The formidable challenge of climate change: Earthquakes, Hurricanes and Green Energy

The death toll from the last Mexico earthquake, 7.1 magnitude, rose to 282, including at least 137 in Mexico City. It is almost certainly set to rise as rescue workers continue to search the precarious ruins amid the threat of aftershocks, collapsing rubble and gas leaks. A interesting coincidence is the fact that the two large earthquakes that struck Mexico this month on September 19th, and, 8.1-magnitude, in Gulf of Tehuantepec quake, on 7 September, twelve days earlier. On 20 September  Maria, the most powerful hurricane to strike Puerto Rico in nearly a century, was the second major storm to ravage the Caribbean in a month. Emergency officials raced to evacuate tens of thousands of people from a river valley below a dam in the island’s northwest on the verge of collapse under the weight of flooding. The calamity is unfolding as Puerto Ricans struggled without electricity to clean up and dig out from devastation left days earlier by Maria. These are the last links in a chain of natural events devastating, all these were concentrated in the last month.

The Western US has been ablaze in one of the worst wildfire seasons on record. There was Hurricane Harvey, which brought record-breaking rains and flooding to Houston in late August. It was followed by another intense Hurricane Irma, which battered the Caribbean and Florida. Hurricanes Jose and Maria just dealt Puerto Rico. In South Asia monsoon rains and heavy flooding have killed upwards of 1,400 people in the past month, affecting 40 million people across the region. On September 7, 2017, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck the Messican southwestern states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Tabasco, causing nearly 100 deaths. On September 19, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck the state of Puebla, about 75 miles from Mexico City. Finally, to complete the picture, on September, there were the earthquakes hit central Italy and the 6.1-magnitude tremors rocked the coast of Japan.

That one long screed of news is a precise, pixelated portrait of a heating world. The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Robert Glasser, note the extreme weather events unfolding across the world:“There can be little doubt that 2017 is turning into a year of historic significance in the struggle against climate change and all the other risks that put human life in danger and threaten the peace and security of exposed and vulnerable communities around the world who find themselves in harm’s way from hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.” Millions of people around the world are being affected by extreme weather events, and we need to hold those responsible for worsening the effects of climate change accountable.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it is “premature” to conclude that there has already been an increase in hurricanes due to temperatures that have risen globally. However, researchers are also increasingly certain that the warming of the atmosphere and oceans is likely to fuel longer or more destructive hurricanes. A warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapour, which can result in heavier rainfall. That is true not only for hurricanes but also for weaker storms across the world. Average sea surface temperatures have been rising, and some parts of the North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico are warmer than average at the moment, which is a key reason why both Harvey,Irma and Maria became so strong so quickly
Other scientists say have found that the changes to atmospheric pressure caused by hurricanes can also affect earthquakes, causing them to slow down and wreak havoc for greater lengths of time. In a study published in Nature in 2009, Taiwanese researchers claimed that typhoons in eastern Taiwan had triggered earthquakes that way. For an area that is “prone to earthquakes,” says Shimon Wdowinski, an associate professor in the department of earth and environment at Florida International University, “heavy rain can increase the probability of getting earthquakes after the wet storm.” Wdowinski points out that a storm’s causing sediment to erode, leading to an earthquake in the same place months or years later. However, the linkage between the atmosphere-ocean processes that lead to hurricanes and the solid earth processes that lead to large-magnitude and damaging earthquakes is not well understood.

Despite the uncertainties linked to the time needed for scientistic studies the impact of climate change on global health is also becoming increasingly clear. At the end of last week, the United Nations released a report showing that global hunger is on the rise; 38 million more people were affected in 2016 than in 2015. Climate change and the spread of violent conflicts are responsible, the report says. Other research has linked climate change to increased respiratory problems, poor nutrition, the spread of infectious disease and even anxiety.

The problem is, our current energetic business trajectory takes us to a world that’s about 3.5C warmer. Even if we kept the promises we made at Paris we’re going to build a planet so hot that we can’t have civilisations. We must initiate a sustainable programme to combat climate change as quickly as possible. Winning fast enough to matter would mean, above all, standing up to the fossil fuel industry, so far the most powerful force on Earth. It’s time for the fossil fuel companies to play a bigger role cleaning up after extreme weather events and to move away from dirty energy for good before it’s too late. We can get to 100% renewables at a manageable cost, more manageable all the time.
The fix for all this could be on solar thermal power, specifically concentrated solar power. Concentrated solar powe plants use solar thermal energy to make steam, that is thereafter converted into electricity by a turbine. That are sufficient to meet the needs of all continents.
The International Energy Agency projected in 2014 that under its “high renewables” scenario, by 2050, solar photovoltaics and concentrated solar power would contribute about 16 and 11 percent, respectively, of the worldwide electricity consumption, and solar would be the world’s largest source of electricity. Most solar installations would be in China, India, Iran, USA, Marocco, Australia, Spagna. Currently solar power provides just 1% of total worldwide electricity production but growing 33% per annum. Many industrialized nations have installed significant solar power capacity into their grids to supplement or provide an alternative to conventional energy sources while an increasing number of less developed nations have turned to solar to reduce dependence on expensive imported fuels.
However, with this future in mind we must also act accordingly in relation to regimes and dictatorships that are still firmly in place in Arab countries. The Organization of some Arab States has called into question the economic and political relations with Europe and West Countries. For example Saudi Arabia is acting like a superpower, to use its superpower status in oil and gas to influence foreign policy. The right strategy for resolving these problems could be a sustainable energy initiative in a multilateral context, involving the European Union, the biggest money market sensitive to green energy, and some major energy-related corporations is proposed.  But first of all the question we must ask ourselves – for we must all try to draw conclusions from these events – is this: When will we at last provide a concrete response to the crucial demand, the formidable challenge represented by climate change?

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Author: Massimiliano Fanni Canelles

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