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Famine and Water Riots Are Coming, Warns New IPCC Intergovernmental Report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a new report on the state of the global environment. One of their most important messages is that we need to prepare for famines and water shortages in the coming decades.

Photo, above, of California’s low water levels due to drought this year, by Randall Benton, Sacramento Bee.

The Guardian‘s John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli have a great guide to the report. They write:

The report discusses the risk associated with food insecurity due to more intense droughts, floods, and heat waves in a warmer world, especially for poorer countries. This contradicts the claims of climate contrarians like Matt Ridley, who have tried to claim that rising carbon dioxide levels are good for crops.

While rising carbon dioxide levels have led to ‘global greening’ in past decades and improved agricultural technology has increased crop yields, research has indicated that both of these trends are already beginning to reverse. While plants like carbon dioxide, they don’t like heat waves, droughts, and floods. Likewise, economist Richard Tol has argued that farmers can adapt to climate change, but adaptation has its costs and its limits. In fact, the IPCC summary report notes that most studies project a decline in crop yields starting in 2030, even as global food demand continues to rise.

The report also discusses risks associated with water insecurity, due for example to shrinking of glaciers that act as key water resources for various regions around the world, and through changing precipitation patterns. As a result of these types of changes, the IPCC also anticipates that violent conflicts like civil wars will become more common.

Here’s a chart from the report tracking likely decreases in crop yields over time, if climate change continues unchecked.

Essentially, climate change is going to decrease our supply of food and water. And this, the IPCC suggests, will foment civil unrest and could lead to more armed conflicts than we have now.

Other looming threats include greater risks of flooding, ocean acidification, and animal extinctions.

It seems clear that mitigating climate change doesn’t simply mean curbing our fossil fuel emissions and agricultural runoff into the oceans. We’re also going to need to figure out new ways to improve our food and water security. Perhaps the breakthrough technologies of the twenty-first century will involve genetic tweaks that make plants more resistant to drought, and cheap ways to recycle or purify water.

If we can’t agree on what to do about climate change, one has to hope that we can unify around what to do about hunger and thirst.

Read the entire IPCC report [PDF]

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Sustainability as an Investment Class

 

Energy And Water Are Fundamentally Intertwined – Our Policy should reflect that

This commentary, authored by Kate Zerrenner, originally appeared on EDF’s Energy Exchange blog.

When I tell people that the best way to conserve energy is to conserve water, I am often faced with a confused response. I’m not surprised really. Energy and water policies are rarely discussed in the same forum. For a long time, we’ve overlooked the inextricable relationship between water and energy use. Coal, nuclear and natural gas plants use enormous amounts of steam to create electricity. Producing all of that steam requires 190,000 million gallons of water per day, or 39% of all freshwater withdrawals in the nation.

Connection between energy and water

The longstanding division between energy and water considerations is particularly evident in the case of energy and water management. These resources are fundamentally intertwined: Energy is used to secure, deliver, treat and distribute water, while water is used (and often degraded) to develop, process and deliver energy. Despite the inherent connection between the two sectors, energy and water planners routinely make decisions that impact one another without adequately understanding the scientific or policy complexities of the other sector. This miscommunication often hides joint opportunities for conservation to the detriment of budgets, efficiency, the environment and public health, and inhibits both sectors from fully accounting for the financial, environmental or social effects they have on each other.

This lack of collaboration between energy and water planners is especially dire considering Texas is in midst of an energy shortage that is exacerbated by the multi-year drought. Without adequate planning, we could someday have to choose between keeping our lights on and turning on the faucet.

Need for efficiency

Source: NY Times

 

Energy and water infrastructure upgrades are expensive, and this reality continues to stifle the transition to a more water and energy efficient system. Energy and water policies at both the federal and state levels were developed to support existing electricity generation and water technology, but conditions have changed dramatically and the policies haven’t kept up.

Competitive markets, new technologies, resource constraints and increasing greenhouse gas emissions are all part of the new planning reality, but are not adequately addressed when energy and water planning are carried out in siloes. At the most basic level, even the language between the two sectors does not match up, making it difficult for energy and water planners to speak to each other effectively. But don’t think this lets regulators and policymakers off the hook.

Policy

There have been calls for joint water and energy resource management. In 2011, the U.S. Energy and Water Research Integration Act was formulated “to ensure consideration of water intensity in the Department of Energy’s energy research, development, and demonstration programs to help guarantee efficient, reliable, and sustainable delivery of energy and water resources.” Although it was not enacted into law, this bill put the energy-water nexus on the national stage. Later, in the 2013 Texas legislative session, Senator Kirk Watson nearly passed a bill (Senate Bill 199) that would have required electricity generators to report their water use and needs annually. While some lawmakers have a clear vision to address energy and water needs together, we lack a consensus and broad understanding among stakeholders to make that vision a reality.

To compound the problem, energy and water resources are managed at multiple levels—local, regional, statewide and national. Having these different planning and regulatory levels means more opportunities for miscommunication or misalignment of policy goals from each sector. Addressing energy and water on a more coordinated basis could help overcome language barriers between the two and ensure that each resource is more adequately protected.

Energy and water management is too crucial to be upheld by disjointed decision making that doesn’t look at the whole picture. While it may be difficult to breakdown the longstanding separation between energy and water management, doing so will reveal novel conservation strategies to ensure Texans – or anyone else for that matter – never have to choose between keeping our lights on or running water to meet our daily needs.

This is one of a group of posts that examines the energy-water nexus, Texas’ current approach to energy and water policy and what Texans can learn from other places to better manage its vital resources.

 

WEF Impact Investing Report

wef-impact-investing-thumbOver the last few years, much excitement has been generated around the term “impact investing” – an investment approach that intentionally seeks to create both financial return and measurable positive social or environmental impact. Despite the buzz, there is limited consensus among mainstream investors and specialized niche players on what impact investing is, what asset classes are most relevant, how the ecosystem is structured and what constraints the sector faces. As a result, there is widespread confusion regarding what impact investing promises and ultimately delivers.

This report is a result of engaging over 150 mainstream investors, business executives, philanthropic leaders and policy-makers through interviews, workshops and conference calls. The overall objective of the Mainstreaming Impact Investing initiative is to provide an initial assessment of the sector and identify the factors constraining the acceleration of capital into the field of impact investing.

Download the report (PDF)

 

100,000 Kg of Poisoned Dead Fish in Chinese River

100,000 Kg of Poisoned Dead Fish in Chinese River

http://www.globalfundexchange.com/blog/2013/09/04/100000-kg-of-poisoned-dead-fish-in-chinese-river/

Chinese authorities have scooped up around 100,000 kilograms (220,000 pounds) of dead fish they say were poisoned by ammonia from a chemical plant, environmental officials and state media said Wednesday, in a reminder of the pollution plaguing the country.

The Hubei province environmental protection department, notified of the piles of dead fish in central China’s Fuhe River on Monday, pointed the finger at local company Hubei Shuanghuan Science and Technology Stock Co. Officials said sampling of its drain outlet showed that ammonia density far exceeded the national standard. The company said it wasn’t going to immediately comment.

Inadequate controls on industry and lax enforcement of existing standards have worsened China’s pollution problem, stemming from three decades of breakneck economic growth.

A few months ago we published a short slideshow on China’s Pollution Issues – Click here to see it.

High-profile incidents this year involving dead animals in rivers — not only deaths attributed to pollution but also carcasses dumped by farmers after die-offs at farms — have added to public disgust and suspicions about the safety of drinking water.

The latest incident has affected the nearby fishing village of Huanghualao, where 1,600 residents make a living from fishing, said the village’s Communist Party secretary, Wang Sanqing. “The dead fish covered the entire river and looked like snowflakes,” he said, adding that the village has 150 fishing boats and could lose up to 70,000 yuan ($11,400) per day. The environmental department warned the public not to eat the dead fish, but said drinking water was not affected. It said it ordered the company to suspend operations and fix the pollution problem.

View slideshow

Remember, we did not inherit this planet from our parents, we merely have it on loan from our children and grandchildren. Time to make a difference ? See what we are doing at Global Fund Exchange to leave a better legacy for future generations. 

by anric

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Climate Change, Water

 

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A Nation On Fire: Climate Change And The Burning of America

A Nation On Fire: Climate Change And The Burning of America

http://www.globalfundexchange.com/blog/2013/07/31/a-nation-on-fire-climate-change-and-the-burning-of-america/

June 20, 2013: Wildfires fires approach the town of South Fork, Colorado (Credit: AP)

 

Huge, explosive fires are becoming commonplace, say many experts, because climate change is setting the stage — bringing higher temperatures, widespread drought, earlier snowmelt and spring vegetation growth, and expanded insect and disease infestations.


Scientists and fire experts speaking on a recent conference call organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists say the nation is moving into an era when massive and destructive wildfires of the kind that occurred only sporadically over the last century will now be a regular occurrence. “Within the next few decades we anticipate these [forest] systems being as dry on a regular basis as the major fire years of the last century,” said Anthony Westerling of the University of California, Merced.

“We are now completely certain that there is a climate signal in the observed fire activity,” added Dave Cleaves, climate adviser to the head of the U.S. Forest Service. “Fire, insects, disease and moisture stress are all being linked more closely by climate change.”

Wildfire statistics compiled by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, offer sobering confirmation. The seven largest fire years since 1960 have all occurred since 2000. In 2006, 2007, and last year, the toll exceeded 9 million acres, an area roughly equivalent to Maryland and Rhode Island combined.

This year’s fire season, while running behind 2012 in terms of acreage lost thus far, is proving particularly destructive and tragic in some places. A year after the Waldo Canyon fire set a new standard for destructiveness in Colorado by burning nearly 350 homes in 2012, this June the Black Forest Firedestroyed more than 500 just a few miles away. And the June 30 Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona killed 19 members of a Hot Shot firefighting crew when they were overrun by flames, the deadliest wildfire in 80 years.

There is no single reason for the recent transition to more frequent and explosive fires, says Oltrogge. For one, too many people are “deciding to build communities where there will be big scary wildfires.” And there is too much fuel built up in forests where frequent low-intensity fires once thinned out underbrush but where decades of man suppressing natural fires has resulted in overcrowded stands of trees now vulnerable to catastrophic fires. Plus, emphasizes Oltrogge, “I can tell you as a matter of fact that climate change is a key contributor to what we’ve been dealing with the last 10 to 12 years.”

That’s hardly an outlier opinion. In congressional testimony two years ago, Thomas Tidwell, the head of the U.S. Forest Service, told lawmakers that his agency faces conditions of higher temperatures, earlier mountain snowmelt, and much longer fire seasons, which “our scientists believe … is due to a change in climate.”

Wildfires-02Tidwell again delivered that message yet again to Congress last month. Large fires in excess of 10,000 acres are seven times more common today than four decades ago, Tidwell said. The fire season is two months longer. In 2012, he said, “over 9.3 million acres burned in the United States. The fires of 2012 were massive in size, with 51 fires exceeding 40,000 acres. Of these large fires, 14 exceeded 100,000 acres.”

And that comes with a huge price tag.

The cost of federal firefighting efforts, borne largely by the Forest Service and the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, has also risen dramatically. At the Forest Service, firefighting now often eats up 40 percent of the agency’s annual budget. In a little more than a decade, fire staffing at the Forest Service has more than doubled. During the decade of the 1990s, federal firefighting costs averaged less than $1 billion a year; since 2002, the annual cost has averaged more than $3 billion.

There is little prospect of those costs declining. In fact, a report released last month by Headwaters Economics concluded, “These changes will all contribute to escalating wildfire protection costs for all levels of government.”

Federal efforts to reduce fire risks — through thinning of small trees and underbrush and by setting what are known as ‘prescribed fires’ to cut down on those small fuels that can lead to large catastrophic fires — were accelerated around the year 2000, when spending on what is known as the hazardous fuels reduction program run by the Forest Service and Department of Interior tripled. But spending on fuels reduction since 2011 has declined, and in its budget request this year, the Obama administration has sought a cut of more than 30 percent, the third year in a row it has proposed substantial reductions to Congress. The administration’s request for hazardous fuels reduction for next year is just $297 million.

Wildfire preparedness has taken another hit as a result of automatic budget cuts under sequestration, which cut spending from $500 million last year to $419 million this year. A report released this spring by House Appropriation Committee Democrats found that sequestration would mean the Forest Service would have 500 fewer firefighters this season, and 50-70 fewer fire engines and two fewer aircraft.

Increasingly, lawmakers are calling on the Forest Service and Interior Department to spend more on preventive measures in order to eventually reduce firefighting costs. “You can spend more modest amounts on the front end, with preventive kinds of efforts, or you can spend your time investing substantially more money trying to play catch-up as these infernos rip their way through the West,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) last month.

Even with stronger financial support, the job of treating forests to reduce wildfire is enormous. The federal government is currently treating about 3 million acres a year, but Tidwell, the chief of the Forest Service, told Congress in June that between 65 and 82 million acres of Forest Service lands “are in need of fuels and forest health treatments — up to 42 percent of the entire system.”

Across all federal land holdings, 231 million acres are at moderate to high risk of damage from wildfires, according to a 2011 Congressional Research Service report. “Since many ecosystems need to be treated on a 10-35 year cycle … current treatment rates are insufficient to address the problem,” the report found.

Attacking the escalating expense of fighting fires is a difficult problem.

This is due in large part to the fact that the federal government, which shoulders most of the firefighting expense, has little power to control Americans’ urge to move into the woods because land use decisions are a local and state responsibility.

A key reason that wildfires have become more destructive, and fighting them more expensive, is that millions of Americans have made a conscious decision to move close to wildlands that are susceptible to fire — known by the infelicitous phrase the wildland-urban interface, or WUI.

“The number of housing units within half a mile of a national forest grew from 484,000 in 1940 to 1.8 million in 2000,” Tidwell testified to Congress last month. Another 1.2 million live within national forest boundaries, a nearly four-fold increase from 1940. Even with all that development near and in the forest, only about one-sixth of the WUI is developed, leaving plenty of room to make the situation worse.

Protecting those structures during fires has become the de facto number two priority of federal firefighting efforts, after protecting human life. According to Headwaters Economics’ recent report, “in a survey of [Forest Service] land managers, some estimated that 50 to 95 percent of firefighting costs were attributable to protection of private property.”

Further complicating the matter is the fact that knowing that federal firefighters will make valiant efforts to save homes “removes incentives for landowners moving into the WUI to take responsibility for their own protection and ensure their homes are constructed and landscaped in ways that reduce wildfire risks” according to a report by the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General.

Ray Rasker, executive director of Headwaters Economics, said in an interview that a huge part of the problem is the fact that “there is no cost accountability for those who build in the WUI,” whether its individual homeowners or the local government bodies who make the development decisions about sewers, police coverage, roads and other issues.

“There are a lot of questions they ask about okaying a new development,” says Rasker. “But they don’t ask, ‘when we get a bill from the feds are we going to be able to afford our share of the firefighting costs?’” That’s because in most cases, they don’t have to share those fire costs. If they did, said Rasker, it would be much easier for local government to say no to development in the WUI.

“Eighty four percent of this land is still not developed,” Rasker says. “If you think it’s expensive now, you’re in for a big surprise. Fires are twice as big, they are burning twice as long. That’s the cost trajectory we are on.”

Climate change is altering the fundamentals in the West, bringing higher temperatures, earlier snowmelt that extends the fire season, severe and prolonged drought, and insect infestations that kill millions of acres of trees. Combined with scant evidence that policymakers at all levels of government are attacking the problems of fuels and population shifts into the WUI, there seems to be little prospect that the growing extent of wildfires will be stemmed.

paper released last December by the Forest Service, part of the government’s National Climate Assessment, looked at the effects of climate change on U.S. forest ecosystems. On the subject of fire, it presented a stark and sobering conclusion: by mid-century, wildland fires will be burning twice as much acreage as they do now.

Andrew Breiner contributed the graphics for this piece.

by anric

 

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Green Algae Swamping Chinese Sea – More climate change proof

Green Algae Swamping Chinese Sea – More climate change proof

http://www.globalfundexchange.com/blog/2013/07/20/green-algae-swamping-chinese-sea-more-climate-change-proof/

Near Qingdao, China, swimmers continue to enjoy days at the beach despite heaping amounts of green algae that have bloomed and overrun more than 11,000 square miles of seawater, according to a CNN report. This year’s outbreak has more than doubled the previous record, a relatively miniscule 5,000 square miles in 2008.

The cause of these massive blooms remains under debate. Some scientists believe it’s a result of warmer water, while a Los Angeles Times piece suggested it may be increased by nearby farms, golf courses or gardens using fertilizer that washes into the sea.

While the algae isn’t believed to be a threat to humans, the smell has driven some beachgoers away, reports the BBC. It’s a toxic scent that occurs when the blooms are left to rot.

The local government plans to send the green blobs off to be dried and ground up for animal food.

Known as Enteromorpha prolifera, the green algae is bad for the seawater because it consumes a lot of oxygen, suffocating other nearby organisms, according to a Business Insider story. The mess costs tens of millions of dollars to remove on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars in damage it could cause to local fisheries.

by anric

 

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