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Global Context

ARE WATER CYCLES THE MISSING PIECE OF THE CLIMATE CHANGE CRISIS? — “No plants, no rain. Water begets water, say hydrologists; soil is the womb, vegetation is the midwife,” wrote Eurof Uppington in an article for Euronews (March 2024)


“Warming is speeding up, and many climate scientists worry something may be missing from the models. Could the answer lie in an inconvenient and forgotten, but critically important piece of climate science? Water cycles are beautifully complex, with endless feedback loops. Modelling them is a huge challenge most climate simulators, seeking clear outputs for policymakers, shy away from. The effect of CO2 by contrast is simple, and aesthetically boring, but easier to explain,” wrote Eurof Uppington.

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NEW RESEARCH FROM IRELAND REVEALS THAT: “Generational narratives make young people more worried about climate change, without any corresponding increase in willingness to engage in climate action”


“Differences between generations in their contribution to climate change are undeniable,” said Dr Shane Timmons of the ESRI’s Behavioural Research Unit. “But focusing on these differences may contribute to existing misperceptions about the beliefs of others. Instead, communications about climate change that highlight commonalities between subgroups of the population may help to reduce eco-anxiety and foster the kind of cooperation necessary to mitigate and adapt it.”

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SEA LEVEL ALONG THE UNITED STATES COASTLINE: “This new data on sea rise is the latest reconfirmation that our climate crisis is blinking ‘code red,’” said Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor to the US President


The United States is expected to experience as much sea level rise by the year 2050 as it witnessed in the previous hundred years. The Sea Level Rise Technical Report provides the most up-to-date sea level rise projections for all U.S. states and territories by decade for the next 100 years and beyond, based on a combination of tide gauge and satellite observations and all the model ensembles from the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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ANTARCTICA’S DOOMSDAY GLACIER: “While uncertainty remains about exactly what will happen, one thing is for sure – the retreating Thwaites glacier will continue to add to global sea levels for many years to come,” stated Dr. Ella Gilbert, climate scientist at the University of Reading (January 2022)


“Thwaites glacier, the widest in the world at 80 miles wide, is held back by a floating platform of ice called an ice shelf, which makes it flow less quickly. But scientists have just confirmed that this ice shelf is becoming rapidly destabilised. The eastern ice shelf now has cracks criss-crossing its surface, and could collapse within ten years. If Thwaites’ ice shelf did collapse, it would spell the beginning of the end for the glacier. Without its ice shelf, Thwaites glacier would discharge all its ice into the ocean over the following decades to centuries.” stated Dr. Ella Gilbert.

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SNOW MAY VANISH IN THE WEST: “In about 35 to 60 years, mountainous states are projected to be nearly snowless for years at a time if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked and climate change does not slow,” wrote Diana Leonard in an article published by the Washington Post (December 2021)


“A new study provides a glimpse into the future of Western U.S. snow and the picture is far from rosy. Due to rising temperatures, the region has already lost 20 percent of its snowpack since the 1950s. That’s enough water to fill Lake Mead, the nation’s largest human-made reservoir. It stands to lose another half, and possibly more, later this century, from the Rockies to the Sierra Nevada and into the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest, according to a literature synthesis conducted in the study leveraging dozens of peer-reviewed climate model projections,” stated Diana Leonard.

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THE WATER CYCLE IS OUT OF BALANCE: “While climate change is causing bigger and bigger storms, our alterations to the environment – especially to the ground surface – have been one of the major causes of the increased frequency of flooding events in modern times,” stated Professor Roland Ennos, University of Hull, when commenting on flood consequences in the United Kingdom (2015)


“In the last few years I have also worked on the environmental benefits of trees in urban areas, and their role in climate-proofing our cities. We have been investigating how the cooling, shading and flood-prevention benefits they provide are affected by the species of tree and the growing conditions. All this will help us appreciate the importance of man’s long relationship with trees and with the wood they produce,” stated Roland Ennos. “To determine whether the humble tree really can provide such robust defences, we first need to understand the role they play in soaking up excess rain water,”

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CLIMATE ADAPTATION THROUGH GOOD PLANNING: “Singapore is at the forefront of nearly all countries that have formulated a long-term plan for managing climate change and is steadfastly implementing that plan,” stated Peter Joo Hee Ng, Chief Executive Officer at PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency (November 2021)


“Singapore is one of most densely populated countries in the world. It faces the twin challenges of ensuring sustainable water supply during droughts as well as effective drainage during intense rain seasons amid climate change. For over two decades, Singapore’s National Water Agency, PUB, has successfully added large-scale nationwide rainwater harvesting, used water collection, treatment and reuse, and seawater desalination to its portfolio of conventional water sources, so the nation-state can achieve long-term water sustainability,” stated Peter Joo Hee Ng.

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THE ERA OF WEATHER EXTREMES IS UPON US: “Basically, all of your biggest storms in terms of big damage, like we just saw, in the West Coast [U.S.] states, including British Columbia, are from atmospheric river storms,” said Marty Ralph, a researcher and director at the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography (November 2021)


According to Marty Ralph, despite being relatively small compared to the rest of the atmosphere, these rivers in the sky can carry up to 95 per cent of the water vapour that travels around the Earth’s surface, and can bring anywhere between 30 and 50 per cent of a given region’s yearly water supply.The warmer the air is, the more water vapour it can carry. As the atmosphere’s average temperature rises, then, an atmospheric river can grow — and when it makes landfall, it can release more rain or snow than in years past.

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RESTORE THE BALANCE IN THE WATER BALANCE: “The approach to urban design – where water is held in place to be called-upon when needed – is known as the ‘sponge city’, and it is rapidly growing in popularity,” wrote Laurie Winkless, author of ‘Science and the City: The Mechanics Behind the Metropolis’, in an article for Forbes Magazine (July 2021)


A sponge city is a new urban construction model for flood management, strengthening ecological infrastructure and drainage systems, proposed by Chinese researchers in 2014. “Extreme weather, a changing climate, and impervious streets and roads have combined to create an urban disaster. All of this has seen cities begin to re-imagine their relationship with water. Rather than just designing systems that allow the water to drain away slowly and stably, they want to harvest and reuse it,” stated Laurie Winkless.

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DEALING WITH UNCERTAINTY AND MANAGING RISK: “A key feature of climate change is that it doesn’t pose one single risk. Rather, it presents multiple, interacting risks that can compound and cascade. Importantly, responses to climate change can also affect risk,” wrote University of Capetown researchers Nicholas Simpson and Christopher Trisos in an article published by The Conversation (August 2021)


“In our highly connected world, climate risks and our responses to them can be transmitted from one system or sector to another, creating new risks and making existing ones more or less severe. In many cases risks cannot be understood without considering these interactions. Recent evidence indicates how some of the most severe climate change impacts, such as those from deadly heat or sudden ecosystem collapse, are strongly influenced by interactions across sectors and regions,” stated Nicholas Simpson.

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