Artist: Jon Bradham New Blog: Global Climate Reports say: Things are really bad, but it’s not too late. Nothing to brag about, but 2023 will be Earth’s hottest year. In fact, we can say goodbye to 1.5c en route to a mean estimate forecast of 2.4c, which will be delivering many of the dramatic water-related risks decades earlier than many expected. So, let’s do a quick scan of three important perspectives: COP 28, the US Fifth National Climate Assessment, and the first-ever Global Tipping Points Report – recent, highly relevant sources offering critical insights into our current environmental landscape.
In late November, COP 28 commenced in Dubai, setting the stage for a face-off between climate activists and representatives from petrostates, accompanied by a staggering presence of 2,456 fossil-fuel lobbyists. Al Gore, in his Bloomberg interview, summed up the gravity of our current situation: “We are in way more danger right now than most people realize.” The Global Tipping Points report further suggests in alarming fashion, “Triggering one Earth system tipping point could trigger another, causing a domino effect of accelerating and unmanageable damage. Tipping points show that the overall threat posed by the climate and ecological crisis is far more severe than is commonly understood.”
Gore argues that in the next COP, there is a critical need for fundamental changes in rules, processes and leadership to avoid scenarios where a petrostate hosts the event and an oil executive runs the table.
So how is global warming affecting the water cycle, and what emerging risks should we be aware of? The Fifth National Climate Assessment by the United States, conducted every five years, was released in November, and included a full chapter on the interactions between climate and water. Notably, this edition marks the first inclusion of climate art, exemplified by the remarkable piece “Stream of Consciousness” by Spencer Frazer (2020). The oil on canvas captures glimpses of what may be lost and illuminates the profound truth that the entirety surpasses the mere aggregation of its individual parts.
Of course, as we have come to understand, “Climate change will continue to cause profound changes in the water cycle.” Echo River was founded under the premise that 90% of climate effects manifest through the water cycle, posing risks to both people and nature. Among the most threatening effects lies the projection that “heavier rainfall events are expected to increase across the nation.”
Well, let’s start with Rain Bombs, which just ooze “rizz”– as in charisma – Oxford’s Word of the Year. Take a look at this rain bomb over Dallas (photo credit: Washington Post, 2017). Heavier rainfall, coupled with changes in land use, is leading to increasing flood damage. Rain bombs are a phenomenon that can happen almost anywhere and at any time.
Economic damages stemming from floods and associated precipitation are rapidly increasing, accumulating a staggering $230 billion in damages from 1990 to 2020.
The severity of drought impacts is escalating, and not solely because of the increased understanding and appreciation of various droughts types. Primary drivers of drought include the unsupportable societal demand for water (Echo River is actively working to change this!), below-average precipitation, and higher temperatures that amplify atmospheric demand for moisture (known as ‘hot drought’). Then there are snow droughts (self explanatory), and flash droughts, which develop within mere weeks. Read more details at the 2023 Fifth National Climate Assessment page.
Expanding our understanding of climate dynamics, the first-ever 2023 Global Tipping Points report, led by Exeter University, Bezos Earth Fund, and a consortium of 200 contributors, delivers a stark message: “Things really are bad…[but] it’s not too late” to turn negative feedback loops into positive feedback loops. Allow me to present the report’s 10 key messages here or explore for yourself what actions are recommended.
Climate change and nature loss could soon cause ‘tipping points’ in the natural world
These tipping points pose threats of a magnitude never faced by humanity. Five major tipping systems are already at risk of crossing tipping points at the present level of global warming: the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, warm-water coral reefs, North Atlantic Subpolar Gyre circulation, and permafrost regions.
The effects of tipping points will be transmitted and amplified throughout our globalised world. These threats could materialise in the coming decades, and at lower levels of global warming than previously thought. They could be catastrophic, including global-scale loss of capacity to grow major staple crops. Triggering one Earth system tipping point could trigger another, causing a domino effect of accelerating and unmanageable damage. Tipping points show that the overall threat posed by the climate and ecological crisis is far more severe than is commonly understood.
Stopping these threats is possible but requires urgent global action
Even with urgent global action, some Earth system tipping points may be unavoidable
‘Positive tipping points’ can accelerate a transformation towards sustainability
One positive tipping point can trigger others, creating a domino effect of change
Triggering positive tipping points requires coordinated action that considers equity and justice
We need a deeper understanding of tipping points – but without delaying action
Positive tipping points can create a powerful counter effect to the risk of Earth system tipping points cascading out of control
Hopefully, Echo River and its portfolio companies will play a significant role toward these positive tipping points to fend off the worst possible outcomes from climate change. Let’s not bury our heads in the sand. Instead, let’s get inspired to do the most we can at every level.
Portfolio Companies in the News
Gybe was selected to work with the nation’s largest water utility, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, to enhance operational efficiency and data utilization. Congrats to Ivan and the Gybe team!
Kairospace was featured in The Global Market for Nanobubbles, and presented at WEFTEC with Imagine H2O.
California’s upcoming regulations show water conservation is no longer the bargain it once was. It seems the low-hanging fruit of high efficiency devices and landscape improvements have done the heavy lifting. New water conservation practices don’t achieve cost-effective savings, and aren’t as equitable, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. (Link)
Attention is increasingly drawn to water grabs as private actors continue to secure water access from public sources at low to no cost. The latest series on water grabs from Bloomberg Green sheds light on a disturbing incident: a convicted criminal secured half of Dakar, Senegal’s water supply to grow alfalfa for shipment to Saudi Arabia. While this is not the first public-private conflict over water, this case is particularly egregious and the amazing investigative reporting makes for a fascinating read. Check it out. (Link to web version behind Bloomberg paywall; free Google Drive version here)
COP28 is taking place in Dubai, and water is gaining traction as a key issue to support climate resiliency and adaptation. For a second consecutive year, the Water for Climate Pavilion is featuring solutions and challenges. According to Jakob Schabus of Stockholm International Water Institute, the COP28 Water Agenda has three thematic priority areas: freshwater ecosystems, urban water resilience, and water-resilient food systems. SIWI’s Andreas Karlson comments about 6 key messages on water. At press time, a non-binding agreement was announced to “phase down” emissions from fossil fuels by 2050. It’s clear to all now that the provision for unanimous agreement on these resolutions weakens these unenforceable pronouncements to simple aspirations.
Wild Living on the Water
Are you ready for water world? If sea level rises suddenly and dramatically due to increasing positive feedback loops, should we be prepared to live in floating homes? If so, the residents of both Sausalito, CA and Manobo, Philippines have figured this out. Sausalito’s shoreline hosts hundreds of floating houseboats and futurists like Stewart Brand, who lives on a tugboat, call this unique neighborhood their home.
Photo Credit: Gab Menija, BBC. Parting Shot
I want to leave you with this evocative piece from the US Fifth National Climate Assessment, Climate+Art, called “Rivers Feed the Trees,” by Meredith Nemirov.