According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) on water sustainability, more than 1,100 counties, one-third of all counties in the lower 48, will face a higher risk of water shortages by mid-century as a result of climate change. More than 400 of these counties will face a high risk of water shortage, says the NRDC. California is among the 14 states with the greatest risk, along with: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas, says the Council. These states are viewed to be facing an extreme or high risk for water sustainability and are likely to see water limitations on water availability as demand exceeds supply by 2050, this in particular of the Great Plains of the Southwest region of the US where the risk is extreme, the NRDC reports. These numbers are a staggering estimate. Compared to previous estimates, this report by both the NRDC and Tetra Tech reflects a 14-times increase.
“This analysis shows climate change will take a serious toll on water supplies throughout the country in the coming decades with over one out of every three U.S. counties facing greater risk of water shortages,” said Dan Lashof, director of the Climate Center at the NRDC in a statement. “Water shortages can strangle economic development and agricultural production in affected communities.”
The value of crops produced in the at risk counties is estimated by the Council at $105-billion. All of these factors affect America and the region’s food security, in addition to those to whom America exports food.
The first decade of the 21st century brought several harbingers of a troubled future for global food security. The food price spike of 2008 and food riots both brought to light the re-emergence of this threat to human well being and social harmony, a governmental report states. Food production is critically dependent on local temperature and precipitation conditions. Any changes require farmers to adapt their practices, which requires resources that could be used for other purposes, states the report. Using a comprehensive empirical analysis, the authors of the report, entitled “Food Security, Climate Change to 2050,” suggest policymakers should take into account: 1.) The value of broad-based sustainable development; 2.) The power of investments to enhance agricultural productivity; 3.) The importance of an open world trade system; 4.) The need for early action on both adaptation and mitigation. To up the stakes of human survival even more, experts estimate by 2050 the world’s population is likely to reach 9-billion.
“As a result, cities and states will bear the real and significant cost if Congress fails to take the steps necessary to slow down and reverse the warming trend. Water management and climate change adaptation plans will be essential to lessen the impacts, but they cannot be expected to counter the effects of a warming climate,” said Dan Lashof in a statement to Congress. “The only way to truly manage the risks exposed by this report is for Congress to pass meaningful legislation that cuts global warming pollution and allows the U.S. to exercise Global Leadership on the issue.”
“In many places in the U.S. water supply is already used in quantities that exceed supply,” said Sujoy Roy, principal engineer and lead Tetra Tech and NRDC report author.
MALIBU’S LEGACY PARK
So where does all of this very dark picture leave Malibu? That’s where sustainable projects like Malibu’s Legacy Park, and the Tapia Water reclamation Project come into the picture. Malibu’s Legacy Park is 15-acres set aside in the center of the city that is at once a stormwater and urban runoff project, a state of the art environmental cleaning machine and a central park for the city. It is capable of capturing up to 2.6-million gallons per day of stormwater and urban runoff for treatment and disinfection. The clean storm water is used to irrigate the park. The park’s creation also restored and developed important native coastal habitats. It offers a living learning center, information kiosks, an outdoor classroom, a cultural interpretive center and other information features to educate about Southern California’s coastal flora and fauna.
“This is a very unique park, one of the most ambitious and innovative storm water and urban runoff projects in the state of California,” said Olivia Damavandi, Media Information Officer with the City of Malibu. ” Parks that double as water detention basins exist in the rest of the state and country, but none of them have the educational and environmental benefits that Legacy Park offers, or the recycling ability for stormwater and urban runoff. The park helps improve water quality at Malibu Creek, Malibu Lagoon, Surfrider Beach, nearby beaches and is one of the main reasons the city created Legacy Park. Using the captured and treated stormwater offsets potable water usage.”
The park has now its ninth commendation, this one from the Water Reliability 2020 Award, which recognizes extraordinary projects and efforts related to water conservation and education by governments, businesses and individuals. The Water Reliability Program itself seeks to reduce dependence on water imported to coastal Los Angeles from 66-percent to 33-percent by the year 2020.
“In addition to symbolizing the City’s commitment to environmental stewardship and public health, Legacy Park teaches the value of water,” said Mayor Lou La Monte in a statement.
The project is a $35-million environmental work. The city received $2.5-million from the state water board to help acquire the property, $3.1-million in private individual donations, $2-million in donations from the Annenberg Foundation, $1-million from a county park grant, $1-million from Santa Monica College and the balance from City special funds and the issuance of Certificate of Participations (COPs), something similar to bonds, that the city issued, reports Damavandi.
“The Mayor and City Manager, Jim Thorsen, recently went to New Orleans for the prestigious and informative Water Environment Federation (WEF) Conference. The travel and conference were paid by the city. This was a three-day water conference attended by over 10,000 individuals to learn about the latest technology and trends in the water world,” Damavandi said. “The keynote speaker was Ms. Lisa Jackson, the former Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) Administrator. The conference helped the Mayor prepare for the Regional Water Board meeting he attended the next day after his return. On Tuesday of the conference, the city received the 2012 Water Quality Improvement award from the WEF. The total estimated cost of the airline and three nights hotel is $1,000.
Another feature of Legacy Park is it prevents recycled water from reaching the ground water.
“Legacy Park was constructed to divert storm water and run off for disinfection to improve water quality at Malibu Creek, Malibu Lagoon, Surfrider Beach and nearby beaches. With the ability to capture 2.6-million gallons per day of storm water and urban runoff for treatment and disinfection, and as the detention basin was constructed with an impervious liner underneath to prevent infiltration,” said Damavandi. “Any recycled water used for irrigation would be limited to levels that do not allow seepage to the ground water table.”
“The detention pond is clay lined and will not allow any substantial interaction with groundwater,” states the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR). “Any stormwater released is treated to meet Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). In addition, hardscape within Legacy Park is permeable, and therefore does not substantially increase runoff.”
The unique park prevents untreated waters from reaching the fragile ecosystems of the Creek, Lagoon and Surfrider Beach.
“The water collected within the pond is initially stored, then sent to the City’s storm water treatment plant. It is cleaned and sent back to the park for reuse as irrigation,” said Damavandi. “At this time, we have not sent any untreated water to Malibu Creek. However during large rainstorms, it is possible for the pond to become full, and it would then feed diverted water to the creek without treatment.”
Legacy Park is located at the terminus of the Malibu Creek watershed where the creek drains into Malibu Lagoon, which periodically discharges to Surfrider Beach when the berm separating the Lagoon from the ocean is breached. As a result, Malibu Creek, Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach are included in the Clean Water Act’s 303(d) list of impaired water bodies for bacteria and nutrients. The percolation capacity of Legacy is limited to between 17,000 to 50,000 gallons per day. The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) states this is more than adequate to provide percolation and dispersal for the treated wastewater effluent that comes from the Malibu Lumber Yard project.
“The 3-4 acre detention pond size yields a performance more than five times than required by the bacteria total maximum daily load (TMDL),” states the EIR. “This reduces the number of excedences of bacteria TMDLs per year on average to three. By storing dry weather runoff for irrigation reuse, the city can avoid discharge and the need to percolate this flow into the groundwater.”
Already human-induced climate change has shifted weather patterns.
“The atmosphere warms or cools the ocean. It receives vapors through evaporation, leaving most of the salt in the sea and so increasing the salinity of the water,” stated Rachel Carson in her 1950 work The Sea Around Us. “With the changing weight of that whole mass of air that envelopes the Earth, the atmosphere brings variable pressure to bear on the surface of the sea, which is depressed under areas of high pressure and springs up in compensation under the atmospheric lows…But even more does the ocean dominate the air. Its effect on the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere is far greater then the small transfer of heat between ocean and air…The transfer of heat between ocean and air therefore alters the belts of high and low pressure. This profoundly affects the directions and strength of the winds and directs the storms on their paths.”
Evidence suggests that climate change has led to changes in climate extremes such as heat waves, record high temperatures and, in many regions, heavy precipitation in the past half century, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in March 2012.
The Panel is moving to a new stage in the preparation of its next major report, the Fifth Assessment Report (AR), with the first of three government and expert reviews to take place between October 2012 and May 2013. The AR5 will be released in a multi-stage process between 2013 to 2014. Compared with previous reports, the AR5 will emphasize assessing socio-economic aspects of climate change and implications for sustainable development, risk management and the framing of a response through both adaptation and mitigation, states the IPCC.
According to Rutgers University, “Hurricane Sandy is expected to be only a modest preview of the dangers to come. Multiple studies were released this summer indicating that sea level is expected to rise dramatically over the coming centuries, even if extreme cuts are made to greenhouse gas emissions. Those living near sea level are increasingly in danger of being flooded by storm surges from storms such as Sandy. In order to protect coastal communities we must pursue a strategy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resiliency and defenses, and retreating from certain high risk areas.”
Sandy’s stallout contributed significantly to its destructive power.
“Sandy could not spin out to sea because of a high pressure system from the arctic circle–where the ice cap has melted to its smallest size in years,” said Anthony Broccoli, director of the Center for Environmental Prediction at Rutgers. “The ice melt warms arctic sea water, and that radiated heat is making the jet stream wavier, producing variations in barometric pressure like the one that stalled Sandy.
This is the theory proposed by his Rutgers colleague, Jennifer Francis, and it’s a controversial one, says Rutgers. Is she right?
The jury is out, says her colleague, Broccoli. More research is needed, he acknowledged during a 90-minute talk in the borough Community Center, site of the Great Horizons lecture series.
GLOBAL CARBON CYCLE: THE WORLD’S BIOLOGICAL PUMP
Global carbon cycle. These words are likely even less accessible to the average person than the term carbon footprint. Yet it is so important, we devote numerous resources to understand it.
The global carbon cycle has to do with things called producers and consumers. Producers create carbon dioxide (CO2). A producer could be a human, or animal, who exhales out carbon dioxide after inhaling oxygen. Bigger carbon dioxide produces are things like coal-fired plants or car exhaust. All of these are anthropogenic CO2 producers. Consumers, on the other hand, are considered sinks, or things that that absorb CO2. They would be things such as forests, the land and the ocean. Producers and consumers habitually interact. That is, an economy exists between the two.
A Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS) http://www1.whoi.edu/ was launched in the 1980s to study the ocean carbon cycle.
“Most of the carbon in the ocean is stored in the deep waters and sediments of the sea floor,” said the JGOFS team. “How much and how many carbon can be transferred from the atmosphere to the ocean depths is therefore important to the global carbon cycle. One route carbon can take to the ocean depths is via what scientist call the biological pump.”
“This process begins as phytoplankton pick up CO2 and nutrients through the process of photosynthesis to then form organic matter,” said the JGOFS team. “The organisms and zooplankton that feed on them produce particles as they die, molt and excrete material. The particles containing organic matter sink through the water column carrying carbon into the ocean depths. During the days to weeks it takes the particles to reach the seafloor, many are decomposed by bacteria or are consumed by zooplankton and fish in the deep waters. Its efficiency is very low with an average for every 1,000 carbon atoms taken up to primary productivity in open ocean surface waters, only 50 to 100 sink below. 100-meters, and only 10 are exported to depths below 1,000-meters where carbon is stored in the ocean for millennia. Of these 10, only one carbon atom is buried in the deep ocean sediments where it can be sequestered for eons. The biological pump’s efficiency varies considerably from season to season, and so too its strength. Thus, the amount of carbon transferred into the depths varies from one ecosystem to another.”
However, the producers can sometimes oversupply the consumers with CO2. This is called human-induced climate change.
“The additional burden of human-induced CO2 into the natural climate change in the atmosphere will remain for a very long time, on the order of thousands of years, if we have to rely on the natural mechanisms of erosion and sediment to process the added CO2,” said N.K. Taylor in The Role Of The Ocean In The Global Carbon Cycle published in the Weather Journal.
The natural climate cycle is very different from human-induced climate change. The human kind causes melting of polar ice caps, severe weather patterns, droughts, wildfires and water supply shortages, all on a far more severe scale than the natural climate cycle. The carbon cycle naturally consists of two parts, the terrestrial and the aquatic carbon cycles. It is based on an average flowing exchange of CO2.
Plants and other consumers, in the ocean and on land, transfer carbon dioxide and water into complex carbohydrates, such as glucose, under the influence of sunlight in a process known as photosynthesis. This process produces oxygen. The ocean, playing its role in the global carbon cycle, is by far the largest consumer, or sink, of the world’s mobile carbon.
“The atmosphere continuously exchanges CO2 with the oceans, which controls atmospheric CO2 concentration and its variations with time, said the JGOFS team.
With all the talk about too much CO2 in the atmosphere, it’s gotten a bad name for itself. CO2 is not necessarily bad, per say. This idea goes back to the existent economy between producers and consumers. Plus, CO2 is a small yet natural part of Earth’s atmosphere.
“While CO2 is only a small part of the atmosphere, 0.4-percent, it plays an important role in the energy balance of our planet. CO2 in the atmosphere acts like a blanket over the planet by trapping longwave radiation which would otherwise radiate heat away from the planet, something known as the greenhouse effect,” says N.K. Taylor in http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/j.1477-8696.1992.tb07145.x The Role Of The Ocean In The Global Carbon Cycle. “As the amount of CO2 increases, so will the warming effect.”
CO2 is the largest contributor to this effect of long-lived gases, currently at 63-percent, and its role increases every year, said co2now.org.
As a result, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising worldwide, said the NRDC in testimony before Congress (Lashof) and co2now.org. “The average CO2 concentration in the Earth’s atmosphere is now over 380 ppm by volume, which is higher than it has been for at least 650,000 years. In 2005, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere increased by 25 ppm the third largest increase ever recorded. Although there is considerable variation from year to year in the rate of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, the rise has been more than 2 ppm in three of the last four years. Because CO2 traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere preventing it from escaping back out into space, this imbalance in the global carbon cycle has also thrown the Earth’s energy balance out of whack. This also means that each year the earth absorbs more energy from the Sun than it radiates back out into space. Global warming is the inevitable result, and the human fingerprint on Earth’s climate is now clearly visible. To keep things from falling even further out of balance, atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and other global warming gases must be kept from exceeding 450-ppm.”
Atmospheric CO2 for September 2012 was recorded at 391.07-ppm, according to the site co2now.org. Climate scientists say we have years, not decades to stabilize CO2 and other greenhouse gases, said co2now.org. The upper safety limit for atmospheric CO2 is 350-ppm. Atmospheric CO2 levels have stayed higher than 350-ppm since 1988, according to co2now.org. So as the producers of CO2 keep producing, the sinks remain stable, only able to only absorb so much. This results in a net increase in atmospheric CO2 levels.
“For the globe as a whole the ocean is the great regulator, the great stabilizer of temperatures. It has been described as ‘a savings bank for solar energy, receiving deposits in seasons of excessive insolation and paying them back in seasons of want,’” states Rachel Carson in The Sea Arond Us. “Without the ocean, our world would be visited by harsh extremes of temperature…For the water that covers three-fourths of the Earth’s surface with an enveloping mantle is a substance of remarkable qualities….It is an excellent absorber and radiator of heat…Because of its normal capacity, the ocean can absorb a great deal of heat from the sun without becoming what we would consider hot, or it can lose much of its heat without becoming cold.”
The nutrients that fuel growth and reproduction of phytoplankton cells are also important factors. Scientist have observed a long term shift in the ratio of nitrogen and phosphorus in suspended particulate matter.
“They suggest this is linked to the higher frequency of El Niño episodes during the 1990s, which brings warmer, calmer conditions to the oligotrophic, or low nutrient regions, around Hawaii and Bermuda,” said the JGOFS team. “These conditions lead to nitrogen fixing bacteria shifting the limitations on plankton growth to phosphorus, resulting in plankton that are rich in nitrogen, which is seen in the elevated ratio of particulate nitrogen to phosphorus. The global models that come from JGOFS shows as the atmosphere warms, so does the surface ocean. Thus the predicted temperature changes would affect the solubility of CO2 in ocean water. In addition, changes in temperature and wind could lead to alterations in ocean circulation patterns and the upwelling of nutrients to surface waters. These changes could affect the structure and function of ocean ecosystems, and thus the way the biological pump operates in different regions of the ocean. Changes in the oceans capacity to take up and store carbon could in turn affect the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere.”
In other words, excess in one creates excess and the other.