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Amazon to Dallas? – Part 1

Amazon has selected 20 finalist cities in its competition to place the 50,000 jobs and $5 billion intended for its second headquarters. The new campus, to be operational within 10 years, is expected to last indefinitely, which I will assume is 50 years. I compared the finalists based on 1) vulnerability to the foreseeable effects of climate change; 2) Required use of natural resources, and costs and benefits for local and general ecosystems, related to creation and operation of a large Amazon campus. The issue: which of the 20 urban sites still being considered offers the least damaging environmental path, while still accomplishing Amazon’s business objectives? Analysis yielded an answer which surprised me: Dallas, Texas. My winnowing process includes the following assumptions:

SEACOASTS: Changes already baked into Earth’s natural systems will force retreats from seacoasts within the next few decades. Despite that, most of the American public and its big decision makers still give little weight to rising oceans and more powerful storms in choices of where to live and where to locate real estate development. Conveniently we still rely on historic flood and hurricane frequency and storm power measures while greater heat in Earth’s air, water and land have made those maximums obsolete. Unfortunately those convenient blind spots, the natural human instinct to look solely at short term results, will continue for now. Houston recently got a preview of the emerging new world, the “new normal,” when an ocean storm produced 40 inches of rain in a day and unprecedented flooding. The city’s aqua world condition was aggravated by development of upstream open land; agricultural fields which formerly absorbed water had become paved suburbs. New construction had dramatically increased foreseeable rainwater runoff into Houston, but men and women in power ignored possible catastrophic floods.
Prediction: Houston, and many other low-lying American communities, will be effectively abandoned this century.

New York recently got its own wakeup call; a merged storm and hurricane flooded parts of the underground world, subways, tunnels and so forth, which the city depends on for normal activities. There are proposals to protect that metropolitan area with massive, moveable flood gates that would protect New York harbor from the ravages of a rising, warmer Atlantic Ocean.
Prediction: Such defensive efforts will be expensive, and ultimately unsuccessful, as Mother Nature rubs our collective nose in consequences of too many people consuming too much for too long. New York City and surrounding low-lying development will drown in unprecedented high waters, though the massive resources invested in the world’s capital will justify heroic efforts to save it.

MORE HEAT: NASA has ranked 2017 as the second hottest year of world average temperature since 1880, which is as far back as reliable records go. Only 2016 was hotter, and NASA adds that 17 of the 18 warmest years since 1880 have occurred in the 21st century. Our atmosphere’s greenhouse gas content and heat continues up and has momentum. On top of burning massive amounts of oil, coal and natural gas, other technologies, like destroying tropical forests, accelerate warming of Earth’s air, land and water. Powerful feedback loops are now in place: for example, higher air and water temperatures melt more polar ice, which exposes more heat-absorbing ocean water, which leads to more releases of a powerful greenhouse gas, methane, from the ocean and from tundra permafrost. Those feedback loops will not change if we continue our high-energy, high-consumption lifestyles and give only lip service to the 2015 Paris Accord’s goal of stopping global warming at less than 2 degrees Celsius since 1750. Implementation of even this consensus agreement targeting climate change has been weak. Earlier international accords, such as the 1992 Kyoto agreement, have been ineffective in stopping greenhouse gas rise.
Prediction: The 2-degree-maximum-temperature-increase goal will be violated within the next few decades, and civilizations around the world will enter into what climate scientists say is an uncertain and dangerous, hotter era.



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