Writings

Drink Beer? Take Showers? Better Worry About West’s Snowpack

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 20, 2014   View Article

The wet and windy storms that have slammed California with floods, mudslides and traffic snarls are bringing at least a momentary sigh of relief from water users across the western U.S. That’s because the storms also dumped several feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada — and mountain snowpack is a chief supplier of water for agricultural, industrial, and domestic uses throughout the region.

But according to a state measurement, that snowpack as of Thursday was only 50 percent of normal — and Washington and Oregon are even worse off.

The lack of snow fits with what some scientists see as a long-term slide in the amount that piles up each year, though the trend’s size and significance are debated. For some, the decline hints at a future with less water to irrigate crops, brew beer and take showers as well as keep wildfires and insect pests at bay.

Richard Branson Joins Forces With Amory Lovins in Climate Fight

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 16, 2013   View Article

Sir Richard Branson’s climate change-fighting foundation is aligning forces with one of the world’s most heady alternative energy think tanks to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, the two organizations said Tuesday. First up: Helping Caribbean island nations shift away from dependence on diesel fuel.

“Together we can go further, faster,” Branson, the entrepreneur who founded Virgin Atlantic Airways, said in a statement announcing the alliance between his Carbon War Room and Amory Lovins’ Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing market-based solutions to drive global energy use away from fossil fuels.

Executives from both organizations tapped to lead the alliance described it as a marriage between an agile and young entrepreneurial organization full of make-it-happen passion with one that is steeped in analytical rigor, insight and thought leadership.

Less Ice or More? What You Need to Know About Antarctica’s Meltdown

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 13, 2014   View Article

In Antarctica, glaciers are sloshing seaward at an ever faster clip, ocean waters are warming, and, perhaps counterintuitively, sea ice is expanding, according to a batch of recent studies that paint a stark picture of climate change unfolding at the far southern reaches of the globe. For people in North America, the distant events raise the specter of higher seas sooner than climate models suggest.

Here are answers to key questions about what’s happening on that cold continent.

We’re Kidding Ourselves on 2-Degree Global Warming Limit: Experts

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 28, 2014   View Article

A temperature rise that could cause irreversible and potentially catastrophic damage to human civilization is practically inevitable, according to rising chatter among experts in the lead up to a year of key negotiations on a new climate change global accord.

World leaders have voluntarily committed to limit warming by the end of the century to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial level, a threshold beyond which, scientists argue, severe drought, rising seas and supercharged storms as well as food and water security become routine challenges.

Given the world’s historic emissions combined with a continued reliance on fossil fuels to power humanity for the foreseeable future, limiting the increase to 2 degrees Celsius is all but impossible, according to David Victor, a professor of international relations and an expert on climate change policy at the University of California, San Diego.

Hungry Planet: Can Big Data Help Feed 9 Billion Humans?

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 17, 2014   View Article

With a population set to hit 9 billion human beings by 2050, the world needs to grow more food —without cutting down forests and jungles, which are the climate’s huge lungs.

The solution, according to one soil management scientist, is Big Data.

Kenneth Cassman, an agronomist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, recently unveiled a new interactive mapping tool that shows in fine-grain detail where higher crop yields are possible on current arable land.

“By some estimates, 20 to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with agriculture and of that a large portion is due to conversion of natural systems like rainforests or grassland savannahs to crop production, agriculture,” Cassman told NBC News at a conference in suburban Seattle.

Why is UN Report So Certain Humans Caused Climate Change?

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 3, 2014   View Article

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.

That Sinking Feeling: Rising Sea Level Isn’t Cities’ Only Water Worry

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 1, 2014   View Article

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.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach