"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Desertification of Arable Land’

Water Scarcity Remains Largely Marginalized In Climate Talks

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2015 at 1:08 am
Credit: WaterAid

Credit: WaterAid

Oldspeak:”I don’t understand this. Yes, reducing carbon emissions are important. But water scarcity, is at least as important. Without water, everything goes to shit.  As our high-energy/high-carbon biomass grinder of a civilization, which has depleted in 2,000 years, the amount of biomass it took 400 fucking million years to create, water is being voraciously and unsustainably consumed by it’s energy and agricultural systems. 40 % of the world is already dealing with water problems. Nearly 2 billion are drinking water contaminated with shit. With billions more humans on the way, where will the fresh water come from?! Mars?! Don’t hold your breath. Do count on water wars proliferating though. Because whether we pay attention or not, human kind is running out of fresh water. ” -OSJ

 

Written By Thalif Deen @ Inter Press Service:

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 20 2015 (IPS) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week turned the spotlight on the “record number” of extreme weather-related events the world is witnessing these days.

With an eye on the upcoming climate change talks in Paris, he warned that in the South Pacific, entire islands are at risk, largely threatened by a sea-level rise.

In southeast Brazil, they’re suffering through the worst drought in 80 years. In California, it’s the worst drought in a century – plus wildfires.

In Malawi, there are record floods. And in the Arctic, whole villages are in danger, said Kerry, speaking at the Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies on Oct.15.

Despite Kerry’s admonition, the role of water remains a relatively neglected issue in the run-up to the Paris talks, while the primary focus has been on carbon emissions.

Reinforcing the need for water security, Louise Whiting, Senior Policy Analyst on Water Security & Climate Change at UK-based WaterAid, told IPS the world’s poorest are affected most by climate change, which is felt primarily through water: too much (flooding and rising sea levels), too little (droughts), at the wrong time (unpredictable weather patterns) or of the wrong quality (too salty or polluted).

The more than 650 million poor and marginalised people who rely on unsafe water sources will be increasingly vulnerable as these sources are highly exposed to climate-related threats.

For example, she pointed out, floods can inundate tube-wells, and natural sources of fresh water can become contaminated with salty seawater.

And in the lead-up to this year’s U.N. climate talks from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris, WaterAid is calling on the international community to make water security, which includes first and foremost having access to water, sanitation and hygiene, a priority when it comes to helping poor countries adapt to climate change.

Whiting said adequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities improve people’s health, education and economic stability, making them more resilient to climate change.

‘We must also ensure that money flows from the people that caused the problem to those least able to cope with it.”

In 2010, the U.N. General Assembly voted on a resolution that recognized water and sanitation as a human right.

And U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly said that safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are crucial for poverty reduction, crucial for sustainable development and crucial for achieving any and every one of the Millennium Development Goals, which end December.

But the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders on Sep. 25, also singles out water and sanitation as key issues in the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda.

By 2030, the United Nations is hoping to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all; improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials; and substantially increasing water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity, and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.

Whiting told IPS WaterAid will be focusing on improving access to safe water and a decent toilet for poor communities.

“Through our work we increase water storage capacity and strengthen monitoring of water supplies so droughts can be detected early. Where flooding is a problem, for example in Bangladesh, we make infrastructure more robust where necessary, and we also help communities come together and assess their own vulnerability so they can demand better services from their governments”

WaterAid is also helping 29 communities across West Africa cope with water scarcity and becoming more resilient to climatic threats, particularly by helping them improve the way they manage their own water resources.

In Burkina Faso, where the dry season already lasts for up to eight months a year, many communities live a precarious existence. Climate change will only exacerbate their situation.

WaterAid is combining additional boreholes, sand dams and improvements to existing wells alongside training local people to become water experts.

These experts, she said, are revolutionising communities’ abilities to control their own water supply by measuring water levels, monitoring rainfall, pre-empting threats and spotting emerging data patterns, so they know what water can be used, at what times of day, and in what quantities.

They are also feeding that data into government monitoring schemes, to help build a more cohesive national picture of climate patterns across the country.

“Nature doesn’t care whether you are a poor subsistence farmer in Burkina Faso or an accountant in California,” Whiting said.

“Climate change will impact us all. However, it will impact those who have contributed the least to the problem the hardest.”

World leaders gathering in Paris must commit to providing the technical and financial support that is needed to help poor countries adapt to the coming changes, she declared.

According to the United Nations, about 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, but 663 million people are still without, and at least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated.

Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source has increased from 76 per cent to 91 per cent.

The U.N. also points out that water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

This article is part of IPS North America’s media project jointly with Global Cooperation Council and Devnet Tokyo.

 

 

How Resource Scarcity & Climate Change Could Produce Global Explosion

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Dark waterOldspeak:”In March, for the first time, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper listed “competition and scarcity involving natural resources” as a national security threat on a par with global terrorism, cyberwar, and nuclear proliferation.

“Many countries important to the United States are vulnerable to natural resource shocks that degrade economic development, frustrate attempts to democratize, raise the risk of regime-threatening instability, and aggravate regional tensions,” he wrote in his prepared statement for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  “Extreme weather events (floods, droughts, heat waves) will increasingly disrupt food and energy markets, exacerbating state weakness, forcing human migrations, and triggering riots, civil disobedience, and vandalism.”

There was a new phrase embedded in his comments: “resource shocks.” It catches something of the world we’re barreling toward, and the language is striking for an intelligence community that, like the government it serves, has largely played down or ignored the dangers of climate change. For the first time, senior government analysts may be coming to appreciate what energy experts, resource analysts, and scientists have long been warning about: the unbridled consumption of the world’s natural resources, combined with the advent of extreme climate change, could produce a global explosion of human chaos and conflict.  We are now heading directly into a resource-shock world.” –Michael T. Klare

Whelp. You know when the Director of National Intelligence says there’s a problem on par with global terrorism, you know shit is real. Unfortunately the trillions of dollars wasted on fighting the “Global War on Terror”, have not been similarly allocated to the global war on our planet. There’s no terrorism on a dead planet.  O_0 These are the over arching problems of our times.   Resource scarcity and climate change.  We are poisoning, wasting and running out of the only things that matter: water, arable land, and air. The resulting scarcity and deteriorating condition of our environment are THE global security problems that are driving, war, terrorism, unrest, inequality,  failing governments, famine, poverty, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum. Unbridled consumption and destruction of natural, sometimes toxic and non-renewable resources continues unabated. The “resource shock” world is fast approaching, and we are wholly unprepared. The 1% has the resources, armies & governments to protect its interests. Our survival and that of the planet is secondary. If recent events in the wake of bank riots, food riots, government protests, tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes are any indication, people, you’re on your own. Your protests will be brutally and violently suppressed. Your money is taken. Your food is used for fuel.  Your rivers, oceans and lands are used for waste dumps and left as dead zones where life cannot be supported.  Your governments are used as giant ATMs. Countless unknown species are going extinct. Countless unknown amounts of radiation, chemicals and pollutants are being constantly pumped into the biosphere.  How long before the people rise up en masse to demand sustainable and healthy change?” Ignorance is never far from repression” – Henry A. Giroux

By Michael T. Klare @ Tomdispatch:

Brace yourself. You may not be able to tell yet, but according to global experts and the U.S. intelligence community, the earth is already shifting under you.  Whether you know it or not, you’re on a new planet, a resource-shock world of a sort humanity has never before experienced.

Two nightmare scenarios — a global scarcity of vital resources and the onset of extreme climate change — are already beginning to converge and in the coming decades are likely to produce a tidal wave of unrest, rebellion, competition, and conflict.  Just what this tsunami of disaster will look like may, as yet, be hard to discern, but experts warn of “water wars” over contested river systems, global food riots sparked by soaring prices for life’s basics, mass migrations of climate refugees (with resulting anti-migrant violence), and the breakdown of social order or the collapse of states.  At first, such mayhem is likely to arise largely in Africa, Central Asia, and other areas of the underdeveloped South, but in time all regions of the planet will be affected.

To appreciate the power of this encroaching catastrophe, it’s necessary to examine each of the forces that are combining to produce this future cataclysm.

Resource Shortages and Resource Wars

Start with one simple given: the prospect of future scarcities of vital natural resources, including energy, water, land, food, and critical minerals.  This in itself would guarantee social unrest, geopolitical friction, and war.

It is important to note that absolute scarcity doesn’t have to be on the horizon in any given resource category for this scenario to kick in.  A lack of adequate supplies to meet the needs of a growing, ever more urbanized and industrialized global population is enough.  Given the wave of extinctions that scientists are recording, some resources — particular species of fish, animals, and trees, for example — will become less abundant in the decades to come, and may even disappear altogether.  But key materials for modern civilization like oil, uranium, and copper will simply prove harder and more costly to acquire, leading to supply bottlenecks and periodic shortages.

Oil — the single most important commodity in the international economy — provides an apt example.  Although global oil supplies may actually grow in the coming decades, many experts doubt that they can be expanded sufficiently to meet the needs of a rising global middle class that is, for instance, expected to buy millions of new cars in the near future.  In its 2011 World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency claimed that an anticipated global oil demand of 104 million barrels per day in 2035 will be satisfied.  This, the report suggested, would be thanks in large part to additional supplies of “unconventional oil” (Canadian tar sands, shale oil, and so on), as well as 55 million barrels of new oil from fields “yet to be found” and “yet to be developed.”

However, many analysts scoff at this optimistic assessment, arguing that rising production costs (for energy that will be ever more difficult and costly to extract), environmental opposition, warfare, corruption, and other impediments will make it extremely difficult to achieve increases of this magnitude.  In other words, even if production manages for a time to top the 2010 level of 87 million barrels per day, the goal of 104 million barrels will never be reached and the world’s major consumers will face virtual, if not absolute, scarcity.

Water provides another potent example.  On an annual basis, the supply of drinking water provided by natural precipitation remains more or less constant: about 40,000 cubic kilometers.  But much of this precipitation lands on Greenland, Antarctica, Siberia, and inner Amazonia where there are very few people, so the supply available to major concentrations of humanity is often surprisingly limited.  In many regions with high population levels, water supplies are already relatively sparse.  This is especially true of North Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East, where the demand for water continues to grow as a result of rising populations, urbanization, and the emergence of new water-intensive industries.  The result, even when the supply remains constant, is an environment of increasing scarcity.

Wherever you look, the picture is roughly the same: supplies of critical resources may be rising or falling, but rarely do they appear to be outpacing demand, producing a sense of widespread and systemic scarcity.  However generated, a perception of scarcity — or imminent scarcity — regularly leads to anxiety, resentment, hostility, and contentiousness.  This pattern is very well understood, and has been evident throughout human history.

In his book Constant Battles, for example, Steven LeBlanc, director of collections for Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, notes that many ancient civilizations experienced higher levels of warfare when faced with resource shortages brought about by population growth, crop failures, or persistent drought. Jared Diamond, author of the bestseller Collapse, has detected a similar pattern in Mayan civilization and the Anasazi culture of New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon.  More recently, concern over adequate food for the home population was a significant factor in Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and Germany’s invasions of Poland in 1939 and the Soviet Union in 1941, according to Lizzie Collingham, author of The Taste of War.

Although the global supply of most basic commodities has grown enormously since the end of World War II, analysts see the persistence of resource-related conflict in areas where materials remain scarce or there is anxiety about the future reliability of supplies.  Many experts believe, for example, that the fighting in Darfur and other war-ravaged areas of North Africa has been driven, at least in part, by competition among desert tribes for access to scarce water supplies, exacerbated in some cases by rising population levels.

“In Darfur,” says a 2009 report from the U.N. Environment Programme on the role of natural resources in the conflict, “recurrent drought, increasing demographic pressures, and political marginalization are among the forces that have pushed the region into a spiral of lawlessness and violence that has led to 300,000 deaths and the displacement of more than two million people since 2003.”

Anxiety over future supplies is often also a factor in conflicts that break out over access to oil or control of contested undersea reserves of oil and natural gas.  In 1979, for instance, when the Islamic revolution in Iran overthrew the Shah and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Washington began to fear that someday it might be denied access to Persian Gulf oil.  At that point, President Jimmy Carter promptly announced what came to be called the Carter Doctrine.  In his 1980 State of the Union Address, Carter affirmed that any move to impede the flow of oil from the Gulf would be viewed as a threat to America’s “vital interests” and would be repelled by “any means necessary, including military force.”

In 1990, this principle was invoked by President George H.W. Bush to justify intervention in the first Persian Gulf War, just as his son would use it, in part, to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  Today, it remains the basis for U.S. plans to employ force to stop the Iranians from closing the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic waterway connecting the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean through which about 35% of the world’s seaborne oil commerce  passes.

Recently, a set of resource conflicts have been rising toward the boiling point between China and its neighbors in Southeast Asia when it comes to control of offshore oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea.  Although the resulting naval clashes have yet to result in a loss of life, a strong possibility of military escalation exists.  A similar situation has also arisen in the East China Sea, where China and Japan are jousting for control over similarly valuable undersea reserves.  Meanwhile, in the South Atlantic Ocean, Argentina and Britain are once again squabbling over the Falkland Islands (called Las Malvinas by the Argentinians) because oil has been discovered in surrounding waters.

By all accounts, resource-driven potential conflicts like these will only multiply in the years ahead as demand rises, supplies dwindle, and more of what remains will be found in disputed areas.  In a 2012 study titled Resources Futures, the respected British think-tank Chatham House expressed particular concern about possible resource wars over water, especially in areas like the Nile and Jordan River basins where several groups or countries must share the same river for the majority of their water supplies and few possess the wherewithal to develop alternatives.  “Against this backdrop of tight supplies and competition, issues related to water rights, prices, and pollution are becoming contentious,” the report noted.  “In areas with limited capacity to govern shared resources, balance competing demands, and mobilize new investments, tensions over water may erupt into more open confrontations.”

Heading for a Resource-Shock World

Tensions like these would be destined to grow by themselves because in so many areas supplies of key resources will not be able to keep up with demand.  As it happens, though, they are not “by themselves.”  On this planet, a second major force has entered the equation in a significant way.  With the growing reality of climate change, everything becomes a lot more terrifying.

Normally, when we consider the impact of climate change, we think primarily about the environment — the melting Arctic ice cap or Greenland ice shield, rising global sea levels, intensifying storms, expanding deserts, and endangered or disappearing species like the polar bear.  But a growing number of experts are coming to realize that the most potent effects of climate change will be experienced by humans directly through the impairment or wholesale destruction of habitats upon which we rely for food production, industrial activities, or simply to live.  Essentially, climate change will wreak its havoc on us by constraining our access to the basics of life: vital resources that include food, water, land, and energy.  This will be devastating to human life, even as it significantly increases the danger of resource conflicts of all sorts erupting.

We already know enough about the future effects of climate change to predict the following with reasonable confidence:

* Rising sea levels will in the next half-century erase many coastal areas, destroying large cities, critical infrastructure (including roads, railroads, ports, airports, pipelines, refineries, and power plants), and prime agricultural land.

* Diminished rainfall and prolonged droughts will turn once-verdant croplands into dust bowls, reducing food output and turning millions into “climate refugees.”

* More severe storms and intense heat waves will kill crops, trigger forest fires, cause floods, and destroy critical infrastructure.

No one can predict how much food, land, water, and energy will be lost as a result of this onslaught (and other climate-change effects that are harder to predict or even possibly imagine), but the cumulative effect will undoubtedly be staggering.  In Resources Futures, Chatham House offers a particularly dire warning when it comes to the threat of diminished precipitation to rain-fed agriculture.  “By 2020,” the report says, “yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%” in some areas.  The highest rates of loss are expected to be in Africa, where reliance on rain-fed farming is greatest, but agriculture in China, India, Pakistan, and Central Asia is also likely to be severely affected.

Heat waves, droughts, and other effects of climate change will also reduce the flow of many vital rivers, diminishing water supplies for irrigation, hydro-electricity power facilities, and nuclear reactors (which need massive amounts of water for cooling purposes).  The melting of glaciers, especially in the Andes in Latin America and the Himalayas in South Asia, will also rob communities and cities of crucial water supplies.  An expected increase in the frequency of hurricanes and typhoons will pose a growing threat to offshore oil rigs, coastal refineries, transmission lines, and other components of the global energy system.

The melting of the Arctic ice cap will open that region to oil and gas exploration, but an increase in iceberg activity will make all efforts to exploit that region’s energy supplies perilous and exceedingly costly.  Longer growing seasons in the north, especially Siberia and Canada’s northern provinces, might compensate to some degree for the desiccation of croplands in more southerly latitudes.  However, moving the global agricultural system (and the world’s farmers) northward from abandoned farmlands in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, India, China, Argentina, and Australia would be a daunting prospect.

It is safe to assume that climate change, especially when combined with growing supply shortages, will result in a significant reduction in the planet’s vital resources, augmenting the kinds of pressures that have historically led to conflict, even under better circumstances.  In this way, according to the Chatham House report, climate change is best understood as a “threat multiplier… a key factor exacerbating existing resource vulnerability” in states already prone to such disorders.

Like other experts on the subject, Chatham House’s analysts claim, for example, that climate change will reduce crop output in many areas, sending global food prices soaring and triggering unrest among those already pushed to the limit under existing conditions.  “Increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as droughts, heat waves, and floods, will also result in much larger and frequent local harvest shocks around the world… These shocks will affect global food prices whenever key centers of agricultural production area are hit — further amplifying global food price volatility.”  This, in turn, will increase the likelihood of civil unrest.

When, for instance, a brutal heat wave decimated Russia’s wheat crop during the summer of 2010, the global price of wheat (and so of that staple of life, bread) began an inexorable upward climb, reaching particularly high levels in North Africa and the Middle East.  With local governments unwilling or unable to help desperate populations, anger over impossible-to-afford food merged with resentment toward autocratic regimes to trigger the massive popular outburst we know as the Arab Spring.

Many such explosions are likely in the future, Chatham House suggests, if current trends continue as climate change and resource scarcity meld into a single reality in our world.  A single provocative question from that group should haunt us all: “Are we on the cusp of a new world order dominated by struggles over access to affordable resources?”

For the U.S. intelligence community, which appears to have been influenced by the report, the response was blunt.  In March, for the first time, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper listed “competition and scarcity involving natural resources” as a national security threat on a par with global terrorism, cyberwar, and nuclear proliferation.

“Many countries important to the United States are vulnerable to natural resource shocks that degrade economic development, frustrate attempts to democratize, raise the risk of regime-threatening instability, and aggravate regional tensions,” he wrote in his prepared statement for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  “Extreme weather events (floods, droughts, heat waves) will increasingly disrupt food and energy markets, exacerbating state weakness, forcing human migrations, and triggering riots, civil disobedience, and vandalism.”

There was a new phrase embedded in his comments: “resource shocks.” It catches something of the world we’re barreling toward, and the language is striking for an intelligence community that, like the government it serves, has largely played down or ignored the dangers of climate change. For the first time, senior government analysts may be coming to appreciate what energy experts, resource analysts, and scientists have long been warning about: the unbridled consumption of the world’s natural resources, combined with the advent of extreme climate change, could produce a global explosion of human chaos and conflict.  We are now heading directly into a resource-shock world.

Michael Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left, just published in paperback by Picador.  A documentary movie based on his book Blood and Oil can be previewed and ordered at http://www.bloodandoilmovie.com. You can follow Klare on Facebook by clicking here.

“Monsters Behind The Door”: Top Ten Dreadful Effects Of Climate Change

In Uncategorized on April 10, 2013 at 11:08 am

https://i0.wp.com/climate.nasa.gov/system/content_pages/main_images/normPage-8.jpgOldspeak: “Radical changes in our climate are happening right now. As time passes and behavior is not significantly altered, conditions will worsen. Severe and unpredictable weather, intense floods, parched-land droughts, ultra-fierce tornadoes, super hurricanes, loss of the world’s glacial water towers, dying marine life, and rising seas, will occur with increasing frequency and intensity. Our ability to produce clean food water and air will degrade. Resource wars will proliferate. Civilization as we know it will break down. These things are pretty much guaranteed to occur if we continue on our current path. President Obama is touring to country exhorting people to push their elected officials to vote on gun control, trotting out victims of gun violence, earnestly reminding people not to forget about Newtown.  President Obama should be touring to country exhorting people to push their elected official to radically change our energy policy to renewable energy production. He should be reminding people not to forget about Victims of  Sandy. Many communities are still to this day destroyed, disjointed and decaying as a result of Supercane Sandy, yet Obama and Corporate Media remain silent on Climate Change and real, urgent transition to Green Energy. Still maintaining support for toxic energy like unnatural gas, nuclear, coal and oil. There is no gun control on dead planet. The economy doesn’t matter if we can’t breathe. Debt is irrelevant if we can’t eat or drink. Climate change is the preeminent threat to global peace, security, and health. It must be recognized as such before it’s too late.”

By Robert Hunziker @ Dissident Voice:

ur planet is already showing the stress of radical climate change, affecting the Earth right before our eyes. The climate is different from when we were kids, and it is changing more rapidly than ever before. Accordingly, the underlying thesis of this article is that radical climate change is/will be fait accompli with consequences so far reaching that everything we are accustomed to today will change tomorrow. The only question going forward is how the drama of this transformation impacts the planet and human lifestyle as well as its influence on the institution of capitalism.

To that end, it is doubtful today’s younger generations will recognize tomorrow’s world. Several trends that manifest the consequences of radical climate change already exist. Hence, extrapolating climate change’s impact into the future is not a guessing game. Rather, it is the intention herein to follow those discernable trends to judge what the world of tomorrow will look like.

Radical climate change is severe and unpredictable weather, intense floods, parched-land droughts, ultra-fierce tornadoes, super hurricanes, loss of the world’s glacial water towers, dying marine life, and rising seas, which over time will cascade into a fractured civilization with hordes of tribal groups roaming the planet in search of sustenance, similar to life under the emergence of Cro-Magnon 40-50,000 years ago.

The Top Ten ListNumber 10: The End of Alpine Skiing

There are 2,100 ski resorts worldwide, and in the United States alone snow skiing is a $12 billion industry that employs 211,900 people. However, “Winter as we know it is on borrowed time,” according to Elizabeth Burakowski, co-author of a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Protect Our Winters, a climate-themed research group.1 Last winter was the fourth-warmest on record since 1896 with the third-lowest snow cover.

As a result of declining snow lines, the mayor of Biot, France made the decision, in 2012, to abandon the cable towers of the ski resort Drouzin-le-Mont, converting the ski area to low-impact alpine activities. “Medium-altitude resorts will have no future in 10-15 years because of climate change,” says local Biot official Jean-Yves Moraccchini.2

The iconic Chacaltaya Ski Lodge (Bolivia), since 1932, the world’s highest ski area at 17,785 feet, is permanently closed. The glacier is gone.

A United Nations Environment Programme predicts that more than half of the ski resorts in France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria will be forced out of business over the next few decades as the snow line rises.

The average number of snow days over the last two decades of winters is lower than at any time since records began over 100 years ago.

Number 9: Glacial Lake Outbursts Floods Destroy Villages and Towns

The rapidity of glacial melt brings in its wake Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (“GLOFs”), which unexpectedly, and with amazing suddenness, destroy entire communities.

For example, “10 Killed, 60 missing as Glacial Lake Burst in Nepal.”3 Also, in mid 2010 in Peru a large slab of ice the size of several football fields broke off a glacier, plunging into a lake that created a tsunami-like wave 75 feet high, flooding four towns.4

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development has identified 200 potentially dangerous glacial lakes in the Himalayan region of Nepal, China, Bhutan, India, and Pakistan. The downhill communities are at risk of destruction, without notice.

The increasing frequency of GLOFs matches CO2 levels on a graph with both events sloping upwards in lock-step fashion over the past 70 years. Thus, there is a direct correlation between increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere with the frequency of GLOFs. The result is: Not only is the water source for millions of people disappearing with the loss of glaciers; indeed, entire villages, towns and cities are at risk of cascading GLOFs. It’s a double whammy!

Number 8: Desertification of the World’s Arable Land

According to the World Meteorological Organization, carbon dioxide (CO2)-induced climate change and desertification remain inextricably linked because of feedbacks between land degradation and precipitation.

As a result of climate change’s impact on desertification, there are already regions of the world where environmental refugees are prevalent. The Asian Development Bank believes there may have been as many as 42 million environmental migrants over the past two years in Asia alone — a result of extreme weather events.5

The World Preservation Foundation claims that not only is climate change accelerating the rate at which deserts are growing, but desertification itself also contributes to climate change. When previously fertile land turns to desert, carbon stored in the drying land vegetation and soil is released into the atmosphere.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reports that 20% of arid regions have already become desertified, placing 2 billion people at risk of starvation, unless they become environmental migrants.

China’s Minister of Forestry Zhao Shucong says that desertification poses “the greatest challenge of our generation… more than 400 million people are struggling to cope with water shortages, unproductive land and the breakdown of ecological systems caused by rising temperatures, overgrazing….”6

In China 1,000 square miles of arable land is turning to desertification every year. Elsewhere, regions of Africa are experiencing the same problem to an extreme degree.

Number 7: Embedded Droughts

A recent study at Rutgers University and the University of Wisconsin ties rapid Arctic climate change to high-impact, extreme weather events in the U.S. and in Europe. Rapid warming of the Arctic, which is warming two times (2xs) faster than the planet as a whole, is altering the course of the jet streams, which, in turn, ‘wavier’ with steeper troughs and higher ridges. In this manner, weather systems throughout the northern extremes progress more slowly, bringing long-duration extreme events like droughts, floods and heat waves. This trend has been distinctly noticeable in Europe and North America the past few years, and it threatens the world’s food supply.

For example, a slow-moving jet stream was behind a ‘blocking weather pattern’ with a massive dome of high pressure across the U.S. that led to the remarkable March 2012 heat wave that sent temperatures in the Midwest and Northeast soaring into the 80s, as winter turned to summer overnight. Furthermore, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture claims the ensuing 2012 drought was the worst since the 1950s.

Embedded droughts have become worldwide events these past few years. In August 2010, Russian PM Vladimir Putin shocked the world by announcing a temporary ban on exports of grain and grain products from Russia because of the country’s worst drought in 40 years. In August 2012, Russia, once again, dramatically cut grain forecasts because of drought-stricken eastern growing regions.

Syria, a major part of the breadbasket of the Middle East, has suffered a series of serious droughts. From 2006-2011 up to 60% of Syria’s land experienced one of the worst long-term droughts and most severe set of crop failures in the history of the Fertile Crescent.

The past year India experienced its second major drought in four years. As a result, at times a billion people were without power, experiencing the largest power outage in world history as low hydropower resources and a strained power grid failed.

“From Ukraine to Yellowstone, in Pakistan and Kazakhstan, the skies have stayed clear, and the earth has been parched.”7

Number 6: Unprecedented Damage to Infrastructure

Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company, says climate change has contributed to a five-fold increase in weather-related disasters since 1980.

An extensive study conducted by DARA, headquartered in Madrid, Geneva, and Washington, D.C. and Climate Vulnerable Forum (a global partnership of 11 founding countries) concluded: “Climate change is already contributing to the deaths of nearly 400,000 people a year and costing the world more than $1.2 trillion, wiping 1.6% annually from global GDP.”8

The University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Colorado at Boulder claim damage from climate change will add $3.6 to $6.1 billion to public infrastructure costs in Alaska alone over the next two decades. Thawing permafrost, flooding and coastal erosion are the culprits behind the damage to roads, ports, public buildings, and pipelines, which are especially vulnerable.

Global reinsurance firm Aon Benfield / London recently concluded the U.S. had the world’s top two costliest natural disasters in 2012. Hurricane Sandy cost $65 billion and the U.S. drought cost $35 billion. Both events are demonstrative of extreme climate change characterized by severity of weather as well as atypical weather patterns. These are not normalized weather patterns like in years past.

Number 5: The Splintering of Nation-States

The U.S. military is already aware of the impact climate change will have on the security of nations as conflicts brew over competition for water, food, and land. A National Research Council Report, “National Security Implications of Climate Change for U.S. Naval Forces,” deals with the prospect of large groups of climate refugees migrating across borders.

Bangladesh is an example of a splintering nation-state as land degradation, frequent storms, floods, and droughts have caused 12-to-17 million Bangladeshis to move to India the past few decades. The arrival of the environmental immigrants in the 1980s led to extreme acts of violence.

The United States is a great example of how climate change can impact a nation. In the 1930s in the Great Plains prolonged drought conditions and dust storms caused 2.5 million people to pull up stakes and leave. In California, the immigrants faced beatings, and police were sent to the California border to prevent their entry.

In 1969 the arrival of environmental migrants from El Salvador to Honduras led to war between the two countries.

It is estimated that, because of drought, land degradation, and water scarcity 600,000-800,000 Mexican environmental migrants move to U.S. urban centers annually.

Climate change degradation of water and food sources is almost guaranteed to intensify environmental migrations within nation-states as well as between nation-states in ever-larger numbers, e.g., where will the hundreds of millions who depend upon the Tibetan glaciers for water migrate when the glaciers melt away? Will hordes of people follow the path of early humans by crossing the Bering Strait to the United States?

Number 4: The Demise of Capitalism

Radical climate change has already demonstrated a proclivity to coalesce groups of people together in opposition to capitalistic tendencies. For example, the Ecosocialist Contingent sponsored an event that brought tens of thousands together in Washington DC to the February 2013 Forward on Climate Rally opposed to Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the archetype symbol of climatic damage that has nearly 100% corporate sponsorship.

Journalist Naomi Klein in an interview with Bill Moyers said: “We can’t leave everything to the free market. In fact, climate change is, I would argue, the greatest free-market failure. This is what happens when you don’t regulate corporations and you allow them to treat the atmosphere as an open sewer.”9

Klein believes one of the answers to the climate change menace is community control over the problem, not central planning and not capitalism per se. For example, the two countries where wind farms have been most successful are Denmark and Germany where community movements demanded renewable energy as a community-controlled business. Thus, a sense of ownership by the people becomes a building block for success. German Community Wind Farms are collectively owned.

Tellingly, where socialistic tendencies prevail, renewable resources thrive over fossil fuels. This fact is demonstrative of the inherent failure of capitalism’s free market solutions to climatic problems. The free market has, in fact, exasperated the climate problem whereas collectivism fixes the problem.

Capitalism does not fit in a world where the most basic resources are threatened. It has largely ignored renewables because of concerns over short-term costs as compared to fossil fuels in spite of the long-term damage to the environment.

China is a prime example of capitalism gone amuck. They discovered state capitalism in the 1980s, and already China will soon account for one-half of all the coal burned on the planet and 30% of worldwide CO2 emissions. As a result, in January 2013 the citizens of Beijing wore surgeon masks on the streets and at work during the day.

Ever since China discovered the wealth effect of capitalism, worldwide CO2 emissions have been on a tear and are at 393 ppm today, the highest they’ve been in millions of years when Antarctica’s coastline turned green with stunted trees. Antarctica contains 85% of all the world’s ice, and if only a portion of it melts, New York City will be under water. This is the ultimate risk of too much CO2 spewed into the atmosphere, and unchecked capitalism in China may prove the point.

Capitalism’s penchant for profits does not fit a future that is dependent upon careful husbandry of the planet. Over time, the capitalistic model is destined to fail as the planet huffs and puffs for clean air, and similar to late 18th century France, humanity will likely overrun the ruling capitalistic order as climate change increasingly rears its ugly head.

Number 3: Marine Life Extinction

Imagine a planet without marine life.

It may be coming this century.

Ever since the industrial revolution, the oceans have absorbed 30% of global carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, excessive levels of CO2 in the oceans inhibit marine species from extracting calcium carbonate from the water. This is similar, in a twisted manner, to the suffocation experienced by people walking the streets in Beijing, but marine life cannot wear protective masks nor can they stop acidification of their environment, which is caused by excessive levels of CO2.

Ocean acidification today is at least 10 times faster than at any other time in history, according to Dr. Andy Ridgwell, University of Bristol, School of Geographical Sciences.10

As a result, scientists are already seeing the early signs of marine life extinction. For example, scientists at Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eliat, Israel have studied reefs along the Israeli coast of the Mediterranean Sea and found alarming evidence that the primary ‘builder’ of the reefs has recently gone extinct. The problem is acidification of the seawater.

Another example of the acidification conundrum: Pteropods are a free-swimming creature, a tiny snail with a protective shell that is directly threatened by acidification in the oceans. Pteropods are crucial to the marine food chain, eaten by animals ranging from tiny krill to giant whales and serve as an important food source for salmon, mackerel, herring, and cod. Scientists have already discovered Pteropods with weakened protective shells. The problem is: They cannot mature if their shell development is impaired by acidification in the oceans.

According to Dr. Alex Rogers, Scientific Director of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, OneWorld (UK) Video, August 2011: “I think if we continue on the current trajectory, we are looking at a mass extinction of marine species even if only coral reef systems go down, which it looks like they will certainly by the end of the century. That would, in my mind, constitute a mass extinction event… up to 9 million species are associated just with coral reefs…many of the symptoms that we are seeing of change in the oceans indicate that the effects will be much wider than coral reef existence… rising temperatures are already changing distribution of organisms….”

One hundred million tonnes of fish are eaten worldwide each year. Directly, or indirectly, the livelihood of over 500 million people depends upon fish. What happens if coral reefs and nine million species of fish go extinct? The resulting environmental migration effect will overwhelm the planet with hordes of desperate people, and personal wealth will suddenly be worth about as much as an aristocrat’s head in France, circa 1793.

Number 2: Loss of World’s Glacial Water Towers

The water towers of the world are melting… flat-out!

America’s Columbia Glacier, which flows into Prince William Sound, Alaska, has retreated 13 miles up the fjord over the past 30 years, and its current rate of shrinkage is 50 feet per day, or 8 times faster than 30 years ago. It is a dying glacier similar to glaciers all across the planet, like the Andes’ glaciers of South America where photos taken of the glaciers in 1983 as of today show half of the glaciers are gone. The World Bank claims over 100 million people are at risk because of the melting glaciers of the Andes, losing their water, irrigation for crops, and hydropower. This is happening much faster than climatologists ever thought possible.

Furthermore, contemplate this: The Tibetan plateau’s adjoining mountain ranges, including the Himalayas, the Karakoram, Pamir, and the Qilian consist of a vast mountainous terrain known as the Third Pole, containing 100,000 square kilometers of glaciers supplying water to more than one billion people. According to an article in Nature magazine, July 2012, Yao Tandong, a glaciologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Tibetan Research in Beijing: “The majority of the glaciers have been shrinking rapidly across the studied area in the past 30 years,” ever since China discovered state capitalism.

Furthermore, according to Cheng Haining, senior engineer at Qinghai Province’s Surveying and Mapping Bureau, seventy percent (70%) of the glaciers at the headwaters of the Lancang River (one of SE Asia’s most important rivers, known as the “Danube of the East”) have disappeared. Another study by the province shows 80 glaciers that provide water for the Yellow River (the “mother river” and the cradle of Chinese civilization) are shrinking, and the Yangtze River (responsible for 20% of China’s economy) is threatened as well. Here’s why: Meteorological stations in the area show temperatures are at 50-year highs.
What happens when the glaciers disappear? What happens to commercial traffic on the ‘Danube of the East’ when the final 30% of the headwater glaciers go away?

More importantly, the water supply for agricultural irrigation in both India (60%) and China (80%) is largely dependent upon the mountain glaciers. How will they irrigate their crops when the glaciers are gone?

The major rivers of Europe, like the Rhone River, depend upon glacial headwaters… but they are all melting away!

Number 1: Flooding of Coastal Cities and Island Nations

Biblical flooding will come to pass…

If the worst case of climate change happens, the great coastal cities of the world, like Miami, will be under water, but when it happens remains the big unknown; however, this worst case scenario also assumes the occurrence of a tipping point, which paleoclimatic history shows rapid and widespread changes have occurred repeatedly in the past. These tipping points of the climate can be triggered by an ice-sheet collapse (a distinct possibility in Antarctica), an extensive change in circulation of the North Atlantic Ocean, a rapid burst of methane (e.g. thawing Arctic permafrost), or a sudden shift in rainfall patterns. Once a tipping point commences, it is reminiscent of the Titanic’s initial collision with the iceberg; thereafter, there is no stopping the consequences.

Here is what Dr. Richard Alley, Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences, Penn State University testified to the U.S. House of Representatives, Nov. 17, 2010: “Melting of all of the world’s mountain glaciers and small ice caps might raise sea level by about 1 foot (0.3 m), but melting of the great ice sheets would raise sea level by just over 200 feet (more than 60m). We do not expect to see melting of most of that ice, but even a relatively small change in the ice sheets could matter to the world’s coasts….”

However, Dr. Alley also cautioned the members of Congress that human-caused climate change might force the Earth to cross one of its tipping points. Then, all bets are off!

Catastrophe could occur quickly, according to Professor Stephen Pacala, Director, Princeton Environmental Institute, “There is a class of almost instantaneous climate change that I call ‘monsters behind the door.’ I call them ‘monsters’ because were they to occur today, they would be catastrophic.”11

It is a fair statement that, if humankind continues to spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at ever-faster rates (similar to what is, in fact, actually happening), a tipping point is on the horizon. As an historical example of this phenomenon, Scientists at UCLA and Cambridge, in a joint research effort (2009), identified a period of time millions of years ago when CO2 in the atmosphere ran 400-to-600 parts per million (ppm) for a sustained period of time, causing temperatures to run 5-10 degrees F higher than today (similar to Greenland today, where temperatures are already running 5 degrees F higher), the Arctic was ice-free, and both Greenland and Antarctica were largely ice-free. Sea levels were 75-100 feet higher.

As of today, CO2 in the atmosphere is at 393 ppm, and on the rise, and already at its highest level in millions of years!

Solution

The solution is worldwide conversion from fossil fuels to renewables.

This massive conversion program will lead to the most powerful economic growth ever achieved, with full employment!

And, it would rescue the planet from impending violent upheaval.

  1. Joanna M. Foster, “Warming Ski Slopes, Shriveled Revenues,” New York Times, Dec. 7, 2012. []
  2. Agence France-Presse, “Climate Change may Force French Ski Resort to Shut Down,” The Raw Story, July 31, 2012. []
  3. The Hindu, May 5, 2012. []
  4. “Disappearing Lakes,” Newsweek, Jan. 1, 2011. []
  5. Tiermey Smith, “Climate Change, Desertification and Migration: Connecting the Dots,” RTCC (Responding to Climate Change), Aug. 14, 2012. []
  6. Rita Alvarez Tudela, “Fighting Desertification in China,” Aljazeera, Dec. 8, 2012. []
  7. Tim Lister, “The Driest Season: Global Drought Causes Major Worries,” CNN, Sept. 8, 2012. []
  8. Fiona Harvey- Environmental Correspondent, ”Climate Change is Already Damaging Global Economy, Report Finds”, Guardian, September 25, 2012. []
  9. Bill Moyers, “Journalist Naomi Klein on Capitalism and Climate Change,” Moyers & Company, Nov. 19, 2012. []
  10. Carl Zimmer, “An Ominous Warning on the Effects of Ocean Acidification,” Environment 360, Yale University, Feb. 15, 2010. []
  11. Documentary on Climatic Change – Global Warming, narrated by Tom Brokaw, Discovery Channel, 2006. []

Robert Hunziker (MA in economic history at DePaul University, Chicago) is a former hedge fund manager and now a professional independent negotiator for worldwide commodity actual transactions and a freelance writer for progressive publications as well as business journals. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.

Message from Mexico: U.S. Is Polluting Water Reservoirs It May Someday Need to Drink From

In Uncategorized on January 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Oldspeak:”U.S. environmental regulators have long assumed that reservoirs located thousands of feet underground will be too expensive to tap. So even as population increases, temperatures rise, and traditional water supplies dry up, American scientists and policy-makers often exempt these deep aquifers from clean water protections and allow energy and mining companies to inject pollutants directly into them. the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued more than 1,500 permits for companies to pollute such aquifers in some of the driest regions. Frequently, the reason was that the water lies too deep to be worth protecting. –Abrahm Lustgarten. From the Department of Galatically Stupid Policy Planning. The U.S. government has allowed ancient, unspoiled sources of an essential building block of life crucial to our survival;  water,  to be poisoned by short-sighted, profit-polluted energy corporations.  These industries ironically use untold trillions of gallons of water, to extract refine death energy. This despite devastating droughts through the summer of 2012 that rendered half of U.S. counties “natural” disaster areas. Despite reports of perpetual drought becoming an increasingly intractable problem in the coming decades, with scientists predicting the devastating conditions of “The Dust Bowl” in the 1950 becoming the new normal. The U.S. President takes every oppurtunity he gets to tout 100 years of energy independence to be gained from drilling for “natural” gas, but never mentions how much precious and irreplaceable water is lost to secure this “independence”. What will it take for policy makers to understand that they’re lining their pockets with riches begotten of  devolution, death, destruction? What will it take to make them understand that there is no prosperity, no power, no prestige, on a dead planet? “Ignorance Is Strength”, “Profit Is Paramount”

By Abrahm Lustgarten @ Pro Publica:

Mexico City plans to draw drinking water from a mile-deep aquifer, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The Mexican effort challenges a key tenet of U.S. clean water policy: that water far underground can be intentionally polluted because it will never be used.

U.S. environmental regulators have long assumed that reservoirs located thousands of feet underground will be too expensive to tap. So even as population increases, temperatures rise, and traditional water supplies dry up, American scientists and policy-makers often exempt these deep aquifers from clean water protections and allow energy and mining companies to inject pollutants directly into them.

As ProPublica has reported in an ongoing investigation about America’s management of its underground water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued more than 1,500 permits for companies to pollute such aquifers in some of the driest regions. Frequently, the reason was that the water lies too deep to be worth protecting.

But Mexico City’s plans to tap its newly discovered aquifer suggest that America is poisoning wells it might need in the future.

Indeed, by the standard often applied in the U.S., American regulators could have allowed companies to pump pollutants into the aquifer beneath Mexico City.

For example, in eastern Wyoming, an analysis showed that it would cost half a million dollars to construct a water well into deep, but high-quality aquifer reserves. That, plus an untested assumption that all the deep layers below it could only contain poor-quality water, led regulators to allow a uranium mine to inject more than 200,000 gallons of toxic and radioactive waste every day into the underground reservoirs.

But south of the border, worsening water shortages have forced authorities to look ever deeper for drinking water.

Today in Mexico City, the world’s third-largest metropolis, the depletion of shallow reservoirs is causing the ground to sink in, iconic buildings to teeter, and underground infrastructure to crumble. The discovery of the previously unmapped deep reservoir could mean that water won’t have to be rationed or piped into Mexico City from hundreds of miles away.

According to the Times report, Mexican authorities have already drilled an exploratory well into the aquifer and are working to determine the exact size of the reservoir. They are prepared to spend as much as $40 million to pump and treat the deeper water, which they say could supply some of Mexico City’s 20 million people for as long as a century.

Scientists point to what’s happening in Mexico City as a harbinger of a world in which people will pay more and dig deeper to tap reserves of the one natural resource human beings simply cannot survive without.

“Around the world people are increasingly doing things that 50 years ago nobody would have said they’d do,” said Mike Wireman, a hydrogeologist with the EPA who also works with the World Bank on global water supply issues.

Wireman points to new research in Europe finding water reservoirs several miles beneath the surface — far deeper than even the aquifer beneath Mexico City — and says U.S. policy has been slow to adapt to this new understanding.

“Depth in and of itself does not guarantee anything — it does not guarantee you won’t use it in the future, and it does not guarantee that that it is not” a source of drinking water, he said.

If Mexico City’s search for water seems extreme, it is not unusual. In aquifers Denver relies on, drinking water levels have dropped more than 300 feet. Texas rationed some water use last summer in the midst of a record-breaking drought. And Nevada — realizing that the water levels in one of the nation’s largest reservoirs may soon drop below the intake pipes — is building a drain hole to sap every last drop from the bottom.

“Water is limited, so they are really hustling to find other types of water,” said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “It’s kind of a grim future, there’s no two ways about it.”

In a parched world, Mexico City is sending a message: Deep, unknown potential sources of drinking water matter, and the U.S. pollutes them at its peril.