Geology for Global Development

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Jesse Zondervan’s January 2019 #GfGDpicks: which climate adaptation methods are on the rise in 2019?

Jesse Zondervan’s January 2019 #GfGDpicks: which climate adaptation methods are on the rise in 2019?

Each month, Jesse Zondervan picks his favourite posts from geoscience and development blogs/news which cover the geology for global development interest. This past month’s picks include:  Why it’s so hard to predict tsunamis, which climate adaptation methods are on the rise in 2019 & opportunities for scientists to solve local challenges with Thriving Earth Exchange.  

Plastic waste in the oceans and on beaches visibly smashes itself back in our faces to trouble our consciences after attempts to dump and hide the consequences of human waste-production. The size of our triggered guilt aside, how does our plastic problem quantitively compare in scale to the problem of carbon dioxide emission? You may be surprised, or not.

More significantly, climate adaptation, rather than prediction or prevention, takes the foreground at the start of 2019. In a long-read worth having a cup of tea over, National Geographic reports ways of adaptation gaining steam, such as the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange, a sort of tinder for scientists and communities facing challenges related to natural resources, climate change and natural hazards issue (see whether you can help!).

“The American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange, a sort of tinder for scientists and communities facing challenges related to natural resources, climate change and natural hazards issues”

In addition, consider the following about adaptation: if you want to built a sustainable water-energy-food nexus, how do you manage or cope with migration? After all, even though development efforts might be thwarted, migration is a very efficient coping mechanism. Tellingly, both America and Bangladesh have started relocating flooded communities.

In disaster risk, we are looking back at 2018:

When a tsunami triggered by a landslide caused by the Anak Krakatau eruption in Indonesia bypassed the tsunami-warning system put in place to warn for earthquake-induced tsunamis, the world was once more reminded of our inability to predict all hazards, and its consequences.

However, studies like the one which uncovered a historic South China Sea tsunami from the geological record help to dust off our hazy memories of such events. Timely, since large infrastructural projects like the Belt and Road initiative are in full swing planning harbours and nuclear plant locations.

While insurance company Munich Re captured the world’s natural disasters of 2018, the fourth-costliest year since 1980, in numbers, the Bank of England plans to test climate resilience of UK banks.

As usual, there is a lot to check out, so go ahead!

Climate Adaptation

Once derided, ways of adapting to climate change are gaining steam by Andrew Revkin at National Geographic

Water – Energy – Food – Migration Nexus

Water-Migration nexus and the human displacement discourse by Nidhi Nagabhatla at Future Earth blog

Hike in record-dry months for Africa’s Sahel worries scientists by Laurie Goering at BRACED

How technology is helping farmers predict and prepare for El Niño by Michael Hailu at Thomson Reuters Foundation

Sea-level migration

In first, Native American tribe displaced by sea gets land to relocate by Sebastien Malo at Thomson Reuters Foundation

Bangladesh lends land to islanders as water devours homes by Rafiqul Islam at Thomson Reuters Foundation

Bracing for climate change – a matter of survival for the Maldives by Hartwig Schafer at End Poverty in South Asia

Climate Change

The Ocean Garbage Patch Is Tiny Compared to Our Carbon Footprint by Sarah Burns at State of the Planet

Disaster Risk

Why the ‘Child of Krakatau’ volcano is still dangerous – a volcanologist explains by Thomas Giachetti at The Conversation

The Anak Krakatau Tsunami, from the Beginning until Now by Dana Hunter at Scientific American

Scientists say a tsunami hit China 1,000 years ago – and there’s still a risk of a giant wave hitting today by Martin Choi at the South China Morning Post

The natural disasters of 2018 in figures by Petra low at Munich Re

Bank of England plants to test climate resilience of UK banks at Acclimatise

External Opportunities

CfP – 2019 Mexico Conference on Earth System Governance

Multiple positions in the field of climate adaptation governance (post-doc and doctoral researchers)

Seeking Book Proposals on Water, Green Infrastructure, Climate Change Adaptation, and Public Health

 

Check back next month for more picks!

Follow Jesse Zondervan @JesseZondervan. Follow us @Geo_Dev & Facebook.

What would you do in the minute before an Earthquake? Do our planet’s environmental limits hamper socio-economic development? Find out in Jesse Zondervan’s Feb – Mar 7 2018 #GfGDpicks #SciComm

What would you do in the minute before an Earthquake? Do our planet’s environmental limits hamper socio-economic development? Find out in Jesse Zondervan’s Feb  – Mar 7 2018 #GfGDpicks #SciComm

Each month, Jesse Zondervan picks his favourite posts from geoscience and development blogs/news which cover the geology for global development interest. Here’s a round-up of Jesse’s selections for the last month:

In the late afternoon of 16 February people in Mexico City celebrate Chinese New Year when they hear an earthquake alarm. If you ever wondered what it is like to experience an earthquake, you should watch the videos in Austin Elliot’s The Trembling Earth blog. What do people do in the 78 seconds of earthquake early warning?

Next to stories on risk of landslide-induced floods in Papua New Guinea, the cost of waiting for a volcanic eruption to happen and other disaster risk discussion, this month is full of good articles on sustainability:

Earth has environmental limits, can we all live a good life in it?

Dan O’Neill from the University of Leeds notes that to achieve social thresholds, countries have needed to exceed multiple biophysical boundaries. He asks how we can ever live well within our planet’s natural boundaries and what this means for sustainable development.

Professor Steve Cohen at Columbia University’s Earth Institute sees a trend that may help with this sustainability problem. An increasing number of young people are drawn to sustainability education and the role of the sustainability professional is emerging. Steve argues these sustainability professionals must be scientifically literate and focus on the physical world.

More in this month, entrepreneurs start seeing opportunities in predicting climate change risks, geologists have found rock containing plastic, and a new massive open online course (MOOC) encourages its students to play a disaster risk reduction game.

As always, there’s a lot to read this month. This time I highlighted in bold the articles I think you should read first, so go ahead!

Sustainability

Is it possible for everyone to live a good life within our planet’s limits? By Dan O’Neill at The Conversation

The Emerging Sustainability Professional by Steve Cohen at State of the Planet

What does climate change hold in store for European cities? Creating a guidebook for the future & Envisioning climate-friendly cities at Future Earth

Geopolicy: Combating plastic pollution – research, engagement and the EU Plastic Strategy by Chloe Hill at EGU’s GeoLog blog

How can studying the past, such as life in Maya cities, help the world to solve modern problems? See ‘Creating a guidebook to the future’ Credit: VoY-TeC (distributed via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0)

Climate Change Adaptation

What Land Will Be Underwater in 20 Years? Figuring It Out Could Be Lucrative by Brad Plumer at The New York Times

Why scientists have modelled climate change right up to the year 2300 by Dmitry Yumashev at The Conversation

Can Soil Help Combat Climate Change? By Renee Cho at State of the Planet

The Challenges of Drought Prediction by Zengchao Hao at Eos

What are the challenges of drought prediction? Credit: PublicDomainPictures/18042 images (distributed via Pixabay [CC0 1.0])

Education/communication

New Massive Open Online Course on Natural Disasters at Eos

Citizen outreach and river education in India by Beth Fisher at Little River Research

The Complex Interface between the Public and Science by Cary Funk at Scientific American

Volcanic risk

Rehearsing for eruptions by Jessica Ball at the AGU’s Magma Cum Laude

The Costs Of Waiting For A Volcano To Erupt by Dr Peter Ward at Forbes

Earthquake risk

78 seconds of Earthquake Early Warning by Austin Elliot at the AGU’s The Trembling Earth

Damage Assessment by Laser Could Focus Postearthquake Response by Laura G Shields at Eos

How do you plan for volcanic hazards? How much does it cost? Credit: Kanenori/260 images (distributed via Pixabay [CC0 1.0]). 

Disaster Risk

An emerging crisis? Valley blocking landslides in the Papua New Guinea highlands by Dave Petley at the AGU’s The Landslide Blog

Creeping danger: Landslide threatens Peruvian village, especially when the earth quakes by Jane Palmer at Earth Magazine

Geophysicists and atmospheric scientists partner to track typhoons’ seismic footprints at Science Daily

UN launches effort to collect data on disaster losses at UNISDR

External Opportunities

Online Course Environmental Justice starts 12 March at Earth System Governance

Call for Papers – 2018 Utrecht Conference on Earth System Governance at Earth System Governance

Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment Seeks Interns for Summer 2018 at State of the Planet

New and Returning Employers at All Ivy Career Fair Indicate Growth in the Sustainability Job Market at State of the Planet

Check back next month for more picks!

Follow Jesse Zondervan on Twitter: @JesseZondervan.
Follow us on Twitter (
@Geo_Dev) & Facebook.

 

Guest Blog: Death By Corruption

541489_10151445593846464_1329303192_nEkbal Hussain is a PhD student at the University of Leeds, and helps to coordinate our group up there. He is a passionate advocate for disaster risk reduction and today writes about the relationship between corruption and earthquake fatalities.

It is no profound statement to say that earthquakes are extremely dangerous natural events and are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths annually. What is more contentious is my belief that no one needs to die from earthquakes at all.

Let me explain myself; most deaths from earthquakes are a result of the collapse of buildings and other man made structures such as bridges. We have the technical engineering expertise to build structures that withstand ground shaking during earthquakes.

Every year our understanding of the earthquake process increases but many important gaps remain, particularly on issues such as timing and location of future earthquakes. However, as Charles Richter mentions in his retirement speech: “For public safety we don’t need prediction, earthquake risk can be removed, almost completely, by proper building construction and regulation.” (1970)

So if we know the cause of earthquake deaths and what we need to do to minimise losses why do people still die in them? The answer to this question is by no means simple. Many factors contribute to losses during these events: insufficient knowledge of where all the earthquake generating faults are, cultural practices, uncertainties in hazard maps, poverty and poor building practices among others.

For this post I’d like to focus on the role of corruption in the building industry. The global construction industry was worth $8.7 trillion in 2012[1] and this is recognised to be the most corrupt segment of the global economy [2].

Spontaneous factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh resulted in 1129 deaths in 2013. Source: Wikimedia Commons – Rijans

Spontaneous factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh resulted in 1129 deaths in 2013. Source: Wikimedia Commons – Rijans

Corruption takes the form of using inadequate and/or insufficient building materials, bribes to inspectors and civil authorities, substandard assembly methods and the inappropriate siting of buildings. Spontaneous building collapses even without earthquakes, such as the Saver factory collapse in Bangladesh last year which killed 1129 people, are a stark reminder of the consequences of construction oversight and a terrifying view into what could happen if there is an earthquake in these regions.

The 1999 Izmit earthquake (magnitude 7.4) in Turkey resulted in around 18,000 deaths. It was later shown that half of all the structures within the damage zone had failed to comply with building regulations [2].

The structural integrity of a building is no stronger than the social integrity of the builder.

–Nicholas Ambraseys & Roger Bilham–

 

Nicholas Ambraseys and Roger Bilham calculated that almost 83% of all deaths from building collapse in earthquakes in the last 3 decades occurred in countries that are poor and anomalously corrupt [3].

3D plot of earthquake deaths with corruption perception index and expectation index, i.e. are the countries more or less corrupt than expected. Source: Ambraseys, N. & Bilham, R., 2011

3D plot of earthquake deaths with corruption perception index and expectation index, i.e. are the countries more or less corrupt than expected. Source: Ambraseys, N. & Bilham, R., 2011

Corruption by itself is dangerous but when combined with poverty, it is disastrous. Corruption, poverty and ignorance essentially become indistinguishable for low income countries. And even if corrupt practices are eliminated these countries will have inherited a building stock that is poor quality and prone to failure in the next earthquake.

However, it’s not all bad news. There are some great examples of how reconstruction can take place under correct management and regulations to improve resilience to earthquakes. For example, in 2012 the Turkish government passed the Law on the Regeneration of Areas Under Disaster Risk. Under these new guidelines all buildings that are not up to current earthquake risk standards will be demolished and rebuilt. As a result 6.5 million high risk houses will be demolished over the next two decades [4].

The reconstruction of the Macedonian capital of Skopje after it was destroyed in an earthquake in 1963 is another great example. Not only was the entire infrastructure rebuilt to be earthquake-resistant, the city planning also ensured that the river Vardar was routed in order to control future flooding [5].

Achievements on this scale require strong governance and management, and transparent sectoral and local administration. With the rapid growth of cities into so-called megacities (>10 million population) often in high earthquake risk regions this is even more important. We have yet to have an earthquake that has killed a million people. But at the rate these cities are growing under limited to no management such an event might not be too far in the future.

References:

[1] Global Construction 2025:  A Global Forecast for the construction industry to 2025 (2013)

[2] Global Construction 2020: A Global Forecast for the construction industry over the next decade to 2020. (2010)

[3] Ambraseys, N. & Bilham, R., Corruption Kills, 2011

[4] http://www.portturkey.com/real-estate/5627-65-million-houses-to-be-demolished-in-turkey

[5] Vladimir B. Ladinski, Post 1963 Skopje earthquake reconstruction: Long term effects, 2010

Further Reading

http://www.transparency.org.uk

If you have any questions for Ekbal, or want to comment on this blog – don’t forget you can do so using the box below. 

Building Peace and Cooperation Through Science and Academia

STRENGTHENING KABUL UNIVERSITY WORKSHOP: LEICESTER 2011 Credit: University of Leicester, used with permission.

Strengthening Kabul University Workshop: Leicester 2011
Credit: University of Leicester, used with permission.

In today’s blog post we discuss the role that both science and academia have in successfully bringing together stakeholders in areas where co-operation is essential, but challenging.

In December 2011 I was fortunate to attend a workshop in Leicester in which academics and researchers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan gathered with others from the UK to talk about strengthening the teaching of geoscience in Universities there. Much of the conversation was about the positive role that academia can play in rebuilding a conflict-torn country.

As I wrote about at the time, It has a huge role to play in nation building, with the potential to drive significant social and economic development. Universities generate knowledge through research, which can bring enormous benefits to various aspects of society. A university can also act as a peace builder – bringing together different ethnic groups and backgrounds and fostering dialogue, collaboration and peace. Graduates from the university go on to positions within government departments and politics itself, and thus universities can also develop and encourage good leadership.

Over the weekend I was reading further into this topic – focusing on water diplomacy in the Himalayan region. The Strategic Foresight Group have published a number of helpful documents on this topic. including The Himalayan Challenge (Strategic Foresight Group, 2010) and The Indus Equation (Strategic Foresight Group, 2011). As stated in the former:

“Cooperation [between multiple countries] on the water issue should be looked upon as a means to a peaceful co-existence. Joint water management offers the scope for people-to-people and/or expert-to-expert connections, thus creating a channel for peaceful dialogue irrespective of political and military developments.”  

Successful dialogue over issues such as water (but also hazard management, energy supply, environmental change) can serve as a gateway to address wider security issues. The Indus Equation (Strategic Foresight Group, 2011)  notes that ‘as India and Pakistan stand at the threshold of yet another attempt to further cooperation, ‘water’ – as was the case in 1951 – can provide an impetus to tackle larger issues like Kashmir.’

In addition to dialogue between scientists and academia enabling dialogue for wider purposes – it is also essential in itself. The Himalayan Challenge (Strategic Foresight Group, 2010) notes that water availability is estimated to decline (per capita) in India (as well as other countries along the Himalayas). This water scarcity is noted to have an impact on food availability, livelihoods in rural areas, desertification, soil erosion and population displacement/migration. Unless these challenges are addressed through multi-national cooperation there is a potential for conflict. Water flow, hazards and natural resources rarely stay within national boundaries – and so solutions must require dialogue, cooperation and collaborative research.

As many of you will know we are currently involved in a conference in the Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir (see www.gfgd.org/projects/himalayas2014). Sustainable Resource Development in the Himalayas Conference is being held in Leh (June 2014) and will bring together academics, policy makers and others – from multiple countries (including India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh). With key topics of water resources, global environmental change, natural hazards and sustainable tourism – this event will serve as an important forum to share research and encourage further collaborative opportunities. Crucially it will facilitate the people-to-people and expert-to-expert connections that can encourage peaceful dialogue, building on previous cooperation by universities in the region.

GfGD Website - Himalayas Banner

Photo Credit: Rosalie Tostevin