Follow by Email

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Global Water Shortage Risk Is Worse Than Scientists Thought

If this is worse than expected, have we equally under evaluated the potential rise in global temperatures and the risk of severe environmental of work and life?

Global Water Shortage Risk Is Worse Than Scientists Thought

About two-thirds of the world’s population faces water scarcity for at least one month during the year.

by Kim Bellware

Sheep seen on Manie van Rooys farm on November 6, 2015 near Frankfort, South Africa. Free State farmers have been severely affected by what is considered as the worst drought since 1992.

The growing risk of worldwide water shortages is worse than scientists previously thought, according to a new study.

About 66 percent, which is 4 billion people, of the world’s population lives without sufficient access to fresh water for at least one month of the year, according to a new paper published Friday in the journal Science Advances.

Previous studies calculated a lower number, estimating that between 1.7 and 3.1 billion people lived with moderate to severe water scarcity for at least a month out of the year.

Scientists, led by Dr. Arjen Hoekstra of the Netherlands’ University of Twente, used a computer model that is both more precise and comprehensive than previous studies have used to analyze how widespread water scarcity is across the globe. Their model considers multiple variables including: climate records, population density, irrigation and industry.

“Up to now, this type of research concentrated solely on the scarcity of water on an annual basis, and had only been carried out in the largest river basins,” Hoekstra said in a statement. “That paints a more rosy and misleading picture, because water scarcity occurs during the dry period of the year.”

“The fact that the scarcity of water is being regarded as a global problem is confirmed by our research,” Hoekstra added. “For some time now, the World Economic Forum has placed the world water crisis in the top three of global problems, alongside climate change and terrorism.”

Severe water scarcity happens when consumption is twice as high as available resources, according to the study’s researchers. Consequently, half of those suffering from water scarcity are in the world’s two most populous countries — India and China — where demand is high.

High-scarcity levels are also widespread in areas with significant irrigated agriculture (like the Great Plains in the United States) or low natural availability of fresh water (like the Arabian Desert) where populations are also relatively dense, according to the study. Similar patterns exist in the south and western United States where heavily populated states like California have been in a drought for years.

The consequences of water scarcity can result in economic losses due to crop failure, limited food availability and poor business viability, and can threaten environmental biodiversity. When faced with scarcity, areas in need of water often resort to pumping groundwater, which can permanently deplete the supply.

Water shortages have also precipitated or heightened the potential for global conflicts in places like the Middle East and Africa.

“Freshwater scarcity is a major risk to the global economy, affecting four billion people directly,” Hoekstra told The New York Times. “But since the remaining people in the world receive part of their food from the affected areas, it involves us all.”

Despite the grim findings, the study recommends ways to reduce scarcity, such as increasing reliance on rain-fed rather than irrigated agriculture, improving the efficiency of water usage and — perhaps the most challenging for humans — sharing what’s available. The researchers point out that for these solutions to be effective, governments, corporations and investors will need to cooperate.

Farmland Could Help Combat Climate Change

We've done some good shows on this, including one we just recorded last week with Cascadian Farms.  Large-scale production will make it hard to manage soil as a holding tank for carbon.  That could put even more of a financial strain on our agricultural providers

Yet, from everything we've heard implementing soil management techniques that will help with storing carbon and offering habitat to pollinators brings efficiency and increased profitability to farmers?  How?  By cutting costs and, ultimately, better managing crops.

Do you want to see some of the better approaches to improved food production.  Take a look at some of the work Cascadian and similar operations are using and teaching to others..

Farmland Could Help Combat Climate Change

Soils could lock away carbon, helping solve global warming

By Bobby Magill

The earth’s soil stores a lot of carbon from the atmosphere, and managing it with the climate in mind may be an important part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

“Climate-smart” soil management, primarily on land used for agriculture, can be part of an overall greenhouse gas reduction strategy that includes other efforts like carbon sequestration and reducing fossil fuel emissions, the paper’s authors said. Many scientists believe new efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are needed to keep global warming to an internationally agreed-upon limit of 2°C (3.6°F).

“One way to do that is by locking up carbon in soils,” said study co-author Pete Smith, professor of soils and global change at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. “If we can do this, we can complement efforts in other sectors to stabilize the climate and deliver on the Paris agreement.”

About three times the carbon currently in the atmosphere is stored in the Earth’s soil—up to 2.4 trillion metric tons, or roughly 240 times the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels annually.

Much of that is locked up in land used for agriculture. Cropland soil stores atmospheric carbon in organic matter such as manure, roots, fallen leaves and and other pieces of decomposing plants. It doesn’t remain there permanently. It takes decades for the organic matter in the soil to decompose, and the carbon stored within is eventually emitted back into the atmosphere as gas. Soil is responsible for 37 percent of global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, according to the paper.

Estimates vary for how much carbon dioxide could be stored if soil were managed with the climate in mind. Methods of controlling the amount of carbon stored depend on climate and soil type. In addition to slowing the decomposition rate of organic matter in the soil, some methods include adding compost or biochar to fields, vegetating fallow fields and more effective use of irrigation, erosion control and fertilizer.

The study says that if all the Earth’s farmers were to manage their fields so the soil stored more carbon, the impacts of the greenhouse gases emitted from burning fossil fuels annually could be cut by between half and 80 percent.

More realistically, the emissions reductions would likely be much lower, possibly between 10 and 20 percent of total annual human emissions.

“The question of what the most ‘realistic’ potential is, is not really possible to answer directly, at least from a science perspective, because it really depends on enactment of policies that would encourage adoption of the climate-smart soil management practices,” study lead author Keith Paustian, a soil ecologist at Colorado State University, said.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions so drastically using better soil management involves using technology—some of it complex and very expensive—that isn’t available to most farmers, many of whom haven’t had much incentive to manage their soil to store more carbon. Instead, they’ve focused on crop production, Paustian said.

“Certain land management practices can add more plant material to soils as well as hold more of that organic matter in the soil for a longer time and thus build up the storage of that carbon in the soil,” he said. “There are ways to both maintain high production as well as build soil carbon and reduce other greenhouse gases, but in many cases that means some additional work and/or costs to the farmers, so a key issue is to incentivize them to do so.”

The researchers suggest four ways policymakers could encourage farmers to manage their soil in a “climate-smart” way: a cap-and-trade system for soil management, government regulation, subsidies for better management practices and supply-chain initiatives, such as better marketing for foods grown on sustainable soils.
“If it turns out that many consumers will indeed favor low-GHG-footprint products, that could be a big difference-maker, and it could likely cause more rapid movement than incentives that are more dependent on governmental action,” Paustian said.

While scientists unaffiliated with the study said a comprehensive strategy to reduce emissions and sequester carbon may be necessary, they disagreed on whether soils management is the best way to go.
Francesco Tubiello, a Rome-based senior statistician and environmental team leader at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said he is skeptical of the overall climate benefits of focusing on soils management.

“I’m not so convinced that there’s a lot of great potential there,” he said, adding that curbing deforestation should be a greater priority than agricultural soils management because forests store the most carbon naturally and provide numerous other ecological benefits to help the earth withstand climate change.

“I personally think people should go for the biggest bang for their buck,” he said.
Margaret Torn, co-head of the climate and carbon sciences program at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said that some approaches to more climate-friendly soils management are things farmers already know how to do, but others, such as growing crops with deeper roots, aren’t available to many farmers globally.

The study has high estimates for how many emissions could be mitigated through soils management each year, but if those practices could help sequester even 10 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions annually, it would have a “huge” effect on the climate, she said.

Encouraging farmers to manage their soil with the climate in mind will be a different challenge in every country, however, because local politics and market forces operate differently from place to place, she said.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Tale of Two Grids

Here's a very good webinar from Clean  Energy States Alliance.  Little scary to hear a leading candidate in the US, Donald Trump, ready to turn his back on renewables and push again, and depend again, on oil and fossil fuel.  The new grids can be so much more than that.

We encourage all political leaders to watch and learn and see the future of clean energy and efficiency:
Clean Energy States Alliance Clean Energy. Let's make more.

This webinar looked at the future of the electric grid and states’ approaches to grid modernization. The presentation by Cameron Brooks was based on research that he recently featured in an article in Public Utilities Fortnightly. He found that states are tending to fall into two categories: ones where policy is moving toward more open market solutions and ones that are inclined toward expanding the vertical integration model. The webinar highlighted issues that RPS program managers, utility commission staff, and other state officials can consider as they think about the future of the grid.

  • Cameron Brooks, President, E9 Insight
Categories: Policy
Related Project(s): RPS Collaborative

How climate change dries dries up mountain streams

This is a nice weekend to get outside and enjoy nature.  This story, as you do that, reminds us of the delicate nature of our eco-system.

Sometimes this ecological changes are subtle, sometime dramatic.  Both can have serious social and economic impact.  So many industries, and human beings, generally, depend desperately on a stable natural world.  Disruptions threaten our every day existence and prosperity.

Water is a precious resource.  It is our duty to preserve and use it wisely.  Doing so brings balance and stability.  We need that if we are to build any kind of future.

How climate change dries up mountain streams

The western United States relies on mountain snow for its water supply. Water stored as snow in the mountains during winter replenishes groundwater and drives river runoff in spring, filling reservoirs for use later in summer. But how could a warming globe and a changing climate interrupt this process?

Climate change can affect mountain streams in two major ways: By raising the overall temperature, increasing evapotranspiration, and by shifting the precipitation from snow to rain. Both impacts could significantly alter the amount of water in a stream watershed and the amount that reaches cities downstream.

The western United States relies on mountain snow for its water supply. Water stored as snow in the mountains during winter replenishes groundwater and drives river runoff in spring, filling reservoirs for use later in summer. But how could a warming globe and a changing climate interrupt this process?

In a new study in Environmental Research Letters, a team of hydrologists that includes University of Utah professor Paul Brooks answers that question by simulating isolated climate change effects on Rocky Mountain stream systems, varying the type of precipitation (rain vs. snow) and the amount of energy (temperature) in the system. The answer, they found, depends less on how water enters the stream watershed, and more on how it leaves.

Balancing the water budget

Hydrologists often construct water budgets to account for all the ways water enters and leaves a system. In the case of a mountain stream, water enters as precipitation but only a portion of this water leaves as streamflow. Much of this melt water enters soils. Here it can be used by plants or evaporate directly, with water loss from both processes combined called evapotranspiration. The water can also recharge groundwater and enter the stream later in the year. And it matters whether the precipitation falls as snow or as rain.

Climate change can affect mountain streams in two major ways: By raising the overall temperature, increasing evapotranspiration, and by shifting the precipitation from snow to rain. Both impacts could significantly alter the amount of water in a stream watershed and the amount that reaches cities downstream.

So why try to separate the influence of the two factors? "As the climate becomes increasingly more variable, we need to provide water resource managers with specific guidance on how individual warm or wet years, which may not coincide, will influence water supply," said Brooks.

Simulated streams

The team, led by doctoral student Lauren Foster at Colorado School of Mines, constructed models of two Colorado stream watersheds on both sides of the continental divide. The researchers simulated the atmospheric conditions of a typical water year, but then applied 11 simulations of various temperature alterations to see how the watersheds responded.

In baseline scenarios, without any temperature alteration, the streams behaved as expected, with a swell in streamflow during snowmelt. During snowmelt and into summer, meltwater recharged the underlying aquifer, which then sustained streamflow through the fall and winter.

When precipitation was changed from snow to rain, the stream system became "flashier," the team writes, with the water that would have been stored as snow running off into the stream faster. Overall streamflow in this scenario decreased by 11 percent in the watershed east of the continental divide and by 18 percent west of the divide. But warming the systems by 4 degrees Celsius resulted in more evapotranspiration, enough that groundwater had to support streamflow an entire season earlier, beginning in summer rather than in fall. Streamflow reduced by 19 percent in the east watershed and 23 percent in the west, suggesting that warmer temperatures may have more impact on streams than a transition from snow to rain.

"Changes in energy, which result in changes in evapotranspiration, outweighed the changes in the form of precipitation," said Reed Maxwell of Colorado School of Mines.

The effects of these two climate change effects may vary with location, the team writes, and the results need to be checked against real-life environments. But the researchers' work helps to make sense of the noisiness in climate data and helps scientists gain a clearer picture of the future of water, especially in the mountainous west.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

NASA Is Facing a Climate Change Countdown

'Electric Highways' Could Charge Electric Cars

UK is not the only place we are seeing 'electric highways".  This technology is taking hold in a variety of cities.  Good news.

Driving clean is a true "smart highway" system...electric charges, enhanced street lights with LED bulbs, solar power, wifi capability, etc.  The success will come, though, when consumers buy more EV's and hybrids.

'Electric Highways' Could Charge Electric Cars

Today, the UK government announced that, later this year, it will begin testing electric highways designed to power electric and hybrid vehicles.

The technology could enable EV drivers to travel longer distances without having to stop to charge their car.

During the trial period, wireless technology will be implemented in the test cars. Meanwhile, equipment will be installed underneath the roads used during the experiment to mimic various driving conditions.

“Vehicle technologies are advancing at an ever increasing pace and we’re committed to supporting the growth of ultra-low emissions vehicles on our England’s motorways and major A roads,” Mike Wilson, Highways England chief highways engineer, said in a press release.

The test run is expected to last about 18 months and could be followed by on-road trials. The UK government plans to unveil more specific details about the project once a contractor is secured.

Electric Cars Combat Urban Heat

In addition to these so-called electric highways, the government also plans to install plug-in charging points every 20 miles along the UK’s motorways. This was inspired by the UK’s Road Investment Strategy, which outlines a number of goals, from improving road conditions to making them more sustainable and adding more lanes to improve traffic and safety.

“The potential to recharge low emission vehicles on the move offers exciting possibilities,” Transport Minister Andrew Jones said in the press release.

He went on to say, “The government is already committing £500 million over the next five years to keep Britain at the forefront of this technology, which will help boost jobs and growth in the sector.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What about the growth of the organic food industry?

This, too, was mentioned on the show with Ashley from Cascadian.  The industry stats look great.  Keep buying organic.   You are helping to build a remarkable green economy.

Market Analysis

If you’re looking for the latest data on the organic industry, you’ve come to the right place! OTA is the premier source of information about organic. Whether you're looking for the size of the organic market, organic industry trends or insights into the organic consumer, OTA is here to help. 
Each year, OTA publishes two flagship research products—the Organic Industry Survey and the U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Study, to inform the business, media, government and other communities about the organic trade.

State of organic

U.S. Organic Industry Survey 2016
With $43.3 billion in total organic product sales, the industry saw its largest dollar gain ever, adding $4.2 billion in sales in 2015, up from the $3.9 billion recorded in 2014. For the fourth year running, the industry saw growth in the double digits at 10.8%. To-date, the industry has shown continuous and steady gains since the economic downturn of 2009 with a growth rate well beyond that of the overall food market at 3.3% in 2015.

- See more at:

U.S. Families' Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Survey 2015 

78 percent of organic buyers say they typically buy their organic foods at conventional food stores/supermarkets. Over half also shop organic at the “big box” stores, and some 30 percent also report that it’s not unusual to buy organic at one of the warehouse clubs in the country.
African American and Hispanic families have been steadily increasing among the ranks of organic-buying households.
The OTA survey also looks at the incomes, education and ages of organic buyers, and compares the buying habits of the new organic purchaser to the more experienced organic consumer. 
- See more at:

There's More To Organic Than Meets The Eye

Consumer sales of organic reach $39 billion

- See more at: