The Widdershins

Water haters…

Posted on: February 11, 2014

Hello Widdershin friends.  I hope this Tuesday is a great one for you.

When you live in a part of the country where you can buy everything from a newborn onesie to a new car The War on Coal T-shirtemblazoned with the slogan, “War on Coal,” I’m always on the lookout for some quick facts about climate change.  In this part of the country, the “War on Coal” is an answer for just about everything.  The “War on Coal” is a nice slogan cooked up by public relations firms and ad executives who have never seen a coal mine, much less care about truth-telling.

Once upon a time, when confronted by science-deniers and climate change skeptics, I parried their barbs with jokes like, “Instead of declaring a ‘War on Coal’ we should send troops to the sun and declare a ‘War on Sunshine’ — do you want to enlist?”  To nodding heads I’ve facetiously said things like, “Global warming isn’t such a big deal, we could immediately lower temperatures by just switching from Fahrenheit to Celsius,” or “Global warming is a blessing when it comes to winter heating bills.”

In any event, I’m always looking for new easy-to-understand anecdotal evidence about climate change.  It always comes in handy trying to drag the deniers to a point of acknowledging something is happening.  The old standby of “weather isn’t climate” has lost its efficacy so I found some interesting facts in an article in Bloomberg Businessweek about the monumental changes to freshwater glaciers worldwide.  Of course, the magazine article was written from the standpoint of unique business opportunities — go figure — but nonetheless, it offers some staggering examples of climate change.

  • Europe’s Alps have lost half their ice over the last century, one-fifth of it since the 1980s.
  • By 2007 the 925 named glaciers in Austria were receding at an average rate of 30 to 50 feet a year, twice the rate recorded a decade earlier.
  • This is amazing and something I had never before heard:  Resort owners are placing giant insulated blankets over glaciers every summer hoping to slow the glacier melt.  The practice began in Austria and has spread to Germany and Switzerland — even Russia used glacier blankets to guarantee snow of the Olympics.
  • Bolivia has only one ski area and it lost its glacier within a three-year period.
  • Shrinking glaciers imperil the water supplies of 77 million people in the tropical Andes, along with the hydroelectric power providing half the electricity in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru.
  • In Asia, 2 billion people in five major river basins — the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, and Yellow — depend on Himalayan melt water.  The Himalayan glaciers, which irrigate millions of acres of rice and wheat in China, India, and Pakistan, have lost a fifth of their mass in the last 50 years.
  • In Spain, which is becoming so dry so quickly some scientists warn of the Sahara Desert jumping across the Strait of Gibraltar.  The Pyrenees have lost nearly 90 percent of their glacial cover.  A century ago, glaciers feeding Spanish agriculturally important rivers as the Cinca and Ebro stretched 8,150 acres — now they cover 960 acres.
  • Barcelona became the first city in mainland Europe to resort to emergency water imports:  5 million gallons transported in a converted oil tanker.
  • In China, the central government plans to divert rivers at a scale the world has never seen:  The $65 Billion, three-canal-1,812-combined-mile South-North Water Transfer Project will someday move 4.5 trillion gallons each year from the Tibetan Plateau, home to nearly 40,000 melting glaciers.

In the face of these dwindling water resources, business opportunists point to water desalination as one of the 1941 to 2004 Glacieranswers.  What these opportunists fail to mention is desalination is highly energy dependent and consumptive.  Even when running on cleaner natural gas, an 8 ounce glass of water represents roughly 10,000 joules of energy.  Put another way, a person’s one year water supply causes 0.6 metric tons of carbon emissions — about half of what each person on the plant can emit if we’re going to someday halt global warming.

Scarcity of resources has always been at the epicenter of world turmoil and war.  Can anything be more valuable than water, the most basic of human needs.  Water wars, if it ever comes to that, will most likely not look like anything we have seen in our past.  They will escalate quickly and most likely be more inhumanely violent.  Why?  Quite simply, if you are fighting a war over water, the last thing you would want is a protracted war placing demands on already scarce water resources or the enemy having an opportunity to poison supplies.

Against this backdrop, I have to admit the “War on Coal” has a nice glitzy PR ring to it, but I believe “Coal’s War on Water, Food, and Peace” is even catchier.

This is an open thread.


24 Responses to "Water haters…"

My Fundie friends assure me that this is all a sign of the End Times. God’s will, doncha know.

Well Prolix it’s a great opportunity for some young entrepreneur to create a big ole, humongous ice-making machine and we’ll just whip up tons and tons and tons of snow and ice to restore the glaciers. Might as well do the same to the Arctic too while we’re at it.

And besides retreating glaciers, it doesn’t help when the electric companies (using coal-fired plants) create nasty messes that the state then helps to shield from pollution complaints. Further, it’s not helpful to the environment when the guv retired from Duke Power and wants to help in protecting his former employer.

Global warming? Climate change? What global warming? I haven’t seen a picture of chains on tires in years!

@2, as absurd as it sounds, the snow-making, ice-making machines are what the resort owners have resorted (pun intended) to. The early leader in the industry is a company, from all places, Israel.

I hope you guys living in the path of the ice storm are ok. It looks terrifying.

@3, Duke Energy, back in the 1980s and 1990s, was one of the best managed companies in the country, but then they had their scandals and the rest is history. It seems as though they didn’t learn their lesson.

It is just amazing to me, with issues like the Repub NC guv and retired Duke Power executive playing with all the shenanigans, how they think they can ever get reelected.

It looks like the Repubs are doing a yeoman’s job of extinguishing the old meme about them being the party of competence.

Speaking of incompetence at its best, given that the NJ legislative committee has subpoenaed the flight records for Christie’s helicopter on 9/11 during the GW Bridge traffic Armageddon, what do y’all think the chances are that he actually flew over the mess to gloat about his handiwork?

What the subpoena is laying the predicate for are subpoenas for the pilots. I don’t think they keep records that detailed or keep the transponder records — they are just laying the groundwork to bring the State Trooper pilots in and ask them, “Hey, did you fly over the GW Bridge that day? Why did you fly over it since it isn’t on your way back to Trenton? Did Gov. Christie ask you to do that?”

Christie is one, big, piece of rendering toast.

Close your eyes and visualize Christie flying over the traffic jam, rubbing his hands together and

@5 Prolix, I knew the snow machines had been kind of an open secret in the New Hampshire/Vermont resort areas for years now, but from Israel? That’s a new one. I think it started partly as a way to lengthen the resort season.

When my family in FL tell me they want to bring the kids here to see snow for the past few years, I’ve had to tell them, you won’t see snow in Boston like Grandma tells you about. You’ll have to drive out to the western MA or NH or Vt. We’ve had more snow this year than at any time in the past ten years, except for the big 2 footer blizzard last year. But MetroBoston usually only gets 3-6 inches now.

@Fredster: We do not consider 3 or 4 inches “snow” here. It’s just a nuisance. This ice storm stuff is much worse and new here.

@10, Mary Luke, the linked article talks about the guy who is behind the new mega-snow machine. He seems like he is a character. One comment was something like, “Now that I’ve sold snow to the Eskimos, I want to sell sand to the Arabs.”

The one thing I had never heard of was wrapping glaciers in insulated blankets. It costs something like $400,000 per season and is saving about 5 feet a year from the melt.

Prolix wrote, To nodding heads I’ve facetiously said things like, “Global warming isn’t such a big deal, we could immediately lower temperatures by just switching from Fahrenheit to Celsius…”

The stoopid, it burns!

Oh man, Christie’s melting! He’s mellllltttttiinnnnnnggg…..what a world!

It looks like the Repubs are doing a yeoman’s job of extinguishing the old meme about them being the party of competence.

I think they are imploding and I think the Kock Bros. are a big reason for it. And @7, it seems like corporate governance has just been chucked out the window and the bottom line and kowtowing the stockholders is all that matters.

we could immediately lower temperatures by just switching from Fahrenheit to Celsius…

The stoopid, it burns!

MB, I’m willing to bet that has been discussed in Republican circles and then they realized it would involve the metric system and threw that one out the window.

Mary Luke@10: The snow really wouldn’t be an issue here but as you said, it’s the ice that goes with it. It’s just not financially sound to invest in a lot of trucks and then stockpile the sand and salt that’s needed to be prepared for these things since these types of storms don’t happen that frequently. Also, all you have to do is mention “blizzard 1993” and people go craaaazeee!

annie@6: From what I just saw on the weather segment on the local news I think the worst of it will be east of us. At least I’m hoping so.

@18 Fredster, the ice is bad. We usually don’t get it here, but this week has been dangerous. There has been a lot more ice this year because we are right on the changeover line from snow to rain in these storms and the temperature has been uneven, plunging rapidly, so the sleet turns to ice.

We are set for 8-12″ in my area….we’ve still got piles and piles of snow from last week’s three storms. Lordy lordy!

Stay safe and warm, all you Southern Widdershins!

It’s in the 80’s here. I’m fine. Fuzzy may be in for a cold spell, but snow in G’ville is unlikely.

@Mary Luke and mb: It definitely looks like the worst of it will be into NE Alabama crossing over to Ga and then up the east coast to visit y’all!

mb said: We are set for 8-12″ in my area….we’ve still got piles and piles of snow from last week’s three storms. Lordy lordy!

However, on the bright side, since you and hubby have an apt. I’m trusting y’all aren’t responsible for the shoveling of the snow, correct? 😉

We aren’t shoveling anything and have an indoor parking spot. That is a very lucky thing!

However, when this happens hubby is usually stuck in the city for a couple of days because his colleagues can’t get into work, so he covers peoples’ shifts. It is now the third time in about a month. He’ll be away till Friday this time.

mb said: However, when this happens hubby is usually stuck in the city for a couple of days because his colleagues can’t get into work, so he covers peoples’ shifts.

Oh noes! 😯

Something like that happened to my father one time when he was working at Domino Sugar. No one could come in when the roads iced over and he was stuck there for two extra shifts. it actually happened to everyone working that day at the sugar refinery. Afterwards, he was given a nice navy-blue nylon jacket that had “(whatever year) Domino Freeze Team” on it. (snark intended)

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