tagged w/ Water Scarcity
Charity Water has been doing wonderful things to bring potable water to those who need it most. Over four thousand projects this year alone. In the coming years with climate change and pollution having a greater effect in a world with a growing population, potable water and sanitation will be even more essential to life.
There is no better gift to give than water. To see the smile on the face of a child as they put clean water from a tap to their lips for the first time to drink is unlike any other.
2011 was a year in which we saw more water sources compromised by scarcity, pollution and the effects of climate change (such as drought, evaporation, floods.) This coming year will be no less of a challenge. However, when we work together for a common cause we can do wonders.
Let us make 2012 the year we begin to heal this planet and bring this living liquid to all in our world who need it.
Water Is Life.
As 2012 starts I will be featuring other water organizations also working to provide potable water to those who need it most.Charity Water has been doing wonderful things to bring potable water to those who need... more
The water supplied by the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca, vital to a huge region of northwest Peru, is decreasing 20 years sooner than expected, according to a new study.
Water flows from the region's melting glaciers have already peaked and are in decline, Michel Baraer, a glaciologist at Canada's McGill University, told Tierramérica. This is happening 20 to 30 years earlier than forecasted.
"Our study reveals that the glaciers feeding the Río Santa watershed are now too small to maintain past water flows. There will be less water, as much as 30 percent less during the dry season," said Baraer, lead author of the study "Glacier Recession and Water Resources in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca", published Dec. 22 in the Journal of Glaciology.
When glaciers begin to shrink in size, they generate "a transitory increase in runoff as they lose mass," the study notes.
However, Baraer explained, the water flowing from a glacier eventually hits a plateau and from this point onwards there is a decrease in the discharge of melt water. "The decline is permanent. There is no going back."
Part of the South American Andes Mountain chain, the Cordillera Blanca is a series of snow-covered peaks running north to south, parallel to the Cordillera Negra, located further west. Between the two ranges lies the Callejón de Huaylas, through which the Río Santa runs, eventually emptying into the Pacific Ocean.
The tropical glaciers of the Andes Mountains are in rapid decline, losing 30 to 50 percent of their ice in the last 30 years, according to French Institute for Research and Development (IRD).
Most of the decline has been since 1976, IRD reported, due to rising temperatures in the region as a result of climate change. In Bolivia, the Chacaltaya glacier disappeared in 2009.
Even in the colder regions of the Andes glaciers are in full retreat. Chile's Center for Scientific Studies reported this month that the Jorge Montt Glacier in the vast Patagonian Ice Fields receded one entire km in just one year. Historically glacial retreat is extremely slow: one or two km per 100 years.
Melting glaciers around the world present some of the strongest evidence that global climate change is underway, said Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University, the world's foremost glaciologist.
Thompson warns that without sharp reductions in the use of fossil fuels, the impacts of climate change could come faster and beyond what humanity can adapt to.
Warmer temperatures not only melt ice but also have major effects on snowfall.
As cool seasons become warmer and snow turns to rain, the amount and duration of snow packs decrease and the permanent snow line moves upslope, according to the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI), an intergovernmental science organization based in São José dos Campos, Brazil.
These changes have significant effects on the seasonality of stream flows, increasing winter flow rates while the availability of water during the summer declines when water in streams and rivers comes mainly from snow and ice melt.
In many High Andean tropical and subtropical valleys, spring and summer snow and glacier melt are critical for crops, livestock and human consumption. Several major Andean cities rely heavily on glacier and snow melt for their water supply, such as La Paz and Lima, with demand increasingly outstripping the supply, according to a 2010 IAI communiqué.
The Cordillera Blanca has the most glaciers of any tropical mountain range in the world. In the 1930s glaciers covered up to 850 sq km of the region and now they cover less than 600 sq km, reports Baraer and the eight other study authors from McGill University, Ohio State University, the University of California, the IRD and the glaciology unit of the Peruvian National Water Authority.
Most of the melt water from these glaciers drains into the Río Santa watershed. The researchers compared detailed water flow measurements from the 1950s to water flows in recent years, and determined that of the nine sub-watersheds of the Río Santa, seven have passed their peak water flow and are in decline, and almost all of the decline is during the dry summer months.
Changes in precipitation and the effects of La Niña and El Niño were also assessed and were not responsible for the declines, Baraer said.
Until now it was widely believed that such declines would take place 20 to 30 years from now, allowing time to adapt to a future with less water. "Those years don't exist," said Baraer.
More at the linkThe water supplied by the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca, vital to a huge region of... more
Consider it a taste of the future: the fire, smoke, drought, dust, and heat that have made life unpleasant, if not dangerous, from Louisiana to Los Angeles. New records tell the tale: biggest wildfire ever recorded in Arizona (538,049 acres), biggest fire ever in New Mexico (156,600 acres), all-time worst fire year in Texas history (3,697,000 acres).
The fires were a function of drought. As of summer’s end, 2011 was the driest year in 117 years of record keeping for New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana, and the second driest for Oklahoma. Those fires also resulted from record heat. It was the hottest summer ever recorded for New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, as well as the hottest August ever for those states, plus Arizona and Colorado.
Virtually every city in the region experienced unprecedented temperatures, with Phoenix, as usual, leading the march toward unlivability. This past summer, the so-called Valley of the Sun set a new record of 33 days when the mercury reached a shoe-melting 110º F or higher. (The previous record of 32 days was set in 2007.)
And here’s the bad news in a nutshell: if you live in the Southwest or just about anywhere in the American West, you or your children and grandchildren could soon enough be facing the Age of Thirst, which may also prove to be the greatest water crisis in the history of civilization. No kidding.
If that gets you down, here’s a little cheer-up note: the end is not yet nigh.
In fact, this year the weather elsewhere rode to the rescue, and the news for the Southwest was good where it really mattered. Since January, the biggest reservoir in the United States, Lake Mead, backed up by the Hoover Dam and just 30 miles southwest of Las Vegas, has risen almost 40 feet. That lake is crucial when it comes to watering lawns or taking showers from Arizona to California. And the near 40-foot surge of extra water offered a significant upward nudge to the Southwest’s water reserves.
The Colorado River, which the reservoir impounds, supplies all or part of the water on which nearly 30 million people depend, most of them living downstream of Lake Mead in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Tijuana, and scores of smaller communities in the United States and Mexico.
Back in 1999, the lake was full. Patricia Mulroy, who heads the water utility serving Las Vegas, rues the optimism of those bygone days. “We had a fifty-year, reliable water supply,” she says. “By 2002, we had no water supply. We were out. We were done. I swore to myself we’d never do that again.”
In 2000, the lake began to fall -- like a boulder off a cliff, bouncing a couple of times on the way down. Its water level dropped a staggering 130 feet, stopping less than seven feet above the stage that would have triggered reductions in downstream deliveries. Then -- and here’s the good news, just in case you were wondering -- last winter, it snowed prodigiously up north in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
The spring and summer run-off from those snowpacks brought enormous relief. It renewed what we in the Southwest like to call the Hydro-Illogic cycle: when drought comes, everybody wrings their hands and promises to institute needed reform, if only it would rain a little. Then the drought breaks or eases and we all return to business as usual, until the cycle comes around to drought again.
So don’t be fooled. One day, perhaps soon, Lake Mead will renew its downward plunge. That’s a certainty, the experts tell us. And here’s the thing: the next time, a sudden rescue by heavy snows in the northern Rockies might not come. If the snowpacks of the future are merely ordinary, let alone puny, then you’ll know that we really are entering a new age.
And climate change will be a major reason, but we’ll have done a good job of aiding and abetting it. The states of the so-called Lower Basin of the Colorado River -- California, Arizona, and Nevada -- have been living beyond their water means for years. Any departure from recent decades of hydrological abundance, even a return to long-term average flows in the Colorado River, would produce a painful reckoning for the Lower Basin states. And even worse is surely on the way.
Just think of the coming Age of Thirst in the American Southwest and West as a three-act tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions.
We have already experienced close to 1º C of that increase, which accounts, at least in part, for last summer’s colossal fires and record-setting temperatures -- and it’s now clear that we’re just getting started.
The simple rule of thumb for climate change is that wet places will get wetter and dry places drier. One reason the dry places will dry is that higher temperatures mean more evaporation. In other words, there will be ever less water in the rivers that keep the region’s cities (and much else) alive. Modeling already suggests that by mid-century surface stream-flow will decline by 10% to 30%.
Independent studies at the Scripps Oceanographic Institute in California and the University of Colorado evaluated the viability of Lake Mead and eventually arrived at similar conclusions: after about 2026, the risk of “failure” at Lake Mead, according to a member of the Colorado group, “just skyrockets.” Failure in this context would mean water levels lower than the dam’s lowest intake, no water heading downstream, and the lake becoming a “dead pool.”
more at the linkConsider it a taste of the future: the fire, smoke, drought, dust, and heat that have... more
Mexico is being battered its worst drought in seven decades, which has devastated farm life and is expected to continue into next year.
The lack of rainfall has affected almost 70 percent of the country and northern states like Coahuila, San Luis Potosi, Sonora, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas have suffered the most acute water shortage.
Due to the drought and a cold snap at the start of the year, the government has cut its forecast for corn production two times in 2011. It now expects a harvest of 20 million tonnes compared to a previous estimate of 23 million.
Crops that cover tens of thousands of acres have been lost this year and roughly 450,000 cattle have died in arid pastures. Crucial dams, typically full at this time of year, are at 30 to 40 percent of capacity.
"This is very serious," Ignacio Rivera, an official at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, told Reuters. "Statistics on precipitation in the country show us that this year has been the driest in the last 70 years."
The country has total arable land of 22 million hectares (54.4 million acres) that can be tilled over two planting seasons while the national cattle herd last year was just over 32.6 million.
Mexico is one of the world's five top corn producers and the government expects output to recover to 25 million tonnes in 2012, aided by reorganization of the cultivated areas.
Rivera said that of the 8.1 million hectares of farmland insured by the government against natural disaster, some 600,000 claims have been lodged to recover losses on 3.8 million hectares. The Mexican government has so far set aside some 1.6 billion pesos ($113 million) to cover the losses.
Forecasts do not signal any near-term relief, but rather more losses ahead as the winter season brings damaging frost.
"It's a troubling situation, and is more worrisome because the rainy season is over... the hope is that by June it starts to rain," said Felipe Arreguin, deputy director of the National Water Commission (Conagua).
In the northern state of Durango, where a third of the population lives in the countryside, authorities expect significant losses in grain and seed production as well as bean and corn, which are a staple in the Mexican diet.
"It's a tragedy because there is virtually no harvest. It's a critical situation that we don't even have beans for home consumption," the state governor Jorge Herrera told Reuters.
Official figures show an expected 28 percent loss in production of beans this year, while the recovery to historical levels of 1.2 million tonnes will depend on the weather.
If the drought does not lift soon, analysts say authorities will be forced to raise its food imports to cover lower domestic production.Mexico is being battered its worst drought in seven decades, which has devastated farm... more
Wintertime droughts are increasingly common in the Mediterranean region, and human-caused climate change is partly responsible, according to a new analysis by NOAA scientists and colleagues at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). In the last 20 years, 10 of the driest 12 winters have taken place in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
“The magnitude and frequency of the drying that has occurred is too great to be explained by natural variability alone,” said Martin Hoerling, Ph.D. of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., lead author of a paper published online in the Journal of Climate this month. “This is not encouraging news for a region that already experiences water stress, because it implies natural variability alone is unlikely to return the region’s climate to normal.”
The above is from a news release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “NOAA study: Human-caused climate change a major factor in more frequent Mediterranean droughts.”
It’s a bombshell for three reasons. First, this NOAA team has not always found a human cause for extreme weather events, as Climate Progress discussed here. Second, the study found that global warming is already driving drought in a key region of the world: Climate change is harming a great many people now. Third, the analysis provides important confirmation of climate predictions that human-caused emissions would lead to drying: “The team also found agreement between the observed increase in winter droughts and in the projections of climate models that include known increases in greenhouse gases.”
This comes on the heel of the USGS study, that, despite its flaws still found, “The decrease of floods in the southwestern region is consistent with other research findings that this region has been getting drier and experienced less precipitation as a likely result of climate change.”
And these studies amplify the piece I had in the journal Nature this week that argued drying and Dust-Bowlification driven by climate change — and the impact on food insecurity — are probably the gravest threats the human race faces in the coming decades.
The fact that the NOAA analysis confirmed the climate models predictions of drying is especially worrisome because the climate models project a very dry future for large parts of the planet’s currently habited and arable land in the coming decades:
More at the linkWintertime droughts are increasingly common in the Mediterranean region, and... more
More than half of the groundwater monitored in the country's major cities failed to meet standards for drinking, a report by the country's land watchdog said.
Groundwater at 57.2 percent of the 4,110 monitoring stations in 182 cities was classified as bad, meaning people's health could be harmed, according to a Ministry of Land and Resources report released on Wednesday.
The quality of groundwater in most northern and eastern parts of China was worse last year than in 2009, the report said, without stating locations. The level of groundwater had also dropped as a result of overexploitation.
Household sewage, industrial pollution and overuse of fertilizers and pesticides had led to further deterioration of groundwater, Ma Chaode, former director of the World Wide Fund For Nature's freshwater program in China, told China Daily.
Pollution of groundwater and water in rivers and lakes had reached a serious level, he said.
more at the linkMore than half of the groundwater monitored in the country's major cities failed... more
Global energy consumption will increase by 53 percent over the next 25 years to a mind-boggling 225,700 terawatt-hours (770 quadrillion BTUs ) as water- and carbon-intensive fossil fuels continue to dominate the world’s economies, despite the global recession and the strong growth in the renewable sector, according to a new annual report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
About half of the projected increase in energy use will occur in China and India, the world’s first- and third-largest energy consumers, respectively. The two developing economies will account for more than 30 percent of the global energy use during the next two decades.
“China alone — which only recently became the world’s top energy consumer — is projected to use 68 percent more energy than the United States by 2035,” said Howard Gruenspecht, the administrator for the EIA, in a press release.
In general, however, the overall projections made in the EIA report only reflect laws and policies as they stood at the beginning of 2011. In other words, the report does not incorporate prospective legislation — in China, for example — that, together with oil-price volatility and the pace of global economic recovery, could significantly affect energy markets.
Coal Production and Consumption
China relies on coal for about 70 percent of its energy generation, consuming 3.15 billion metric tons (3.5 billion tons) of coal last year. Meanwhile, India has been steadily increasing domestic coal production, its major source of energy, reaching over 500 million metric tons (551 million tons) in 2010.
Though future generation from renewables, natural gas, and nuclear power will largely displace coal-fired production, coal will remain the largest source of world electricity through 2035, particularly in developing nations, according to the EIA projections. China alone will account for 76 percent of the projected increase in world coal use.
more at the link
WE ARE GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION.Global energy consumption will increase by 53 percent over the next 25 years to a... more
Photographer Peter McBride traveled along the Colorado River from its source high in the Rocky Mountains to its historic mouth at the Sea of Cortez. In this Yale Environment 360 video, he follows the natural course of the Colorado by raft, on foot, and overhead in a small plane, telling the story of a river whose water is siphoned off at every turn, leaving it high and dry 80 miles from the sea.
In the video, McBride, a Colorado native, documents how increasing water demands have transformed the river that is the lifeblood for an arid Southwest.Photographer Peter McBride traveled along the Colorado River from its source high in... more
When I started this blog several years ago these were the main areas of concern surrounding lack of access and potability of water in the world. And as with the climate crisis there have been many people out here talking about this and trying to educate people in doing what is necessary to provide this human right to all and warning of the consequences of not doing so. Unfortunately, though we have come some part of the way thanks to education, activism and the work of NGOs like Charity Water and others whose links I will also post here there is a long way to go.
As we are now seeing across the globe privitization is still trying to make more of a headway (even though we have seen initiatives in Germany, Italy and in the US in stopping this insidious move to control our global water supply) and moving to "commoditize" water in a market system sure to deprive the most poor of this basic human right even though it was declared so at the UN.
War is also playing a part. As a result of the tumultuous battles taking place in Libya the Great Manmade River Project started by Gaddafi (and this is not to be a political post so I will refrain from discussing opinions of him) which regardless of politics was and is an engineering marvel (I will post video on that here too) has been bombed and essentially shut down thereby cutting off water to more than half of Tripoli and other regions. Water is then still being used as a weapon of war which I find insidious regardless of who does it.
We are seeing as well increasing pollution levels in rivers, continued toxification of our oceans, acidification of our oceans, plastic garbage patches in our ocean's gyres that stretch for miles and on top of all of this, effects of a changing climate brought on by human activity that now threaten water supplies for billions of people worldwide and the systems that sustain our marinelife.
What are we to make of all of this? Are we finally reaching the point where more people will discover just how crucial water is to all of the systems that sustain us? If not, by the time critical mass is reached will it be beyond saving? For the next couple of weeks I will be writing and reporting on ways that we are affecting water and also ways we can save it. In the world we live in now water access has never been more of an urgent crisis.
That is why supporting organizations like Chartity Water are essential in working to provide equality, access and potability of water to the billions who now go without and that also includes adequate sanitation. It is unfathomable to believe that in the 21st century with all of the technological advances we have achieved that we still cannot provide basic sanitation and potable water for the people who live on this planet, even now as we explore other worlds. I say, let's take better care of the one we have now.
Please watch this video and look at the links to other organizations I will post here and reflect on what you can do to address this crisis locally and globally. Water is the one tie that binds us all. We cannot afford to lose it.
More at the link.When I started this blog several years ago these were the main areas of concern... more
A controversial method for extracting natural gas — hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' — is stirring an environmental and property rights debate in South Africa.
The controversy stems from concerns over the safety of the technology, which uses large amounts of clean water mixed with sand and various chemicals to crack the rocks underground to release the gas. Various reports from the United States — where the method has spread widely over the past decade — suggest that the method pollutes water supplies, potentially endangering local environments and people's health.
A group of energy companies — including Royal Dutch Shell and South Africa's SASOL — have leased rights to a huge shale field containing underground gas, promising economic development and energy security.
But their efforts are being contested by environmental groups, such as Greenpeace and Earthlife Africa, leading the South African government to place a moratorium on all further fracking permits.
The field is located in the semi-desert Karoo region, home to the native Khoisan people and unique biodiversity. Some fear that the industry will pollute and deplete already scarce water supplies in the region.
"Karoo comes from a Khoisan word for 'thirsty land'," Lewis Pugh, founder of Treasure the Karoo Action Group, told Yale Environment 360. "Even if the chemicals were safe, and they are not, there just isn't enough water to spare. Water is going to be a source of conflict. Do you think the Karoo farmers are going to let Shell show up and destroy their farms? They're going to grab their rifles."
Shell officials claim that the chemicals used are biodegradable, and say the company has created thousands of jobs. They say the industry promises billions in revenue, much-needed jobs and energy security for all, according to Yale Environment 360.
But the benefits cited by the industry would be short-term, Pugh argues, as many wells would only work for about five years, leaving permanent environmental problems.
In South Africa, farmers and homeowners own the surface of the land, while rights to any minerals or resources that lie underground are the government's to exploit. This means that people in Karoo do not stand directly to earn royalties, as they would in many parts of the United States, causing further furore.
"The bottom line is that the poor people in the Karoo have not been engaged by the Shell environmental management plan," said Muna Lakhani, volunteer branch coordinator in Cape Town for Earthlife Africa. "Shell has made it clear they'll only consider compensation if it can be proved that the contamination came from their wells. Think of someone poor. How on Earth will they be able get justice?"
More at the linkA controversial method for extracting natural gas — hydraulic fracturing or... more
The drought in Texas is so bad that a coyote stole a watermelon at night from a man’s garden. The man noticed watermelons were disappearing, so he set up a camera at night and captured an image of the melon bandit. Animals in the huge, parched state are being drive to extremes to find water. You might have seen this video of a baby armadillo there drinking water from a hose. Racoons, feral hogs and other animals are showing up in yards and deer are walking down roads in the middle of the day.
“Texas flora and fauna are adapted to the harsh, extreme conditions. However, this particular drought is testing the limits of native populations,” said water resource official Cindy Loeffler. (Source: Atlanta Constitution Journal) Officials are considering evacuating some endangered species to locations with greater access to water. Months with very little rain have caused some rivers, lakes and ponds to drop by half or more. Eighty-six endangered or threatened species live in Texas and the drought is predicted to continue for months, if not years.
Natural bodies of water in western and nothern Texas are drying up the fastest, so animals nearby are being watched closely. Some species that live in water from springs such as the fountain darte, San Marcos gambusia,Texas blind salamander; San Marcos salamander, Comal Springs Riffle beetle, the Comal Springs Dryopid beetle, Peck’s cave amphipod are all in danger if the flows decrease even more. Some scientists say extreme weather like drought is related to climate change.
Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/animals-threatened-by-texas-drought.html#ixzz1WwwKxlZNThe drought in Texas is so bad that a coyote stole a watermelon at night from a... more
Bhutan's prime minister has issued a dire warning about the impact of Himalayan climate change, saying it could wreck the tiny kingdom's ambitious plans to be a world leader in hydropower.
The isolated, mountainous nation sandwiched between India and China is famed for pursuing "happiness" for its citizens instead of orthodox economic growth, with environmental protection central to its development model.
Bhutan, home to 700,000 people, is already a carbon-neutral electricity producer, with almost all of its power generated at plants that capture energy from the cascading streams that criss-cross its spectacular landscape.
But Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley told AFP the country was powerless to prevent changes caused by shifting weather patterns which threaten regional water supplies and plans to harness the energy of the Himalayan snowmelt.
"The glaciers are retreating very rapidly, some are even disappearing. The flow of water in our river system is fluctuating in ways that are very worrying," he said in an interview in his office in the capital Thimphu.
"In the summer they overflow their banks in a way that used to never happen in the past and in the winter they shrivel and almost dry up.
"The climate is changing, global warming is real and the impact on our hydrology is very severe."
The increase in meltwater caused by warmer summers has also led to the creation of lakes high in the mountains that threaten people in the valleys below.
The government is building an early warning system to alert authorities to any possible breach of the natural dams that hold back the water.
More at the linkBhutan's prime minister has issued a dire warning about the impact of Himalayan... more
I have a feeling God doesn't want to talk to you Rick Perry, or answer your prayer. Could that be because you are an ignorant closeminded anti-science fool? Or at least, playing one for the cameras for your oily benefactors? Yes, a phony now using all of these conservative talking points to feed your own personal ambitions while your state burns. Nero would be proud of you. I wonder, do you even know how to read a map?
You must know what 'global warming' is. Afterall, you did work as the Texas chairperson for Al Gore's campaign in 1988 when you were playing a Democrat. But even regarding that, you lied and stated he never spoke about global warming then when it was one of the main issues of his platform. I even have a video of him speaking about it on NOVA in 1983... just for the record, that's before 1988. Al Gore has been out here for over thirty years reporting on what REAL scientists are saying Mr. Perry. Not out here spouting fairy tales. And it's those fairy tales you spout that have now led to your state by the looks of it going over a tipping point.
Your economy has lost billions, your agriculture is decimated, your people's livelihoods are being ruined with their futures unknown and biodiversity will suffer for decades. But let's just go out on the campaign trail and tell those same people who are losing it all that even their social security is unconstitutional and you will take that away from them too. Face it Mr. Perry, you are a failure of a leader and pointing the finger and blaming climate scientists for your ignorance isn't going to change that reality one iota. Take a look at the map Mr. Perry and don't wonder why God has your call on hold. Even (he) respects science.I have a feeling God doesn't want to talk to you Rick Perry, or answer your... more
With political will to dramatically cut the world's greenhouse gas emissions failing to materialise, a multi-pronged approach is needed to protect the millions of people who are being displaced as a result of environmental factors driven largely by climate change, experts say.
"Climate change is looming as a potentially very serious and underappreciated complicating factor when it comes to international displacement," said Erika Feller, the assistant high commissioner for protection in the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
More is needed from the international community to address this challenge "in a coordinated and pragmatic manner", she told IPS.
Of paramount importance is that national authorities play a central role in developing appropriate responses to both the internal and external dimensions of climate-related displacement, while affected persons and communities must be made fully aware of their rights and given opportunities to participate in decision-making, Feller said.
"Decisions about where, when and how to relocate communities, for example, must be made in consultation with the affected populations and be sensitive to cultural and ethnic identities and boundaries to avoid possible tensions and conflicts," she added.
Last to Pollute, First to Suffer the Consequences
That the poor are always hardest-hit by natural disasters is a fact recently underlined by the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Report 2010, which says that these nations "will be disproportionally affected by changing climatic conditions".
This despite the fact that LDCs account for less than one percent of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for heating up the atmosphere and altering rainfall and weather patterns.
The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in these regions are five times higher now (519 events in 2000-2010) than during the 1970s (116). In the last decade, about 40 percent of all casualties related to natural disasters were found in the poorest countries of the world, the report says.
Climate change affects LDCs in different ways. While Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are facing droughts and floods, some Asian LDCs, together with Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific, are at risk particularly from rising sea levels and storms.
The 2009 "Human Impact Report - Climate Change" by the Geneva-based Global Humanitarian Forum estimated that 2.8 billion people are living in areas prone to one or more of the physical manifestations of climate change.
"The global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with their common but different responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions," declared the Istanbul Programme of Action agreed to at the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV) in Turkey in May and which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly.
The list of necessary actions outlined in the programme, especially by so-called development partners, hinge on an urgent demand for promised financial and technical support – which critics say the world's richest countries, and those most culpable for climate change, have been dragging their feet on.
Staying close to home
The overwhelming majority of people who are displaced by environmental factors become internally displaced persons (IDPs) within their own countries. Just a fraction will likely cross international borders, said Michele Klein-Solomon, director of the Migration Policy, Research and Communications Department at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
"[The latter group tends to move] from countries in the South, in the developing world, to other countries in the 'less emitting world', and it is also not likely to be the most vulnerable who move," she explained.
More frequent and severe floods, storms, landslides or land degradation, droughts and water shortages – so called slow-onset natural and human-made disasters – can all be triggers for migration.
Those most in need of protection tend to lack sufficient resources to adapt to the new living conditions, and that can include an inability to move away or migrate to other countries.
Speaking at a conference at Columbia Law School in May on migration and climate change, Klein-Solomon stressed that it was important to grasp these facts to counter "the overwhelming fears of the developed world being awash with people who are coming into their countries, taking jobs and burdening social security mechanisms".
Even under worst case scenarios, in which some 250 million people could be displaced due to climate change over the next 25 to 30 years, it still would be "a tiny portion of the world's population", she said.
"We are really not talking about enormous numbers relative to global populations and we are not talking about hordes of people flooding into the Western, industrialised, developed countries. We do not need further repressive legislation and xenophobic debates as a result of this discussion," she added.
Few legal protections
Rapid-onset disasters attract far more attention from the media, policymakers and researchers than gradual environmental changes – such as the human consequences of rising sea levels, soil salination, deforestation and desertification.
Precise estimates on climate-induced migration are hard to come by. However, recent events such as last year's nationwide flooding in Pakistan, severe mudslides following heavy rainfall in Brazil and Colombia this spring, and the ongoing humanitarian disaster in drought-hit Somalia show that millions of people are already being driven from their homes and property due to extreme weather patterns.
International protection strategies are often marked by a humanitarian focus on "the immediate need of the person without necessarily looking at the causes of the phenomenon nor to a response in a longer term," said Paola Pace, acting head of the International Migration Law Unit at IOM's International Cooperation and Partnerships Department.
When emergencies occur, immediate funding is provided which lasts about three to six months, but for the subsequent "recuperation phase" it is very difficult to find donor support. This wastes the knowledge acquired in the initial months and squanders an opportunity to "really tackle the causes that brought about that emergency", Pace stressed in an interview with IPS.
The lack of a long-term strategy is a major problem for those seeking to protect and support affected populations. A better approach would go beyond basic needs – food, water, shelter – to address trauma and stress-induced illnesses, and provide opportunities for sustainable development in a new environment, she said.
The climate-displaced also face an uncertain legal situation. Neither international humanitarian law nor international refugee law has a legal definition for this group, making it difficult to hold governments responsible for their wellbeing.
Often, there are multiple, complex, interconnected factors at work, from extreme weather events to land degradation or sea-level rise, and identifying the exact culprit is impossible.
"[I]t is a bit like the straw that broke the camel's back," said Jane McAdam, an expert on refugees and international migration law at the University of New South Wales.
"Climate change is never the only reason why people move, there are always other factors like underlying socioeconomic conditions, for example," she told IPS.
Finding appropriate legal and policy responses requires a combination of strategies, "rather than an either/or approach", she said.
More at the linkWith political will to dramatically cut the world's greenhouse gas emissions... more
HEARTBREAKING. Ecosystems will take decades to recover from this if they even can. But don't worry, it's just another hot summer.HEARTBREAKING. Ecosystems will take decades to recover from this if they even can. But... more
With India expected to be warmer than estimated earlier, a new set of government-sponsored studies have predicted lesser availability of water and decline in agriculture production on account of climate change. The studies were done under the aegis of the Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment (INCCA) to provide a holistic picture with an aim to push the government to form mitigation and adaptation policies.
Climate change impact on agriculture is the highlight of the studies to be published in Current Science on Monday with recorded fall in per acre production of wheat and rice.
It comes at a time when India is debating the proposed National Food Security law to ensure monthly food entitlement to 75% of population in the rural India and 50% in the urban India.
A study by PK Aggarwal of the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IRAI) shows wheat production in 2004 fell by 4 million tonnes on account of an increase in temperature of one degree, resulting in faster maturing of the crop. A fall in production of mustard, peas, tomatoes, onion and garlic has also been reported on the basis of 22 years’ record of yield.
The future, with temperature expected to rise by another four degrees Celsius by the end of 21st century, would be bleak.
The Indo-Gangetic plains, the food bowl of India, will have the maximum impact with a decline in water sources. Western Ghats and the coastal belt are highly vulnerable areas, with estimates of a huge fall in production by 2030, the study says.
In another study, analysing monsoon data from 1901 to 2007, Krishna Kumar of Pune-based Indian Institute for Tropical Meteorology says the number of rainy days have reduced with increase in frequency and intensity of heavy rains.
The IITM study predicts that there would be 15% increase in summer monsoon precipitation by 2080, meaning lesser sunny days for crops to mature.
The study predicts increase in intensity of transmission of malaria from seven to nine months to 10-12 months in north-east and some regions of the Himalayan belt.
Every year 2.3 million people are affected by malaria and about a million from dengue.
More at the linkWith India expected to be warmer than estimated earlier, a new set of... more
Power and water are more interconnected than you might think, and that has serious consequences for a changing world, especially the American West.
Energy and water are as intertwined as the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in a bottle of Evian. California likes to think of itself as being ahead of the curve. So when the state set out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, regulators did all the right things - stringent tailpipe standards for cars, tighter codes for buildings, higher renewable energy standards for utilities. Then they took one of the most aggressive energy-saving steps of all.
They started a campaign to save water.
The link between energy and water is not always apparent, but the two are as intertwined as the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in a bottle of Evian.
By now, everyone knows you save energy by turning out lights. And you conserve water by taking shorter showers. But it's just as true that saving water may be one of the most effective ways to save energy - and vice versa. "It's a 'buy one, get one free' deal," said Douglas Kenney, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School and the editor of an upcoming book that explores the nexus of water and energy.
In California today, the consumption of water accounts for 20 percent of the state's energy use. Much of that energy goes to heating water, but it takes power to gather, purify and distribute water, especially in places like southern California where water is piped hundreds of miles to supply Los Angeles' sprawling demands.
Nationally, energy production sucks more water from freshwater sources than any other sector except agriculture. It takes water to create the power we use to drive our cars, transport our groceries, and run our toaster ovens. Virtually every source of electricity in a typical American home or manufacturing plant - whether it comes from hydroelectricity, coal, natural gas, nuclear, biofuels, or even concentrated solar -- also requires water. Lots of water.
One reason for this problem is that electricity, as we've chosen to produce it, is pretty wet stuff. That's a growing problem, because in many places, finding water for energy isn't easy - and it's bound to get tougher as energy demands soar and climate change alters hydrological cycles in already arid regions. The energy sector is the fastest-growing water consumer in the United States, according to a January 2011 Congressional Research Service report [pdf].
Nationally, that's a challenge, but regionally it could be a calamity. As the Congressional Research report notes, "much of the growth in the energy sector's water demand is concentrated in regions with already intense competition over water."
Giant plug of concrete
The connection between energy and water - and the precariousness of that link in the western United States - is exemplified in a gigantic plug of concrete stopping the muddy Colorado River above Las Vegas, otherwise known as Hoover Dam. At the ceremony inaugurating the Depression-era public works project in 1935, then-Interior Secretary Harold Ickes noted proudly, "no better understanding of man cooperating with nature can be found anywhere."
Hoover Dam provided the two key ingredients - water and power - that freed the Southwest and southern California to go on a 75-year growth spurt. Lake Mead now supplies water to more than 22 million people, and it produces more than four billion kilowatts of electricity per year.
But Ickes likely never imagined how quickly man's cooperation with nature would disintegrate in the 21st century. In the American West, a burgeoning population created a double-whammy of surging power demands and dwindling freshwater supplies. The Colorado River, lifeblood of seven western states, is already as overdrawn as the federal treasury. Drought conditions during most of the 21st century have forced water managers to plan for a day when the region's vast system of dams and reservoirs no longer have enough water to store. Already, utilities have to scramble to respond on days when everybody in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Los Angeles wants to crank their air conditioners during the same heat wave.
Sustained drought and insatiable upstream water demand have drained Lake Mead to the point that experts are predicting it may soon be shallow enough to be in deep trouble. Despite near record snowfalls and runoff this year that raised its level from historic lows in January, Lake Mead is still 113 feet below "full pool" - and is filled to less than 50 percent of its capacity.
Three years ago researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography warned Lake Mead has a 50-50 chance of running dry by 2021 and that the reservoir's water level could dip low enough to reduce or stop electricity production as early as 2013. Although this year's run-off probably forestalled this dramatic assertion, utilities around the country have already been forced to reduce or stop electrical production because of water issues. According to a survey done in California's 2009 Water Plan Update [pdf], states from Virginia to Nevada and Texas to North Dakota have all curtailed energy development projects because of water quality or quantity concerns.
One reason for this problem is that electricity, as we've chosen to produce it, is pretty wet stuff. Plug an appliance into an outlet and you might as well open a faucet as well. Running an average refrigerator all day uses about as much water as a ten-minute shower (without a low-flow showerhead). According to the U.S. Geological Survey, electric power generation accounts for nearly half of the nation's water usage [pdf]; it takes on average 21 gallons of water to produce one kilowatt hour of electricity. In the arid West, those numbers add up. A report by Western Resource Advocates [pdf] notes that "thermoelectric power plants in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah consumed an estimated 292 million gallons of water a day in 2005 - approximately equal to the water consumed by Denver, Phoenix, and Albuquerque, combined."
Pretty much every step of energy production requires water, from mining to refining, processing to generation. Some of this water is "consumed" - evaporated as steam. Some of it is returned to watersheds in altered forms - like water heated during coal-fired electrical production and stored in cooling towers or ponds before being released - at higher temperatures - back into rivers. "Produced" water from coal-bed methane extraction releases underground water with high mineral content into watersheds. Deep drilling for seams of underground gas deposits rely on chemicals used in "fracking fluids," which contaminate water sources when they leak.
Other potential fossil fuel energy sources, like oil shale, require so much water during its production cycle that energy companies in Colorado have stealthily acquired rights to develop hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water, even before they've invented a viable technology to turn that rock into oil. An acre foot of water is 325,851 gallons, or enough to cover an acre of flat farmland with water a foot deep.
That's enough water to escalate the state's already intense water disputes into open warfare. "If oil shale energy does become commercially viable, it will be a huge new water drain," says Dan Luecke, a Colorado-based hydrologist and Western water consultant.
More at the linkPower and water are more interconnected than you might think, and that has serious... more
Ethel James cannot wait for the gravity-fed water scheme in her area to be fixed so that she and the other women in her village will no longer have to wake up before dawn everyday to queue for water.
She is part of the team of local villagers repairing the existing water system, which consists of a pipeline connected to a reservoir. At various points in the village are taps connected to the pipeline, but there is no running water just yet.
The water supply system fell to disrepair in the mid-1990s after government could no longer maintain it.
With the assistance of Water Aid Malawi, an international charity that assists people in accessing safe drinking water and sanitation, the community has taken over ownership of the scheme that covers Kwilasha village in Machinga District, southern Malawi and 13 surrounding villages.
People have been organised into clubs, with women assuming leading roles. Women are also involved in the laying of pipes and the digging of trenches. Community members are replacing old pipes with new and larger ones and expanding the network to reach more people.
Every morning before James begins work on the repairs, she rises at 4am and walks an hour to the only functioning borehole in the neighbouring village. She returns home with just a bucket of water, which her five children use to get ready for school.
The nearest alternative source of water is a river just 10 minutes away, but at this time of the year it is dry. But even during the rainy season it is a river that James avoids because there is a possibility of encountering crocodiles here. They swim up from Malawi's main Shire River, which is linked to this tributary.
"So we just dig wells in the village, but that is also a problem because cholera becomes rampant since the water is unsafe. Now that it is the dry season, the wells no longer have water, so we rely on the borehole," says James. Until the mid-1990s, access to running water was not a problem in the district as it had 10 functional water schemes, which government constructed in 1980.
However, all the schemes collapsed in 1994 when government changed the ownership policy and wanted the communities to manage the schemes. Many villagers did not have the skills to repair the facilities and were unable to raise money to buy spare parts. So the schemes collapsed.
"Government heaped the responsibility of running the schemes in the laps of people who were ignorant on how to go about managing them," says villager Ndojime Zakaria who dug trenches for the scheme in 1980.
The government also decided to move away from building and maintaining gravity-fed water schemes to focus on drilling boreholes as a means of providing water.
However, water sector analysts in Malawi have faulted boreholes sunk in the decade after 1994. They say the intervention was often not based on hydrological expertise, but on the influence of politicians seeking patronage. Many were also accused of giving business to drilling companies in which they had interests. This resulted in an inequitable distribution of water points and the malfunctioning of most facilities.
The community suffered on both fronts: their gravity-fed scheme had collapsed and the borehole system had largely failed. This forced women to fetch water from unsafe sources or crocodile-infested rivers in the district.
"Without the scheme, the alternative water sources are either distant or dangerous because most rivers here pour into the main Shire River, which is home to thousands of crocodiles. Sometimes, these crocodiles follow the smaller rivers posing such a danger to women who go there to get water," says Steve Meja, the district water officer for Machinga.
But now Water Aid Malawi and the Machinga district council have since trained the community in leadership, project management, finance raising, catchment area conservation and sanitation. It is expected that once the repair to this water system is completed, it will reach Kwilasha village and 13 other surrounding villages. Its reach will spread to about 45,000 people, which is three times more than it used to serve in the 1990s.
James says that repairing the water system will make a difference to the lives of the women in her village. "Women suffer most when there is a water shortage. Now we’re learning every skill so that we (can) maintain the scheme ourselves and ensure a reliable water supply. Our work does not stop at digging trenches; we also join men in laying pipes and fixing the facilities," says James.
Monalisa Nkhonjera, the programme officer responsible for communication at Water Aid Malawi, says the involvement of women in "rough and dirty" jobs, such as fixing pipes, enables them to rely on themselves to maintain the scheme.
The scheme has started functioning in some villages and each household contributes 13 cents a month for buying accessories and constructing new water points. The community has been organised into a water user association. They have a bank account where some of the money is saved as capital for when Water Aid Malawi hands over the facilities to the people.
In the sections where water is running, women are also taking the lead in promoting sanitation and hygiene. Through volunteer sanitation committees, the women visit households to discuss proper water storage, the need to wash one’s hands after using the toilet, and how to manage water points.
James thinks the scheme will not collapse again, mostly because women are no longer spectators in the project. She says she now knows how to repair a tap and where to buy spare parts for the system.
"Having suffered the worst since the collapse of the scheme, we are doing all we can to learn everything so that we are able to maintain it ourselves even when the men are not there. An efficient water supply will help us look after our families well," she says.
More at the linkEthel James cannot wait for the gravity-fed water scheme in her area to be fixed so... more
I keep trying to have hope that the right thing will be done here and in all places where such harsh conditions exist. For this is a primer to a world of climate change/biodistress and it is one in which what we see now is exactly what has been predicted by climate scientists for years. Should these lands be rendered uninhabitable where would these millions of people go? How would they be provided for? We already know the answer to this and it is a totally inhumane, unconscienable and unacceptable answer.
And I know I have posted about this several times in the last week. And that's because it's that important.
And let me also add that we alll know droughts happen in Africa. The difference now is the scope, pace, severity and patterns which can be seen now, especially by those who live in these areas and know the land.
All information posted so far on this drought can be found here.I keep trying to have hope that the right thing will be done here and in all places... more
The persistent and severe drought in Somalia and Kenya has led to people walking for almost two weeks in search of food and water and a place to stay. Refugee camps are full and the situation is serious. Only now is the international community seeing the humanitarian disaster unfolding here due not only to the severe drought caused by successive yearly failures of the rains, but a war raging on that has used religious intolerance as an excuse for Al Shabaab to turn away their own people. It is unconscienable to do this, especially to children. My hope is that aid can reach them in time to save more lives as we are now seeing more graves being dug on the outskirts of the camps. As climate change and its effects worsen in these areas of the world, we as a species will have to reassess our priorities from placing religious intolerance and politics above humanity in order for us to survive.The persistent and severe drought in Somalia and Kenya has led to people walking for... more