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. Continue reading →
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 infrastructureat 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.
“Anything to do with finance has been a big problem here at this meeting,” said James Seyani, a delegate from Malawi and spokesperson for the African countries.
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. Continue reading →
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.
“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.
The study also found that rich countries like Japan, the United States and many in the European Union are now “exporting” a large part or most of their true environmental impacts to developed countries by importing goods and food from those countries.
In a spiral of destructive co-dependency, China’s rising CO2 emissions and deforestation in Malaysia are in part a direct result of North American and European consumption of the goods made there.
“International trade clearly shows rich countries are outsourcing their impacts,” von Weizsaecker said.
“Given this fact, perhaps the current way of structuring agreements on emission reduction targets is becoming obsolete,” said Ashok Khosla, co-chair of the panel and president of the World Conservation Union (IUCN)
At the household level, it is the goods and services consumed, not the fossil fuel used for cars or homes, that accounts for most of the environmental impacts. This is despite energy and material efficiency gains over the past two decades. Efficiency has improved on a per dollar expenditure basis but people are consuming more, which drowns out any efficiency gains, said panel expert Sangwon Suh of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
“Policy makers cannot just look at direct emissions, they need to look at a full life cycle of their consumption and incorporate those impacts into their decision making,” Suh told IPS.
Representing the world’s foremost experts, the panel synthesised a comprehensive library of the most authoritative global studies to provide science-based assessments of products, materials and economic and lifestyle activities, producing the greatest harm to the planet.
“It is the first global assessment of what kind of consumption activities have the biggest impacts,” Suh said.
Fossil fuel use and agriculture topped the list in the149-page report, followed by the heavily subsidised industrial fishing industry and the production and consumption of materials like metals and plastics. While the latter do cause severe damage locally all over the world, shockingly these are not that significant compared to global impacts of fossil fuel and agriculture, the report noted.
The purpose of this U.N. Environment Programme-sponsored study was to identify the “hot spots” in terms of environmental impacts so that policy makers can use this information to reform policies, said Suh.
“Setting priorities would seem prudent and sensible in order to fast track a low-carbon, resource-efficient green economy,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP’s executive director, which hosted the panel.
“Decoupling growth from environmental degradation is the number one challenge facing governments,” Steiner said in a statement.
However, this decoupling is not happening, the report shows. And it will not happen in the future without strong policy interventions, said von Weizsaecker.
Policy makers and economists will need to abandon their obsession with economic growth as the solution to all problems, writes Clive Hamilton in a new book “Requiem for a Species”. Growth has become a powerful symbol of success and modernity even though in reality it is neither, says Hamilton, a writer and academic at the Australian National University.
If someone is murdered, it adds about one million dollars to the GDP of rich countries when costs of police, courts, and prisons are factored in, according to his research.
“Murder is good for the economy. So is environmental destruction,” he writes.
It will take extraordinary leadership to reverse the consumption-driven society where children are bombarded with advertising – 17 billion dollars annually in the U.S. alone, Hamilton notes.
The same over-consumption brainwashing is well underway in the developing world. Shopping has become a form of recreation amongst China’s growing middle class and wealthy elite, who bought more than 12 percent of the world’s luxury goods in 2005, second only to the U.S., he says.
“Faced with the scale of the challenge, far more transformational measures need to be taken. Currently, we are fiddling – or fiddling around the edges – while Rome burns,” said Khosla.
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).
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 seeNew $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.”
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.”
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.
Climate change is warming the oceans about 0.2C per decade on average. This warmer water tends to stay on top because it is lighter and essentially sits on top of a layer of colder water. This layering, or stratification, is a problem for light-loving plankton because they can only live in the top 100 to 200 meters.
Eventually they run out of nutrients to feed on unless the cold, deeper waters mix with those near the surface. Ocean stratification has been widely observed in the past decade and is occurring in more and larger areas of the world’s oceans. Continue reading →