Here’s why we need to start thinking about man made climate change. In the Great Basin desert of the western United States, not far from the Great Salt Lake, is a kind of time machine. Homestead Cave has been inhabited for the past 13,000 years by successive generations of owls, beneath whose roosts accumulated millennia-deep piles of undigested fur and bone. By examining these piles, researchers have been able to reconstruct the region’s ecological history. It contains a very timely lesson.
Different species flourished at different times, but the total amount of biological energy – a metric used by ecologists to describe all the metabolic activity in an ecosystem – remained steady. About a century ago, though, all that changed. The culprit! Not climate change, as one might expect, but human activity, in particular the spread of invasive non-native grasses that flourish in disturbed areas and have little nutritional value, sustaining less life than would the native plants they’ve displaced. The CO2 issues came long after that was done. Depletion is the real problem, not CO2.
Over on the East Coast there is another example of change cause my population, not CO2. Cod were brutally overfished since the beginning of the 20th century. Bottom-trawling fishing methods destroyed many of their seafloor spawning grounds, and also the habitat of their prey. Before that, dams built on almost every coastal stream and river reduced once-vast populations of migratory fish such as Atlantic salmon, and cod by at least 95 per cent. The CO2 issues came along after the damage was done. Only robust insights for long-term conservation and management will heal the land and seas.
In the meantime, technology has to be developed to sustain the current population of 7.3 billion and the addition of another 3.7 billion by 2100. The first thing we need to do is increase the energy to sustain clean water and food to feed the population as it increases. Over a billion people exist without electricity, clean water and adequate food stuff and it is only going to get worst. Given that many sources of nutrition have already been depleted, alternatives or supplements have to be developed to replace them.
We have already had a Green Revolution (increased crop production) back in the 1970’s and this has got us to a 7.3 billion population. With abundant food stock, humanity has not had a huge worldwide famine since the great leap forward in China where 45 million people starved to death between 1958 and 1962. However, those deaths barely caused a blimp in population growth. Today’s food stock may not be enough for 2050, without some serious changes in availability. There needs to be a second Green Revolution through advanced technology in food processing.
“Food is the next big area for Israeli tech,” according to entrepreneur and investor Ron Antonovksy. “We are moving to a Foodtech Nation.” Food technology can help manufacturers produce processed food that is easier to store, cheaper to produce, and healthier to eat – the three holy grails of the food processing industry.
“It took a delegation from Minnesota to set Israel on its path as a foodtech nation,” said Antonovksy. General Mills was looking for technology to enhance the nutritional value of its food products, and they heard that Israel has innovations in all these areas; cheaper and healthier ingredients, smart packaging, improvements in manufacturing systems, and functional food which supplies higher levels of protein and other health benefits.
While COP21 thinks a couple of wind mills, solar panels and a garden in the backyard are going to save the world, the best way forward is through advanced food and water processing available through nanotechonolgies powered by nuclear energy.