Arctic Communities Turn Challenges Brought On By Climate Changes Into Advantages

The impact of climate change on Arctic communities is so great that it limits their ability to adapt, or at least that’s what has long been assumed. But according to a recent study in Nature Climate Change, it’s non-climatic factors that obstruct adaptation.

FAIRBANKS, ALASKA – When the Wellness Centre in Arviat, Nunavut took a look at what children in the town were eating, the results came as a surprise. Their diets contained almost no local foods – such as caribou and berries. And they couldn’t explain why.

As community members in Arviat looked more closely, they found a range of factors had contributed to the shift – from a decline in traditional hunting practices to the thawing of food cellars dug deep into the permafrost that could no longer keep subsistence foods cold throughout the summer. In many northern communities, climate change threatens subsistence culture as a whole, as wildlife migration patterns change, soils warm and invasive species take hold.

The information, which was gathered in 2010, set the community into action. They began to pay more attention to local changes to the environment – and to find ways to adapt.

Now, volunteers in Arviat track summer berry production and the presence of non-native species that appear on the tundra. Similar projects have been created across Nunavut. “We can’t tell how the climate is changing if we do not observe closely,” said Shirley Tagalik, who leads the Wellness Centre.

Residents have also constructed a greenhouse where they grow all kinds of vegetables, including radishes and tomatoes. The warmer temperatures and longer growing season have given Arviat the chance to supplement their diets with healthy, locally grown produce. Tagalik said the greenhouse experiment has prompted efforts to develop culture and community cooking programs and soil quality monitoring. “I think —> Read More

How Morocco Is Harnessing Solar Power To Achieve Energy Independence

Morocco is on the way to dramatically cutting its dependence on imported oil after successfully launching Noor 1 — the first phase of what will eventually become the world’s largest concentrated solar plant.

The country has historically relied almost entirely on imports from abroad for its energy. Now it has found a way to transform its abundance of sunlight into an economic asset.

When the project is completed in 2018, it’s expected to reduce Morocco’s fossil fuel reliance by two and a half million tons of oil and provide enough leftover energy to export to Europe.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI inaugurated the first installment of the new thermodynamic project on Thursday in the desert city of Ouarzazate, flanked by famous guests like French Energy Minister Ségolène Royal and balloonist Bertrand Piccard.

Five hundred thousand curved mirrors now line the Moroccan desert in rows, spanning a surface area that is visible from space.

The project is funded by the World Bank, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank and private stakeholders, and its first phase cost an estimated $894 million. The total price tag for the project will be approximately $9 billion, according to Moroccan officials.

“The Noor Project will allow Morocco to reach energy independence,” Moroccan Communications Minister Mustapha El Khalfi told HuffPost Morocco.

Many people speak, but Morocco acts. the biggest solar powerplant opens today thanks to the King’s vision with Masen pic.twitter.com/lFp0mDqpWO

— Bertrand PICCARD (@bertrandpiccard) February 4, 2016

Initially, Noor 1 will provide 650,000 residents with 160 megawatts of power, the Guardian reports. It’s eventually expected to generate 580 megawatts of power for 1.1 million people, 20 hours per day.

The government also plans to —> Read More

There’s No ‘Big Fix’ For Water Crises

SAN FRANCISCO – January 27 was the 100th anniversary of Hatfield’s flood. You may have missed the occasion unless you were with Cynthia Barnett. Barnett, an environmental journalist, has written three books about water and last week she was in Corte Madera, California discussing her most recent book, “Rain: A Natural and Cultural History,” which was nominated for the National Book award.

In “Rain,” Barnett writes about Californian Charles Hatfield. Hatfield was a “rainmaker” – someone who persuaded the public that he could conjure precipitation with a mix of special chemicals. In 1915 Hatfield convinced the San Diego City Council to pay him $10,000 if he could bring enough water to San Diego by year’s end to fill Morena Reservoir. “He built his derrick, he climbed it, he was cooking up all these chemicals in a pan and right away it began to rain and rain and rain and flood,” said Barnett. “This is in January 1916. The reservoir filled, it overtopped and then the dam broke.” The flood wiped out houses, the city’s bridges and killed more than 20 people. Hatfield fled town chased by armed vigilantes.

Hatfield, of course, didn’t know how to make rain, and meteorologists know now it was back-to-back atmospheric rivers that caused that flood, explained Barnett. But the story still resonates for an important reason. People were inclined to believe that huge problems like drought can be easily solved. We still are.

“Every time we’re in a drought, and that goes for then and now, we seem to have this great wish for the Big Fix,” said Barnett, who is also a Water Deeply advisor. “There is always someone who is going to pop up and say they have this great idea and they’re going to solve our —> Read More

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