Archive for the ‘sustainability’ Category
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Dec 17 2012 (IPS) (Re-posted)
The most important number in history is now the annual measure of carbon emissions. That number reveals humanity’s steady billion-tonne by billion-tonne march to the edge of the carbon cliff, beyond which scientists warn lies a fateful fall to catastrophic climate change.
With the global total of climate-disrupting emissions likely to come in at around 52 gigatonnes (billion metric tonnes) this year, we’re already at the edge, according to new research.
To have a good chance of staying below two degrees C of warming, global emissions should be between 41 and 47 gigatonnes (Gt) by 2020, said Joeri Rogelj, a climate scientist at Switzerland’s Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich.
“Only when we see the annual global emissions total decline will we know we’re making the shift to climate protection,” Rogelj told IPS.
Making the shift to a future climate with less than two degrees C of warming is doable and not that expensive if total emissions peak in the next few years and fall into the 41-47 Gt “sweet spot” by 2020, Rogelj and colleagues show in their detailed analysis published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The study is the first to comprehensively quantify the costs and risks of emissions surpassing critical thresholds by 2020.
This shift means 65 percent of existing coal power plants will have to be shut down in the next decade or two. Read the rest of this entry »
By Stephen Leahy
Thu, 2013-03-21 05:00 DeSmog Canada
Few are aware Canada’s GDP shot up from an average of $600 billion per year in the 1990s to more than $1.7 trillion in 2012. This near tripling of the GDP is largely due to fossil fuel investments and exports.
However not many Canadians are three times wealthier. For one thing GDP is only a measure economic activity. The other reason is that little of this new wealth stayed in Canada. And what did stay went to a small percentage of the population, worsening the gap between rich and poor.
One of the hallmarks of a “petro-state” is that while a country’s energy industry generates fantastic amounts of money, the bulk of its citizens remain poor. Nigeria is a good example. Canada’s poverty rates have skyrocketed in step with the growth of the energy sector. One Canadian child in seven now lives in poverty, according to the Conference Board of Canada, the country’s foremost independent research organization.
Income inequality increased faster than the US, with the rich getting richer and poor and middle class losing grounds over the past 15 to 20 years, the Conference Board also reported January 2013.
“Most of Canada’s increase in wealth went to the big shareholders in the resource industries,” says Daniel Drache, a political scientist at Toronto’s York University. “It mainly went to the elites.”
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 22 2013 (IPS)
How much water does it take to turn on a light? It took 10,000 litres to make your jeans. Another three big bathtubs of water was needed for your two-eggs-toast-coffee breakfast this morning.
We are surrounded by an unseen world of water: furniture, houses, cars, roads, buildings – practically everything we use and make needs water.
“There is no way to generate energy without water,” said Zafar Adeel, co-chair of the UN-Water Task Force on Water Security and director of the Institute for Water, Environment and Health in Canada.
Even solar panels need regular washing to perform well. Wind energy might be an exception, Adeel told IPS from a water conference in Beijing being held during World Water Week.
There is growing recognition that peak oil is nowhere near as important as peak water because there is no substitute for water. The growing shortage of water — 1.2 to 1.7 billion people face scarcity — has alarmed many. Water has been identified as an “urgent security issue”, by a group that last year included both former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the InterAction Council, an association of 37 former heads of state and government.
It’s important that “water security” be recognised by the U.N. Security Council as either as a trigger, a potential target, or a contributing factor to insecurity and potential conflict in many parts of the world, said Adeel.
Full story: http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/03/117379/
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 19 2013 (IPS)
As usual, midtown Manhattan is packed with whisper-quiet cars and trams while thousands walk the streets listening to the birds of spring sing amongst the gleaming, grime-free skyscrapers in the crystal-clear morning air.
Welcome to New York City in April 2030.
This is not a fantasy. It is a perfectly doable goal, said Stanford University energy expert Mark Jacobson. In fact, the entire state of New York could be powered by wind, water and sunlight based on a detailed plan Jacobson co-authored.
It’s not only doable, powering New York on green energy is “sustainable and inexpensive” and would save lives and health costs, Jacobson told IPS.
Each year, air pollution kills 4,000 people in New York State and costs the public 33 billion dollars in health costs, according to the study Jacobson co-authored with experts from all over the U.S. It will be published in the journal Energy Policy.
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 20 2013 (IPS)
Canada’s police and security agencies think citizens concerned about the environment are threats to national security, and some are under surveillance, documents reveal.
The RCMP, the national police force, and Canada’s spy agency CSIS are increasingly conflating terrorism and extremism with peaceful citizens exercising their democratic rights to organise petitions, protest and question government policies, said Jeffrey Monaghan, a researcher with the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
Protests and opposition to Canada’s resource-based economy, especially oil and gas production, are now viewed as threats to national security, Monaghan said. This conclusion is based on official security documents obtained under freedom of information laws over the last five years.
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 11 2013 (IPS)
Experts on the health of our planet are terrified of the future. They can clearly see the coming collapse of global civilisation from an array of interconnected environmental problems.
“We’re all scared,” said Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University.
“But we must tell the truth about what’s happening and challenge people to do something to prevent it,” Ehrlich told IPS.
Global collapse of human civilisation seems likely, write Ehrlich and his partner Anne Ehrlich in the prestigious science journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society.
This collapse will take the form of a “…gradual breakdown because famines, epidemics and resource shortages cause a disintegration of central control within nations, in concert with disruptions of trade and conflicts over increasingly scarce necessities”, they write.
Already two billion people are hungry today. Food production is humanity’s biggest industry and is already being affected by climate and other environmental problems. “No civilisation can avoid collapse if it fails to feed its population,” the authors say.
Escalating climate disruption, ocean acidification, oceanic dead zones, depletion of groundwater and extinctions of plants and animals are the main drivers of the coming collapse, they write in their peer-reviewed article “Can a collapse of global civilisation be avoided?” published this week.
Dozens of earth systems experts were consulted in writing the 10-page paper that contains over 160 references.
“We talked to many of the world’s leading experts to reflect what is really happening,” said Ehrlich, who is an eminent biologist and winner of many scientific awards.
Our reality is that current overconsumption of natural resources and the resulting damage to life-sustaining services nature provides means we need another half of a planet to keeping going. And that’s if all seven billion remain at their current living standards, the Ehrlichs write.
If everyone lived like a U.S. citizen, another four or five planets would be needed.
Global population is projected to increase by 2.5 billion by 2050. It doesn’t take an expert to conclude that collapse of civilisation will be unavoidable without major changes.
We’re facing a future where billions will likely die, and yet little is being done to avoid certain disaster, he said.
“Policy makers and the public aren’t terrified about this because they don’t have the information or the knowledge about how our planet functions,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »
Industrial pollutants harm the health of 125 million people,
many of whom live in the developing world and work in mining
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 24 October 2012 12.30 BST
Waste from mining, lead smelters, industrial dumps and other toxic sites affects the health of an estimated 125 million people in 49 low- and middle-income countries. This unrecognised health burden is on the scale of malaria or tuberculosis (TB), a new report has found.
This year’s World’s worst pollution problems (pdf) report was published on Tuesday by the Blacksmith Institute in partnership with Green Cross Switzerland. It documents, for the first time, the public health impact of industrial pollutants – lead, mercury, chromium, radionuclides and pesticides – in the air, water and soil of developing countries.
“This is an extremely conservative estimate,” said Bret Ericson of the Blacksmith Institute, a small international NGO based in New York City. “We’ve investigated 2,600 toxic sites in the last four years, [but] we know there are far more.”
The US has an estimated 100,000-300,000 toxic sites, mainly factories or industrial areas, but toxic sites in the low- and middle-income countries assessed in the report are often in residential areas. “We see a lot of disease when we go into these communities,” said Ericson. “But we were surprised the health burden was so high – as much as malaria.”
Click to read full story: Pollution as big a health problem as malaria or TB, finds report | Global development | guardian.co.uk.