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Keynote & Panelist Abstracts


Student Panel

Kelly Hanna

Hog-Waste Hurricanes: Why the Threat of Extreme Weather Events Requires Regulations for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in North Carolina

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) present a monumental threat to water security of which most people remain unaware. In the upcoming decades, the threat will only be worsened by the impacts of climate change, unless changes can be made quickly. North Carolina is notorious for its abundance of hog CAFOs statewide, and with an abundance of CAFOs comes an abundance of animal waste. The annual amount of wet waste produced by North Carolina CAFOs is 10 billion pounds, most of which goes directly into open-air, stagnant “lagoon” pits. Many of these pits are located in prominent watersheds and within the state’s 100-year floodplain. Throughout history, North Carolina has been no stranger to catastrophic weather events like hurricanes and floods, and these lagoons are not immune to the damage that comes along with such events. Scientists have proven that extreme weather events will become more frequent and more potent as climate change becomes more of a problem, which means North Carolina water bodies will be more susceptible to frequent flooding, including CAFO lagoons. When these lagoons overflow, they contaminate other bodies of water, imposing a massive threat to water security and contribute to the spread of contaminants found in fecal matter such as pathogens and harmful antibiotic strains. Currently, there are no suitable laws in place to regulate CAFO lagoons and prevent them from flooding. Even under the Clean Water Act, flooded lagoons are considered storm water runoff and therefore qualify for exemption. In order to avoid water contamination, more stringent regulations must be implemented and other solutions must be utilized to ultimately eliminate waste lagoons entirely.

Michael Scognomillo

Global Warming’s Effect on Malaria Transmission and Adaptation Policy in the United States

Public health officials and climate scientists have predicted that climate change will cause both the increase and spread of mosquito-borne diseases. One of the deadliest of these diseases is malaria, which is caused by four Plasmodium parasites, P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae. All of these parasites use the Anopheles mosquito as a vector to infect humans; a mosquito that is found all over the world, including the US. This is of particular concern as the Plasmodium parasite and the Anopheles mosquito thrive in warm, wet climates. For the US, this puts a lot of coastal areas at risk for an epidemic as they are getting warmer and are receiving larger amounts of rain. All current modeling of malaria has, at least, the Florida coast seeing the return of this disease by 2050. Unless carbon emissions are cut back entirely, the disease will spread. The best way to slow the spread of malaria would be through mosquito control, regulating deforestation, regulating dam production, and carbon emission regulation. Both deforestation and dam building create environments that propagate Anopheles. Deforestation creates areas that allow for stagnant water, which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The same goes for dam construction as they prevent the flow of water allowing for the propagation of the mosquitos. Finally, mosquito control is still the best way to slow the spread of malaria; however, the best pesticide for mosquitos is DDT. This chemical is known for being carcinogenic and toxic to humans and a significant environmental pollutant. An alternative method of mosquito control needs to be developed.

Kaitlyn Smith

Hard Structures Are Hardly Helping! How Transfer of Development Rights Combined with Rolling Easements Can Create a Resilient Coast in New Jersey

Climate change induced sea-level rise is progressing at a higher rate along the Atlantic east coast compared to the rest of the nation. Although many have acknowledged climate change and its possible impacts, there has not been enough action to prepare for the consequences. Development continues along the coastline in areas that will eventually be claimed by the sea and cause a human health hazard, economic loss, and detrimental environmental impacts. The current structures in place to protect New Jersey from sea level rise and flooding are inadequate and harmful to the coastal ecosystem. There is currently no efficient legal framework in place to protect both coastal communities and coastal ecosystems in the long term. Adjustments to the current legal framework in addition to adopting mechanisms not yet utilized in New Jersey should be considered to improve coastal resilience and climate change preparedness. A rolling easement protects the right of citizens to access the tidal beach by prohibiting hard shoreline structures and requiring the abandonment of development once the mean high tide has reached it. Coastal retreat backlash can be prevented if rolling easements are coupled with New Jersey’s existing Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program. The TDR program moves development from biologically rich or historical areas to areas of dense development. The program encourages conservation while promoting economic growth with no direct cost to the federal government.

Opening Keynote Speaker

Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain

Addressing the Ocean and Climate Nexus:  The Time to Act is Now

This presentation addresses the central issue of the ocean and climate nexus. The ocean plays a key role in regulating the climate system producing oxygen, storing carbon, and absorbing anthropogenic heat.  In turn, changes in the climate have significant impacts on the ocean and coasts, including ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation, sea level rise, and altering currents and oceanographic conditions, all of which have accelerated significantly in recent years, resulting in significant impacts on coastal and island peoples and economies.  The wide range of impacts arising from climate change on the oceans and on peoples and economies in 183 coastal and island nations demands urgent action and investment to protect marine environments and peoples and should be addressed at all levels of policymaking to insure the health of our planet and human well-being.  The presentation frames the issues in the context of new relevant scientific evidence, such as the IPCCC report on 1.5°C and the forthcoming IPCC report on Ocean and the Cryosphere. The 1.5℃ report is a landmark report with far reaching implications for all climate change action and with special relevance to oceans and coasts. Based on Dr. Cicin-Sain’s active involvement in bringing the oceans issues to the UNFCCC through the UNFCCC Ocean Action Days and related activities, the presentation lays out an agenda for action to address the ocean and climate nexus, especially geared toward the international level– at the UNFCCC and in other international fora.


Breakfast Keynote

Prof. Jan McDonald

Australia’s Approach to Coastal Adaptation Planning: What Can We Learn from Each Other?

Australia’s population and urban infrastructure is heavily concentrated along its coasts, so it is unsurprising that addressing the risks of coastal climate impacts has become a high priority. Like the United States, coordinated coastal adaptation planning is complicated by the devolved nature of land use planning, with policy and legal contributions from three levels of government. Some jurisdictions are experimenting with new legal tools, but Australia suffers from extensive legacy development in highly exposed location. Australian states are not constrained by constitutional Takings protections, but nor are they empowered by the public interest “safety net” of the public trust doctrine. This presentation will offer an overview of progress in coastal adaptation planning across Australian states, highlighting successes, challenges, and the possibility of transferable lessons across the Pacific.

Climate Change and the Voiceless Panel

Dr. Julia Puaschunder

Future Generations, Intergenerational Equity, and Climate Justice

Climate justice is the most challenging global governance goal. This presentation features climate justice over time enabled by an innovative climate change burden sharing strategy.  Thereby the current generation is advised to mitigate climate change financed through bonds to remain financially as well off as without mitigation while improving environmental well-being of future generations.  The presentation will also feature information on intergenerational equity conscientiousness in the corporate sector, which holds enormous potential to implement harmony between generations in the corporate world.

Kevin Schneider, Esq.

The Common Law as Lever in Expanding Rights Beyond the Human

Despite the proliferation of “animal protection” laws, all nonhuman animals remain “things” incapable of legal rights, while the number of animals killed continues to rise for many species and others dwindle towards extinction. In response, an entirely new area of legal activism has emerged over the past four decades, looking at the potential of at least some nonhuman animals to be “persons” with certain fundamental rights. This talk will explore the role of the common law of habeas corpus as a potent vehicle for pursuing these claims in US courts, as the Nonhuman Rights Project has done since 2013.

Grant Wilson, Esq.

Earth Law: Restoring Nature’s Rights in the Midst of Environmental Crisis 

This presentation explores the Rights of Nature movement, including in the context of addressing the climate crisis. Rights of Nature may be the next great rights movement, following in the footsteps of civil rights, women’s rights, and others. It asserts that nature must no longer be considered mere “property” under the law to be exploited for profit until near collapse. Instead, rivers, oceans, and other natural entities should be legally recognized as possessing fundamental and inalienable rights. There is a growing body of legal precedent supporting this perspective, including in the United States. Earth Law Center’s Directing Attorney, Grant Wilson, will explain the movement and how it can help solve our global environmental crisis.

Coastal Climate Adaptation Panel

Dr. Thomas Herrington

Future Inundation Frequency of Coastal Critical Facilities

Coastal critical facilities and marine dependent industries have been historically sited along the shorelines of our coastal estuaries and bays out of the necessity for easy access to coastal waters. The close proximity of these facilities to the water exposes them to a higher risk of sea level rise impacts due to climate change. Tidal flooding is among the most evident present-day impacts of global sea level rise (SLR). Numerous studies conducted in the last half decade have determined that SLR has led to an increase in the frequency of nuisance (minor) flooding due to the reducing gap between local high tide datum elevations and ground elevations. As sea levels continue to rise concerns exists as to when more substantive impacts form tidal flooding of greater frequency and duration will regularly occur. Through the use of historic water level observations at Atlantic City it is concluded that there is a short window of 20 to 30 years within which coastally located facilities can prepare for the onset of chronic tidal flooding.

Jennifer Li, Esq.

Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Strategies and Managed Retreat

Coastal communities from Alaska to Louisiana are increasingly experiencing intensified impacts from sea-level rise, flooding, and land loss, forcing state and local governments to confront difficult questions about how to prepare their communities and adapt. Part of the solution set may include “managed retreat,” using a toolbox of laws and policies to facilitate the relocation of communities and residents out of harm’s reach. This presentation will offer an overview of how communities across the country are pursuing retreat as an adaptation strategy, including the challenges of implementing retreat in ways that minimize disruptive social consequences for communities.

Prof. Keith Rizzardi

Look Away? Water Quality Monitoring in an Era of Uncertainty

Toxic algae blooms have closed beaches and harmed communities. Yet as warming waters and hydroperiod changes alter the chemistry of our watersheds, water quality monitoring is loosely mandated, at best. After considering findings from the international community, the boundaries of federal law, the state statutory schemes, and actual data and experience in Florida, Professor Keith Rizzardi suggests the need for an update to the model water code, and an embrace of citizen monitoring initiatives.

Luncheon Keynote

Prof. Robin Craig

Warming Oceans, Coastal Diseases, and Climate Change Public Health Adaptation

Warming oceans necessitate a number of climate change adaptation strategies, from fisheries management and food security to coastal management in the face of sea-level rise and increasing numbers of more severe storms. However, a warming ocean also has implications for disease exposure. This talk will look at some of the latest science regarding the interaction of warming seas and disease prevalence along the coasts, arguing that public health preparedness must be a prominent aspect of coastal climate change adaptation.

Climate Change and Anthropogenic Eutrophication in Coastal Ecosystems Panel

Dr. Christopher J. Gobler

The Future is Now: How Climate Change Has Altered Coastal Ecosystem Function and What Can Be Done to Make these Systems More Resilient

Climate change is often considered a looming threat with effects that will manifest themselves by the end of the century. In reality, the evidence in clear that climate change has already altered the structure and function of coastal ecosystems and that these effects will only intensify over time. Harmful algal blooms pose threats to human health, coastal economies and fisheries, and their recent intensification been linked to both warming and ocean acidification. The ocean acidification that has occurred since the 20th century is already impairing the productivity of shellfisheries across the US East Coast with effects on these populations and finfish expected to become more severe in the near future. While state and local municipalities may feel helpless in the face of climate change-based damage to their coastal resources, evidence is emerging of effective, concrete steps that can be taken to make estuaries more resilient to
current and future climate change.

Dr. Alistair Hobday

Adaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Systems 

Marine ecosystems and resources in coastal regions are under a range of pressures, including climate change, coastal development, marine pollution and eutrophication. Species are changing distribution and abundance, and the businesses that depend on these species are also impacted by both long term change and extreme events. Laws providing protection or setting out management approaches are not sufficient to prevent ongoing harm and decline – adaptation is needed for marine systems. In coastal fisheries and aquaculture businesses, both directed and autonomous adaptation are beginning to occur, yet can be antagonistic and exacerbate conflict. I will also provide examples of adaptation options that have been developed and applied to iconic marine species and habitats, such as the Great Barrier Reef, marine turtles and albatross. Reframing of conservation laws is needed to better manage coastal systems under climate change, while fisheries and aquaculture policies must also be dynamic and adaptive.

Dr. Vincent Saba

Using NOAA’s High-Resolution Global Climate Model to Assess Climate Change Impacts in the Northwest Atlantic

Global climate models assessed in the IPCC’s fifth report have difficulty resolving the regional ocean circulation of the Northwest Atlantic due to coarse resolution. In order to decrease the uncertainty of climate change impacts on the region, models must improve simulations of key oceanographic features such as: the coastal separation point of the Gulf Stream, Labrador Current circulation, formation and transport of mesoscale eddies, as well as resolving topographic features that influence regional circulation (i.e. Georges Bank). Here I present the advantages and current use of a prototype, global high-resolution climate model (CM2.6) developed by NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.  Research using CM2.6 for the Northwest Atlantic has included analyses of both ocean physics and marine resources.  This model is now being widely used to project marine resource change in response to continued ocean warming in the Northwest Atlantic.  I will present an overview of this research, which will include projections of ocean circulation, fish and zooplankton distribution, and predator-prey interactions.