How EVs affect Flamingos In Chile
Beneath the saline lakes high in the Andes Mountains in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia lies the world’s largest trove of lithium, a metal used in batteries for electric vehicles and to store power generated by wind and solar.
Multinational corporations have already begun to tap this resource. However, scientists warn that their operations which require large quantities of water can have a significant impact on the environment. Combined with climate change—the very problem that lithium batteries that power clean energy technologies are used to solve—the saline lake ecosystems face a one-two punch.
Flamingos, one species, call these saline ponds home. They feed on algae and insects, and rear their young around the lakes, which in the dry Andes are often their only source of water.
Researchers in Chile and the United States have found that the number of two species of flamingos living in Salar de Atacama (a system of saline lake where lithium mining is concentrated) has decreased by 10 to 12 per cent in just 11 years. Researchers used remote sensing technology to determine that the surface water area had decreased significantly due to increasing temperatures driving evaporation, and increased water use from mining operations, which has led to the ponds becoming less water-reliable.
“That’s a pretty substantial decline, especially when you think about the fact that these flamingos live a really long time but breed really slowly, so they’re not having a lot of young each year,” said study co-author Nathan Senner, a population biologist at the University of South Carolina. “So declines of these long-lived species are potentially much harder to come out of because that reproductive process is just so slow.”
Senner stated that tourists are attracted to the area by the flamingos, which in turn fuels the local economy. However, as lithium mining expands beyond Salar de Atacama, Senner said that climate change will intensify and flamingos may have fewer habitats. This could lead to population declines.
Senner suggested that solutions to this problem could include recycling used lithium batteries or finding ways of mining lithium with less water. Chile, where the Salar de Atacama can be found, is currently changing its constitution with climate change and other environmental issues at the forefront. Chile could reevaluate who is really in control of natural resources, who can benefit from them, and whether nature has rights.
“Different kinds of decisions might be made,” Senner said, if Chile redefined ownership “in a more inclusive way.”
Global Storm Warnings
A 2019 report found that a warning 24 hours before heat waves or storms can save lives and greatly reduce the cost of damage. Yet 30 percent of the world’s population lacks access to alerts that warn of incoming disasters. 60 percent of Africa’s population does not get early warnings.
However, the United Nations announced Wednesday that they would provide access to an early warning system for everyone on Earth. In a March 23 speech, U.N. secretary general António Guterres asked the World Meteorological Organization to come up with an action plan to implement early warning systems globally within five years. The WMO will deliver its plan to build on existing systems and close gaps at COP27, the U.N.’s upcoming climate change conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt in November.
In the past 50 years, a water-related or weather-related disaster has occurred on average once per day, in different parts of the world. These disasters result in more than 100 deaths and more than $200 million in losses every day.
The current lack of access to early warning systems is “unacceptable,” Guterres said, “particularly with climate impacts sure to get even worse.”
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate change is increasing extreme weather events and heat waves that are causing damage to every part of the globe.
Petteri Taalas (secretary general of the WMO) stated in a press release that $1.5billion would be required to invest over five years in order to expand and implement these early warning systems in developing countries.
“We must boost the power of prediction for everyone and build their capacity to act,” Guterres said in his speech. “Let us recognize the value of early warnings and early action as critical tools to reduce disaster risk and support climate adaptation.”
Resilience in the Face of Catastrophe
The infamous Great Bhola Cyclone, which made landfall in November 1970 on the coast of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), struck the marshy coast with a large, unprepared population. Half a million people were killed.
In the wake the storm came an upset election, a genocide and a war for freedom. A world was on the verge of nuclear war, and eventually a new nation.
That’s the story chronicled in a new book “The Vortex,” by Scott Carney and Jason Miklien, scheduled for release on March 29. The authors claim that the story of the cyclone reveals something about the future as climate change makes such storms more common.
Carney was recently interviewed by Inside Climate News about the book. This conversation has been slightly edited to improve clarity and length.
The connection between climate change and extreme weather events like the cyclone that hit the coast of East Pakistan in 1970 is becoming clearer as science advances in this area, though at the time of the storm it almost certainly wasn’t considered. How do you see climate change fitting into the story you’re telling in this book?
We can see how this 1970 storm, which was not likely to be caused by climate changes, was actually caused by storming. Storms can land on coastlines in the same way as they land on political situations when they happen. The same as a wildfire, the same as everything. Climate is a matter of course. The Department of Defense has published numerous reports on how climate events can lead to war. The fact is that the more of these climatic phenomena occur, the greater the chance for something like the Bhola Cyclone.
Every storm is a chance to roll the dice. You should know that a wrong combination can lead to a war. The thing about climate change is that we’re rolling those dice more frequently. As we see more impacts, it’s not just storms that are being affected, but also wildfires, floods and all other effects that climate change is having. All of these seemingly neutral events are not neutral when it comes to humans.
Bangladesh is, undoubtedly, the most vulnerable country to climate change. It has millions of people living in low-lying regions with little to no access to the outside world. Can Bangladesh’s tumultuous history tell us anything about what to expect for this country?
They have taken great steps to reduce the effects of storms since the Bhola Cyclone. They now have cyclone structures, they have actual plans to evacuate people, they’re actually adapting to something that is becoming increasingly likely, that is inevitable.
And they know that they’re going to lose a lot of their landmass. But they also realize that as that saltwater comes up, people will then move inland and they will have to adapt, and I think that what I’ve seen from the Bangladeshis that I’ve spoken with is this. There is a sense in which humans can survive in the face disasters.
Animals Preventing Climate Change
Many pleas for the conservation and protection of animals like elephants and rhinos, moose, buffalo, and moose often depend on the beauty and majesty these magnificent creatures. A new research paper concludes that large mammals can be crucial for adapting to climate change.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology and commissioned by the animal conservation group Tusk, found that large mammals help ecosystems survive in the face of warming temperatures in three ways: reducing fire risk, increasing the reflectivity of the Earth’s surface and storing more carbon in the soil.
“Where can the resources for climate also help the conservation of animals? Where can the conservation of charismatic animals also help with climate change?” said study author Yadvinder Malhi, a professor at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. “We identified areas where there were win-wins.”
Large animals often graze or trample on shrubby vegetation. This helps reduce fire risk and the woody kindling that helps wildfires spread. Reducing dark-colored trees and bushes helps expose the light-colored grasses beneath which reflect more sunlight, reducing the amount of heat absorbed by Earth’s surface. Although it may seem counterintuitive, these animals can trap carbon-storing vegetation in the ground by trampling and packing it into the soil.
Malhi stated that while nature-based climate solutions tend to focus on soils and plants for their carbon-trapping abilities, he said that animals play a significant role in ecosystems.
“Animals can be part of the solution to climate change,” Malhi said. “But we’ve still got to tackle fossil fuels, and we don’t want to say, ‘Oh, it’s OK to protect elephants,’ and forever delay action on the bigger climate problem.”
In Barcelona, ‘Superblock’ Parties
Some streets in Barcelona are closed to traffic, so pedestrians can freely walk on the streets. These are “superblocks,” often three-block long stretches where children play on jungle gyms in the street and vendors sell goods to passers by, while cars are relegated to driving on the roads around the perimeter.
Span, a city in Spain, started establishing superblocks back in 2016. They plan to continue adding more. One reason is to reduce our reliance on polluting automobiles and increase walking and biking.
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A new study examined whether superblocks could be implemented in large cities around the globe. The study, conducted by Sven Eggimann, a researcher at Empa Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, found that the potential for superblocks varied significantly based on a city’s layout, but that as much as 40 percent of streets in some cities were suitable options for superblocks.
“This algorithm sort of allows you to, for every street, calculate how big the impact would be if the street section would be missing,” said Eggimann. “If you’re looking at the city on the street network, some streets are obviously very important, like if they have bridges or, if there are not too many alternative routes. So the algorithm sort of calculated which streets are important for the flow of the entire city.”
Some of the most suitable cities examined included Madrid, Mexico City and Tokyo, favored for their grid-like layout, similar to Barcelona’s, while cities like Atlanta, London and Hong Kong were less suitable, for reasons such as low density or too many busy streets in the way.
Source: Inside Climate News