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Current Events Portfolio

Part 2 - Hydrology

By Liv Thompson

November 16th, 2018

Article 1
Venice Flooding is getting worse - and the city’s grand plan won’t save it - The Conversation
Written by Carl Amos and Georg Umgiesser
Published on November 12, 2018
URL: https://theconversation.com/venice-flooding-is-getting-worse-and-the-citys-grand-plan-wont-save-
it-106197

Summary:

The Conversation offers a shocking and urgent report on the fact that the beautiful city of
Venice, Italy is likely to be completely submerged in water by as soon as 2100 due to rising
ocean levels from climate change. Not only have records shown that sea levels among Venice
have risen an entire 26 centimeters in the last century, but frequent floods are consistently
bringing in sea levels as high as 150 centimeters above average. St. Mark’s Square - the center of
life for the floating city - can see floods up to 60 times each year, compared to a meek 4 in 1900.
However, these increased floods cannot be credited by climate change alone. Rising sea levels in
accord with a particulated crowded city- possibly expanding at a rate too quick for its small
foundation island to uphold- is enough to create a bleak outlook for the city’s future.
City officials and scientists are currently in discussion over possible solutions to save the sinking
city. A shorter-term solution consists of the construction of 80 flood gates around the city in
order to better control the level of water within the canals; however, this proposal is thought to
cause harm to surrounding ecosystems, in addition to potentially increasing eutrophication rates.
Another proposal deals directly with the canals, offering to reduce the inlets from a total of 9 to
3. These canals- which ultimately surround infrastructure like roads- are also in need of
restoration, after facing the pollution of trash and other buildup for centuries. In addition,
dredging has caused harmful seabed erosion, all of which causes extreme detriment to the
remaining natural ecosystem surrounding the city. After taking in consideration the inability to
alter the buildings themselves due to avoidance of damaging original architecture, scientists have
mostly come to a consensus that in order to save Venice, it must begin with the restoration of the
surrounding salt marshes and mudflats. Thankfully, they have taken into account the fact that
without a functioning ecosystem, the city’s waterways and canals will quickly deteriorate. Yet,
the article concludes on a note prompting readers to self-assess, along with an opportunity to
further personalize the situation in Venice. Although Venice, the floating city, may have a
uniquely observable connection to the rising sea levels from climate change, we must not forget
that our actions are those of which is causing this issue to occur. No amount of renovation,
reconstruction, or floodgates will allow us the privilege of placing the larger issue of climate
change aside, and it is our own duty, through action and updated legislation, to ensure that we do
not continue to endanger our coastal cities.

Article 2
China’s fracking push leaves trail of dirty water woes - Financial Times
Written by Emily Feng
Published on November 8, 2018
URL: https://www.ft.com/content/fa7893bc-9175-11e8-b639-7680cedcc421

Summary:

This article delves into the lives of small-town Xiaohaotu residents in Central China and
their growing concern about the health of their community, as their town has been a hotspot for
nearly 600 separate fracking sites for decades. While China has claimed to be shifting towards
cleaner forms of energy, the high presence of unregulated fracking projects in rural towns such
as Xiaohaotu says otherwise.
Hydraulic fracking companies, such as Sinopec, China Natural Petroleum, and
Petrochina, all have been questioned as to the level of safety precautions they have taken in
response to citizens’ concerns. While many of them simply ignore the dangers of unregulated
fracking, Sinopec has even gone so far as to offer $5,000 subsidies to townspeople in order to
gain permission to bury toxic drilling mud and wastewater near their homes. This seems to be a
normal practice of the energy industry; due to the fact that hydraulic fracking most often occurs
in rural, less wealthy areas, large energy companies utilize their advantage to pay off any
environmental or human-health related issues they may be causing.
Drilling mud, a byproduct of fracking construction, primarily consists of harmful metals
and carcinogens. While much of it is produced in fracking production, energy companies choose
not to treat it afterwards, and simply bury it slightly underground. There, the toxic chemicals can
easily seep out into underground water supply. Once in the water supply, heavy metals and other
chemicals can cause a multitude of deadly effects. Not only has the town reported higher rates of
skin issues and stomach cancer, but agriculture is often overcome with disease, along with the
fact that “70% of residents have some sort of skin rash or illness” (Feng, 2018). When a
Xiaohaotu resident recently came forward with undeniable evidence of pollution, he was placed
on house arrest by the local government. They have not reported nor commented on the incident.
While residents of the small town are committed to making change and setting
regulations in place to save their health, any large changes in the fracking industry in the near
future are unrealistic. As international relations with the US become increasingly competitive,
and the US-China Trade War continues to escalate, citizens should expect these countries to
continue to act in the best interest of not public health, but establishment of power and wealth in
the energy industry.
It is quite upsetting that our current office does not hold more empathy towards the
millions of people that are directly affected by the harmful impacts caused from energy
industries. While I am not incredibly knowledgeable of current affairs regarding energy in China,
it’s fascinating to compare their agenda (or lack thereof) for conservation to the United States’.
Article 3
Crab Fishers Sue Fossil Fuel Industry Over Climate Change Damage - Inside Climate News
Written by David Hasemyer
Published on November 14, 2018
Summary

Inside Climate News reports on a current lawsuit occurring between the Pacific Coast
Federation of Fishermen’s Association and 30 large-scale companies who are being held
accountable for climate-related impacts on sea life, rising sea levels and water acidity, and the
livelihood of those who rely on aquaculture and related professions for income. Taking place in
the San Francisco County Superior Court, companies such as Exxon, Chevron, and BP are being
prosecuted specifically for “negligence, defective-product liability, creating a nuisance, and
failing to warn about the dangers of fossil fuel products that the companies knew would result in
warming of the oceans and atmosphere” (Hasemyer, 2018).

The West Coast has been especially impacted by the warming and heightened acidity,
due to the detrimental impacts these climate change related transformations have had on the
massive and important industries of fishery and aquaculture. More specifically, crab fisheries
have faced hardship in their businesses due to algal blooms from warming water temperatures.
Algal blooms cause domoic acid buildup on the inside of shellfish, preventing these shellfish to
be able to be sold. Not only is the future of both small family-owned businesses and larger
corporations that rely on the health of commercially harvested seafood products in danger, but
also the economy of California and Oregon, and other coastal cities, who rely on the hundreds of
millions of dollars contributed by crabbing and fishing businesses each year. Frankly, it would be
unethical for no change to be made.

In response, Congress has recently passed a program for ‘disaster relief’, designed to aid
those whose jobs have been jeopardized by climate change. While this is indeed a start, it poses
no contribution towards eradication of the underlying problem, that must be acknowledged on a
more widespread scale and acted upon more thoroughly. It is thought that these large energy
companies in question have been well aware of the negative impacts they have caused on the
environment for at least 50 years - well before climate change was a concern of the general
public. While I personally believe that holding these companies accountable for their major
contributions to CO2 emissions and environmental damage is a necessary step towards a better
future, we must also leave room to self-assess, and hold each other accountable for consuming
and using the products of these companies as well.

Article 4
Scientists warn Australia’s water security threatened by climate change - SBS News
Written by Biwa Kwan
Updated on November 14, 2018

Summary
As Australia suffers from climate changes, flooding and drought continues to be a major
problem for the nation. Livestock and crops have suffered due to elongated droughts from
unpredictable rainfall patterns, causing contributions of the country’s largest food supplier to
decrease by more than 40% in the last two decades. While droughts can cause a multitude of
negative effects on health and livelihood of people and industries alike, it has been especially
detrimental towards the cleanliness of the nation’s water supply. As droughts intensify, water
sources begin to dry up, causing buildup of salt, nutrients, and sediment. This excess of materials
then finds itself into the water supply of homes, which can lead to sickness and other health
issues. With major cities of Sydney and Melbourne being especially impacted by climate change
related issues, millions of people have already been impacted by these changes.
Due to the widespread impacts caused by human-induced climate change and global
warming, Australia has taken this issue as a primal reason to become more involved with
international efforts to reduce climate changes. They also have become increasingly concerned
about the mass migration of climate refugees, an event of which they are anticipating as nations
around the world continue to deteriorate and become increasingly unhealthy. North Africa and
the Middle East are expected to be especially hard-hit with drought and unclean water quality.
Australian officials plant to front-end these events and implement plans to potentially reverse
climate-induced migration or flood damage. Australia recently made the decision to build six
desalination plants in order to provide cleaner water to the country for at least another ten years;
however, this solution will not be able to sustain a population growth. It has become prominent
just how pressing a long-term solution is for this issue.
Yet, there is one obstacle standing in the way of progressive solutions to global warming:
certain world leader’ uninterest in accepting the reality of the issue. Through Australia’s attempt
to work with partnering nations on stricter energy regulations, Finance Minister Mathias
Cormann is attempting to claim that the current policies on climate change are ‘strong’ and
‘effective’, making it increasingly difficult to implement real changes. It is absurd the lengths of
which certain people in government will go to to ensure that their own agenda is carried out
instead of accepting the factually-based scientific evidence.

Article Citations:

Amos, C., & Umgiesser, G. (2018, November 12). Venice flooding is getting worse
- and the city's grand plan won't save it. The Conversation. Retrieved from
https://theconversation.com/
Venice-flooding-is-getting-worse-and-the-citys-grand-plan-wont-save-it-106197

Feng, E. (2018, November 8). China‘s fracking push leaves trail of dirty water
woes. Financial Times. Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/
fa7893bc-9175-11e8-b639-7680cedcc421
Hasemyer, D. (2018, November 14). Crab Fishers Sue Fossil Fuel Industry Over
Climate Change Damage. Inside Climate News. Retrieved from
https://insideclimatenews.org/news/14112018/
crab-fishermen-climate-change-lawsuit-fossil-fuel-companies-ocean-algae-neurotoxi
N-fishery-closure

Kwan, B. (2018, November 14). Scientists warn Australia‘s water security


threatened by climate change. SBS News. Retrieved from
https://www.sbs.com.au/news/
scientists-warn-australia-s-water-security-threatened-by-climate-change