This Week on Earth: Jan 22-28
A Water Crisis in Iran
Iran expects a 25 percent decline in surface water runoff by 2030. But we are already seeing the effects of climate change now. With increasing annual temperatures, Iran is predicted to become hotter and drier.
The water shortage that the country is currently experiencing has led to some unforeseen consequences; street protests, civil unrest, and migration from the countryside to cities.
This water crisis was caused in part by increasing temperatures due to climate change, but also by other factors more specific to Iranian history. After the 1979 revolution, Iran attempted to be self-sufficient in food. However, as is the case with many other countries in similar situations, the government stepped in and encouraged farmers to plant more crops that had the potential to sell better on the global market. These crops, namely wheat, required the extraction of lots of groundwater.
According to the New York Times, Iran’s groundwater depletion rate is among the fastest in the world today.
A similar drought in Cape Town, South Africa has recently forced the city’s municipality to limit daily water consumption to 11 gallons per person. This popular tourist destination is experiencing its worst water shortage in a century.
Newly Listed Alien Species in the Global Register
The first global register of alien species reports that a fifth of 6,400 plants and animals are categorized as causing harm.
BBC News states that invasive species are any living things that are not native to a particular ecosystem, and can harm the environment, economy, or human health.
International trade and transportation are the main drivers of introductions of new species, like the lion fish and sea lamprey above.
Data for 20 countries were released this week, and hopefully the rest will be completed by the end of the year.
Wind is the Clean Energy of the Future
On Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced that wind power is predicted to pass hydroelectricity as the nation’s top source of renewable energy.
The lead industry economist at the EIA, Owen Comstock, wrote that the capacity and timing of new wind turbines affects wind power output much more than changes in weather patterns.
While wind turbine production is on the rise, fewer new hydropower plants are in the works. Much of current hydroelectricity is dependent on how much rainfall and water runoff collects in dams and reservoirs.
This energy source has proved to particularly useful during this past year’s climate change-induced storms--especially the “bomb cyclone.”
However, other effects of climate change are not as contributory to the strength of wind power; warming temperatures will reduce the power of winds across north mid-latitudes, and cutting wind strength significantly.