Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Drought Notice - For the Planet

The U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research has released a study that warns our world could be in the throes of serious and widespread drought by as early as 2030.  The report states that, for much of the world, drought could become the dominant climate impact throughout this century.

According to Reuters, the industrialized west won't escape this one:

Some of the world's most populous areas -- southern Europe, northern Africa, the western U.S. and much of Latin America -- could face severe, even unprecedented drought by 2100, researchers said on Tuesday.

...To get an idea of how severe the drought might get, scientists use a measure called the Palmer Drought Severity Index, or PDSI. A positive score is wet, a negative score is dry and a score of zero is neither overly wet nor dry.

As an example, the most severe drought in recent history, in the Sahel region of western Africa in the 1970s, had a PDSI of -3 or -4

By contrast, the new study indicates some areas with high populations could see drought in the -15 or -20 range by the end of the century

"Historical PDSI for the last 60 years show a drying trend over southern Europe but nothing like those values at the end of this century," study author Aiguo Dai said in answer to e-mailed questions. "Decadal mean values of PDSI have not reached -15 to -20 levels in the past in any records over the world."

Canada, Russia and other high-northern latitude countries are expected to avoid the drought and may even become wetter but it's not all good news for the True North either:

"The high-latitude land areas will experience large changes in terms of warmer temperatures and more precipitation, and thus may indeed become more habitable than today," he wrote. "However, limited sunshine, short growing season, and very cold nighttime temperature will still prevent farming over most of these high-latitude regions."

Of course.  Why didn't I think of that?   Climate change isn't going to affect the earth's axis of rotation so the notion of the far north turning into a rich agricultural breadbasket for the future is nonsense.  Not only is a lot of that area Canada Shield granite, permafrost or poor, weak soil but the earth's rotation means it won't have the requisite amounts of sunshine and long growing seasons needed for intensive agriculture.  Shit, oh dear!  Well maybe we'll develop a hankering for tundra soup.

But wait a minute.  If this drought could begin hammering the earth in just 20-years, what does that mean for us?  Believe me, twenty years goes by very quickly.   In the context of government planning and action, it's barely a heartbeat.  Isn't it about time our Petro-Pols on Parliament Hill pulled their heads out of the sand and started figuring out what to do about this?


LMA said...

Well we must be counting on having a lot of water to spare because according to the CBC today, there are currently 840 billion litres from the Athabasca River sitting in tailings ponds with no viable long term plan for reclamation. Talk about inequity in the world.

As far as limited sunshine and short growing seasons in the north, there are probably scientists figuring out right now how to use genetically altered grain to overcome that problem.

Why worry? We will have lots of franken food, deformed fish and toxic water.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi LMA. Yeah I read the Pembina et al report about the volume of tailings in Athabasca. Now consider that they want to increase Tar Sands production five fold within the next decade.

I don't know if you've had a chance to watch it but check out the "How to Boil a Frog" documentary. It's made by a Vancouver writer and it is awfully good. It presents some very positive alternatives to tackling climate change and they're quite legitimate but, as you watch, your heart sinks knowing we're not even at the stage where out political leaders are prepared to enter this dialogue.