Maquina Lectora

Notes of a curious mind

Category: Climate Reports

‘Οταν με ρωτάνε για την κλιματική αλλαγή

Kαι έτσι ξαφνικά, εκεί που για δεκαετίες αντιμετώπιζα την δυσπιστία, την αμφισβήτηση την κοροϊδία, και την κάθε είδους ανοησία και θεωρία συνομωσίας, έφτασαν δύο καταστροφικοί τυφώνες για να εγερθεί το ενδιαφέρον των γνωστών μου στην Ελλάδα για την κλιματική αλλαγή.

Η αλήθεια είναι πως έχω κουραστεί να εξηγώ και να προσπαθώ να πείσω ανθρώπους που δεν έχουν καμμιά διάθεση να ακούσουν, πολύ περισσότερο να πεισθούν για την αξιοπιστία των επιστημονικών δεδομένων σχετικά με την κλιματική αλλαγή. Η αντιμετώπιση μου απέναντί τους είναι πλέον στωική.

Όταν με ρωτάνε, καταλήγω πάντα με την εξής πρόταση. Εκτός και αν κάποιοι τρελοί αποφασίσουν να χρησιμοποιήσουν πυρηνικά όπλα, για να αποδείξουν πόσο τρανοί είναι, η κλιματική αλλαγή αποτελεί τον μεγαλύτερο κίνδυνο για την ανθρωπότητα, σε οικονομικό και ανθρωπιστικό επίπεδο.

Δεν εχουμε πουθενά να πάμε για να ξεφύγουμε, έχουμε μόνο ένα σπίτι, μικρό και εύθραυστο.


Image Credit: NOAA/CIRA

Relentless rains from Tropical Storm Harvey

One of the worst flood disasters in modern U.S. history unfolded on Sunday in the Houston area, driven by relentless rains from Tropical Storm Harvey. The disaster is unprecedented and at this point, as Bob Henson writes,  “it may make little difference whether Harvey stays just inland or moves just offshore, since rainbands would continue to be funneled toward Houston either way.” The overall message is consistent: Harvey will be a devastating rainmaking presence in southeast Texas for days to come.

In the meantime, the situation on the ground in Houston is gaining uncomfortable resonance with 2005’s catastrophic Hurricane Katrina. As with Katrina, there have been numerous reports of people trapped in attics, and countless roads across the city are impassable. 

Climate change amplifies the three primary hazards associated with hurricanes: potential wind speed, rainfall, and storm surge. Although it is too early to say, Harvey is sure to inflict a massive economic toll as well. Katina, in 2005,was around $100 billion and Sandy in 2012, around $75 billions.


 

References:

Mammoth Flood Disaster in Houston: More Rain Yet to Come, August 27, 2017, Weather Underground.

 

New York’s magazine climate story the most-read article in magazine’s history

The New York Magazine published the annotated edition of its controversial climate story and it is now the most-read article in New York’s magazine history, despite some imprecise science which has been discussed and analysed extensively here .

The fact that so many people have read the 7,000-word story, gives me some hope that we can engage large audience on climate. People want to learn and despite the bleak picture by overstating some of the science it is clear that ongoing warming of the global climate would eventually have very severe consequences.

The climate journalists have an important role to play in fighting climate change. By raising awareness, by informing and educating, by making the public part of the story.  I hope they will continue to try to find and publish the stories, all these weird things – mega storms, heat waves, droughts, floods – that climate change could cause and make the world more dangerous.

Climate Change, Chokepoints and Vulnerabilities in Global Food Trade

One more reason why climate change is the most pressing issues of our time.

A new report from Chatham House called “Chokepoints and vulnerabilities in global food trade” identifies 14 chokepoints around the world that are critical to global food  security. It includes maritime, coastal and inland chokepoints like  the Panama Canal, the Turkish Straits, the US rail network and the Black Sea ports and rail network.

The combination of extreme weather and weak and aging infrastructure together with  rising trade volumes, underinvestment and  weak governance, make chokepoint disruptions – both small-scale and large-scale – increasingly likely. A serious interruption at one or more of these chokepoints could lead to supply shortfalls and price spikes, with systemic consequences that could reach beyond food markets, threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

Climate change, especially, will have a multiplying effect on security and political hazards affecting the infrastructural backbone of international trade. Just think a hurricane landfall in the Gulf of Mexico, or a flood induced by sea-level rise in a lower latitude region.

Systemic problems require systemic solutions. The report proposes five areas for action and requires governments to anticipate the future and act at both national and international levels. Work must begin now for the necessary measures to be in place before climate change becomes a major source of disruption and instability.

Image Source: www.chathamhouse.org

Climate Change in the Courts

A few weeks ago, representatives of 196 parties around the world signed an agreement in Paris (COP21) that requires countries to update and enhance their targets to cut greenhouse gases every five years. The targets themselves are not legally-binding but the majority of political leaders said they support working with other countries to curb global warming and were willing to take steps to do so. Still, there are politicians that there are still skeptical, the Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for example, said last week that if he was elected president he would withdraw the U.S. from the climate agreement.

In the absence of enforceable commitments to reduce emissions, concerned citizens and organisations look to the courts for an alternative way of driving emissions cuts by countries or companies.

Read More

Climate Change and the Risk of Conflict in the Middle East

A new report developed by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), commissioned by The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and launched this week in the Middle East, has found that climate change may hold serious implications for peace and security in the Levant. (Levant, made up of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territory).

 In a region already considered the world’s most waterscarce and where, in many places, demand for water already outstrips supply, climate models are predicting a hotter, drier and less predictable climate. Higher temperatures and less rainfall will reduce the flow of rivers and streams, slow the rate at which aquifers recharge, progressively raise sea levels and make the entire region more arid.

These climate changes will have a series of effects, particularly for agriculture and water management. For example, some analysts anticipate that the Euphrates Rives could shrink by 30% and Jordan River by 80% by the end of the century. They could also hold serious implications for peace in the region.

More specific the reports argues that climate change present a security threat in six distinct ways:

Threat 1Climate change may increase competition for scarce water resources, complicating peace agreements and be a factor in national instability.

Threat 2Climate change could further decrease local agricultural productivity and intensify food insecurity, thereby raising the stakes for the return or retention of occupied land.

Threat 3 Climate change may hinder economic growth, thereby worsening unemployment, poverty and social instability. In turn, potentially this could create the conditions for extremism of all kinds, increased crime and social breakdown.

Threat 4Climate change may lead to destabilizing forced migration and increased tensions over existing refugee populations.

Threat 5Perceptions of resources shrinking as a result of climate change could increase the militarization of strategic natural resources.

Threat 6 Inaction (if the international community is unable to come to a deal in Copenhagen) on climate change may lead to growing resentment and distrust of the West (and Israel) by Arab nations.

The report points out there is much that national governments and authorities, civil society and the international community can do address the challenge of climate change, and in so doing, address some of the threats it may pose to regional peace and security. They can foster a culture of conservation in the region, help communities and countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and foster greater cooperation on their shared resources.

Update 2016: Before civil war broke out in Syria, the country suffered from a drought which was said to have been the worst ever recorded. The frequency and the intensity of dust storms has been increased significantly – about 1.5 million people were internally displaced as a result. The rural farming town of Dara’a was the focal point for protests in the early stages of the opposition movement last year – a place that was especially hard hit by five years of drought and water scarcity, with little assistance from the al-Assad regime. Drought did not cause the civil war, of course, but it was one of the reasons for the horror that followed.

Sources and further reading

Climatology of dust distribution over West Asia from homogenized remote sensing data https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aeolia.2016.04.002

Understanding Syria: From Pre-Civil War to Post-Assad – The Atlantic, 10 December, 2013.

Syria: Climate Change, Drought and Social Unrest – The center for Climate and Security

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