Archive for August 2010
Malaria spreading to new regions while millions wasted on vaccines that cannot work for more than 2 years [New Article]
By Stephen Leahy
CHICAGO, U.S., Feb 19 (IPS)
Climate change is bringing malaria to regions of Africa where the disease was previously unknown, researchers report from the conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago this week.
Interestingly, the Arctic, where climate change is happening fastest, is the best place to study how warming temperatures are affecting infectious disease transmission.
[Note: Diseases are expected to increase in proportion to the decline/degradation of natural environment experts at Harvard said in my 2008 article “Doctor” Nature in Danger -- Stephen]
Insect-transmitted diseases, primarily malaria, kill 3,000 people in Africa each day, said Andy Dobson of Princeton University in the United States.
Understanding how global warming is altering temperatures and the ecology and ranges of the malaria-transmitting Anopheles mosquito is crucial to understanding the dynamics of how insect-transmitted diseases like malaria will change, Dobson told IPS.
“Ironically, we’re spending huge amounts of money on trying to develop vaccines for malaria but the best possible vaccine we could make wouldn’t last for longer than two years,” he said.
That’s because the natural lifetime of immunity to malaria is perhaps two years and to eradicate malaria using a vaccine would require vaccinating everyone every year because the malaria parasite evolves quickly, he explained.
“We’re not going to be able to do that,” Dobson added.
Instead scientists need to be able to understand and project how and where malaria outbreaks will occur under the altered conditions of climate change. However, there is very little data or research on disease transmission in the field. Rather, the focus has been on developing vaccines and genetic analysis of the malaria parasite and mosquito genome – and that “tells us nothing about transmission”, he said.
“A sad testimony to how the (U.S.) National Institutes of Health and the Gates Foundation spend their money,” Dobson told IPS. Read the rest of this entry »
Rich Countries Balk At Spending $ to Halt Biodiversity Crisis
By Stephen Leahy
NAIROBI, May 31, 2010 (IPS)
Developing countries rich in plants and animals but poor in financial and technical resources refused to make binding commitments to halt the unraveling of the planet’s biological infrastructure at the close of a major meeting Friday at the U.N.’s African headquarters in Nairobi.
For their part, rich countries balked at a 50-fold increase in funding to support efforts to slow and reverse the loss of species and ecosystems.
It takes money to protect, conserve and enhance biodiversity - the term for all living things that make up Earth’s ecosystems that are our life support system. Exploitation and destruction of vital ecosystems like forests and peatlands generates millions of dollars in revenue, but conserving or using these lands in ways that preserves biodiversity often costs governments money.
Reversing the declines in biodiversity is a matter of great urgency and countries with much of the world’s remaining species and intact ecosystems “are prepared to meet their commitments but we need the technical, human and financial resources to do this”, the delegate from Mexico said at the conclusion of the meeting that began May 10.
The absence of such resources is why biodiversity is in its current crisis, he said.
“The developing world needs to remember their previous commitments and provide new additional finances and resources. Those promises are not being adhered to,” Seyani told delegates late Friday afternoon at the end of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) meeting to establish targets and an action plan to end the biodiversity crisis over the next decade. Read the rest of this entry »
Wealthy Countries Export Environmental Impacts to Poor [New Article]
By Stephen Leahy
BERLIN, Jun 3, 2010 (IPS)
Rising global wealth spells disaster for the planet, with environmental impacts growing roughly 80 percent with a doubling of income, reports the first comprehensive study of consumption.
It adds to the mountain of evidence that the gospel of economic growth must be urgently transformed into the new gospel of resource-efficient green economies, a U.N. expert panel concluded Wednesday.
What are the biggest planetary criminals?
Fossil fuel use and agriculture, the study found. Ironically, these are also the two most heavily subsidised sectors, noted Ernst von Weizsaecker of Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and co-chair of the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management.
“In the case of CO2, a doubling of wealth typically increases environmental pressure 60 to 80 percent, sometimes more in emerging economies,” von Weizsaecker said in an interview.
Rising affluence has also triggered a shift in diets towards meat and dairy products so that livestock now consumes much of the world’s crops and indirectly consumes 70 percent of the fresh water and produce much of the fertiliser pollution, von Weizsaecker said from Brussels.
The report “Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials“, was released Wednesday at the European Commission in Brussels.
“It is clear that a meat-based diet uses more land and fertiliser and emits far more CO2 than a vegetarian diet,” said von Weizsaecker. Read the rest of this entry »
60 percent of children — as many as 20,000 — displaced by Hurricane Katrina 5 years ago either have serious emotional disorders, behavioral issues or are experiencing significant housing instability according to new report.
Five years ago Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans caused the evacuation of 1.5 million Gulf Coast residents. After a year, 500,000 people remained displaced, many residing in highly transitional shelters, including the notorious FEMA trailer parks. Now at the five-year mark, substantial consequences from this prolonged displacement have resulted in widespread mental health issues in children living in the region, according to a new study by the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP).
And this is in the world’s richest country. How will Pakistan recover from its floods ? It may take a whole generation.
Economic experts consistently underestimate the real and long term impacts of weather disasters that are worsening and become more frequent due to climate change. We have yet to really comprehend those impacts and dangerously underestimate the real costs of climatic change. – Stephen
The enormous fossil fuel subsidies are rarely acknowledged when complaints are raised about costs of renewable energy. This report shown below says subsidies for fossil fuel are 12X that for green energy but this is a gross underestimate based on the experts I’ve interviewed in June for this article Free Ride for Oil and Coal Industry May Be Over.
Subsidies experts in Switzerland told me that “two-billion-dollars-a-day public subsidy for carbon-based fuels is a very conservative estimate..”
In reality big oil and coal get more like 20X the money green energy. So let’s do some real pricing: electricity from coal 5 cents kWh X 20 for subsidies (not to mention free use of the atmosphere /environment for its CO2, mercury etc waste products.) Corporate welfare at its best.
Wind 5-6 cents kWh; Solar 10-15 cents kWh…
Fossil energy continues to get NEW subsidies see New $Billion Cash Hand Out To Fossil Fuel Companies Under ‘Green’ Economic Stimulus Plans.
Global subsidies for fossil fuels dwarf support given to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and biofuels, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.
Governments last year gave $43 billion to $46 billion of support to renewable energy through tax credits, guaranteed electricity prices known as feed-in tariffs and alternative energy credits, the London-based research group said today in a statement. That compares with the $557 billion that the International Energy Agency last month said was spent to subsidize fossil fuels in 2008.
“One of the reasons the clean energy sector is starved of funding is because mainstream investors worry that renewable energy only works with direct government support,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of New Energy Finance. “This analysis shows that the global direct subsidy for fossil fuels is around ten times the subsidy for renewables.”
Heat Waves Put Global Food Supply At Risk
By Stephen Leahy
VIENNA, Aug 11, 2010 (IPS)
A wind turbine on an acre of northern Iowa farmland could generate 300,000 dollars worth of greenhouse-gas-free electricity a year. Instead, the U.S. government pays out billions of dollars to subsidise grain for ethanol fuel that has little if any impact on global warming, according to Lester Brown.
“The smartest thing the U.S. could do is phase out ethanol subsidies,” says Brown, the founder of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, in reference to rising food prices resulting from the unprecedented heat wave in western Russia that has decimated crops and killed at least 15,000 people.
“The lesson here is that we must take climate change far more seriously, make major cuts in emissions and fast before climate change is out of control,” Brown, one of the world’s leading experts on agriculture and food, told IPS.
Average temperatures during the month of July were eight degrees Celsius above normal in Moscow, he said, noting that “such a huge increase in temperature over an entire month is just unheard of.”
On Monday, Moscow reached 37 C when the normal temperature for August is 21 C. It was the 28th day in a row that temperatures exceeded 30 C. Read the rest of this entry »
By Stephen Leahy
VIENNA, Jul 31, 2010 IPS
The oceans are the lifeblood of our planet and plankton its red blood cells. Those vital “red blood cells” have declined more than 40 percent since 1950 and the rate of decline is increasing due to climate change, scientists reported this week.
“Phytoplankton are a critical part of our planetary life support system. They produce half of the oxygen we breathe, draw down surface CO2, and ultimately support all of our fisheries,” said
Boris Worm of Canadas Dalhousie University and one of the worlds leading experts on the global oceans.
“An ocean with less phytoplankton will function differently,” said Worm, the co-author of a new study on plankton published this week in Nature. Plankton are the equivalent of grass, trees and other plants that make land green, says study co-author Marlon Lewis, an oceanographer at Dalhousie.
“It is frightening to realise we have lost nearly half of the oceans green plants,” Lewis told IPS.
“It looks like the rate of decline is increasing,” he said.
[See also my series of articles on ocean acidification]
By Stephen Leahy
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr 14, 2010 (IPS)
How’s this for short-sighted:
A billion people go hungry every day, food prices have climbed 30 to 40 percent, climate change is reducing agricultural production – and for the past two decades, the world has slashed investments in publicly-funded agriculture until it is a pittance in most countries.
“Moral outrage is needed. We must abolish this… It can be done. It must be done,”Ismail Serageldin Website, Egypt and a former World Bank economist, told nearly 700 World Food Prize laureates, ministers, scientists and a few representatives from development and farmer organisations at the first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) last month here in southern France.
“This is the launching pad to transform hunger in our time,” Serageldin concluded.
The “rocket” on the launching pad is a major transformation of the 500 million dollars of public funds for international agricultural research carried out by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an alliance comprising some 8,000 researchers in 100 countries.
For the past year, a global consultation process involving over 2,000 stakeholders from 200 countries has produced a draft plan for reform that promises to meet the needs of the world’s 500 million poor small farmers who feed the two billion poorest people.
Called ambitious and far-reaching by proponents, the “Montpellier Road Map” sets the priorities for “linking science and innovation to the needs of farmers and the rural poor”.
Critics say it resembles little more than a passionate shuffling of the status quo. As the French say like to say: “Plus ça change; plus c’est la même chose” (the more things change, the more they stay the same).
Read the rest of this entry »