Risks to freshwater supplies—due to shortages, poor quality, floods, and climate change—are growing. These forces will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, potentially undermining global food markets and hobbling economic growth. As a result of demographic and economic development pressures, North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia particularly will particularly face difficulty coping with water problems. Lack of adequate water is a destabilizing factor in developing countries that do not have the management mechanisms, financial resources, or technical ability to solve their internal water problems. Other states are further stressed by heavy dependence on river water controlled by upstream nations with unresolved water-sharing issues. Wealthier developing countries will probably face increasing water-related, social disruptions, although they are capable of addressing water problems without risk of state failure. Historically, water tensions have led to more water-sharing agreements than to violent conflicts. However, where water-sharing agreements are ignored or when infrastructure development for electric power generation or agriculture is seen as a threat to water resources, states tend to exert leverage over their neighbors to preserve their water interests. This leverage has been applied in international forums and has included pressuring investors, nongovernmental organizations, and donor countries to support or halt water infrastructure projects. In addition, some local, nonstate terrorists or extremists will almost certainly target vulnerable water infrastructure in places to achieve their objectives and use water-related grievances as recruiting and fundraising tools. (10)
Archive for Environment
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has just issued its Global Risks 2014. Environmental concerns appear three times in the top ten risk list: water crises (#3); failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation (#5); and greater incidence of extreme weather events (#6). As the report states: “This illustrates a continued and growing awareness of the global water crisis as a result of mismanagement and increased competition for already scarce water resources from economic activity and population growth. Coupled with extreme weather events such as floods and droughts, which appears sixth on the list, the potential impacts are real and happening today.” (5) This is followed by an analysis from the Global Agenda Council on Water Security.(Its site is here.) This document just reinforces the importance of water security in the world. TowersWatson issued its Extreme Risks Report in 2013 where water scarcity was at the top of its list as well.
Down in these parts of the United States, a polar vortex or cyclone is a rare event indeed. For an explanation of this phenomenon, please peruse this NASA page – What is the Polar Vortex? Additional information can be obtained at: Patterns in Arctic Weather and Climate (National Snow & Ice Data Center); Polar Vortex (Encyclopedia of the Arctic); Polar Vortex (American Meterological Society); Frigid air from the North Pole: What’s this polar vortex? (CNN); and The Polar Vortex (Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics). And this occurrence is not limited to Earth; from NASA comes this photo and video of a polar vortex on Saturn’s moon Titan.
With rivers supplying 60% of our drinking water (River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey, 1), it is disconcerting to remark that this precious resource has been taking considerable hits of late. Silting, poor water management policies, pollution, and excessive drawdowns have all contributed to some rivers being labeled “endangered.” This year’s list is led by the Colorado River, a river so abused that barely any water reaches its mouth. The report, issued by the advocacy group American Rivers, focuses on ten rivers in trouble; none, thankfully, in our part of the country. Additional information can be found at the National Academy of Sciences River Basin Systems with links to online books and reports; Rivers and Lakes from Nature Conservancy; and Hudson River Water Quality (Riverkeeper).
The 2012 edition of the Little Green Data Book from World Bank provides an overview of the environmental conditions for every country in the world. This year’s edition has as its focus the ocean and what impact environmental degradations have on it and the implications of such actions. This volume presents the information in several ways: individual country profiles, regional analyses, and income groupings. The data include, among others: forests and biodiversity (including deforestation and threatened species); energy and emissions (including the per capita amount of CO2 emissions); and water and sanitation. Older volumes back to 2001 are here. Other sources of similar information include Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index and the CIA’s World Factbook (under the Geography section). And do not forget this 2010 article: Evaluating the Relative Environmental Impact of Countries.