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Water is a limited resource.

Here is one assessment of the U.S. state of play from an International perspective.

The United State of Drought

WASHINGTON, Oct 21 2013 (IPS) – As the planet heats up and larger populations demand larger water supplies, the United States will be left high and dry if it fails to address a worsening water shortage.

By 2060, the gap between water supply and demand could grow to nearly four billion cubic metres per year – 10 times the amount of water used by the desert-bound city of Las Vegas.

 

 

Ian Welsh says we’re screwed.

His new essay on what climate change is doing to our planet hasn’t a shred of good news for humanity.

Baseline Predictions for the next Sixty Odd Years

For some time my baseline scenario has been as follows: we are so screwed.

We can expect a complete collapse of the Ocean’s ability to provide fish. Japan, the worst offender in this, will also be the worst hit. That doesn’t make me happy, but it does make me laugh.  This effects the oxygen cycle and worst case we could kill ourselves off entirely.  Assuming we don’t, however…

We are currently seeing a hiatus in Climate Change. My friend Stirling predicted that years ago, and predicted it would be used to simply double down on stupidity like fracking.  It is being.  If/when the sun warms up, we are fried.  Various processes are past the point of no return, we are going to see huge methane releases from Russia, for example.  We are going to have worse global warming than the worst mainstream predictions.

Climate change will continue to show up as more and worse extreme weather events, like the nasty hurricanes we’ve been seeing hitting further and further north.  We are going to also see changes in rainfall patterns, these will continue to devastate agriculture.

Aquifers are being drained dry, in ways that permanently damage them.  This is happening in China, the US, India and other places. This water will not come back.  Large areas that are currently agriculturally productive will not be, independent of climate change.

We will see huge dust bowls form, including in India, China and the US.

There will be widespread hunger, because agriculture is going to fail.  Period.  Right now hunger is due to distribution issues: we grow more than enough food to feed everyone, we just don’t care about feeding everyone.  In twenty to thirty years this will not be the case: we will just not have enough food.

All of this is baked into the cake: we are past the decision points on all of these items—they will happen, they can no longer be stopped.  Even if you take the most optimistic scenarios we would need to act radically, right now, and we aren’t going to.

It makes me think of this:

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper

–T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men 1925

Welsh’s vision is  dark, and sad, and scary. And yet, I’m optimistic for change, breakthroughs, and transformation.

New rule: One solutions post for every teeth-knasher.

Here’s a positive, upbeat, solutions-focused article on what UK-retailer Marks & Spencer is doing to make the world better.

And a list of circular economy ideas that can be applied across other industries.

Via The Guardian:

The 10 ways sustainability professionals can scale up the circular economy

I’ve never met a sustainability professional who doesn’t agree that the circular economy is critical to our future in a resource constrained world. It’s not a new concept, 10 bob for your old pop bottle was big when I was growing up in the 1970s, and there are countless examples that prove the business case.

 

Green Links: Friday Round-up

October 18th, 2013 | Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Links - (0 Comments)

So much good stuff.

DVR Alert! A new “Climate Tipping Points” TV series starts Sunday at 9pm EDT http://wxug.us/18tli 

If you want great cities, grow good citizens. Cogent truth from future-thinker Alex Steffen http://www.alexsteffen.com/2013/10/reboot-the-civic-sphere/ …

Super piece on perverse outcomes of pay & price transparency, for corporate responsibility and metrics folks
http://www.thelowdownblog.com/2013/10/open-season-on-ceo-pay.html …

Incongruity meet sustainability: Sustainable business leaders call on Obama to approve Keystone XL pipeline?
http://goo.gl/fb/72A6K

Meme tracker: Carbon Tracker says that climate communication memes like “unburnable” and “stranded assets” are showing up in sell-side conversations. http://shar.es/EEMKp

Air pollution causally linked to cancer. What are the implications for the U.S. EPA, climate action and sustainable business? http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/10/17/2795791/air-pollution-cancer/ …

Fuzzy and unclear no more. A new Green Building certification puts rigor to Net Zero Energy certification http://fb.me/10D8PuPMc 

Financial astrologers? Surely it’s snark? http://on.ft.com/GSItEp  Or a re-tread of this 2007 article?: http://on.ft.com/1hZJWEG

 

Remember when your math teacher said, “Show me the work?”

That’s what the people who maintain  Skeptical Science do with climate science denial. They collect and debunk articles and arguments that claim climate change isn’t happening, isn’t caused by humans, and isn’t a grave threat to humanity.

(They are.)

I can’t even imagine the amount of work it takes. Hat’s off to them.

Showing your work–what we call transparency in accounting, business and government–means other people can trace the steps and have confidence in your result.

It’s a fundamental concept for good business, good science, and good policy.

So in the spirit of showing my work, here are my thoughts on a climate change denial article that is about, of all things, climate change denial.

This Fox News op-ed piece is in response to a Guardian article that reported that “Conservative media outlets [are] found guilty of biased global warming coverage.”

Balance is not bias — Fox News critics mislead public on climate change

What amazes is that Abraham and Nuccitelli still pin their hopes on the cult of consensus. Forging an inter-governmental consensus has been the IPCC’s mission for 25 years, unavoidably politicizing climate science in the process. It has long since begun to backfire. People get suspicious when government-appointed experts define “the science” for the purpose of advancing an agenda that just happens to increase government control of energy markets.

Abraham and Nuccitelli have learned nothing if they think that demanding even greater fealty to groupthink will do anything except energize skeptics and increase their popularity.

The good news is that conservative media are not going to take their advice, because doing so would allow one faction of experts to monopolize the discussion. Scores of government agencies, hundreds of mainstream media outlets, and thousands of Web sites serve up daily diets of climate alarm. Presenting contrarian analysis and commentary is balance, not bias.

Nope. That’s not right.

Fox News made it look like there are two equally valid sides to climate change discussions.

But there’s not. The science is compelling, convincing and terrifying.

And the Guardian reporters are right to call them on it.

Anyway, here’s my work on the response.

* * *

Lewis starts by saying that the 97% consensus among scientists worldwide, that humans are causing climate change and it’s a very big problem, is bunk*

Then he says:

That most scientists agree climate change is happening, but that it’s not all man-made.

But even if climate change is happening and is man-made, that there’s no evidence that it’s really a problem.

Furthermore, even if climate change is a problem, the solutions being proposed aren’t any good.

And finally, if you keep on telling the truth, it’s only going to encourage the denialists, so you might as well give up.

* * *

This line of anti-science reasoning comes straight from the Big Tobacco playbook. Sow uncertainty and spread confusion.

I really hate gotcha stories that cherry pick facts and demand absolute certainty. It’s not how we live in the real world. The real world is messy, complicated, and full of daily compromises.

Consensus is pretty much how humans get things done. See also: sharing, caring and cooperation.

Continuing to needle and pick and focus on the edges in an effort to sow doubt is (click the link for the curseword version,) being a not-nice person.

Every minute we spend dithering around about “how truely true is climate change?” is a minute lost to solving our energy needs, helping people out of poverty, preparing for weather extremes, and leaving a habitable planet for our children.

With gratitude to the world’s climate science community, I’m going to focus on covering and sharing news about solutions.

* * *

* I found an error in the first step, where Mr. Lewis makes a misleading assumption.

He says, “University of Delaware Prof. David Legates and three colleagues examined the Cook team’s database, and found that less than 1% of the 11,944 abstracts explicitly endorse the so-called consensus.”

Here’s the error.

The majority of these abstracts don’t explicitly state that “humans are causing global warming or refers to anthropogenic global warming/climate change” because, as the Cook report goes on to detail, human-caused global warming is a known fact to scientists qualified to write about it in peer-reviewed journals.

Scientists arrive at consensus, and they stop having to talk about it. Because they are talking about bigger things.

A shorthand example of this would be: “Most peer-reviewed marine biology papers don’t explicitly state that the oceans are salty.”

In everyday life, there are known facts that we assume others know about too. That’s how we are able to go on about our lives.

Here’s the Cook report.

 

**Gratuitous hat tip to me for spotting the typo. Change site to cite.

 

***And one for the editor for a really confusing headline. Most readers I bet are going to miss the word “critic” and read it the opposite of how intended.

I’m all for storytelling.

But when communications go wrong, it can really mess things up.

There’s a time and a place for jokes. And for satire.

A provocative approach can jar readers into thinking about things in a new way.

But when you are talking to an international audience across many languages, keep it simple.

Have you ever noticed how diplomats talk to audiences? They use simple words and talk in simple sentences. The clearer they speak, the better they will be understood.

(I like to think that the world’s political translators appreciate this approach.)

Anyway, something really weird happened this morning in the climate change communications world.

Here’s what happened.

Poland is hosting the world’s UN climate talks next month in Warsaw. It’s an important meeting about a gravely serious topic. It’s a huge honor and responsibility to host this kind of worldwide event.

But for some reason, someone decided to try something a little different.

The official Polish website for the meeting published a blog post. It started off just fine with the famous Northwest Passage. Fair topic. The fact that the Northwest Passage is open to sea traffic for the first time in recorded history due to melting sea ice is stunning physical evidence of climate change.

But then the copy swerves. The next sentences describe Poland’s plans to plunder natural resources previously locked under the ice.

Oh, and pirates. And terrorists.

What? (Click the image to see bigger.)

Warsaw COP19 blog

Via theguardian.com:

Arctic melt means more pirate chases, say Polish climate hosts

Melting ice could open the Arctic to new drilling and the opportunity to “chase pirates, terrorists and ecologists”, according to the organisers of this year’s UN climate talks in Poland, in comments that have been branded outrageous by campaigners.

The blogpost, published this week on the Polish site for November’s Warsaw meeting, said that not only would melting ice allow ships to cut their journey times by taking the north-west passage, but “we may also build new drilling platforms and retrieve natural resources hidden below the sea bed”.

It added that there was also the possibility of, “Chasing the pirates, terrorists and ecologists that will come to hang around …”

This blew up on Twitter this morning with the hashtag #COP19. Shortly thereafter, the blog was updated with an apology.

Via cop19.gov.pl:

Dear Readers,

For the time being we decided to take some time away from our blog. Our idea was to focus attention on important issues that need good solutions and spark discussions on those.  We did not foresee that some readers would take thepresented texts literally as the official Polish position. Notwithstanding we would like to express regret as some of you found the text to be inappropriate. We acknowledge these criticisms. It was certainly not our aim to offend anybody.

We will take due care  that all new articles and posts on this website are written in a clear and sensitive manner so as to avoid misunderstandings. Stay tuned for more ideas.

What the heck happened?

Is this a case of “Lost in Translation?”

One person on Twitter even asked if it could be a hacker prank by The Yes Men.

My communications spidey-sense says no. I’m betting on “Bold Idea Gone Bad.”

RTCC also has a great round-up of this morning’s tweets and a broader look at some of the issues.

In any event, it’s an embarrassment for the UNFCCC, and for the Poland team who is responsible for the event.

Somebody might get fired over this mistake. Bigger picture, this could cost Poland their hosting role for this meeting.

Lesson learned. Know your audience. Keep it simple.

 Update from the Minister of the Environment of Poland:

 

Big Data is a big deal. But it’s not the Be All and End All.

Just because you can analyze everything, doesn’t mean you should.

Or that it will help you solve your problem.

Here’s Part 7 of my co-authored series on Sustainability Metrics Pitfalls for Greenbiz.com.

Dodging Big Data’s big problems

Many people are very high on Big Data. Perhaps they are right to be. Like many of the earlier pitfalls, but even more so here, are there things this super-powered use of numbers might be blocking us from seeing? As Big Data lets the forest become more understandable (both metaphorically and literally), will we miss more lessons from the trees?

The increasing emphasis on data, technology and efficiency will not make it any easier to ignore the still commonly downplayed social and equity side of sustainability. But perhaps, if privacy and the other above concerns with Big Data are faced with foresight, creativity and an enhanced sense of fairness, we might find that they actually help us move towards sustainability, surprising the skeptics among us.

And then we might possibly avoid the common fate of earlier breakthrough technologies: one step forward, followed by a half step back — at the least.