Energy and Global Warming News for July 27th: The Fertile Crescent, cradle of civilization, “will disappear this century”; new signs of solar industry revival

The Fertile Crescent is left dry as Turkish dams reduce the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to a trickle (Image: AP Photo/Hadi Mizban) If climate change means “billions of people will be condemned to poverty and much of civilisation will collapse,” then it only seems appropriate we wipe out one of the cradles of civilization.  In the photo, drought plus Turkish dams combine to “reduce the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to a trickle.”

Fertile Crescent “will disappear this century”

Is it the final curtain for the Fertile Crescent? This summer, as Turkish dams reduce the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to a trickle, farmers abandon their desiccated fields across Iraq and Syria, and efforts to revive the Mesopotamian marshes appear to be abandoned, climate modellers are warning that the current drought is likely to become permanent. The Mesopotamian cradle of civilisation seems to be returning to desert.

Last week, Iraqi ministers called for urgent talks with upstream neighbours Turkey and Syria, after the combination of a second year of drought and dams in those countries cut flow on the Euphrates as it enters Iraq to below 250 cubic metres a second. That is less than a quarter the flow needed to maintain Iraqi agriculture….

Drought has helped precipitate the crisis. The most detailed assessment of the Fertile Crescent’s future under climate change suggests flow on the Euphrates could fall by 73 per cent. “The ancient Fertile Crescent will disappear in this century,” forecasts Akio Kitoh of Japan’s Meteorological Research Institute in Tsukuba, Japan. “The process has already begun.”

SunPower Suggests Solar Emerging From Doldrums

SunPower surprised some Wall Street observers Thursday afternoon by raising its full-year 2009 revenue estimates to a range of $1.35 billion to $1.7 billion, indicating that the largest U.S. maker of silicon-based solar panels has confidence that the solar business may be reviving.

The slight upward revision in guidance–SunPower had previously given a low estimate of $1.3 billion–follows better than expected results for the second quarter. SunPower revenue totaled $298 million for the quarter, a decrease of 22% over the same period in 2008. Net income per share declined 30% to 26 cents as gross margin fell to 19% from 24% a year ago on declining average sales prices for its solar panels. Excluding one-time items, the San Jose, Calif.-based company earned 24 cents a share, handily beating the consensus analyst forecast of 13 cents a share, as compiled by Thomson Reuters.

Commerce panel examines proposed National Climate Service

The Senate Commerce Committee meets Thursday to discuss the development of climate models and forecasts to help U.S. communities and businesses adapt to climate change.

That includes proposals for a “National Climate Service” to guide such work, such as the plan laid out in climate legislation approved last month in the House. The idea is to create a central federal source of information on everything from projections of sea-level rise to maps of the nation’s best sites for wind and solar power.

Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has said his panel is considering including plans for a National Climate Service in its contribution to the wide-ranging climate and energy legislation that Senate Democrats will begin crafting after Labor Day.

Spotlight on Russia’s Role in Climate Control

“¦Russia, after all, is one of the planet’s most prodigious suppliers of fossil fuels and an intense consumer of energy in its own right. It is the largest exporter of natural gas, and the second largest supplier of oil. Meanwhile, its energy intensity “” an economic concept used to describe, roughly, the amount of energy a country burns through to achieve a unit of gross domestic product “” is double that of the United States, more than double the world’s average, and three times as much as in Japan and most countries in Europe.

The reasons for this are fairly obvious. Most of the Russian Federation, after all, is pretty chilly, and the building stock “” much of it byproducts of Soviet-era design “” is profoundly inefficient. A substantial portion of the economy, too, continues to be driven by energy-intensive heavy industry and manufacturing (as opposed to the less-intensive services industry).

Energy Deal With Brazil Gives Boost to Paraguay

For decades Paraguayans have protested the raw deal they got when their dictatorship-era government decided to build the world’s largest hydroelectric power plant with Brazil along their shared border.

While Brazil used the Itaipº dam to help develop its cities and industries, Paraguay was forced to sell its excess capacity to Brazil at preferential rates.

Fernando Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop who was elected president of Paraguay last year, vowed to change that, making a renegotiation of Itaipº one of his chief campaign pledges.

Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs fight global warming

As political leaders aim for a momentous climate change conference in Copenhagen in December, religious leaders are rolling up their sleeves as well.

This month, Muslim, Catholic, Hindu and Sikh leaders all pledged to build climate change plans for their adherents. Jewish leaders have also promised to build a seven-year climate change plan.

The world religions initiative is being organized by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, a UK-based organization founded 14 years ago by Prince Philip.

What differentiates each religion’s take on the environment? In truth, not much. They base their actions on words of wisdom from their prophets or leaders of old, and plan to focus on education, and to take action to become examples to the wider world of their followers. Of course, each religion uses its symbols and concerns in the fight to cope with climate change

Why Not Make Turbines at Wind Farms?

Since wind turbines are so difficult to transport, why not manufacture them on site “” at a wind farm?

Clipper Windpower, a wind developer and manufacturer, is considering doing exactly that at a site in South Dakota. The company hopes to build a 5,000 megawatt wind farm (even bigger than the “world’s largest wind farm” that T. Boone Pickens once planned) in an area southeast of Pierre, the state capital. The farm alone would require 2,000 turbines “” enough perhaps to justify, say, its own tower factory.

“The project is of a size that you can start to think about dedicated manufacturing for that project,” Peter Stricker, the vice president for strategic project development at Clipper, said.

New Method To Cleaner And More Efficient Carbon Dioxide Capture

Separating carbon dioxide from its polluting source, such as the flue gas from a coal-fired power plant, may soon become cleaner and more efficient.

A Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher has developed a screening method that would use ionic liquids “” a special type of molten salt that becomes liquid under the boiling point of water (100 degrees Celsius) “” to separate carbon dioxide from its source, making it a cleaner, more viable and stable method than what is currently available.

China’s largest desert lake may vanish in decades, experts warn

China’s largest desert lake – Hongjiannao – is still shrinking as a result of climate change and human activities, and may vanish in a few decades, experts have warned.

“Just 10 years ago, one couldn’t see the other bank of the Hongjiannao even through a telescope. Today, it’s visible with the naked eye,” He Fenqi, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said at an international seminar on wetland preservation over the weekend in Shenmu County of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.

The Hongjiannao, sandwiched between the Muus Desert in Shaanxi Province and the Erdos Plateau in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, has shrunk by at least 30 percent in the past two decades.

Ohio Debates the Merits of Remining

Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources is looking at an unlikely method of treating water polluted by the decades of unregulated coal mining in the southeastern part of the state: Encouraging companies to remine near abandoned coal mining sites.

Coal remining gained a lot of traction in the mid-1990s, particularly in traditional coal mining states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia, thanks to the 1992 Energy Policy Act, which provided incentives for remining, as did more recent amendments to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the primary regulatory mechanism for federal oversight of the coal mining industry. The surface mining act was passed in 1977.

The modifications, said Mitch Farley, the administrator of Ohio’s acid mine drainage program, made it less onerous for companies to get involved at abandoned sites with dubious environmental legacies. And under these modified limits, “if they’ll clean up most of the problem,” he said, “that’s better than not getting anything.”

Grim climate warning for Asia Pacific

A new report says climate change could produce 75 million refugees in the Asia Pacific region in the next 40 years.

It urges Australia to put new immigration measures in place to help with people movements, and to cut deeply into its own climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, by aid agency Oxfam Australia and a think-tank, the Australia Institute, says the effects of climate change are already being felt in the region.

It says addressing the immigration question is vital, as is giving more financial assistance to the region targeted specifically at measures to help communities adapt.

7 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for July 27th: The Fertile Crescent, cradle of civilization, “will disappear this century”; new signs of solar industry revival

  1. Uosdwis says:

    Isn’t that fitting: the Republicans (Christians) are killing the Garden of Eden. That’s literally where they think Adam and Eve lived.

  2. Tryingforbalance says:

    Very interesting stories, that all americans are implicated in their origination. I point this out, as Republicans are not solely responsible for the climate crisis–all americans consume energy and resources at a ridiculously high rate.

  3. China’s drying lake article had a buried lede of:

    “Besides the shortage of water supplies, the Hongjiannao is also affected by industrial pollution from coal-fired power plants and coal mines, the nearest less than 3 kilometers from the lake.”

  4. Phil Eisner says:

    Are all these foreboding signs indicators that climate change is proceeding faster than our computer models predict? If so, are the models wrong, or incomplete? Do they leave out many global warming feedback mechanisms?

  5. Gail says:

    Phil, the answer is unequivocally yes. For just one example, the IPCC report only considered thermal expansion in projecting sea level rise, because the mechanisms of glacial and polar ice melt are poorly understood. Because the models weren’t accurate enough, they just left that little part for later analysis. Since then the empirical evidence is terrifying

    There are many more examples of amplifying effects the speed of which seems to have been underestimated in predictions.

    Check out some past posts here at Climate Progress.

  6. Owen says:

    Uranium Contamination Haunts Navajo Country
    NYT July 26, 2009

  7. paulm says:

    its almost official…

    World will warm faster than predicted in next five years, study warns

    New estimate based on the forthcoming upturn in solar activity and El Niño southern oscillation cycles is expected to silence global warming sceptics