Hothouse Needed for Green Energy, Green Ideas Revolution

Concentrated Solar Power plant of Ain Beni Mathar, Morocco is a first in the world.

Countries cannot afford to miss the green wave of Rio+20

No alternative to low-carbon, resource-efficient economies

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 25, 2012 (IPS)

Think of Rio+20 as the hothouse to grow the green ideas and values humanity needs to thrive in the 21st century.

No one is expecting, or even wants, a big new international treaty on sustainable development said Manish Bapna, interim president of the World Resources Institute, a global environmental think tank based in Washington, D.C.

“The important action will be on the sidelines of the formal negotiations,” Bapna told IPS in an interview.

Blocs of countries, civil society organisations and representatives of business will meet, create coalitions and make commitments on specific issues and on regional concerns.

“There could be some exciting specific commitments coming out of Rio,” Bapna said.

Perhaps the most important outcome from Rio+20 would be to put to rest the erroneous belief that protecting the environment comes at the cost of economic growth when it is in fact the opposite. Without a healthy, functioning environment, humanity loses the benefits of the environment’s “free products”: air, water, soil to grow food, stable climate and so on.

“One of the big hurdles to a sustainable future is that officials in many countries think they can’t afford to move onto a more sustainable pathway,” he said.

Bapna hopes Rio+20 will generate a “new narrative” – a wider understanding that there is no viable alternative to the transition to low-carbon, resource-efficient economies that alleviate poverty and create more jobs. Continue reading

Hurricane Sandy Speaks: “People call me Frankenstorm, SuperStorm, WeatherBomb…”

Hi, this is Sandy. People are calling me ‘Frankenstorm’, ‘Superstorm’ and even ‘Weatherbomb’.

I don’t mean to hurt anyone but the record moisture in the atmosphere and heat in the ocean has given me uncontrollable power. I probably will cause billions of dollars of damage in Washington, New York City Boston and other parts of the Northeast. And I will kill some people, I already have. At least 66 people died when I swept through Jamaica and Cuba a few days ago.

I am a force of nature but you have to understand this is not all my fault.

Read full post at Hurricane Sandy Speaks (crosspost)

Extreme weather new normal with Climate Change

Climate change plays a role in all extreme weather now – atmosphere is 0.8C hotter and 4-6% wetter – turns out small increases can have big impacts. — Stephen

Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

By Stephen Leahy

CAIRNS, Australia, Apr 3, 2012 (Tierramérica)

Extreme weather is fast becoming the new normal. Canada and much of the United States experienced summer temperatures during winter this year, confirming the findings of a new report on extreme weather.

For two weeks this March most of North America baked under extraordinarily warm temperatures that melted all the snow and ice and broke 150-year-old temperature records by large margins.

Last year the U.S. endured 14 separate billion-dollar-plus weather disasters including flooding, hurricanes and tornados.

A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released Mar. 28, provides solid evidence that record-breaking weather events are increasing in number and becoming more extreme. And if current rates of greenhouse gas emissions are maintained, these events will reach dangerous new levels over the coming century.

Since 1950 there have been many more heat waves and record warm temperatures than in…

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Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

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.

Do you find this article interesting? It is funded by contributions from readers. Please click here to learn more about Community Supported Journalism.

“In the case of CO2, a doubling of wealth typically increases environmental pressure 60 to…

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We all have responsibility to ensure our stuff if properly disposed of.

Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

‘Public largely unaware of the e-waste impacts on human health and environment’

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 1, 2011 (IPS)

Mountains of hazardous waste grow by about 40 million tons every year. This waste, mostly from Europe and North America, is burned in developing countries like Ghana in a hazardous effort to recover valuable metals.

A children’s school in Accra, Ghana’s capital, was recently found to be contaminated by lead, cadmium and other health-threatening pollutants at levels over 50 times higher than risk-free levels. The school is located directly beside an informal electronic waste salvage site.

“Poor people in Africa cannot afford to process Europe’s or America’s electronic wastes,” said Ghanaian researcher Atiemo Sampson.

“Those wastes are poisoning our children,” Sampson told IPS from Accra.

Ghana does not regulate the importation and management of electronic waste, or e-waste. The government hopes to have rules in place next year, he…

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Ocean Acidification Leaves Mollusks Naked and Confused

Chilean intertidal carnivorous crab (Acanthocyclus hassleri)

Climate change is making oceans warmer and more acidic…expect the worst

By Stephen Leahy

When the carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans dissolves in seawater, carbonic acid is formed and calcium carbonate, vital for the formation of the skeletons and shells of many marine organisms, becomes scarcer.

MONTEREY, California, Oct 2 2012 (IPS)

Climate change will ruin Chilean sea snails’ ability to sniff out and avoid their archenemy, a predatory crab, according to Chilean scientists who presented their findings at an international science symposium here.

Researchers from Australia also revealed that as the oceans become more and more acidic, some fish become hyperactive and confused, and move towards their predators instead of trying to escape.

“The conditions in oceans are changing 100 times faster than at any time in the past,” said Jean-Pierre Gattuso, a marine biologist with CNRS-INSU and the Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche in France.

Climate change is making oceans warmer and more acidic. “We are beginning to understand what will happen. I think we can expect the worst,” Gattuso told Tierramérica*.

Gattuso is one of nearly 600 scientists from around the world who presented their research on Sep. 24-27 at the Third International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World: Ocean Acidification in Monterey, California.

Researchers discovered only 10 years ago that burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas has made the oceans about 30 percent more acidic since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Continue reading

An important topic that will not be in the US presidential debates even though it is a major problem in the US.

Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

By Stephen Leahy

BERLIN, Jul 14, 2010 (IPS)

The failed “war on drugs” has not only badly damaged countries where it is waged, it is responsible for driving up HIV infection rates in some countries, says an official declaration endorsed Wednesday by three former Latin American presidents in advance of the XVIII International AIDS Conference that begins Jul. 18 in Vienna.

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, injecting drug use is the primary cause of new HIV infections. Outside of sub- Saharan Africa, injecting drug use accounts for approximately one in three new cases of HIV, experts will report at the week-long meeting.

“The war on drugs has failed…Instead of sticking to failed policies with disastrous consequences, we must direct our efforts to the reduction of consumption and the reduction of the harm caused by drugs to people and society,” said former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

“Repressive policies are…

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Ice-Free Arctic Is “Uncharted Territory”

Arctic sea ice extent. Area of ocean with at least 15 percent sea ice as of Sept 12, 2012. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Arctic ice half of what it was 30 years ago. Now affecting weather patterns

Heading for +4C and catastrophe – CBD

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 20 2012 (IPS)

The melt of Arctic sea ice has reached its lowest point this year, shrinking 18 percent from last year’s near-record low.

Summer ice this year is half what it was 30 years ago and is now affecting weather patterns. The massive declines in ice in recent summers have shocked scientists and Arctic experts. Some predict that in just a few years we will witness an event that hasn’t happened in millions of years: the complete loss of summer ice.

“We are now in uncharted territory,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Colorado.

“Few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur” as a result of the burning fossil fuels that are warming the planet, said Serreze.

“We could see an essentially ice-free Arctic ocean in late summer by the year 2030,” he told IPS.

Not long ago experts thought the soonest the Arctic would be ice-free was 2070. Now it’s anywhere from four to 18 years away.

The impacts are already being felt across the entire northern hemisphere. The loss of sea ice in recent years has been affecting weather patterns, recent research has shown. The all-important jet stream – the west-to-east winds that are the boundary between the cold Arctic and the warm mid-latitudes – is slowing down, moving north and become more erratic.Measurement of CO2 levels in atmosphere

“Europe, eastern Asia and eastern North America is connected to unique physical processes in the Arctic,” said James Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in the United States.

“In future, cold and snowy winters will be the rule rather than the exception” in these regions, Overland told IPS in Oslo in 2010.

The summer’s record loss of Arctic sea ice may mean a cold winter for the UK and northern Europe, Jennifer Francis, a researcher at Rutgers University, told the Guardian last week.

The region has been prone to bad winters after summers with very low sea ice, such as 2011 and 2007, Francis said. Continue reading

Exposure to air pollution from traffic damages Swedish children’s lungs

Source:  American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 13 Oct 2012

Exposure to air pollution from traffic during infancy is associated with lung function deficits in children up to eight years of age, particularly among children sensitized to common allergens, according to a new study.

“Earlier studies have shown that children are highly susceptible to the adverse effects of air pollution and suggest that exposure early in life may be particularly harmful,” said researcher Göran Pershagen, MD, PhD, professor at the Karolinska Institutet Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden.

“In our prospective birth cohort study in a large population of Swedish children, exposure to traffic-related air pollution during infancy was associated with decreases in lung function at age eight, with stronger effects indicated in boys, children with asthma and particularly in children sensitized to allergens.”

The findings were published online ahead of print publication in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The study included more than 1,900 children who were followed from birth through age eight. ….

[edit]

“Our study shows that early exposure to traffic-related air pollution has long-term adverse effects on respiratory health in children, particularly among atopic children,” concluded Dr. Pershagen.

“These results add to a large body of evidence demonstrating the detrimental effects of air pollution on human health.”

via Exposure to traffic air pollution in infancy impairs lung function in children.

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Double Food Production in 10 Years AND Reduce Global Warming

Greening of the Sahel desert region with eco-ag

Yields went up 214 percent in 44 projects in 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa

“If we don’t radically transform the direction of the global food system we will never feed the billion who are hungry,” De Shutter warns.

“Nor will we be able to feed ourselves in the future.”

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Feb 8, 2011 (IPS)

Eco-farming could double food production in entire regions within 10 years while mitigating climate change, according to a new U.N. report released Tuesday in Geneva.

An urgent transformation to ‘eco-farming’ is the only way to end hunger and face the challenges of climate change and rural poverty, said Olivier De Schutter, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food, following the presentation of his annual report focusing on agroecology and the right to food to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

“Agroecology mimics nature not industrial processes. It replaces the external inputs like fertiliser with knowledge of how a combination of plants, trees and animals can enhance productivity of the land,” De Schutter told IPS.

“Yields went up 214 percent in 44 projects in 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa using agro-ecological farming techniques over a period of 3 to 10 years… far more than any GM [genetically modified] crop has ever done.”

Other recent scientific assessments have shown that small farmers in 57 countries using agro-ecological techniques obtained average yield increases of 80 percent. Africans’ average increases were 116 percent.

“Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilisers in boosting food production in regions where the hungry live,” De Schutter said. [Video Interviews with De Schutter]


Agroecology applies ecological science to the design of agricultural systems. It enhances soil productivity and protects crops against pests by relying on the natural elements. Continue reading