More than one billion urban residents will face serious water shortages by 2050 as climate change worsens effects of urbanization, with Indian cities among the worst hit, a study said Monday.
The shortage threatens sanitation in some of the world’s fastest-growing cities but also poses risks for wildlife if cities pump in water from outside, said the article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study found that under current urbanization trends, by mid-century some 993 million city dwellers will live with less than 100 liters (26 gallons) each day of water each — roughly the amount that fills a personal bathtub — which authors considered the daily minimum.
Adding on the impact of climate change, an additional 100 million people will lack what they need for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing and toilet use.
“Don’t take the numbers as destiny. They’re a sign of a challenge,” said lead author Rob McDonald of The Nature Conservancy, a private environmental group based near Washington.
“There are solutions to getting those billion people water. It’s just a sign that a lot more investment is going to be needed, either in infrastructure or in water use efficiency,” he said.
Currently, around 150 million people fall below the 100-liter threshold for daily water use. The average American has 376 liters delivered a day, although actual use varies widely depending on region, McDonald said.
But the world is undergoing an unprecedented urban shift as rural people in India, China and other growing nations flock to cities.
India’s six biggest cities — Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad — are among those most affected by water shortages. The study forecast that 119 million people would face water shortages in 2050 in the Ganges River delta and plain alone.
The PNAS study is here.
The oil sands of Alberta, Canada, constitute one of the biggest proven oil reserves in the world. Today, Canada is the single biggest foreign source of oil for the U.S., and industry analysts project that 20 years from now, it may be supplying one-fourth of all U.S. oil needs.
But getting all that oil across the border requires heavy-duty infrastructure, and some new projects are causing cross-border tensions.
A tractor-trailer creeps down a winding mountain road in Montana, caution lights flashing through the midnight snow flurries. It’s hauling a coke drum for an oil refinery in Billings, Mont., and the drum, imported from Asia, is huge “” two lanes wide, three stories tall.
The drum is just one way oil-industry growth in Canada may soon be visible on the mountain highways of Idaho and Montana. Imperial Oil, a Canadian company controlled by ExxonMobil, is preparing to send about 200 loads of oil-processing equipment through the region to Alberta.
The loads are so big “” taking up two highway lanes “” they have to travel at night. The coke-drum-hauling tractor-trailer was part of a dry run performed in early March.
Two-and-a-half years since the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. sent Wall Street into a tailspin, financing for wind, solar and other clean energy projects is still hard to come by, experts say.
Deals are getting done, but not at the rate that the industry would call robust, and many project developers are still dependent on temporary government support measures.
There is growing angst over the pending end to a Department of Energy program that allows projects to claim cash grants in lieu of the tax credits that have been the mainstay of renewable-energy project financing for years. Insiders assume the production tax credits and investment tax credits will return next year, but most also agree the grants will end this Dec. 31. That raises a big question: Can projects shift from grants to credits?
“When that happens, what happens next?” said Jack Jacobs, a managing partner at Cleantech Law Partners, a firm that specializes in arranging funding for clean-tech projects. “That’s really the question that a lot of developers I think are asking because there isn’t that consistency that we really need from the federal government right now.”
Jacobs says the picture is not completely grim. Projects are still being built, and he is especially upbeat about the potential for distributed solar energy programs and wind projects financed partially by community organizations.
Almost two-thirds of voters in three presidential battleground states “” Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania “” want the Environmental Protection Agency to set greenhouse gas standards for industrial facilities, according to a green group’s poll released ahead of Senate votes on whether to strip EPA’s authority.
The poll released Monday was commissioned by the League of Conservation Voters and is part of a wider political battle over climate rules “” one that’s perilous for Democrats facing potentially tough reelection battles next year in those states and others.
“Three in five (63%) voters in the three Midwestern states say they trust the EPA more than Congress to decide whether there should be new standards for carbon pollution,” states a summary of the poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates.
It notes that roughly the same percentage “” 64 percent “” support EPA setting new standards that limit carbon pollution from power plants and other industrial facilities.
“By large margins, voters of all political parties trust the EPA more than they trust Congress. Democrats trust the EPA over Congress by 77% to 11%, independent voters do so by 63% to 12%, and Republicans by 48% to 28%,” adds the memo by Democratic pollster Geoff Garin.
The Senate is slated to vote this week on a GOP amendment to small-business legislation that would nullify EPA’s authority, as well as less aggressive Democratic amendments to limit EPA while preserving its power to impose emissions rules.
A California court ruling suspending the implementation of the state’s landmark climate change law came with a large dose of irony.
That’s because San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith found that the state had failed to comply with another landmark law, one that is beloved by some of the same environmental groups that are critical of the ruling, the California Environmental Quality Act.
Essentially, a major environmental initiative is under threat because the state failed to correctly carry out the appropriate environmental analysis.
Or, as Richard Frank, director of the California Environmental Law & Policy Center at University of California, Davis, put it, “one of California’s two most important environmental laws has been stymied — at least temporarily — by the other.”
The new law, A.B. 32, includes a provision that sets up a cap-and-trade market for carbon, which environmental justice groups oppose because they believe it will have a negative impact on minority groups. They challenged the California Air Resources Board in court on multiple grounds.
Goldsmith ruled March 18 that the board had abused its authority by not doing enough analysis on alternatives to cap and trade and by failing to fully complete the environmental review process. In doing so, it had failed to comply with CEQA (ClimateWire, March 22).
ARB said late last week it would appeal the ruling while simultaneously revising its CEQA analysis in accordance with Goldsmith’s concerns. The law is due to go into effect Jan. 1, 2012.
The global fight over fossil fuels has hit home in South Africa as the coal-dependent country debates its energy future before hosting UN climate talks later this year.
Africa’s largest economy is overhauling its energy policy, looking to more than double its power supply by adding more than 50,000 megawatts of electricity to the grid at a cost of 860 billion rand ($125 billion, 90 billion euros).
But as the country seeks to ease power shortages that caused paralysing blackouts in 2008, environmentalists say it is not doing enough to cut its reliance on coal-fired power — currently more than 90 percent of the electricity supply.
The scrutiny is intensifying as South Africa prepares to host the next major round of United Nations climate talks in the eastern port city of Durban from November 28 to December 9.
The talks — the successor to the Kyoto Protocol and last year’s conference in Cancun, Mexico — will see global leaders try to make meaningful progress toward a binding international agreement to curb climate change.
The meetings will be key in deciding the future of the Kyoto emissions targets, which expire next year.
Environmentalists say South African President Jacob Zuma faces embarrassment at the talks if his government doesn’t move to massively slash the country’s dependence on coal.
“What is the president going to do?” asked Richard Worthington, head of the climate programme at World Wildlife Fund South Africa.
“Say, ‘Oh, welcome to South Africa, we want to play a leadership role on climate change. But excuse us, we’re not going to do what we said we’d do in Copenhagen and Cancun.’ I don’t think the president wants to be in that position.”
When I completed my doctorate in geology, I didn’t know that I would spend the next 16 years working on either climate or energy. I’ve worked in Australia and Wyoming, Ireland and Spain, Alaska and Azerbaijan, California and China. I’ve been fortunate to act from inside industry (ExxonMobil for 5 years), to learn from top scientists there and in Universities (including a stint at Univ. Maryland), and both learn from and present to world-class scientists. In both gigs, my job was creation of knowledge. In my current gig as Carbon Management Program lead at one of the national Labs, I am honored to serve an additional formal role – providing technical insight and information to government. In 23 years as a scientist, I’ve learned a tough lesson:
Talking to people about climate and energy is hard.
The fact that climate change is real, man-made, and likely to be bad doesn’t make talking about it any easier. That we need to act urgently and at immense scale doesn’t improve things — ask Al Gore.
Communicating even the simple bits in climate and energy is tricky, in part because America has created the energy system it wanted – cheap, unintrusive, and all but invisible. To many Americans, power comes from the wall and gas comes from a gas station. Most people don’t see or experience oil wells, refineries, power plants, natural gas pipelines, gas storage facilities, or large transformer sub-stations. In my experience, many folks when asked know neither how much power they use each month nor what their electricity bill is. In part, this is because the value of electricity and gasoline is much, much higher to most people than the cost.