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AMRITA GUPTA – “The Third World War Will be About Water”

May 25, 2016

Rajendra Singh, known as the “water man of India,” believes that critically depleted aquifers around the world can be revived with community effort. For the past 32 years, through his NGO Tarun Bharat Sangh (Young India Organization), Singh has led community-based water harvesting and water management initiatives in the Alwar district of Rajasthan, an arid, semi-desert state in the northwest of India.In 2015, NASA’s satellite data revealed that 21 of the world’s 37 large aquifers are severely water-stressed. With growing populations, and increased demands from agriculture and industry, researchers indicated that this crisis is only likely to worsen. In that time, he has been credited with transforming the landscape and the climate of the region. Seven rivers have been rejuvenated and more than 250,000 wells replenished. Once-parched fields are now fertile. In the process, he has rehabilitated more than 1,200 communities that had been displaced due to water scarcity. As he says, “when the water comes back, the people come back.” For his work, Singh was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for community leadership in 2001, and the Stockholm Water Prize in 2015. Policy Innovations spoke with Rajendra Singh and his global partner Minni Jain, director of The Flow Partnership, over Skype and

Dahr Jamail – Navy Allowed to Kill or Injure Nearly 12 Million Whales, Dolphins, Other Marine Mammals in Pacific

May 17, 2016

What if you were told the US Navy is legally permitted to harass, injure or kill nearly 12 million whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions and seals across the North Pacific Ocean over a five-year period? It is true, and over one-quarter of every tax dollar you pay is helping to fund it. A multistate, international citizen watchdog group called the West Coast Action Alliance (WCAA), tabulated numbers that came straight from the Navy’s Northwest Training and Testing EIS (environmental impact statement) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Letters of Authorization for incidental “takes” of marine mammals issued by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. A “take” is a form of harm to an animal that ranges from harassment, to injury, and sometimes to death. Many wildlife conservationists see even “takes” that only cause behavior changes as injurious, because chronic harassment of animals that are feeding or breeding can end up harming, or even contributing to their deaths if they are driven out of habitats critical to their survival. Read

Michelle Lani Shiota – How Awe Sharpens Our Brains

May 11, 2016

More than 4.5 million people visited the Grand Canyon National Park in 2013; more than 3.5 million visited Yosemite. That same year, worldwide revenues for Cirque du Soleil, the Quebecois theatrical venture emphasizing extreme feats of acrobatics and agility, were close to $850 million. Fireworks displays, first developed in seventh-century China, are now featured in celebrations throughout the world at tremendous public expense. The Hubble telescope, which provides our most vivid images of outer space, initially cost $1.5 billion to launch—and accumulated costs of the project have been estimated at over $10 billion. A behavioral scientist looks at these numbers and asks, Why? Why do people spend huge amounts of time, effort, and money on these apparently pointless activities? An economist might conclude that they are all an appalling waste of resources. Why are fireworks, circuses, and images of distant space experienced as so moving and meaningful, when they offer neither material nor social reward? As a psychologist who studies human emotion, I approach the problem by asking how these stimuli make us feel, what they have in common, and what that might tell us about human nature. Panoramic views, brilliant colors in the skies, remarkable human accomplishments, great works of architecture, art, and music—they all have

Climate-exodus expected in the Middle East and North Africa

May 4, 2016

More than 500 million people live in the Middle East and North Africa – a region which is very hot in summer and where climate change is already evident. The number of extremely hot days has doubled since 1970. “In future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy,” says Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and Professor at the Cyprus Institute. Lelieveld and his colleagues have investigated how temperatures will develop in the Middle East and North Africa over the course of the 21st century. The result is deeply alarming: Even if Earth’s temperature were to increase on average only by two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times, the temperature in summer in these regions will increase more than twofold. By mid-century, during the warmest periods, temperatures will not fall below 30 degrees at night, and during daytime they could rise to 46 degrees Celsius (approximately 114 degrees Fahrenheit). By the end of the century, midday temperatures on hot days could even climb to 50 degrees Celsius (approximately 122 degrees Fahrenheit). Another finding: Heat waves

Associated Press – Global warming is changing the way the Earth spins on its axis

April 11, 2016

Global warming is shifting the way the Earth wobbles on its polar axis, a new NASA study finds. Melting ice sheets — especially in Greenland — are changing the distribution of weight on Earth. And that has caused both the North Pole and the wobble, which is called polar motion, to change course, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances. Scientists and navigators have been accurately measuring the true pole and polar motion since 1899 and for almost the entire 20th century they migrated a bit toward Canada. But that has changed with this century and now it’s moving toward England, said study lead author Surendra Adhikari at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. “The recent shift from the 20th-century direction is very dramatic,” Adhikari said. While scientists say the shift is harmless, it is meaningful. Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona who wasn’t part of the study, said “this highlights how real and profoundly large an impact humans are having on the planet.” Since 2003, Greenland has lost on average more than 600 trillion pounds of ice a year and that affects the way the Earth wobbles in a manner similar to a

David Zetland – Climate Change Alert: Life Is About To Get Much Worse

March 31, 2016

Climate change is hard for people to understand or take seriously because its FUTURE impacts will be so vast in scale and intensity. It would be easier for people to “believe in”face if its signs were more local and present (one reason I suggested rebranding it “local warming” years ago). Sadly, it seems that we’re about the arrive in that moment of vast intensity a lot quicker than previously forecast. Last week, James Hansen (one of the first scientists to bring CC to public attention) and many co-authors published an article (link in this summary) explaining how previous estimates of glacial melting in Antartica and Greenland need to be updated to consider positive feedback effects that are hastening the process. These effects are due to the slowing of ocean circulation that will simulataneously mean warmer seas near the Antarctic ice shelves (helping those glaciers slide into the water more quickly) as well as colder seas near Northern Europe (as the “conveyor” of warm water from the Caribbean shuts down). Read

Jeff Masters & Bob Henson – February Smashes Earth’s All-Time Global Heat Record By A Jaw-Dropping Margin

March 15, 2016

On Saturday, NASA dropped a bombshell of a climate report. February 2016 has soared past all rivals as the warmest seasonally adjusted month in more than a century of global recordkeeping. NASA’s analysis showed that February ran 1.35°C (2.43°F) above the 1951-1980 global average for the month, as can be seen in the list of monthly anomalies going back to 1880. The previous record was set just last month, as January 2016 came in 1.14°C above the 1951-1980 average for the month. In other words, February has dispensed with this one-month-old record by a full 0.21°C (0.38°F)–an extraordinary margin to beat a monthly world temperature record by. Perhaps even more remarkable is that February 2015 crushed the previous February record–set in 1998 during the peak atmospheric influence of the 1997-98 “super” El Niño that’s comparable in strength to the current one–by a massive 0.47°C (0.85°F). Read

Mediterranean may be driest for 900 years

March 14, 2016

The drought in the eastern Mediterranean is easily the worst in half a millennium, and perhaps for nearly twice as long, scientists find. The drought that has blighted the eastern Mediterranean since 1998 could be the worst in nine centuries, according to new research led by scientists from the US space agency Nasa. They report in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheresthat they used a tree-ring chronicle – trees accurately reflect the rainfall conditions of each year in their annual growth – to establish what had happened. They found that although the island of Cyprus and the bordering nations of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey have always tended to be dry, the latest drought is at least 50% drier than anything experienced in the region in the last 500 years, and up to 20% drier than anything 900 years ago. In effect, they have traced climate history back to a very different world, long before the European discovery of America; a world in which Christian crusaders fought the Saracen forces for control of Jerusalem; in which the armies of Byzantium held the eastern Roman Empire against assault from the Turks; in which the temples of Angkor Wat were first built; in which work on the

It’s Official: This Winter Was America’s Warmest on Record

March 10, 2016

This winter was the warmest on the record for the continental U.S., new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows, as average temperatures climbed nearly 5 F above normal. How temperatures compared to long-term averages across the contiguous U.S. during the winter of 2015-2016. Photo credit: NOAA Every state in the lower 48 saw temperatures at least 1.7 F above average. New England lead the pack, with all six states experiencing the warmest winter ever. Alaska was a “freakish” 10.6 F above average. The last six months were the warmest such period on record for the contiguous U.S. Global weather data will be released later this month, but scientists are already expecting February to once again smash global heat records as the warmest month on record. Read

Greenland’s darkening ice is melting faster

March 8, 2016

A dusty film of pollution is muting the reflective whiteness of Greenland’s pristine icecap and making it vulnerable to accelerated melting rates. Greenland is getting darker. Climatology’s great white hope, the biggest block of ice in the northern hemisphere, is losing its reflectivity. According to new research, the island’s dusty snows are absorbing ever more solar radiation, which is likely to accelerate the rate at which the icecap melts. The Greenland icecap covers 1.7 million square kilometres and contains enough ice to raise sea levels by seven metres. Right now, the rate of melting is on the increase, and meltwater flowing off the icecap could be raising sea levels by 0.6mm a year. A powerful contributing factor, scientists report in The Cryosphere journal, could be that the ice has darkened over the last two decades. By 2100, the albedo – the climatologists’ term for the reflectivity of rock, sand, water or ice – could have fallen by 10%. Feedback loop Read
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