the environment intersects with broader systems of injustice. As a result, creation care and environmental justice are core values that stem from his faith. He believes that religious institutions have a unique ability and moral obligation to ensure creation’s continued flourishing, both for its own sake and for the sake of our global neighbors.
Codi holds a Masters of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University with concentrations in Justice, Peacebuilding, and Conflict Transformation (JPCT), Theology and Ethics, and Human Rights. Also holding a BA in Religion from Samford University, Codi is interested in working at the intersection of religion, human rights, ethics, and the environment. He’s excited to be working directly with congregations as a resource for a wide array of sustainability practices. When he’s not leading GIPL programs, Codi plays the drums on Sundays with the worship band at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Come by the GIPL office to meet these fine folks. Or, in the least, make plans to meet them at one of GIPL’s big events in January!
Every year, GIPL awards grants to fund energy efficiency projects for faith communities across Georgia. To date, we’ve awarded close to $1 million dollars in matching grants and is having a huge impact on the reduction of energy footprints of sanctuaries, temples, mosques and religious schools statewide. This program intends to give hope to congregations embarking on the sustainability journey and inspire even bolder Creation care action.
This year, 23 grant applications were received totaling over $148,000! The GIPL Grants Committee met last week to review and make final decisions on the awards. Despite the large number of submissions, the committee was able to offer awards totaling $68,000 to 15 congregations and 2 religious schools. Most of the awards were for LED lighting upgrades, while some were for WiFi thermostats, insulation and re-commissioning of existing building automation systems. Continue reading
During this time of growing uncertainty, as climate catastrophe looms, and the inequality and dysfunction of social and political systems are exposed, it is more important than ever to be in a supportive community which inspires creativity, courage, and collective action. Continue reading
MESSAGE By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the UNFCCC COP-23 Session (Bonn, Germany, November 6-17, 2017)
The 23rd session of the United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change provides occasion to recall with introspection and reflect with integrity on the state of our world, but also on where we have come and where we are headed as a global community, especially in light of the urgent call of the Paris Agreement. Continue reading