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Think, Eat, And Save: World Environment Day 2013

By Countercurrents.org

05 June, 2013

Today, June 05, is the World Environment Day (WED). The theme of this year's Environment Day is: Think, eat, and save . But news related to environment and climate are not good: US forest service chief said hotter, drier conditions mean wildfire season lasts two months longer than it did 40 years ago [1] while analysis has suggested that changes in the atmosphere will lead to more frequent conditions favorable for severe thunderstorms [2].

David Molden, UNEP Director General, in a message [3] on the WED said:

Today, stories of climate change, glaciers melting, landslides, and water scarcity overload our everyday lives. The stories of environmental degradation are so overwhelming that there is a sense that we cannot really do anything about it. Yet, there are many things that each of us can do, and one that we might not think about so much is the consequences of our food habits. This message became clear to me some years ago when working as a water specialist trying to find ways to conserve water resources. Rough calculations on the amount of water it takes to grow food are mind-boggling.

David said:

Depending on production practices, about 2 to 5 thousand liters (2 to 5 tonnes!) of water used to grow rice or wheat is converted from fresh liquid water to water vapor, and around 15,000 liters are used for a single kilogram of grain-fed beef. On average, a vegetarian diet requires about 2,000 liters per day and a meat-eating diet about 5,000 liters to produce the food. And the more we eat, the more water it takes.

David brought to notice food waste and food loss saying:

There is a staggering amount of food loss and waste as food moves from the farmer's field to our dinner table – waste in storage, transport, marketing, and, shamefully, how much food we throw away from our dinner tables and kitchens. Some estimates say that we waste about one third of our food globally. Not only does this waste add unnecessarily to existing pressure on water resources, there are additional environmental costs including pressure on land resources and increased emission of greenhouse gases contributing to global warming and glacier melt.

The UNEP Director General said:

So the message is simple, take care of what you eat and what you waste, and you can make a difference. This year's World Environment Day gives all of us the opportunity to rethink our food choices and explore options of how to save resources and prevent food wastage. … This year's theme of Think. Eat. Save aims to globally reduce our food print through an anti-food waste and food loss campaign. A reduction in food waste and losses can lead to a better environment.

Longer period of wildfire

The report on US wildfire said:

America 's wildfire season lasts two months longer than it did 40 years ago and burns up twice as much land as it did in those earlier days because of the hotter, drier conditions produced by climate change, the country's forest service chief told Congress on June 4, 2013.

But the forest service was forced to make sharp cuts to fire prevention programs, and reduce the numbers of fire-fighters and engines because of budget pressures, Thomas Tidwell, the chief of the US Forest Service, told the Senate committee on energy and natural resources.

"Hotter, drier, a longer fire season, and lot more homes that we have to deal with," Tidwell told the Guardian following his appearance. "We are going to continue to have large wildfires."

Tidwell spoke as authorities began to contain the first big fire of the 2013 season: the Powerhouse fire, which erupted in the rugged hills north of Los Angles, blackening 30,000 acres, destroying six homes, and forcing thousands to flee.

All evacuation orders were lifted on June 4, 2013, but wildfires were also burning in northern New Mexico , Colorado and Alaska .

Early fires, such as Powerhouse, or monster-fires, which consume tens of thousands of acres in record time, were now the new normal, Tidwell said.

"Ten years ago in New Mexico outside Los Alamos we had a fire get started. Over seven days, it burned 40,000 acres. In 2011, we had another fire. Las Conchas. It also burned 40,000 acres. It did it in 12 hours," he went on.

Climate change was a key driver of those bigger, more explosive fires. Earlier snow-melt, higher temperatures and drought created optimum fire conditions.

Human factors were also important. Americans have increasingly been building homes in areas where fire had been part of the natural landscape.

"This is a product of having a longer fire season, and having hotter, drier conditions so that the fuels dry out faster. So when we get a start that escapes initial attack, these fires become explosive in that they become so large so fast that it really limits our ability to do anything."

The forest service is predicting an active fire season for 2013 in the south-west, as well as California , Washington , Oregon and Idaho .

But those more fire-prone conditions in the south-west are occurring at a time of budget constraints. Even before the sequester, the forest service was diverting funds from forest management towards actively fighting fires, the committee was told.

Since 2000, the forest service has almost doubled its spending on fighting fires from $540m to $1bn last year.

The money for putting out fires has come from other forest programs – including those proven to reduce the risk of future wildfires by clearing out old brush – were facing cuts of 50% in the current budget, Tidwell said.

The forest service estimates up to 82m acres of forest lands – or more than 40% of the US entire system – is now in need of such treatment.

Firefighting budgets were also being trimmed this year, he said. The forest service, which last year took on 10,480 fire fighters, would be brought down below 10,000.

Increased risk of severe thunderstorms

According to recent studies there will be more damaging winds related to thunderstorms. The number of tornadoes and large hail is expected to remain at the same level as today.

Climate model simulations suggest that on average, as the surface temperature and moisture increases the conditions for thunderstorms becomes more frequent. Climate change decreases temperature difference between the poles and the equator. This leads to a decrease in vertical wind shear, which is a major factor determining what type of severe weather occurs. These expectations are supported by a majority of the climate model simulations that have looked at the variables.

However risks of tornadoes and hail are still open to many questions. The small scale of severe thunderstorms makes it difficult to deal with them with global models. The estimations of their occurrence in the future climate is based on the occurrence of their favorable environments in climate model simulations.

"According to latest research the intensity of tornadoes will not increase, therefore incidents like in Oklahoma are not expected to be more frequent than today," said Harold Brooks, who is one of the most well-known researchers of severe thunderstorms from National Severe Storms Laboratory, USA .

"Most of the research on severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in climate change has focused on the USA and it is unclear how well the lessons learned there apply to the rest of the world," Brooks concluded.

Thunderstorms cause the most severe damage in Finland

Most severe weather incidents in Finland are caused by phenomena related to thunderstorms such as lightning, strong wind gusts, hail and tornadoes. On average one person is killed every second year because of a lightning strike.

Thunderstorms can cause also severe damage to the property because of falling trees and strong winds. On average, about 14 cases of tornadoes are reported in Finland annually. Most of them are quite weak but also some significant cases have been reported in history.

"As climate models are being developed, we are beginning to get more accurate information about the impacts of climate change to severe weather incidents in areas like Finland ," says meteorologist Pauli Jokinen from Finnish Meteorological Institute.


[1] Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, guardian.co.uk, June 4, 2013, “Climate change causing US wildfire season to last longer, Congress told”,


[2] Story Source:

The story is reprinted from materials provided by Finnish Meteorological Institute.


Finnish Meteorological Institute (2013, June 4). Climate change may increase the risk of severe thunderstorms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 5, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2013/06/130604094510.htm

[3] Pakistan Observer, http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=208876






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