As the U.S. has selected its nominees for president, every aspect about this country, its mechanisms such as business, infrastructure, health, education, immigration and so much more, are going to be put in the spotlight.
Just like in the previous few presidential election cycles, climate change will be a hot topic of conversation on the campaign trail and in the debates. Recently, there have been some eye-popping headlines and reports on the topic.
- NASA reports that 2016 climate trends continue to break records. According to a post at www.nasa.gov, “Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880.”
- The same NASA report states, “Five of the first six months of 2016 also set records for the smallest respective monthly Arctic sea ice extent since consistent satellite records began in 1979.”
That is some harrowing news to read at the midway point of 2016. I expect to read the same news soon after the calendar turns to 2017.
As I was putting together the pme eNewsletter that we deployed July 28 (subscribe at http://tinyurl.com/zytpp89) I came across a story posted on www.nature.com. “Study role of climate change in extreme threats to water quality” was written by Anna Michalak, a faculty member at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif.
The crux of the piece notes we are seeing record-breaking amounts of dangerous algal blooms and other bacteria throughout the country. An alga bloom is a rapid growth of microscopic algae or cyanobacteria in water resulting in a colored scum on the surface. These events can make tap water undrinkable, shut down commercial work, such as fisheries, and more. The article reports that $4 billion are lost in the U.S. alone because of algal blooms.
Our ever-changing climate is enhancing these episodes, but no study has addressed how climate change will affect the rate of incidents. Therefore, nobody can truly understand the causes of water-quality extremes and severity, Michalak says.
This is unacceptable. As an avid baseball fan, I know that the amount of research – especially money – teams put into predicting every player’s outcome at the plate, in the field and on the pitcher’s mound. We need to do the same thing for our water and environment.
Losing $4 billion per year on algal blooms is ridiculous. As I have said in previous columns, think about what we can do with those savings.
Finally, not doing everything we can to protect the health of our neighbors, friends and family is the ultimate disrespect. Now is the time to spread the word on what you want to see our politicians get done during this election cycle.
The scope of water quality is massive – stretching from our deepest oceans to our most shallow wells. But it affects everyone and needs to be a major point of emphasis and at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
This article was originally titled “Study up” in the August 2016 print edition of PM Engineer.