Category Archives: North America

A Grim Climate-Change Forecast for the U.S.

Image: ClimateWizard.org

Image: ClimateWizard.org

Before too long, much of South Florida could be underwater. Alaskan forests could die at increasing rates as melting permafrost releases methane into the atmosphere. Rising oceans could make storm surges even more devastating to East Coast cities, even as drought and wildfires torment the Southwest. Those are just a handful of examples among many. The new National Climate Assessment came out on Tuesday in the U.S., bringing alarming news of how climate change, unless curbed by  drastic changes in human behavior — if that’s even possible at this point — will wreak havoc on different regions in different ways. About 300 scientists from academia, government and the private sector contributed to the report.

Read more:

Climate Disruptions, Close to HomeThe New York Times Editorial Board

Obama Administration Releases Third National Climate Assessment for the United States – NOAA

U.S. National Climate Assessment – U.S. Global Change Research Program (GlobalChange.gov)

Related posts: 

Environmentalists See Coming Collapse, Push ‘Uncivilisation’ in an ‘Age of Ecocide’

Water’s Place Among Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals

At the Point of Peak Water, Our Foreseeable Future Grows Shorter

Civilization Lost? California’s 500-Year Drought Potential

Study: Freshwater Shortage Will Double Climate Change’s Impact on Agriculture

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Filed under Climate Change, Drought, Environment, Industry, Natural Disasters, North America, Pollution, Research, Water Resources

In Landmark Case, Fracking Company Ordered to Pay Texas Family $2.95 Million

fracking

In a case thought to be the first of its kind, a jury in Texas returned a verdict Tuesday ordering an oil and gas producer to pay a family claiming to be sickened by its operations near their home. In a 5-1 vote, the jury found that Plano, Texas-based Aruba Petroleum Inc. “intentionally created a private nuisance” and should pay the Parr family, whose 40-acre plot of land near Decatur sits atop the Barnett Shale close to 22 hydraulic fracturing wells run by Aruba, $2.95 million for loss of property value, past and future pain and suffering, and mental anguish.

The Parrs filed the civil suit in 2011, alleging air pollution from the wells exposed them to hazardous chemicals and industrial waste, leading to symptoms such as chronic nosebleeds, irregular heartbeat, muscle spasms and open sores. Aruba disputed the verdict, saying it followed legal guidelines.  The company is expected to file an appeal.

This is believed to be the first civil jury verdict involving fracking, but it probably won’t be the last. According to Wall Street Journal research conducted last year, more than 15 million people live within a mile of a fracking well.

Read more: 

Lisa and Robert ‘Bob’ Parr v. Aruba Petroleum Inc. and Encana Oil and Gas (USA) Inc. – Dallas County Court

Jury awards Texas family nearly $3 million in fracking caseLos Angeles Times

In landmark ruling, jury says fracking company must pay $3 million to sickened family – Climate Progress

$3 million awarded to North Texas family in fracking lawsuit – StateImpact Texas (NPR)

Related posts:

As Fracking Booms, Wastewater Concerns Grow

Fracking Compounds Worries Over Water Shortages

U.S. Shale Map: Could Be a Lot of Fracking Drilling in the Lower 48

Fracking Debate: How Once-Cooperative Attitudes Died

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Environment, Fracking, Industry, Law, North America, Pollution

Water’s Place Among Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals

Image: GWP.org

Image: GWP.org

I attended the recent briefing, “Targeting water in the post-2015 development agenda,” at the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Co-organized by UN-Water, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation, the event hosted international mission staff as well as members of the press, academics and others. It focused on how water issues are being addressed within the evolving debate on potential sustainable-development goals (aka SDGs), in the framework of the post-2015 development agenda. The briefing’s documents and presentations are now available online.

The idea that water should have its own complex SDG, rather than being dispersed among other goals, seemed to be widely held and agreed upon at the event. Incorporating water issues into other goals without having a separate item for it could result in water-related issues evaporating in the mix.

“Because water is  everywhere, water ends up being nowhere,” said panelist Jack Moss, senior water advisor at AquaFed: The International Federation of Private Water Operators. Water’s fearsome power in nature is not reflected in its (lack of) strength as a factor in economies, he added.

Panelists agreed that water is too often taken for granted, and not often-enough planned for in proactive and constructive ways. In other words, you consider it separately to help ensure it gets paid for.

“Any time an issue is cross-cutting, like water, you can be sure that some of your targets will be lost in other targets,” said Lesha Witmer, a steering committee member and co-coordinator of The Butterfly Effect coalition of NGOs. “If you have a dedicated goal, it can’t *not* be represented in a country’s national budget.”

The UN-Water paper “A Post-2015 Global Goal for Water: Synthesis of key findings and recommendations from UN-Water” was also presented during the event. In the 41-page report, you can see the goal taking shape. The goal, “securing sustainable water for all,” becomes mightily complex when put in the context of the world, its growing human population, economic development, pollution, climate change, public health and myriad other factors.

The Swiss government has taken a leading role on water issues, and its Swiss Position Paper on Water in the Post-2015 Agenda advocating for an explicit water goal was also presented at the briefing.

See documents and presentations from the briefing.

Related posts:

At the Point of ‘Peak Water,’ Our Foreseeable Future Grows Shorter

UNICEF Says Put Down Your Cell Phone for a Few Minutes to Help Kids Get Water

Mapping the World’s Most Water-Stressed Countries

Unchecked Emissions Will Drain Water Resources, Warns Leaked UN Report

The Intersection of Environmental Issues and Human Rights

 

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Filed under Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Climate Change, Conservation, Environment, Europe, Events, Human rights, Middle East, NGOs, North America, Oceania, Research, South America, Sustainability, United Nations, Water Resources

Happy World Water Day 2014: Be an Advocate

Image: UN Water

Image: UN Water

World Water Day (WWD) falls annually on March 22. However, because that date is a Saturday this year, many activities will take place on Friday, March 21. This year’s theme is “water and energy.” The oft-repeated phrasse “water-energy nexus” refers to the numerous interdependencies between water and energy; the two are inextricably linked and heavily influenced by climate change.

UN-Water, the United Nations’ inter-agency coordinating mechanism for all matters related to water and sanitation, has prepared a vast array of educational materials for WWD, including an in-depth advocacy guide with myriad tips on how to share key facts and messages. The day’s main celebrations are being held in Tokyo, Japan. Among the festivities, the World Water Development Report 2014 on Water and Energy will be launched, and the UN-Water “Water for Life” Best Practices Award will be given.

Overarching messages:

  • Water requires energy and energy requires water.
  • Supplies are limited and demand is increasing.
  • Saving energy is saving water; saving water is saving energy.
  • The “bottom billion” urgently need access to both water and sanitation services, and electricity.
  • Improving water and energy efficiency in all sectors is imperative, as are coordinated, coherent and concerted policies.

Read more:

UPDATE: Officially launched: World Water Development Report 2014 on Water and Energy

UPDATE: 2014 UN-Water ‘Water for Life’ Best Practices Award goes to India and Singapore

World Water Day 2014 website

World Water Day 2014 Documents and Information Sources

UN-Water homepage

Related posts:

At the Point of ‘Peak Water,’ Our Foreseeable Future Grows Shorter

UNICEF Says Put Down Your Cell Phone for a Few Minutes to Help Kids Get Water

Mapping the World’s Most Water-Stressed Countries

Unchecked Emissions Will Drain Water Resources, Warns Leaked UN Report

The Intersection of Environmental Issues and Human Rights

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Filed under Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Caribbean, Climate Change, Conservation, Europe, Events, Human rights, Industry, Middle East, NGOs, North America, Oceania, Research, South America, Sustainability, United Nations, Water Resources, Water Shortage

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Temporary Waterways Need Protection, Too

Image: hunting-washington.com

Image: hunting-washington.com

Temporary waters are waterways that don’t always have a visible connection to nearby surface waters, such as rivers and lakes, during the course of a year. Nevertheless, that dry stream bed or marsh area is part of the larger water network. A study released earlier this month in the journal Science outlines the value of temporary waters and describes how numerous countries do not include such waterways in their legal frameworks. Leaving temporary waterways outside of the law also leaves them vulnerable to human activity, like development and pollution, which can damage the surrounding water network. The study’s authors point out that the numbers of temporary waterways are underestimated in various parts of the world, and that their frequency will increase due to climate change.

Read more:

Temporary waters and intermittent streams at risk: International scientists urge science-based policy – National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center

Why should we care about temporary waterways? – Science

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Filed under Conservation, Industry, Law, North America, Pollution, Research, Rivers and Watersheds, Science, Water Resources

At the Point of ‘Peak Water,’ Our Foreseeable Future Grows Shorter

Watercyclesummary

The world has a finite supply of accessible freshwater. By some estimates, less than 1% of the naturally occurring freshwater on earth is accessible to humans; the rest is locked up in ice or too deep and dispersed in the ground for us to get. The phrase “peak water” refers to the point at which we’re consuming available freshwater faster than it can be replenished by nature through the hydrologic water cycle to the usual sources, such as lakes, rivers, and shallow underground aquifers, many of which are already dangerously depleted.

Whether we’re nearing the point of peak water, already there, or well past it is a question under ongoing discussion. One point of confusion is that water volume and use vary widely by region. Some areas are nearing or past peak water, others aren’t. Another factor is that climate change is throwing the status quo of water abundance or scarcity by region into flux. Look at the 2013 research showing that heavy pollution from the U.S. and Europe from the 1960s into the 1980s effectively changed weather patterns, becoming a primary cause of Africa’s long, widespread, and deadly Sahel Drought. What will happen because of today’s pollution from the world’s most prolific sources? (e.g., China).

And those who don’t see water and climate change as parts of the same series of problems should note: “The hydrologic cycle is the climate cycle,” says hydro-climatologist Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute, in a video interview that lays out overlapping problems. Water, climate change, and energy production are all inextricably linked. In fact, links between water and energy make up the theme of this year’s World Water Day, coming up on March 22.

It’s worth noting that water scarcity is a crucial element of the resource crises cited in the upcoming NASA-funded study predicting a “perfect storm” within a few decades that could end global civilization. The study looked closely at the fall of previous complex societies, such as the Mayans and Romans, and found parallels with our unsustainable overuse of resources — particularly the massively unequal use by wealthy versus poor.

However close to “peak” we may be, no sustained sense of urgency over water scarcity is apparent in mainstream media. In part this is because water supplies are local or regional, not global, and in part it’s because these problems take a long time — and a much longer attention span than a 24-hour news cycle has — to address. So you see localized articles about regional droughts and potential conflicts over resources, though rarely anything that puts the worldwide water crisis in perspective and looks ahead to cross-cutting solutions (e.g., large-scale renewable-energy power production that requires much less water than nuclear or fossil-fuel-based power, combined with modern and far-reaching conservation measures addressing agricultural, industrial, and residential water use and re-use).

Compared to today’s world, our near-future planet will have double the human population, even more-severe climate change, and yet the same old freshwater, redistributed. Perhaps it’s too easy to push off the worry, as we think we’ll get serious about conservation before it’s too late. Or that governments and industry will join together to provide desalinated water wherever necessary — somehow without the troubling environmental costs of today’s practices — before vast human populations must migrate or die.  Or that those fresh and brackish aquifers recently discovered under the oceans will push the point-of-no-return a few decades further into the future. Well, someday, after the fights over the rights, maybe somebody will throw billions at drilling into those aquifers. Because someday they’ll have no choice. And then those reserves will be sucked dry, too.

You might say we have no choice other than to better manage our freshwater.

Read more:

UPDATE: CHARTS: How power generation threatens water supplies, and climate change threatens both – ClimateProgress

UPDATE: NASA-funded study: Industrial civilisation headed for “irreversible collapse”? Natural and social scientists develop new model of how “perfect storm” of crises could unravel global systemThe Guardian

Are we on the path to peak water? – Climate Central (with infographic)

Peak water is here – Daily Kos (links to video interview with Dr. Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute)

Peak water (background) – Wikipedia

Pollution in Northern Hemisphere helped cause 1980s African drought – Washington University

Related posts:

Mapping the World’s Most Water-Stressed Countries

Serious Water Conservation Demands Layered Approach and Emotional Commitment

Over-Salted: The Trouble(s) With Desalination

Study: Freshwater Shortage Will Double Climate Change’s Impact on Agriculture

Unchecked Emissions Will Drain Water Resources, Warns Leaked U.N. Report

Study Describes Vast Reserves of Water Under Ocean Floors

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Filed under Africa, Agriculture, Climate Change, Conservation, Desalination, Drought, Europe, Groundwater, Industry, North America, Pollution, Research, Rivers and Watersheds, Sustainability, Technology, United Nations, Wastewater Treatment, Water Resources, Water Shortage

UNICEF Says Put Down Your Cell Phone for a Few Minutes to Help Kids Get Water

UNICEF tap project phone

A lot of us incessantly check email, apps and websites on our smartphones. We joke, semi-seriously, about the addiction. Well, now we have help in our struggle that provides built-in motivation, because taking advantage of it will directly benefit others trapped in a far worse struggle.

Take part in UNICEF’s Tap Project, and for every 10 minutes you manage not to touch your phone, a donation will be made to provide help to the 768 million people around the world who lack access to clean water. And if you can’t put the thing down during the day, take heart: You can rack up time while you sleep. Whatever time you log, the donated funds will finance construction and maintenance of water wells, water pipes to rivers, and purification equipment, according to UNICEF.

Using the browser on your phone, go to uniceftapproject.org to take part.

Read more:

UNICEF Tap Project

Do without your phone and improve someone’s water – Fast Company Co.Exist

If you put down your cell phone for 10 minutes, a child will get a day’s worth of clean drinking water – Time

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Filed under Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Human rights, Middle East, NGOs, North America, Rivers and Watersheds, South America, United Nations, Water Resources, Water Shortage

Canada’s Biggest Coal Power Plant Is First to Bury its Carbon in Saline Aquifer

Trailblazing power plant is first to bury its carbon – environment – 5 March 2014 – New Scientist

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Filed under Climate Change, Environment, Industry, North America, Technology

Study: Americans Use Twice the Water They Think They Do

Image: treehugger.com

Image: treehugger.com

Americans use twice the amount of water they think they do, and appear to be particularly oblivious about how much H2O they flush down the toilet on a daily basis, according to new research. In a paper published online Monday in the journal PNAS, a researcher concluded that Americans underestimated their water use by a factor of 2, and were only slightly aware of how much water goes into growing the food they eat … ”
By Monte Morin, Los Angeles Times

Related pages: Water Facts, Water Resources

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Filed under Conservation, North America, Research, Water Resources, Water Shortage

Water Shortages and the Threats of War and Terror

Image: cawater-info.net

Image: cawater-info.net

The prediction that water will outstrip oil — and every other scarce natural resource — as a factor in global conflict has been around for a long time. After all, without water, everybody and everything dies.  There is no substitute for it. Among water-stressed regions, where is conflict likely to strike, and when? In many places, it’s already happening.

Conflict is widespread and ongoing because it can take many forms besides all-out war. In some areas, competition over water may be at the root of tensions between warring factions, though not the only cause. In certain conflicts, water resources may be military or terrorist targets, either to capture or to destroy as a way of hurting the enemy. Elsewhere, protests over water shortages resulting from perceived mismanagement can erupt in violence. The Pacific Institute studies these issues; the conflict chronology at the link below is especially interesting because it shows the whole gamut of water-related struggles.

A useful backgrounder on water-related conflict can be found in Suzanne Goldenberg’s recent piece for The Guardian, also linked below. It identifies six “regions at risk,” due to extreme drought and/or tension over shared resources: California, Brazil, Middle East (Iran, United Arab Emirates, Jordan), North Africa (Egypt and Ethiopia), South Asia (eastern Pakistan, northern India), and China. Stephen Leahy’s IPS article and Giulio Boccaletti’s op-ed for The Nature Conservancy further fill in the picture and scope of global water (in)security.

Read more:

Why global water shortages pose threat of terror and war – The Guardian

In an increasingly unpredictable world, we must secure nature to secure our water – The Nature Conservancy

Water crisis hitting food, energy — and everything else – IPS

Pacific Institute: water and conflict

Pacific Institute: water conflict chronology

Related posts:

Past, Present and Future: California’s Epic Struggle With Water

Water War? Dam Talks Between Egypt and Ethiopia Falter

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Filed under Africa, Asia, Conflicts, Drought, Middle East, North America, Research, South America, Water Shortage