Making It Rain

Grind for September 13th, 2018
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
– Thomas Jefferson

A Modest Proposal

The Headline

Scientists have a plan to increase rainfall in the Sahara Desert

The Grind

Research published this week suggests the construction of clean energy infrastructure in the Sahara Desert could increase rainfall while providing massive amounts of energy for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

According to computer models, the precise placement of wind turbines and solar panels throughout the desert could increase rainfall by 50% and increase vegetation cover by 20%.

For maximum effect, we would need to cover 20% of the Sahara’s 3.5 million square miles with solar panels.

The Details

Here’s how it works:

Solar panels are darker than sand, meaning they reflect less sunlight back into the atmosphere. This would cause an increase in temperature (think about the difference between wearing a white shirt and a black shirt on a hot day) as well as an increase in precipitation (because warm air rises into the atmosphere and condenses to form rain).

“Similarly, wind farms would increase land surface friction and convergence of air, thus producing upward motion and precipitation,” explains study author Eugenia Kalnay.

Combined, the solar and wind farms would produce about 83 terawatts of power without emitting any greenhouse gases. To put that into perspective, the entire planet used about 18 terawatts of power in 2017.

But such an effort would take many years, and study authors ran computer models on the assumption that construction would take a century.

“If we can finish building all the wind and solar farms immediately, some of the effects on the atmosphere would be observed almost immediately,” explains study author Yan Li.

Effects on vegetation would take more time. “In reality, the effect would grow as the size of wind and solar farms that have been installed grows.”

Scientists have long associated the Sahara desert with climate change, as the desert has increased 10% in size since 1920

Out Of Line

The Headline

UN accuses China of detaining over 1 million Muslims

The Grind

A UN report released Thursday accuses the Chinese government of detaining up to 1 million Muslims in thousands of camps in the far-western province Xinjiang.

Most of those detained belong to the Uighur Muslim minority – a religion and culture that has long clashed with Beijing.

President Xi Jinping’s government blames the Uighurs for dozens of attacks on government targets and insists the group has links to ISIS.

In August, Communist Party official Hu Lianhe told UN members that minor criminals are sometimes sent to “vocational education” facilities to “acquire employment skills and legal knowledge with a view to assisting in their rehabilitation and reintegration.”

There is “no arbitrary detention” and “no such thing as re-education centers,” said Hu.

The Details

But according to former inmates, the detention camps are very real.

Abdusalam Muhemet, 41, was locked up for two months after he recited a verse from the Quran at a funeral.

“That was not a place for getting rid of extremism,” he said after returning home. “That was a place that will breed vengeful feelings and erase Uighur identity.

Inmates from other camps told reporters of physical and verbal abuse by guards and described grueling routines of singing, lectures, Chinese language class, and meetings on self-criticism. Some were forced to consume pork and alcohol. Others were tied to chairs and interrogated for up to nine hours at a time.

Hard facts show that China has sought to restrict the practice of Islam in Xinjiang for decades.

The Communist government in recent years has tightened restrictions on the Uighurs, banning men from growing beards and women from wearing veils. The government has also set up a massive surveillance system in Xinjiang which includes cameras inside people’s homes.

“Penetration of everyday life is almost really total now,” says Australia-based Xinjiang expert Michael Clarke. “You have ethnic identity, Uighur identity in particular, being singled out as this kind of pathology.”

The United Nations has called on China to provide further details on the number of people detained during the past five years, to drop travel restrictions currently affecting Muslims, and to hold government officials accountable for racial profiling.

Lawmakers responded to the UN report by urging President Trump to sanction any officials and companies involved in the detention centers.

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