Author, physicist, climate scientist. Expert on natural resource security issues. Environment executive. Legendary ocarina player - www.giulioboccaletti.com
Image for post
Image for post
The Cleveland Dam. Photo by Christian Fischer

The world of water resources is of substantial political relevance. Ensuring that water is available where and when needed for food production, energy conversion, or urban living is foundational to modern life.

It is also a field of arresting complexity. For example, water managers need to supply enough irrigation water to satisfy grain demand — itself driven by demographics, taste, economics — while the rainfall that feeds its sources is subject to seasonal, interannual, and decadal variability. …


China’s scientific and engineering knowledge gives it a distinct advantage in framing how best to manage the Mekong Basin and share its resources

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Bianca Bonifacio on Unsplash

China has been ramping up its investments with the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism, which — according to American officials — is an attempt to compete with the Mekong River Commission ( MRC).

A competition over who dominates scientific and technical knowledge of the river indicates an escalation in the complexity of challenges confronting the Mekong and an evolution from what seemed to be a largely domestic focus of China’s economic interests in its upper reaches.

Concerns for how…


How the work of one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century laid the foundation for our modern relationship with the planet.

Image for post
Image for post
Image: Time.com

Geopolitics on the move

Sixty-six years ago, this day exactly, America found itself celebrating one of founding fathers of modern meteorology. For the very first time, on Dec 17th 1956, the coveted cover of Time magazine went to a meteorologist.

This was not the first instance that a scientist had earned such public recognition. Since the inception of the magazine in 1923 there had been a steady stream of science celebrities gracing its cover. …


Lessons in sustainability from two thousand years ago.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by David Köhler on Unsplash

A Roman archetype

“Apart from better sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health … what have the Romans ever done for us?” Reg did not mention “sustainability” in Life of Brian. No surprise: it wasn’t much of a buzz word when Monty Python filmed in 1979.

The Romans would not have been familiar with the word “sustainability” as it is used today. After all, it is a reaction to industrial modernity and the consumption economy. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Nastya Dulhiier on Unsplash

Most people accept that Earth’s climate is changing. Many also readily accept that change is the direct result of human activity. What to do about it is the inevitable next question.

Part of the answer is a matter of daily debate. Most (but not all) of the problem is due to carbon dioxide, a long-lived greenhouse gas, which has altered atmospheric composition enough to interfere with the planet’s energy balance. Its principal artificial source is fossil fuel combustion.

Given how central coal, petroleum, and natural gas have been to modern industrialization it should be no surprise that economic emancipation from…


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Jonas Verstuyft on Unsplash

A warning

When Hannah Arendt, the German-American philosopher, reflected on the dawn of the nuclear age, she observed that a world that relegates existential questions to technical and scientific language alone — solely the domain of men and women in white coats who say “trust me” — is a world in which people have lost the ability to author their own life. She was writing soon after Sputnik had unleashed a potentially terminal arms race, and she feared the risks of a technocratic state that keeps people out of the political processes on existential grounds.

“Speech is what makes man a political…


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

Houston, we have a problem.

The Fifth edition of the UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook makes for sobering and frustrating reading. The report is the final assessment of the Decade of Biodiversity, which began in 2010 and ends now. It is disheartening. Twenty objectives at the outset — the so-called Aichi Targets. None have been fully met. Most have not been met at all. The results have been so underwhelming that they beg the question of whether target-led international processes are at all capable of living up to the rhetoric they produce.

The glass half full version of this particularly depressing story is that things could…


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Yash Garg on Unsplash

We all have seen them: natural history documentaries that begin with a wonderfully pristine ecosystem, first on stage as a fragile, unstable thing of beauty. Complex habitats and rare animals mesmerize viewers with delicate, spellbinding behavior.

Then, the story takes a dark turn as nature collides with the forces of mass production. The global economy, with its ruthless incentive structures and unrelenting search for growth, is the powerful nemesis to the fragile environment in need of a savior. The narrator urges us: Will we be, after all, the heroes of this story? Act, before it is too late.

There is…


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Islam Hassan on Unsplash

Trouble is brewing on the Nile. For years, use of the river was mainly about the needs of Egypt, by far the largest and most powerful riparian country in the basin. But since the Arab Spring of 2011, the situation has changed considerably. Egypt’s troubles over the last decade have weakened its ability to project power southward, while upper riparian states-Ethiopia in particular-have enjoyed a period of economic growth and relative stability, which has led them to look at the great river as an important national resource. Tensions have come to a head since Ethiopia announced the construction of the…


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Tianshu Liu on Unsplash

The East Asian monsoon is pummeling China this summer. As of late July, flood alerts had been issued for 433 rivers, thousands of homes and businesses had been destroyed, and millions of people were on the verge of becoming homeless. The water level of Poyang Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake, has risen to a record-breaking 22.6 meters (74 feet), prompting authorities in the eastern province of Jiangxi (population: 45 million) to issue “wartime” measures. Chinese citizens have not been threatened with devastation on this scale in more than 20 years, and this is likely just the beginning.

Destructive floods are…

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store