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

Posts Tagged ‘Perpetual Drought’

Pumped Dry: Global Water Crisis Widespread And Worsening With Continued Depletion Of Groundwater

In Uncategorized on December 11, 2015 at 8:11 pm
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Kansas Farmer Jay Garetson said: “Thinking about Jared and the challenges that his generation faces, that’s what leaves you gasping for air. It kind of leaves you at a loss for what to do next,” he said, wiping a tear.

 

Oldspeak: “Expect this existential crisis to intensify as temperatures rise and conditions worsen. Sustainability tipping points have been passed for 21 of 37 of Earth’s largest aquifers.  I would imagine these figures are not taking into account the incalculable and permanent damage being done to our water supplies by our extractive energy and mineral mining practices. This story focuses on the U.S. but this story is being told worldwide, be sure to click on the link to the original story &  check out the stories documenting the carnage in India, Peru and Morocco at the bottom of the article. Hmm, Less water for what’s expected to be 9 billion humans, what’s the worst that could happen!?” -OSJ

 

Written By Ian James and Steve Reilly @ The Desert Sun:

SUBLETTE, Kansas – Just before 3 a.m., Jay Garetson’s phone buzzed on the bedside table. He picked it up and read the text: “Low Pressure Alert.”

He felt a jolt of stress and his chest tightened. He dreaded what that automated message probably meant: With the water table dropping, another well on his family’s farm was starting to suck air.

The Garetson family has been farming in the plains of southwestern Kansas for four generations, since 1902. Now they face a hard reality. The groundwater they depend on is disappearing. Their fields could wither. Their farm might not survive for the next generation.

At dawn, Jay was out among the cornfields at the well, trying to diagnose the problem. The pump was humming as it lifted water from nearly 600 feet underground. He turned a valve and let the cool water run into his cupped hands. Just as he had feared, he saw fine bubbles in the water.

“It’s showing signs of weakening,” he said sadly, standing in the shoulder-high corn.

“This’ll last another five or 10 years, but not even at the production rate that we’re at here today,” he said. “It’s just a question of how much time is left.”

Time is running out for portions of the High Plains Aquifer, which lies beneath eight states from South Dakota to Texas and is the lifeblood of one of the world’s most productive farming economies. The aquifer, also known as the Ogallala, makes possible about one-fifth of the country’s output of corn, wheat and cattle. But its levels have been rapidly declining, and with each passing year more wells are going dry.

As less water pours from wells, some farmers are adapting by switching to different crops. Others are shutting down their drained wells and trying to scratch out a living as dryland farmers, relying only on the rains.

In parts of western Kansas, the groundwater has already been exhausted and very little can be extracted for irrigation. In other areas, the remaining water could be mostly used up within a decade.

The severe depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is symptomatic of a larger crisis in the United States and many parts of the world. Much more water is being pumped from the ground than can be naturally replenished, and groundwater levels are plummeting. It’s happening not only in the High Plains and drought-ravaged California but also in places from the Gulf Coastal Plain to the farmland of the Mississippi River Valley, and from the dry Southwest to the green Southeast.

In a nationwide examination of the problem, USA TODAY and The Desert Sun analyzed two decades of measurements from more than 32,000 wells and found water levels falling in nearly two-thirds of those wells, with heavy pumping causing major declines in many areas. The analysis of U.S. Geological Survey data revealed that:

  • Nationwide, water levels have declined in 64 percent of the wells included in the government database during the past two decades.
  • The average decline among decreasing wells has been more than 10 feet, and in some areas the water table has dropped more than 100 feet during that period – more than 5 feet per year.
  • For 13 counties in Texas, New Mexico, Mississippi, Kansas and Iowa, average water levels have decreased more than 40 feet since 1995.
  • Nationally, the average declines have been larger from 2011-2014 as drought has intensified in the West. But water tables have been falling consistently over the years through both wet and dry periods, and also in relatively wet states such as Florida and Maryland.
  • Across the High Plains, one of the country’s largest depletion zones, the average water levels in more than 4,000 wells are 13.2 feet lower today than they were in 1995. In the southern High Plains, water levels have plunged significantly more – in places over 100 feet in just 20 years.

Average water level decrease in US counties

In many counties across the United States, groundwater levels have been dropping.

The problem is especially severe in the region that relies on the Ogallala Aquifer.

Aquifers are being drawn down in many areas by pumping for agriculture, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the nation’s use of fresh groundwater. Water is also being drained for cities, expanding development and industries. Across much of the country, overpumping has become a widespread habit. And while the symptoms have long remained largely invisible to most people, the problem is analogous to gradually squandering the balance of a collective bank account. As the balance drops, there’s less of that resource to draw on when it’s needed.

At the same time, falling groundwater levels are bringing increasing costs for well owners, water utilities and society as a whole. As water levels drop, more energy is required to lift water from wells, and those pumping bills are rising. In areas where aquifers are being severely depleted, new wells are being drilled hundreds of feet into the earth at enormous cost. That trend of going deeper and deeper can only go on so long. When groundwater levels fall to precarious lows and wells are exhausted, farming businesses can suffer. And in particularly hard-hit communities, such as parts of California, homeowners have been left relying on tanker trucks to deliver their water.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the United States is estimated to have lost more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of water from the nation’s aquifers – about 28 times the amount of water that can be held in Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir.

That estimate of water losses from 1900 through 2008, calculated by USGS scientist Leonard Konikow, shows the High Plains has accounted for 35 percent of the country’s total depletion. California’s Central Valley accounted for more than 14 percent, and other parts of the country have depleted the remainder, about half of the total.

In places, water that seeped underground over tens of thousands of years is being pumped out before many fully appreciate the value of what’s lost. The declines in groundwater in the United States mirror similar decreases in many parts of the world.

NASA satellites have allowed scientists to map the changes underground on a global scale for the first time, putting into stark relief a drawdown that has long remained largely out of sight. The latest satellite data, together with measurements of water levels in wells, reveal widespread declines in places from Europe to India, and from the Middle East to China.

“Groundwater depletion is this incredible global phenomenon,” said Jay Famiglietti, a professor of earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, and the senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We never really understood it the way we understand it now. It’s pervasive and it’s happening at a rapid clip.”

Famiglietti and his colleagues have found that more than half of the world’s largest aquifers are declining. Those large-scale losses of groundwater are being monitored from space by two satellites as part of the GRACE mission, which stands for Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment.

Since 2002, the orbiting satellites have been taking detailed measurements of Earth’s gravity field and recording changes in the total amounts of water, both aboveground and underground. Using that data, the researchers have created a global map showing areas of disappearing water as patches of yellow, orange and red. Those “hotspots” mark regions where there is overpumping of water or where drought has taken a toll.

The map shows that, just as scientists have been predicting due to climate change, some areas in the tropics and the higher latitudes have been growing wetter, Famiglietti said, while many dry and semi-arid regions in the mid-latitudes have been growing drier. In those same dry regions, intensive agriculture is drawing heavily on groundwater. And with little rain to recharge the aquifers, their levels are dropping.

“Many of these resources are finite,” Famiglietti said. “It took tens of thousands of years to accumulate this water, and we’re burning through it in a matter of decades.”

In many regions, government agencies and water districts have studied the problem but haven’t taken sufficient steps to manage aquifers or prevent declines.

Alongside climate change, groundwater depletion has become another human-caused crisis that could bring devastating consequences. As aquifers are pushed far beyond their natural limits, water scarcity is battering farms, undermining economies and intensifying disputes over water.

In parts of the southern High Plains, farmers are feeling the effects. Some counties have seen small decreases in population as people have moved away. Local leaders have been expressing concerns about what sorts of businesses can help sustain their economies as water supplies dwindle.

The Kansas Geological Survey has mapped out how much longer the aquifer can support large-scale pumping. It projects that some places still probably have more than a century of water left, but that large patches of western Kansas will go dry in less than 25 years. Some areas will likely run out faster, within a matter of years.

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The green circles of center-pivot irrigation systems stand out in areas where farms rely on water from the High Plains Aquifer. (Photo: Ian James, The Desert Sun)

The Ogallala Aquifer’s decline shows what the world can expect in other areas where groundwater is being quickly depleted, Famiglietti said. “The fact that they’re running out of water means that we will no longer be growing food there, and so where will that food come from?”

In Haskell County, Kansas, windswept fields of sorghum and corn stretch to the flat horizon in a swaying sea. The huge farms, many of them in the thousands of acres, still appear lush and productive. But driving along the arrow-straight country roads, Jay Garetson can point out spots where wells have gone dry – both on his family’s land and other farms.

All that’s left at one of his decommissioned wells is a round metal cover on a concrete slab, with a rusty Frigidaire lying on its side next to it. His grandfather once used the refrigerator to store oil for the pump.

Opening the well’s metal lid, Jay dropped in a rock. It pinged off the steel casing. More than five seconds later, there was faint splash.

“Now the only water it finds is a couple three feet at the very bottom of the well that the pumps can’t effectively access anymore,” Jay said, his voice echoing in the empty well.

He and his brother, Jarvis, drilled this well in the early 2000s when a shallower well failed. It lasted less than a decade, and then it went dry in 2012, forcing them to drill again – this time 600 feet deep, down to the bedrock at the bottom of the aquifer. It’s hard to say how long that well might last.

If the water keeps dropping about 5 feet per year, he said, it might be finished in as few as 10 years.

“Very simply, we’re running out, and it’s happening far faster than anybody anticipated,” he said. “And as optimistic as I’d like to be about the future, the window for that optimism is closing very quickly.”

He put the cover back on the old well, pointing out a tag that was placed on it by a state regulatory agency.

“We’re documenting very well the demise of the aquifer, but we’re not making the real-world changes in the way we manage the aquifer to really do the serious things that need to happen,” Jay said. “We seem to be unwilling to take the necessary steps to actually reduce water usage.”

Jay is an influential farmer and a longstanding member of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture who has been appointed by both Democratic and Republican governors. He has many ideas about how to extend the life of the aquifer, including mandatory water cutbacks that would be shared by farmers. But he has faced resistance from those who oppose mandatory limits.

Over the past five years, the pumping capacity of the Garetsons’ wells has decreased by about 30 percent as the water table has fallen. They’ve been forced to plant less corn and instead more wheat and sorghum, which use less water and bring in smaller earnings.

When Jay’s grandparents drilled wells in the mid-20th century, they were told the water supply was inexhaustible. They had clung to their land through the hardships of the Dust Bowl, when blowing drifts of soil and grit decimated crops and sent many others packing. In the decades that followed, they built a successful business on the water they pumped from the ground.

Since then, numerous studies have shown that the status quo is far from sustainable. Starting in 1986, Congress directed the USGS to monitor and report on changes in the levels of the Ogallala Aquifer, recognizing its economic importance. An estimated 30 percent of the groundwater used for irrigation in the country is pumped from the aquifer. Researchers have projected that without action to slow the losses, the portion of the aquifer in Kansas will be nearly 70 percent depleted within 50 years.

“What frustrates me is with all this knowledge and all this information, we still collectively refuse to act,” Jay said. “I don’t understand how we can all be so lacking in courage when we all can clearly see this is a train wreck happening in slow motion.”

The costs of inaction are visible just down the road, at a farmhouse where Jay lived as a young boy. Today the white house is abandoned. Weeds have grown around the front steps. Scraps of wood lie in a pile on the porch like logs on a campfire.

When the well went dry two years ago, a farm employee was forced to move out. The Garetsons drilled test holes but found no more water to tap.

In the yard, Jay pointed out the spot beneath a dying elm tree where he used to play on the swings. “It’s probably seen its last swing set in the yard,” he said wistfully.

“It’s something I used to read about and study, you know, the Dust Bowl. And you would see these abandoned farmsteads, and now I’m actually seeing it in my own lifetime,” he said. “Now we’re kind of at the end of the tracks here, and the only thing left to do is decide whether we should go ahead and push the house in and burn it, or probably the most painful option in my mind is to stand back and watch time just slowly melt it down.”

The worst-case scenario, he said, is that within a decade many more homes in the area could look just like this one – dry and deserted.

Jay Garetson checks on a well that is starting to weaken as the Ogallala Aquifer declines. Steve Elfers, Ian James

The United States, along with India and China, is one of the largest users of groundwater in the world.

The federal government has estimated that in 2010, the country used 76 billion gallons of fresh groundwater per day. That’s 117,000 cubic feet per second, roughly comparable to Niagara Falls. Wells across the country are pumping out as much water – even slightly more – than the average flow of approximately 100,000 cubic feet per second that tourists see plunging from the top of Niagara Falls.

When groundwater is pumped from wells, some of it is soaked up by plants, some evaporates, some courses through pipes to cities, and some soaks back into the ground. Part of it ends up flowing into the oceans, adding to the global problem of rising seas as glaciers and ice sheets melt.

Most of the planet’s available freshwater lies underground. Aquifers store water like sponges, holding it in the spaces between rocks, sand, gravel and clay. So much water is now being sucked from some aquifers that those underground spaces are collapsing and the surface of the Earth has been permanently altered.

The ground has sunk in parts of California, Texas, Arizona and Nevada, cracking the foundations of houses, leaving fissures in the ground, and damaging roads, canals and bridges. As layers of aquifers gradually subside, their water-storing capacity is irreversibly decreasing.

Groundwater levels have changed relatively little in some of the country’s wetter areas, as rainfall and snowmelt have offset the amounts pumped out. But even in pockets of the Northeast and upper Midwest, there have been significant declines. Average water levels in Cumberland County, N.J., for instance, decreased nearly 6 feet over the past two decades. In Outagamie County, Wis., there was a decline of 6.1 feet.

Elsewhere, there has been significant depletion across entire regions, largely driven by agriculture. Average water levels fell by 5.7 feet across the Mississippi River Valley aquifer system, by 12.6 feet in the Columbia Plateau basaltic rock aquifers of the Pacific Northwest, and by 17.8 feet in some of the Snake River Plain’s aquifers of southern Idaho.

As the nation’s population grows, expanding cities and suburban development are also having an effect. Total U.S. water use has decreased in recent years due to improvements in efficiency and conservation, but the cumulative strains on groundwater have continued to build.

Big drops in water tables have occurred in many parts the country. The U.S. Geological Survey’s data show that individual monitoring wells with water level decreases of more than 100 feet in the past two decades are located in a long list of states: California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Maryland, Washington, Oregon, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, Idaho, Arizona, Louisiana, Colorado, Wyoming and Mississippi.

Saltwater has been seeping into declining aquifers along portions of the Atlantic coast in places such as Hilton Head, S.C. and Savannah, Ga., and beneath coastal cities in Florida such as Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa. When saltwater intrusion taints supplies of drinking water, it can force water districts to use different wells or invest in other costly solutions.

In parts of the desert Southwest and the Great Plains, natural springs that used to gush from the ground have dried up.

There have also been long-term declines in groundwater levels around urban areas including Chicago, Milwaukee, Wis., Long Island, N.Y., Baton Rouge, La., Memphis, Tenn., and Houston.

In each state, the use of groundwater falls under different laws. In many areas, though, the agencies charged with managing water supplies have allowed aquifers to fall into a state of perpetual overdraft, with water levels receding deeper by the year. Even where groundwater regulations exist, pumping often remains largely unchecked.

“Like your bank account, you can’t keep depleting it forever. That’s a non-sustainable condition,” the USGS scientist Konikow said. “Society will have to do something about it. Some areas, they are doing things about it. Other areas, it’s going to kind of slap them in the face at some point as a wake-up call.”

In the farm country of Grant County, Kansas, where grain silos tower over fields that stretch out to a flat horizon, the chamber of commerce hosts an annual dinner that has been a tradition for 53 years. Hundreds of people line up while volunteers dish out local food: barbecued beef, sweet corn, candied squash and prized doughnuts made with milo, another name for sorghum.

The dinner consistently attracts top state politicians. This September, when Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer gave a speech to a packed auditorium, he emphasized the importance of water.

“We all know here that the lifeblood of our land is that Ogallala Aquifer below us,” Colyer said. “We’ve got to rely on that water.”

He said that’s why Gov. Sam Brownback recently launched an effort to develop a “50-year water vision” for the state. Colyer said southwestern Kansas is working to preserve its water, and he pointed to the large cattle industry and the fast-growing dairy business as signs of a bright economic future.

Those applauding at the long tables included Jay Garetson, his wife, Jill, and two teenage sons. But while Jay credits the state government with doing more than ever to focus on water, he’s concerned the consensus-building approach and the voluntary measures being promoted aren’t enough.

In his office, he rolled out a map to explain why. The map is marked with patches of orange and red denoting areas that have relatively little water left. In one of those spots, “right in the bull’s eye,” he pointed to the family’s hometown of Sublette.

The biggest problem, he said, is that no one can slow down the decline alone. And those who try to use less water will have the aquifer pumped out from beneath them by neighbors.

“Everybody’s got a straw in the same soda,” Jay said. “When you have a common resource, and the individual motivations are to accelerate the use rather than to stretch it out over a period of time, the net result is everybody loses.”

The economics of the profit-driven status quo are driving the depletion, he said, and that points to a need for the state and the regional groundwater district to intervene – like a referee in a sporting event that has deteriorated into a free-for-all. He said the referee should “call a timeout.”

Then, he said, “we need to sit down and think about changing the rules.”

Wells have been drawing out less water and going dry in places from eastern Colorado and the Texas Panhandle. Northern portions of the aquifer in Nebraska still have more water remaining, but parts of the southern High Plains have been left with parched fields.

In areas where little water remains, people have been turning to dryland farming, relying on the rains to grow wheat and other crops. That switch leads to sharply reduced earnings per acre. It requires farmers to use much bigger acreages to turn a profit. It means the land will support far fewer farms, and that could bring hard economic times.

Jay’s brother Jarvis explained how profound those changes could be, pausing from his work after changing a flat tire on a center-pivot irrigation system.

“It’s tough to think about what’s been in my family for well over a hundred years not being here in 20. It may mean that my kids or my nephews don’t come back, may not even have a chance if that’s their desire,” he said, his voice quavering. “It’s just tough to think about it not being there. I mean, it’s a way of life.”

Trying to make the aquifer last longer, some farmers have been adopting water-saving irrigation systems. A sign on one highway reads: “Make Every Drop of Water Count.”

Marieta Hauser, a dryland farmer who is director of the Grant County Chamber of Commerce, said she’s concerned about what sorts of businesses could take the place of irrigated farming, which drives the economy.

“Ideally we all want the aquifer to last forever. It’s not going to. We realize that. So what’s the best way to go forward and maintain the viability of our communities and our businesses?” Hauser said. “Those are the discussions that I hear more than anything, is ‘What’s going to happen to our communities when irrigation is not viable?’”

Some towns, such as Ulysses and Johnson City, have been buying water rights from farmers to secure enough drinking water supplies to keep the taps flowing.

One experiment aimed at slashing water use on farms is underway in Sheridan County, in northwestern Kansas, where the state’s first “Local Enhanced Management Area,” or LEMA, was established in 2013. Through that five-year plan, farmers are trying to keep within a “budget” that calls for a 20 percent reduction in water use.

Even as that strategy is showing signs of working, water managers acknowledge it’s not coming close to halting declines in the aquifer. It’s simply buying a bit more time.

Mark Rude, executive director of the Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 3, can put a specific number on the gap between the amounts of water pumped and the quantities of rainfall that recharge the aquifer in an average year: “We’re only about 9 percent sustainable.”

In other words, the people of southwestern Kansas are pumping out 11 times more than the aquifer’s natural recharge. People are barred from adding new wells in the area. If a new well is drilled, it needs to replace another well that is shut down.

In practice, the water rights system doesn’t limit pumping at all. In fact, farmers are using much less than they would be permitted under the system of appropriated groundwater rights, which was established decades ago when water seemed plentiful and flood irrigation was the norm.

“Ultimately, I think, budgeting the aquifer is where any area has to start. How much do you have and how much are you willing to see consumed? That’s always a difficult step,” Rude said. When the water district has held meetings and asked farmers whether they’re in favor of developing a water budget, some have been apprehensive about restrictions or mandates.

While some keep pumping, others are leaving. Within the traditional Mennonite community, elders have begun sending away young couples to settle in other areas such as the Snake River Plain in Idaho, where even though aquifer levels are declining, more water remains. They’re leaving, Rude said, “because as the water supply leaves, the intensity of agriculture leaves, and the job opportunities also leave.”

For every acre that runs out of irrigation water and starts being dry-farmed, the state estimates the economy loses nearly $4,000 a year.

The difference between irrigated fields and dryland farms appears starkly on a large satellite photo on the wall of the water district’s office in Garden City. Patches of brown border the green circles of center-pivot irrigation systems.

Moving a hand across the map, Rude pointed out spots where springs and streams have dried up. One spring was a popular swimming hole half a century ago, he said, and it doesn’t flow anymore.

Decades ago, the Arkansas River used to flow between Garden City and Dodge City. Now all that’s left are scattered patches of reeds in the dry riverbed.

Jay Garetson’s wife Jill, who is a teacher, lived near the flowing river as a child. She has watched it disappear, drained by diversions upstream and the declining water table. As a girl, she used to follow her father into cornfields while he fixed sprinklers. Now he’s out of water and relying on several oil wells for income.

“I don’t think we can continue to do things the way we’re doing them,” she said. “Some serious action has to be taken quickly.”

The Garetsons’ 17-year-old son, Jared, is cautiously assessing the future and thinks it may be difficult to return home to farm after college.

Every year he helps out during the corn harvest, and as a hobby he flies a drone to film the harvester mowing down golden rows. But he said the aquifer now seems like a gas tank with its gauge approaching “E.”

“If we lose the aquifer, we lose probably 80 percent of our crops out here,” Jared said. “If our water supply is shut off, that’s a huge amount of food that we’re going to have to find elsewhere.”

They are a close-knit family, and stories of their farming history are woven into conversations around the kitchen table. It’s a legacy that may be slipping away for Jared.

“I’ve thought, why don’t we just pack up, sell the farm and leave? And we’ll find somewhere else that’s got water and that’s going to continue to have water, where we can build?” Jared said. But that’s a difficult idea for his parents and grandparents to accept. “It’s been our home for 113 years now, and for all that to go away and just stop that, that hundred-year-old investment, and that’d be really hard to just pack up and say goodbye to everything.”

As for Jared’s future, he said in order to make long-term investments in farming, it would be crucial to secure enough water for the next 40 years.

“Until we’ve got our water issue taken care of, then I basically have no future here,” Jared said. “It’s kind of sad, but it’s the harsh reality.”

Large rice farms in the Mississippi River Valley depend heavily on water pumped from wells. So do fields of cotton, soybeans and corn across portions of Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri. The farms are drawing out significantly more than is naturally replenished, and the valley’s alluvial aquifer system has been declining.

“Here, we actually get a lot of rain so you tend to not think of it as being in danger of running low on water,” said Brian Clark, a USGS hydrologist in Little Rock, Arkansas. “But just the sheer amount of use kind of poses that issue.”

Officials in Arkansas, which is the country’s top rice-producing state, are updating the state’s water plan with proposals for coping with a growing “groundwater gap” in the eastern portion of the state. They’ve recommended building infrastructure to make surface water the primary irrigation source for areas that now depend on a declining supply of groundwater.

Other proposed regulatory changes aimed at addressing strains on groundwater are being debated elsewhere, in wet regions as well as dry regions of the country.

In Arizona, state lawmakers have been under increasing pressure to consider groundwater regulations for some of the same rural areas that fought off restrictions about 35 years ago. Some farmers and residents in southeastern Arizona are concerned that unregulated pumping is drawing down groundwater levels, and have been pushing the legislature for action to limit the expansion of irrigated farmlands and begin charging fees for groundwater use.

In Wisconsin, where some people are concerned about farms’ wells drawing down streams and lakes, a bill pending in the legislature would allow state regulators to establish “groundwater protection areas” where there would be tighter permitting rules for new high-capacity wells in order to prevent environmental impacts. The proposed measures would also ease the permitting process for redrilling or repairing existing wells.

In Iowa, growing demands are being placed on the Jordan Aquifer as water is pumped for cities, farms, and industries such as ethanol plants. In June, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission approved a new rule aimed at limiting pumping. The measures divide wells into tiers based on how much water levels have declined, and lay out procedures for reductions in water use in areas where the aquifer has dropped significantly.

Florida has also faced problems with groundwater declines as expanding development has strained water supplies. As the vast Floridan Aquifer has been drawn down, the amounts of water flowing from some of the state’s natural springs have decreased significantly, altering the sensitive environments where fish, turtles and other wildlife have long flourished.

“We have springs that are going silent because they’re not bubbling with the artesian pressure that they did in the past,” said Robert Knight, president of the Gainesville-based Florida Springs Institute, which advocates reducing the extraction of groundwater to safeguard the natural springs. He pointed out that much of the water pumped from wells is being sprayed on lawns.

As freshwater is pumped out, more seawater has been moving inland underground. And water managers across Florida have been tracking the problem and investing in remedies, including more desalination plants.

The Tampa Bay area built a seawater desalination plant that can churn out 25 million gallons of drinking water a day. The Tampa Bay Water plant, which has been operating since 2008, has helped reduce the stresses on the area’s groundwater supplies. But that has come at a price, with cost of construction alone totaling $158 million.

As the Ogallala Aquifer has declined beneath their land, Jay and Jarvis Garetson have been locked in a bitter dispute with a neighboring landowner over water.

They’re suing the company American Warrior, which owns adjacent farmland, in a case that could set a legal precedent in Kansas.

The case revolves around one of the Garetsons’ wells. They own a vested water right that is one of the oldest in the area, and they have priority under the state’s “first-in-time, first-in-right” system. They’ve claimed “impairment” of that well by two of the company’s nearby wells.

American Warrior holds junior water rights, and a judge issued an injunction temporarily barring the company from using the wells while the case proceeds.

Mike O’Brate, vice president of the family-owned American Warrior, accused the Garetsons of suing out of “greed” and said a lawsuit isn’t the right way to settle the dispute. He said if the Garetsons win, it will set a bad precedent and more suits will follow.

“Everybody will want to file these to shut off their neighbors,” O’Brate said. “Attorneys are going to get filthy rich in a fight over water. It’s not a good thing.”

The Garetson brothers said the 2012 lawsuit was necessary to defend their family’s livelihood.

“The fact of the matter is, we have a vested right to their junior rights, and Kansas water law is very clear,” Jarvis said. “And the sad thing is we had to get the courts involved to make it happen.”

Jay said that in addition to pressing the state to enforce its laws, they hope to call attention to the urgent need for action to preserve the aquifer.

“I guess our family’s decided we’d rather call a question and force everybody to make an informed decision one way or the other than to be complicit in the death of something that didn’t have to go out this way,” he said.

After the lawsuit was filed, the Garetsons faced hostility – even death threats.

As aquifers decline, more legal conflicts are likely to flare up in places across the country. Many disputes have already ended up in the courts.

Mississippi, for instance, is in a long-running legal battle with Tennessee and the city of Memphis, claiming the neighboring state is taking groundwater that belongs to Mississippi. In California, where many aquifers have been divvied up by courts, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is suing two Coachella Valley water districts in a fight over rights to groundwater.

In Kansas, the state Water Office and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have studied a proposal to build an aqueduct that would carry water from the Missouri River to the High Plains, and have estimated the cost at $18 billion.

When Jay and his family start talking about water, the conversation touches on mega-fixes, such as the idea of building a wind-powered pipeline from the Mississippi River.

In the meantime, Jay holds out hope there is still time to save what’s left and extend the use of the aquifer. “But it’s going to take immediate action and it’s going to take mandatory action, and that’s something that is hard for most of us out here, who are pretty individualistic and self-reliant, to contemplate.”

Any imposed cutbacks would be painful for everyone, though the pain could be spread around, he said. And water credits could be traded, creating a market that would help deal with scarcity and put the limited water toward high-value uses.

Jay sometimes wonders if roadside billboards would help increase the sense of urgency. He envisions signs with cross-section drawings of the aquifer “that show the reservoir declining and force people to admit at least, if we’re not going to act, that it was an informed decision not to act.”

Driving down a dirt road through farmland, Jay talked about what losing the aquifer would mean for his family.

“Thinking about Jared and the challenges that his generation faces, that’s what leaves you gasping for air. It kind of leaves you at a loss for what to do next,” he said, wiping a tear.

Jay said he and his brother keep trying to gain five or 10 years by using a new crop or new irrigation technologies. He said their father, Jesse, encourages them to “keep pushing” and keep praying.

“We’ll succeed somewhere. I just always thought it would be here,” he said as he pulled into his gravel driveway next to a cornfield.

He stood beside the mud-splattered pickup, petting his dog.

“In spite of everything I do and we do, it’s still not enough,” he said, sniffling softly. “My boys and my nephews will never have the … they won’t have the same opportunity.”

He paused, keeping his composure.

“If they stay here, it’ll be a salvage operation. It won’t be an expansion or a growth or an improvement. It’ll be a salvage operation,” he said. “That’s the mentality they’ll have to have – unless everybody can come together. The problem is everybody won’t come together, in my experience, until it’s too late.”

As he began to cry, he walked away.

Ian James reported from Kansas and Steve Reilly reported from McLean, Virginia.

Steve Elfers of USA TODAY, Caitlin McGlade of The Arizona Republic and Chad Gillis of The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., contributed to this report.

This special report was produced with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. 

Mega Drought: The New Normal For The American Southwest?

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2014 at 7:10 pm

https://i0.wp.com/www.nationofchange.org/sites/default/files/imagecache/article_main_image/DroughtinCAtoStopFracking012014.jpg

Oldspeak: “As for now, personal bathing in showers in California continues without disruption for the foreseeable future because of advance planning for water shortages by state and federal agencies; however, in many respects the future is now as water resources are running short, quickly, very quickly, and as it happens, America’s dependency upon California for food is only as good as results from drilling into deep water aquifers on farmland, costing $500,000-to-$1,000,000 per job… As it goes, retail food costs are almost guaranteed to go up — a lot… Nevertheless, a much bigger issue is whether California produces food in 2015-20… In short, human influence is once again slowly inching the noose up around its own neck by carelessly burning fossil fuels like there is no tomorrow. At current rates of carbon dioxide emissions, setting new records year-by-year, there may not be much of a tomorrow left for upcoming decades… “Rising greenhouse gases will lead to a steady drying of the Southwest.” –Robert Hunziker

“It’s time for us to wake up. If this drought continues, we’re going to be in a terrible situation within the next 12-24 months… I think it says that this region is in trouble. I think it says that we need to really rethink our water use in this region, our demand in this region because it is far outstripping the supply.” –Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

“i wonder if the relentless and ever-increasing extraction rates of Big Water, Big Ag and Big Oil has been factored into the advance planning for water shortages by government agencies? Business as usual extractive energy and resource extraction all but guarantee America’s foodbasket will go dry indefinitely.  Then what? Keep in mind that what’s happening in the American southwest, is happening in all other food producing regions on the planet…. Tick, tick, tick, tick….” -OSJ

By Robert Hunziker @ Dissident Voice:

According to the Assessment of Southwest Climate Change (Arizona Institute of the Environment), the five decades from 1950 to 2000 were the warmest in over 600 years. The report predicts that reduced snowfall and increased evaporation from global warming will lead to more droughts over the next 90 years.

Droughts are a natural part of the climate cycle. As a matter of fact, studies of tree rings going back 1,000 years show mega droughts lasting for decades. Then, nature alone was the culprit, but what happens now when global warming/climate change is superimposed onto nature’s handiwork?

Is an intensified mega drought in the works for the United States?

California is already burning up.

Markedly, to a great degree, America depends upon California for its food.

“Up to half of the nation’s fruit, nuts and vegetables are grown in the Central Valley, one of the planet’s most fertile growing regions, between Los Angeles and Sacramento.” 1

Furthermore, as an aside, how will someone in LA or San Francisco react when, hopping into an A.M. shower, the water barely dribbles out of the faucet? That would be a new twist for California’s famous “ride-sharing” on its slow-moving heated freeways traveling to and from work.

As for now, personal bathing in showers in California continues without disruption for the foreseeable future because of advance planning for water shortages by state and federal agencies; however, in many respects the future is now as water resources are running short, quickly, very quickly, and as it happens, America’s dependency upon California for food is only as good as results from drilling into deep water aquifers on farmland, costing $500,000-to-$1,000,000 per job.

As it goes, retail food costs are almost guaranteed to go up — a lot.

Nevertheless, a much bigger issue is whether California produces food in 2015-20.

Droughts – A Perspective

Recent studies reveal that persistent dry periods lasting for multiple years to several decades have occurred many times during the last 500-1,000 years over North America… These historic droughts are linked to tropical SST variations, with La Nina-like SST anomalies in the tropical Pacific often leading to widespread drought in North America….

Since the middle 20th century, global aridity and drought areas have increased substantially, mainly due to widespread drying since the 1970s… Although natural variations … have played a large role in the recent drying, the rapid warming since the late 1970s has increased atmospheric demand for moisture and likely altered atmospheric circulation patterns … contributing to the recent drying over land. Since a large part of the recent warming is attributed to human-induced GHG increases, it can be concluded that human activities have contributed significantly to the recent drying trend.

The large-scale pattern shown in figure 11 appears to be a robust response to increased GHGs. This is very alarming because if the drying is anything resembling figure 11 a very large population will be severely affected in the coming decades over the whole United States…. 2

In short, human influence is once again slowly inching the noose up around its own neck by carelessly burning fossil fuels like there is no tomorrow. At current rates of carbon dioxide emissions, setting new records year-by-year, there may not be much of a tomorrow left for upcoming decades.

“Rising greenhouse gases will lead to a steady drying of the Southwest.”3

Droughts- Southwestern U.S.

According to the State Water Resources Control Board, California is bone dry. Nearly 50 communities in the state of California are in danger of running out of water.

Additionally, the draining of aquifers on California farmland is happening so fast that the ground is sinking, up to a foot in some parts of the San Joaquin Valley, which is a very, very significant part of America’s breadbasket. Sinking ground, in turn, damages irrigation pipes that deliver the water. It’s a vicious circle.

A new social media phenomenon “Drought Shaming” has begun in California. This involves people who take videos of neighbors wasting water, and it is posted on Facebook or Twitter.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas the situation is dire, according to climate scientist Tim Barnett, a geophysicist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography: The city must find new sources of water or go out of business. Vegas’s long-standing standby massive water reservoir of the past 80 years, Lake Mead, is depleting so fast that fishermen notice a difference in the water level every few weeks.

“Andy Ameigeiras and two of his friends spent Wednesday night and Thursday morning hooking carp, catfish and stripers from the rocky shore of Echo Bay. He said the water had easily dropped three to five feet since the last time they fished there, just four weeks ago.” 4

The Southern Nevada Water Authority is spending $817 million on a new intake that will reach deeper into Lake Mead at an elevation of 860 feet. The two current intakes reside at 1,050 feet and 1,000 feet whereas Lake Mead’s water level is currently 1,082 feet.

The ongoing drought in America’s Southwest highlights the importance of the Colorado River, providing water to over 40 million people in the West, including key agricultural production in California’s Coachella and Imperial Valleys, which are extremely important to the food supply for the entire U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of the Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado River, aka: the “lifeblood of the Southwest,” has experienced drought conditions since the year 2000.

“It’s time for us to wake up. If this drought continues, we’re going to be in a terrible situation within the next 12-24 months,” says Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.5 His research, which uses satellites to track changes in water supplies, has confirmed that the Colorado River Basin has lost vast amounts of groundwater during the past decade.

The fact that Lake Mead is now 39% full shows how dire the water situation has become, according to Famiglietti: “I think it says that this region is in trouble. I think it says that we need to really rethink our water use in this region, our demand in this region because it is far outstripping the supply,”

Further east, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, there are 12 water districts in Texas with only 45 days of water remaining.

Wichita Falls, Texas, a city of 105,000 is building a water treatment plant that will process local sewage into drinking water. As such, residents will be drinking what they passed into the toilet only days before, which is the epitome of recycling!

The Human Footprint Clomps Onward

As the 21st century progresses, human-influenced climate change is forever at the forefront of disaster scenarios, from melting glaciers’ rising sea levels to deformed ocean plankton threatening the base of the food chain as a result of too much CO2, now drought conditions, enhanced by human-caused global warming, threaten food production and adequate water resources.

A recent study provides quantitative evidence of California’s drought linked to the role of human-caused greenhouse gases. 6

As far back as 1990, James Hansen, one of the world’s foremost climatologist, in an article “Potential Evapotranspiration and the Likelihood of Future Drought“, (Journal of Geophysical Research, 95, 9983-10004), predicted that severe to extreme drought in the U.S., then occurring every couple of decades, would become an every-other-year phenomenon by mid-century: “If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase rapidly, the model results suggest that severe drought (5% frequency today) will occur about 50% of the time by the 2050s.”

Hansen was wrong. He was too conservative, especially in consideration of the fact that annual CO2 emissions are 50% higher than when Hansen wrote his paper.

Bottom line: If fossil fuel (oil, gas, and coal) usage flagrantly continues to spew carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, eventually an ice-free Arctic will kick up methane (CH4) like there’s no tomorrow, essentially injecting steroids into the global warming equation, and California will morph into a barren desert wilderness, similar to its ancient past.

Then, as large proportions of humanity are forced into a hunter/gatherer lifestyle, roaming eastward in search of sustenance, they’ll crash the gates.  It happened in France in the late 18th century when the world’s most powerful nation-state came tumbling down as starving people crashed the gates! There is no escaping the past.

Why should it be any different this time around?

As such, the real issue is: When will the United States government seriously promote a renewables energy plan?

Postscript

The greenhouse effect is simple science; greenhouse gases trap heat, and humans are emitting ever more greenhouse gases.

— Nicholas Stern, British economist and academic, Professor of Economics and Government, Chair- Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change/Environment, London School of Economics.

——————————————————————————————————————————–

  1. Stephen Neslage, “California Drought Threatens Food Supply of All Americans: Collapsing Aquifer Sinking Land”, Weather.com, May 29, 2014. []
  2. Aiguo Dai (Ph.D. Atmospheric Science, Columbia University), “Drought Under Global Warming- A Review”, Vol. 2, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, Jan./Feb. 2011. []
  3. Richard Seager et al, “Atmosphere and Ocean Origins of North America Droughts”, Journal of Climate, 27, 4581-4606. []
  4. Henry Brean,”Lake Mead Sinks to a Record Low”, Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 10, 2014. []
  5. Ian James, “Mead Reservoir Drops to Record Low”, The Desert Sun, July 14, 2014 []
  6. S. Y. Wang, et al, “Probable Causes of the Abnormal Ridge Accompanying the 2013-2014 California Drought: ENSO Precursor and Anthropogenic Warming Footprint”, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 41, Issue 9, May 16, 2014. []

Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide, like Z magazine, European Project on Ocean Acidification, Ecosocialism Canada, Climate Himalaya, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Comite Valmy, and UK Progressive. He has been interviewed about climate change on Pacifica Radio, KPFK, FM90.7, Indymedia On Air and World View Show/UK. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.

 

 

 

Nestlé Chairman Calls World’s Water Scarcity ‘more urgent’ Than Climate Change– As It Sells Bottled Water From Drought-Ridden California

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2014 at 9:23 pm

A discarded tire is seen stuck in the exposed lake bed of the Almaden Reservoir which is experiencing extremely low water levels due to the ongoing drought, in San Jose. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

Oldspeak: “Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten-Cree Proverb

Peter Brabeck-Letmanthe, the chairman and former chief executive of Nestlé, told the Financial Times that the world is “running out of water” and that it needs to become a bigger priority to world leaders.

“Today, you cannot have a political discussion anywhere without talking about climate change,” he said. “Nobody talks about the water situation in this sense. And this water problem is much more urgent.”

Climate change is still an important issue, he argued, but even without it “we are running out of water and I think this has to become the first priority,” he said.

Nestlé’s 383,000 square-foot water bottling plant is located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation in California.

The state declared a drought state of emergency in January this year, in preparation for coming water shortages – especially during the summer months, but Nestlé is reportedly not required to comply with the emergency measures as its plant sits on a Native American reservation.” –Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith

“Woah. Breathtaking Orwellian irony and hypocrisy here. These gems are coming from the same man, who said less than a year ago that basic human rights to water is “an extreme solution”, and “The biggest social responsibility of any CEO, is to maintain and ensure the successful and profitable future of his enterprise. ” How else could one explain how in his mind, the water scarcity that his corporation is helping to create is more important than the ecology upon which his business depends? Once again the land of Native Americans is being raped and pillaged for its most precious lifeblood so this man can maintain the profitable future of his enterprise. He cares nothing about water scarcity. if he did his company would get out of the water selling business, because bottling and selling water requires staggering amounts of water to be wasted and poisoned to be profitable. This is why industrial civilization will inevitably collapse. People like this are running things.  Sociopath, Pathological anthropocentrists. Profit trumps extinction.” -OSJ

By Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith @ The Independent:

But his comments come as his company is slammed for drawing water from drought-ridden areas in California to sell under its Arrowhead and Pure Life bottled water brands.

Peter Brabeck-Letmanthe, the chairman and former chief executive of Nestlé, told the Financial Times that the world is “running out of water” and that it needs to become a bigger priority to world leaders.

“Today, you cannot have a political discussion anywhere without talking about climate change,” he said. “Nobody talks about the water situation in this sense. And this water problem is much more urgent.”

Climate change is still an important issue, he argued, but even without it “we are running out of water and I think this has to become the first priority,” he said.

Mr Brabeck-Lemanthe’s comments may appear confusing to his company’s critics, as Nestlé, one of the world’s largest food companies, faces harsh criticism for its water bottling activities in California as the area suffers one of its toughest droughts on record.

Nestlé’s 383,000 square-foot water bottling plant is located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation in California.

The state declared a drought state of emergency in January this year, in preparation for coming water shortages – especially during the summer months, but Nestlé is reportedly not required to comply with the emergency measures as its plant sits on a Native American reservation.

But local residents are concerned about the amount of water Nestlé is drawing from the area to bottle and export for profit, and how ethical this action is during a drought.

“Why is it possible to take water from a drought area, bottle it and sell it? Linda Ivey, a Palm Desert real estate appraiser, asked The Desert Sun. “It’s hard to know how much water is being taken – we’ve got to protect what little water supply we have.”

The Desert Sun reported that up until 2009 Nestlé’s Water business, Nestlé Waters, submitted annual reports to a group of local water districts showing how much ground water was being extracted from a spring in Millard Canyon, which is where the plant’s wells have been located for more than a decade.

There have been no reports since then, making it difficult to record how much water is being extracted from the area, but reports estimate it could be 244 million gallons a year. The Desert Sun has repeatedly asked for a tour of Nestlé Waters’ plant over the past year, which has not been granted.

Nestlé Waters said in a statement: “We proudly conduct our business in an environmentally responsible manner that focuses on water and energy conservation. Our sustainable operations are specifically designed and managed to prevent adverse impacts to local area groundwater resources, particularly in light of California’s drought conditions over the past three years.”

Anthropogenic Climate Change Setting The Stage For Worldwide Wars Over Decreasing Food & Water

In Uncategorized on April 2, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Oldspeak: ““Gradual warming of the globe may not be noticed by most, but everyone – either directly or indirectly – will be affected to some degree by changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events as green-house gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere.”

Scientists are already cognizant of how badly a warming Arctic impacts subsistence, for example, according to the Arctic Methane Emergency Group: “The weather extremes … are causing real problems for farmers… World food production can be expected to decline, with mass starvation inevitable. The price of food will rise inexorably, producing global unrest and making food security even more of an issue.”

“The nexus between climate change, human migration, and instability constitutes … a transcendent challenge. The conjunction of these undercurrents was most recently visible during the Arab Spring, where food availability, increasing food prices, drought, and poor access to water, as well as urbanization and international migration contributed to the pressures that underpinned the political upheaval.

As for example, Syria suffered from devastating droughts in the decade leading up to its rebellion as the country’s total water resources cut in half between 2002 and 2008. As a result, the drier winters hit Syria, which, at the time, was the top wheat-growing region of the eastern Mediterranean, thereby, exacerbating its crisis.” -Robert Hunziker and Jack Hunziker

Failing harvests in the US, Ukraine and other countries this year have eroded reserves to their lowest level since 1974. The US, now holds in reserve a historically low 6.5% of the maize that it expects to consume in the next year… We’ve not been producing as much as we are consuming. That is why stocks are being run down. Supplies are now very tight across the world and reserves are at a very low level, leaving no room for unexpected events… Global grain consumption has exceeded production in 8 of the last 13 years, leading to a drawdown in reserves. Worldwide, carryover grain stocks—the amount left in the bin when the new harvest begins—stand at 423 million tons, enough to cover 68 days of consumption. This is just 6 days more than the low that preceded the 2007–08 grain crisis, when several countries restricted exports and food riots broke out in dozens of countries because of the spike in prices…. Lester Brown, president of the Earth policy research centre in Washington, says that the climate is no longer reliable and the demands for food are growing so fast that a breakdown is inevitable, unless urgent action is taken.Food shortages undermined earlier civilisations. We are on the same path. Each country is now fending for itself. The world is living one year to the next.” We are entering a new era of rising food prices and spreading hunger. Food supplies are tightening everywhere and land is becoming the most sought-after commodity as the world shifts from an age of food abundance to one of scarcity,” says Brown. “The geopolitics of food is fast overshadowing the geopolitics of oil.”His warnings come as the UN and world governments reported that extreme heat and drought in the US and other major food-exporting countries had hit harvests badly and sent prices spiralling. “The situation we are in is not temporary. These things will happen all the time. Climate is in a state of flux and there is no normal any more. “We are beginning a new chapter. We will see food unrest in many more places.”  Armed aggression is no longer the principal threat to our future. The overriding threats to this century are climate change, population growth, spreading water shortages and rising food prices,” Brown says.” –John Vidal, U.K. Observer.

“Look beyond the propaganda. The “Arab Spring”, Unrest in Venezuela, Ukraine, and dozens of other countries on all continents are not about “freedom” and “democracy” and “people rising up against dictators”. it’s about food. And the shrinking availability of it as a result of Anthropogenic Climate Change. We are consuming more than we are producing and with less water available as temperatures rise and droughts and other extreme weather worsens, you can expect food production to continue to fall. With human population continuing to rise, this is a recipe for disaster. Our food production systems are unsustainable and toxic to the ecology. And they are practically certain to fail as ever rising food demands far outsize falling production. Then what?” -OSJ

By Robert Hunziker and Jack Hunziker @ Dissident Voice

The “warming of the Arctic” could become one of the greatest catastrophes in human history, even exceeding the notoriety of Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan. Likely, it will impact more people than the combined effect of those brutal leaders. In fact, global warming may eventually be categorized as the greatest threat of all time, even greater than the Black Death’s 75-to-200 million dead, circa 1350.

The integrity of Arctic sea ice is essential to prevent the risks of (1) methane outbreak and/or (2) fierce, damaging weather throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Regrettably, the Arctic “sea ice area” registered a seasonal record low on March 10, 2014 at 12.95 million square kilometers. Whereas, ‘maximum ice growth’ is usually expected in March, not all-time seasonal lows immediately preceding the onset of summer.1

Extreme weather events, as a consequence of the warming Arctic, will likely wreak havoc over the entire Northern Hemisphere, causing severe droughts, freezing cold spells, and widespread flooding (some early evidence of this is already at hand.)

These combinations of extreme weather events have the potential to rival the damage of the great mythical floods. Already, Eastern Europe had a taste of extreme climate change in 2013 when a once-in-500-year flood hit hard, wiping out vast swaths of cropland.

In the future, when shortages of food and water become more commonplace because of extreme climactic change, it is probable that desperate groups of roughnecks will battle for food and water, similar to the dystopia depicted in Mad Max (Warner Bros. 1979) the story of a breakdown of society where bandit tribes battle over the last remaining droplets of petroleum.

Over time, climate change is setting the stage for worldwide wars over food & water.

Origin of Food and Water Wars

Research conducted by Jennifer Francis, PhD, Rutgers University – Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, shows that Arctic sea ice loss, with its consequent warming, impacts upper-level atmospheric circulation, radically distorting jet streams above 30,000 feet, which adversely affects weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere.2

“Gradual warming of the globe may not be noticed by most, but everyone – either directly or indirectly – will be affected to some degree by changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events as green-house gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere.”2

Scientists are already cognizant of how badly a warming Arctic impacts subsistence, for example, according to the Arctic Methane Emergency Group: “The weather extremes … are causing real problems for farmers… World food production can be expected to decline, with mass starvation inevitable. The price of food will rise inexorably, producing global unrest and making food security even more of an issue.”3

“The nexus between climate change, human migration, and instability constitutes … a transcendent challenge. The conjunction of these undercurrents was most recently visible during the Arab Spring, where food availability, increasing food prices, drought, and poor access to water, as well as urbanization and international migration contributed to the pressures that underpinned the political upheaval.”4

As for example, Syria suffered from devastating droughts in the decade leading up to its rebellion as the country’s total water resources cut in half between 2002 and 2008. As a result, the drier winters hit Syria, which, at the time, was the top wheat-growing region of the eastern Mediterranean, thereby, exacerbating its crisis.

In 2009 the UN and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reported that more than 800,000 Syrians lost their entire means of livelihood because of drought.5

In the recent past, ferocious weather conditions have struck all across the planet, for example: a once every 500-year flood in Eastern Europe, a once in 50-year drought in the U.S. Midwest, the worst drought in 200 years in China, affecting more people than the entire population of North America; the worst flooding in Pakistan in 100 years (a continuous deluge lasting for over a month); the most costly flash flood damage in Canada’s modern history; Syria’s drought has been classified as the worst in the history of the Fertile Crescent while Brazil is experiencing it’s worst drought in decades, the list goes on, and on, and on.
Merciless weather is lashing out with torrential storms and embedded droughts like never before. No other period of time in modern history comes close.

The reason behind the weather dilemma has everything to do with global warming in the Arctic, which is warming 2-3 times faster than elsewhere on the planet. In turn, the Arctic, which serves as the thermostat for the entire Northern Hemisphere, is disrupting the jet streams, which, as a result, influences weather patterns throughout the hemisphere, causing droughts and torrential storms to become “embedded or stalled” for long duration, e.g., Colorado’s torrential downpour and massive flooding in 2013, which was as fierce as superabundant coastal tropical storms but not at all like mid-latitude, middle America storms.

History Repeats

Once food and water shortages become widespread as a result of a more extreme and unpredictable climate behavior, it is highly probable that people all across the planet will become so disgusted and distraught that they’ll be looking for blood.

In that regard, history shows that, during such times, desperation overrides prudence. Therefore, hiding behind security gates and armed troops won’t make a difference, similar to the late 18th century French Revolution when masses of citizens used pitchforks, stones, and sticks to overwhelm the king’s formidable armed forces. At the time, France was one of the mightiest forces in the world, but like toy soldiers, its army fell at the hands of its own citizens.

In the end, civilizations cannot, and have not, survived the forces of desperation born of starvation.
In the case of Paris, two years of poor grain harvests because of bad weather conditions set the stage for revolution. On June 21, 1791 the king, queen, and their attendants fled their Paris residences, whisked away in carriages, as masses of enraged, starving protestors swarmed the city streets.

The forewarnings had been there years beforehand. On August 20, 1986 Finance Minister Calonne informed King Louis XVI that the royal finances were insolvent (because of costly foreign wars- like the U.S. today) Hard times hit (also similar to U.S. today) Six months later the First Assembly of Notables met, resisting imposition of taxes and fiscal reforms (similar to the U.S. right wing today) It was nearly three years later April 27th, 1789 when the Reveillon Riot in Paris, caused by low wages (like U.S. wages today, Wal-Mart, McDonalds) and food shortages (not in U.S. yet), led to 25 deaths by troops.

Thereafter, the public’s anger grew to a fever pitch. On July the 14th rioters stormed the most notorious jail for political prisoners in all of France, the Bastille. By July 17th the “Great Fear” had begun to taken command of the streets as the peasantry revolted against their socio-economic system.

One of their prime targets was Queen Marie Antoinette, the Dauphin of the world’s most powerful monarchy, whose last spoken words were delivered to Henri Sanson, her executioner, as she accidentally stepped on his foot upon climbing the steps of the scaffold: “Monsieur, I ask your pardon. I did not do it on purpose,” before losing her head in front of tens of thousands of cheering Parisians, screaming “Vive la Nation!

Flash forward in time into the future, and imagine the backlash in the country if food shortages hit America because of the failure of the government to set policies to convert fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. As such, the US could have led the entire world to conversion to renewable sources of energy. As things stand, it is a “missed opportunity.”

In stark contrast to America’s reluctance, Scotland’s energy sources are already 40% renewables and will be 100% by 2020.

Food and Civil Disturbances

According to a landmark study, “Food insecurity is both cause and a consequence of political violence.” Henk-Jan Brinkman and Cullen S. Hendrix, Food Insecurity and Conflict, The World Development Report 2011.
The link between high grain prices and riots is well established. For example, according to The Economist magazine (December 2007), when high grain prices sparked riots in 48 countries, the magazine’s food- price index was at its highest point since originating in 1845.

As for a more current situation, the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 brought political and economic issues to the forefront, but behind the scenes, climate stress played a big role.

According to Marco Lagif of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) in Technology Review, MIT, August 2011, the single factor that triggers riots around the world is the price of food. The evidence comes from data gathered by the United Nations that plots the price of food against time, the so-called Food Price Index of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.

On December 13, 2011, four days before Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia, sparking the Arab Spring riots, NECSI contacted the U.S. government, warning that global food prices were about to cross the tipping point when almost anything can trigger riots.

Accordingly, the NECSI study was presented, by invitation, at the World Economic Forum in Davos and was featured as one of the top ten discoveries in science in 2011 by Wired magazine.

“Definitely, it is one of the causes of the Arab Spring,” says Shenggen Fan, director-general of the International Food Policy Research Institute. As well, it is increasingly clear that the climate models that predicted the countries surrounding the Mediterranean would start to dry out are correct.6

As for Syria, it is a prime example of the drama of changing climatic conditions and the consequences. The country’s farmlands north and east of the Euphrates River constitute the breadbasket of the Middle East. Unfortunately, up to 60 percent of Syria’s land experienced one of the worst droughts on record from 2006-11.
In Syria’s northeast and the south, nearly 75 percent suffered total crop failure. Herders in the northeast lost 85 percent of their livestock. According to the UN, 800,000 Syrians had their livelihoods totally wiped out, moving to the cities to find work or to refugee camps, similar to what happened in Paris in the late 18th century.

Furthermore, the drought pushed three million Syrians into extreme poverty. According to Abeer Etefa of the World Food Program, “Food inflation in Syria remains the main issue for citizens,” eerily similar to what occurred in France in the late 18th century just prior to it’s revolution.
The French Revolution Redux, in America?

As countries like the United States hastily continue their pursuit of policies dedicated to ‘energy independence’ by fracking, using extreme pressure to force toxic chemicals underground to suck up every last remnant of oil and gas, the warming of the Arctic is elevated, and the jet streams become more distorted, resulting in extremely harsh, deadly and unpredictable weather systems, pummeling the entire Northern Hemisphere.

Eventually, the outcome leads to shortages of food, and like a flashback of 18th century France, people starve or fight.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Source: NSIDC, National Snow and Ice Data Center, Boulder, CO. []
  2. Jennifer A. Francis and Stephen J. Vavrus, Evidence Linking Arctic Amplification to Extreme Weather in Mid-Latitudes, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 39, L06801, 17 March 2012. [] []
  3. Source: Arctic Methane Emergency Group. []
  4. Michael Werz and Max Hofman, Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict, The Arab Spring and Climate Change, Climate and Security Correlations Series, Feb. 2013. []
  5. Robert F. Worth, Earth is Parched Where Syrian Farms Thrived, New York Times, Oct. 13, 2010. []
  6. “Human-Caused Climate Change Already a Major Factor in more Frequent Mediterranean Droughts,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, October 27, 2011. []

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. Jack Hunziker is a composer and critic of music. He attended Crossroads School in Santa Monica and is an on-and-off student at UCLA. Read other articles by Robert Hunziker and Jack Hunziker.

Global Warming Rapidly Melting Glaciers = Water Scarcity For 700 Million More People

In Uncategorized on September 26, 2013 at 6:14 pm
Glacier.

A glacier in the Himalayas. (Photo: Karunakar Rayker / Flickr)

Oldspeak: “”The glaciers of the Himalayas are melting so fast they will affect the water supplies of a population twice that of the US within 22 years, the head of the world’s leading authority on climate change has warned.”-Pilita Clark

Contrary to what the front groups funded by the fossil fuel industry would have you believe, climate change doesn’t just mean the winters are milder. Or the plants have more carbon dioxide.

It means that hundreds of millions of people will be displaced, will starve, and will die. It means wars. It means famines. It means raging forest fires and the death of grasslands. It means the acidification of our oceans and the destruction of our ocean ecosystems. It means that we stand on the edge of tipping points that hurtle humanity toward extinction.

Yes, extinction.” -Thom Hartmann

“When you understand that:

85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet.”

“783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation.”

“6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.”

“Various estimates indicate that, based on business as usual, ~3.5 planets Earth would be needed to sustain a global population achieving the current lifestyle of the average European or North American.” –U.N.

And 200 countries agree on the findings of this massive report; this can’t be good. Our civilization is unsustainable. We have to stop and try something else. Before we get stopped for good. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick….” –OSJ

By Thom Hartmann @ Truthout:

Three quarters of a billion people is a lot of people.

And that’s how many people, within the next 22 years, will almost certainly run low on water – a necessity of life – in just the regions whose rivers are supplied with water from the glaciers in the Himalayas.

To put that in perspective, 750 million people is more than twice the current population of United States. It’s about the population of all of Europe. In the year 1900 there were only 500 million people on the entire planet. Seven hundred fifty million people is a lot of people.

The IPCC – the international body of scientists analyzing global climate change – is releasing its new report in stages over the next week and this early piece was reported on by the Financial Times on Monday. Under the headline “IPCC head warns on Himalayan melting glaciers,” the opening sentence of the article by Pilita Clark summarizes a very tightly:

“The glaciers of the Himalayas are melting so fast they will affect the water supplies of a population twice that of the US within 22 years, the head of the world’s leading authority on climate change has warned.”

And that’s just the Himalayas and the rivers flow out of their glaciers toward South Asian regions including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and China. There are similar glaciers along the mountain ranges of western South America that supply water to other hundreds of millions of people – they are all at risk, too. We’re even seen it here in the United States, with last year’s drought in the West. Glaciers are changing in Europe, and the regions of Tanzania supplied by the famous “Snows Of Kilimanjaro,” are drying up in ways that are creating serious drought problems for the people in those parts of Africa.

Contrary to what the front groups funded by the fossil fuel industry would have you believe, climate change doesn’t just mean the winters are milder. Or the plants have more carbon dioxide.

It means that hundreds of millions of people will be displaced, will starve, and will die. It means wars. It means famines. It means raging forest fires and the death of grasslands. It means the acidification of our oceans and the destruction of our ocean ecosystems. It means that we stand on the edge of tipping points that hurtle humanity toward extinction.

Yes, extinction.

There have been five mass extinctions in the history of the Earth, times when more than half of all life died and all the top predators – animals like us – vanished or nearly finished. All of these mass extinctions were provoked by geologically-sudden global warming.

And now we are driving a similar process by burning fossil fuels.

People around the world are already dying from global climate change. Wars are already being fought because of climate change. The Earth is changing before our very eyes.

There are solutions, ranging from a carbon tax to rapid transitions into alternative energy. We need to be pursuing them now.

The debate is long over. The world is waking up.

And the fossil fuel Industry is being shown for what it is – fossils promoting fossils, intellectual frauds and greedheads.

It’s time to move from the energy forms of the 19th century into the modern, clean, nonpolluting energies currently available in the 21st-century. Now.

“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.