Climate Change

Don’t Sacrifice the Planet’s Arteries to Save Her Lungs

Pascua River, Chile
Pascua River, Chile According to a new report which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published today, the sky is the limit for the expansion of renewable energy. With an investment of slightly less than 1% of global GDP, renewable energy could contribute up to 43% of the world’s energy supply by 2030, and 77% by 2050. Such an increase could stabilize the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere at 450 ppm and may be just enough to avoid catastrophic climate change. It would also boost energy access for the 1.4 billion people who currently live without access to electricity.

How Dams Can Kick up a Storm and Change Our Climate

Lightning Storm
Lightning Storm Wikimedia Commons Only 140 kilometers from our Berkeley office, the Folsom Dam towers 100 meter high over the American River. When it was built in the 1950s, the project was supposed to withstand the most severe flood in 250 years. Yet after it was completed, strong floods suddenly became more frequent and overtopped the dam at several instances. Until a safety upgrade goes forward, 440,000 people in the downstream area are exposed to the highest level of flood risk in the US. Scientists have now found evidence that the project’s problem may be partly of its own making, an

Climate Funds to Underwrite the World Bank’s Love Affair with Big Dams?

Dead trees in Balbina Reservoir
Dead trees in Balbina Reservoir Pedro Ivo Simoes Climate funds such as the Prototype Carbon Fund and the European carbon market prioritize support for renewable energy technologies, and exclude large hydropower from this definition. There are good reasons for this: Big dams irreversibly damage freshwater ecosystems, which are already reeling under the impacts of climate change. Slow, lumpy investments in large dams are not well suited for the uncertainties of climate change, which call for nimble, decentralized and flexible energy strategies. Finally, the purpose of carbon credits is to fac

When Environmental Issues Collide: Climate Change and the Shifting Political Ecology of Hydroelectric Power

Robert Fletcher, Assistant Professor at the Department of Environment, Peace, and Security at the University for Peace in Costa Rica, explores the conflicts between climate change and the increased funding for hydropower projects in the name of sustainable development, with a particular focus on the Pacuare River in Costa Rica. Read his article in the latest Peace & Conflict Review.

The Heat is on the CDM in Cancun

"Human Hurricane" by in Mexico City
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, MexicoNovember 29 - December 10, 2010 "Human Hurricane" by in Mexico City Photographer: Ricardo Villarreal T./Artist: Pablo Caballero. For the next two weeks, 192 nations are meeting in Cancun to discuss how best to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. Unfortunately, not much progress is expected. The big polluters, in particular the developed countries that have historically emitted the bulk of greenhouse gases, are not willing to reduce emissions by anything like the levels that the science demands. An

Earth Art Sends Powerful Global Message on Climate Change

350 eARTh - Santa Fe, New Mexico
350 eARTh - Santa Fe, New Mexico Michael Clark, In less than a week, government leaders, civil society participants, and media will be gathering in Cancun for COP16 to once again try to hammer out a climate treaty. And with it's usual impeccable timing, has once again mobilized it's worldwide supporters to send a powerful message to world leaders. is holding an art show called eARTh, a planetary-scale endeavor for a planetary problem, with many of its earth art visible from space. For instance, this Santa Fe, New Mexico, eARTh event shows h

Adapting to a New Normal

The Aral Sea – a global poster-child of bad water management – once supported a major fishery until dams and irrigation diversions drained it.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
From September 2010 World Rivers Review When it comes to water, the past is no longer a reliable guide to the future Water, like energy, is essential to virtually every human endeavor. The growing number of water shortages around the world and the possibility of these shortages leading to economic disruption, food crises, social tensions, and even war suggest that the challenges posed by water in the coming decades will rival those posed by declining oil supplies. In fact, our water problem turns out to be much more worrisome than our energy situation, for three main reasons. First, unlike o

A Flood of Dam Safety Problems

The latest dam burst in northeast Brazil
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
From September 2010 World Rivers Review The catastrophic flooding in Pakistan provides a terrifying warning of how global warming is changing the hydrological cycle. Almost every month seems to bring unprecedented rainstorms and floods somewhere across the world, and their severity and frequency seems to be rapidly worsening. These floods pose a major threat to the world's dams, and to the many millions of people who live below them. Here we report on a few of the worst examples of dam-induced flooding in recent months. Brazil Northeast Brazil - better known for severe drought - was hit by d

Interview: Climate Change, Rivers and Dams – We're in Hot Water

Dr. Margaret Palmer
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
From September 2010 World Rivers Review Dr. Margaret Palmer Rivers are the planet's lifelines, but the double threat of human interventions combined with climate change is already seriously compromising their health – and, by extension, ours. A major study last year found an overall decline in total discharge of most of the world's major rivers – changes that could affect up to a billion people. Here we interview Dr. Margaret Palmer, director of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory at the University of Maryland and a leading expert on how climate change impacts rivers. What are your bi

World Rivers Review: Focus on Rivers, Water and Climate - September 2010

Risky Business in the Face of Climate Change Catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, dam breaks around the world, and drought-caused blackouts in Africa provide ample warning of how global warming is changing the hydrological cycle. This special issue on rivers, water and climate examines the risks associated with building dams at a time when we can't predict either high or low flows. Get the full story on what these challenges mean for dam safety, river-based communities, energy production, and the environment – and the solutions that can help us survive. Download the September 2010 issue Downs


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