The Environmentally Unfriendly Secret of the Beijing Olympics

In the event you’ve been watching the Winter Olympics in Beijing, it’s laborious to overlook: Simply past the white slopes for the ski and snowboard occasions lie brown hills barely touched by snow.

Machine-made snow is hardly new to skilled winter sports activities, and even to the Olympics. However as my colleague Matt Futterman and I wrote this week, the 2022 Video games are counting on it nearly fully. China’s capital will get solely dustings of pure snow most winters. And water provides within the arid area have lengthy struggled to maintain up with the town’s calls for, whether or not for snow-making or for the rest.

To be clear: Beijing, a metropolis of over 20 million, just isn’t about to expire of water due to the Olympics. The town has made strides in conservation. Farming and heavy business have been shut down or moved away. (You will have seen the cooling towers of the old steelworks the place the massive air occasions are going down.) Trillions of gallons of water are being channeled to the area every year, by way of a colossal engineering venture, from China’s humid south.

There are different cities that would have hosted this 12 months’s Video games and that wouldn’t have needed to go to such lengths to make synthetic snow. However these cities dropped out of contention, citing excessive prices and lack of public assist again residence.

Numbers: In 2017, the final 12 months for which figures can be found, Beijing had solely about as a lot freshwater per resident, roughly 36,000 gallons, as Niger, a rustic on the sting of the Sahara.

Oil costs are hovering as fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine develop. Europe is within the grips of a extreme pure fuel crunch that has roiled vitality markets. Demand for coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, has surged to file highs.

As I explored in an article final week, the present upheaval in fossil gasoline markets around the globe threatens to complicate the struggle in opposition to local weather change. The turmoil additionally underscores a broader problem: At the same time as nations spend money on low-carbon vitality sources like wind and solar energy, it’ll nonetheless take a very long time earlier than the world not has to fret about volatility in oil, fuel and coal markets that may complicate the shift towards cleaner vitality.

Quotable: “Whereas right now’s market fluctuations can’t be traced again to local weather insurance policies, that doesn’t imply that the highway to web zero emissions shall be easy,” mentioned Fatih Birol, govt director of the Worldwide Vitality Company.

There’s a number of water locked up in glaciers, and it may be an indispensable useful resource to folks dwelling close by. However new analysis has discovered that there is likely to be much less of it than we thought.

The research, which I wrote about this week, mixed practically one million pairs of satellite tv for pc pictures to map the world’s 200,000-plus glaciers with new precision. In contrast with the earlier scientific consensus, the brand new paper estimated that there was much less ice in some locations, just like the tropical Andes, however extra ice in others, just like the Himalayas.

Additional on-site measurements are wanted to pin down simply how a lot glacial water these locations have left. However one glaciologist, Regine Hock, advised me that at the same time as the info improves, the fundamental image isn’t more likely to change a lot: The glaciers are going to skinny fairly a bit this century, with penalties for communities throughout the planet.

Numbers: Worldwide, the research discovered 11 p.c much less ice within the glaciers than had been estimated earlier. Within the excessive mountains of Asia, nevertheless, it discovered 37 p.c extra ice, and in Patagonia and the central Andes, 10 p.c extra.

Is it potential to evangelise the values of sustainability whereas nonetheless promoting consumption?

Ten years in the past, psychologists proposed that a variety of individuals would undergo anxiety and grief over climate. Skepticism about that concept is gone.

Local weather change and demographic threats are chipping away at a centuries-old tradition surrounding the cultivation of a plant that unmistakably connotes Japanese cuisine.

As gripping tales go, it doesn’t get a lot better than the story of Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to stroll throughout Antarctica.

It didn’t go as deliberate. His ship, Endurance, received trapped, crushed and sunk by ice within the Weddell Sea in 1915. So Shackleton and 5 of his crew sailed 800 miles in an open lifeboat to summon a rescue mission for the opposite 22 members of the group, who had been ultimately saved.

The story of management and survival has been advised in books and movies and in museum exhibitions, no less than certainly one of which, on the Museum of Pure Historical past in New York Metropolis twenty years in the past, even featured Shackleton’s lifeboat.

All this time, Endurance itself has been unseen, mendacity on the backside of the Weddell, east of the Antarctic Peninsula in 10,000 toes of water. However as I wrote in an article this month, that will quickly change. A South African icebreaker is en path to the positioning, with a staff of explorers, scientists and technicians bent on discovering the wreck.

The Endurance22 expedition, because it’s identified, hopes to navigate via the Weddell’s infamous pack ice to the world the place the ship went down after which launch a few underwater drones, additionally known as autonomous submersibles, to search for it. If Endurance is discovered, the submersibles will {photograph} and survey the stays however not contact them, because the wreck is protected as a historic monument.

The expedition isn’t just wanting towards the previous. There are additionally ice scientists on board who shall be sampling and analyzing the Weddell’s ice, on the lookout for indicators of how local weather change might have an effect on it sooner or later.

You may observe the search on the Endurance22 website.

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Fry Electronics Team

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