An ongoing timeline of recent and newsworthy events that readers might find interesting:
Baton Rouge, LA – Record-setting flood rains mid August. At least 30,000 water rescues. Loss of life.
Carlsbad Desalination Plant – In operation since December 2015, this facility (near San Diego and the nation’s largest) can deliver up to 50 million gallons of fresh water each day.
Climate Reality Project – A non-profit founded by Al Gore several years back is having its annual 24 Hours of Reality event Dec 5-6.
Coral reefs – In trouble! A double whammy combo of increased CO2 (causing acidification) and warmer ocean waters is causing the coral to bleach. Approximately 35% of a portion of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is now bleached. If the oceans continue to warm, within 50 years many of the world’s coral reefs will already be dead or dying.
Dubai – Continues to do cutting edge things, like building half-submerged villas in the Persian Gulf. For a cool $3-4 million, interested home buyers can purchase one of their very own Floating Seahorse villas, scheduled to open this coming fall.
Earth Overshoot Day 2016 – This year’s overshoot day was August 8, continuing the cycle of being slightly earlier than the previous year.
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – Africa’s largest dam slated for completion in mid 2017. Only a small minority of Ethiopia’s 94 million people is hooked up to the power grid. Much is riding on the hope of bringing the dam to operational capacity, with 6000 megawatts of hydroelectric energy as the calculated output. Ethiopia is a very poor country, and lack of energy must bear much of the blame. The dam’s progress on the Blue Nile, right where it crosses the border into Sudan, has been fraught with controversy on all sides. Egypt, a downstream neighbor and the most vocal in a multi-lateral dispute, has been crying foul for years. It cites loss of waterflow as an undesired consequence of Ethiopia’s massive river project. The political saga of water resources and fair distribution will, no doubt, continue.
Houston – Is it possible that maybe the time has come on the geological time scale when this city spends more time under water than above it. Surf the web to see some of the truly remarkable quantities of rain that have recently been dumped, not only on Houston, but other parts of TX, too. Unfortunately, they may need to brace themselves out there again. As I write this (mid August) a slow westward moving system has just finished up with Florida’s Gulf Coast and is hitting Louisiana real hard (Baton Rouge saw record flooding…many thousands of water rescues and some loss of life).
Inconvenient Truth – It’s been ten years since Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (book and movie) came out. Mr. Gore seems optimistic about the future and is still going strong. He gave compelling reasons in his recent TED Talk for believing that there’s hope for solving this unwieldy beast called Climate Change.
IUCN – “Ocean warming is one of this generation’s greatest hidden challenges – and one for which we are completely unprepared,” warned Inger Andersen, Director General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The statement was made in reference to an in-depth report, recently released at the IUCN’s 2016 World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. The report’s findings are not encouraging. Andersen went on to say that the only solution to safeguarding the world’s oceans would be to “…cut greenhouse gas emissions rapidly and substantially.” This report, and many others like it, can be read at www.IUCN.org.
Marrakech – site for the hammering out more detailed implementation of the Paris Climate Agreements.
North Korea – Hit hard by heavy rains in September, causing flooding along the Tumen River that has displaced over 100,000 people. Tens of thousands of homes were either damaged or destroyed, and hundreds are either dead or missing. North Korean meteorologists stated that such devastation caused by a natural disaster hadn’t been seen since the middle of the last century.
Panama Canal – Celebrates 102 years of operations this year (Aug). Completed construction of new facilities designed to accommodate more ship traffic have been recently completed. Return on investment for this massive undertaking seems to be paying off.
Papahanaumokuakea – President Obama used his executive authority in August to expand the existing protected marine area. As a result, this ocean reserve around Hawaii is now over half a million square miles in size, offering protected sanctuary to some 7,000 species of marine and ocean-faring inhabitants. Commercial fishing and ocean floor sea mining will be prohibited in this extremely biodiverse area of the planet’s oceans. The expansion is not without detractors. Hawaii’s fishing fleet say these new restrictions will wind up damaging Hawaii’s economy.
Paris (Climate Change) Agreement – went into effect Nov 4. The informed consensus regarding the climate targets discussed and agreed upon during last year’s conference in December is that they are simply unobtainable given the current efforts among the world’s nations to constrain temperature increases from reaching “dangerous levels.” Ironically, to meet the agreed upon stipulations, nations will rely on technologies intended to physically remove CO2 from the atmosphere for sequestration. Not only are these technologies unproven…they are yet to be invented. Some scientists say they should not even be tested, since too much lies in the balance. If things go wonky, they will go wonky in a big, bad way, and possibly irreversible.
Record Highs just keep on a comin’ (see this Weather.com article).
Ross Sea – Following closely on the heels of Papahanaumokuakea (see above) being designated as a protected marine area, the international governing body (CCAMLR) that oversees the environmental management of waters surrounding Antarctica successfully established 598,000 square miles of protected area – Ross Sea, the “Last Ocean” to remain largely unencroached upon by humans.
Sixth Extinction – Heavily discussed topic this year, based on the recently published book by Elizabeth Kolbert entitled The Sixth Extinction.
South China Sea – Claims by China to heavily disputed territories within very large areas of the South China Sea remain ongoing. A recent non-binding judgment with rulings unfavorable to the Chinese will remain wholly ignored, it would seem, by the very determined Chinese. Build-up of islands by that country in the disputed areas also remains ongoing and steady.
Sri Lanka – Devastated in May by torrential downpours caused by Cyclone Roanu. Rivers overflowed and landslides occurred in populated areas. Many deaths resulted and nearly half a million people were displaced from their homes. Prior to the flooding, the country was in a drought. The heavy rains partially refilled many of the country’s freshwater basins.
Zika – Front and center for many months now, especially with the lead up to the Olympics and the now-confirmed link between the virus and microcephaly in newborns. As a tropical metropolis in a developing region that experiences frequent flooding, Rio brings concern to both Olympic athletes and attendees alike with regard to an increased risk for exposure to this minimally studied virus.