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Water shortages affect food, transit, security

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Global warming is raising ocean levels, meaning seawater will encroach on wetlands, rivers, and streams, according to recent reports by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the National Research Council (NRC), the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

Climate change also could adversely affect transportation, the NRC reported last week. The Associated Press reports:

"The nation's transportation system was built for local conditions based on historical weather data, but those data may no longer be reliable in the face of new weather extremes.… The report notes, for example, that drier conditions are likely in the watersheds supplying the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. The resulting lower water levels would reduce vessel shipping capacity, seriously impairing freight movements in the region, such as occurred during the drought of 1988."

Water also complicates a shift from fossil fuels, researchers pointed out at the recent annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The Toronto Star reports:

"University of Texas professor Michael Webber, an environmental policy specialist, said so-called green fuels for vehicles all require much more water to produce than ordinary gasoline. Conventional oil refineries use comparatively modest amounts of water, largely for cooling.
"Webber said the water required for an alternate fuel vehicle to travel a certain distance can be up to 100 times that required for a gas-powered vehicle. This extra water use stems from the irrigation of crops like corn that are turned into ethanol, or in the production of the electricity for recharging hybrids."
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