About 6,200 years ago, 41 people were killed and buried in a mass grave in what is now modern-day Croatia. According to Live Science, DNA analysis has now revealed that members of their own community may have murdered them, and some researchers suggest that a sudden population boom or shift in climate conditions could have prompted the mass murder.
The grave was discovered in 2007 in a small village in the hills of Potočani, Croatia. Heavy rains exposed a pit containing dozens of skeletons, Live Science reported. The mass grave was small, about 6.5-feet across and three-feet deep, with at least 41 bodies dumped together.
Archeologists first thought it was a modern grave from World War I or the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s, but no contemporary objects were found with the bones, according to Live Science. Radiocarbon dating of bones, soil and pottery fragments confirmed a burial date around 4200 B.C.E.
"This makes Potočani one of the first and earliest cases of systematic killing on a large scale in Europe proven by genetic data," said Mario Novak, the study's lead author and head of the Laboratory for Evolutionary Anthropology and Bioarchaeology at the Institute for Anthropological Research in Zagreb, Croatia.
Further inspection of the bones and DNA data revealed "random killing without any concern for age or sex," Novak told Live Science. Men, women and children were killed in relatively equal numbers. Many of the killing blows were strikes to the skull from behind, and there were no indications that the victims tried to defend themselves.
Genetic analysis also revealed that the victims were not a targeted family group, because 70 percent of the deceased were not closely related, Novak explained. But, because the victims' shared homogenic genetic ancestry that was almost identical to other contemporary populations from the region, Novak and his team were able to eliminate the hypothesis that the massacre was related to the arrival of new immigrants. Rather, they believe that the victims were a smaller part of the local, stable population.
These factors led the researchers to suspect a massacre.
"Basically, [all this] means that the perpetrators did not target a certain age or sex category within this community or even a certain family, as we could see in some similar prehistoric examples from continental Europe," Novak said. "The indiscriminate killing recorded in Potočani shows that this was a pre-planned act, most probably with a goal to completely exterminate this community without any consideration or remorse for their victims."
The Potočani mass grave is similar to others found in modern-day Germany and Austria dating to around 5000 B.C.E., Novak said. In total, scientists have found five or six similar cases from continental Europe so far.
According to Live Science, the "most likely explanation" for the Potočani killings and the older ones in Germany and Austria are prolonged climate changes in Central Europe that caused floods or droughts. These, along with unexpected population booms, possibly led to food shortages and violent competition for resources.
Novak's study called the reasons behind the upsurge of extreme mass violence and massacres during these eras "complex and multifactoral," and agreed that climate-induced drops in agricultural production most likely played a part.
"Human nature hasn't changed much (if at all) since those times," he told EcoWatch. "By studying such ancient massacres, we might try to get a glimpse into the psychology of these people, and maybe try to prevent similar events today," Novak told Live Science.
Novak also said it was obvious that the climate crisis profoundly impacted our distant ancestors as much as today's modern world. He warned, "If we cannot change ourselves and our attitude toward the environment drastically, I'm afraid soon the things will start resembling these ancient massacres, but on a more global scale."
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California faces another "critically dry year" according to state officials, and a destructive wildfire season looms on its horizon. But in a state that welcomes innovation, water efficacy approaches and drought management could replenish California, increasingly threatened by the climate's new extremes.
The Sierra Nevada snowpack supplies the state with 30 percent of its water supply. But on Tuesday, California's Department of Water Resources recorded a snow depth of 56 inches and water content of 21 inches at Phillips Station – 61 percent of the average for March 2 and 54 percent of the average for April 1, when it's at its maximum, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The state's largest reservoirs – responsible for maintaining the state's water supply throughout the year – also experienced low levels this year, storing only about 38 percent and 68 percent of their capacity, according to The Guardian.
"With below-average precipitation across the state, California's reservoirs are starting to see the impacts of a second consecutive dry year," said Sean de Guzman, the department's chief of snow surveys and water supply forecasting, according to The Guardian.
These effects are being felt across the state. During the city's wettest months of December, January and February, L.A. received just 2.44 inches of the expected 3.12 inches of rain, the Los Angeles Times reported. At the same time Northern California remains in one of the worst two-year rain deficient since the Gold Rush of 1849 – its precipitation at only 30 percent to 70 percent of a normal year, The Guardian reported.
Three to five winter storms supply California's snowpack and reservoirs with water. But the state's dependency on these few winter storms makes it especially vulnerable when they occur less frequently, The Guardian reported.
"In years where you miss out on one or two of those, you're probably going to struggle to get close to normal," John Abatzoglou, a climatology researcher at the University of California, Merced, told The Guardian, who added that the state is increasingly living in extremes – either experiencing abnormally heavy rain or no rain at all. "We're banking on a miracle March or awesome April to dig out of this hole... In all likelihood, we're going to end the water year with another dry year."
The dry winter not only invites a destructive wildfire season but comes with a heavy price tag for the state's agricultural industry. Between 2012-2016, for example, the state experienced a drought that cost $2.7 billion in losses for the industry, and more than 18,000 lost jobs, The Guardian reported. This drought also killed about 102 million forest trees.
"Our state's water future remains uncertain due to the variability in precipitation and changing climate," Guzman said, according to the Los Angeles Times. Now more than ever, new approaches to water efficacy are necessary. Fortunately, new ideas are plentiful in a state that is often celebrated for its sustainable policy.
One solution, for example, could include paying Californians to conserve water as a cost-effective way to reduce energy consumption, Sammy Roth, a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times wrote in the newsletter Boiling Point.
Water and electricity go hand-in-hand in California. "Nearly one-fifth of electricity use in California goes to transporting and treating water. And nearly one-third of non-power plant natural gas use is water-related, primarily water heating," Roth wrote, mentioning the state's complex water projects that include systems "of reservoirs, aqueducts, power plants and pumping plants extending more than 700 miles."
Based on research that looked at what happened if the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power paid people to use less electricity rather than less water, the researchers concluded "that paying for water conservation can actually be a more cost-effective way to slash energy consumption than paying for energy conservation," Roth added.
In a drier, hotter and rapidly changing climate, that brings new weather extremes to the state each year, water conservation is imperative for California and the nearly 40 million that call it home. "It's more critical than ever that Californians adopt sustainability, embrace new approaches and emerging technologies and work together to save water for a secure future," Guzman added, according to The Guardian.
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Throughout Texas, there are a number of solar power companies that can install solar panels on your roof to take advantage of the abundant sunlight. But which solar power provider should you choose? In this article, we'll provide a list of the best solar companies in the Lone Star State.
Our Picks for the Best Texas Solar Companies
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Sunpro Solar
- Longhorn Solar, Inc.
- Solartime USA
- Kosmos Solar
- Sunshine Renewable Solutions
- Alba Energy
- Circle L Solar
- South Texas Solar Systems
- Good Faith Energy
How We Chose the Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when comparing and contrasting different solar providers. These are some of the considerations we used to evaluate Texas solar energy companies.
Different solar companies may provide varying services. Always take the time to understand the full range of what's being offered in terms of solar panel consultation, design, installation, etc. Also consider add-ons, like EV charging stations, whenever applicable.
When meeting with a representative from one of Texas' solar power companies, we would always encourage you to ask what the installation process involves. What kind of customization can you expect? Will your solar provider use salaried installers, or outsourced contractors? These are all important questions to raise during the due diligence process.
Texas is a big place, and as you look for a good solar power provider, you want to ensure that their services are available where you live. If you live in Austin, it doesn't do you much good to have a solar company that's active only in Houston.
Pricing and Financing
Keep in mind that the initial cost of solar panel installation can be sizable. Some solar companies are certainly more affordable than others, and you can also ask about the flexible financing options that are available to you.
To guarantee that the renewable energy providers you select are reputable, and that they have both the integrity and the expertise needed, we would recommend assessing their status in the industry. The simplest way to do this is to check to see whether they are North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified or belong to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other industry groups.
Types of Panels
As you research different companies, it certainly doesn't hurt to get to know the specific products they offer. Inquire about their tech portfolio, and see if they are certified to install leading brands like Tesla or Panasonic.
Rebates and Tax Credits
There are a lot of opportunities to claim clean energy rebates or federal tax credits which can help with your initial solar purchase. Ask your solar provider for guidance navigating these different savings opportunities.
Going solar is a big investment, but a warranty can help you trust that your system will work for decades. A lot of solar providers provide warranties on their technology and workmanship for 25 years or more, but you'll definitely want to ask about this on the front end.
The 10 Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the 10 best solar energy companies in TX.
SunPower is a solar energy company that makes it easy to make an informed and totally customized decision about your solar power setup. SunPower has an online design studio where you can learn more about the different options available for your home, and even a form where you can get a free online estimate. Set up a virtual consultation to speak directly with a qualified solar installer from the comfort of your own home. It's no wonder SunPower is a top solar installation company in Texas. They make the entire process easy and expedient.
Sunpro Solar is another solar power company with a solid reputation across the country. Their services are widely available to Texas homeowners, and they make the switch to solar effortless. We recommend them for their outstanding customer service, for the ease of their consultation and design process, and for their assistance to homeowners looking to claim tax credits and other incentives.
Looking for a solar contractor with true Texas roots? Longhorn Solar is an award-winning company that's frequently touted as one of the best solar providers in the state. Their services are available in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and since 2009 they have helped more than 2,000 Texans make the switch to energy efficiency with solar. We recommend them for their technical expertise, proven track record, and solar product selection.
Solartime USA is another company based in Texas. In fact, this family-owned business is located in Richardson, which is just outside of Dallas. They have ample expertise with customized solar energy solutions in residential settings, and their portfolio of online reviews attests to their first-rate customer service. We love this company for the simplicity of their process, and for all the guidance they offer customers seeking to go solar.
Next on our list is Kosmos Solar, another Texas-based solar company. They're based in the northern part of the state, and highly recommended for homeowners in the area. They supply free estimates, high-quality products, custom solar designs, and award-winning personal service. Plus, their website has a lot of great information that may help guide you while you determine whether going solar is right for you.
Sunshine Renewable Solutions is based out of Houston, and they've developed a sterling reputation for dependable service and high-quality products. They have a lot of helpful financing options, and can show you how you can make the switch to solar in a really cost-effective way. We also like that they give free estimates, so there's certainly no harm in learning more about this great local company.
"Powered by the Texas sun." That's the official tagline of Alba Energy, a solar energy provider that's based out of Katy, TX. They have lots of great information about solar panel systems and solar solutions, including solar calculators to help you tabulate your potential energy savings. Additionally, we recommend Alba Energy because all of their work is done by a trusted, in-house team of solar professionals. They maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and they have rave reviews from satisfied customers.
Circle L Solar has a praiseworthy mission of helping homeowners slash their energy costs while participating in the green energy revolution. This is another company that provides a lot of great information, including energy savings calculators. Also note that, in addition to solar panels, Circle L Solar also showcases a number of other assets that can help you make your home more energy efficient, including windows, weatherization services, LED lighting, and more.
You can tell by the name that South Texas Solar Systems focuses its service area on the southernmost part of the Lone Star State. Their products include a wide range of commercial and residential solar panels, as well as "off the grid" panels for homeowners who want to detach from public utilities altogether. Since 2007, this company has been a trusted solar energy provider in San Antonio and beyond.
Good Faith Energy is a certified installer of Tesla solar technology for homeowners throughout Texas. This company is really committed to ecological stewardship, and they have amassed a lot of goodwill thanks to their friendly customer service and the depth of their solar expertise. In addition to Tesla solar panels, they can also install EV charging stations and storage batteries.
What are Your Solar Financing Options in Texas?
We've mentioned already that going solar requires a significant investment on the front-end. It's worth emphasizing that some of the best solar companies provide a range of financing options, allowing you to choose whether you buy your system outright, lease it, or pay for it in monthly installments.
Also keep in mind that there are a lot of rebates and state and federal tax credits available to help offset starting costs. Find a Texas solar provider who can walk you through some of the different options.
How Much Does a Solar Energy System Cost in Texas?
How much is it going to cost you to make that initial investment into solar power? It varies by customer and by home, but the median cost of solar paneling may be somewhere in the ballpark of $13,000. Note that, when you take into account federal tax incentives, this number can fall by several thousand dollars.
And of course, once you go solar, your monthly utility bills are going to shrink dramatically… so while solar systems won't pay for themselves in the first month or even the first year, they will ultimately prove more than cost-effective.
Finding the Right Solar Energy Companies in TX
Texas is a great place to pursue solar energy companies, thanks to all the natural sunlight, and there are plenty of companies out there to help you make the transition. Do your homework, compare a few options, and seek the solar provider that's right for you. We hope this guide is a helpful jumping-off point as you try to get as much information as possible about the best solar companies in Texas.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
By Jessica Corbett
The world's largest humanitarian network warned Wednesday that urgent international action is needed to address the rising risk of climate-related displacement, highlighting data that shows disasters such as storms, droughts, fires, and floods internally displaced more than 10 million people from September to February.
"In just the last six months, there have been 12.6 million people internally displaced around the world and over 80% of these forced displacements have been caused by disasters, most of which are triggered by climate and weather extremes," said Helen Brunt of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
"Asia suffers much more than any other region from climate disaster-related displacements," noted Brunt, IFRC's Asia Pacific Migration and Displacement coordinator. "These upheavals are taking a terrible toll on some of the poorest communities already reeling from the economic and social impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic."
The new report, Responding to Disasters and Displacement in a Changing Climate, draws data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. According to the IDMC, about 2.3 million displacements over the past six months are related to conflict compared with 10.3 million due to disasters.
MEDIA RELEASE: New report reveals 12.6 million people have been internally displaced around the world in the last s… https://t.co/4Y5c8OiwTq— IFRC Asia Pacific (@IFRC Asia Pacific)1615970193.0
The report details how the IFRC has responded to various humanitarian needs across Asia, with case studies about assisting communities affected by drought in Afghanistan; seasonal cyclones and monsoon rains, which lead to flooding and landslides, in Bangladesh; and a dzud, a term for extreme winter conditions that cause mass livestock loss, in Mongolia.
The network also dedicates a section to the Philippine Red Cross's efforts to adopt a strategic approach to housing, land, and property rights for displaced communities.
"We are seeing an alarming trend of people displaced by more extreme weather events such as Typhoon Goni, the world's most ferocious storm last year, that smashed into the Philippines," said Brunt. "Three storms hit the Philippines in as many weeks, leaving over three million people destitute."
More broadly, she added, "We need greater action and urgent investment to reduce internal displacement caused by the rising risk of disasters. Investing much more in local organizations and first responders is critical so they have the resources needed to protect lives, homes, and their communities."
The report includes eight overall recommendations:
- Investment in and focus on local actors and local responders;
- Meaningful community engagement and accountability;
- A protection, gender and inclusion (PGI)-informed approach and response;
- Strengthening national and branch level internal systems and capabilities;
- Monitoring population movements in the context of both slow and sudden onset disasters;
- Community-led assessments;
- Coordinating and promoting the centrality of durable solutions to displacement; and
- Humanitarian diplomacy, and multi-stakeholder partnerships and coordination.
"Things are getting worse as climate change aggravates existing factors like poverty, conflict, and political instability," Brunt told Reuters. "The compounded impact makes recovery longer and more difficult: people barely have time to recover and they're slammed with another disaster."
While the IFRC's report focuses on internal displacement — meaning individuals who remain within their home countries — recent climate-related disasters have also generated calls for just and updated policies related to refugees.
Last month, a report from Kayly Ober, senior advocate and program manager for the Climate Displacement Program at Refugees International, provided the Biden administration with a policy roadmap, declaring that "the United States has a moral and practical responsibility to lead on issues of climate change, migration, and displacement."
"Yes, we should invest in climate change adaptation and resilience measures, because it enables people to stay in place if they would like to," Ober told Common Dreams. "But we also need to understand that people are already on the move and will continue to be on the move, especially as climate change impacts increase in intensity and frequency."
An analysis released last year by the Sydney-based Institute for Economics & Peace found that as the global population climbs toward 10 billion by 2050, ecological disasters and armed conflict could forcibly displace about 10% of humanity.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Jennifer Ann Thomas
For the first time, researchers have developed a model capable of anticipating drought periods in the Amazon up to 18 months in advance. The study was conducted by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), in Germany, as part of the Tipping Points in the Earth System (TiPES) project, led by physicist Catrin Ciemer and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
The model was developed based on surface temperature analysis of the Atlantic Ocean. The relation between the humidity of the oceans and the rainfall regime in the Amazon is part of the intrinsic functioning of the biomes. Any variation in temperature, as a result of global warming, is enough to trigger a series of consequences.
According to physicist and study co-author Niklas Boers, the early-warning system developed by the group is based on a very simple mechanism: "We discovered that every two years the surface temperatures in the north and south tropical Atlantic develop a dipole, a phenomenon that occurs when temperatures increase in one region and decrease in another."
The drought forecast alert is issued when this pattern begins to develop. "The dipole modifies the direction of the trade winds, which take moisture from the Atlantic Ocean to South America. This change of direction is responsible for causing droughts mainly in the center-south of the Amazon," Boers said. From the model they developed, the researchers were able to trace back six of the seven main drought events that have occurred in the Amazon since the 1980s.
Average monthly sea surface temperature (in degrees Celsius, red scale) and average continental rainfall in South America (in millimeters/month, blue scale) from 1981 to 2016. Sea surface temperatures and precipitation are generally higher around the equator. On the left, the area where El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) occurs; dotted lines indicate the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) in January and July, responsible for transporting heat and humidity from the oceans around the tropics.
Carlos Nobre, a renowned Brazilian climate scientist who was not involved in the study, said global warming is making the northern cycle of warmer waters stronger and more present. In the future, he said, we should expect the southern Amazon to become less humid. "The mega droughts of 2005, 2010 and the ongoing one are directly associated with the increase in temperatures in the north tropical Atlantic Ocean," Nobre said.
"However, unlike in previous years, the current mega drought began in May and June, not interfering in the rains during the summer season. It is too early to say that the warmer waters will continue throughout the months and if they will cause a continued drought until the next rainy season."
In a context of global warming, there is a close connection between rising ocean temperatures and environmental balance, and the repercussions are felt deep into the forest: what happens on the high seas can impact life in the Amazon.
Janaína Bumbeer, an oceanographer and science and conservation analyst with the Boticário Group Foundation for Nature Protection, said it's not enough to only understand a single aspect of ecology — it's necessary to understand phenomena in a systemic way. "The relation between the ocean temperature, the climate and the winds is very delicate," said Bumbeer, who was not involved in the new study. "Any increase of 1° Celsius [1.8° Fahrenheit] affects the rainfall regime on the continent." The greater the frequency of anomalies in the seas, she said, the more recurrent the extreme climatic events.
Faced with the effects of climate change, there is a risk that the Northern Hemisphere will heat up faster than the South, which would stimulate the occurrence of the Atlantic dipole and lead to a more intense frequency of droughts in the Amazon.
Even with the possibility of predicting a drought period in the region, there is little to be done to actually mitigate the direct impacts on the forest. People who live in the Amazon, especially rural farmers, traditional communities, Indigenous people, and those who depend on river transportation to get around (water levels can become so low that navigability becomes impossible) will be the ones who will benefit from the information, the researchers say. "Indirectly, [with the drought forecast alert] it is possible to have a positive influence on the Amazon ecosystem. The more in advance farmers and traditional communities can plan, the less traumatic the interference of the climate will be," Boers said.
With drought comes another concern: an increase in fires, directly associated with illegal deforestation. According to data from Brazil's National Space Research Institute (INPE), in September of this year, 31,017 hot spots were recorded, the second-worst September in a decade and a 60% increase from the same month last year. Because the Amazon is a humid tropical forest, fire is not part of the biome's natural dynamics, as it is in the temperate forests of the U.S. West Coast. In the Amazon, fires are usually associated with human actions. And in periods of drought, hotspots have the right conditions to grow in extent and to cause greater impacts on the ecosystem.
"There are innumerous evidence on the possibility of the forest becoming a savanna through the effects of human action," Boers said. "The biome is already very close to the tipping point."
Such a large-scale effect would lead to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, which would further accelerate global warming. The study's underlying message is that all natural phenomena are interconnected. And it demonstrates that as humanity persists on the current economic model of consumption, the effects on the planet will only get worse, to the point of endangering the world's largest tropical forest and its rich biodiversity.
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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Climate change, the coronavirus pandemic, and growing inequality will exacerbate global volatility over the coming decades, a report by top U.S. intelligence officials released Thursday warns.
The Global Trends report, released every four years by the National Intelligence Council, predicted the impacts of climate change – rising temperatures, intensifying extreme weather and droughts that increase food insecurity, health risks, and conflict – would accelerate the trend of massive migration, and with it, global instability.
COVID, the report said, exposed the fragility of the world order, worsening "more and cascading global challenges, ranging from disease to climate change to the disruptions from new technologies and financial crises," the authors wrote.
"The international system – including the organizations, alliances, rules, and norms – is poorly set up to address the compounding global challenges facing populations."
Under the best-case scenario, democracies would take advantage of the opportunity to use pandemic recovery efforts to reorient national and international priorities toward solutions that would plan and adapt for climate change and other crises.
Unfortunately, said Maria Langan-Reikhof, the director of the council's strategic futures group, "greater divisions, increasing fracturing… [are] likely to continue and probably worsen."
For a deeper dive:
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- One Billion People May Become Climate Refugees By 2050 ... ›
By Jeremy Deaton
Shreya Ramachandran, 17, remembers witnessing California's water crisis firsthand on a visit to Tulare County in 2014, when she was still a preteen. Tulare spans a large swath of farmland in California's Central Valley, and at that time, locals were facing dire water shortages amid an ongoing drought made worse by climate change.
"I was talking to some of the people in the area whose wells completely ran dry, and they were left without water because they weren't connected to the central water grid. They were trucking water in for even basic needs," she said. "I was really affected by their stories, and I wanted to do something to help."
The experience spurred Ramachandran, who lives in Fremont, California, to find ways to reuse water from sinks, showers and laundry machines, what's known as grey water, to help people better cope with intense drought. She has won numerous awards for her research, was named a global finalist in the 2019 Google Science Fair, and is featured in the forthcoming PBS Peril and Promise climate change documentary, The Power of Us.
Ramachandran said that after she returned home from Tulare she made every effort to conserve water in her life. She took shorter showers and turned off the tap when brushing her teeth, but it had little effect on how much her house consumed.
Around that time, Ramachandran's grandmother was visiting from India, and she had brought with her a handful of soap nuts. A soap nut, also known as a soap berry, is a small yellow or brown fruit encased in a hard, brown shell. Soap nuts are native to India, where they are used for bathing. Massage one in a bowl of water, and it will begin to lather and smell of apples, Ramachandran said.
"I was using them as a shampoo, and I was thinking, 'Okay, if they can be used for this purpose, maybe soap nuts can be used as an alternative laundry detergent as well. And then we can reuse the water because soap nuts are all-natural,'" she said. "The best ideas come to you when you're in the shower."
Ramachandran said that soap nuts, which are often sold as a detergent, make for an effective cleaning agent. One only needs to put four or five nuts in a cloth bag and toss it in with their laundry, and they can reuse that bag of nuts as many as 10 times, making soap nuts significantly cheaper than organic detergent. Ramachandran wanted to see if the leftover water could be used to nourish plants.
"I read a ton of papers. I developed a project plan. And I contacted universities up and down in California. I sent so many cold emails, did so many cold calls until, finally, a really wonderful professor at UC Berkeley agreed to look over my project plan and greenlight it," she said.
That professor was environmental scientist Céline Pallud, who studies soil. She said that Ramachandran's experiments were comparable to the work of a college student, which she said was "extremely impressive," given that she was only 12 when she undertook the research.
Ramachandran tested the laundry water on tall fescue, a type of turfgrass, and an assortment of vegetables, comparing the effect of soap nuts with organic and conventional soaps and detergents. That would mean setting up dozens of pots in a highly controlled space.
"I kicked my parents out of the master bedroom because I needed a space that was as close to a greenhouse as possible, and the master bedroom had ideal—and I mean, seriously, ideal—lighting and temperature conditions," she said. Fortunately, her parents, both computer engineers, were willing to accommodate her.
"I didn't take her seriously at first and tried to talk her into considering alternate places," said her mother, Hiran Rajagopalan. "Ultimately, I didn't want to disappoint her. After all, she was only trying to do science."
Ramachandran tracked nutrients and bacteria in the soil and kept a close eye on the health of the grass. She looked for traces of E. coli, which can make people severely ill if consumed. She worked continuously, even on Christmas and New Year's Day, and she took advanced classes in statistics to learn how to analyze all the data collected.
"I found that grey water from soap nuts, as well as several organic detergents, could be reused safely for non-potable uses," she said. "But grey water that was generated from [conventional] soaps that had things like soluble salts and boron, that became very detrimental because those ingredients accumulated in the grey water and then made it unusable for crop irrigation."
Ramachandran went on to found her own nonprofit, The Grey Water Project, which teaches people how to recycle grey water in their own homes. She does workshops at schools, libraries and corporate events, and she developed a grey water science curriculum that has been implemented in more than 90 schools so far.
"I tell people what the best practices are for grey water reuse. And I let them know, 'These are the detergents you should be using," she said. "My ultimate goal is essentially for grey water reuse to be just as common as paper or plastic recycling."
Ramachandran, now a senior in high school, is applying to colleges and has already been accepted to Stanford. She wants to study biology and environmental science to continue the kind of work she is already doing. But she also wants to study public policy to help make use of good science.
"I've learned a lot about what it means to be a scientist," she said. "You can use science to develop the solutions, but it's equally important to implement them."
Reposted with permission from Nexus Media.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.
Accessed by a long, winding road bordered by trees, the houses, built in the 1970s and 1980s, are mainly painted in pastel shades. Dotted among fruit trees in their sizeable backyards are huge water tanks, mounted on concrete slabs.
The tanks are evidence that even this affluent community is not insulated from the water stress experienced across the Caribbean.
Residents fill the tanks from the main pipes to use during scheduled outages by the water authority. But the supply is often unreliable and further impacted by low pressure for those living further up the hill.
Nunez says outages have become a regular occurrence, with water often shut off for all but a few hours during the night.
"Most of the time you have to buy food from outside or have food catered and buy bottles of water to drink," she said. "You use disposable dishes."
Patchy Infrastructure and Leaky Pipes
Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Kitts and Nevis are all classed as water scarce, which the UN defines as countries with less than 1000 cubic meters per capita of renewable water resources a year.
Barbados' situation, with only 350 cubic meters per capita, is especially grave, according to Keithroy Halliday, general manager of the Barbados Water Authority.
While most people outside of rural mountainous areas in the Caribbean are connected to the public water supply, they frequently face outdated infrastructure in need of repair, resulting in major losses of drinking water.
Alan Poon King, head of Trinidad and Tobago's Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), says the utility loses as much as 60 million gallons of water each day from leaking infrastructure — and that much again is wasted by problems like leaking taps on private properties.
The picture is similar in Jamaica, which Peter Clarke, managing director of the country's Water Resources Authority, says suffers from "a serious loss of water that has been produced and is supposed to be delivered, but it is not reaching the end user because of the aging infrastructure — it's leaky, it's perforated."
Climate Change Increases Pressure
If these structural problems are left unaddressed, things are only likely to deteriorate as the planet heats up.
"There are many other problems that are facing the water sector in the Caribbean and climate change is exacerbating those existing, underlying conditions," said Adrian Cashman, who sits on the global technical advisory committee for the Global Water Partnership.
Officials say drought conditions across the region over the past couple of years mean there just hasn't been enough rain to replenish aquifers at the usual rate.
"This past summer [in Jamaica] we went through a significant drought," said Clarke. "It really was challenging for the water supply providers."
In Trinidad and Tobago, Poon King said it was difficult to quantify the impacts of climate change, but that it was an ongoing challenge: "We've seen reduced precipitation that could be anywhere in the range of 10-20% in the dry season."
Halliday said climate change has already "significantly impacted" Barbados' water supply, too. All of Barbados' internal renewable water resources come from rainfall, he explained, and in 2019 the country saw its lowest recorded levels since 1947.
Climate Finance and Water-Wise Living
The Caribbean region enjoys relatively high standards of living, with most countries defined by the UN as "upper-middle income." This excludes them from much international development funding. At the same time, high levels of public debt combined with their vulnerability to climate change makes it difficult to secure investment in infrastructure.
However, one of the region's first major water projects financed by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was set up to help developing countries cope with the changing climate, is currently underway in Grenada.
Project head Hans-Werner Theisen says about half of the €45 million the GCF has allocated to the project will be spent improving infrastructure like water tanks, reservoirs and pipes. There will also be financial incentives to cut water waste from sectors like agriculture and tourism, which are among the biggest consumers of water.
Encouraging the public to use water more carefully is key to the project in Grenada, too. "What I think is very important is that everyone, every citizen, can contribute to water-saving measures, so we have to be water-wise in day-to-day living," Theisen said.
Elsewhere, Barbados has passed laws prohibiting the use of potable water for washing cars, gardening, filling swimming pools and similar activities. As in Jamaica, people are encouraged to use wastewater for such activities.
Water, Water Everywhere…
Despite day-to-day water outages, a 2017 UN Water report showed most people in the Caribbean have access to a safe — if irregular — water supply.
But in Trinidad, Nunez is infuriated living on an island with 360-views of the turquoise waters and nothing coming out of the tap.
"Water and air are things that humans need to live," she added. "I can't understand how on an island surrounded by water, they can't find some way of using — desalinating — the water."
According to 2019 figures, the region gets some 12% of its water supply from desalination. Poon King said in Trinidad and Tobago that figure is 20% but expanding this is problematic due to high energy costs.
For Nunez, water shortages are out of step with her country's development status. Trinidad and Tobago have profited from its oil reserves. Yet despite its high income, it struggles to adequately supply this most basic of necessities.
"There are glass buildings and universities and huge international airports and everything like this, but there is no water," she said. "We've got the latest architectural structures and homes and houses, but it seems like indoor sanitary ware and kitchens are just for show."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.
High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.
Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.
California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.
As reported by AccuWeather:
In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.
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Nearly 1.6 million people in the southern part of Madagascar have faced food insecurity since 2016, experiencing one drought after another, the United Nations World Food Program reported.
A study published Monday found billions more could face food insecurity as Earth's tropical rain belt shifts in response to climate change, causing increased drought stress and intensified flooding.
"Our work shows that climate change will cause the position of Earth's tropical rain belt to move in opposite directions in two longitudinal sectors that cover almost two thirds of the globe, a process that will have cascading effects on water availability and food production around the world," lead author Antonios Mamalakis, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, told UCI News.
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and other institutions analyzed how the tropical rain belt would respond to a future where greenhouse gas emission continued to rise through 2100, UCI News reported. Their findings, published in Nature Climate Change, revealed the rain belt will shift northward over the Eastern Hemisphere, impacting countries in southeastern Africa.
In Madagascar, these impacts are already being felt.
"We only had one day of rain in December in the whole region. And the thunderstorms have been blasting… and destroying and burying the crops that were there," Lola Castro, the United Nations World Food Program regional director for Southern Africa and Indian Ocean States, told UN News. "The result is famine-like conditions."
Madagascar's vulnerability to the climate crisis, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, has left people with little to eat, Castro said. "Cactus mixed with mud, roots, whatever they can find, leaves, seeds, whatever is available."
The rain belt is projected to shift toward a warming atmosphere, co-author James Randerson, UCI's Ralph J. & Carol M. Cicerone Chair in Earth System Science, explained. "In Asia, projected reductions in aerosol emissions, glacier melting in the Himalayas and loss of snow cover in northern areas brought on by climate change will cause the atmosphere to heat up faster than in other regions," he told UCI News.
Since 2000, glaciers in the Himalayas are losing more than a vertical foot and half of ice every year, Columbia University's Earth Insititute reported, double the amount from 1975 to 2000.
"We know that the rain belt shifts toward this heating, and that its northward movement in the Eastern Hemisphere is consistent with these expected impacts of climate change," Randerson told UCI News.
In the Western Hemisphere, the rain belt is expected to move in the opposite direction by shifting southward, the study found. This will cause greater drought stress to Central America, a region which is experiencing more than five years of recurring drought, Reuters reported.
By combining an engineering approach to both climate science and data analytics, the team of researchers found previously unknown consequences associated with global warming. They also saw how much more there is to learn.
"The complexity of the Earth system is daunting, with dependencies and feedback loops across many processes and scales," author Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, UCI Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, told UCI News.
Determining how these changes will impact flooding, droughts, infrastructure and ecosystems can inform adaptation strategies and policies, Foufoula-Georgiou told UCI News. But time may be running out.
"What we are saying here is that the situation we're facing in southern Madagascar is not normal," Lola Castro told UN News, regarding the humanitarian crisis. "It's very different to any normal year of crisis and that we really need to act immediately."
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piyaset / iStock / Getty Images Plus
It has long been understood that climate change will impact diet and food security globally. But up until now, little research proved how diet diversity is impacted by climate change outcomes, like warmer temperatures and increased precipitation, over a span of geographical areas.
Led by researchers at the University of Vermont, the study surveyed the diets of more than 107,00 children under the age of five, across 19 countries in Asia, Africa, and South America, with 30 years of precipitation and temperature data, according to the study.
Higher, long-term temperatures were associated with decreased diet diversity among children. "It surprised us that higher temperatures are already showing an impact," Meredith Niles, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont, said in an article.
In 2019, over 144 million children under the age of five were malnourished, according to data by the UNICEF. This number could have grown by an additional 6.7 million in 2020 alone, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report published in July.
In the study, researchers used a scale developed by the United Nations to understand intakes of micronutrients like iron, folic acid, zinc and vitamins A and D.
On average children ate 3.2 out of 10 food groups. But in "emerging economies" like in China, children ate 6.8 out of 10 food groups, more than doubling the overall average, according to the University of Vermont. Household wealth, consequently, was the biggest factor in children's diet diversity, Reuters reported.
"These results suggest that, if we don't adapt, climate change could further erode a diet that already isn't meeting adequate child micronutrient levels," Brendan Fisher from UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources said about children's diets in developing countries.
Although the study proved what researchers had long expected regarding warming temperatures, they did find surprising results on how precipitation alters diet diversity.
Higher precipitation, linked to countries in West and Southeast Africa and Central America, was associated with higher diversity in children's diet, the University of Vermont reported.
"Higher rainfall in the future may provide important diet quality benefits in multiple ways, but it also depends on how that rain comes," Molly Brown, a co-author of the study said. "If it's more erratic and intense, as is predicted with climate change, this may not hold true."
Changes in the agriculture and the food industry can also be linked to worsening diets, Paolo Vineis of Imperial College London, who studies the effects of climate change on the disease, told Reuters.
By 2050, global demand for food may increase by 59 to 98 percent from a larger population. Although this will require major agricultural and food industries to rapidly expand their production, droughts and higher temperatures will threaten their ability to do so, Columbia University's Earth Institute reported.
In the United States alone, for example, the production of corn, which is used to feed livestock, could decrease by 50 percent if the planet warms by four degrees Celsius, a study found, a likely temperature increase predicted for 2100.
So what kind of solutions can help?
Educating investors on the financial risks and potential opportunities of the climate crisis could help the food industry adapt to the climate impacts already being felt, Columbia University's Earth Institute reported
"Food security is going to be one of the most pressing climate-related issues, mainly because most of the world is relatively poor and food is going to become increasingly scarce and expensive," Peter De Menocal, founding director of Columbia's Center for Climate and Life, told Columbia's Earth Institute.
As for improving diets globally, researchers at the University of Vermont stress the need for more research aimed at protecting children's nutrition especially for "vulnerable populations in low and middle-income countries across the tropics where the most profound climate changes are expected."
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Wildfires burned more acres this year in the U.S. than ever before in modern records, E&E reports based on data published by the National Interagency Fire Center.
Extreme heat, fueled by climate change caused by extracting and burning fossil fuels, dries vegetation and turns vast swaths of forest into a tinderbox.
"In 2020 we saw some of the hottest months on record, and large portions of the western U.S. were in severe drought," University of Colorado fire scientist Jennifer Balch told E&E.
California, also hit by two exceptionally severe heat waves this year, more than doubled its previous record of acreage burned and its ecosystems will likely be changed for centuries.
"We can no longer ignore the link between warming and wildfires. We will see more fire seasons like 2020 in the future," Balch told E&E.
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Puerto Rico's governor declared a state of emergency on Monday after a severe drought on the island left 140,000 people without access to running water, despite the necessary role that hand washing and hygiene plays in stopping the novel coronavirus, as The Independent reported.
The island will start water rationing on July 2, as 26 percent of the island is under a severe drought and 60 percent is under a moderate drought, according to U.S. Drought Monitor, as The Independent reported. According to Governor Wanda Vasquez, that means 21 of 78 municipalities are affected by the severe drought while another 29 are affected by the moderate drought.
The rationing will affect 140,000 clients of the water service, including some in the capital of San Juan, according to The Associated Press, as the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority starts to shut off water for certain blocks of the day.
That means some residents will be without water for 24 hours every other day as part of strict rationing measures. Puerto Rico's utilities company asked residents not to stockpile excessive amounts of water because it would exacerbate an already bad situation.
There will also be 23 water trucks spread across the most impacted parts of the island. Officials asked that anyone seeking water from the trucks wear a mask and adhere to social distancing guidelines, according to The Associated Press.
Some residents in the northeastern part of the state were already rationing water earlier in June.
Many residents rely on a system of reservoirs in Puerto Rico for water, but several have not been dredged for years, leaving sediment to collect and allowing the excess loss of water, according to The Hill. The water rationing efforts will target households connected to the Carraízo reservoir, one of 11 that Puerto Rico's government operates. It has not been dredged since the late 1990s.
Five other reservoirs are under a state of observation. Officials have already taken other measures, including activating water wells and transferring more than 30,000 clients from Carraízo to another reservoir, according to the AP.
"We're asking people to please use moderation," said Doriel Pagán, executive director of Puerto Rico's Water and Sewer Authority, adding that she could not say how long the rationing measures will last, as The Independent reported.
She told The Associated Press that the utility company is talking with FEMA about a $300 million dredging investment. But that project will not bring any short-term relief since the process is long and requires various studies for FEMA to approve the project.
According to The Associated Press, the upcoming water rationing efforts will target households connected to the Carraízo reservoir, one of 11 that Puerto Rico's government operates. Pagán said that reservoir was last dredged in the late 1990s. Five other reservoirs are under a state of observation. Officials have already taken other measures, including activating water wells and transferring more than 30,000 clients from Carraízo to another reservoir.
As the U.S. Drought Monitor map shows, much of the drought blankets the southern and eastern parts of the island, including San Juan and Ponce. The southern part of Puerto Rico was hit by a powerful 6.4 earthquake at the beginning of 2020.
The current drought in Puerto Rico came on quickly. In mid-May, no parts of the island, which is a U.S. territory, were under drought, though some spots were abnormally dry. Now, a long dry spell has left many parts of the island with four to eight inches less rain than normal over the past 30 days, according to The Weather Channel.
Residents in most areas will be prohibited from excessive use of water such as watering gardens during daylight hours, filling pools, and using a hose or non-recycled water to wash cars, as The Independent reported.
Some thunderstorms are expected for today and tomorrow. "However, we are not expecting enough rain ... to solve the problem we're seeing," said Fernanda Ramos, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Weather Service in San Juan, as The Independent reported.
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