Energy and Global Warming News for April 14

Top Story

Dry Taps in Mexico City: A Water Crisis Gets Worse

Severe water shortages in Australia have recently made headlines (see here and below), and now Time reports on the growing water crisis in the Western Hemisphere’s largest city. The story underscores water’s vitality to humanity””and all life””reminding us of our common vulnerability to water shortages. Imagine if 5 million New Yorkers woke up with no running water today. It’s not a pretty picture.

Time reporter Ioan Grillo largely misses the bigger story.  Only once is climate change mentioned, when Mexico’s under director of the National Water Commission says:

This could be caused by climate change and deforestation. These are difficult factors to understand and predict.

It’s a safe bet to include climate change as a likely contributer — and, more important, to report that things are going to get much, much worse for Mexico on our current emissions path (see here). Had the reporter picked up the LA Times last week he would have read that these kinds of never-before-seen water shortages are happening elsewhere, marking the beginnings of a distinctly global phenomenon (see “Australia today offers horrific glimpse of U.S. Southwest, much of planet, post-2040, if we don’t slash emissions soon“).  The Mexico story notes:

About five million people, or a quarter of the population of Mexico City’s urban sprawl, woke up Thursday with dry taps. The drought was caused by the biggest stoppage in the city’s main reservoir system in recent years to ration its depleting supplies. Government officials hope this and four other stoppages will keep water flowing until the summer rainy season fills the basins back up. But they warn that the Mexican capital needs to seriously overhaul its water system to stop an unfathomable disaster in the future.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the biggest metropolis in the Western hemisphere is confronting problems with its water supply “” and becoming an alarming cautionary tale for other megacities. Scientists have been talking for years about how humans are pumping up too much water while ripping apart too many forests, and warning that the vital liquid could become the next commodity nations are fighting over with tanks and bombers. But it is hard for most people to appreciate quite how valuable a simple thing like water is “” until the taps turn off.

DOE proposes new lighting standards

The DOE is increasing the lighting standards of the previous administration. Increases in lighting efficiency will save consumers billions, and reduce power demand by nearly 4 gigawatts between 2012 and 2042.

The Energy Department proposed lighting standards today that energy efficiency advocates say will pave the way for greater savings than a Bush administration proposal in January.

The proposal applies the new standards to fluorescent and incandescent lamps manufactured or imported in mid-2012.

The Obama administration rule estimates that the efficiency standards could save consumers and businesses almost $40 billion between 2012 and 2042 and eliminate the need for as much as 3,850 megawatts of power generating capacity by that date.

New York Times

Using Fungi to Replace Styrofoam

[Eben Bayer] thought it might be possible to make insulation out of fungi using perlite – and in a class before he graduated in 2007, he proved right.

Now, the company he founded with classmate Gavin McIntyre “” Ecovative Design “” is angling to provide not just a mass-market, organic insulation material, but also a replacement for Styrofoam, the non-biodegradable, carbon-intense material widely used in packing and shipping.

Because Ecovative uses locally sourced raw materials and grows its products in the dark at room temperature, the company says they are less energy-intensive and cheaper to manufacture than Styrofoam.

Washington Post

Unemployed seek training for ‘green collar’ jobs

As the economy sheds jobs, community colleges across the country are reporting a surge of unemployed workers enrolling in courses that offer training for ‘green-collar’ jobs.

Students are learning how to install solar panels, repair wind turbines, produce biofuels and do other work related to renewable energy.

‘I think the opportunities in this field are going to be huge,’ said Rudy Gastelo, a part-time handyman who left the construction industry two years ago. ‘I’m not getting that 9-to-5 paycheck, so I’m looking forward to maybe getting a job within a solar company.’

The Guardian (UK)

World will not meet 2C warming target, climate change experts agree

Almost nine out of 10 climate scientists do not believe political efforts to restrict global warming to 2C will succeed, a Guardian poll reveals today. An average rise of 4-5C by the end of this century is more likely, they say, given soaring carbon emissions and political constraints.

Science Daily

Bioethanol’s Impact On Water Supply Three Times Higher Than Once Thought

At a time when water supplies are scarce in many areas of the United States, scientists in Minnesota are reporting that production of bioethanol “” often regarded as the clean-burning energy source of the future “” may consume up to three times more water than previously thought.

Compiled by Max Luken and Carlin Rosengarten

11 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for April 14

  1. Reply says:

    I am impressed with the Washington Post’s “Unemployed seek training for ‘green collar’ jobs” article.

    With half a billion dollars poured into green job training by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, it is clear to me that this is money well spent.

  2. Will Greene says:

    That newscientist article about WAIS from ecostew is interesting.

  3. Joe B says:

    Um, does anyone else think of Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” when reading the Mexico City story? One of his best examples of total societal collapse was drawn from a civilization in what is now Mexico

  4. Pangolin says:

    Mexico city is a disaster waiting to happen. There is just nothing about that large a population in that location that is sustainable. If the volcano and the earthquakes aren’t enough reason the perilous water supply, the thermal inversion layers that trap pollution and the lack of exits in case of a need for evacuation should be a hint.

    Of course we can’t say anything about a nation with a massive labor surplus because population discussions are off the table.

  5. David B. Benson says:

    “Outspoken hurricane scientist Ivor van Heerden cut loose by LSU”:

    I hope you’ll let the LSU administration know how displeased you are. :-(

  6. Ruth Brandt says:

    Maybe not a top story for today, but I do think it deserves some recognition as having a top stupid headline for today (at least in this report, other reports of this study have better headlines) –

    “Study: Cuts in greenhouse gas could lessen warming”

    No, really??

    Or maybe we should be encouraged that it implies recognition that warming is happening and is inevitable?

  7. paulm says:

    I think the format here would be benefit from having all the post in the main front page with minimal summary.

    If more detail needs to be included then it could be contained in the main body of the post.

    I would love for this thread to have its own category.

    [JR: I’ll think about this. But my first reaction is that I’m pretty happy with the way it is. This is not a news feed, and people can get a climate news feed easily if that’s what they want. Indeed, I have one, but I’m probably going to drop it since I doubt anybody much uses it.

    Second, I just don’t see why they should have its own category. I can’t imagine somebody even going back one week for this old news.]

  8. Karen N says:

    I find this whole story to be puzzling. First, it implies that Obama is on the same page as Europe about cuts. Last I knew, this was not at all true, especially about 2020 targets (the ones that count the most): US is talking about *returning to* 1990 levels by 2020, whereas EU — or at least the UK — are about being 25-40% *BELOW* 1990 by 2020. Am I out of date on this? (Hip me to the news if I am behind on it; I’d love to be mistaken and updated).

    Second, it talks about global cuts of 70% (below what baseline? not specified) by 2100. This is literally scientifically meaningless, if one doesn’t specify the emissions pathway that gets you there; the game’s about total atmospheric accumulation, not long-term emissions reductions targets (crash reductions late in the game do *not* get you there). See Anderson & Bows (2008) for a clarification of ‘cumulative emissions pathways.’ The paper’s written to clarify UK climate policy, but is conceptually relevant to all of us. Not clear what pathway they ran in this model.

    Then, the author conflates cuts in *emissions* with cuts in atmospheric *levels*. apples & oranges. Anyway UCAR says it’s about emissions cuts.

    Even the UCAR article ( is odd: it says the CO2 level is “above 380 ppm” now. Actually, it’s a lot closer to 390. Hello, UCAR? You have to update the number every year.

    Finally, while I’m here opining, I gotta say, when will the U.S. scientific (and for that matter, national security) community stop entirely eschewing being “policy prescriptive”? I mean, Bush is out of office now, folks. Former Danish PM Fogh Anders Rassmussen (not to be confused with the NEW Danish PM Lars Lokke Rassmussen) was begging the March Copenhagen group (which I call the ’emergency summit’) to basically “just give him a number” so he could provide leadership among heads of state. Of course, and appropriately, he got a nuanced answer (DAI is ultimately a judment call involving risk tolerance/uncertainty) – but he wanted to know, are we aiming for 2 degrees? Less? Is a little more OK? What do I tell world leaders? Merkel’s a physicist and can handle subtlety but I wouldn’t expect that of the rest of the political world. Anyway he gave up and went off to head NATO.

    My point: there are different kinds and levels of policy prescription. The historical 2 oC DAI threshold is implicitly “policy prescriptive.” I think we need to spell out story lines for policymakers, like Mark Lynas did in _Six Degrees_ (the book which became a National Geographic documentary): if you do this, it’s pretty likely you get that. You delay ten years, it’s pretty unlikely you can ever get keep things under 2 degrees. Like that.

    Obama’s a smart guy with fab advisors like Holdren & Chu, but I’m afraid the rest of the policymaking world (i.e., Congress, esp. Senate) are going to need simple numbers to decide on legislation, especially since US deputy climate negotiator Pershing said that *Congress*, not his team, will be setting the target numbers for the US negotiating position in the UNFCCC (political gridlock, anyone?).