Posts by Rosette Zarzar

National Climate Assessment Report Under Review by Trump Administration

Posted by on Aug 22, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics, Science | 0 comments

National Climate Assessment Report Under Review by Trump Administration

Spread the News:ShareThe Trump administration is assessing a 545-page draft report about the causes and impacts of global warming, including the imminent threat of glacial retreat. This draft report known as the Climate Science Special Report is part of the fourth National Climate Assessment, and it is undergoing a final interagency review by the administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and 12 other agencies. The New York Times published the draft report on August 7th, which brought a good deal of attention to the document, even though the information had been available at the Internet Archive, a nonprofit internet digital library, since January. On August 20th, the Trump administration took initial steps to weaken the effectiveness of the draft report by disbanding the federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment, the group that guides the report and helps policymakers and private-sector officials integrate climate analysis into long-term planning, raising questions about the future of the report. The charter for the advisory committee will expire on Sunday, August 27th, and the panel will not be renewed. The report was written by a team of more than 300 experts from 13 federal agencies. The National Climate Assessment is one of the most rigorously sourced and vetted documents produced by the federal government, based on “peer reviewed journal articles, technical reports by federal agencies, scientific assessments, etc” and produced every four years since 1990. The latest assessment, which ultimately could be rejected by the Trump administration, concludes that the average annual temperature will continue to rise throughout the century, with global temperatures increasing between 0.5 and 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit over the next two decades. This could result in longer heat waves, disappearing snow cover, shrinking sea ice, and melting glaciers. Mark Carey, a professor of history and environmental studies at the University of Oregon, told GlacierHub that shrinking glaciers actually have notable impacts. “For one, they help regulate water flow in glacier-fed rivers, providing meltwater for downstream water use in dry summer months when farmers and hydroelectric power stations most need the water,” he said. “Glacier retreat can also unleash outburst floods and avalanches from the unstable glaciers.”  According to the assessment, the annually averaged ice mass from 37 global reference glaciers “has decreased every year since 1984, a decline expected to continue even if climate were to stabilize.” The findings stirred public interest because they refute statements from the Trump administration about the causes and effects of climate change. The Trump administration, including his cabinet members, have taken a different approach to combatting global warming, repealing environmental regulations and defunding climate research. Earlier this year, Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord and rolled back policies that former President Barack Obama put in place, such as the Clean Power Plan, which limits greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants. The Trump administration also worked hard to save the coal industry and promised to increase oil and gas production by drilling in protected areas of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, which will increase emissions. Additionally, Trump has appointed members to his cabinet who openly deny anthropogenic climate change. Agency scientists have found that discussing climate change with EPA leadership has become taboo. The Interior and Agriculture departments have also banned climate change talk and cancelled meetings with climate change experts. The report is one of the administration’s biggest tests to date in regard to the their public opinion on climate change. Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, recently told CNBC, “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the...

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Photo Friday: Air Bubbles in Glacial Ice

Posted by on Aug 18, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, Science | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Air Bubbles in Glacial Ice

Spread the News:ShareGlacial ice can range in age from several hundred to several thousands of years old. In order to study long-term climate records, scientists drill and extract ice cores from glaciers and ice sheets. The ice cores contain information about past climate, giving scientists the ability to learn about the evolution of ice and past climates. Trapped air bubbles contain past atmospheric composition, information on temperature variations, and types of vegetation from earlier times. Studying ice bubbles is one way for scientists to know that there have been several Ice Ages, for example. Unfortunately, glaciers have been retreating at unprecedented rates since the early twentieth century, destroying ice bubbles. This Photo Friday, view images of these information-packed glacier ice bubbles. Spread the...

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The Pascua-Lama Mining Project Threatens Glaciers

Posted by on Aug 15, 2017 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

The Pascua-Lama Mining Project Threatens Glaciers

Spread the News:ShareFabiana Li, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Manitoba, brings new insight to a long-standing conflict over a South American mining project in her recently published article “Moving Glaciers: Remaking Nature and Mineral Extraction” on Sage Journals. Li’s article investigates the controversial Pascua-Lama mining project, located on the border between Chile and Argentina, run by Barrick Gold, a prominent mining company from Canada. The project gained recognition because of its plan to move three glaciers located at the mining site, disturbing the integrity of the glaciers in the region. Ongoing debate over the site’s future and expenses led Barrick to abandon the project in 2013, but controversy over the future of the site continues. “The Pascua-Lama project is still in limbo,” Li said in an interview with GlacierHub. “Like other mining companies recovering from the downturn in the metals market, Barrick is now looking for partners for a joint venture in order to mitigate the risks involved in the project. The company has already spent $8.5 billion on Pascua Lama, so it is not likely to abandon it entirely, but it will not be able to continue operating as before, without a new approach to community relations and environmental issues.” The Pascua-Lama project first ran into trouble when dealing with the glaciers that surrounded the ore deposit, notes Li. In the company’s initial environmental impact assessment, they disregarded the glaciers’ existence. In 2001, the company decided to include the glaciers in the environmental impact assessment by creating a section called the “glacier management plan.” The plan stated that Barrick would move 10 hectares of glaciers with bulldozers, front loaders, or even “controlled explosives,” if necessary, to an adjacent area outside of the development. This plan was approved by the Chilean authorities in 2001. However, the company’s proposal to move the glaciers was met with animosity from environmental organizations, local residents of the Huasco Valley (a region in Chile located below the mine), representatives of the Catholic Church, Diaguita indigenous communities (who claimed the land as their own), and local and foreign activists. Li told GlacierHub that she tried to show in her article how glaciers, mountains and rivers are more than just resources. “They make up people’s sense of place, their identities, and ways of life,” she said. “They form part of important relationships that people forge with their surroundings and that sustain life.” Communities in the Huasco Valley, for example, protested the glaciers’ removal, arguing that they are dependent on the water supply for agriculture and drinking, with the glaciers storing water for the dry season. During the 1990s, there was a boom in companies investing in exploration and extraction from countries in South America like Peru. As of 2013, Pascua-Lama was thought to own one of the world’s largest gold and silver resources. Barrick first began exploring the Chile/Argentina border in 1994, searching for possible mining opportunities. It was not until 1997 that both the Chilean and Argentinian presidents signed the Mining Integration Treaty that allowed mining development along the mountain ranges. The treaty granted access to economic activity, foreign property ownership, and water and resources. The Pascua-Lama project also became the world’s first binational mine, creating an example for other projects and developments to follow. In 2004, the company released an environmental impact assessment, which diminished the importance of the glaciers once again, calling them “ice reservoirs,” “ice fields,” or “glacierets.” One of Barrick’s top executives even denied that there were any glaciers at all. Scientists and researchers hired by the company, such as those at the Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Aridas (Center...

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Glacial Retreat Closes Snow Park in Austria

Posted by on Aug 8, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Sports, Tourism | 0 comments

Glacial Retreat Closes Snow Park in Austria

Spread the News:ShareA popular off-season freestyle snow park located on the Dachstein glacier in Austria has cancelled its fall season due to glacial retreat. The Superpark Dachstein became a favorite destination for local and international pro skiers and snowboarders, including Polish rider Adrian Smardz, to train during the summer months. Due to a lack of snow, the park will be opening its doors only in late autumn and closing again in the early summer, rather than maintaining its tradition of a year-round operation. Other attractions such as the ski slopes and cross country tracks will remain open. The news of the park’s closing followed the closing of Camp of Champions, a prominent camp on Horstman Glacier in Canada. “After many great years of Superpark on the Dachstein glacier, we’ve heavy-heartedly decided that we will not rebuild Dachstein Superpark in the upcoming fall,” reads the official statement released by the park’s operators, Planai-Hochwurzen-Bahnen. “One important reason is the increasing glacial retreat in the park area. It is definitely unjustifiable that we were already forced to damage the glacial ice sheet during the build-up. It’s the dictate of the moment to preserve the glacial substance. We ask you to understand the justified criticism of environmentalists.” Since it was created by pro-snowboarder Bernd Mandlberger in 2002, the park has been one of the only snow parks to remain open after May. Markus Zeiringer, the marketing head for Planai-Hochwurzen-Bahnen, said the park is “obliged to a responsible and sustainable approach to nature – especially on Dachstein glacier.” Zeiringer explained that last year, due to a lack of snow, the park had to damage the ice layer to build kickers, small handmade jumps that allow snowboarders and skiers to show off their tricks and gain height, ultimately prompting the park to reconsider its toll on the environment. “There is enough snow for skiers and cross-country skiers on Dachstein, but the kickers have not been justifiable any more,” he said. As one of the first snow parks in Austria, the park has a unique geographical location on Dachstein Glacier in Austria, just below 2700 meters in elevation. The Hallstatt-Dachstein alpine landscape, part of the Eastern Alps, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 for its huge mountains and narrow valleys. Dachstein’s three glaciers— the Gosau, the Hallstätter, and the Schladminger— have already thinned out by around 50 centimeters to a full meter each year, which is two to three times more than the 20th century average, according to The Guardian. With 2015 the hottest year since 1880, almost all of Austria’s 900 glaciers have retreated 72 feet in 2015, more than twice the rate of 2014. The shrinking of Austria’s glaciers has taken a toll on recreation and the economy in the Alps, with Superpark Dachstein the latest snow park to succumb to temperature rise. Austria generates about 4.5 percent of the country’s gross national product on its ski industry, with about fifty percent of tourist income coming from its winter season alone, The Guardian reports. The surrounding landscapes have changed significantly, leaving locals and tourists with melting ice that could induce rock falls, rather than supplying snow to functioning resorts for vacation and recreation. Similarly, in the United States, ski resorts that used to be open year-round are now being forced to close between May and September because the slopes have disappeared. Ben Marconi, a graduate of the Climate and Society master’s program at Columbia University and a competitive skier from Utah, told GlacierHub, “The changing distribution of snowfall throughout the season will affect when and how often we ski. The increasing likelihood of extreme weather events and the redistribution of snowfall...

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Roundup: Green Development, Glacier Reduction, and Psychiatry

Posted by on Aug 7, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup, Science | 0 comments

Roundup: Green Development, Glacier Reduction, and Psychiatry

Spread the News:ShareGreen Development in Patagonia From Project Muse: “This paper examines how Southern Andean Patagonia has been increasingly incorporated within networks of global capital since the 1990s. This remote region has become an iconic center for green development in Latin America. The article develops the argument that a regional territorial imaginary has facilitated this recent shift towards green development across the resource domains of land conservation, hydropower, and forestry. The discussion addresses the different ways in which forests, waterways, and protected areas (public and private) have been integrated into a hegemonic vision promoting eco-regionalism among state, corporate, and civil society actors.” Read more about Southern Andean Patagonia here.   Glacier Reduction in Tibetan Plateau From AGU Publications: “In this study, we focused on light-absorbing impurities (LAIs), including black carbon, organic carbon, and mineral dust in glacial surface snow from southeaster Tibetan glaciers. This study showed the concentrations of LAIs, and estimated their impact on albedo reduction. Furthermore, we discussed the potential source of impurities and their impact to the study area. These results provide scientific basis for regional mitigation efforts to reduce black carbon.” Learn more about the light-absorbing impurities here.   Combat Psychiatry of Indian Armed Forces From Science Direct: “Indian Armed Forces have been engaged in various combat duties for long. The adverse effect of prolonged and repetitive deployment of troops in these highly stressful environment leads to many combat stress behaviors as well as misconduct behaviors. Preventing, identifying and managing these disruptive behaviors are an essential part of combat psychiatry within the larger domain of combat medicine. Indian Armed Forces have a well-oiled mechanism to handle these issues and military psychiatrists are deeply engaged in providing holistic mental health care to the esteemed clientele.” The article mentions the Siachen Glacier (where India and Pakistan meet) as one of the sites in the study. Learn more about the hardships faced by the Indian Armed Forces here. Spread the...

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