Lakis Polycarpou

Lakis Polycarpou is a professional author and freelance writer. His recent book, August in the Vanishing City ( is the first in a series of historical novels that take place on the island of Cyprus. Lakis’ posts on State of the Planet have covered diverse issues including water scarcity, climate change, drought, flood, food security, supply chains and geopolitics. From 2010 to 2012, and from 2014 to the present Lakis has worked with the Columbia Water Center to articulate and communicate innovative solutions to global water and climate challenges. He can be contacted at

Recent Posts

1862 Flooding in California

With El Niño, Be Careful What You Wish for

In Southern California, a strong El Niño usually signals rain. Given that California is now in the throes of a severe drought, it seems like that should be a good thing, even if it comes with risk of floods. But the reality of climate is more complex and counter-intuitive than it first appears.

by |November 16, 2015

Learning from a River’s History to Prepare for the Future

Researchers from eight universities, including Columbia University, are using tree ring and glacier analysis to reconstruct the climate history of the Missouri River Basin in order to give policymakers and water managers better decision-making tools to manage the river.

by |August 17, 2015
The Normalized Deficit Cumulated (NDC) shows cumulative, multi-year water deficits.

U.S. Drought Risk Wider than Previously Thought

New research from the Columbia Water Center suggests that many more places in the United States are at risk of drought-induced water stress than is commonly thought, including dense metropolitan regions such as New York City and Washington, D.C.

by |May 4, 2015

Waking up to America’s Water Challenges

“Will it take another Dustbowl for Americans to start paying attention to water issues?” asked Water Center Director Upmanu Lall. Or will it be the chance to create the “iPhone technology” of water? Whether the impetus is crisis or opportunity, according to Lall, the time to act is now.

by |March 19, 2015

Floods, Companies and Supply Chain Risk

Global companies with long supply chains could do a much better job of managing climate disaster risk, according to a recently published study from the Columbia Water Center.

by |November 17, 2014
drinking water

How Much Arsenic is Too Little?

Five hundred utilities in the U.S. provide drinking water with unsafe levels of arsenic, the Environmental Protection Agency says. But how many people are getting too much arsenic in their water is much less clear, according to a study conducted in part by the Columbia Water Center.

by |August 29, 2014

For a Wind-Powered City, Heat Pumps Are Key

Replacing conventional building boilers with electric heat pumps in New York City buildings could substantially increase the viability of renewable energy use in the city, according to a recent study from researchers from the Earth Institute’s Sustainable Engineering Lab.

by |June 27, 2014

Study: Reforming the Port Authority and the MTA

Earth Institute students took a hard look into financial and administrative problems plaguing the MTA and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and came up with suggestions for more sustainable financing and more efficient operations.

by |June 23, 2014

Beyond Coal: Economic Alternatives for Kentucky

Earth Institute students evaluated Kentucky’s physical, economic and cultural resources to identify ways to move the economy toward a more sustainable future—and to make recommendations for how the state’s community and technical college system could help.

by |June 6, 2014

Capstone Projects Address Real Sustainability Challenges

Students from the Earth Institute’s Sustainability Management and Environmental Science and Policy master’s programs once again demonstrated the broad range of applications for interdisciplinary approaches to sustainable development in their Spring 2014 team capstone projects. The projects provided analysis and recommendations to a range of clients on diverse, real-world sustainability challenges.

by |May 14, 2014