The science laid out in a new U.N. report is clear and stark: Our fossil-fueled economy has irreversibly changed the global climate. Less certain is whether we’ll change lifestyles to confront rising seas and supercharged storms, according to scientists and policy analysts.
Some of the world’s expanding coastal cities face a two-pronged threat involving water: Sticking giant straws into the ground to suck up freshwater can cause the ground below to sink at the same time that sea levels are rising.
That interplay between subsiding land and rising seas highlights an underappreciated risk in global climate change, according to scientists.
It’s not known how many people live on coastal lands that are sinking due to excessive groundwater pumping, but about 150 million live within 3.3 feet of today’s high-tide mark. And the worst-case scenario for sea level rise by the end of this century is nearly six feet, according to a recent study.
Nearly a quarter century ago, Greg Johnson was a freshly minted PhD in oceanography puttering north in the South Pacific Ocean. About every 35 miles, the boat he was on stopped and scientists dropped an instrument overboard to measure temperature and salinity at regular intervals all the way to the seafloor.
This process was repeated in a crisscross pattern throughout the world’s oceans over the course of the 1990s. “At the end of it, we had kind of a blurred snapshot of the state of the ocean in that decade all the way from the surface to the bottom from coast to coast,” he explained to NBC News.
The following decade, scientists re-sampled some transects for the sake of comparison. Taken together, the measurements collected during the World Ocean Circulation Experiment are the best — and for most of the oceans only — data available on temperature and salinity 1.4 miles below the surface.
Today, Johnson is spearheading a project to deploy a global array of robotic floats that will probe to a depth of 3.75 miles, allowing scientists to continuously monitor changing temperature and salinity in the entire ocean except for the deepest trenches.
A first-of-its-kind coal-fired power plant retrofitted with technology to capture and store most of the carbon dioxide produced at one of its boilers officially began operations this week in Saskatchewan, Canada. Meanwhile, a similar project in Illinois to demonstrate a cleaner way to burn the world’s most abundant fossil fuel remains in legal and financial limbo.
Whether the U.S. government-backed project in Meredosia, Ill., will advance so-called carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technology is an open question, but experts deem the technology itself vital if the world hopes to stand any practical chance at staving off catastrophic climate change.
And CCS is being propelled forward by pollution-control measures such as the Obama admnistration’s proposed rules to limit carbon emissions from new and existing power plants.
In drought-stricken California, workers in industries from golf to medical marijuana are struggling to prevent the lack of water from drying up business. Most are cautiously watching the weather in hopes that fall and winter storms bring enough rain and snow to keep their doors open. But for some companies, the persistent lack of moisture has been too much: They’ve already been forced to close.
So much water is being pumped from the ground in parched California that the land is sinking, according to scientists.
The more Californians rely on groundwater, the worse these problems will get, experts across industry, government, and academia say. But, they said, the pumping is likely to continue given a confluence of factors that range from urban population growth to an expanding agricultural industry.
Around the world, the rapid spread of a pathogenic fungus has sent frogs and other amphibians hopping toward extinction. Hope for their survival may come in the form of vaccination programs similar to those that protect humans from contagious diseases, according to a new study.
No, this doesn’t mean that newborn tadpoles will be paying a visit to the veterinarian for a round of shots, or that conservationists with mini-syringes will be mucking through rain forests in search of frogs. But the reality isn’t all that different.
Hundreds of amphibians already have been removed from habitats contaminated with the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which causes chytridiomycosis — the fungal disease implicated in the global amphibian decline. One route is to vaccinate these captive-bred amphibians, explained Jason Rohr, an ecologist at the University of South Florida and the study’s senior author.