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The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has issued a new report, Accessing and Using Climate Data and Information in Fragile, Data-Poor States. In the report, the authors Simon Mason, Andrew Kruczkiewicz, Pietro Ceccato and Alec Crawford do a fantastic job of bringing to light an overlooked aspect of conflict-ridden and fragile states: accessing and using climate data. The report lists numerous examples, including how weather forecasting was banned by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and how weather information gathering capabilities in Rwanda diminished after the genocide. The report also includes recommended actions for peace-building practitioners to avoid such gaps in the future. Worth a read. (more…)
The 3D Printing Revolution, Climate Change and National Security: An Opportunity for U.S. Leadership
This is a new report from the Center for Climate and Security. Footnotes and citations can be found in the PDF version here.
Humanity has lived through many ages and transformations, usually without knowing that it was doing so. Hunters and gatherers reigned for hundreds of thousands of years until the agricultural revolution slowly changed the way we managed our environment, leading to denser populations, and eventually, sprawling empires. In Western Europe, the age of empires reluctantly but swiftly gave way to the plodding age of feudalism, followed by the energetic burst of the Enlightenment and on to the manufacturing juggernaut of the industrial age, which took us from steamships on the Mississippi to robots on Mars in less than two hundred years. We are now furiously typing and tweeting our way through the computer, or “virtual” age, with an unprecedented population, resource and climate crisis as an anxious backdrop. But as we stare at our screens, a new age is sneaking up on us, quite unexpectedly – one that combines the solidity, durability and strength of the industrial age, with the nimbleness, flexibility and adaptability of the virtual age. This mix will be necessary to address the complex challenges of a rapidly changing and uncertain world – not the least of which are the associated security risks of climate change. It is an age that has the potential to be built not with hammers, but with printers. 3D printers, to be precise. And the United States of America is in a perfect position to lead the way.
CleanTechnica has posted an interesting article detailing five key reasons why U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan appreciate and use solar power technology. The top-line reasons identified are:
1. Solar Power Saves Money
2. Solar Power Saves Planes and Trucks
3. Solar Power Saves Wear and Tear
4. Solar Power is Just Plain Better
5. Solar Power Builds Strong Communities
We would add “solar power saves lives” to that list, given the human cost of protecting fuel convoys in theater. As Department of Defense officials revealed after a review in 2011, “over 3,000 American soldiers or contractors were killed in fuel supply convoys between 2003 and 2007 in Iraq and Afghanistan.” This issue will be explored further in a forthcoming documentary “the Burden,” produced by Truman National Security fellow Roger Sorkin. However, the author does allude to this problem under reason #2:
By cutting down on fuel deliveries, the hybrid solar units free up aircraft and trucks for other missions. According to Kidd, the project has resulted in the equivalent of pulling 185 trucks out of fuel convoys.
In turn, that reduces the risk for Soldiers assigned to secure air drops and fuel convoys.
UPDATE: a colleague of ours adds another good reason why U.S. Special Forces appreciate solar power: It’s quiet, and has much less of a thermal signature, which is important to low profile operations.
According to the Environment News Service, the Afghan government, in partnership with the United Nations, has launched a “US $6 million initiative” to build the country’s resilience to climate change – a first for the country.
Given Afghanistan’s heavily agricultural economy (the director of Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency asserts that 79% of the country is engaged in agricultural activities), and the water security implications of climate change (increases in the intensity and frequency of drought and floods, the unpredictable variability of rainfall, and soil erosion), the program will focus on adapting the country’s water infrastructure to a changing climate:
Improved water management and water use efficiency as well as community-based watershed management are among the ways the program will strengthen resilience to climate change.
The lesson here? If Afghanistan can do it…
As first reported at the New York Times, a recent study published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences makes a strong case for the influence of climate change on the demise of the Harrapan civilization of the Indus plains, a sophisticated culture that “rose about 4,500 years ago, flourished for 600 years and then began a steady and relentless decline.” Essentially, the study shows, the civilization was highly dependent on monsoon rains to feed the flooding of rivers in the Indus valley, its essential means for watering crops, and was thus unable to adapt to climatic changes that weakened the monsoons, and failed to flood the rivers (the Harrapans did not utilize irrigation systems, being spoiled by what they believed was an infinite cycle of river flooding). (more…)
Lt. Col. Alan Samuels, a recent recipient of the White House Champion of Change award, recently penned an interesting piece on his experience studying the U.S. Department of Defense’s operational energy programs. The article covers some of the key elements of programs like the U.S. Army’s Energy to the Edge, which seeks to free soldiers from costly and dangerous fuel and water resupply missions by providing “field hybrid and renewable energy technologies to the point of need – the forward operating bases and combat outposts where our mission in Afghanistan is so critically tied to counterinsurgency operations.” He concludes that benefits for troops “are measured in increased operational capability, greater combat efficiency, and lower risk.” Click here for the full piece.