SECTIONS
Thirty years ago, the waters of Lake Tai, China’s third-largest lake, were clear of algae. But the lake is surrounded by several high-density cities, including Shanghai, Suzhou and Changzhou, metropolitan areas that have grown rapidly in the past few decades. Rampant sewer dumping and livestock drainage, combined with shifting agricultural practices, allowed the algae blooms to flourish, and now human mismanagement and global warming have entrenched them. ‘‘They love warm, stagnant, nutrient-rich…
Thirty years ago, the waters of Lake Tai, China’s third-largest lake, were clear of algae. But the lake is surrounded by several high-density cities, including Shanghai, Suzhou and Changzhou, metropolitan areas that have grown rapidly in the past few decades. Rampant sewer dumping and livestock drainage, combined with shifting agricultural practices, allowed the algae blooms to flourish, and now human mismanagement and global warming have entrenched them. ‘‘They love warm, stagnant, nutrient-rich conditions,’’ said Hans Paerl, a professor of marine and environmental sciences at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Over the past decade, the blooms have significantly expanded, and their season has grown longer. In 2007, the ‘‘pea soup’’ conditions of the lake were so bad, Paerl said, that the cities surrounding the basin ‘‘had green slime coming out of their faucets, and the central government had to bring in drinking water.’’ At least two million people were without fresh water. Image by George Steinmetz. China, 2017.

Cast of characters

  • Jule Charney - Physicist and MIT faculty member who was a pioneer in modern meteorology and a leading American scientist-statesman.
  • Exxon - An oil and natural gas company that formed when Standard Oil of New Jersey merged with Humble Oil and now known as ExxonMobil due to a merger with Mobil Oil. It is one of the companies that dominates the global petroleum industry.
  • Albert Gore, Jr (Al Gore) - Democratic congressman and senator from Tennessee in the 1980s.
  • Jim Hansen - NASA climate scientist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies who used computer modeling to simulate the impact of climate change.
  • Fred Koomanoff - Program Director of the Carbon Dioxide Research Division at the Department of Energy during the Reagan administration.
  • Gordon MacDonald - Geophysicist, member of JASON, and chief scientist of MITRE Corporation, a think tank funded by the Pentagon.
  • Syukuro Manabe - Meteorologist and climatologist who used computer modeling to simulate the impact of climate change while working at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.
  • Rafe Pomerance - Activist and lobbyist who was deputy legislative director of Friends of the Earth and then joined World Resources Institute.
  • William Reilly - Director of the Environmental Protection Agency during the George H.W. Bush administration, former staff member of Nixon's Council on Environmental Quality and former president of the World Wildlife Fund.
  • Roger Revelle - Oceanographer, University of California San Diego faculty member, and science advisor for the Kennedy Administration.
  • Henry Shaw - Senior researcher and manager of the Environmental Area in Exxon Research & Engineering's Technology Feasibility Center. Convinced Exxon to create its own carbon dioxide program.
  • John Sununu - George H.W. Bush's chief of staff and former governor of New Hampshire who had a PhD in mechanical engineering.

Please help us understand your needs better by filling out this brief survey!

Will you use this lesson plan in a class you teach?

REPORTING FEATURED IN THIS LESSON PLAN

RELATED ISSUES

A yellow elephant

Issue

Environment and Climate Change

Environment and Climate Change