New climate change report

June 2, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Kim photo Thirsty WorkA new report on climate change has just been released and posted at climatescience.gov. It’s called The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources and Biodiversity in the the United States. And it’s a pretty sobering look into the future. The report was put together by experts in the fields of agriculture, biodiversity, and land and water resources – scientists and researchers from universities, national laboratories, non-government organisations and government agencies.

Unlike a lot of reports that focus on 100 or 200 years from now, this one takes a shorter time-horizon: the next 25 to 50 years. Here’s some stuff in the report I found interesting (if not alarming):

  • during the 20th C, the global average surface temperature increased by about 0.6°C and global sea level increased by about 15 to 20 cm
  • global average temperature will rise another 1.1 to 5.4°C by 2100
  • western states in the US will face substantial challenges because of growing demand for water and projected drops in supplies
  • from 2040 to 2060, water flows from rainfall in Western US are likely to be 20% less than the average from 1901 to 1970
  • as farmers battle changing weather conditions and exurban development spreads to previously undeveloped areas, new risks will emerge – invasive insects and species, non-native plants. The resulting ecosystem will be quite different with invasive grasses, for example, being able to survive in hotter conditions. Trees and crops will be stressed by the presence of invasive pests.
  • by mid-21st C, areas of the US that used to irrigate land from a steady flow of water from mountain snow will find that tap is turned off, replaced by rainfall patterns that are perhaps irregular or make it difficult to grow crops
  • warmer temperatures will stuff up bird migration patterns
  • with increased CO2 and temperature, the life cycle of grain and oilseed crops will likely progress more rapidly. But, as temperature rises, these crops will increasingly begin to experience failure, especially if climate variability increases and precipitation lessens or becomes more variable.

So if you live in the US, might be prudent to read this report to see what’s in store for the area you live in. For the rest of us – it’s yet another sobering reminder of what’s to come. Along with news coming out of Spain – Barcelona is running out of water and has been forced to ship in water from the Tarragona region (they were less than impressed) and from France (quell horror!).

20 million litres of water brought from Tarragona in mid- May were scoffed within minutes by 180,000 thirsty people. The Catalan region has been drought affected and Barcelona’s fountains have been turned off and restrictions placed on filling up swimming pools (which is frankly a vain waste of water – go off and bathe in the sea or local lake).

What is really unnerving about the Barcelona situation is the appearance of an 11th C church, hidden under water in the village of Sant Roma. This village was submerged when an artificial lake was created in the 1960s to provide the Catalan area with water. For the first time in 40 years, the whole church can be seen because water levels have fallen so dramatically.

I really don’t think it’s much of a stretch imagining a future in which we fight over water not oil. If you want to freak yourself out, read this interview with one of the world’s leading experts on water struggles, which includes stories of people protecting their water.

Just imagine the future: you might decide to live off-the-grid because you can’t afford skyrocketing energy prices or because you want to live more simply. You grow your own food, which you need to protect from natural predators and human predators as food supplies become a problem or people can’t afford the basics. You have your own water supply but you have to protect this from people swooping on it in the middle of the night because the planet has water shortages. Maybe you decide it’s better to live with others in a gated, protected community with armed guards patrolling the perimeters. They’re there to protect the community’s food supply (goats, chicken, cows etc) and the community’s water supplies.

If the ThinkingShift blog is revisited in say 50 years, people will probably say “yep, she sure was right about that”.

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Entry filed under: Climate Change, Useful resources. Tags: , .

Orwell got the date wrong Take that, Google!

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