Once upon a time, World Meteorological Day (which is this Saturday, March 23) may have sounded like yet another one of those “days some organization designated to make us aware of something vaguely of interest.” But more than one study has indeed linked recent extreme weather events to climate change; 90 percent of natural disasters arise from weather, climate and water-related hazards.
World Meteorological Day, which is sponsored by a United Nations agency the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), gives us a reason to focus on why extreme weather events occur and what we can do about it.
Young Inventors Creating Renewable Sources of Energy
Instead of focusing on clean technology and renewable energy such as wind power, Wall Street has been turning its back on fighting climate change and investing in companies that deal with the results of disasters, such as the widespread flooding in New York City and the New Jersey coast after Hurricane Sandy. That’s exactly the direction we don’t want to see resources going, especially when there are plenty of innovative ideas to harness green energy, practice sustainable agriculture and combat pollution and climate change.
As the WMO emphasizes, investing in programs that can help to predict natural disasters and that provide people with regular sources of clean drinking water and sustainable energy provide “an economic return many times greater, often ten times or more” per each dollar spent. In honor of this year’s World Meteorological Day, here are six such innovations:
3) Florida teenager Amanda Podlasek has been working for the past five years to develop a filtration system to combat red tide, an algae bloom that can produce toxins with deadly results for marine life. She was inspired after seeing a dead turtle on the beach; her invention uses simple materials (milk crates) to make a home for species (tuna-kits, clams and oysters) that naturally filter red tide.
4) Canadian teenager Eden Full invented a solar panel that tracks the sun’s movements and is able to boost output by 40 percent. Full’s innovation costs is 1/60th as much as traditional solar trackers ($10 versus $600) and can be maintained by children in developing regions.
5) Fourth-graders in North Carolina are not only learning about the benefits of alternative energy. They are crowdfunding their own solar-powered classroom.
6) Two Indonesian high schoolers, Dwi Nailul Izzah and Rintya Aprianti Miki, have devised a way to turn cow dung into an affordable air freshener — a far more environmentally-friendly creation than the toxic, perfumey products whose ingredients have been linked to asthma and other health problems.
Weather Knows “No National Boundaries”
In recognition of the fact that weather, climate and the water cycle “know no national boundaries,” the WMO calls for cooperation and collaboration among countries in all issues “meteorological, climatological, hydrological and geophysical” and for the sharing and standardization of data.
The importance of such sharing was made very clear in last year’s dispute between China and the U.S. about the level of pollution in Beijing. For measuring the city’s air quality via a monitor on the roof of the American embassy and publishing the results via Twitter (@BeijingAir), the U.S. more than piqued Chinese authorities who claimed the air quality really wasn’t that bad. But as a photo posted by the Washington Post at the end of February shows, the air in Beijing is as murky as ever.
Dust from the Sahara Desert has been found in clouds over California and Colorado and affects their rainfall. When we ask the question “what’s the weather today,” it’s not just the local temperature we should be keeping mind, but what’s the state of the climate anywhere on Earth? After the past few years’ recent extreme weather events from drought to hurricanes to flooding, and evidence that these can foment civil and political instability and even war, a day devoted to “watching the weather to protect life and property” is more than necessary.
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