Policy and Economics

Roundup: Ultra Denials, Temperatures, and Marathons

Posted by on Aug 14, 2017 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

Roundup: Ultra Denials, Temperatures, and Marathons

Spread the News:ShareTrump on Climate: Deny, Deny, Deny From HuffPost: “Perry went on to defend his and others’ denial of near-universally accepted climate science, suggesting that those who question the scientific community’s findings are more intelligent. Also in June, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park started melting ‘right after the end of the Ice Age’ and that it has ‘been a consistent melt.’ He also dismissed the notion that government scientists can predict with certainty how much warming will occur by 2100 under a business-as-usual scenario.” Read more about the Trump cabinet and its tenuous relationship to evidence here.   Ski No More From Reuters: “High temperatures that have hit Italy over the past weeks have taken their toll on the country’s glaciers, with a summer ski resort at the Stelvio Pass having to make the historic decision to suspend its activities due to worsening conditions at the Alpine glacier. Swathes of southern and eastern Europe have sweltered in temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) this week in a heat wave nicknamed ‘Lucifer’ that has fanned forest fires, triggered weather warning alerts and damaged crops.” Watch the short video here.   A Mountain of an Ultra Marathon From the Bellingham Herald: “12 runners set out from Bellingham Bay for the top of snow-capped Mount Baker in the distance. To get there and back — a round trip of 108 miles during a hot, sunny weekend — they ran, hiked and climbed to the 10,781-foot summit of Mount Baker over two nights and two days. Eleven of them completed the arduous journey, a trek known as the Mount Baker Ultra Run.” Read more about this impressive feat here. Spread the...

Read More

Radical Tactical Shift: Swimming in Unfrozen Places

Posted by on Aug 10, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics, Sports | 0 comments

Radical Tactical Shift: Swimming in Unfrozen Places

Spread the News:ShareIn the Arctic, global climate change is a story of disappearing ice. Midwinter sea ice has decreased by two million square kilometers since satellite records began 40 years ago, and glaciers in the Arctic have been melting at unparalleled speeds, profoundly impacting Arctic species and ecosystems. When it comes to activism about this troubling issue, endurance swimmer and U.N. Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh is literally all in. He's in! Lewis will swim along the edge of the sea ice; we expect the kilometre to take approx 17.5 minutes. #ArcticDecade pic.twitter.com/Te0Zg4fwgK — Lewis Pugh (@LewisPugh) July 29, 2017 Recently, Pugh swam along the sea ice off the Norwegian island of Svalbard, in water that the Monaco Glacier had occupied only a few years prior. Swimming a kilometer along the sea ice took him 22 minutes, longer than expected. He couldn’t remember ever having been so cold, he said in a statement. He was so chilled that his hands stopped functioning, and he had to bite his photographer’s drysuit sleeve so his crew could lift him into the support boat. A source, who asked to remain anonymous as swimming was forbidden by the research station he worked for, swam in Antarctica’s Ross Sea and was impressed by Pugh’s accomplishment. “Being in such cold water even for just a second, it’s scary. Your body goes into shock— it was at one temperature, and now it isn’t suddenly. But when that’s over, it’s very rewarding and satisfying,” he told GlacierHub. Witnessing changes to the oceans over his lifetime inspired Pugh to channel his talent for cold-water swimming into raising awareness about climate change. “I undertake swims in the most vulnerable parts of our oceans to campaign for the creation of marine protected areas,” Pugh said. He has finished a series of swims in his native South African waters, is the first person to complete long-distance swims in the ancient Seven Seas, and has accomplished distance swimming campaigns in both the Arctic and Antarctic. I swam at Monaco Glacier 12 years ago. Just look at it today.#ArcticDecade #ClimateChange pic.twitter.com/3WJHnWeBmt — Lewis Pugh (@LewisPugh) July 28, 2017 Raised on his father’s stories of famous polar explorers, Pugh yearned to visit the Arctic since he was a child, he told a TED audience in September 2009. He is deeply troubled by the rapid change he has observed since his first trip. “I’ve seen polar bears walking across very thin ice in search of food. I have swum in front of glaciers which have retreated so much, and… every year, seen less and less sea ice,” he said. “I wanted the world to know what was happening up there.” In 2007, in order to shake lapels and stir up conversation about climate change, Pugh planned the world’s first distance swim at the geographic North Pole, swimming one kilometer in negative 1.7 Celsius water. Along with his support team, he caught a ride north on a Russian icebreaker and personally witnessed the vast loss of Arctic sea ice when they encountered patches of open sea at the pole. During the 18 minute and 50 second swim, his hands were so damaged by the cold water that he couldn’t feel them for four months after. He said the conversation generated about climate change made the pain worthwhile. It's over. 1 km done, Lewis was in the water for 22 minutes. Rushing back to the ship now. #ArcticDecade pic.twitter.com/X76ZeCSw59 — Lewis Pugh (@LewisPugh) July 29, 2017 “Anyone who tells you they enjoy swimming in freezing water is either mad, or has never done it,” said Pugh. “I...

Read More

Roundup: Crack, Flood, Fight

Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics, Roundup, Science | 0 comments

Roundup: Crack, Flood, Fight

Spread the News:SharePetermann Crack Develops From Grist: “Petermann is one of the largest and most important glaciers in the world, with a direct connection to the core of the Greenland ice sheet. That means that even though this week’s new iceberg at Petermann is just 1/500th the size of the massive one that broke off the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica earlier this month, it could eventually have a much bigger effect on global sea levels. Scientists believe that if Petermann collapses completely, it could raise the seas by about a foot.” Read more about the potential collapse of the Petermann here.   Glacial Outburst Flood Rages in Iceland From The Watchers: “A glacial outburst flood started in Iceland’s Múlakvísl river around midnight UTC on July 29, 2017. Electrical conductivity is now measured around 580µS/cm and has increased rapidly the last hour, Icelandic Met Office (IMO) reported 10:14 UTC on July 29. Increasing water levels of this river are an important indicator of Katla’s upcoming volcanic eruptions.” Read about safety concerns associated with the flood here.   Conflict in the Himalayas From The New York Times: “The road stands on territory at the point where China, India and Bhutan meet…The standoff began last month when Bhutan, a close ally of India, discovered Chinese workers trying to extend the road. Now soldiers from the two powers are squaring off, separated by only a few hundred feet. The conflict shows no sign of abating, and it reflects the swelling ambition— and nationalism— of both countries. Each is governed by a muscular leader eager to bolster his domestic standing while asserting his country’s place on the world stage as the United States recedes from a leading role.” Learn more about the geopolitics of this standoff here.   Spread the...

Read More

Different Views of a World Heritage Site in China

Posted by on Jul 26, 2017 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

Different Views of a World Heritage Site in China

Spread the News:ShareOn July 12, 2017, after careful consideration of China’s nomination, UNESCO declared the Qinghai Hoh Xil region in Western China a World Heritage Site. The IUCN, a major international conservation body, recognized the strengths of this nomination but raised two concerns— first, threats from development, and second, failure to engage with local communities and cultural values— also echoed by other groups, including the NGO World Heritage Watch. UNESCO defines a world heritage site as a cultural and/or natural site, area, or structure recognized as being of outstanding international importance and, therefore, deserving special protection. In order to become a World Heritage Site, there is a four step process that must be followed. First, a country must create a tentative list of important natural and cultural heritage spots that it wishes to nominate. Second, a state party decides when they want to present the nomination. The nomination is then sent to the World Heritage Site committee, which, if they approve it, sends it to the advisory bodies for evaluation. The three advisory bodies chosen by the World Heritage Convention evaluate the sites. Finally, the World Heritage Committee makes the final decision on the site’s inscription. The Qinghai Hoh Xil region, designated a natural world heritage site, lies in the north-eastern part of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in China. The plateau is the largest and highest plateau in the world, with alpine mountains reaching more than 4,500 meters above sea level and diverse ecosystems, including grasslands, scrublands, glaciers, and tundras. Its unique topography of alpine mountains and steppe systems, and climatic conditions, allow for a multitude of species and diverse plants to thrive. More than one third of the plant species and all herbivorous mammals are indigenous to the area. The heritage site nomination was part of an effort to protect the chiru species, Pantholops hodgsonii to scientists, tsö in Tibetan, commonly known as the Tibetan antelope, according to Chinese officials. The plateau’s glaciers are an important source of freshwater in the wetland system of lakes and rivers, making up a total area of 180,000 hectares. Due to rising temperatures, about 15 percent of the plateau’s glacial area, about 8,000 square kilometers since 1980, has retreated in the past half-century, according to a Chinese government-related study. Climate change effects would likely result in the destruction of the Tibetan antelope’s habitat, as well as other plant and animal species in the area. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species states that the chiru is near-threatened because the population size can be maintained with higher levels of protection and controls on trade and manufacturing from its fur. The local Tibetan herders protect the antelopes from hunters by patrolling the area, with little equipment or money. During the evaluation of the Qinghai Hoh Xil region as a World Heritage Site, members of the local population expressed concern about the possibility of being displaced or resettled as a result of site’s new status. The IUCN report states that “it is imperative that questions of rights, access and traditional use are addressed rigorously and carefully by the State Party, and the World Heritage nomination must not be used to justify any deprivation of traditional land use rights of the concerned communities.” The report suggests that local herding communities should be consulted and involved in governing the land. It notes, as well, that the Qinghai Hoh Xil region contains many cultural and spiritual sites valued by its people, and it should be properly recognized. The Chinese government has affirmed its plan to guarantee the integrity of the region. Han Jianhua, the Vice-Governor of Qinghai Province, in which the site...

Read More

The Water Management Crisis of the Teesta River

Posted by on Jul 5, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

The Water Management Crisis of the Teesta River

Spread the News:ShareA reduction in the Teesta River’s water flow during the non-monsoon months has impacted water levels available for irrigation, leading to ongoing disputes between Bangladesh and India. The tension between Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Chief Minister of the Indian state of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, has led to an impasse in a water sharing agreement between the two countries, leaving both at risk as the water crisis grows. India and Bangladesh face the challenge of sharing a river, an issue which is exacerbated by glacial retreat. The Teesta River begins in the high mountains of India and flows down to lowland areas of India and Bangladesh. The Teesta supplies one-sixteenth of the water needed by India and Bangladesh for agriculture during the dry season, which runs from February to May. Due to its geography, India has been able to build dams to control or limit water flow to Bangladesh, but not vice versa. Both countries have sought an equitable division of Teesta waters in the past. In 1983, for example, a water sharing agreement was reached, dividing access to the water roughly equally by giving India 39 percent and Bangladesh 36 percent, with the remaining 25 percent unallocated. However, out of fear of water loss in the northern region of the country, the West Bengal government did not approve the treaty, and the agreement was not implemented. Since then, agreements over the Teesta have been unsuccessful. In 2010, a new agreement was drafted to grant both India and Bangladesh 40 percent of water flow at Gazaldoba Barrage in West Bengal, with the remaining 20 percent for environmental flow, a system for managing water flow below a dam to sustain freshwater, aquatic ecosystems and human livelihoods. However, the state government of West Bengal later opposed the negotiation. Ideally, a treaty between the two countries would ensure water flow during the dry season, secure water for the rest of the year in the river basin, and prevent floods and river erosion during monsoons. The Teesta normally overflows 300,000 cusecs (cubic meters per second) during monsoons, but lately the river has been exceeding 450,000 cusecs, resulting in river erosion. By 2030, Bangladesh’s water demand is expected to exceed available water supply by 21 percent in the dry season. The Teesta Barrage Project, one of the largest irrigation projects in eastern India, was designed as a network of barrages and canals in six northern districts of West Bengal intended for irrigation, hydropower generation, navigation, and flood control. During dry seasons, barrages, which are broad, low dams that use large gates to control and divert water, are meant to hold back water, but they do not contain a water reservoir facility. Only certain parts of the project have been completed, including the Teesta barrage at Galzaldoba in West Bengal, which lies 90 kilometers upstream of the Indo-Bangladesh border at Gazaldoba. Bangladesh contests that the Gazaldoba barrage, upstream of Dalia, has reduced water availability during the dry season. After the construction of these dams, large pools of stagnant water formed just upstream of the Teesta Low Dam Project, while downstream there was no water in the riverbed. These man-made hydraulic structures, dams and barrages are meant to impact the water flow and the timing of water release. Unfortunately, poor water management in India and Bangladesh has led authorities to release water at the wrong time since the barrages do not have a water reservoir facility, thereby releasing monsoon water rather than keeping it for dry seasons. Control of the water flow through the Gazoldoba Barrage in India has resulted in...

Read More

Water Stress in the Naryn River Basin

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

Water Stress in the Naryn River Basin

Spread the News:ShareAround the world, meltwater from snow and glaciers has provided surrounding communities with water for irrigation and hydropower, but climate change is altering the timing and volume of the annual water flow cycle. This issue is pressing in eastern Kyrgyzstan, where the glaciers and snowpack of the Tien Shan Mountains form the headwaters of the Naryn River, which flows westward across Kyrgyzstan before crossing the border into Uzbekistan. A recent study in the journal Water by Alice F. Hill et al. analyzed water chemistry from the Naryn River Basin to find changes in the contribution of mountain headwaters to river discharges that flow downstream to agricultural areas. Agriculture accounts for 29 percent of the country’s GDP (2010 figures) and more than half of its labor force. The study’s aim was to capture key hydrologic transitions over the diverse domain by using a hydro-chemical mixing model, known as End Member Mixing Analysis, to distill multi-variate water chemistry data from samples, in order to quantify water contributions from river discharge to agricultural areas serving larger populations. By using a remotely sensed product to quantify the rain, seasonal snow, and glacial melt inputs, the study found that when glacial ice mass decreases, it contributes less to river water supplies. Government Policies and Water Management These trans-boundary water sources have been a topic of relations between the Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan since their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, with water resource management poorly coordinated between the five republics. Recently, new infrastructure, such as dams and diversions, have been developed, creating problems for neighbors that live downstream. “The Kyrgyzstan government insists increased precipitation and snowmelt are to blame for natural hazards and fatalities. Scientists have yet to determine the cause of such weather anomalies in Southern Tian Shan,” said Ryskeldi Satke, a Kyrgyz journalist, in an interview with GlacierHub. “On the other hand, it was known that climate change worries experts and researchers over its impact on snow melt in the Tian Shan and Pamirs. Subsequently, more ground research and cooperation would be needed to explain weather patterns in the region.” Kyrgyzstan has over 8,000 glaciers, accounting for 4.2 percent of the country’s territory. The consumption of irrigation water for agriculture represents 94 percent of total water use, while only three percent is allocated to households and industries. Livelihoods depend on the river flow from these glaciers, which have been shrinking since the 1930s, according to research. In order to better understand the implication of the infrastructure developments, Hill and her colleagues conducted a survey in both upstream and downstream communities. They asked questions relating to changes in water availability for irrigation, food, and recreation, as well as changes in household activities, estimated income, and income structure over the last 15 years. Community Survey The researchers conducted the survey across a 440 km stretch of the Naryn River to better understand the challenges that the people of the Naryn basin face in obtaining adequate water supplies. All communities reported an overall decrease in water access over the last 15 years. Therefore, some communities installed groundwater wells, mainly in higher portions of the basin. Since the 1960s, the Toktogul district, for example, has been limited by low water availability, scarcity in lands and funds, and a lack of trust in the government. Unfortunately, farmers were not given the proper resources or equipment to build an irrigation or water distribution system, according to the study. There was a lack of government support for farmers who were unable to deal with the harsh conditions on their land, the researchers noted. Therefore, yields began to decrease and the irrigation systems deteriorated. This led the farmers and surrounding neighbors to believe...

Read More