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Posts Tagged ‘ogallala aquifer’

We Only Have One Earth


I swear, the way some people treat this planet they seem to think humans can hop in a boat or spaceship or something and in a couple of days they will be on another habitable planet just waiting to be plundered. We can’t.  Of course, most of those seem to be the same rich and powerful that not only run most everything in this country but also run the whole world.

The lack of a grounding in reality that the Republican Party has exhibited for the past 30 years has infected our country. At one time some of their antics were comical at best, but the delay they have caused in addressing quite serious long range issues is now forcing humanity to come face to face with grave consequences.

We recently took a little  trip south to Mississippi. During our trip we had to cross the river of the same name. The Mississippi River, the nation’s highway for over 200 years, is so low that it is about to be closed to barge traffic. This will cause a huge bottle neck in the nation’s commerce, especially moving farm products to port. At the same time reports are coming out that the Ogallala Aquifer has maybe a few decades of water left at  the current rates of usage. The Ogallala is used mostly for irrigation, so as it dies, so does much of the farming in the plains.

The water in the Ogallala does not appear through some miracle. Water just isn’t dumped into underground storage through the act of some super human entity.  No, it is refilled by a very slow trickle through the ground process that will take tens of thousand years or more. There is no other way. The rate of rainfall that will be used to recharge the aquifer is slowing due to climate change. Thus the recharge may take even longer.

The Great Lakes are losing water also.  All are down many inches, which is billions of gallons of water. Governments around the Great lakes have already formed a sort of defense force to keep their precious resource from being stolen from them. Water is slowly becoming the forefront of the climate change. At some point decisions will have to be made on who will get the most precious resource we need to live, next to oxygen.

The problem has been slowly coming to a head. Rather than initiating some tough policies to slow or stop the waste and loss of our water, we have as a people chosen to ignore the problem. Like many I thought we may still have some wiggle room until I read this op-ed on Juan Cole’s Informed Consent blog this morning. Briefly, guest poster Tom Giesen cites a potentially much warmer climate coming much faster than we expected. So what we thought was some wiggle room has disappeared. While we have been talking of a 2degC rise in temperatures in a century, changes of 4degC or more may happen in a few short decades.

Here are some excerpts, but I recommend you read the entire story.

“Global warming’s disasters once seemed far off and science-fictional. It is now becoming clear to the scientific community that, to the contrary, very bad things could happen beginning relatively soon. For Baby Boomers, from the the Cuban Missile Crisis or the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s till now does not seem like such a long period of time. But in a similar span of years, taking us to about 2060, the world could well experience an increase in global average temperatures of some 4 degrees Centigrade[1]. If we consider the likely effects of this steep warming trend carefully, it becomes clear that the resulting “four degrees” world (as scientists call it) is far less hospitable for humans than our own, a world so inhospitable that we must avoid creating it at any cost.

Consider these scenarios, thought highly likely by scientists:

A temperature increase of 4 degrees C. will cause a 40% reduction in corn and rice crops, and loss of other agricultural produce, as well. The world doesn’t have fewer mouths to feed over time, and a decline in these key staples will likely produce widespread starvation..

People will be forced from their homes, like so many Syrian refugees, on a grand scale — from coastal areas because of rising seas; from areas no longer habitable due to high temperatures or drought; and from changing industrial and commercial practices.

Other effects include ice melting, weather extremes, ocean acidification, loss of coral reefs, changes in stream flows, large losses in biodiversity, water shortages, forest dieback and fires, and so on – the list is very long.

A temperature increase of 4 degrees C is now thought likely to cause the disintegration of an organized global community. A four degree world will likely be so altered that human society cannot adapt to it.”

Wish I had some comforting words, but I do not. Science has known of climate change for a hundred years. Lyndon Johnson warned of the effects of climate change nearly 50 years ago and urged action then. We were warned and have done nothing thanks in major part to those who make money effectively stopping any action.