Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

Discovering Global Environmental Interconnections

Posts Tagged ‘Cancun

Tourism Is Poisoning the Mexican Caribbean

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By Stephen Leahy*

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 10, 2011 (Tierramérica)

The booming tourist industry along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, particularly in the area of Cancún and the “Riviera Maya,” is polluting the world’s largest underwater cave system and harming the world’s second largest coral reef, a new study has found.

Pharmaceuticals, cocaine residues, shampoo, toothpaste, pesticides, chemical run-off from roads and many other pollutants have been found in the immense system of underground rivers and aquifers south of the resort city of Cancún, located on the Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo state.

“There is little question the pollutants we detected have come from human activity along the coastal region,” said Chris Metcalfe, a researcher with the United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health.

The British journal “Environmental Pollution” published a study by the Institute this month, titled ” Contaminants in the coastal karst aquifer system along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.”

Metcalf told Tierramérica that pit latrines, septic tanks, leaking sewer lines and golf courses were the most likely sources of groundwater pollution.

The flow of groundwater takes much of this pollution into the coastal zone and the region’s famous Mesoamerican Barrier reef, the second largest in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef off Australia.

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Land-based pollution is just one of the impacts on the coastal reefs, Metcalf said. Overfishing, coral diseases, and climate change have also contributed to an estimated loss of up to 50 percent of coral since 1990.

Without serious attention to preventing groundwater contamination, tourist development will kill the goose that laid the golden egg,” Metcalf said.
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Written by Stephen

17/02/2011 at 3:26 pm

Media Fails on Climate Change in 2010 – How You Can Ensure 2011 Will Be Better

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Few people understand the serious danger climate change poses all of us largely because media have done a poor job in covering it. In 2010, US TV media pretended it had all gone away – no more global warming…poof, bad dream, moving on.

From the must-bookmark The Daily Climate:

Drexel University professor Robert Brulle has analyzed nightly network news since the 1980s. Last year’s climate coverage was so miniscule, he said, that he’s doubting his data.

….

Coverage of December’s United Nations climate talks in Cancun is Exhibit A: Total meeting coverage by the networks consisted of one 10-second clip, Brulle said. By contrast, 2009’s Copenhagen talks generated 32 stories totaling 98 minutes of airtime. “I’m trying to check it again and again,” Brulle said of the 2010 data. “It’s so little, it’s stunning.”

Newspapers do little better with a huge decline in the US/Canada in 2010 which had some of the lowest level of coverage in the world, lower than Asia and the Pacific according to this graph. Read the rest of this entry »

Final Update: COP 16 Cancun Climate Conference

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19 Dec 2010

On reflection there was some progress at COP 16. Small island states, whose very existence is threatened, were satisfied the world is on its way to a significant climate treaty so that is something. Last year in Copenhagen, hardly anyone happy with the outcome. There is still a long and difficult road ahead. Not least because there remains a powerful and well-funded opposition to emission reductions in many countries.

In 2011 I hope to uncover more about that opposition while continuing to write about how the physical processes of climate change are not waiting for us to get our act together. Substantial changes are already underway. Changes to the global water cycle have been shown in the first global study of evapotranspiration rates as detailed in my article: “Climate Changes Herald a Future of Widespread Drought – Water Left High and Dry in Climate Talks”

The article also looks at some fairly dire drought projections for the coming decades.

For those experiencing a rough, early winter, I did the first article revealing how the melting Arctic may be bringing earlier and harsher winters to the UK, parts of Europe and North America. That story happened because of donations to help cover my costs of attending a polar science conference in Oslo were those new findings were presented. Science journalism isn’t easy or cheap to do. I was one of  few journalists in Oslo because hardly any media outlet covers travel costs any more – never mind paying a decent fee for a story. That’s why I am trying Community Supported Journalism where people support my efforts to inform people about the great issues of our time.

A warm thank you to those who sponsored some of the Cancun articles, contributing some much needed cash to help cover my costs.  Supporters names are prominently listed in the articles here. I can no longer continue to do environmental and science journalism without your help so thank you for helping out.

– Stephen

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Emission Reductions Punted to Durban, Breakthrough Seen on Forests

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As carbon emissions bend upward Canada’s Harper government singled out as worst at climate talks. Again.

By Stephen Leahy*

CANCÚN, Mexico, Dec 11, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva)

If success is measured by delaying difficult decisions, then the Cancún climate meeting succeeded by deferring crucial issues over financing and new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the next Conference of the Parties meeting a year from now in Durban, South Africa.

International negotiations to address climate change proceeded at a glacial pace in the palatial, over-air-conditioned Moon Palace Resort in Cancún. After two long weeks, final talks dragged on into the early hours of Saturday morning, with Bolivia’s refusal to accept a weak agreement that puts the world on a path that “could allow global temperatures to increase by more than four degrees”, said Pablo Solón, Bolivia’s chief negotiator.

In the end, Bolivia’s continued objections were drowned out by applause and cheering by more than 190 national delegations as the chair of the meeting, Mexico’s foreign secretary Patricia Espinosa, gaveled the meeting to a close declaring “a consensus without Bolivia”.

“The Cancún text is a hollow and false victory that was imposed without consensus,” Bolivia said in a final statement.

Based on the science, Bolivia is not wrong.

The World Meteorological Organisation declared last week that the decade will close as the hottest 10- year period on record. The 100+ pages that form the “Cancún Agreements” will do nothing to curb greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet, but did revive the U.N. climate negotiation process after its near death in Copenhagen last year.

This article was made possible thanks to contributions from Janos Mate, James Creskey. Extra special thanks to monthly contributors Julie Davis, Aidan Constable, Patricia A Warwick, Judith A Leahy

[Due to the high costs of covering such important events, support is needed from readers like you. Please consider making a small automatic monthly contribution as a fair exchange for these articles – for more information.] Read the rest of this entry »

Climate Changes Herald a Future of Widespread Drought – Water Left High and Dry in Climate Talks

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Serious droughts expected in large parts of the world in coming decades

By Stephen Leahy

CANCÚN, Dec 8, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva)

As the world heats up, continents are drying up, with severe droughts forecast in the future. But negotiators at the climate summit here seem to have forgotten about water in their endless discussions over forests, carbon trading and finances.

“The main impact of climate change is on the planet’s water cycle,” said Henk van Schaik of the Cooperative Programme on Water and Climate, a foundation based in the Netherlands.

“Climate-driven changes in the water cycle will affect large regions of the world,” van Schaik told TerraViva at a side event meeting here at COP 16 in Cancún .

The impact of climate on the world’s water resources is not addressed within the U.N. climate framework, said Anders Berntell of the Stockholm International Water Institute.

“Negotiators here see it as just another sector of the economy but it is a basic element for life. Water is the bloodstream of our planet,” Berntell said.

This article was made possible thanks to contributions from Hugh & Jo-Ann Roberston, Kevin Toner, Michael Sweatman, Ann Wakelin, Lynn Carey, Leif Knutsen, Nan Nolan, Chris Conrad, Godo Stoyke.

[Due to the high costs of covering such important events, support is needed from readers like you.Please consider making a small automatic monthly contribution as a fair exchange for these articles – for more information.] Read the rest of this entry »

Cancún Climate Summit Gives Fossil Fuels a Free Pass

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Burning just 25 per cent of proven reserves is road to climate disaster scientists say

By Stephen Leahy*

CANCÚN, Mexico, Dec 7, 2010 (Tierramérica)

The main cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels, so why are billions of dollars being invested to find and produce more oil, coal and natural gas?

That is the question posed by Canadian indigenous representatives at the alternative civil society meet, Klimaforum, held parallel to the United Nations-sponsored climate summit under way in the Mexican resort city of Cancún.

“Canada’s tar sands project emits 40 million tonnes of carbon every year, with ambitious growth plans pushing that to nearly 140 million tonnes by 2020. The entire country of Denmark emits just 52 million tonnes,” said Melina Laboucan- Massimo.

The activist comes from the Lake Lubicon Cree band of First Nations in the province of Alberta, where thousands of square kilometres of tar-laden soil and sands underlying pristine boreal forests and marshes are being mined.

Canada is not being censured for this flagrant disregard for the global climate at the 16th Conference of Parties (COP 16) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, she said.

The nearly 200 national delegations gathered for COP 16 (Nov. 29-Dec. 10) aim to stabilise emissions of greenhouse- effect gases to prevent climate change, but there is little hope of success.

In fact, at the Cancún summit no country is being challenged for expanding operations of oil, coal or natural gas or looking for new deposits.

Burning just one-quarter of the proven reserves of oil, gas and coal will push the global climate beyond the two degrees Celsius of average warming, scientists have predicted.

This article was brought to you in part by J. Bowers of the United Kingdom

Due to the high costs of covering such important events, support is needed from readers like you. Please consider making a small automatic monthly contribution as a fair exchange for these articles – for more information.

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Will Year of Climate Extremes End Without Progress on Tackling Climate Change?

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By Stephen Leahy*

CANCÚN, Mexico, Nov 29, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva)

This year will likely be the warmest ever recorded, with soaring ocean temperatures resulting in a near record die-off of tropical corals, extreme heat and drought in Russia and massive flooding in Pakistan – all signs that climate change has taken hold.

But despite the ever more compelling science regarding the urgency and risks of climate change and growing public support for action, representatives from nearly 200 countries meeting here in Cancún for the next two weeks are unlikely to produce a new binding agreement.

At best, matters such as forestry, climate finance and mitigation commitments will be further developed in the faint hope that the next big meeting in South Africa might produce some kind of deal.

“Carbon emissions continue to climb despite the economic recession and yet I have never seen such low expectations for a COP (Conference of the Parties),” said Richard Somerville, an eminent climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

“The science is quite compelling regarding the need for urgent action. We don’t have another five years to reach an agreement,” Somerville told TerraViva.

In 2009, Somerville and others co-authored an update on the latest climate science called ‘The Copenhagen Diagnosis’ which concluded that global carbon emissions had to peak and begin to decline before 2020 to have any hope of keeping global warming to less than 2.0 degrees C.

However, the negotiators in Cancún will mostly not be acting on the science but on their national interests as directed by their political leadership, who largely do not understand climate change, he said.

“Developed countries think they can adapt to warmer temperatures. I don’t see how we can keep warming below 2.0 degrees C.,” Somerville said.
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