Shale gas is a game-changer for global energy supply. It is already transforming the U.S. energy outlook, and is expected to deliver over 40% of domestic gas production by 2025 (Figure 1). Other countries and regions, notably Europe and China, may soon follow suit, in a repeat of the early 20th century oil rush.
Opinion is bitterly divided, however, over the environmental risks and benefits of this abundant new source of energy – so much so, that the different sides struggle to agree even on basic facts. The debate is raging over two key issues – on-the-ground impacts to water, air, communities, land use, wildlife, and habitats; and the broader energy and global warming implications of developing shale gas.
A Special Letter from WRI Interim President Manish Bapna
Next week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to finalize new rules to reduce mercury and other toxic air emissions that will affect dozens of antiquated power plants currently operating without pollution controls.
These rules have stirred debate in some circles as to whether retrofitting or retiring outdated plants will cause shortfalls in electricity capacity. How will new EPA mercury rules influence the electricity system? This post updates earlier assessments by taking a close look at recent studies on the reliability of the electricity grid to answer that question.
This piece was coauthored by: Joe Rozza, P.E., BCEE, Global Water Resource Sustainability Manager, The Coca-Cola Company; Greg Koch, Managing Director, Global Water Stewardship, The Coca-Cola Company; Jonathan Boright, Research Scientist, ISciences LLC; Nicole Grohoski, Research Analyst, ISciences LLC
The Aqueduct project is an effort to measure and map water related risks being developed by the World Resources Institute with the support of an alliance founded by General Electric and Goldman Sachs. As part of this effort, the Aqueduct team convened its hydrological modeling partner ISciences and experts from The Coca-Cola Company to develop and analyze a set of maps for the Bonn2011 Nexus conference that illustrate the complex relationships between water, food, and energy worldwide (see below).
Why focus on the water-food-energy nexus? Like water, food and energy are basic necessities of life that help support robust economies and stable political systems. Agriculture and power generation, moreover, account for the majority of water withdrawals in most developed countries.
Snaking across multiple international boundaries and supporting everything from villages and farms to industry and cities, the Orange-Senqu River is one of the most important natural resources in southern Africa. The complexity and significance of the Orange-Senqu basin made it a clear focus for the Aqueduct project, which aims to measure and map physical, reputational, and regulatory water risks in economically important river basins around the world.
With a prototype map for the Yellow River basin in China and global water stress maps completed, the World Resources Institute (WRI) is in the process of expanding its basin-level mapping into other basins around the world, including the Orange-Senqu.
If you believe the doomsday merchants, the scariest thing about this Halloween is the fact that the world's population will pass seven billion on or near October 31.
Population growth, however, is not the biggest skeleton in the closet when it comes to our planet's ability to absorb human impact. Far more damaging than the booming birth rate in low income countries are the resource-intensive lifestyles of the global rich and middle class.
The World Resources Institute and the Coca-Cola Company recently announced a partnership that made industry-leading global water risk maps publicly available for the first time. Coca-Cola has donated maps and data that they developed to help them towards the goal of understanding and managing their exposure to water risks in their facilities around the world. Through Aqueduct’s online water risk mapping platform, this information has been made accessible to the public in an interactive, easy-to-use platform.
Aqueduct's new data from Coca-Cola takes the form of thirteen global maps that look at water stress, water reuse, and drought at a sub-basin level of geographic detail. This is a much more local perspective than existing water databases in the public domain, which tend to divide their maps at the country or basin level.
This piece, co-authored by WRI's Kirsty Jenkinson and Coca-Cola's Joe Rozza, originally appeared on The Guardian Sustainable Business Blog.
Water, or the lack of it, is never far from the headlines. While Hurricane Irene dumped torrential rain on a huge area of the eastern US seaboard and caused record flooding, prolonged droughts have afflicted the plains of Texas, the Horn of Africa and the Yangtze River.
These water-related disasters are not only devastating for people and nature. They pose major risks to businesses and economies worldwide.
Using markets to protect and restore ecosystems – and the many services they provide – is gradually becoming a reality. Market-based systems have already protected hundreds of thousands of acres of land while still meeting human economic and development needs. They can help ensure that environmental benefits, from wildlife habitat to water purification, will be preserved for future generations.
But what are the critical elements for success? What progress has been made? What are the innovative ideas that will push these markets forward? The World Resources Institute and the American Forest Foundation recently convened some of the world’s leading experts on ecosystem markets in Madison, Wisconsin to address these questions.