A "groundbreaking" (pun, sorry) study by NASA concludes that water shortages will be the key environmental challenge of the century. Really, ya think?
Water shortages are likely to be the key environmental challenge of this century, scientists from Nasa have warned, as new data has revealed a drying-out of swaths of the globe between the tropics and the high latitudes, with 19 hotspots where water depletion has been dramatic.
Areas in northern and eastern India, the Middle East, California and Australia are among the hotspots where overuse of water resources has caused a serious decline in the availability of freshwater that is already causing problems. Without strong action by governments to preserve water the situation in these areas is likely to worsen.
Some of these hotspots were previously undocumented or poorly understood: a region in north-western China, in Xinjiang province, has suffered dramatic declines despite receiving normal amounts of rainfall, owing to groundwater depletion from industry and irrigation
The Caspian Sea was also found to be showing strong declines owing to similar forces, which is resulting in a shrinking shoreline. Previously, this change had been attributed to natural variability, but the new report demonstrates it was caused in large part by the diversion and extraction of water from rivers that feed it, for agriculture and industry. This depletion mirrors the well-known fate of the disappearing Aral Sea in the same region: because the Caspian Sea is much bigger it would take millennia to disappear altogether, but its shrinking shoreline and pollution will cause major problems throughout its borderlands.There was a time, back in the early 70s, when mankind's environmental footprint was in balance with Earth's environment. That was roughly when the global population reached three billion. Since then we've been in "overshoot" and that looks just like this:
See the point where the red line, consumption, first crosses the dotted black line? That was the early 1970s. See the point where the dotted black line begins to curve downward? We're there now. The Earth's carrying capacity is in decline even as humanity's footprint continues to massively expand. Some estimates conclude that the Earth is now capable of sustaining a human population of two billion - not three, not 7.5, not nine billion - just two billion, for now. But you see that dotted black line keeps declining. It takes a while for the red line to catch up but, when it does, it's more abrupt, rather sudden - oh, let's just call it what it is, "collapse."
So how do we fix this? Well, even if we had the political will to confront this (and we so don't), we're locked in. People are going to have to die off - by the billions. It makes our leaders' fetish for perpetual, exponential growth look purdy stoopid, don't it? Yeah, Justin, that includes you.
The comprehensive study, the first of its kind, took data from the Nasa Grace (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellite mission to track trends in freshwater from 2002 to 2016 across the globe.
“What we are witnessing is major hydrologic change. We see for the first time a very distinctive pattern of the wet land areas of the world getting wetter, in the high latitudes and the tropics, and the dry areas in between getting drier,” said James Famiglietti, of the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, and co-author of the paper published today in Nature. “Within the dry areas we see multiple hotspots resulting from groundwater depletion.”Disturbing as this is, it's only one part of a bigger picture that collectively is now called "the Great Acceleration." If you've got the stomach for it you can follow the link and peruse the graphs. Somewhere on this blog there are a couple of posts of industrial water consumption - how much is used to make a set of tires, a car, a pair of jeans. I'll see if I can find the posts.
Then there's that really massive waste of water - fracking and bitumen. Not only do those industries use enormous amounts of free or nearly free freshwater their waste water often contaminates the nearby water resources, surface and underground. That's why the IMF warns Canada's federal and provincial governments are subsidizing the fossil fuel industry to the tune of 46 billion dollars a year. You'll never hear mention of that pass Justin's lips. Hey, it's only water, who cares?
First, the total unpriced natural capital consumed by the more than 1,000 “global primary production and primary processing region-sectors” amounts to $7.3 trillion a year — 13 percent of 2009 global GDP.
Of the top 20 region-sectors ranked by environmental impacts, none would be profitable if environmental costs were fully integrated. Ponder that for a moment: None of the world’s top industrial sectors would be profitable if they were paying their full freight. Zero.
That amounts to an global industrial system built on sleight of hand. As Paul Hawken likes to put it, we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP.Then there's this eye-opening 2010 report on the water catastrophe we fondly know as the Tar Sands from Greenpeace.
Water allocations for tar sands production now account for 76 per cent of the water taken from the river each year.10 When currently planned tar sands projects go ahead, this demand for water will increase by more than 50 per cent. Together, the planned and existing projects are expected to withdraw 529 million cubic metres of water from the Athabasca annually,11 more water than is used each year by the City of Toronto, which has a population greater than 2,500,000.Again, if you've got a strong stomach you can read the whole thing at the link above.
I could spend the rest of the day, perhaps another day or two, writing about this but to what end? The energy policy our governments are pursuing is essentially nihilistic. 15, 20 years ago governments really weren't aware of this. Since then there's been no doubt. Justin Trudeau is all about stealing the future, selling it in the present and calling it GDP.