Thursday, August 16, 2012

Designed for yesterday's climate, and other stories

Climate adaptation: Trillions of dollars of infrastructure is designed for yesterday's climate (and sea level, for that matter). In warmer temperatures, railways buckle, highways crack, asphalt melts, cooling ponds overheat, electrical grids overload. "In general, nobody in charge of anything made of steel and concrete can plan based on past trends".

Groundwater depletion: Almost one-quarter of the world’s population lives in regions where groundwater is being used up faster than it can be replenished".

Arctic sea ice: Sea ice decimated by huge Arctic storm. There are all kinds of things going on here and the full effects of the week-long storm in the Arctic are yet to become apparent. Why do we care about a storm in the Arctic? Haven't they happened before? Yes, but not with sea ice this thin. Arctic sea ice is considerably thinner than at any time in recorded history, being up to 70% thinner during the summer months than it was back in the 70s. Thin ice is able to be broken up and moved around by large storms more easily. Without the protective cover of ice, storms also churn up the water more, mixing the very cold, fresher surface water (colder and fresher since it is just under the ice) with the warmer, saltier water further down. Warmer, saltier water is much more effective at melting ice.

Biofuels: George Monbiot laments once more the crazy logic of biofuels, which take food out of the mouths of the poor in order to make the rich feel less guilty about a problem to which it is probably a net contributor, rather than any genuine help.

US Drought: The future of drought. "Indeed, assuming business as usual, each of the next 80 years in the American West is expected to see less rainfall than the average of the five years of the drought that hit the region from 2000 to 2004."

Extinction: North American freshwater fish are going extinct at 800 times the background rate.

6 comments:

domesticatedtheology said...

Just a quick note - your first link is broken, looks like some extra stuff got added onto the end. Should be: http://www.nature.com/news/demand-for-water-outstrips-supply-1.11143 right?

byron smith said...

CP: Another piece of "infrastructure" that may become far less useful (or less regularly useful): the Mississippi River.

byron smith said...

Jeremy - Yep, thanks. Fixed.

byron smith said...

Biofuels: New tests indicate EU biofuels fail sustainability criteria.

byron smith said...

Biofuels: the EU finally scales back on a costly dead end strategy.

byron smith said...

Yale360: US South West, mega-droughts and the future of trees