Climate Change and USA: What is happening?

Last Tuesday I came across an article on national geographic magazine stating that

Only 40 percent of Americans, according to the most recent poll from the Pew Research Center, accept that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming.

An explanation was given as well in the article:

The “science communication problem,” as it’s blandly called by the scientists who study it, has yielded abundant new research into how people decide what to believe—and why they so often don’t accept the scientific consensus. It’s not that they can’t grasp it, according to Dan Kahan of Yale University. In one study he asked 1,540 Americans, a representative sample, to rate the threat of climate change on a scale of zero to ten. Then he correlated that with the subjects’ science literacy. He found that higher literacy was associated with stronger views—at both ends of the spectrum. Science literacy promoted polarization on climate, not consensus. According to Kahan, that’s because people tend to use scientific knowledge to reinforce beliefs that have already been shaped by their worldview.

Americans fall into two basic camps, Kahan says. Those with a more “egalitarian” and “communitarian” mind-set are generally suspicious of industry and apt to think it’s up to something dangerous that calls for government regulation; they’re likely to see the risks of climate change. In contrast, people with a “hierarchical” and “individualistic” mind-set respect leaders of industry and don’t like government interfering in their affairs; they’re apt to reject warnings about climate change, because they know what accepting them could lead to—some kind of tax or regulation to limit emissions.

I tried to test this, and my findings were similar. I asked 10 of my friends who are American and half of them are involved in scientific research work. I asked them whether they believe climate change is caused by humans for the last 200 years. Interestingly the answer came up ‘no’ in 8, even though I gave 6 of them agreed there is scientific evidence.

One of the common reason came out, is—the record keeping. We have been keeping records from 1659 and a clear warming trend since 1880, when modern scientific instrumentation became available to monitor temperatures precisely. So, to them it’s not long enough to say humans are reason for global warming or climate change. According to one of my friend and participant:

Who knows this maybe a cyclic process, that happens every few thousand years, I believe it’s natural, we are not effective enough to change the course that god decided for us.

But most valuable comment came from a professor, when he told personally he believes that it is not caused by humans, but his research arena is climate change and he wants the funds to keep coming in.

That brings me to my focal point: Is not America suffering themselves from Climate Change?

Let’s just look at California for instance, facing it’s worst drought in 1200 years. Now, if you don’t want to believe science, stop believing in all the technology and medicines. Oh, I forgot 1 in 5 Americans do believe vaccine causes autism (Kahan Strikes in this case, as the 1998 research paper that set off a sharp decline in vaccinations in Britain after the paper’s lead author suggested that vaccines could cause autism. Kahan: Science can’t not take away the core believe you often have).

Ukiah in California, 2013 annual rainfall lowest of all time. Source:

20 hours ago, standing in a brown field that would normally be smothered in several feet of snow, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered cities and towns across California to cut water use by 25% as part of a sweeping set of mandatory drought restrictions, the first in state history. Well, this is not just it. Let’s have a look at US overall Water Stress Index:

Water Stress Index of USA, Source: Averyt et al. 2011
Water Stress Index of USA, Source: Averyt et al. 2011

As you can see most of the west of severe water problem. Here is a comparison with the World on water Stress Index:

World Water Stress Situation Source: UNEP

So, United States faces environmental problems. Whether you agree it’s you or not causing it (as human). Let’s look overall disasters. In 2014, there were 8 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $8 billion across the United States. These events included a drought event, a flooding event, 5 severe storm events, and a winter storm event. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 53 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

Now, Most countries are concerned about climate change and they want to know what is going to happen in their own country first and are funding work for their specific area.  So how much money does US spend on fighting climate change, is a question I asked my self, here is what I got from a simple Google search:

Estimates reveal that the federal government will spend more money on fighting global warming than it will on tightening border security. Global-warming spending is estimated to cost approximately $22.2 billion this year and $21.4 billion next year which is .57% of the total federal budget, twice as much as the $12 billion estimated for customs and border enforcement.Oct 30, 2013

I then tried to look at how much US contribution is in mitigating climate change effect. Turns out they are second in line contributing around 1.9 billion dollars:


There is also the spending on clean energy, US have spent 7.9 billion dollars in the clean energy field in FY 2014 and the overall R&D in USA is predicted to be declining:

R&D Crash Prediction Source:
R&D Crash Prediction Source:

All these brings me to again Kahen’s second type of Americans again. If you look at the Social Safety Net spending and climate change spending, that will tell you which side US government is working towards.

Now, in June 2014, EPA released the Clean Power Plan — the first-ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants on the path toward a 30 percent reduction in carbon pollution from the power sector by 2030 from 2005 levels. But here is the catch:

The good news is that U.S. emissions are already about 15% below those 2005 levels — so we’re halfway there.

So, stats matter, as 30% sounds better than 15%. And there are states which have to work towards making a plan by 2016 for cutting emission and there is flexibility. There are states that are already not willing to go down easy with EPA. Since 1992 (Earth Summit), the world can see the political play of global warming  at state and federal level in the United States

The United States, although a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, has neither ratified nor withdrawn from the protocol. In 1997, the US Senate voted unanimously that it was not the sense of the Senate that the United States should be a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol.

So, what has changed over time? Except for industrialization and population? I agree with gapminder regarding population, it will balance by 2100. But, the climate change will not, unless we work together. We have unearthed so much in the last 200 years that it will take centuries or even millenniums to restore it, or may not be ever possible. But right now what we can do is fight, fight climate change.

As I write, reports come in  of 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit shines on Antarctica, the chilly continent recorded the temperature (15.5 degrees Celsius) on March 24, possibly the highest ever recorded on Antarctica. As the temperature rises across the globe, so does the energy consumption, disease and other side effects.

Many in USA will agree with me, while trying to balance power the system is almost failing. In short run, states may face loss economic and other sides, but in the long run, this can restore the balance.  It was truly said,” Government by the people, for the people, of the people”, at least in this case. As the opinion is divided, people needs to understand the shear consequences of human activity on climate change. Otherwise, it might be too too late.


Water: What to consider?

[Prepared for a brief]

As I stand here in front of my contemporaries, I believe we are here to talk about one of the two core issues that the fate of the countries in 21st century will depend on—water. We often hear that “the third world war will be about water.” I often fear that it will be a reality for the third world nations. As we lag behind in natural resource and energy sources, sustainable source of water is a key concern for our countries.

Finding the source of fresh water and managing it—is a core issue, I feel specially for African countries. But what is surprising is the fact that most of the countries have policies and strategies regarding water and sanitation. But unfortunately, none of the instruments fully cover the ground reality as often those are made based on standard policies of developed world. The scenario is different in case of low and middle income countries. An example of such occurred in 1992, when nations of the world came up with their environment policies at Rio where each and every policy presented was illustrating a bright future. But few years later we found the implementation was tough at it met little of the ground reality.

Environment and women are linked like a chain to each other. Development of one can certainly be the reason of upholding the situation of the other and vis-à-vis. In the arena of water, it is the women, who play, nevertheless, a key role of associating the water with the human world. Therefore, we really need to understand the dynamics of the inner affiliation between women and water. Most framed Water Policies are not generated in gender sensitive manner and there are evident flaws in implementation of the policies.

Corruption, cost and quality are issues that we already talked about in water sector. As researches have proved that living condition is highly correlated with water access to people, it is high time we think of sustainable, affordable and effective process for developing countries. Community awareness is necessary to provide such service and to deal with associated problems I mentioned. With awareness corruption, cost and quality can be dealt with, authorities need to provide platforms to keep people accountable. We should focus on local research as well. Sustainability of water system will vary region to region and it’s important to consider local resources as well as supply method and purification process.

So core issues, I believe are source, quality, management, cost, gender sensitivity, accountability and sustainability for the water policies. To ignore any would be a mistake in this 21st century.



Garden to Keep it Green: Dhaka City Corporation North Rooftop


Two weeks back, for academic purposes I had the chance to go to Dhaka City Corporation (North). I got to know about some of the amazing work they are doing including renovating public toilets, creating wifi zone within the corporation office arena, using the roof top space for composting, rain water harvesting and many more.

Here is a glimpse of some of the photos I got the chance to take.

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Composting instruments on roof top
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The Constant Gardener
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So many plants!Use of Space
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Straight (Far), rain-water harvesting instruments
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Forgot the name of the plant (I am bad with plant names)
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Forgot the name of the plant (I am bad with plant names)
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So many plants!Use of Space
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Forgot the name of the plant (I am bad with plant names)
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So many plants!Use of Space
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Pomelo Fruit on Roof Top Garden!

I really liked what they did with the building as well. Trying to recycle and improvise. Such initiatives and steps should be told to people to make them aware of the good things the government and the authority is doing.


Groundwater arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh: An interview with Dr Manzurul Hassan (Re-blogged)

Dr Manzurul Hassan is geographer and faculty member of Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh.  He did his MSc and PhD in the Department of Geography at Durham University. After completing his PhD in 2003, Dr Hassan did a number of research works on groundwater arsenic poisoning.  Apart from this, he has conducted some consultancies in the development field with different national and international organisations and donor agencies.  He is now actively involved in writing-up his book Arsenic in Groundwater: Poisoning and Risk Assessment with Professor Peter Atkins (IHRR/Geography) to be published by the CRC Press (USA).  An important update on part of this research is now available.

How did groundwater arsenic contamination become a health hazard in Bangladesh?


There were waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea in Bangladesh due to the drinking of untreated water several decades ago.  During the 1970s, UNICEF and some international donor agencies advised the Government of Bangladesh to tap groundwater for drinking purposes.  Drinking this groundwater actually reduces the level of diarrhoea, but at the same time it is increasing the risk of arsenic poisoning, leading to arsenicosis,hyperpigmentation, gangrene, and finally cancer.  The latency time of cancer symptoms is 15-30 years depending on arsenic content in the water and the period of ingestion.  Local poor people are not actually aware of arsenic poisoning.  They still think that tube well water is good quality and that it is much better than the surface water, whether it is contaminated with arsenic or not.

What are the social hazards associated with arsenic poisoning?

Some social problems have emerged other than health risk from arsenic poisoning.  There is a very common tendency to ostracise people who have visible arsenic symptoms on their body, particularly different types of skin lesions or gangrene.  People with arsenic poisoning can’t even go outside of their own home and they can’t participate in any social gathering.  There are even problems within families causing parents to separate or the infected to leave home.  They are isolated from society; they find it difficult to get a job and children cannot go to school.  These are the kinds of social problems in Bangladesh within arsenic-affected communities.


What policies have been developed in Bangladesh in response to health risks and hazards caused by arsenic contaminated drinking water?

If you think about risk to arsenic poisoning, two issues should be considered: (a) health risk with disease incidence; and (b) social implications.  Arsenic is a documented carcinogen and if people ingest arsenic contaminated drinking water for a long time, there is the possibility of non-malignant symptoms as well as different cancers.  There is a large literature regarding arsenic and health issues but the social implications of arsenic poisoning have yet to be focused on strongly.  There are serious social problems for the arsenic-affected people in Bangladesh, starting with children being excluded from school, followed by social isolation and family dislocation.  In 1997, the government established an umbrella organisation — BAMWSP (Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation and Water Supply Project) for arsenic mitigation in Bangladesh.  BAMWSP developed a policy in 2004 for arsenic-safe water options and these were: rain water harvesting, deep tube wells, pond-sand-filters and dug wells.  In 2005 there was an assessment of the options and the installation of deep tube wells was banned by the government until it could be determined whether the arsenic-safe deep aquifer was protected by an impermeable layer.  If the deep aquifer is ever contaminated with severe levels of arsenic, there will be no option for arsenic-safe drinking water.  Furthermore, the other options are not working properly in Bangladesh.  Therefore, government needs to formulate a constructive policy to save her people from arsenic poisoning.  It is worth noting that about 80 million people in Bangladesh are at risk of arsenic poisoning.

How can people protect themselves from arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh?

Since the educated portion of the population in Bangladesh is not large, it is sometimes difficult to convey awareness messages regarding arsenic poisoning. Some understand arsenic hazard, but others confuse arsenic with iron.  This is because the messages are sometimes complicated and lack clarity.  Generally, people think that arsenic poisoning is a contagious disease that spreads quickly.  This is a common misconception in rural Bangladesh.  If a mass awareness campaign is possible to alert the rural people, and if they can be provided with arsenic-safe water, the arsenic problem will be minimised in Bangladesh.  Arsenic-safe water is the only curative medicine for arsenic-related diseases at the primary stage.

What do you think is the most appropriate safe drinking water arsenic threshold for Bangladesh?

If you consider the Bangladesh standard permissible limit for drinking water that is 50µg/L of arsenic, around 30% of the tube wells are found to be contaminated; but this figure is more than doubled if the WHO guideline value (10µg/L) is used.  There is a lot of literature regarding the permissible limit of ingesting arsenic from drinking water. The guideline value of 50µg/L does not provide full protection from arsenic poisoning, but the implementation of the WHO standard would be very expensive.  The existing mitigation options for arsenic-safe drinking water are not working properly and there is no regular monitoring of drinking water quality.  There is still ongoing research on safe water options in Bangladesh, and there is debate about which technology is suitable and sustainable.  The low-cost technologies are suitable for the rural poor but might not be sustainable.  High-tech options are most applicable for towns and cities but they are expensive and not all consumers are able or willing to pay the cost of arsenic-safe water.

How were qualitative methodologies useful for your research in Bangladesh on social hazards and risks from arsenic poisoning?

Both quantitative and qualitative enquiry are useful for social hazard and risk research on arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh, but qualitative methodologies seem to me to be the most reliable and effective in this regard.  In understanding the meaning of pain in the lives of arsenic-affected patients and their social problems, qualitative enquiry with the “interpretive hermeneutical phenomenology” of Max van Manen, and the “grounded theory approach” ofAnselm L Strauss and Barney G Glaser are suitable.  One can also use quantitative methods for assessing the health risk of arsenic poisoning, but they are not always suitable since it is not possible to quantify the “pain” of the arsenic-affected people.  Moreover, in making the relationships between social norms of the arsenic-affected people and their social problems with arsenic poisoning, the qualitative methodologies are most helpful.  Participant observation with ethnography could be used to detect the arsenic impact on social life of the affected people.  Arsenic-affected people are generally found not to disclose their disease to anybody in rural Bangladesh and they manage their social and family lives in their own way.

What role can IHRR play in addressing massive hazards like arsenic ground water contamination in Bangladesh?

There is arsenic poisoning now in 70 countries around the world and about 80 million people are at risk of arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh alone.  At the beginning of arsenic detection in Bangladesh groundwater in 1993, a good number of international institutions, donors, research institutions and international NGOs contributed their efforts both in research and mitigation.  The British Geological Survey (BGS) with the financial supports from the DfID/NERC conducted research on groundwater arsenic poisoning.  Some foreign institutions, like Columbia University (USA), KTH (Sweden), Jadavpur University (India) are still working on arsenic in Bangladesh.  The Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience (IHRR) can play a role in research on this issue.  The objectives of the IHRR can be achieved with long-term research on different natural disasters that are frequent in Bangladesh.  The recent Link Programme with Jahangirnagar University under the British Council INSPIREprogramme can be the beginning of the research initiative.  I hope IHRR can have the scope to formulate new guidelines and policies for arsenic mitigation that could be helpful to save millions of people in Bangladesh as well as other arsenic-affected countries.

Manzurul’s website (under construction):


Atkins P, Hassan M and Dunn C. Environmental irony: summoning death in Bangladesh. ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING A.    Volume: 39    Issue: 11    Pages: 2699-2714

Exploring groundwater arsenic contamination in Bangladesh. IHRR Blog

Hassan MM and Atkins PJ. Arsenic risk mapping in Bangladesh: a simulation technique of cokriging estimation from regional count data. JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND HEALTH PART A-TOXIC/HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES & ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING. Volume: 42    Issue: 12    Pages: 1719-1728

Atkins P, Hassan M and Dunn C. Poisons, pragmatic governance and deliberative democracy: The arsenic crisis in Bangladesh. GEOFORUM    Volume: 38    Issue: 1    Pages: 155-170

Atkins P, Hassan M and Dunn C.  Toxic torts: arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh and the legal geographies of responsibility. TRANSACTIONS OF THE INSTITUTE OF BRITISH GEOGRAPHERS. Volume: 31    Issue: 3    Pages: 272-285

Contamination of drinking-water by arsenic in Bangladesh: a public health emergency. Bulletin of the World Health Organisation. Volume: 78 Issue: 9

Irrigation threatens drinking water in Asia.

Hellish Water. Sciencebase

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