By Tim Schauenberg
Whether they smoked a joint on the couch or sniffed a line in a club, some 269 million people around the world indulged in drugs in 2018, according to the United Nations.
Cannabis Vs. Potatoes: Which Has a Bigger Carbon Footprint?<p>With 192 million users in 2018, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-marijuana-use-rose-by-60-percent-over-the-past-decade/a-49358921" target="_blank">cannabis is by far the most popular drug worldwide</a> — excluding alcohol and tobacco.</p><p>Efforts to legalize marijuana are continuing to gather pace in the United States, where the drug has already become a billion-dollar market. But cultivating the plants in greenhouses, with optimum light, ventilation and temperature, guzzles an enormous amount of resources.</p><p>According to estimates, cannabis production in the U.S. already accounts for around <a href="https://www.swansea.ac.uk/media/Environmental-Impacts-of-the-Legalization-of-Cannabis-in-California.pdf" target="_blank">1% of the country's total energy consumption</a>.</p><p>"Within a single year, approximately 16.5 tons of carbon dioxide are emitted in the United States as the result of indoor cannabis production, equivalent to the annual emissions of 3 million cars," according to a <a href="https://escholarship.org/uc/item/4w64g29s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report by the University of California, Davis.</a></p><p>That means that a single joint has a similar carbon footprint to about 6.6 pounds of potatoes.</p>
Cannabis Plants Add to Water Stress<p>Cannabis is also an extremely thirsty plant, needing twice as much water as tomatoes or grapes.</p><p>About 70% of the cannabis consumed across the country is grown in California. Such large-scale cultivation of a crop that requires up to 6 gallons of water per day per plant has only intensified the region's water shortages during dry seasons.</p><p>Scientists from the Californian Department of Fisheries and Wildlife estimate that illegal outdoor cultivation has lowered the water level in some flowing streams by up to a quarter.</p>
Clearing Forests to Plant Coca<p>The ecological footprint of the world's <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/2020-may-set-eu-record-for-cocaine-seizures/a-54585695" target="_blank">19 million cocaine users</a> is particularly apparent in Latin America. According to the United Nations, <a href="https://wdr.unodc.org/wdr2020/field/WDR20_Booklet_3.pdf" target="_blank">Colombia had the potential to produce 1,120 tons of pure cocaine in 2018</a> — a record crop for the South American country.</p><p>Since 2001, about 741,000,000 acres of forest have been cleared for the cultivation of coca — the plant that produces cocaine. </p><p>Following a temporary decline, "we can see actually the same peak of coca that we were watching 20 years ago," Paulo Sandoval, a geographer at the University of Oregon, told DW.</p><p>Sandoval's latest satellite data shows that around 123,000 acres of coca are currently being cultivated in Colombia's Amazon region alone — about half of it in nature reserves that are home to a rich diversity of species.</p><p>But the plantations he surveyed account for only 20% of the total cultivated area.</p>
Colombia's Approach 'Harms' the Environment<p>Until now, the Colombian government has relied on a strategy of eradication in its fight against coca cultivation. As part of its campaign, aircraft sprayed plantations with the highly concentrated herbicide glyphosate. This method effectively destroyed many coca plantations, but it also damaged neighboring forests and farmland.</p><p>Elizabeth Tellman, a geographer at Columbia University's Earth Institute in New York, says this approach harms rather than helps the environment. And once the fields are destroyed, the cartels simply clear more forests elsewhere and plant new coca crops.</p><p>"We do know that it [the destruction of cultivated areas] has not only had no effect (...) it's been really counterproductive," she told DW in an interview. </p><p>Coca leaves aren't just grown in the jungle; they're also processed into cocaine in secret laboratories there. This process requires highly toxic chemicals such as ammonia, acetone and hydrochloric acid. Scientists estimate that several million liters of these substances end up in soils and rivers each year. There are now few aquatic plants or animals living in those contaminated waters, according to a 2015 EU report.</p>
MDMA, Ecstasy and Co.<p>So-called party drugs — from pills to a line of powder in a nightclub bathroom — have grown in popularity in recent years.</p><p>The Netherlands and Belgium are <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/dutch-police-find-netherlands-largest-cocaine-lab/a-54529270" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hotspots for synthetic drugs</a>. The production of a kilo of pure MDMA, the main substance in ecstasy, results in 10 kilos (22 pounds) of toxic waste — or 30 kilos (66 pounds) in the case of amphetamines. This might include sodium hydroxide, hydrochloric acids and acetone, substances that would normally have to be disposed of as hazardous waste using protective suits.</p><p>The Dutch Water Research Institute (KWR) estimates that in 2017, around 7,000 tons of these substances were either dumped somewhere in drums or leaked into the ground and rivers. "That's unbelievable," says Eric Emke, a scientist at the KWR.</p><p><a href="https://nos.nl/artikel/2264440-politie-ontmantelt-drugslab-in-rijen-dit-was-heel-erg-gevaarlijk.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A report aired by Dutch public broadcaster NOS</a> showed just how abrasive these liquids can be. In it, a scientist immerses a chicken leg in a yellow sodium hydroxide solution. After two days, the meat has completely dissolved, leaving just the bone behind.</p><p>Emke says the waste is sometimes dumped into containers used to collect cattle excrement, becoming mixed with the dung that is spread on corn crops.</p><p>"And so five years ago, they discovered amphetamine and ecstasy residues in corn lice."</p><p>Jeremy Douglas, the regional representative of the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime for Southeast Asia, says Thailand, Laos and Myanmar have also become a hub for "industrial scale" global synthetic drug production in recent years.</p><p><span></span>"The spillover damage to groundwater and habitats is severe, and frankly it is nothing short of an ecological and public health disaster," he said.</p>
Groundwater Sinking in Afghanistan<p>Around 337,000 football fields, or 23 times the size of Paris — that's the amount of land that was used to cultivate opium worldwide in 2019, according to the UN. The main producers are Myanmar, Mexico and Afghanistan — which accounts for 84% of global cultivation.</p><p>Poppy fields spread mainly across the country's southwest in areas where, until the 1990s, there was nothing but arid desert. Today, some 1.4 million people live there, making a living from cultivating opium and agriculture. That's all possible thanks to more than 50,000 solar-powered water pumps that have greened the desert. But that is not as green as it sounds.</p><p><a href="https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/2006E-When-the-Water-Runs-Out.pdf" target="_blank">A report by socio-economist David Mansfield</a> found that the region's groundwater is sinking by 9.8 feet per year. Wells as deep as 426 feet are now being drilled to find water.</p><p>"Each year, more people are arriving in the desert and installing solar deep wells. There are local fears that there will fast become a time when agricultural production will no longer be viable."</p><p>The poppy farmers also use chemical fertilizers and strong pesticides to control weeds. Groundwater tests have shown that nitrate levels are significantly higher than what is deemed safe. This can increase the risk of blue-baby syndrome, which leads to heart defects and death in newborns.</p><p>Mansfield warns that if water in the region does eventually run out, it will likely force large numbers of people from their homes, sparking a rural exodus.</p>
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By Charli Shield
Local authorities in the eastern Russian city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy have been warning people against visiting the nearby Khalaktyrsky beach, after surfers complained of partially losing their eyesight and experiencing headaches, fevers and nausea when venturing into the water.
Local Authorities Investigate Three Causes<p>The authorities took samples from the ocean, where by the end of September, Morozov said a "yellowish-greenish liquid" had appeared along a 20 to 30-kilometer (12-18-mile) stretch of the shoreline.</p><p>Local investigators are now looking into three main reasons for the water pollution, including a toxic spill, volcanic activity in the area and naturally occurring deadly <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/biggest-ever-seaweed-bloom-stretches-from-gulf-of-mexico-to-africa/a-49480178" target="_blank">algal blooms</a>, governor of the Kamchatka region, Vladimir Solodov, told a press conference on Monday.</p><p>On a video posted to Instagram, the governor said the situation was normalizing due to the ocean's unique ability to self-regenerate.</p><p>"As I said, we will push for a full and meticulous investigation of the reasons behind what happened, but now we can observe that the situation has significantly improved in the past few days."</p><p>The region's natural resources minister, Alexei Kumarkov, said tests on samples had thus far only detected unusually high levels of the chemical phenol and oil products in the water.</p><p>However, later on Monday, Russia's Natural Resources Minister said that the pollution was unlikely to be manmade, the RIA news agency reported.</p><p>Ecology Minister Dmitry Kobylkin said that so far research had only uncovered slightly raised levels of iron and phosphates.</p><p>He also said that the incident might have been prompted by the stormy conditions recently experienced in the region of eastern Russia. </p>
Little Evidence for Oil Spill<p>Environmentalist Dmitry Lisitsyn, head of local NGO <a href="https://bankwatch.org/office/sakhalin-environmental-watch" target="_blank">Sakhalin Environmental Watch</a>, told DW there have been no visible signs of oil on the surface of the water, and the bottom-dwelling sea creatures that have been found dead are not normally linked to oil spills.</p><p>"Petroleum products are lighter than water — they form a film at the top of the water, which mainly kills birds. Oil products aren't poisonous enough to kill such a huge amount of animals," he said.</p><p>Nicky Cariglia, an independent marine pollution advisor, said <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/mauritius-oil-spill-disaster-tanker/a-48095315" target="_blank">oil spill events</a> are often "very obvious", and that though in some cases it is possible for spills of very light oil to kill marine animals that live on the sea floor, oil tends to float on the surface of the water.</p><p>"The first thing you see when you have an <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/mauritius-oil-spill-compensation-pay/a-54725675" target="_blank">oil spill</a> is the presence of oil — whether it's crude oil or bunker oil or even lighter types of oil," she told DW.</p><p>As to the high concentrations of phenol in the water, Cariglia said it is not enough to indicate whether the event is a result of human activity or a naturally occurring phenomenon.</p><p>"High levels of phenol concentration can result from land-based runoff — if there have been, for example, a lot of fires — or from harmful algal blooms, or also from other decomposing organic materials," she said.</p>
Deeper Research Needed<p>Lisitsyn is "convinced" the water pollution is linked to a leak of decades-old expired rocket fuel from the Radygino military base located 10 kilometers from Khalaktyrsky beach.</p><p>"It's very likely that the waste disposal site there started to leak, maybe the storage tanks broke and a large amount of rocket fuel was washed into the ocean," Lisitsyn told DW, speculating that the noxious liquid could have been washed into the ocean during a cyclone that hit the area on September 9.</p><p>He says it is now up to authorities to launch a thorough investigation into the source of the contamination, which includes determining whether there is an ongoing leak.</p><p>"The military base needs to be examined, as do the storage locations and all the streams of water that flow down from it into the ocean," he said, adding that the components of rocket fuel are carcinogenic and that if it were spilling uncontained into the ocean, it could have long-term effects — not just for marine life.</p><p>"They are very harmful to people. I wouldn't recommend walking along this beach or breathing in the fumes there."</p>
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Increased consumer interest in sustainability has largely driven the expansion of new organic product lines. It's this combination of consumer consciousness and evolved eco-friendly products that has people searching for the best organic mattress.
But there are many brands in this space. We wanted to take a closer look at the Avocado mattress and explore what makes it such a popular pick in the eco-market.
Avocado<ul><li>GOLS organic certified latex</li><li>GOTS organic certified cotton</li><li>1,000+ pocketed support coils </li><li>No polyurethane foams, polyester, or toxic fire retardants</li><li>Replaces all cotton with wool</li><li>Vegan certified</li><li>PETA-approved</li></ul>
Avocado<ul><li>Certified organic and natural materials</li><li>Natural alpaca and GOTS organic certified wool and cotton</li><li>Soft, plush feel that's more "luxurious" than most common products</li><li>Elastic straps to hold it in place</li></ul>
Avocado<ul><li>GOLS organic certified latex and GOTS organic certified kapok</li><li>Organic jersey cotton liner that's machine washable </li><li>GOTS organic certified quilted cotton cover</li><li>GREENGUARD Gold certified, vegan, and handmade in Los Angeles</li></ul>
Avocado<ul><li>GOTS organic certified Indian Suvin Cotton</li><li>1,000 thread count per inch weave </li><li>Sateen finish</li></ul>
By Wolfgang Dick
Despite the lush, verdant nature that surrounds the German town of Ulrichstein, residents here — and in the region — suffer from acute water shortages.
Digging Deep From Drinking Water<p>Instead, a drilling company is set in the coming weeks to try to tap into the groundwater below the town. Water that the firm insists is there — despite criticism from geologists who say groundwater levels below Ulrichstein, the highest permanent settlement in the state at 614 meters (2,014 feet) above sea level, are insufficient for the town's needs.</p>
Many Reasons for Water Shortages<p>Schneider said the reason for his town's water shortages has to do with its geographical location. Due to the Rhine Weser watershed, he said, "water just keeps draining away, and winters have become quite mild in these parts."</p><p>This means groundwater is not being replenished during the winter months. The situation is complicated further because the nearby city of Frankfurt also taps into the local groundwater, sourcing one-third of its requirements — some 40 million cubic meters — from this region.</p><p>"I got quite angry when Frankfurt asked its residents to water the city's trees during one hot summer," the mayor admitted.</p><p>A €150,000 ($177,000) trial showed no groundwater the Ulrichstein could tap into at a depth of 120 meters. However, the drilling company found water at a depth of 200 meters. The well, which cost some €800,000 ($944,000) to drill, will only serve as an interim solution as there is not as much water as the officials hoped for, and no one knows how long before it dries up.</p><p>The municipal council is looking into alternatives to source drinking water. For this purpose, it has modernized two of its eight water treatment plants at a cost of €2 million ($2.4 million). Ulrichstein is also considering installing a 4.5-kilometer canal to the next town to source water. This endeavor, however, carries a €650,000 ($767,000) price tag.</p><p>Ultimately, the municipality decides to hire a logistics company to make six deliveries of 60,000 liters (15,850 gallons) of water each day by truck. Locals are also urged to use the precious resource sparingly by abstaining from watering their lawns or otherwise using water unnecessarily.</p>
High Cost of Water<p><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/innovative-clean-water-technologies/a-45287950" target="_blank">Whatever option the town chooses</a>, residents will be facing higher water bills.</p><p>Local businessman Klaus Kraft is especially hard-hit by the water shortage. He has been running a laundromat for years. Each day, his business consumes about 12 cubic meters of water, less than half the 30 liters (8 gallons) it used to require. But, he said, he cannot hike up prices as this would hurt his business. Currently, sourcing and disposing of one cubic meter of drinking water costs about €10 ($12) — roughly three times what residents in other German cities pay.</p><p>A woman who has lived in the town for many years said she noticed the water shortages three years ago. "One day, the water pressure just dropped off," she said, adding that the town's calls for residents to use water sparingly are being ignored by many.</p><p>One of the more recent and visible culprits is private swimming pools appearing in many residents' backyards. According to Germany's Swimming Pool and Wellness Association, a growing number of Germans are deciding to install their own pools. One reason for this is that people who are <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/meet-the-germans-live-summer-and-vacations-in-germany/a-54081551" target="_blank">traveling less during this pandemic want to have a nice time relaxing at home</a>.</p>
Gloomy Predictions<p>Karsten Rinke, a biologist with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, says Germans will have to prepare for future water shortages. At least technological innovations and water conservation efforts have reduced the average daily water consumption in Germany from 147 to 123 liters (39 to 32 gallons) per person, says the researcher. But Germany's Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) reports that climate predictions paint a gloomy picture of the future. It warns that people in some parts of Germany could soon face problems sourcing drinking water.</p><p>German Environmental Minister Svenja Schulze has scheduled a "water summit" for spring 2021 to discuss this worrying situation with federal, state and local representatives. She wants to devise a comprehensive strategy to tackle the country's water shortage.</p>
The state of Michigan has reached a settlement with the victims of the Flint water crisis. Michigan agreed to pay $600 million, which will primarily benefit the city's children since they were most affected by the lead-tainted water, The Washington Post reported.
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By Elliot Douglas
A glacier in New Zealand is believed to have lost so much ice over the last three years that it could provide drinking water for every resident of the country over the same period, a research institute announced Wednesday.
'The Path to Extinction'<p>Damage sustained by some glaciers between 2018 and 2019 may place them on the path to extinction, Lorrey explained.</p><p>Marine heatwaves and record temperatures impacted snow lines. Ash from the recent Australian bush fires also blanketed some of the ice, increasing the potential for more melting as the ash absorbs more solar radiation.</p><p>It could take 20 or 30 years of improvement in snow cover before scientists could "even start to consider whether the recent damage can be reversed to any degree," Lorrey said.</p>
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By Brett Walton
Use of Colorado River water in the three states of the river's lower basin fell to a 33-year low in 2019, amid growing awareness of the precarity of the region's water supply in a drying and warming climate.
Raising Lake Mead<p>Just five years ago, in 2015, the three states were making use of their entire 7.5-million-acre-foot allotment. By statute and tradition, the basin is divided into a lower basin, where use is higher, and an upper basin, which includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The basins have different water allocation systems and rules governing its use.</p><p>In the lower basin, Arizona's annual allocation is 2.8 million acre-feet, but last year it used just 2.5 million. Nevada used 233,000 of its 300,000 acre-feet. The big savings were in California, which used only 3.8 million of its 4.4 million acre-feet. California hasn't used that little water from the Colorado since the 1950s, Fleck said.</p><p>The drop in California last year is due in large part to Metropolitan Water District, which consumed only 537,000 acre-feet. Five years ago, the district's tally was around 1 million acre-feet per year. Urban conservation and development of local water sources have played a large role in the decline, but the district's Colorado River water use is also influenced by snow levels in the Sierra Nevada mountains. When more water is available to be imported from the northern part of the state, as it was last year, the district leans less heavily on the Colorado River.</p>
Total Lower Colorado Basin Consumptive Use<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQxMTU1OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzM0NDYxM30.RVr3Rzi1jqZHweILfonMU8SWs_LGJBGqg9lMiQ-jrVY/img.png?width=980" id="d31ab" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="15ef390e64a1be66991bfd26b0f0fee5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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By Sonya Diehn
More than 2 billion hectares of previously productive land is degraded. For Desertification and Drought Day on June 17, DW spoke with Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
By Jake Johnson
President Donald Trump issued an executive order late Thursday that environmentalists warned will accelerate the corporate exploitation of oceans by relaxing regulations on and streamlining the construction of industrial offshore aquaculture facilities, which critics deride as "floating factory farms" that pump pollution and diseases into public waters.
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By Chiara Cecchini
Although it is difficult today to divert attention from the dramatic situation we live in, it is even more important to get closer to our primary needs. Recently, we celebrated World Water Day, and the timing couldn't have been more appropriate to give to all of us the chance to rethink priorities and draw some lessons.
What Can We Do About It?<p>Now that the whole world is experiencing the effects of a major disaster, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate some of our choices. COVID-19 has transformed everyday life so significantly that the effects are already visible from space, showing us that change is possible and results are tangible. COVID-19 is teaching us (among other things) that our eagerness for creation should not result in the destruction of our planet.</p><p>Here are five simple things we can all start doing to have a healthier relationship with water and our environment in the future.</p>
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- One of the most significant, yet ignored, impacts of climate change is its disruption of the water cycle.
- The youth-driven climate movement provides examples of how to incorporate water into the climate agenda by raising awareness, encouraging advocacy and promoting innovation.
- World Water Day 2020 is focused on the interconnectedness of water and climate change.
1. Raise Awareness<p>Not enough is understood and communicated about the devastating risk of climate change to the world's water resources. Currently, <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/3674533?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents" target="_blank">50% of our drinking water comes from glaciers</a>, which are melting at an unprecedent speed. Higher air temperatures are causing increased flooding – <a href="https://www.zurich.com/en/knowledge/topics/flood-and-water-damage" target="_blank">which is affecting more people globally than any other natural hazard</a>. If no measures are taken, water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, is expected to cost some regions <a href="https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/water/publication/high-and-dry-climate-change-water-and-the-economy" target="_blank">up to 6% of their economic growth</a>.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg4ODQ1NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMTIxODQ1MX0.qJ4_h03eH2s3D_6FnWaae2eoUC_2dU4EvoaADlwnha0/img.png?width=980" id="77940" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fcd44dcbca3778d12738b067737eaf05" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
2. Be an Advocate<p>Young people are organizing and uniting around the world to raise awareness through climate strikes – bridging political differences and linking separate sectors. Rather than confronting one environmental issue at a time, they are holistic in their advocacy, recognizing the strength in combining efforts.</p><p>During the 2020 Annual Meeting in Davos, Global Shapers engaged in climate work and discussions on the future of water. Their participation, enthusiasm and conviction to further incentivize young people to scale up water innovation, resulted in the stakeholder proposal to develop an award. Rather than being a one-off entrepreneurial activity, this prize aims to be a milestone in a long-term water advocacy agenda.</p><p>While having a Corporate Social Responsibility programme is common, more companies could push the cause. An example is Heineken's "<a href="https://www.theheinekencompany.com/newsroom/heineken-announces-every-drop-water-ambition-for-2030/" target="_blank">Every Drop</a>" campaign, dedicated to lowering water usage to combat water scarcity.</p><p>Choose to be a champion, mobilize for the climate-water cause and implement what you advocate!</p>
3. Seek Innovation<p>Since 2012, the rise in smart phones has been dramatic (to date, there are more people with a mobile phone than access to a flushable toilet). Today's youth is the generation most accustomed to technology from an early age. With the increase of artificial intelligence, smart sensoring and blockchain, the possibilities for tackling water issues have multiplied.</p><p>In the run-up to COP 21, youth representatives released a white paper with recommendations in four key areas on how to address climate change – all of which included water. This led to the creation of the <a href="https://youthwaterclimate.org/project/ahiafor-yahovi-amedzape-danyi-apeyeme-togo-tonfuturtonclimat-project-to-support-the-young-people-for-the-protection-of-environment-water-and-land-in-togo/" target="_blank">Youth for Water and Climate</a> (YWC) initiative. Similar to the World Economic Forum's <a href="https://www.weforum.org/uplink" target="_blank">UpLink</a>, the YWC is a platform connecting young, innovative solution providers with solution seekers that are able to offer technical and financial resources to help scale up the projects.</p><p>By providing the means and the mentoring, the chances for these projects to develop increase, while offering tangible solutions for companies in return. Companies such as AB InBev have launched <a href="https://www.ab-inbev.com/sustainability/100-accelerator.html" target="_blank">sustainability accelerators</a>, enabling start-ups to grow, while learning from their breakthrough water innovations. In line with stakeholder capitalism, more companies aim to be inclusive – and what better way to do that – than by getting insights into innovative solutions for water challenges and climate change.</p>
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By Tara Lohan
In 2015 an estimated 1.8 million migrants crossed into the European Union, fleeing countries gripped by violence, political upheaval and resource scarcity like Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Eritrea and Nigeria. Many made their trips in flimsy, overcrowded boats. Thousands drowned along the way. E.U. governments struggled to deal with the influx of new arrivals, and the confluence of humanitarian and political crises that resulted — including a surge in right-wing anti-immigrant rhetoric.
A camp hosting Syrian refugees in Turkey. European Union 2016 / European Parliament / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>When it comes to determining where problems could erupt, water is a key part of the equation.</p><p>"We put in a number of water-risk variables on the assumption that no conflict is caused by water alone," Iceland said, "but water may be present as an exacerbating or contributing factor along with a lot of other features of society."</p><p>Most recently, drought was one of the <a href="https://www.wri.org/news/water-stress-helping-drive-conflict-and-migration" target="_blank">driving factors</a> in the unrest that led to Syria's civil war and increasing destabilization in Mali. It was also an underlying contributor to the deadly conflict in Darfur in 2003 and has bolstered the efforts of terrorist organizations like Boko Haram.</p><p>The link between water stress and other resource pressures, Iceland warms, is becoming more acute as global environmental crises worsen.</p><p>"When you look at the big picture, we're consuming a lot more resources now then are replenished by our natural systems," he said. "Just that alone is enough to cause a lot of problems. And then on top of that you've got a changing climate that's further exacerbating the situation."</p><p>The links between climate change and global security are fast becoming a top concern.</p><p>A new report released this week by U.S. national security, military and intelligence professionals at the <a href="https://climateandsecurity.org/" target="_blank">Center for Climate and Security</a> mapped future climate change scenarios and their effects on security. Not surprisingly, the findings are troubling. Competition for dwindling resources, they predict, will increase social tensions and could topple already-fragile states. Natural disasters, social unrest and shrinking economic opportunities will push people from their homes and heighten migration pressures.</p><p>The <a href="https://climateandsecurity.files.wordpress.com/2020/02/a-security-threat-assessment-of-global-climate-change_nsmip_2020_2.pdf" target="_blank">report found</a> that "even at scenarios of low warming, each region of the world will face severe risks to national and global security in the next three decades … Higher levels of warming will pose catastrophic, and likely irreversible, global security risks over the course of the 21st century."</p><p>Iceland hopes that the early warning tool could help play a role in averting some crises that could come from these and other scenarios that lead to violent conflict.</p>
Habiba Hossen collects water from a rehabilitated distribution point in Ethiopia during a drought in 2012. Pablo Tosco / Oxfam / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>But it's a complicated picture.</p><p>"It would be wonderful to have a perfect tool to predict something as inherently complex as violent conflict," said Peter Gleick, president emeritus of the <a href="https://pacinst.org/" target="_blank">Pacific Institute</a>, which along with Oregon State University and New America are also affiliated partners of the project. "We'll never have such a tool. But the more information we have about the many factors that contribute to violence the better, especially given the new, real and growing threat of climate disruption."</p><p>How successful the resource ultimately is also depends on how, and by whom, it's used. Simply knowing where trouble is brewing is only the first step. Iceland says the resource is geared for decision-makers like foreign-affairs ministries and intelligence departments, as well as development and disaster-relief experts at non-governmental organizations.</p><p>"A lot of these governments and non-government entities could use this information to try to figure out where the next problems can occur and get ready for it," he said. "Or the global community could approach those national leaders in developing countries [where problems are predicted] and say, 'We see that you're likely to have a water-related problem in the near future, what are some strategies that we could develop with you to try to address this problem?'"</p><p>The system isn't just available to diplomats and international NGOs, though — anyone can use it and download relevant data.</p><p>"You can look at a lot of other datasets on the website that might be used as contextual information," said Iceland. "Things like where are the roads and reservoirs with respect to predicted conflict. Or where the population is very dense in relation to these predicted conflict areas."</p><p>One area currently on the map as an emerging area of concern, he said, is Iran. The country has a dry environment with a rapidly growing population and is working toward being food self-sufficient.</p><p>"But they really don't have enough water to do that and so a lot of these lakes and rivers are drying up," said Iceland. That's forcing people to abandon farms to move to cities, and those who've remained in agricultural communities are beginning to protest the government's water allocations.</p><p>Other areas of concern include the eastern coast of South Africa and southern Iraq, he says, but it's too soon yet to show any on-the-ground results from the early warning tool there or elsewhere.</p><p>Even so, the resource has started to reveal things that could soon help mitigate future conflicts or allow communities to adapt to upcoming problems.</p><p>"This new effort has already given us insight into areas where more efforts at smart water policies, improved management and environmental diplomacy are needed," said Gleick.</p><p>And the more data we collect, the more we'll be able to learn.</p><p>"I hope and expect the tool to improve over time," he added.</p>