Installing solar panels on agricultural lands maximizes efficiency and crop yields

A study, in the journal Scientific Reports, finds that if less than 1% of agricultural land was converted to solar panels, it would be sufficient to fulfill global electric energy demand. In previous research by the same authors, they showed that solar panels could increase crop yields on dry, unirrigated farmland. And, a separate study concluded that solar panels would also work well on irrigated fields due to less drought stress and reduced watering requirements.

The solar panels also benefit from the cooler environment created by evaporation from the crops. There is a huge potential for solar and agriculture (“agrivoltaics) to work together – a win-win for our food, water, and energy supplies.

To read the study abstract go to: Solar PV Power Potential is Greatest Over Croplands by Elnaz H. Adeh, Stephen P. Good, M. Calaf, and Chad W. Higgins, published 7 August 2019.

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House, Senate OK Colorado River drought plan, capping years of debate

House, Senate OK Colorado River drought plan, capping years of debate

WASHINGTON – Two weeks after water officials told Congress there was urgent need to approve the Colorado River drought contingency plan, the House and Senate both passed a plan Monday and sent it to the president’s desk.

If signed by President Donald Trump as expected, it would be the culmination of years of negotiations between the seven states in the Colorado River Basin on how much each state can draw from the river if Lake Powell and Lake Mead drop to crisis levels. Read moreShare on Facebook

What’s happening with the Colorado River Drought plans?

‘Done’ isn’t done: What’s happening with the Colorado River drought plans?

by Luke Runyon and Bret Jaspers of KJZZ, published 7 February 2019

“The seven states that rely on the Colorado River for water haven’t been able to finish a series of agreements that would keep its biggest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, from dropping to levels not seen since they were filled decades ago.

Five states — Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nevada — are done. So is northern Mexico. But California and Arizona failed to meet the federal government’s Jan. 31 deadline to wrap up negotiations and sign a final agreement.”

Read the full article at Cronkite News published by Arizona PBS.

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‘Everything is not going to be okay’: How to live with constant reminders that the Earth is in trouble

‘Everything is not going to be okay’: How to live with constant reminders that the Earth is in trouble

by Dan Zak, published 24 January 2019.

“It is an immense privilege to be alive at this time … We owe it to ourselves to try as hard as we can to understand what’s going on. And to give meaning to it. . . . Only by understanding our lives as meaningful can we hope to create meaningful change.”

The Earth is in trouble – “Hold the problem in your mind. Freak out, but don’t put it down. Give it a quarter-turn. See it like a scientist, and as a poet. As a descendant. As an ancestor.”

Read the full article at The Washington Post 

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Snowpack in trouble across the West and around the globe

Snowpack in trouble across the West and around the globe, reseachers say

by Tony Davis, Arizona Daily Star, published 18 December 2018, updated 22 December 2018

“From the Colorado Rockies to the Tibetan Plateau to the Greenland Sea, snowpack that provides billions of people with drinking water is suffering long-term declines, researchers said at a national conference last week”

Two Arizona researchers found that total snowpack in the Colorado River Basin’s mountain ranges had declined a little more than 40% between 1982 and 2016. Another global study found that water supplies of more than one-sixth of the world’s population is at risk due to declining snowpack.

Read the full article at Tucson.com news

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Fourth National Climate Assessment

The Fourth National Climate Assessment is now available. This assessment was mandated by the U.S. Congress and was undertaken by 13 federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA), the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Their dramatic findings show that global warming is not only occurring, it is rapidly getting worse.  These findings confirm that human activities are the primary cause of climate change and that it will have devastating effects if not addressed immediately.  To read or download the Fourth National Climate Assessment’s Summary Findings go to:

https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/downloads/NCA4_Ch01_Summary-Findings.pdf

Twelve key takeaways include: 

  • Communities – Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.
  • Economy – Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.
  • Interconnected Impacts – Climate change affects the natural, built, and social systems we rely on individually and through their connections to one another. These interconnected systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading impacts that are often difficult to predict, threatening essential services within and beyond the Nation’s borders.
  • Actions to Reduce Risks – Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.
  • Water – The quality and quantity of water available for use by people and ecosystems across the country are being affected by climate change, increasing risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry, recreation, and the environment.
  • Health – Impacts from climate change on extreme weather and climate-related events, air quality, and the transmission of disease through insects and pests, food, and water increasingly threaten the health and well-being of the American people, particularly populations that are already vulnerable.
  • Indigenous Peoples – Climate change increasingly threatens Indigenous communities’ livelihoods, economies, health, and cultural identities by disrupting interconnected social, physical, and ecological systems.
  • Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services – Ecosystems and the benefits they provide to society are being altered by climate change, and these impacts are projected to continue. Without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, transformative impacts on some ecosystems will occur; some coral reef and sea ice ecosystems are already experiencing such transformational changes.
  • Agriculture and Food – Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States. Expected increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability.
  • Infrastructure – Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy pre- capitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires, and other extreme events, as well as changes to average precipitation and temperature. Without adaptation, climate change will continue to de- grade infrastructure performance over the rest of the century, with the potential for cascading im- pacts that threaten our economy, national security, essential services, and health and well-being.
  • Oceans and Coasts – Coastal communities and the ecosystems that support them are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change. Without significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions and regional adaptation measures, many coastal regions will be transformed by the latter part of this century, with impacts affecting other regions and sectors. Even in a future with lower green- house gas emissions, many communities are expected to suffer financial impacts as chronic high-tide flooding leads to higher costs and lower property values.
  • Tourism and Recreation – Outdoor recreation, tourist economies, and quality of life are reliant on benefits provided by our natural environment that will be degraded by the impacts of climate change in many ways.”

To read the full report go to:

Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II

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Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report

Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further with 2°C.

Global Warming of 1.5°C is the first in a series of Special Reports to be produced in the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change’s (“IPCC”) Sixth Assessment Cycle. 

The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and farreaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030,reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.

“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said Valerie Masson-Demotte, Co-Chair of Working Group I.

Links to the IPCC’s Global Warming of 1.5°C special report follows:

Technical Summary

Chapter 1 – Framing and Context

Chapter 2 – Mitigation pathways compatible with 1.5°C in the context of sustainable development

Chapter 3 – Impacts of 1.5oC global warming on natural and human systems

Chapter 4 – Strengthening and implementing the global response

Chapter 5 – Sustainable Development, Poverty Eradication and Reducing Inequalities

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Climate Change is On A Roll

Climate Change Is On A Roll by Dr. Alan K. Betts

Vermont has seen a warm summer, but rainfall in Pittsford has been high enough that we have had a large vegetable crop, as well as far too many weeds!

Near-stationary waves in the jet stream produced record July temperatures in regions around globe, particularly in western US and Canada and across Europe. This is the face of climate change. Stationary high pressure regions produce long periods of warm dry weather with little cloud cover, so temperatures creep up and humidity falls. This sets the stage for drought that damages crops, and for the forest fires that have been burning across many regions.

California has had especially devastating fires. On July 26, a full-fledged firestorm in Redding, California, produced the strongest tornadic firestorm winds ever recorded, with winds over 140mph – as powerful as an F3 tornado. Between July 27 and September 1, the Mendocino fire complex burnt 459,000 acres, far larger than any other fire in modern state history. The smoke from these massive fires produced severe air pollution.

The summer climate off the coast of southern California is typically associated with a cold ocean and low clouds; but this summer, ocean temps reached 79F. People swarmed to the beaches and tropical marine life moved north into the region. In a bitter contrast, beaches in Florida were empty as a result of massive die-offs of marine life coming from the toxic red tide growing in the ocean along 130 miles of Florida’s south-west coast. Inland in Florida, blue-green algae, which grow in warmer water that has been polluted by the runoff of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers, have poisoned rivers and lakes. These are the same cyanobacteria that are affecting Vermont’s lakes, as we too are reluctant to manage our runoff from urban and rural landscapes.

The extremes of climate and the pollution of our waters are all indicators of society’s reluctance to manage our waste-streams for the good of our children and all life on Earth. This is both our personal responsibility and the responsibility of government, but now short-term financial interests are taking precedence over smart long-term planning.

One dismal example is that the EPA is planning to roll back auto efficiency standards which were set to rise to an average of 54 mpg for passenger vehicles by the model year of 2025. The deceitful logic is convoluted. They are claiming that more efficient cars must be more costly, so people won’t buy them; and older cars are less safe, so more will die in accidents. The fact that more efficient cars save money by burning less gasoline, which also reduces on-going climate change, is totally ignored, because the EPA has been told to ignore it.

This is deliberate cruelty to our children who will have to live with accelerating climate extremes, if we continue to burn all the fossil fuels this century. We can build much more efficient cars today that reduce gasoline consumption by 80%, which cost no more to build and cost much less to maintain. In addition, computer assistance and collision avoidance radar does make them safer to drive.

Let me give an example from our own experience. We were amazed that our plug-in Prius Prime has averaged 136 mpg on the first 21000 miles with no compromises. Its all-electric range is only 30 miles, but this is enough that local travel in Rutland County is mostly all electric. For long trips, this car quickly reverts to gas-electric hybrid mode, with a range of 600 miles on a tank of gasoline, because of its remarkable efficiency. Last month we toured the Canadian Atlantic provinces. We drove 2100 miles in two weeks, plugging in overnight on most days, and we averaged 82 mpg, far more than the 2025 standards. This is the most efficient car on the market, because of the tightly integrated electrical power, and the recharging when braking and going downhill. Most manufacturers will of course build them anyway for the much smarter global market; but the EPA wants to limit the availability of fuel efficient cars in the US to prop up the oil industry.

Dr. Alan K. Betts is the head of Atmospheric Research in Pittsford and was the keynote speaker on May 9, 2018 at the 8th GEWEX Open Science Conference: Extremes and Water on the Edge, May 6-11, 2018 Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

Article originally published by Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus, September 08, 2018.

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Our Responsibility to the Earth

Our Responsibility to the Earth | EarthWaterAlliance.org

by Dr. Alan K. Betts

Spring came late in Vermont, as the daffodils did not start opening in Pittsford until April 18, and the forsythia were 10 days later. Rain for days on end from slow moving weather systems led to substantial flooding. The grass grew profusely weeks before it was dry enough to mow. I planted cool-weather crops, lettuce, kale and broccoli, by the first of May, and by now even the summer squash and tomatoes are growing fast. Earth Day was a Sunday this year. In the morning I spoke at the Dorset Church about our failing to accept our deep responsibilities to the Earth. In the afternoon, I spoke to a group called “Earth Matters” on the green in Manchester. The challenge we face is the same whether framed in spiritual or secular language: time is running out for humanity if we continue down the path of mindlessly exploiting the Earth for short-term profit.

The glaring question facing us all is: who is responsible for solving this mess? In early May, I spent a week in the mountains of Alberta, Canada, speaking to an international meeting of hundreds of scientists working on global water and energy issues. The title of this open science conference was “Extremes and Water on the Edge.” Introducing the conference, the Deputy Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada explained how fast the Canadian north is changing as ice, snow and permafrost melt. Planning for the future is well underway, but the adaptation costs are immense. Ironically, Alaska has just the same changing climate, but planning is very difficult, because federal policy requires them to pretend it isn’t happening!

As the climate changes, so the global water and energy cycles are changing. The long-frozen north is melting and floods, droughts and heat waves are becoming more frequent across the globe. Disaster response and future planning for resilience were hot topics. Scientists are in no doubt about what needs to be done to move away from a fossil fuel economy to a renewable-energy economy; but traditionally, scientists have preserved the integrity and independence of science by leaving policy to others. My message to this scientific community was that we all have a moral obligation to the Earth, especially earth scientists, who can see clearly the dire future that lies ahead under “business as usual.”

This moral responsibility, of course, extends to all of us, and it is time for citizens and professionals to speak up for the interests of all our children and life on Earth. We can no longer leave issues of “policy” to a federal government that is simply ignoring all that we know about the climate system in order to protect the massive investments of the fossil fuel industry (who are bribing them).

Across the U.S. and on a global scale, the renewableenergy transition is going nowhere near fast enough to stave off disaster. The Earth’s energy imbalance is about 1.3 watts per square meter, and 93 percent of this extra energy is being stored in the oceans for the decades and centuries to come. This may seem small, comparable to a night light, but it is about 250 times as large in total as the entire global electrical energy production. Rising sea level comes from this heating of the oceans, along with the melting of glaciers, which puts all our coastal development at risk. The flooding of New York by Hurricane Sandy illustrates what happens when warmer seas give us stronger storms with powerful storm surges, along with higher sea levels.

So, redouble your efforts for the renewable energy transition. Work together to build creative synergistic solutions that will work for everyone, because so much is at stake, and discuss openly the moral issues we face with your colleagues and neighbors.

Dr. Alan K. Betts is the head of Atmospheric Research in Pittsford and was the keynote speaker on May 9, 2018 at the 8th GEWEX Open Science Conference: Extremes and Water on the Edge, May 6-11, 2018 Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

Article originally published by The Times Argus June 02, 2018.

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