THE ENVIRONMENT

thelivyjr
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Re: THE ENVIRONMENT

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AccuWeather

"Major hurricane threat looms for the US next week"


Alex Sosnowski

22 SEPTEMBER 2022

A tropical rainstorm that has been skirting along the northern coast of South America could eventually shift from the Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico, where it may undergo rapid strengthening into a major hurricane before threatening the United States, AccuWeather meteorologists warn.

AccuWeather's tropical forecast team, which began cautioning about the looming threat earlier this week, is growing increasingly concerned about the potential for a damaging strike from a hurricane in what has so far been a largely uneventful hurricane season for the U.S.

The system, dubbed Invest 98L by the National Hurricane Center, remained disorganized due to its proximity to South America and strong disruptive winds in the atmosphere around it.

However, even if the system remains poorly organized into the end of the week, it could encounter more favorable conditions for tropical development into a tropical depression or tropical storm at any time into Saturday.

The next name on the list for the 2022 season is Hermine.

A couple of other disturbances over the eastern Atlantic could compete with the next name on the list.

Following Hermine are Ian and Julia this year.

On Tuesday, meteorologists at AccuWeather dubbed the system a tropical rainstorm and began to issue its own track and impact maps.

"It is our mission as a weather forecasting company to get the word out as far in advance as possible of any potential major impacts," AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter said.

AccuWeather's team of dozens of meteorologists with decades of experience continue to believe the system poses a serious threat to lives and property, not only in the western Caribbean beginning this weekend but also to the U.S. from the last days of September to the first several days of October.

"This poses the first threat by a potentially major hurricane to the U.S. this year and because of the quiet nature of the 2022 season until the past week or so, we are concerned that people may take the threat too lightly," Porter said.

The northern coast of Venezuela and Colombia as well as the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao will feel the impact of the extensive and westward-moving rainstorm in the form of drenching showers and gusty thunderstorms with locally rough seas into Saturday.

Some of these areas may experience flash flooding as well as mudslides in hilly terrain.

As the rainstorm turns a bit more to the northwest this weekend, it will move over the open, bathlike waters of the central and western Caribbean Sea.

Disruptive winds are also expected to drop off in the system's path.

Factoring in these conditions, organization and strengthening are then likely to take place at a swift pace, forecasters warn.

"It is highly possible that this system could ramp up from a tropical storm to a Category 1 or 2 hurricane in less than a couple of days from this weekend to early next week," AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said.

For this reason, interests from Jamaica and Cuba to the Cayman Islands and perhaps Honduras and Nicaragua are being urged to closely monitor the storm's progress.

Conditions may deteriorate rapidly in terms of heavy rain and strong winds as well as dangerous seas.

At this time, the projected path of the storm will bring a general 8-16 inches (200-400 mm) of rain to western Cuba with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 20 inches (500 mm) from Monday night to Wednesday.

Rainfall of this magnitude can lead to life-threatening flooding and mudslides.

Should the center of the storm manage to avoid the large land areas of Cuba, Central America and southeastern Mexico by passing through the Yucatan Channel, there is the potential for additional strengthening during the middle and latter part of next week over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

AccuWeather meteorologists project the storm to intensify into a Category 3 hurricane or stronger with winds greater than 111 mph, should the system reach the Gulf of Mexico.

Given the storm's current projected path and intensity, AccuWeather meteorologists are warning of the likelihood of winds reaching or exceeding 100 mph (160 km/h) with a StormMax™ of 150 mph (240 km/h) in western Cuba from Monday night to Wednesday.

At this strength, widespread power outages and major property damage can occur.

Water temperatures are generally in the lower to mid-80s F throughout the Caribbean, and there are pockets from the western Caribbean to the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Straits where water temperatures are in the upper 80s to near 90, which is plenty warm enough to support explosive growth into an intense hurricane.

The track of the storm is subject to change and may be influenced by how quickly the storm strengthens.

If the system remains weak for longer, then it may have a greater chance of pushing onshore in southeastern Mexico or Central America.

That interaction with land could cause the system to weaken, meaning it may pose much less or no threat to the U.S.

Another more likely scenario is that the system could ramp up quickly, making it more likely to take a northerly track across Cuba, then to the Florida Straits and near the Florida Keys and Peninsula.

"Should the system get into the Gulf of Mexico, which appears to be one of the more likely scenarios at this time, areas from the Florida Peninsula to Louisiana will be at risk for a direct strike by a strong hurricane," AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.

Even once in the Gulf of Mexico, if that scenario plays out, there would be several factors that could influence the movement of the strengthening tropical cyclone.

"We will be watching an area of high pressure near Texas next week," Rayno added.

"If that high pressure area manages to back westward and the storm misses a pick up by the jet stream, it could open the door to a more westerly track of the storm into the Texas coast."

But, systems that move into the central Gulf of Mexico in late September and October rarely track westward and hit Texas.

This is due to increasing west-to-east steering winds this time of the year around the Gulf and the southern U.S.

These same conditions may cause the storm to be pulled northward to the central Gulf Coast or may turn the storm to the east toward the Florida west coast.

AccuWeather meteorologists say that if the storm moves northward or northeastward across the Gulf of Mexico, impacting the Gulf Coast of the U.S., then it could later take a track along the East Coast of the U.S. during the first week of October.

AccuWeather forecasters say interests in the U.S. from the Gulf Coast to the Eastern Seaboard should stay tuned to the forecast for the Caribbean storm.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topst ... 9bef93e51f
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Re: THE ENVIRONMENT

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THE WASHINGTON POST

"Ian strengthens on perilous path toward Florida"


Matthew Cappucci, Hamza Shaban, Jason Samenow, Dan Diamond

25 SEPTEMBER 2022

Tropical Storm Ian is gaining strength as it continues to churn through the northwestern Caribbean.

It is set to slam western Cuba before turning north and aiming toward Florida later this week.

Ian is now forecast to become a hurricane by early Monday and a major hurricane on Tuesday as the tropical storm enters the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.


The storm is projected to approach the coast of Florida as a hurricane late Thursday into early Friday, although its landfall location, strength and timing are still uncertain.

Florida is under a state of emergency, which Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) expanded from two dozen counties to the entire state Saturday afternoon, highlighting the sense of danger and potential for destruction.

“The impacts will be broad throughout the state of Florida,” DeSantis said during a briefing on Sunday morning.

“Expect heavy rains, strong winds, flash flooding, storm surge, and even isolated tornadoes,” the governor added, saying that residents in the hardest-hit areas should brace for fuel disruptions, power outages and even evacuation orders.

The Florida National Guard has also activated 2,500 Guard members, DeSantis said, adding that “if there’s a need for more, then we can do more.”

While the storm is most likely to hit Florida’s west coast or Panhandle regions, the state’s east coast could see flooding, DeSantis said, although he cautioned that models were still predicting a range of scenarios.

Some areas are already taking precautions.

In the Tampa Bay region, officials announced that schools would begin shutting down Monday and stay closed through at least Thursday.

Officials in both Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, and Pinellas County, which includes St. Petersburg, ordered the closures because some school buildings would be converted into emergency shelters if evacuation orders are issued.

Pinellas County said all of its schools would be closed on Tuesday, with some schools releasing students early on Monday.

What to know about the latest hurricane threat to Florida

Computer models are divided on whether Ian will come ashore along Florida’s west coast Wednesday into Thursday or nearer the Panhandle on Thursday into Friday.

Uncertainty “in the long-term track and intensity forecast is higher than usual,” the National Hurricane Center wrote Sunday.

“Regardless of Ian’s exact track and intensity, there is a risk of dangerous storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and heavy rainfall along the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle by the middle of the week.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) said his state will activate its emergency operations center Monday, and he encouraged residents to take precautions if the storm continues to intensify.

“Though models suggest it will weaken before making landfall on Thursday, and its ultimate route is still undetermined, Ian could result in severe weather damage for large parts of Georgia,” Kemp’s office said in a release on Sunday.

Tropical storm conditions could reach South Florida as soon as early Wednesday and northern Florida by Thursday morning.

Ian is predicted to peak as a 130-mph Category 4 hurricane west of the Florida Straits on Tuesday, which would make it the strongest September hurricane to pass through the Gulf of Mexico since Rita in 2005.

But the storm’s track and intensity are uncertain as it approaches the U.S. mainland.

Tropical storm warnings were issued Sunday night for the lower Florida Keys.

President Biden on Saturday approved an emergency declaration for the state, which authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster-relief efforts and provided more federal funding.

DeSantis said that he was “thankful” for the Biden administration’s early response.

Status of Ian on Sunday

At 11 p.m. Sunday, Ian was centered 140 miles south of Grand Cayman, while churning to the northwest at 13 mph.

Its peak winds were 65 mph, a 20 mph increase since Sunday afternoon.

The storm will be moving over exceptionally warm waters, which are expected to fuel its intensification.

Hurricane warnings are up in Grand Cayman and western Cuba as the storm progresses to the west and northwest.

The greater Havana area is under a tropical storm warning.

Forecast for Ian through Tuesday

The storm is expected to become a hurricane by Monday and reach major hurricane strength by Tuesday as it approaches western Cuba, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Major hurricanes are Category 3 or above storms, packing sustained winds above 111 mph.

At greatest risk will be Cuba’s Guanahacabibes Peninsula, a roughly 60-mile-long sparsely populated strip of land at the western tip of the island nation.

The Roncali Lighthouse, dating to 1849, has stood sentry at the peninsula’s westernmost point and weathered dozens of hurricanes.

The NHC estimates that a 9- to 14-foot storm surge could sweep ashore, primarily near and east of the center, where onshore winds push water against the coast.

The surge represents a storm-driven increase in water levels above ordinarily dry ground.

Western Cuba also faces 6 to 10 inches of rain and locally as much as 16 inches, potentially triggering flash flooding and mudslides.

Heavy rainfall is also forecast over Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Forecast for Ian beyond Tuesday

The storm’s path is still uncertain, but it appears headed to make landfall between the west coast of Florida and the Panhandle region between late Wednesday and early Friday.

Even before then, the Florida Keys and southern and western Florida are expected to get 2 to 4 inches of rain, with up to 6 inches possible through Wednesday evening.

The uncertainty in the forecast stems from an approaching trough, or dip in the jet stream, over the northern United States.

Ian may or may not hitch a ride.

If it does, it would be scooped north and east more quickly and come ashore as a more serious hurricane in the Florida peninsula on Wednesday.


If it “misses” its ride, so to speak, it will meander northward, probably arriving in the northern Gulf of Mexico, when there will be an uptick in disruptive wind shear, or changing winds with height, and dry air.

In that scenario, weakening would occur before the storm makes landfall closer to Friday morning, but Ian could still come ashore as a Category 1 hurricane.

In this case, its greatest hazard would shift from destructive winds and more toward storm surge.

Because of the shape of the sea floor in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, even low-end hurricanes can bring a dangerous storm surge.

As the storm is drawn north late in the week into the weekend, the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic may also see heavy rainfall, along with a few tornadoes as the high-altitude spin of the storm passes, even after it loses hurricane status.

Sudden uptick in Atlantic storm activity

Ian is the sixth named storm to form this month, coming on the heels of a record-quiet August, during which not a single named storm formed.

According to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Philip Klotzbach, only eight other Atlantic hurricane seasons, including each year between 2018 and 2021, have featured the formation of six or more named September storms.

Atmospheric scientists note that there does not exist a link between the number of named storms and human-induced climate change.

However, those that form are expected to be wetter and more intense, and will be more prone to rapid intensification, because of rising ocean temperatures.

Tim Craig contributed to this report.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topst ... b9b7a40c7e
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Re: THE ENVIRONMENT

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REUTERS

"Hurricane Ian crashes ashore in Florida with Category 4 fury"


By Brad Brooks and Brendan O'Brien

VENICE, Fla., Sept 28 (Reuters) - Hurricane Ian plowed into Florida's Gulf Coast with catastrophic force on Wednesday, unleashing howling winds, torrential rains and a treacherous surge of ocean surf that made it one of the most powerful U.S. storms in recent years.

Ian made landfall at 3:05 p.m. EDT (1905 GMT) near Cayo Costa, a barrier island just west of Fort Myers, as a Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds of up to 150 miles per hour (241 km per hour), the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported.

The storm's wind speeds put it just shy of a Category 5 designation on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the most severe classification for storms with maximum sustained winds of at least 157 mph.

About 90 minutes later, the NHC reported Ian had moved ashore the Florida mainland just south of the harborside town of Punta Gorda, with slightly diminished sustained winds topping out at 145 mph.

Governor Ron DeSantis said Ian had generated life-threatening storm surges - waves of wind-driven seawater flooding along the coast - of up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) in some places.

Forecasters also warned of intense thunderstorms and possible tornadoes, with up to 2 feet of rain expected in parts of central Florida as the storm moved further inland.

"This is a storm that we will talk about for many years to come, an historic event," said Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service.

The region around the landfall is home to miles of sandy beaches, scores of resort hotels and numerous mobile home parks, a favorite with retirees and vacationers alike.

But the storm soon transformed idyllic coastal towns into disaster zones.

SCENES OF DEVASTATION

An hour after landfall, video posted on social media and local TV stations showed water fueled by storm surge rushing through several communities, nearly reaching rooftops.

The town of Fort Myers Beach was almost submerged by floodwaters, and the ruins of homes could be seen floating downstream, along with cars.

A view of Sanibel Island posted on Twitter showed the ocean rushing over a seawall and gushing into a resort hotel's swimming pool.

Other video from the island showed roads inundated by the storm surge, rising to the tops of street signs, with palm trees bent sideways amid a torrent of near blinding rain and wind as waves crashed up a beach onto a road.

In terms of its sustained wind speeds, which peaked at 155 mph before landfall, Ian ranks as one of the most ferocious hurricanes to strike the U.S. mainland in recent years.

By comparison, Hurricane Michael came ashore in Florida's panhandle in 2018 with steady winds of 155 mph, while Ida last year packed sustained winds of 150 mph when it landed in Louisiana.

The Weather Channel reported that Ian made landfall in the exact same point on Cayo Costa where Hurricane Charley came ashore in 2004 as a Category 4 storm.

Both hurricanes packed winds of 150 mph at landfall.

Ian knocked out power to at least 1.1 million homes and businesses so far, local utilities reported.

Cuba was still struggling to restore power a day after Ian hit the island, with most of the Caribbean nation's 11 million residents still in the dark.

The NHC said hurricane-force winds would extend outward up to 45 miles (75 km) from Ian's center, with tropical storm-force winds reaching as far away as 175 miles (280 km).

TO STAY OR GO

Even as Ian lashed Florida's Gulf Coast with fierce winds and drenching rains in the final hours before it swept ashore, authorities warned residents it was too late for anyone who had yet to evacuate to safely do so.

Earlier this week, authorities told more than 2.5 million residents to evacuate.

Doug Coe of Venice was one of those residents who chose to ignore warnings and stay put.

As he walked through rainfall on Wednesday morning, Coe admitted to never experiencing a storm of such magnitude, but he seemed unfazed by the impending threat.

“You have to be vigilant because you never know what’s going to happen with it,” he said.

“I’m staying vigilant, but trying not to worry.”

The region is dotted with mobile home parks, which most residents had abandoned, taking refuge in local schools and other facilities converted to emergency shelters.

The area's numerous assisted-living facilities were mostly evacuated, too.

Heart is Venice, an assisted-living home north of Venice, was an exception.

Of its 107 residents, 98 decided to stay put with staff and some family members, general manager Michelle Barger said.

The facility, opened two years ago, had stocked up in advance with food, water, medication and other provisions and was built to withstand a Category 5 storm, Barger said.

"Our community is locked down."

"We're secure and we're prepared for this," she said.

Climate change is making hurricanes wetter, windier and more intense.

There is also evidence that it is causing storms to travel more slowly, meaning they can dump more water in one place, scientists say.

"Hurricane Ian's rapid intensification could prove to be another example of how a warming planet is changing hurricanes," said Kait Parker, meteorologist and climate scientist at IBM's weather.com.

"Research shows we are seeing this far more often than we did in decades past."

Reporting by Brad Brooks in Sarasota and Brendan O'Brien in Washington; Additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw, Leah Douglas and Tyler Clifford in Washington, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Brendan O'Brien and Steve Gorman; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/millio ... 022-09-28/
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Re: THE ENVIRONMENT

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Reuters

"Hurricane Ian strikes South Carolina after deadly march across Florida"


By Brad Brooks and Brendan O'Brien

FORT MYERS, Fla., Sept 30 (Reuters) - A resurgent Hurricane Ian slammed into the South Carolina coast on Friday afternoon, making another landfall after a deadly march across the Florida peninsula that washed away houses and stranded thousands along the state's Gulf Coast.

The storm swept ashore at 2:05 p.m. (1805 GMT) near Georgetown, a waterfront town about 60 miles (97 km) north of the historic city of Charleston, packing maximum sustained wind speeds of 85 mph (140 kph) as a Category 1 hurricane, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Ian was expected to bring life-threatening flooding, storm surges and winds to South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina.

Officials in all three states warned residents to prepare for dangerous conditions.

The hurricane struck Florida's Gulf Coast on Wednesday as one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S. mainland and then cut a destructive path across the state, transforming beach towns into disaster areas with catastrophic flooding and winds.

There have been reports of at least 21 deaths in Florida, Kevin Guthrie, director of the state's Division of Emergency Management, said at a morning briefing.

He stressed that some of those reports remain unconfirmed.

Ian was forecast to weaken rapidly as it moves inland across the Carolinas and was expected to dissipate over western North Carolina or Virginia late on Saturday, the NHC said.

Georgetown, with a population of about 10,000, is a tourist destination known for its oak-lined streets and more than 50 sites on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The town was heavily damaged by 1989's Hurricane Hugo.

Even before Ian's arrival, Charleston was seeing torrential rain.

Video clips on social media showed several inches of water in some streets in the port city, which is especially prone to flooding.

A city-commissioned report released in November 2020 found that about 90% of all residential properties were vulnerable to storm surge flooding.

Len Cappe, 68, a retired property manager who moved to Charleston two years ago, said Ian was the first big storm he has encountered.

"It's the wind, it rattles you," Cappe said.

"It's blowing furiously."

With the tidal Wando River a block away, Cappe said he was worried about his house and has been glued to his television, watching for updates.

On Pawleys Island, just north of Georgetown, the pier had collapsed into the ocean and town hall was surrounded by water, according to videos and messages posted online by the local police department.

More than 145,000 homes and businesses in the Carolinas were without power, according to the tracking website PowerOutage.us.

'FEELING LOST'

Two days after Ian first hit Florida, the extent of the damage there was becoming more apparent.

Some 10,000 people were unaccounted for, Guthrie said, but many of them were likely in shelters or without power.

About 1.8 million Florida homes and businesses remained without power on Friday, according to PowerOutage.us.

"You have homes just washing away," Governor Ron DeSantis said at a briefing on Friday in Lee County, which suffered widespread damage.

President Joe Biden, speaking at the White House, said the hurricane would likely rank among the worst in U.S. history.

"We're just beginning to see the scale of that destruction," he said.

Fort Myers, a city close to where the eye of the storm first came ashore, absorbed a major blow, with numerous houses destroyed.

Offshore, Sanibel Island, a popular destination for vacationers and retirees, was cut off when a causeway was rendered impassable.

Hundreds of beleaguered Fort Myers residents lined up at a Home Depot on Friday on the east side of the city, hoping to purchase gas cans, generators, bottled water and other supplies.

The line stretched as long as a football field.

Rita Chambers, a 70-year-old retiree who was born in Jamaica and has lived in Fort Myers since 1998, said Ian was unlike any storm she had ever seen.

"And I've been in hurricanes since I was a child!" said Chambers, who moved to New York as a teenager.

She watched as the storm tore the porch off her home in Cape Coral.

Despite it all, she is not thinking of leaving Florida.

"I would rather shovel sand from my Florida home than shovel the snow in New York," she said.

"If you live in paradise, you have to put up with a hurricane."

At a mobile home park on San Carlos Island in Fort Myers Beach, trailers had been pushed together by the wind and water.

A boat, the "Dreamin,'" lay on its side at a local marina, where another boat had come to rest in a tree.

Deborah Grool, 70, lost her home and vehicles to the storm.

"This is devastating, because it's not just homes, it's businesses," said Grool, a real estate agent who has lived on the island for 45 years.

Her daughter, Katy Bonkowski, who joined her mother to examine the damage, had worried about her parents' and sister's decision to stay on the island during the storm.

"Don't misjudge a hurricane," Bonkowski said.

"I wish my parents would have left."

"I wish my sister would have left."

"But they wanted to stay."

Reporting by Brad Brooks; Additional reporting by Rich McKay, Brendan O'Brien, Sharon Bernstein, Frank McGurty, Jeff Mason and Scott DiSavino; Writing by Joseph Ax and Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Mark Porter, Bill Berkrot and Cynthia Osterman

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/hurric ... 022-09-30/
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Re: THE ENVIRONMENT

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THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

"California wells run dry as drought depletes groundwater"


By TERRY CHEA, Associated Press

4 OCTOBER 2022

FAIRMEAD, Calif. (AP) — As California's drought deepens, Elaine Moore’s family is running out of an increasingly precious resource: water.

The Central Valley almond growers had two wells go dry this summer.


Two of her adult children are now getting water from a new well the family drilled after the old one went dry last year.

She’s even supplying water to a neighbor whose well dried up.

“It’s been so dry this last year."

"We didn’t get much rain."

"We didn’t get much snowpack,” Moore said, standing next to a dry well on her property in Chowchilla, California.

"Everybody’s very careful with what water they’re using."

"In fact, my granddaughter is emptying the kids' little pool to flush the toilets.”

Amid a megadrought plaguing the American West, more rural communities are losing access to groundwater as heavy pumping depletes underground aquifers that aren’t being replenished by rain and snow.

More than 1,200 wells have run dry this year statewide, a nearly 50% increase over the same period last year, according to the California Department of Water Resources.


By contrast, fewer than 100 dry wells were reported annually in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The groundwater crisis is most severe in the San Joaquin Valley, California’s agricultural heartland, which exports fruits, vegetables and nuts around the world.

Shrinking groundwater supplies reflect the severity of California’s drought, which is now entering its fourth year.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 94% of the state is in severe, extreme or exceptional drought.

California just experienced its three driest years on record, and state water officials said Monday they’re preparing for another dry year because the weather phenomenon known as La Nina is expected to occur for the third consecutive year.

Farmers are getting little surface water from the state’s depleted reservoirs, so they’re pumping more groundwater to irrigate their crops.

That’s causing water tables to drop across California.

State data shows that 64% of wells are at below-normal water levels.


Water shortages are already reducing the region’s agricultural production as farmers are forced to fallow fields and let orchards wither.

An estimated 531,00 acres (215,000 hectares) of farmland went unplanted this year because of a lack of irrigation water, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As climate change brings hotter temperatures and more severe droughts, cities and states around the world are facing water shortages as lakes and rivers dry up.

Many communities are pumping more groundwater and depleting aquifers at an alarming pace.

“This is a key challenge not just for California, but for communities across the West moving forward in adapting to climate change,” said Andrew Ayres, a water researcher at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Madera County, north of Fresno, has been hit particularly hard because it relies heavily on groundwater.

The county has reported about 430 dry wells so far this year.

In recent years, the county has seen the rapid expansion of thirsty almond and pistachio orchards that are typically irrigated by agricultural wells that run deeper than domestic wells.

“The bigger straw is going to suck the water from right beneath the little straw,” said Madeline Harris, a policy manager with the advocacy group Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability.

She stood next to a municipal well that’s run dry in Fairmead, a town of 1,200 surrounded by nut orchards.

“Municipal wells like this one are being put at risk and are going dry because of the groundwater overdraft problems from agriculture,” Harris said.

“There are families who don’t have access to running water right now because they have dry domestic wells.”

Residents with dry wells can get help from a state program that provides bottled water as well as storage tanks regularly filled by water delivery trucks.

The state also provides money to replace dry wells, but there’s a long wait to get a new one.

Not everyone is getting assistance.

Thomas Chairez said his Fairmead property, which he rents to a family of eight, used to get water from his neighbor’s well.

But when it went dry two years ago, his tenants lost access to running water.

Chairez is trying to get the county to provide a storage tank and water delivery service.

For now, his tenants have to fill up 5-gallon (19-liter) buckets at a friend’s home and transport water by car each day.

They use the water to cook and take showers.

They have portable toilets in the backyard.

“They’re surviving,” Chairez said. “In Mexico, I used to do that."

"I used to carry two buckets myself from far away."

"So we got to survive somehow."

"This is an emergency.”

Well drillers are in high demand as water pumps stop working across the San Joaquin Valley.

Ethan Bowles and his colleagues were recently drilling a new well at a ranch house in the Madera Ranchos neighborhood, where many wells have gone dry this year.

“It’s been almost nonstop phone calls just due to the water table dropping constantly,” said Bowles, who works for Chowchilla-based Drew and Hefner Well Drilling.

“Most residents have had their wells for many years and all of a sudden the water stops flowing.”

His company must now drill down 500 and 600 feet (152 to 183 meters) to get clients a steady supply of groundwater.

That’s a couple hundred feet deeper than older wells.

“The wells just have to go deeper," Bowles said.

“You have to hit a different aquifer and get them a different part of that water table so they can actually have fresh water for their house."

In March, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to slow a frenzy of well-drilling over the past few years.

The temporary measure prohibits local agencies from issuing permits for new wells that could harm nearby wells or structures.

California’s groundwater troubles come as local agencies seek to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in 2014 to prevent groundwater overpumping during the last drought.

The law requires regional agencies to manage their aquifers sustainably by 2042.

Water experts believe the law will lead to more sustainable groundwater supplies over the next two decades, but the road will be bumpy.

The Public Policy Institute of California estimates that about 500,000 acres (202,000 hectares) of agricultural land, about 10% of the current total, will have to come out of production over the next two decades.

“These communities are going to be impacted from drinking water supplies and loss of jobs," said Isaya Kisekka, a groundwater expert at the University of California, Davis.

“There’s a lot of migration of farmworkers as this land gets fallowed."

Farmers and residents in the Valley are hoping for help from above.

“Hopefully we get a lot of rain,” Chairez said.

“There’s a big need: water."

"We need water, water, water.”
___

Follow Terry Chea on Twitter: @terrychea
___

The Associated Press receives support from the Walton Family Foundation for coverage of water and environmental policy. The AP is solely responsible for all content. For all of AP’s environmental coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment

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Re: THE ENVIRONMENT

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THE WASHINGTON POST

"A California city’s water supply is expected to run out in two months"


Josh Partlow

10 OCTOBER 2022

COALINGA, Calif. — The residents of this sun-scorched city feel California’s endless drought when the dust lifts off the brown hills and flings grit into their living rooms.

They see it when they drive past almond trees being ripped from the ground for lack of water and the new blinking sign at the corner of Elm and Cherry warning: “No watering front yard lawns.”


The fire chief noticed it when he tested hydrants in August — a rare occurrence as Coalinga desperately seeks to conserve water — and the first one shot out a foot-long block of compacted dirt.

The second one ejected like a can of Axe body spray.

The schools superintendent could only think drought on the first day of school when a 4-year-old fell onto unwatered turf, breaking an arm; or when the chain saws dropped three coastal redwoods outside Henry F. Bishop Elementary that had withered and died.

Superintendent Lori Villanueva even lost a portion of her own right lung last year from a drought-aggravated illness, valley fever, that’s caused by breathing soil fungus whipped up off the dry ground.

But what lies ahead might be far worse for the 17,000 residents living amid the oil derricks and cattle farms on the western edge of the state’s Central Valley.

Coalinga has only one source of water — a shrinking allotment from an aqueduct managed by the federal government — and officials are projecting the city will use up that amount before the end of the year.

That looming threat has left city officials racing between meetings in Sacramento and phone calls to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation seeking to increase their water supply.

Some residents have begun stockpiling five-gallon water jugs in their homes, while many expect major spikes in their water bills.

If Coalinga can’t find relief, it would be forced to buy additional water on the open market at exorbitant prices that could swamp the city’s budget.

‘The worst we’ve seen’: Ranchers threatened by historic heat and drought

That was the grim scenario facing Mayor Ron Ramsey when he rapped his knuckles on the table and cursed at a City Council meeting in early August.

Everyone but Ramsey had just voted to ban watering front yards and to ramp up penalties on overuse — measures they conceded would not save nearly what was needed.

But it was more than Ramsey could stomach.

“It’s too much."

"Too fast,” Ramsey told the room.

On top of that, he said, it wasn’t fair.

“Go to the state capitol and they got green grass, don’t they?” he said.

“They can do it, but why can’t we?”

Coalinga, named for its history as a coal mining town, is a small Republican outpost in liberal California.

The city had already defied state leadership in 2020, passing a resolution that declared all businesses essential to avoid mandatory pandemic closures.

When it was time for the state to distribute covid-19 relief funds to municipalities, Coalinga didn’t get any.

The water shortage felt to some like another kind of retaliation.

“How do you not give farmers water when they feed everybody unless you’re trying to put them out of business?” asked Scott Netherton, owner of Coalinga’s lone movie theater and executive director of its chamber of commerce.

“It feels like we’re being singled out, small towns,” he said.

“It’s like they’re trying to force them out to where you’ve got to move into the bigger cities.”

Coalinga’s brackish groundwater has never been a reliable option.

Before a canal was completed in the early 1970s that connected Coalinga to a major aqueduct, the city relied on water delivered by train.

After a 1983 earthquake that destroyed some 300 homes in town and spread concerns about water contamination, residents resorted to donations; Anheuser-Busch sent drinking water to Coalinga in beer cans and bottles.

But the drought has made residents question the very survival of their city.

“We’ve never been this bad where they said we’re going to run out of water,” Mayor Ramsey said.

A future with far less access to water

The most severe drought in the American West since the 9th century is now in its 23rd year.

All across the region, communities are confronting shortages worse than they have ever known.

The biggest reservoirs have fallen to record lows.

Whole neighborhoods have lost their water supply as wells have gone dry.

States along the dwindling Colorado River are negotiating water cuts that could bring dramatic disruptions to some of the country’s most important agricultural belts.

The hotter and drier climate has forced California and other states to reckon with a future in which they will have access to far less water, even as populations continue to grow.

In August, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) presented a 19-page plan to deal with the expected loss of 10 percent of the state’s water supply by 2040.

“The hots are getting a lot hotter."

"The dries are getting a lot drier,” Newsom told reporters at the time.

“We have to adapt to that new reality, and we have to change our approach.”

California started the year with its driest four months on record.

Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada this year was a small fraction of the historical average.

Depleted reservoirs have led to restrictions on outdoor watering for millions of state residents.

Coalinga’s water comes from the San Luis Reservoir, about 90 miles to the north, and is delivered along a portion of the California Aqueduct that was built in the 1960s and helped fuel the region’s agricultural growth.

This is part of the Central Valley Project, a network of dams, reservoirs and canals now severely hobbled by drought.

‘Where there’s bodies, there’s treasure’: A hunt as Lake Mead shrinks

Farmers received no allocation from that network this year; municipalities and industrial users were limited to what the Bureau of Reclamation calculates as their “public health and safety” needs — a first in the history of the Central Valley Project, which dates to the 1930s.

For Coalinga, that meant 1,920 acre-feet of water — a quarter of its historic allotment and just over half of what it expected to consume this year.

Federal officials raised that in April to 2,500 acre-feet — a level that still fell more than 1,000 acre-feet short of what Coalinga needed.

An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, what it would take to cover an acre of land with one foot of water.

Over the summer, city officials calculated the city’s supply would run out by mid-September.

Beyond that point, if Coalinga kept using water from the aqueduct, it would belong to someone else.

“You don’t have the right to take that water,” was the message Sean Brewer, Coalinga’s assistant city manager, said he got from Reclamation officials.

The bureau said in a statement that it had been working closely with Coalinga on its “unique water supply circumstances and challenges.”

Brewer agreed that the bureau has been “extremely helpful” even as its “hands are tied.”

Federal officials gave him names of vendors who might sell the city the extra water it needed.

But as Brewer worked his way down the list of irrigation districts, farmers and other private interests, the news wasn’t good.

“Nobody has water to sell right now,” he said.

Those who do are not selling it cheap.

“I cringe when I say this,” Brewer told the City Council on Aug. 4, as he reported that water that normally cost the city $190 per acre-foot was being sold on the open market for as much as $2,500 per acre-foot.

The city might need up to $2.5 million to buy enough water to last the year, he said.

The city’s entire budget is $10 million.

“We just don’t have $2.5 million to buy water,” City Council member Adam Adkisson said in an interview, calling the water prices “criminal.”

“In a natural disaster, you can’t increase the cost of bottled water 2,000 percent; you’d go to jail for that,” he said.

“But somehow these people can increase it 2,000 percent and everything’s just fine.”

Fear of that kind of “drought profiteering” prompted state Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D) to write Attorney General Merrick Garland in May asking for an investigation into the anti-competitive practices of hedge funds and other investors that “literally steal our most life dependent resource from ourselves and future generations in exchange for a profit.”

Hurtado talked to Adkisson in August as he was searching for a solution for Coalinga and found him “in panic mode.”

“The price of water, the cost of water, is increasing, but it’s not just going to be to the Central Valley; it’s going to be statewide,” Hurtado said.

“We’re in a crisis situation in a matter of weeks, I think.”

‘What do you do when the water runs out?’

In the High Times marijuana store — a burgeoning industry for Coalinga, which has two prominent dispensaries downtown and a pot farm run out of a defunct prison owned by Bob Marley’s son Damian — manager Luis Zamora is just starting to register a new level of concern about the water crisis.

“Just in the last probably two days, I’ve had people asking me, like, what do you do when the water runs out?”

He laughed.

“Exactly."

"What do you do?”

Coalinga has tried to get tough on water waste.

The city has code enforcers and even police officers patrolling for water violations.

The city put a moratorium on building swimming pools, raised water rates several times and last year began imposing “drought fees” for overuse.

But the city soon voted to refund the $277,000 it had raised in fees because water use wasn’t declining enough.

“It was supposed to be a deterrent,” said Netherton, the chamber of commerce’s executive director.

“It wasn’t deterring anybody.”

Zamora has been slowly stockpiling five-gallon water bottles at home — he’s up to nine of them.

He has stopped watering his lawn and watched as his neighbors’ yards have also turned brown.

But others’ lawns in town are still green, and residents are keenly aware who is still watering.

Facing a new climate reality, Southern California lawns could wither

“They encourage people to kind of rat each other out, out here,” Zamora said.

“So if you water, people will be taking pictures of you.”

“I’m watching your yard,” Mary Jones, a Coalinga resident, told Mayor Ramsey at an Aug. 18 City Council meeting.

Ramsey, who had by then accepted the ban on watering front lawns, resorted to spraying on his own remedy to keep his lawn looking nice.

“Hey, you know why mine’s green?” he asked Jones.

“I painted it.”

“I would paint mine, too, but it’s dirt,” she responded.

“I can’t fool anyone with dirt.”

A short-term reprieve

Coalinga’s two biggest water users sit next to each other on a lonely two-lane road several miles outside of town.

The Pleasant Valley State Prison and the Department of State Hospitals-Coalinga, a psychiatric hospital for sexually violent predators, together consume about 20 percent of the city’s water allocation.

And both institutions have told the city they can’t conserve more water than they already do.

Outside the psychiatric hospital, there is a long row of coastal redwoods that appear green and bushy, a landscaping flourish Coalinga residents view with increasing suspicion.

“Go look at our coastal redwoods in our medians; they’re all dead."

"The ones at the school?"

"Dead,” said Adkisson, the council member.

“I think there’s opportunities for them to conserve when it comes to landscaping.”

The hospital has operated under a drought plan for the past eight years.

The facility has removed most grass from “non-patient care areas,” has removed shrubs and plants, has resorted to controlled shower times, closely monitors leaks and “continues to make every effort” to use water efficiently, according to Ralph Montano, a spokesman for the Department of State Hospitals.

“Unfortunately, [the hospital’s] coastal redwoods are brown and dying from lack of water also,” Montano said in a statement.

The prison did not respond to requests for comment.

City officials argued that the burden of saving water on behalf of the two state-run institutions was unfairly being borne by residents.

In August, with Coalinga just weeks from running out of water, the Bureau of Reclamation responded by increasing the city’s allotment by 531 acre-feet “to assist with meeting public health and safety needs,” the bureau said in a statement.

But Coalinga officials say they are still about 600 acre-feet short and that buying additional supplies remains extremely expensive.

They now project they will run out of water sometime in early December.

When that happens, no one knows exactly what to expect.

“You don’t want to say that they’ll never turn the water off."

"I don’t see how they could,” Mayor Ramsey said.

“I hate to say this, but with the government we have right now, you never know.”

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Re: THE ENVIRONMENT

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POLITICO

"Climate talks grow tense as U.S. resists Europe's plan for aid"


By Zack Colman, Karl Mathiesen and Sara Schonhardt

18 NOVEMBER 2022

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — The United States is in a bind on the most politically explosive topic at the global climate change talks that are heading toward their finish here.

The negotiating team, led by climate envoy John Kerry, faces a tough decision on whether to play savior or spoiler on a proposal calling for the U.S. and other industrialized nations to pay the world’s most vulnerable countries for irreversible climate damage they have already suffered as the negotiations head into the homestretch.


Pressure is mounting.

The European Union, traditionally a holdout that sides with the U.S. on this topic, issued a proposal on Thursday that aligned the 27-member bloc with the world’s most climate-vulnerable nations, leaving the U.S. stranded.

“The U.S. might end up being isolated from the entire conversation, and therefore has no other choice but to come on board,” Tuvalu Finance Minister Seve Paeniu told reporters Friday.

The EU proposal also calls for China to play a role in contributing money to a fund to offset climate damages — a condition the country that is now by the far the biggest greenhouse gas emitter may find untenable.

Some within the EU see that gambit to bring Beijing into the "loss and damage" proposal as an opening for the U.S., which wants China and other countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to pay into any possible fund.

“We would like to see the U.S. moving toward our direction,” Spanish Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge Teresa Ribera told POLITICO.

“Politically and geopolitically, I think that the good thing to do from the U.S. side is also to join.”

The U.S. has long resisted the idea of a loss and damage fund that could be accessed by countries suffering from rising seas, intense droughts and brutal storms that are growing worse because of climate change.

It fears endless lawsuits from lower-income nations seeking restitution for harm from all the planet-heating gases it has put into the atmosphere since 1850.

While the U.S. displayed new openness to discussing a fund this year, it has not backed the idea.

Kerry has said the U.S. is weighing an array of possibilities, but has not landed on a specific option.

He told POLITICO on Wednesday that the U.S. supports a resolution on a loss and damage plan by no later than 2024, a timeline laid out in the agenda for this year's talks.

EU climate envoy Frans Timmermans offered what he framed as a compromise offer that would allow loss and damage funding from “a broad donor base” with a “mosaic of solutions,” like levies on international aviation, shipping and fossil fuels.

And it was one that might hold broader political ramifications by driving a wedge between China and the less developed climate-vulnerable nations that Beijing has long sought to associate itself with at the climate talks.

The EU proposal would ensure loss and damage money flows to only the most climate-vulnerable nations, which typically applies to least-developed countries and small island states.

That differs from a push from China and developing nations, which calls for money going to all developing nations.

Delegates from the U.S., traditionally the strongest opponent of finance for climate repairs, were surprisingly silent on the EU announcement and did not speak in the Thursday session where Timmermans unveiled the plan.

They were “not amused, I understand,” said one EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Asked whether the U.S. could support their proposal, Timmermans said: “I don’t know at this stage.”

But the U.S. is not the only country feeling sour.

India’s proposal to phase down oil and gas, which was backed by the U.S., EU and climate-vulnerable nations, did not appear in the conference's draft agreement text released Friday morning.

Some environmental groups said the language also weakened a commitment made at last year’s talks in Glasgow, Scotland, calling for nations to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

“There can be no equivocation."

"There can be no mincing of words."

"There can be no sleight of hand with language, no fuzzy-wuzziness,” John Beard, president of the Port Arthur (Texas) Community Action Network, an environmental activist group, said at a Friday press conference.

The Egyptian government hosting the talks blamed stalled progress that is expected to push the conference into overtime on developed countries, which it said had failed to pledge as much support to various climate funds as they did last year.

“It doesn't help,” said a senior Egyptian official, adding that the “mood in the room” had continually returned to financial issues.

The draft text called on countries to create a “roadmap” for doubling finance that developed countries contribute for adaptation, which helps countries steel themselves against the effects of climate change, by 2025.

That doubling would bring the total annual figure to $40 billion.

But developing nations have accused wealthy ones of putting forward too little money.

They are also skeptical that promises of private sector funding will materialize for adaptation, which has historically attracted little interest from corporations.

Countries hope to address some of those funding flows through changes to international financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The draft text asks those banks to "significantly increase climate ambition” and align their finance with Paris Climate Agreement targets.

The text encouraged shareholders at those banks to "define a new vision" and "operational model, channels and instruments" to address climate change, including a call to take on more risk to increase climate finance threefold by 2025.

Those suggestions align with recommendations from the Bridgetown Initiative, led by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, and build on broader calls for reform by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and others.

They have criticized the banks for being too risk averse and not able to meet global collective challenges like climate change.

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Re: THE ENVIRONMENT

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THE HILL

"Biden administration approves Gulf oil terminal opposed by Texas city"


Story by Zack Budryk

22 NOVEMBER 2022

Federal regulators this week approved a new oil terminal in the Gulf of Mexico off Texas over the objections of local activists, who argued the move contravenes the Biden administration’s stated climate goals.

The Transportation Department’s Maritime Administration formally granted the license Nov. 21, ending a process that began under the Trump administration three years ago.

The Sea Port Oil Terminal would be located offshore of Freeport, Texas, with a capacity of 2 million barrels a day.

The project would involve two pipelines running through the city of Surfside Beach, where the City Council unanimously voted in opposition to the project in March 2020.

Greenpeace blasted the Biden administration’s approval of the terminal, pointing to an environmental impact statement published in July projecting the terminal would generate 83,000 tons of carbon emissions per year through the construction process alone, with a projected total of 219 million tons a year in downstream refining and combustion emissions.

The environmentalist group also pointed to President Biden’s recent attendance at the COP27 United Nations climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and the Biden administration’s stated commitment to cutting carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030.

“When we say oil and gas companies are sacrificing communities to make a buck this is exactly what we’re talking about."

"We have less than a decade to cut emissions by half."

"Approving new oil and gas projects is not a bridge, it is an on-ramp to planetary collapse,” Destiny Watford, climate campaigner at Greenpeace US, said in a statement.

“It is peak hypocrisy for President Biden and [Transportation] Secretary Pete Buttigieg to shorten the fuse on the world’s largest carbon bomb by greenlighting additional oil export terminals right after lecturing the world about increasing climate ambitions at COP27.”

The Hill has reached out to the Transportation Department for comment.

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Re: THE ENVIRONMENT

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Alternet

"The renewable energy transition is failing | Opinion"


Story by Richard Heinberg, Independent Media Institute

23 NOVEMBER 2022

Despite all the renewable energy investments and installations, actual global greenhouse gas emissions keep increasing.

That’s largely due to economic growth: While renewable energy supplies have expanded in recent years, world energy usage has ballooned even more — with the difference being supplied by fossil fuels.

The more the world economy grows, the harder it is for additions of renewable energy to turn the tide by actually replacing energy from fossil fuels, rather than just adding to it.


The notion of voluntarily reining in economic growth in order to minimize climate change and make it easier to replace fossil fuels is political anathema not just in the rich countries, whose people have gotten used to consuming at extraordinarily high rates, but even more so in poorer countries, which have been promised the opportunity to “develop.”

After all, it is the rich countries that have been responsible for the great majority of past emissions (which are driving climate change presently); indeed, these countries got rich largely by the industrial activity of which carbon emissions were a byproduct.

Now it is the world’s poorest nations that are experiencing the brunt of the impacts of climate change caused by the world’s richest.

It’s neither sustainable nor just to perpetuate the exploitation of land, resources, and labor in the less industrialized countries, as well as historically exploited communities in the rich countries, to maintain both the lifestyles and expectations of further growth of the wealthy minority.

From the perspective of people in less-industrialized nations, it’s natural to want to consume more, which only seems fair.

But that translates to more global economic growth, and a harder time replacing fossil fuels with renewables globally.

China is the exemplar of this conundrum: Over the past three decades, the world’s most populous nation lifted hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty, but in the process became the world’s biggest producer and consumer of coal.

The Materials Dilemma

Also posing an enormous difficulty for a societal switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is our increasing need for minerals and metals.

The World Bank, the IEA, the IMF, and McKinsey and Company have all issued reports in the last couple of years warning of this growing problem.

Vast quantities of minerals and metals will be required not just for making solar panels and wind turbines, but also for batteries, electric vehicles, and new industrial equipment that runs on electricity rather than carbon-based fuels.

Some of these materials are already showing signs of increasing scarcity: According to the World Economic Forum, the average cost of producing copper has risen by over 300 percent in recent years, while copper ore grade has dropped by 30 percent.

Optimistic assessments of the materials challenge suggest there are enough global reserves for a one-time build-out of all the new devices and infrastructure needed (assuming some substitutions, with, for example, lithium for batteries eventually being replaced by more abundant elements like iron).

But what is society to do as that first generation of devices and infrastructure ages and requires replacement?


Circular Economy: A Mirage?

Hence the rather sudden and widespread interest in the creation of a circular economy in which everything is recycled endlessly.

Unfortunately, as economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen discovered in his pioneering work on entropy, recycling is always incomplete and always costs energy.

Materials typically degrade during each cycle of use, and some material is wasted in the recycling process.

A French preliminary analysis of the energy transition that assumed maximum possible recycling found that a materials supply crisis could be delayed by up to three centuries.

But will the circular economy (itself an enormous undertaking and a distant goal) arrive in time to buy industrial civilization those extra 300 years?

Or will we run out of critical materials in just the next few decades in our frantic effort to build as many renewable energy devices as we can in as short a time as possible?

The latter outcome seems more likely if pessimistic resource estimates turn out to be accurate.

Simon Michaux of the Finnish Geological Survey finds that “global reserves are not large enough to supply enough metals to build the renewable non-fossil fuels industrial system …"

"Mineral deposit discovery has been declining for many metals."

"The grade of processed ore for many of the industrial metals has been decreasing over time, resulting in declining mineral processing yield."

"This has the implication of the increase in mining energy consumption per unit of metal.”

Steel prices are already trending higher, and lithium supplies may prove to be a bottleneck to rapidly increasing battery production.


Even sand is getting scarce: Only certain grades of the stuff are useful in making concrete (which anchors wind turbines) or silicon (which is essential for solar panels).

More sand is consumed yearly than any other material besides water, and some climate scientists have identified it as a key sustainability challenge this century.

Predictably, as deposits are depleted, sand is becoming more of a geopolitical flashpoint, with China recently embargoing sand shipments to Taiwan with the intention of crippling Taiwan’s ability to manufacture semiconductor devices such as cell phones.


To Reduce Risk, Reduce Scale

During the fossil fuel era, the global economy depended on ever-increasing rates of extracting and burning coal, oil, and natural gas.

The renewables era (if it indeed comes into being) will be founded upon the large-scale extraction of minerals and metals for panels, turbines, batteries, and other infrastructure, which will require periodic replacement.

These two economic eras imply different risks: The fossil fuel regime risked depletion and pollution (notably atmospheric carbon pollution leading to climate change); the renewables regime will likewise risk depletion (from mining minerals and metals) and pollution (from dumping old panels, turbines, and batteries, and from various manufacturing processes), but with diminished vulnerability to climate change.

The only way to lessen risk altogether would be to reduce substantially society’s scale of energy and materials usage — but very few policymakers or climate advocacy organizations are exploring that possibility.

Climate Change Hobbles Efforts to Combat Climate Change

As daunting as they are, the financial, political, and material challenges to the energy transition don’t exhaust the list of potential barriers.

Climate change itself is also hampering the energy transition — which, of course, is being undertaken to avert climate change.

During the summer of 2022, China experienced its most intense heat wave in six decades.

It impacted a wide region, from central Sichuan Province to coastal Jiangsu, with temperatures often topping 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and reaching a record 113 degrees in Chongqing on August 18.

At the same time, a drought-induced power crisis forced Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., the world’s top battery maker, to close manufacturing plants in China’s Sichuan province.

Supplies of crucial parts to Tesla and Toyota were temporarily cut off.

Meanwhile, a similarly grim story unfolded in Germany, as a record drought reduced the water flow in the Rhine River to levels that crippled European trade, halting shipments of diesel and coal, and threatening the operations of both hydroelectric and nuclear power plants.

A study published in February 2022 in the journal Water found that droughts (which are becoming more frequent and severe with climate change) could create challenges for U.S. hydropower in Montana, Nevada, Texas, Arizona, California, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, French nuclear plants that rely on the Rhône River for cooling water have had to shut down repeatedly.

If reactors expel water downstream that’s too hot, aquatic life is wiped out as a result.

So, during the sweltering 2022 summer, Électricité de France (EDF) powered down reactors not only along the Rhône but also on a second major river in the south, the Garonne.

Altogether, France’s nuclear power output has been cut by nearly 50 percent during the summer of 2022.

Similar drought- and heat-related shutdowns happened in 2018 and 2019.


Heavy rain and flooding can also pose risks for both hydro and nuclear power — which together currently provide roughly four times as much low-carbon electricity globally as wind and solar combined.

In March 2019, severe flooding in southern and western Africa, following Cyclone Idai, damaged two major hydro plants in Malawi, cutting off power to parts of the country for several days.

Wind turbines and solar panels also rely on the weather and are therefore also vulnerable to extremes.

Cold, cloudy days with virtually no wind spell trouble for regions heavily reliant on renewable energy.

Freak storms can damage solar panels, and high temperatures reduce panels’ efficiency.

Hurricanes and storm surges can cripple offshore wind farms.


The transition from fossil fuel to renewables faces an uphill battle.

Still, this switch is an essential stopgap strategy to keep electricity grids up and running, at least on a minimal scale, as civilization inevitably turns away from a depleting store of oil and gas.

The world has become so dependent on grid power for communications, finance, and the preservation of technical, scientific, and cultural knowledge that, if the grids were to go down permanently and soon, it is likely that billions of people would die, and the survivors would be culturally destitute.

In essence, we need renewables for a controlled soft landing.

But the harsh reality is that, for now, and in the foreseeable future, the energy transition is not going well and has poor overall prospects.

We need a realistic plan for energy descent, instead of foolish dreams of eternal consumer abundance by means other than fossil fuels.

Currently, politically rooted insistence on continued economic growth is discouraging truth-telling and serious planning for how to live well with less.

Author Bio: Richard Heinberg is a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival.

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