Significant Figures by Peter Gleick

Dr. Peter Gleick is a scientist, innovator, and communicator on global water, environment, and climate issues. He co-founded and is president-emeritus of the Pacific Institute in Oakland – an independent non-governmental organization addressing the connections between the environment and global sustainability. Dr. Gleick’s work has redefined water from the realm of engineers to the world of sustainability, human rights, and integrated thinking across the disciplines of the geosciences, economics, and policy. He produced some of the earliest assessments of the impacts of climate change on water resources, explored the links between water and conflict, and defined basic human needs for water and the human right to water – work that has been used by the UN and in human rights court cases. He pioneered the concepts of the “soft path for water” and “peak water.” Gleick received the prestigious MacArthur “genius” Fellowship in 2003 and was named “a visionary on the environment” by the BBC. He was elected in 2006 to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Wired Magazine featured Dr. Gleick as “one of 15 people the next President should listen to.” He received a B.S. from Yale University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He serves on the boards of numerous journals and organizations, and is the author, co-author, and editor of many scientific papers and books, including the influential series "The World's Water," "Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water" (Island Press), and "A Twenty-First Century U.S. Water Policy" (Oxford University Press). He also blogs at Huffington Post Green: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-h-gleick/

[An early version of this essay was originally published on my Forbes blog in 2012. It has been edited and updated.] Geologic time scales are long – far too long for the human mind to easily comprehend. Over millions, and tens of millions, and hundreds of millions of years, the Earth has changed from something…

by Peter Gleick and Rapichan Phurisamban There is strong bipartisan support for expanding investment in the nation’s water infrastructure as part of a broader infrastructure effort. But there is, as yet, little agreement about what specific investments should be made. Here is one idea: expand access to high-quality and safe municipal water by improving access…

In late February 2017, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences hosted a workshop on the human right to water organized by the Cátedra del Diálogo y la Cultura del Encuentro of Argentina with several other organizations. With many colleagues from science, law, human rights, history, and religion, this workshop offered the opportunity to debate and discuss…

National academies of sciences from around the world have published formal statements and declarations acknowledging the state of climate science, the fact that climate is changing, the compelling evidence that humans are responsible, and the need to debate and implement strategies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Not a single national science academy disputes or…

(Updated January 2017 by Dr. Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute) Scientific understanding of the role of humans in influencing and altering the global climate has been evolving for over a century. That understanding is now extremely advanced, combining hundreds of years of observations of many different climatic variables, millions of years of paleoclimatic evidence of past…

Among the different professional categories, scientists and engineers remain very highly respected by the public, at least compared to politicians, business leaders, the media, and even religious authorities. Part of this is due to the fact that success in the scientific enterprise depends on impartial analysis and independence from political ideology. And yet there are…

My new Science Magazine article “Water Strategies for the Next Administration” has just been released (embargo lifts 11am Pacific, November 3rd; the print version will appear in the November 4th issue of Science). It identifies six major water-related challenges facing the United States and offers explicit recommendations for strategies the next Administration and Congress should…

Clinton on Western Water Trump on Western Water “Recognizes that the current long-term drought across much of the West poses a dire risk to the health and prosperity of Western communities and believes the federal government can and should be a better partner in supporting state and locally-led efforts to improve water security.” “There is…

The announcement that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) will close the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant when its current operating licenses expire in 2025 has caused what can only be described as consternation mixed with occasional conniptions among the nuclear industry and some strongly pro-nuclear groups. That’s understandable. Diablo Canyon is aging, but is not the…

Global Droughts: A Bad Year

Populations around the world face many severe water challenges, from scarcity to contamination, from political or violent conflict to economic disruption. As populations and economies grow, peak water pressures on existing renewable water resources also tend to grow up to the point that natural scarcity begins to constrain the options of water planners and managers.…