This week the Natural Security team is practicing our Da Vinci polyphasic sleep schedules as we close out two papers by Friday, so our posts may be a bit short and sweet this week. We have dug up a lot of really interesting reports and cool data over the past few weeks that we’ll feed into these reports, so we’ll try to share some of it with you. One of particular interest has been this report (PDF) from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), on port city vulnerabilities to the effects of climate change. The study provides information on more than 130 international ports most vulnerable to current environmental conditions and future climate change projections (including populations and assets).
Here are a few stats that I found the most interesting:
As the headline states, I recommend to anyone reading this blog that they give a glance to the current special edition of National Geographic on water issues. It highlights water challenges around the world and, as it is famous for, intersperses the text with gorgeous (albeit in some cases slightly creepy) photos.
I found the article on the Tibetan Plateau to be the most useful. Given the recent revelations that the IPCC’s climate change projections for this region’s glacial systems were not derived from rigorous assessments, the evidence and information collected by local and regional scientists and citizens presented in this piece are useful additions to the available body of info. A few highlights:
Around a bend in the river, the glacier's snout finally comes into view: It's a deathly shade of black, permeated with pulverized rock and dirt. The water from this ice, once so pure it served in rituals as a symbol of Buddha himself, is now too loaded with sediment for the villagers to drink. For nearly a mile the glacier's once smooth surface is ragged and cratered like the skin of a leper. There are glimpses of blue-green ice within the fissures, but the cracks themselves signal trouble. "The beast is sick and wasting away," Jia Son says. "If our sacred glacier cannot survive, how can we?"
It is a question that echoes around the globe, but nowhere more urgently than across the vast swath of Asia that draws its water from the "roof of the world." This geologic colossus—the highest and largest plateau on the planet, ringed by its tallest mountains—covers an area greater than western Europe, at an average altitude of more than two miles. With nearly 37,000 glaciers on the Chinese side alone, the Tibetan Plateau and its surrounding arc of mountains contain the largest volume of ice outside the polar regions. This ice gives birth to Asia's largest and most legendary rivers, from the Yangtze and the Yellow to the Mekong and the Ganges—rivers that over the course of history have nurtured civilizations, inspired religions, and sustained ecosystems. Today they are lifelines for some of Asia's most densely settled areas, from the arid plains of Pakistan to the thirsty metropolises of northern China 3,000 miles away. All told, some two billion people in more than a dozen countries—nearly a third of the world's population—depend on rivers fed by the snow and ice of the plateau region.
But a crisis is brewing on the roof of the world, and it rests on a curious paradox: For all its seeming might and immutability, this geologic expanse is more vulnerable to climate change than almost anywhere else on Earth.
The Empire, crumbling under climate induced water scarcity, demands the full resources of its vast and mighty military, from top to bottom, in order to obtain enough fresh water to sustain both its forces and economy.
Last week we met with an Empire commander, who wished to remain annonomous, to discuss the trials that the galactic force had been facing since the onset of the recent record breaking drought. The commander seemed rather taxed by the labor intensive purification process he had been performing just as we arrived (a function made mandatory for all Empire forces just last week) as he suffered from an asthma attack lasting the duration of the hour long interview. Storming through the conversation without ever pausing to use an inhailer, he was such a trooper, the commander provided candid commentary about just how in jeopardy the galaxy is becoming. Perhaps the most intriguing revelation offered up was his description of star death, threatening the very existance of life in the region, which he believes to be inextricably tied to the historic drought.
As we looked deeper, meeting with multinational officers of various levels of rank, and body hair, we began to see that the drought has acted as a threat multiplier in frontline reports of hightened ewok insurgency on Endor. Though the United States managed to remain a neutral party in the first Ewoki uprising, due mainly to its far far away geography, if the drought persists, it may not be long before President Obama is called to appear before the Galactic Senate, and asked to lend American forces.