Posts tagged with "Droughts"

Grim climate report galvanizes incoming Democrats

November 27, 2018

Federal scientists warned in a new report released on November 23 that “more frequent and intense extreme weather- and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities nationwide” in the coming years—with costs threatening to reach hundreds of billions of dollars annually by the middle of this century.

The message, echoing decades of sobering conclusions from the world’s leading climate scientists, is at odds with President Donald Trump’s repeated denial of global warming, Politico reported; noting that the administration chose to release it on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day and one of the slowest news days of the year.

But despite the timing, the report—Fourth National Climate Assessment—is bound to energize the new class of progressive Democrats set to take control of the House in January, the political news outlet predicted—saying that “Many of them, led by incoming Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14th District, New York) already are pushing for an expansive “Green New Deal” as one of the rallying cries the party would take into the 2020 campaign.

The 1,600-plus-page document is the just the most recent to warn that the planet will see devastating changes. Indeed, the researchers warned, “Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems—including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security.”

The effects of global warming are expected to alter the coastlines, worsen droughts and storms, and foster the outbreaks of dangerous diseases as temperatures climb.

And while the report said that quick action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution could dramatically affect the state of the planet by the end of the century, many of the impacts the U.S. will see in the next two decades appear irreversible—both on the environment and on the economy. “With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.”

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-30th District, Texas) who is set to take the gavel at the House Science Committee, said it’s time to start addressing the causes of the wildfires, devastating storms, coastal flooding and toxic algae blooms that plagued much of the U.S. this year, Politico reported. “That is why I have made climate change one of my top priorities for the Committee going in to the next Congress,” she said in a statement.

The government officials who oversaw the report said there had been no political influence over its findings, but they sidestepped questions about whether the White House sought to bury the report by releasing it in the middle of a long holiday weekend, Politico said.

“We hope you will focus on the content of the report,” David Reidmiller, the director of the National Climate Assessment, told reporters. “We think the report speaks for itself.”

Ocasio-Cortez pressed the case in a tweet, taking her Democratic colleagues to task: “People are going to die if we don’t start addressing climate change ASAP. It’s not enough to think it’s ‘important.’ We must make it urgent,” she wrote. “That’s why we need a Select Committee on a Green New Deal, & why fossil fuel-funded officials shouldn’t be writing climate change policy.

The White House tried to downplay the new report’s conclusions Friday, claiming that they are “largely based on most extreme scenarios.” The White House also noted that U.S. greenhouse gas pollution has declined 14% since 2005—although the causes of that drop include trends that Trump opposes, such as a shift away from coal-fired power plants.

The new report, which Congress requires to be issued every four years, was released by U.S. Global Change Research Program. It is the product of 300 scientific experts under the guidance of a 60-member federal advisory committee, and it was open to review by the public, 13 federal agencies, and a panel at the National Academy of Sciences.

Research contact: @dailym1

Beer lovers dread looming shortages and price spikes

October 16, 2018

At the September 27 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at which then-nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh was questioned about allegations of sexual assault, he was clear about his love of lager. “Yes, we drank beer,” he said, referring to his group of high school friends at the Georgetown Preparatory School. “My friends and I, the boys and girls. Yes, we drank beer. I liked beer. Still like beer. We drank beer.”

Indeed, as a senior, Kavanaugh wrote in the yearbook, “100 kegs or bust”—the goal he and his classmates set for their high school experience.

That’s way above the average for most Americans, but by any measure, beer is a very popular U.S. beverage. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization in 2014, Americans drink an average of 2.4 gallons of alcohol, per person, per year—and beer accounts for half of all drinking in the United States.

Now, Kavanaugh and his fellow beer-lovers nationwide are facing a looming shortage of their favorite brew, according to reports by The New York Times and Reuters.

The cause is climate change.

Specifically, new research conducted by the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Britain warns that increasingly widespread and severe drought and heat may cause substantial decreases in barley yields worldwide, affecting the supply used to make beer, and ultimately resulting in “dramatic” falls in beer consumption and rises in beer prices.

Extreme weather events featuring both heat waves and droughts will occur as often as every two or three years in the second half of the century if temperatures rise at current rates, the study determined.

Average global barley yields during extreme events are expected to drop between 3% and 17%, depending on the conditions, said the study, published in the journal Nature Plants on October 18.

Under the hottest scenario, China will suffer the most shortages this century, followed by the United States, Germany, and Russia, the researchers said.

Dabo Guan, a professor of Climate Change Economics at the University of East Anglia and the study’s lead author, said beer issues pale in comparison to other climate induced problems, including food security, storm damage and fresh water scarcity.

The study did not consider climate change’s affects on other staple ingredients of beer such as hops.

Consumers in developed countries who want to avoid shortages would be wise to support policies reducing emissions of gases scientists blame for warming the planet, Guan said.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, said this year it would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025.

Jess Newman, the head of U.S. agronomy for Anheuser-Busch, said the company was experimenting with developing drought-resistant barley and working with farmers to reduce their need for water by, for example, encouraging them to place irrigation sprinklers closer to the ground.

“It’s definitely an incremental process but we have many varieties in the pipeline,” Newman said when asked how close the company was to breeding a drought-resistant barley in the United States. For several years, Anheuser-Busch has used a winter barley in Idaho that gets moisture from melting snow, cutting the need for irrigation.

Research contact: Dabo.Guan@uea.ac.uk