Geology for Global Development

Geology for Global Development

When are Californian earthquakes coming back with vengeance? How does climate-change-induced flooding increase inequality? Lessons from Cyclone Idai; that and more in Jesse Zondervan’s April 2019 #GfGDpicks #SciComm

Aftermath damage of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906

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:

California seems to be overdue for earthquakes, meaning there has been a so-called earthquake ‘drought’ in the last century. Paleoseismic studies show that this hiatus is unprecedented in the last ten centuries. This means we might see a high frequency of earthquakes coming this century, while a generation who hasn’t experienced any major earthquake has passed.

Furthermore, a related article in the San Francisco Chronicle reports the US Geological Survey projects a major quake along the San Andreas Fault would cause more than 98 billion in building damage and kill up to 7,800 people. The main threat, however, is the aftermath with loss of power for at least three days and half of households without water for at least a month. The study highlights the importance of preparing the population for a quake and its aftermath.

Fortunately, this month also saw the publication of a Californian record of two million tiny earthquakes detected by Caltech scientists. This tenfold increase in the earthquake catalogue tells them more about how faults and earthquakes work and get triggered. Greg Beroza, a Stanford University seismologist says “It’s just like if a new telescope comes along and its magnification is 10 times greater”.

Can climate-change induced flooding increase inequality?

The answer seems to be yes, in fact it does. A report published by the Urban Institute in the US showed that people with poor credit scores suffered bigger drops in scores than those starting with high scores. While home-owners receive insurance pay-outs, costs to renters only increase due to increased demand after major storms.

Similarly the New York City Panel on Climate Change reports climate change is affecting everyday life in New York today, and will hit the poorest neighbourhoods in the future.

Consequently, social vulnerability should be considered when risk is modelled and funding allocated, according to RMS flood specialist Nicole Howe.

 

More perspectives this month on the aftermath and lessons from Cyclone Idai which struck southern Africa in March; the challenge of religious resignation to building resilience against natural hazards in Indonesia and what the new bill on the US National Volcano Warning System means to disaster risk reduction.

Go ahead and look through this month’s picks!

Aftermath and Response to Cyclone Idai

Cyclone Idai shows why long-term disaster resilience is so crucial by Channing Arndt and Claudia Ringler at The Conversation

Cyclone Idai is over – but its health effects will be felt for a long time by Kerrigan McCarthy and Lucille Blumberg at The Conversation

Responding To Cyclone Idai requires a more robust approach by Peter Kamalingin at Oxfam International

Earthquake risk in California

Reassessing California’s Overdue Earthquake Tab by Mary Caperton Morton at Eos Earth & Space Science News

What a major earthquake would do to San Francisco by Kimberley Veklerov at the San Francisco Chronicle

Scientists Uncover California’s Hidden Earthquakes by Shannon Hall at Scientific American

Flooding and inequality

How natural disasters can increase inequality by Gretchen Frazee at PBS

States are turning to data and interactive maps to help residents confront and manage flood risks by Shannon Cunniff at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

Disaster Risk Reduction: Avoiding the Inevitable by Nicola Howe at RMS

New York’s Poor and Ethnic Minority Neighbourhoods to be hit hardest by Climate Change finds NYC Panel on Climate Change by Will Bugler at Acclimatise

Climate Adaptation

7 American cities that could disappear by 2100 by Aria Bendix at Business Insider

Improving Water Resources Management with Satellite Data by Aaron Sidder at EOS Earth and Space Science News

Central America: Climate, Drought, Migration and the Border by Lieutenant Commander Oliver-Leighton Barrett at The Center for Climate & Security

Disaster Risk Reduction

Living with natural disasters – how to change Indonesia’s culture of passive resignation by Juliana Wijaya at The Conversation

Major geological survey hopes to make Indonesia more resistant to deadly tsunamis by Tim Pilgrim at Brunel University London

Hurricane Harvey provides lessons learned for flood resiliency plans at ScienceDaily

US National Volcano Warning System Gains Steam by Forrest Lewis at Eos Earth & Space Science News

External Opportunities

Register for Science and Policy Forum of 2019 Global Platform for DRR at Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR)

The Art of Resilience – Call for art helping build society’s resilience to natural hazards at GFDRR

Register to attend or watch online – Disasters: impact on child poverty and development at the Overseas Development Institute

Teaching Assistantship Applications Open for Sustainable Development Undergraduate Courses at the Earth Institute, Columbia University

Summer 2019 Teaching Assistantship Available in Environmental Science and Policy Program at the Earth Institute, Columbia University

 

Check back next month for more picks!

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

Anthropocene: Are we in the recent age of man?

International Chronostratigraphic Chart

Regular GfGD Blog contributor Heather Britton pen’s this weeks post, where she discusses the heated topic of whether we are, or not, living in the Anthropocene. [Editor’s note: This post reflects Heather’s personal opinion. This opinions may not reflect official policy positions of Geology for Global Development.]

Naming a geological epoch the Anthropocene, literally meaning ‘the recent age of man’, is an idea that has been seriously discussed in many scientific circles and has become a scientific buzzword in recent years. Environmentalists, generally, are great proponents for the idea, stating that it summarises the huge changes that human presence has had on the planet and draws attention to the need for us to change our ways and prevent the damage from extending into the future. Geologists are typically less enthused by the idea. Naming an interval of geological time involves formally recognising that the Earth has been permanently changed at the onset of this era, and although in many ways humans have permanently changed the planet, making this a formal geological epoch requires the identification of a single point in the rock record when this took place. I wish to explain why I believe the Anthropocene, although suggested for admirable reasons, should not become formally recognised.

The term was first popularised almost 20 years ago in the year 2000 (by environmental scientist Paul Crutzen) and in 2016 the Working Group on the Anthropocene (WGA) voted to formally designate the epoch Anthropocene and present the recommendation to the international geological congress. The International Commission on Stratigraphy and the International Union of Geological Sciences have not approved this subdivision of geological time, but it may be that a decision is on the horizon [Ed: In July 2018 the International Union of Geological Sciences ratified a decision by the International Commission on Stratigraphy which announced Earth was living in the Meghalayan Age].

Finding the signal that marks this period exactly is difficult, but not for a lack of options. The prime candidate is the appearance of radioactive nuclides from nuclear bomb tests, which have registered a signal worldwide. Plastic pollution, high level of nitrogen and phosphate in soils from fertilisers and a massive increase in the number of fossilised chicken bones are other strong contenders which appear to define the rise of the human population and civilisation. There is certainly strong evidence to suggest humanity’s effect on the planet is permanent, but are we really in a position to state that the planet has undergone a permanent change when humanity itself is still a blip in geological time? To put it another way, if something were to wipe out the human race tomorrow, there certainly would be a distinctive signal of our presence in the rock record, but due to the tiny fraction of Earth history that we occupy, how can we guarantee that it will endure for long enough to be significant in geological terms?

Plastic in the rock record could used as a marker for the base of the Anthropocene. Credit: Guilhem Amin Douillet (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu)

There are many geologists who would claim that the creation of the International Chronostratigraphic Chart is one of the greatest achievements of mankind. Each Eon, Era and Epoch has been painstakingly identified using signals within the strata that must conform to a set of very strict rules. This ensures that rocks all over the world can be correlated to the same record of geological time, allowing communication and understanding between scientists from different countries where otherwise the use of local nomenclature would cause endless mistakes and confusion. The most common way of marking the base of a stratigraphic unit is the appearance or disappearance of a particular fossil.

This method clearly has its limitations – fossil organisms will have only lived in certain habitats, and it is assumed that the time taken for a new fossil organism to spread from where it evolved to locations across the globe is negligible in comparison to geological time, something we can’t be certain is true for all species. Dating is simpler when volcanic rocks are present, as radioactive dating is able to step in and provide, for the most part, accurate rock ages, but such methods cannot be used with any great certainty in the sedimentary world. As discussed above, fossil evidence for the beginning of the Anthropocene is present, but it seems more likely that a different kind of signal is used to mark this new epoch. This would not be the first time, as was demonstrated when the Holocene was formally designated in 2008.

In conclusion, making the Anthropocene a formal geological epoch would send out a message which may fast track the public and global governments to take notice of the impact we are having on the planet and, as a result, take action. I question, however, whether this is a sound enough reason to add to the international stratigraphic column. The Holocene, the time period we are currently considered to be occupying, began approximately 12,000 years ago as Earth slipped out of ice ages into what is currently an extended interglacial period showing no sign of slipping back into its glacial state. The time since the start of the Holocene is already only a geological blink of an eye and cutting it short now to make way for the Anthropocene seems both unnecessary and indicative of a lack of appreciation of the enormity of geological time. The now is not always an appropriate time to mark a significant event, as it is only afterward that its significance can really be properly understood. Regardless of this, it does not excuse how over the miniscule time period that we have spent inhabiting this planet we have had such a detrimental effect on what is a shared home and not ours to ruin. This certainly needs to be put to rights, but I am not certain that announcing the Anthropocene is the best way of doing so.

**This article expresses the personal opinions of the author (Heather Britton). These opinions may not reflect an official policy position of Geology for Global Development. **

 

Planning for future cyclone Idais; Cloud seeding in the Philippines; Climate Change Getting you Down? This and more in Jesse Zondervan’s March 2019 #GfGDpicks #SciComm

rain drops on leaf

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:

The UN World Meteorological Organization called cyclone Idai, which hit Mozambique this month, “possibly the worst weather-related disaster to hit the southern hemisphere”. Civil Engineering professor Ryan P. Mulligan discusses what climate science tells us about the future of storms like this.

Cyclone Idai paralysed the city of Beira and is a reminder that communities can really benefit from more investment in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

On that note, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction announced that experts and representatives from 33 countries agreed to establish a Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI). The coalition targets the challenge of safeguarding infrastructure against climate change enhanced disaster risks, as our dependency on infrastructure increases in the 21st century.

Cloud Seeding

As Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan discusses whether cloud seeding is a viable solution for drought, the Filipino Department of Agriculture announces it will start using the geoengineering technique in areas hit by El Niño.

Rather than geoengineering the climate, cloud seeding is a softer approach to force water out of clouds, which need to be present before cloud seeding can work. The Philippines might offer an insightful example.

Further topics include the exciting climate solutions pioneered by African leaders, laid bare by an expedition on Mount Kenya; and coping strategies for climate change anxieties.

Cyclone Idai

Coalition for Resilient Infrastructure takes off by Denis McClean at UNISDR

Hurricanes to deliver a bigger punch to coasts by Ryan P. Mulligan at The Conversation

Cyclone Idai: why disaster awareness and preparedness matters at the United Nations Environment

Climate Adaptation

Mount Kenya: A View of Climate Impacts and Opportunities at The World Bank

Cloud Seeding, Will It Save Us From Drought? – OpEd by Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan at Eurasia Review

Filipino Department of Agriculture to start cloud seeding by Eireene Jairee Gomez at Manila Times

Climate Change Getting You Down? Here Are Some Coping Strategies by Sarah Fecht at State of the Planet

How to make effective climate policies? Make citizens lead by Kiara Worth at the Tyndall Centre

Novel tool unveiled for climate risk profiling and adaptation at the Climate and Development Knowledge Network

Climate change

Mapped: How climate change affects extreme weather around the world at Carbon Brief

Disaster Risk

78% of older teenagers in Japan anxious about natural disasters, survey says by Magdalena Osumi at the Japan Times

Himalayan hydro developers wilfully ignore climate risks by Beth Walker at India Climate Dialogue

The Dangers of Glacial Lake Floods: Pioneering and Capitulation by Jane Palmer at American Geophysical Union’s Eos

External Opportunities

Deadline for Submitting Voluntary Commitments approaching at UNISDR

Summer 2019 Internship Opportunities at the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

Summer 2019 Earth Institute Internship Opportunities

African Climate Risks Conference 2019

Vacant PhD positions in Sustainability Science at Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies

 

Check back next month for more picks!

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

Water and Sustainable Development – 6th GfGD Annual Conference Event Report

Water and Sustainable Development – 6th GfGD Annual Conference Event Report

Understanding, managing and protecting water resources is critical to the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (e.g., education, water and sanitation, healthy oceans, zero hunger, good health, gender equality, energy, industry, and biodiversity). Increasing urbanisation, industrialisation, and climate change, however, are increasing pressure on water supplies and reducing water quality. Our 6th Annual Conference explored the role of geoscientists in managing conflicting demands for water, ensuring that the needs of the poorest are met while enhancing the health of ecosystems. We recently published a full event report online, and here we share some of the highlights.

Our Annual Conference is a highlight for many involved in the work of Geology for Global Development, bringing together people from across the UK and beyond to explore how geoscientists can contribute to sustainable development. This year approximately 120 attendees gathered at the Geological Society of London to talk about all things water, Sustainable Development Goals and geoscience.

The conference was opened by Lord Duncan of Springbank (UK Government Minister for Scotland and Northern Ireland, and a fellow geoscientist). Lord Duncan gave a passionate description of the important links between politics, geology and sustainable development. Another distinguished guest was Benedicto Hosea, visiting the UK from Tanzania and working closely with the Tanzania Development Trust. Benedicto gave us an insight into water resources in Tanzania, and the realities of implementing projects and taking practical action to improve water provision.

Our keynote lecture was delivered by Professor Bob Kalin from the University of Strathclyde, who gave us an overview of the interactions between water, geoscience and human impacts – and why it is important that geoscientists engage in the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals. You can find a recording of a similar talk Professor Kalin presented at a TedX event.

The first panel discussion of the day focused on management, with insight from industry, academia and the Overseas Development Institute. We discussed the challenges involved in listening to and considering many stakeholders, the management of transnational aquifers and how best to enforce policy – then attempted to come with some solutions to these challenges. Our event report includes links to key reading suggested by our panellists.

Water contamination is a significant environmental issue in many countries at all stages of development.  We heard about research into salinization and arsenic contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh. Mike Webster, head of WasteAid (check them out here) gave a different perspective on water contamination, talking about the work the charity has done in improving solid waste collection, thereby improving drainage and water quality.

Probably the most hectic, yet fun part of the conference was the UN style activity – we split up into groups representing different stakeholders and came up with a research and innovation statement relating to water and the SDGs.

We were also joined by The Eleanor Foundation, a charity working in Tanzania to provide access to safe, clean water provision to communities through pump installation and education programmes. It was so inspiring to hear about a charity that has undertaken effective work in ensuring the sustainable supply of water to communities, and made a real difference in improving lives – it is estimated that the Eleanor Foundation has improved access to water to over 250,000 people. In 2019, GfGD will be supporting the work of The Eleanor Foundation, helping to deliver SDG 6 in Tanzania. We will be using surplus income from our conference, together with other funds, to facilitate an evaluation of The Eleanor Foundation’s water programme. This will generate recommendations for The Eleanor Foundation team to ensure long-term impact and sustainability.

In true GSL conference style, we finished the conference with a reception in the library, giving us all the chance to chat about the conference and meet people sharing an interest in geoscience and development (of course admiring William Smith’s geological map!). I think it would be fair to say that a fun and interesting day was had by all, and I left feeling excited by the number of geoscientists I met that all share enthusiasm for the role that geoscientists have in helping to achieve the SDGs.

The 7th GfGD Annual Conference will be on Friday 15th November 2019, hosted again by the Geological Society of London. Please do save the date, and we hope to see you there!

Laura Hunt is a member of the GfGD Executive Team, and a PhD Student at the University of Nottingham and the British Geological Survey.