The Six Scenarios:
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from Financial Times:
China: High and dry
...In the face of China's rapid economic expansion and growing presence on the global stage, it is often forgotten that the country is running out of water. In per capita terms, China's water resources are just a quarter of the world average. Eight of China's 28 provinces are as parched as countries in the Middle East such as Jordan and Syria, according to China Water Risk, a consultancy based in Hong Kong....The economic problems are formidable, with the water shortage threatening to slam a brake on growth.
from Smithsonian Institution:
Startling Survival Story at Historic Jamestown: Physical Evidence of Survival Cannibalism
Douglas Owsley, the division head for physical anthropology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, presented today a forensic analysis of 17th-century human remains proving that survival cannibalism took place in historic Jamestown. The findings answer a long-standing question among historians about the occurrence of cannibalism at Jamestown during the deadly winter of 1609-1610 known as the "starving time" -- a period during which about 80 percent of the colonists died.
Natural Resource Scarcity Is a Real Thing
Long story short, we're in nothing like the peak oil nightmare that a naive forward projection of the 2003-08 hockey stick would have led you to expect. But we've hardly conquered oil scarcity either. New discoveries are having trouble keeping pace with rising car ownership in Asia and declining production from many established oil sources. Meanwhile, unconventional oil is coming onto the market in part because oil is scarce and expensive, which makes it profitable to extract hard-to-extract oil. That's better for the economy than if we didn't find any, but it also means we haven't returned to the 1990s oil bounty and most likely never will.
Carbon-Intensive Investors Risk $6 Trillion 'Bubble,' Study Says
The top 200 oil, gas and mining companies spent $674 billion last year finding and developing fossil fuel resources, according to research by the Carbon Tracker Initiative and a climate-change research unit at the London School of Economics. If this rate continues for the next decade some $6 trillion risks being wasted on "unburnable" or stranded assets, according to the report, released today.... Bonds of fossil fuel companies could be vulnerable to ratings downgrades, pushing up their financing costs while equity valuations could plummet as much as 60 percent if industries become less carbon-intensive, the study showed, citing HSBC Holdings Plc analysis. The analysis shows that 60 to 80 percent of coal, oil and gas reserves of the 200 public companies studied could be unburnable if the world is to curb emissions to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, a United Nations target.
from The Australian:
28,000 rivers wiped off the map of China
More than half of the rivers previously thought to exist in China appear to be missing, according to the 800,000 surveyors who compiled the first national water census, leaving Beijing fumbling to explain the cause. Only 22,909 rivers covering an area of 100sq km were located by surveyors, compared with the more than 50,000 in the 1990s, a three-year study by the Ministry of Water Resources and the National Bureau of Statistics found. Officials blame the apparent loss on climate change, arguing that it has caused waterways to vanish, and on mistakes by earlier cartographers. But environmental experts say the disappearance of the rivers is a real and direct manifestation of headlong, ill-conceived development, where projects are often imposed without public consultation.
Ecuador auctions off Amazon to Chinese oil firms
Ecuador plans to auction off more than three million hectares of pristine Amazonian rainforest to Chinese oil companies, angering indigenous groups and underlining the global environmental toll of China's insatiable thirst for energy.... On Monday morning a group of Ecuadorean politicians pitched bidding contracts to representatives of Chinese oil companies at a Hilton hotel in central Beijing, on the fourth leg of a roadshow to publicise the bidding process. Previous meetings in Ecuador's capital, Quito, and in Houston and Paris were each confronted with protests by indigenous groups.... According to the California-based NGO Amazon Watch, seven indigenous groups who inhabit the land claim that they have not consented to oil projects, which would devastate the area's environment and threaten their traditional way of life.... In an interview, Ecuador's secretary of hydrocarbons, Andrés Donoso Fabara, accused indigenous leaders of misrepresenting their communities to achieve political goals. "These guys with a political agenda, they are not thinking about development or about fighting against poverty," he said. Fabara said the government had decided not to open certain blocks of land to bidding because it lacked support from local communities. "We are entitled by law, if we wanted, to go in by force and do some activities even if they are against them," he said. "But that's not our policy."
from University of East Anglia:
Catastrophic Loss of Cambodia's Tropical Flooded Grasslands
Around half of Cambodia's tropical flooded grasslands have been lost in just 10 years according to new research from the University of East Anglia. The seasonally flooded grasslands around the Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia's largest freshwater lake, are of great importance for biodiversity and a refuge for 11 globally-threatened bird species. They are also a vital fishing, grazing, and traditional rice farming resource for around 1.1 million people.... Factors include intensive commercial rice farming with construction of irrigation channels, which is often illegal. Some areas have also been lost to scrubland where traditional, low-intensity agricultural activity has been abandoned.
Cradle of Mankind Offers Kenyans Three Centuries of Oil
The U.K.'s Tullow Oil Plc (TLW) and Canada's Africa Oil Corp (AOI). found crude at two wells last year and now plan as many as 11 more test wells in 2013. The valley could yield 10 billion barrels, Tullow estimates, enough to supply Kenya for three centuries or the U.S. for about 18 months.... With the continent's oil industry centered on Nigeria in West Africa, East Africa has been largely overlooked. Of the more than 30,000 wells drilled in Africa, fewer than 500 were in East Africa, according to Afren Plc (AFR), an oil explorer active in the region. "There was a giant under-explored hole on the map," Africa Oil Chief Executive Officer Keith Hill said in an interview in Nairobi. "Now the world has woken up to East Africa. I've never seen a basin of this magnitude."
from San Francisco Chronicle:
BP warns of rising costs from spill settlement
BP is warning investors that the price tag will be "significantly higher" than it initially estimated for its multibillion-dollar settlement with businesses and residents who claim the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico cost them money. The London-based oil giant estimated last year that it would spend roughly $7.8 billion to resolve tens of thousands of claims covered by the settlement agreement. But in a regulatory filing this week, BP PLC said businesses' claims have been paid at much higher average amounts than it had anticipated. The company also said it can't reliably estimate how much it will pay for unresolved business claims following a ruling Tuesday by the federal judge supervising the uncapped settlement. U.S District Judge Carl Barbier rejected BP's interpretation of certain settlement provisions.... BP already had revised its estimate for the total cost of the settlement before Barbier's ruling, saying earlier this year that it expected to pay $8.5 billion instead of the $7.8 billion it estimated when it first cut the deal.
from Inside Climate News:
Oil Sands Mining Uses Up Almost as Much Energy as It Produces
The average "energy returned on investment," or EROI, for conventional oil is roughly 25:1. In other words, 25 units of oil-based energy are obtained for every one unit of other energy that is invested to extract it. But tar sands oil is in a category all its own. Tar sands retrieved by surface mining has an EROI of only about 5:1, according to research scheduled to be released Tuesday. Tar sands retrieved from deeper beneath the earth, through steam injection, fares even worse, with a maximum average ratio of just 2.9 to 1. That means one unit of natural gas is needed to create less than three units of oil-based energy. "They have to use a lot of natural gas to upgrade this heavy, sticky, gooky almost tar-like stuff to make it fluid enough to use," said Charles Hall, a professor at the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
from Scientific American:
Where Few Trees Have Gone Before: Mountain Meadows
... with a warming climate, snow has begun melting earlier and growing seasons have lengthened; that extra time with little or no snow cover has given trees a boost. As a result, tree occupation rose from 8 percent in 1950 to 35 percent in 2008, reports a U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service-funded study published last October in Landscape Ecology. At a time when so many forests are threatened, aren't more trees something to celebrate? Not necessarily, say the authors of the new study. These tall trees block light that meadow grasses, shrubs and wildflowers need to survive. Once trees become established, the surrounding seed banks of native grasses tend to fade away. The meadows' "biodiversity value is much larger than the amount of area they occupy," explains lead author Harold S. J. Zald, postdoctoral research associate at Oregon State University, who hatched the idea for the study while backpacking in the Cascade Range. The researchers do not yet know which plant or animal species would be endangered.
from Lester Brown, via TreeHugger.com:
New Era of Food Scarcity Echoes Collapsed Civilizations
This new era is one of rising food prices and spreading hunger. On the demand side of the food equation, population growth, rising affluence, and the conversion of food into fuel for cars are combining to raise consumption by record amounts. On the supply side, extreme soil erosion, growing water shortages, and the earth's rising temperature are making it more difficult to expand production. Unless we can reverse such trends, food prices will continue to rise and hunger will continue to spread, eventually bringing down our social system. Can we reverse these trends in time? Or is food the weak link in our early twenty-first-century civilization, much as it was in so many of the earlier civilizations whose archeological sites we now study?
from Detroit News:
Lakes Michigan, Huron sink to lowest level ever
In the nearly 100 years researchers have catalogued the rise and fall of the Great Lakes, Michigan and Huron have never seen a month like January. The two-lake system recorded its lowest-ever level for a month, a mean of 576.02 feet above sea level. It's a number that dips below the all-time low for January -- 576.12 feet -- as well as the all-time low for any month, 576.05 feet in March 1964.... Keith Kompoltowicz, the U.S. Army Corp.'s chief of watershed hydrology, said the weather so far -- including the recent string of days with 50 degree temperatures -- has been inconsistent. "It's really been a mixed bag of conditions so far," he said.
from St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Drought prompts Missouri ethanol plant to suspend production
Poet Biorefining says its temporarily suspending operations at its Macon ethanol plant next week because the drought left it unable to source enough local corn. Production will be halted Feb. 1, the company said. All 44 employees will continue top [SIC] be paid for regular hours and many will be used to assist in upgrades to the plant while it's off line. Corn will continue to be stockpiled at the plant for future use, the company said. But there's currently no set timeline for resuming production.
from The Globe and Mail:
Is there water enough for U.S. to frack its way to energy independence?
In chemistry you quickly discover that oil and water don't mix. The same is true in the energy industry. It's unfortunate, because the new fuel sources that the International Energy Agency claims will allow North America to reach energy independence require tremendous amounts of water. Whether from shale plays or the oil sands, millions of gallons of water are needed to pull that energy out of the ground.... The industry's growing need for water comes at a time when much of the country is grinding through the worst drought in more than half a century....it takes about 600,000 litres to drill a single well. And that's a drop in the bucket compared to the 23 million litres that are needed to frack that same well.
from The Guardian:
Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa?
Sales took off. Quinoa was, in marketing speak, the "miracle grain of the Andes", a healthy, right-on, ethical addition to the meat avoider's larder (no dead animals, just a crop that doesn't feel pain). Consequently, the price shot up - it has tripled since 2006 - with more rarified black, red and "royal" types commanding particularly handsome premiums. But there is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder. The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fuelled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture.
New water lows for Great Lakes could drain local economies
Water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron fell to record low levels for December, and are expected to break the all-time low sometime in the next few months. Cargo ships ... are being forced to lighten their loads, some harbors have already been forced to close and the tourist trade is bracing for an impact as well.
from Guardian, via BusinessGreen:
EU fishing quotas defy scientific advice, say conservationists
Fishing fleets will be allowed to extract more fish from European waters than scientists advise is safe next year, after two days and nights of negotiations in Brussels on the EU's fishing quotas. But there may be fewer discards, if predictions by fisheries ministers are correct. Nearly half of the quotas set were in excess of the best scientific advice, according to the sea conservation organisation Oceana.... The final quota for the cod catch will not be decided until January, in talks with Norway. The European Commission has proposed a 20 per cent cut in the cod quota, but the UK opposes that. In the Celtic Sea, a proposed 55 per cent cut to the haddock quota was reduced to a 15 per cent cut, and an increase of 29 per cent of the whiting catch, while in the west of Scotland a proposed 40 per cent cut to the megrim catch was changed to a seven per cent cut. Quotas for the channel fleet were increased by 26 per cent on plaice and six per cent on sole, and in the west of Scotland there was an 18 per cent increase in the prawn catch.
Jeremy Grantham: We're Headed For An Economic Disaster Of Biblical Proportions
What Malthus did not foresee was the discovery of oil and other natural resources, which have (temporarily) supported this population explosion. Those resources are now getting used up... The story for metals, by the way, is the same as for oil: The low-hanging fruit has been picked. Despite the use of new technologies, the yield per ton of metal ores continues to drop.... The fact is that no compound growth is sustainable. If we maintain our desperate focus on growth, we will run out of everything and crash. We must substitute qualitative growth for quantitative growth.
Splitting the state
In any discussion about "fracking" natural gas and oil wells from layers of shale deep beneath the surface, the talk quickly steers to the balancing act between those natural resources -- how much water is used and its source, where to put fracking fluid after it more resembles turpentine than water, and how much gas and oil can be captured in the tradeoff.... Opponents say that oil and gas companies consume on average the equivalent of a small lake of water -- about 3 acres by 5 feet deep -- to use hydraulic fracturing to open a horizontally drilled well in deep shale. The dark sedimentary rock splits easily into plates to release oil and gas. Proponents say a fracked well may produce enough natural gas to meet the needs of 30,000 to 50,000 homes for a year.
First U.S. Oil Sands Mine Proceeds Without Pollution Permit
Utah officials have given a Canadian company the greenlight to begin mining oil sands on a remote plateau in Eastern Utah without first obtaining a pollution permit or monitoring groundwater quality, an action that sets the stage for a possible court battle over the fragile region. The board of the Utah Division of Water Quality sided with Calgary-based U.S. Oil Sands contends that there was little or no water in the area of the company's proposed mine site and affirmed the agency's earlier decision not to require the permits or monitoring.... The board as well as officials of the Water Quality Division wrestled with the question of how much water is to be found in this semi-arid region, which gets an average of 12 inches of precipitation a year.... Dubuc, the lawyer representing Living Rivers, said even small seasonal amounts of water and water on adjoining land need to be protected.
from Yahoo Finance:
Chesapeake Is Planning To Frack Within A Mile Of A Nuclear Plant
Natural gas giant Chesapeake Energy has been given permission to drill for natural gas via hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," one mile away from the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, according to multiple reports.... "We're not aware of any potential impacts and don't expect any," Jennifer Young said Monday. "We see no reason to be particularly concerned."... "[T]here are no required setbacks specifically relating to a required distance between unconventional wells and nuclear facilities, just a blanket regulation requiring a 500-foot setback from any building to an unconventional well."
Africa facing intensified 'food crisis'
Seventy-five per cent of countries on the African continent and several Arab countries face an impending food crisis, a new study has revealed. Maplecroft's Food Security Risk Index, a report released on Wednesday, found that in a survey of 197 countries worldwide, up to 39 of the 59 most at risk of food insecurity were African countries. "Although a food crisis has not emerged yet, there is potential for food-related upheaval across the most vulnerable regions," including sub-Saharan African and Arab states, Helen Hodge, head of maps and indices at Maplecroft, said. Maplecroft said that low crop yields had pushed global food prices up by six per cent in July 2012, raising concerns of a repeat of the 2007/2008 food crisis.
from InsideClimate News:
U.S. Paying a Price for Lack of Water Policy
The worst drought since at least the 1950s has barely registered on political radar screens this year. Water doesn't make it into convention or stump speeches, or onto bumper stickers or campaign signs. To many people concerned about the nation's water supply, this drought of attention to a vital resource underscores a glaring, ongoing problem that will likely worsen in coming years if it is not addressed soon. "The nation lacks a coherent approach to dealing with water," said Gerald Galloway, a civil engineer, hydrology expert and former president of the American Water Resources Association. "Everyone is just hoping it will get better. Hope is not a method."
from London Guardian:
Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists
Leading water scientists have issued one of the sternest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world's population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages. Humans derive about 20 percent of their protein from animal-based products now, but this may need to drop to just 5 percent to feed the extra 2 billion people expected to be alive by 2050, according to research by some of the world's leading water scientists.
World must brace for higher food prices, experts say
With drought parching farms in the United States and near the Black Sea, weak monsoon rains in India and insidious hunger in Africa's Sahel region, the world could be headed towards another food crisis, experts say.... "We have had quite a few climate events this year that will lead to very poor harvests, notably in the United States with corn or in Russia with soja," warned Philippe Pinta of the French farmers federation FNSEA. "That will create price pressures similar to what we saw in 2007-2008," he added in reference to the last global food alert, when wheat and rice prices nearly doubled. In India, "all eyes will be on food inflation - whether the impact of a weak monsoon feeds into food prices," Samiran Chakraborty, regional head of research at Standard Chartered Bank was quoted by Dow Jones Newswires as saying.
Demand for water outstrips supply
Almost one-quarter of the world's population lives in regions where groundwater is being used up faster than it can be replenished, concludes a comprehensive global analysis of groundwater depletion, published this week in Nature. Across the world, human civilizations depend largely on tapping vast reservoirs of water that have been stored for up to thousands of years in sand, clay and rock deep underground. These massive aquifers -- which in some cases stretch across multiple states and country borders -- provide water for drinking and crop irrigation, as well as to support ecosystems such as forests and fisheries. Yet in most of the world's major agricultural regions, including the Central Valley in California, the Nile delta region of Egypt, and the Upper Ganges in India and Pakistan, demand exceeds these reservoirs' capacity for renewal.
Water shortages driving growing thefts, conflicts in Kenya
As droughts become more frequent and water shortages worsen, Kenya is seeing an increase in water thefts and other water-related crime, police records show. The most common crimes are theft, muggings and illegal disconnections of water pipes by thieves who collect and sell the water. Many of the crimes occur in urban slums, which lack sufficient piped water.
from AP, via Yahoo, via DesdemonaDespair:
Report shows US drought rapidly intensifying
The widest drought to grip the United States in decades is getting worse with no signs of abating, a new report warned Thursday, as state officials urged conservation and more ranchers considered selling cattle. The drought covering two-thirds of the continental U.S. had been considered relatively shallow, the product of months without rain, rather than years. But Thursday's report showed its intensity is rapidly increasing, with 20 percent of the nation now in the two worst stages of drought -- up 7 percent from last week. The U.S. Drought Monitor classifies drought in various stages, from moderate to severe, extreme and, ultimately, exceptional. Five states -- Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska -- are blanketed by a drought that is severe or worse. States like Arkansas and Oklahoma are nearly as bad, with most areas covered in a severe drought and large portions in extreme or exceptional drought.
from Lester Brown, in The Guardian:
The world is closer to a food crisis than most people realise
On 21 May, 77 percent of the US corn crop was rated as good to excellent. The following week the share of the crop in this category dropped to 72 percent. Over the next eight weeks, it dropped to 26 percent, one of the lowest ratings on record. The other 74 percent is rated very poor to fair. And the crop is still deteriorating. Over a span of weeks, we have seen how the more extreme weather events that come with climate change can affect food security. Since the beginning of June, corn prices have increased by nearly one half, reaching an all-time high on 19 July.... Although the world was hoping for a good US harvest to replenish dangerously low grain stocks, this is no longer on the cards. World carryover stocks of grain will fall further at the end of this crop year, making the food situation even more precarious. Food prices, already elevated, will follow the price of corn upward, quite possibly to record highs.
from New York Times:
A Gold Rush in the Abyss
... A new understanding of marine geology has led to the discovery of hundreds of these unexpected ore bodies, known as massive sulfides because of their sulfurous nature. These finds are fueling a gold rush as nations, companies and entrepreneurs race to stake claims to the sulfide-rich areas, which dot the volcanic springs of the frigid seabed. The prospectors -- motivated by dwindling resources on land as well as record prices for gold and other metals -- are busy hauling up samples and assessing deposits valued at trillions of dollars.
from Texas Tribune:
Drought Caused Big Drop in Texas Portion of Ogallala Aquifer
The historic Texas drought caused the Ogallala Aquifer to experience its largest decline in 25 years across a large swath of the Texas Panhandle, new numbers from a water district show.... Further north in the Panhandle, along the state's border with Oklahoma, a second water district also registered large declines in the Ogallala. Steve Walthour, the general manager of the eight-county North Plains Groundwater Conservation District, calculated on Monday that the average drop in the Ogallala reached 2.9 feet last year.... As for this year, farmers say that spring rains have helped, but most of the Panhandle remains in moderate drought, or worse. Fondren is holding out hope for showers soon. "We're going to go back to pumping pretty hard again if we don't get some rain," he said.
from George Monbiot:
We were wrong about peak oil, but disaster looms anyway
Maugeri's analysis of projects in 23 countries suggests that global oil supplies are likely to rise by a net 17-million barrels per day (to 110-million) by 2020. This, he says, is "the largest potential addition to the world's oil supply capacity since the 1980s". The investments required to make this boom happen depend on a long-term price of $70 a barrel - the current cost of Brent crude is $95. Money is now flooding into new oil: a trillion dollars has been spent in the past two years; a record $600-billion is lined up for 2012.... So this is where we are. The automatic correction - resource depletion destroying the machine that was driving it - that many environmentalists foresaw is not going to happen. The problem we face is not that there is too little oil, but that there is too much.... Twenty years of efforts to prevent climate breakdown through moral persuasion have failed, with the collapse of the multilateral process at Rio de Janeiro last month. The world's most powerful nation is again becoming an oil state and if the political transformation of its northern neighbour is anything to go by, the results will not be pretty.
from Los Angeles Times:
Amazon in danger as Brazil moves forward with bill, critics say
The Brazilian government is pressing forward with controversial legislation that critics say will lead to widespread destruction of the Amazon rain forest. After months of heated discussion, President Dilma Rousseff on Monday presented a final version of the bill that was heavily influenced by the country's powerful agricultural lobby. The update to the country's 1965 Forestry Code would reduce both the amount of vegetation landowners must preserve and the future penalties paid for those who currently flout environmental laws. After valuable wood is sold, much of the land in deforested areas ends up being cleared for grazing cattle and agriculture.
from Agence France-Press:
North Korea suffering severe drought
North Korean state media says the impoverished communist country is suffering a prolonged and widespread drought, raising fears it will worsen already dire food shortages. If the unusually dry weather persists to the end of the month, it will be the driest May in 50 years in western coastal areas, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, warning: "The drought is expected to get more serious."
from Climate Central:
A Tour of Drought as it Unfolds Across the U.S.
Last year at this time, all eyes were on Texas, where drought conditions were intensifying into what became that state's worst single year drought on record, causing nearly $8 billion in economic losses. Recently, though, Texas has gone from famine to feast in the precipitation department, and drought concerns for the upcoming summer are focused farther to the west, as drought tightens its grip across a broad swath of the interior West and Southwest In addition to the West, drought conditions are also prevalent in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and parts of the Northeast as well, along with a small pocket in the Upper Midwest. In all, 56 percent of the Lower 48 states were experiencing drought conditions as of May 8, almost twice the area compared to last year at this time, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
from CBC News:
Arctic fishing moratorium needed, thousands of scientists say
A group of more than 2,000 scientists from 67 countries has called for a moratorium on commercial fishing in the Arctic until more research can be completed on waters that were once covered by ice year-round. The scientists said the loss of permanent sea ice has opened up as much as 40 per cent of the Central Arctic Ocean during recent summers, making industrial fishing viable for the first time. But they said such activities should be prohibited until there's a better understanding of the area and sustainable fishing quotas can be set. "The ability to fish is not the same as having the scientific information and management regimes needed for a well-managed fishery," the scientists said in an open letter released Sunday by the U.S.-based Pew Environment Group.... "In the absence of this scientific data and a robust management system, depletion of fishery resources and damage to other components of the ecosystem are likely to result if fisheries commence."
SEI: Scarcity of metals could hamper low-carbon development
The world's transition to a low-carbon economy could be seriously hampered by a scarcity of key metals, a new report from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) has warned. The study, produced in partnership with the business leaders' initiative 3C (Combat Climate Change), analysed known resources and locations of five metals -- indium, tellurium, neodymium, lithium and cobalt. These are vital raw materials for wind turbines, solar panels and hybrid and electric cars. The SEI says production could be affected in the future if business and policy-makers fail to create a framework for their use now. Demand for thees resources is huge. Globally installed wind capacity soared from 24,322 megawatts in 2001 to nearly 240,000 megawatts in 2011. Last year was a record year with 42,000 megawatts installed.
Las Vegas plan to pump water across 300 miles of desert approved
Contentious plans to pump water across 300 miles of desert to Las Vegas were given the green light on Thursday. The ruling, from the state water engineer, Jason King, will allow the city to go ahead with a plan to draw water from four thinly populated valleys of eastern Nevada. King did not give Las Vegas all of the water it was seeking. But the award of nearly 84,000 acre-feet of water, from the Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys should help Las Vegas escape a worst-case scenario where it would run out of drinking water by the middle of the next decade.... Environmental groups, and a coalition of cattle ranchers and native Americans from eastern Nevada who have been fighting the project, said they would fight the decision in the courts.
from American Geophysical Union, via EurekAlert:
AGU: Small clique of nations dominates global trading web of food, water
Food production is one of the primary uses of fresh water, and as countries grow in population, they need more food, and therefore more water, to support their residents. If they don't have the water to grow crops or raise livestock but have money to spend, countries can import food - essentially importing water. The virtual water network is a way to look at the global balance of this freshwater trade, Carr said.... One of the findings is that as of 2008, the most recent year examined by the study, there are just five key players - Brazil, Argentina, United States, Canada and Australia - in the virtual-water world, which are responsible for most of the world's export of the resource.
from Wits End:
A Hike Through Hell - The Union of Concerned Scientists Exposes "Pernicious" Corruption...and Nobody Notices
A stunning visual and intellectual meander through a dying forest. Heard of ground-level ozone? Nope, but you are breathing it, just as all the trees and plants are... and suffering for it. Gail at Wit's End tirelessly, artfully, and personally documents what ozone is doing to our forests and trees. Read it, weep, and then read more of her stuff. She's a treasure.
Surging demand for vegetable oil drives rainforest destruction
Surging demand for vegetable oil has emerged as an important driver of tropical deforestation over the past two decades and is threatening biodiversity, carbon stocks, and other ecosystem functions in some of the world's most critical forest areas, warns a report published last week by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). But the report, titled Recipes for Success: Solutions for Deforestation-Free Vegetable Oils, sees some reason for optimism, including emerging leadership from some producers, rising demand for "greener" products from buyers, new government policies to monitor deforestation and shift cropland expansion to non-forest area, and partnerships between civil society and key private sector players to improve the sustainability of vegetable oil production.... To meet increased demand, large swathes of land have been converted for rapeseed (canola), oil palm, sugar cane, maize (corn), and soy. Some of the area has included carbon-dense rainforest in Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia, a development that has alarmed environmentalists, scientists, and people who rely on forests for subsistence.
General Motors halts production of hybrid Volt as sales flatline
General Motors will suspend production of the Chevrolet Volt for five weeks this spring, a spokesman said on Friday. Disappointing sales of the award-winning plug-in hybrid electric car have left the car firm with too many Volts. Production of the US car and its European version, the Opel Ampera, will be on hold starting 19 March and 1,300 workers will be temporarily laid off. They are expected to return to work on 23 April.
from PostCarbon Institute:
Animation: There's No Tomorrow (2012)
Animated documentary about resource depletion & the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet.
How you can profit from the end of civilization: Doomsday Capitalists' winning strategy commentary
Doomsday Capitalists know how to get rich by playing the short-term stock market and ignoring long-term warnings of a global economic collapse. How? They have a secret weapon, a Doomsday Capitalists Winning Strategy.... So how can average Main Street investors build a winning portfolio? ... Start by thinking about Mad Max and Swiss Family Robinson. ... Then add a positive spin to Diamond's 12-part analysis of the historical collapse of civilizations. ... Mix in the Doomsday Capitalists short-term strategy. ... Ignore future consequences because you know you won't be around later, and hope new solutions will emerge through new technologies?. Well folks, if Biggs can achieve this goal successfully for Super Rich clients who are preparing their well-stocked farming compounds for the "collapse of the civilization," you can too. Start by picking some blue-chip stocks that fit Diamond's 12-part "Collapse Equation," hoping that while Diamond warns that throughout history politicians inevitably fail to plan or act in time to avoid a collapse, this time, maybe, just maybe, our profit-making capitalist giants will finally wake up to Adam Smith's vision and protect both their own self-interest and the public interest, thus reversing the inevitable historical trend into a collapse....
from Bill McKibben, on TomDispatch:
The Great Carbon Bubble
Still, [the energy companies] could theoretically invest all that cash in new clean technology or research and development for the same. As it happens, though, they've got a deeper problem, one that's become clear only in the last few years. Put briefly: their value is largely based on fossil-fuel reserves that won't be burned if we ever take global warming seriously. When I talked about a carbon bubble at the beginning of this essay, this is what I meant. Here are some of the relevant numbers, courtesy of the Capital Institute: we're already seeing widespread climate disruption, but if we want to avoid utter, civilization-shaking disaster, many scientists have pointed to a two-degree rise in global temperatures as the most we could possibly deal with. If we spew 565 gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere, we'll quite possibly go right past that reddest of red lines. But the oil companies, private and state-owned, have current reserves on the books equivalent to 2,795 gigatons -- five times more than we can ever safely burn. It has to stay in the ground. Put another way, in ecological terms it would be extremely prudent to write off $20 trillion worth of those reserves. In economic terms, of course, it would be a disaster, first and foremost for shareholders and executives of companies like ExxonMobil (and people in places like Venezuela). If you run an oil company, this sort of write-off is the disastrous future staring you in the face as soon as climate change is taken as seriously as it should be, and that's far scarier than drought and flood. It's why you'll do anything -- including fund an endless campaigns of lies -- to avoid coming to terms with its reality.
from Bloomberg News:
By 2030, the global middle class is expected to grow by two-thirds. That's 3 billion more shoppers. They'll all want access to goods, including water, wheat, coffee and oil. Is there enough for everybody? Can business satisfy demand and avoid hitting "peak everything?"
China's largest freshwater lake dries up
For visitors expecting to see China's largest freshwater lake, Poyang is a desolate spectacle. Under normal circumstances it covers 3,500 sq km, but last month only 200 sq km were underwater. A dried-out plain stretches as far as the eye can see, leaving a pagoda perched on top of a hillock that is usually a little island. Wrapped in the mist characteristic of the lower reaches of the Yangtze river, the barges are moored close to the quayside beside a pitiful trickle of water. There is no work for the fisheries. According to the state news agency Xinhua, the drought - the worst for 60 years - is due to the lack of rainfall in the area round Poyang and its tributaries. Poor weather conditions this year are partly responsible. But putting the blame on them overlooks the role played by the colossal Three Gorges reservoir, 500km upstream. The cause and effect is still not officially recognised, even if the government did admit last May that the planet's biggest dam had given rise to "problems that need to be solved very urgently".
World lacks enough food, fuel as population soars: U.N.
The world is running out of time to make sure there is enough food, water and energy to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population and to avoid sending up to 3 billion people into poverty, a U.N. report warned on Monday. As the world's population looks set to grow to nearly 9 billion by 2040 from 7 billion now, and the number of middle-class consumers increases by 3 billion over the next 20 years, the demand for resources will rise exponentially.
from Agence France-Press:
Climate-driven heat peaks may shrink wheat crops
More intense heat waves due to global warming could diminish wheat crop yields around the world through premature ageing, according to a study published Sunday in Nature Climate Change... a 2.0 Celsius increase above long-term averages shortened the growing season by a critical nine days, reducing total yield by up to 20 percent.
Dead Trees, Dying Forests
Since the mid-20th century, scientific research has demonstrated conclusively that tropospheric ozone is toxic to vegetation, entering plants through stomates in foliage and needles as they absorb CO2 to photosynthesize. Naturally occurring stratospheric ozone is beneficial, it protects the earth's surface from too much solar radiation. By contrast ground-level ozone is formed through complex chemical reactions when volatile organic compounds react with precursors from burning fuel, reactive nitrogen from agriculture, and methane in the presence of UV radiation from the sun...and it's poisonous to all forms of life.... That trees are dying is empirically verifiable by a cursory inventory. The photos here and on the blog exhibit characteristic symptoms readily located in any woods, suburban yard, park or mall; and include stippled, singed foliage with marginal burn (on the edges) and chlorosis - a loss of normal pigmentation from reduced photosynthesis producing chlorophyll; yellowing coniferous needles; thinning, transparent crowns; cracking, splitting, corroded, oozing and stained bark; early leaf senescence; loss of autumn radiance; holes; cankers; absence of terminal growth; breaking branches; rampant lichen growth and ultimately, death.
from Scientific American:
Has Petroleum Production Peaked, Ending the Era of Easy Oil?
Despite major oil finds off Brazil's coast, new fields in North Dakota and ongoing increases in the conversion of tar sands to oil in Canada, fresh supplies of petroleum are only just enough to offset the production decline from older fields. At best, the world is now living off an oil plateau -- roughly 75 million barrels of oil produced each and every day -- since at least 2005... That is a year earlier than estimated by the International Energy Agency--an energy cartel for oil consuming nations... "We are not running out of oil, but we are running out of oil that can be produced easily and cheaply," King and Murray wrote.
from Charleston Gazette:
DOE slashes gas estimate for Marcellus Shale
Federal government analysts on Monday slashed their estimate of the natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale formation, and at least one major producer announced plans to cut in half its expenditures on new gas leases in the wake of dropping prices. The U.S. Department of Energy cut its estimate of the Marcellus reserves from 410 trillion cubic feet of natural gas to 141 trillion cubic feet, citing better production information that emerges as drilling operations in the region mature and the exclusion of data from the pre-shale area.
from Bluefield Daily Telegraph:
Record coal load on its way to China from Virginia
Norfolk Southern Railway set a new record in terms of shipping coal tonnage by loading 159,941.45 net tons of metallurgical coal on an ocean-going vessel bound for China.... "This is a great indication of the shortage of met coal last year that forced the world to come to the U.S. buy the coal to meet their steel-making needs," Rick Taylor, president of the Pocahontas Coal Association said.... NS employees were able to load the record-breaking load on the 951-foot M/V Cape Dover in less than 48 hours. Pier 6 was added to the railroad's Norfolk load-out facility in 1962. Prior to the construction of the space shuttle launch tower, NS's Lambert's Point loaders were the largest pieces of moving machinery in the world. The total site encompasses 400 acres at the mouth of the Elizabeth River in Hampton Roads. In 2010, Pier 6 transloaded 16.7 million tons of coal. With both dumpers and both ship loaders working, Pier 6 can load about 8,000 tons of coal per hour. The pier is 1,850 feet long, according to information provided by NS.
Lexicon of Sustainability: Biodiversity vs. monoculture
Industrial agriculture = monoculture. Small farms = biodiversity. Small, organic farms like Rick Knoll's are able to eliminate their reliance on petrochemical-based fertilizers and pesticides. The results are fewer pollutants, less environmental degradation, and cleaner air. And by using cover cropping and other soil fertilization principles they are able to sequester carbon and keep topsoil -- which is carbon heavy -- from being lost into the atmosphere (the latter also contributes to climate change).
Modelling the effects of fishing on the biomass of the world's oceans from 1950 to 2006
Using primary production, sea surface temperature, transfer efficiency, fisheries catch and TL of species, the model was applied on a half-degree spatial grid covering all oceans. Estimates of biomass by TLs were derived for marine ecosystems in an unexploited state, as well as for all decades since the 1950s. Trends in the decline of marine biomass from the unexploited state were analyzed with a special emphasis on predator species as they are highly vulnerable to overexploitation. This study highlights 3 main trends in the global effects of fishing: (1) predators are more affected than organisms at lower TLs; (2) declines in ecosystem biomass are stronger along coastlines than in the High Seas; and (3) the extent of fishing and its impacts have expanded from north temperate to equatorial and southern waters in the last 50 yr. More specifically, this modelling work shows that many oceans historically exploited by humans have seen a drastic decline in their predator biomass, with approximately half of the coastal areas of the North Atlantic and North Pacific showing a decline in predator biomass of more than 90 percent.
from TED, via The Oil Drum:
Jeremy Jackson talks about How We Wrecked the Ocean
Jeremy Jackson is the Ritter Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
China cuts 2012 rare earths export quota
China accounts for 97 percent of rare earth output and its 2009 decision to curb exports while it builds up an industry to create products made with them alarmed foreign companies that depend on Chinese supplies. In its latest quota, the Commerce Ministry said exporters will be allowed to sell 10,546 tons of rare earths in the first half of 2012. That is a 27 percent reduction from the quota for the first half of 2011.... Rare earths are 17 elements including cerium, dysprosium and lanthanum that are used in manufacturing flat-screen TVs, batteries for electric cars and wind turbines. They also used in some high-tech weapons.... Prices in China have fallen sharply since August, declining by 45 percent for neodymium oxide, by 33 percent for terbium oxide and by 31 percent for lanthanum oxide, according to Lynas Corp., an Australian rare earths producer. Its figures showed an equally striking gap between prices in China and abroad, with lanthanum oxide costing triple the Chinese level on global markets, neodymium more than twice as much and terbium oxide near twice as much.
from Associated Press:
Bugs may be resistant to genetically modified corn
One of the nation's most widely planted crops -- a genetically engineered corn plant that makes its own insecticide -- may be losing its effectiveness because a major pest appears to be developing resistance more quickly than scientists expected.
Acidic oceans threaten development in young fish
Ocean acidification -- caused by climate change -- looks likely to damage crucial fish stocks. Two studies published today in Nature Climate Change reveal that high carbon dioxide concentrations can cause death and organ damage in very young fish. The work challenges the belief that fish, unlike organisms with shells or exoskeletons made of calcium carbonate, will be safe as marine CO2 levels rise.... "These two studies are part of a growing trend that realizes that the broader effects of ocean acidification are much more than just calcification," says Donald Potts, a coral-reef biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
from The Daily Climate:
Hotter, drier, meaner: Trends point to a planet increasingly hostile to agriculture
To get a glimpse of the future, look to East Africa today. The Horn of Africa is in the midst of its worst drought in 60 years: Crop failures have left up to 10 million at risk of famine; social order has broken down in Somalia, with thousands of refugees streaming into Kenya; British Aid alone is feeding 2.4 million people across the region. That's a taste of what's to come, say scientists mapping the impact of a warming planet on agriculture and civilization.... Many recent events -- discoveries from sediment cores of New York marshes, drought in Australia and the western United States, data from increasingly sophisticated computer models -- lead to a conclusion that the weather driving many of the globe's great breadbaskets will become hotter, drier and more unpredictable.
FADs: Helicopter Pilot Blows Whistle On Tuna Industry
A shocking Greenpeace video has revealed the appalling slaughter of marine life during tuna fishing. A tuna industry whistleblower spoke out to expose the routine killing of whales, dolphins and manta rays. The never-before-seen footage shows graphic images shot aboard a Pacific fishing vessel. The ship uses fishing aggregated devices (FADs), man-made floating objects used to attract fish.
from Associated Press:
A quarter of world's farmlands highly degraded, says UN
The United Nations has completed the first-ever global assessment of the state of the planet's land resources, finding in a report today that a quarter of all farmland is highly degraded and warning the trend must be reversed if the world's growing population is to be fed. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that farmers will have to produce 70 per cent more food by 2050 to meet the needs of the world's expected nine billion-strong population. That amounts to 1 billion tonnes more wheat, rice and other cereals and 200 million more tons of cow and other livestock. But as it is, most available farmland is already being farmed, and in ways that actually decrease its productivity through practices that lead to soil erosion and wasting of water.
from New York Times:
Older, Suburban and Struggling, 'Near Poor' Startle the Census
Down but not quite out, these Americans form a diverse group sometimes called "near poor" and sometimes simply overlooked -- and a new count suggests they are far more numerous than previously understood. When the Census Bureau this month released a new measure of poverty, meant to better count disposable income, it began altering the portrait of national need. Perhaps the most startling differences between the old measure and the new involves data the government has not yet published, showing 51 million people with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line. That number of Americans is 76 percent higher than the official account, published in September. All told, that places 100 million people -- one in three Americans -- either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it.
Great Plains water pumping imperils fish
Great Plains river basins are threatened by pumping of groundwater from aquifers, risking a bleak future for native fish in many streams, U.S. researchers say. Unlike alluvial aquifers, which can be replenished with rain and snow, these regional aquifers were created by melting glaciers during the last Ice Age, the researchers say, and when that water is gone, it's gone for good.... In a three-year study of the Arikaree River in eastern Colorado, researchers concluded that during the next 35 years only slightly more than half of the current fish refuge pools would remain. Falke and his colleagues say it would require a 75 percent reduction in the rate of groundwater pumping to maintain current water table levels and refuge pools, which is "not economically or politically feasible," the study said. Pumping of regional aquifers is done almost entirely for agriculture, Falke said, with about 90 percent of the irrigation aimed at corn production, along with some alfalfa and wheat.
Can the oceans continue to feed us?
Yet tuna still aren't fished sustainably, something that conservationists and big U.S. tuna companies are trying to fix. This illustrates one part of the pressure on the world's oceans to feed a growing global population, now 7 billion. It also underscores the difficulties people have in balancing what they take against what must be left in order to have enough supplies of healthy wild fish.... "It's serious. On a global basis, we've pretty much found all the fish we're going to find," said Mike Hirshfield, chief scientist at the advocacy group Oceana. "There's not a lot of hidden fish out there. And we're still heading in the wrong direction, taken as a whole." Some 32 percent of the world's fish are overfished, up from 10 percent in the 1970s and 25 percent in the early 1990s, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
Time to Worry: World Oil Production Finishes Six Years of No Growth
We are entering what may be the longest stretch of no growth in world oil production since the early 1980s. But the reasons for that lack of growth differ in ways that ought to make us all uncomfortable. Starting in 1980, production slumped because for the first time in history people needed less oil. After the huge oil price increases in the 1970s, cars suddenly got smaller. People became more careful about combining trips to save gas.... Six years from the ostensible topping out of conventional petroleum production, prices remain considerably higher. Oil prices finished 2005 around $50 a barrel. As of this writing, they are around $90 for Nymex crude and around $110 for Brent crude. This, of course, is exactly the opposite of the trend which occurred in the six years following the 1980 peak.... When I ask audiences how long a billion barrels of oil will last the world at current rates of consumption, I often get replies that range anywhere from three months to 5 years. The correct answer is 12 days. Just multiply these multi-billion-barrel discoveries by 12, and you'll realize right away that they are not going to overcome the constraints we are experiencing in oil supplies.
from Huffington Post:
Mining water in the Mojave
Some believe this lush farm in the unlikeliest of places also sits atop a partial solution to Southern California's water woes. By tapping into an aquifer the size of Rhode Island under the 35,000-acre Cadiz ranch, proponents say they can supply 400,000 people with drinking water in only a few years.... "Do we need additional water supplies? Yes. Do we need groundwater storage? Yes," said Winston Hickox, a Cadiz board member who headed the California Environmental Protection Agency. "The question is 'OK, environmental community, what are your remaining concerns?' I don't know." But conservationists including the Sierra Club remain worried. Critics say the company has misrepresented the size of the aquifer and that mining it could harm the threatened desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, as well as the nearby Mojave National Preserve which has some of the densest and oldest Joshua tree forests in the world. Concerns over rare desert species were also echoed by state Department of Fish and Game biologists in March. Conservationists also worry tampering with an aquifer in a place where water is so scarce could cause dust storms.
from New York Times:
China Takes a Loss to Get Ahead in the Business of Fresh Water
Towering over the Bohai Sea shoreline on this city's outskirts, the Beijiang Power and Desalination Plant is a 26-billion-renminbi technical marvel: an ultrahigh-temperature, coal-fired generator with state-of-the-art pollution controls, mated to advanced Israeli equipment that uses its leftover heat to distill seawater into fresh water. There is but one wrinkle in the $4 billion plant: The desalted water costs twice as much to produce as it sells for. Nevertheless, the owner of the complex, a government-run conglomerate called S.D.I.C., is moving to quadruple the plant's desalinating capacity, making it China's largest. "Someone has to lose money," Guo Qigang, the plant's general manager, said in a recent interview. "We're a state-owned corporation, and it's our social responsibility."
from Winnepeg Fee Press:
Raffi offers support, advice, for protesters
A soothing voice from the childhood of many an Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Canada protester is offering them support and a few pieces of advice. Raffi, a Canadian performer and activist known best for his children's music, has been tweeting about the growing demonstrations across the United States and the ones about to kick off in Canadian cities this week. "May the spirit of Gandhi and MLK (Martin Luther King) move your thoughts, words, & deeds -- keep it peaceful!" wrote Raffi, whose full name is Raffi Cavoukian. In an interview from his home on Saltspring Island, B.C., Raffi said he sympathizes with some of the issues that protesters have raised in their continuing demonstrations around Wall Street and elsewhere....
from London Guardian:
US must stop promoting biofuels to tackle world hunger, says thinktank
America must stop promoting the production of biofuels if there is to be any real progress in addressing spiking global food prices and famine, such as seen in the Horn of Africa, an authoritative thinktank has warned. A new report, the Global Hunger Index, warned that US government support for corn ethanol was a major factor behind this year's food price spikes -- and was projected to fuel further volatility in food prices over the next decade.
from Bangor Daily News:
Shellfish harvesters plagued by acidic 'dead muds'
They're called dead muds. Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere combined with unregulated nitrogen pollution are having a deadly effect on Maine's shellfish, some researchers say. Scientists are starting to measure the impact of increasingly acidic waters on coastal organisms, and what they've found is alarming. Formerly fertile shellfish flats are becoming uninhabitable wastelands of dreck.... "They call them dead muds," said Mark Green, an oyster grower and marine science professor at St. Joseph's College in Standish. "The darker muds and sulfur-rich muds don't have any clams, and those are the flats that have lower pH levels. Places where historically there have been great harvests that supported clammers for decades, you now see water quality changes that are reflected in the mud." The more acidic the water, the lower the pH. In these places, researchers aren't finding dead or unhealthy shellfish. They're finding nothing at all. It is a complete eradication.
from Huffington Post:
Peanut Butter Price Jumps After Worst Peanut Harvest In 30 Years
Thanks to a failing peanut crop due to last summer's scorching hot weather, there's a shortage of peanuts in supply. Big brands like Peter Pan, Jif and Smucker's are left with little choice but to raise prices, reports the Wall Street Journal. The price jumps range from 24 to 40 percent, with Jif planning to raise prices by 30 percent in November and Peter Pan by up to 24 percent in the coming weeks, reports MarketWatch Radio. So far, the Wall Street Journal says, USDA figures show the cost of a ton of unprocessed peanuts has spiked from $450 to $1,150 since last year. Researchers at New Mexico State University told ABC KOAT News that high heat, strong winds and bone-dry conditions created the worst peanut season in more than 30 years.
from Post Carbon Institute Energy Bulletin:
The peak oil initiation
I may be wrong, but I've long thought that one question above all would haunt my imagined historian of our future: why did we do it? Given that our entire civilization had plenty of warning, and that ten minutes of unprejudiced thought ought to have been enough to demonstrate to anybody the absurdity of expecting to get away with infinite economic growth on a finite planet, why didn't we do what must, to the eyes of the future, look like the obviously right decision, and downshift to a less energy- and resource-intensive steady state economy while we had the chance? Why, instead, did we keep on lurching blindly forward on a one-way street headed straight to history's compost bin, all the while angrily shouting down the few that tried to warn us of where we were going?
Well, there's more stories than this -- but that was 75 of them! You may want to try the PANICloud for more specific topics!