The need for more and cheaper food could easily lead to forests being turned into croplands, such worries will be discussed at a UN summit in Durban next week.
Further opening of the markets for agricultural products leads to lower production costs for food. This will happen at the expense of the environment though, if for example forests are turned into cropland. The conflict of interests between food production and climate protection is now shown by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in calculations for the years 2005 to 2045. For the first time, the effects of an advancing liberalization of agricultural trade were comprehensively analyzed through computer simulations, focusing both on the economic impacts and on those on land use and nature. This is one of the important issues to be discussed at the UN summit in Durban next week.
"Trade with grains and sugar, with soy and meat has multiplied more than tenfold since 1950," says Christoph Schmitz, lead author of the study that has recently been published in the scientific journal Global Environmental Change. His team has analysed three different scenarios of future world trade for different regions of the earth, using a coupled economic and biophysical model tool. "The effects of an expansion of global agricultural trade for the world´s climate could be drastic – at least if no additional new rules are introduced," says Schmitz. The main reason for this: with more liberalised world trade, production areas move towards tropical regions, which leads to an expansion of agricultural land at the expense of nature there.
If world trade was freed from all trade barriers by 2045, global agricultural production could become 11 trillion US dollars cheaper altogether than with barriers in a time span of four decades – a cost reduction of roughly a tenth. At the same time, emissions of agricultural greenhouse gases would increase by around 15 percent by 2045 as compared to a scenario without an expansion of trade. A moderate scenario of opening markets still amounts to 6.5 trillion US dollars in cost reductions and almost ten percent more emissions harmful to the climate. Environmental costs are therefore substantial.
As a result of the calculations, Latin America would gain in exports of grains and oilseeds in the case of liberalization – but more than elsewhere by cutting down rainforests and a corresponding extension of cultivated areas, for example in the Amazon region. North America and Europe would export less. China could lead exports of meat. Regarding animal husbandry, calculations show a relatively strong absolute increase of greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to today, but only little alteration between the different trade scenarios.
"According to our analysis, the reduction of trade barriers cannot simply be condemned," explains Hermann Lotze-Campen with regard to the current fierce public debate on world trade and short-term fluctuations of agricultural prices. He heads the research project on this matter. "Liberalization can be of sustainable advantage to global food supplies, if rules to contain agricultural impacts on the environment are created on an international level."
The scientists conclude from their study that rules for world trade and climate protection cannot be treated separately in international negotiations any longer. "This is one thing to be discussed in Durban", Lotze-Campen says. "Forest protection is decisive to reach ambitious emission targets and is high on the agenda there." According to the study, several things could be considered. In the future, agreements on trade liberalization could be accompanied by measures to protect forests. Secondly, the cost reduction through cheaper food production would be sufficient to pay for measures of climate protection like reforestation or mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. On the other hand, compensation payments for comprehensive forest protection would be fundable from saved costs for additional emission certificates.
Thirdly, a sustainable increase of agricultural production can only be feasible if considerably more money were to be invested in the development of better cultivation methods soon, the scientists say. "Investments in yield increase have stagnated in the last decades," emphasizes Lotze-Campen. Especially in developing countries a lot can still be accomplished. "If more can be produced on the same piece of land, this helps both ends: global food security as well as climate protection."
EKZ, the public electricity company for Canton Zurich in Switzerland is looking into constructing the largest photovoltaic plant in the country. A preliminary study will examine whether it is feasible to build a 9 MW photovoltaic power plant on a quarry along the Walinsee. The study will take into consideration concerns raised by environmental group and clarify the technical feasibility of the project.
According to initial investigations, EKZ expects that installing PV panels on the approximately 80,000 square metres area could provide electricity to 1,400 households. The PV plant is planned as an interim use of the bare rock face for the next 25 to 30 years.
However, as the quarry is located in a region classified by the federal government as a landscape or natural moment of national importance, the preliminary study, which will be carried out over the coming months, will require the approval of environmental and conservation groups as well as the local authorities in Canton St. Gallen.
EKZ has invited environmental groups to meetings to give them the opportunity to voice their concerns. As it is, freestanding photovoltaic plants, so-called ground mounting systems, are already controversial in Switzerland because of the scarcity of space upon which to build them. Yet the phasing out of nuclear power calls for innovative concepts to guarantee future energy supply, according to Peter Franken, Head of Energy Distribution at EKZ, and "PV roofs and wind energy alone cannot guarantee the country's long term energy supply." One large advantage that EKZ sees with this project is that the space already exists to build a ground mounted system once the quarry shuts down at the end of 2012.
A second advantage according to EKZ is that the construction of a solar power plant will actually provide long term prospects to renaturalise the rock face. Previous attempts at growing plants on it were unsuccessful due to the high rock temperatures in the summer months. However, the shade created by the PV system means that water will evaporate less quickly and temperatures will remain lower, allowing for the natural growth of local species.
EKZ is entering new territory with a solar power project of this scale on a bare rock face and it has to find technically sound and financial viable solutions. By mounting the panels near vertically, EKZ expects particularly high returns in the spring and autumn, when other PV plants tend to produce less electricity. Together with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), EKZ wants to test how the reflection of water will impact solar electricity production. A further study will examine if the solar panels will be blinding to residents on the other side of the lake.
A medium-voltage cable owned by the power supply company St. Gallisch-Appenzellische Kraftwerke AG (SAK) already runs through the gravel pit, making EKZ and SAK keen to move the project forward together. The two utilities companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
Companies in Europe, Australia and Japan are buying more certified sustainable palm oil than ever before, but urgent action is still needed to avoid the irreversible loss of tropical forests, according to WWF's latest assessment of the industry that buys palm oil.
"It's never been easier for companies to be responsible about the palm oil they use," said Adam Harrison, Senior Policy Officer for WWF UK and WWF's representative on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Executive Board. "There are options available for almost any company to buy certified sustainable palm oil. Yet the WWF Palm Oil Buyers' Scorecard 2011 shows that only half of the palm oil used by the companies we assessed is sustainable. So it is clear that some manufacturers and retailers have fallen behind on their commitments to 100 per cent sustainable palm oil, while others haven't even started at all."
The 2011 Scorecard - an update of the first scorecard published two years ago - measures over 130 major retailers and consumer goods manufacturers by looking at their commitment to, and use of, palm oil certified to the internationally recognised standards of the RSPO.
Of the companies scored, WWF believes that many are making commendable progress to increase their use of sustainable palm oil and to reduce their impact on deforestation. Most of the companies scored in both 2009 and 2011 have taken some strides forward, showing how the use of sustainable palm oil is slowly becoming more mainstream.
The Scorecard also shows that 87 of the 132 companies (i.e. 66 per cent) surveyed have committed to sourcing 100 per cent RSPO-certified palm oil by 2015 or earlier, an encouraging sign that could spur further market development.
However, nearly half of the retailers and more than a fifth of manufacturers scored very poorly on taking responsibility for the impacts of their palm oil sourcing.
The Scorecard shows that it is possible for companies to make a strong commitment to the RSPO and sustainable palm oil - no matter how much palm oil they use. Even companies dealing in very large volumes of palm oil, such as Nestlé and Unilever, which each scored eight out of a possible nine points, demonstrate they can act responsibly.
Other major companies handling smaller but still substantial volumes of certified sustainable palm oil, namely IKEA, Royal FrieslandCampina and United Biscuits, scored well with eight or more points.
Of the companies sourcing mid-range volumes of palm oil, manufacturers like Burton's, Cadbury, Premier and Remia and retailers such as ASDA, Carrefour, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Tesco have also done well.
Smaller operators, such as the manufacturers Allied Bakeries, Brioche Pasquier Cerqueux, Findus, Ginsters, Göteborgs Kex, Harry's, Henkel, H J Heinz, Karl Fazer, Nutrition et Santé, Oriflame Cosmetics, Santa Maria, and St Hubert, and the retailers Coop Switzerland, Marks & Spencer, Migros, Royal Ahold and their subsidiary ICA, The Co-operative Group UK and Waitrose, as well as manufacturers using comparatively minor amounts of palm oil such as Cloetta, Devineau / Bougies La Française, DSM Nutritional Products, Iglo Group, Iwata Chemical, L'Oréal, Saraya, The Jordans and Ryvita Company, Warburtons, and Yves Rocher, as well as retailers Axfood, the Body Shop and the Boots Group, have also scored above 8 points out of 9.
Very disappointingly, 17 of the 43 retailers and 15 of the 89 manufacturers assessed scored at three or below, showing that still too many companies are taking little or no responsibility for the negative impact of their palm oil use on forests, species and people.
The supply of certified sustainable palm has grown dramatically since WWF released its first Scorecard in 2009, and now stands at 5 million tonnes (10 per cent of global palm oil production). Encouraging as this is, only about half of all the sustainable palm oil produced is being sold. This mirrors the situation in 2009, which is why WWF is renewing its call to companies to take their responsibilities far more seriously and far more urgently.
Most worrying is an overall lack of transparency about the amount of palm oil that companies use, which WWF believes is a major disincentive to growers of sustainable palm oil to move ahead with further certification. While WWF asked companies to share the amount of palm oil they use, as well as how much of that oil is certified as sustainable, most companies were only willing to disclose a range of usage and too many companies provided no data at all. Without greater transparency, WWF believes that oil palm growers will remain unwilling to commit to certification.
For millennia, people have set fires to clear land for cultivation, pastures or hunting; so-called slash-and-burn agriculture is still common across much of tropical Africa, Asia and South America. It has been a useful strategy – but it is now becoming problematic.
According to a new documentary shot by Columbia University's The Earth Institute, Burning the Land: Manmade Fires in the Amazon, and Beyond, growing population, fragmentation of forests and warming climate are making the surface more prone to ever-larger escaped fires. These harm ecosystems and human infrastructure, cause health problems, and send up spirals of carbon and soot that may encourage even more warming of the atmosphere – and thus feed back into more fires.
The documentary follows scientists investigating this global pattern on a personal scale: chasing down and entering fires set by farmers in Peru's Ucayali River region. The documentary is part of the larger, multidisciplinary Fires in Western Amazon project at Columbia University, whose aim is to understand how fires get started, why some spread while others are contained, and what the future may hold.
Member governments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) today approved the Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.
The summary provides insights into how disaster risk management and adaption may assist vulnerable communities better cope with the changing climate. And in a world marked by inequalities, it shows why some communities and countries are more vulnerable to extreme climatic events.
Qin Dahe, Co-chair of IPCC Working Group I, said: "There is high confidence that both maximum and minimum daily temperatures have increased on a global scale due to the increase of greenhouse gases." However, the report expresses less confidence with respect to changes in other extremes, such as more intense and longer droughts or long-term trends in tropical cyclone intensity or frequency, due to a lack of direct observations and a lack of agreement in the available scientific studies.
The summary does conclude that it is virtually certain that on a global scale hot days become even hotter and occur more often. Likewise, heavy precipitation will occur more often and the wind speed of tropical cyclones will increase.
Despite the bleak assessment, there are many options for decreasing risk, not all of which have been implemented. Chris Field, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II, hopes that "this report can be a scientific foundation for sound decisions on infrastructure, urban development, public health, and insurance, as well as for planning – from community organisations to international disaster risk management."
The full report will be released in February 2012.
A new wind turbine for the guesthouse of the Biologische Anstalt (Biological Institute Helgoland), located on an island off the German coast in the North Sea, was inaugurated on 11 November 2011. The quietrevolution qr5 micro wind turbine will help cover the power requirements for the so-called Mielck-Haus in Helgoland's Unterland. The vertical rotor blades turn extremely quietly and ensure that power is generated even in turbulent winds. The facility costs around 35,000 euros and the turbine was put up within a few days.
"Making use of the force of the wind on a North Sea island is a very important step for us as climate impact researchers," says Prof. Dr. Karen Wiltshire, head of the Biologische Anstalt Helgoland (BAH), which is part of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association. The institute investigates the impacts of climate change on the marine animal and plant world. At the same time, it seeks to minimize the climate impact of these investigations by investing in energy saving measures in the institute's buildings and exploiting alternative energy sources such as wind.
The expected total capacity of the facility is 7,500 kilowatt-hours a year, which covers part of the power needs of the guesthouse which houses approximately 44 students per week who study at BAH. "The qr5 is exceptionally quiet as a result of the vertical rotor blades and is even suitable for operation in residential areas," explains Heino Peters, head of BAH Building Services. "The technology functions particularly effectively in turbulent winds, as windswirls can also drive the vertical rotor blades from underneath." The qr5 is manufactured by the English firm quietrevolution, whose products are marketed by RWE Innogy in Germany.
The vertical rotors have a length of five meters and turn parallel to the 15 m high mast. Whether the facility has an impact on migratory birds is the subject of a study by BAH biologists in cooperation with the Institute of Avian Research "Vogelwarte Helgoland". If necessary, it can be illuminated or switched off in certain weather conditions during bird migration. "We don't want the use of renewable energies as protection of the climate to impact the rich birdlife of the island," said Wiltshire.
If the facility on Helgoland proves effective under the operating conditions, it is conceivable that micro wind turbines could be utilised at other locations of the Alfred Wegener Institute as well.
In the lead up to the Rio+20 summit, a new UN report released on 16 November 2011 demonstrates that governments and businesses alike are taking steps to accelerate a global shift towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive green future. From China to Barbados, Brazil to South Africa, countries are developing Green Economy strategies and activities to spur greater economic growth and jobs, environmental protection and equality.
According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the report Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication "challenges the myth that there is a trade-off between the economy and the environment. With smart public policies, governments can grow their economies, generate decent employment and accelerate social progress in a way that keeps humanity's ecological footprint within the planet's carrying capacity."
The report is the result of a three-year global research effort involving hundreds of experts. It confirms that an investment of two percent of global GDP across 10 key sectors is what is required to kick-start a shift from the current brown, polluting and inefficient economy to a green one.
Some of the key findings in the report include:
- - A transition to a green economy would grow the global economy at around the same rate, if not higher, than those forecast under current economic models, but without rising shocks, shocks, scarcities and crises increasingly inherent in the existing, resource-depleting, high carbon 'brown' economy.
- - In addition to higher growth, an overall transition to a Green Economy would realise per capita incomes higher than under current economic models, while reducing the ecological footprint by nearly 50 percent in 2050, as compared to business-as-usual.
- - In the short-term, there will be job losses in some sectors – fisheries for example – are inevitable if they are to transition towards sustainable. However, over time, the number of "new and decent jobs created" in other sectors – ranging from renewable energies to more sustainable agriculture – will offset those lost from the former "brown economy".
A growing number of countries are already undertaking activities to accelerate this transition. At the China Council meeting this week, for example, the government's international advisory group is expected to put forward its own study for moving towards a Green Economy.
Some countries, such as Barbados, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea and South Africa, already have national Green Economy plans that reflect the report's recommendations.
Others such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Kenya, Jordan, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Senegal and Ukraine are focusing on greening priority sectors, such as agriculture, renewable energy, tourism and clean technologies.
"The elements of a transition to a Green Economy are clearly emerging across developing and developed countries alike. There are now some nations going further and faster than others which is in many ways generating a 'pull factor' that, if maintained, may bring others along over the coming months and years," said Achim Steiner, UN Under Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
While issues of financing and trade need to be addressed further, there is an acknowledgement that the current economic model, based solely on GDP growth, has resulted in the gross misallocation of capital and inequitable distribution of wealth. The report shows, for example, that investing the equivalent of two per cent of global GDP into agriculture, energy, buildings, water, forestry, fisheries, manufacturing, waste, tourism and transport would not only shift the global economy onto a more sustainable growth trajectory, but it would actually maintain or increase growth over time compared to the current business-as-usual scenario.
Steam expansion engine with ORC technology increases electricity yield saving waste heat from being lost in the atmosphere.
Much waste heat is generated in industrial production and power generation. It is estimated that a quarter of energy production in Germany is lost this way. Waste heat is currently often emitted into the atmosphere unused because there are no suitable technical procedures that allow it to be used efficiently. In order to utilize these untapped energy resources and turn them into electricity, a technology company from Saarland, Germany, has come up with a way of converting this into electricity. Their innovative solution is featured in this month's BINE Project info brochure "Transforming waste heat into electricity."
The company has combined a steam expansion engine with ORC technology. ORC processes work like a conventional steam power plant. The only difference is that they use an organic working fluid, which evaporates at lower temperatures than water. This process allows the utilisation of heat at temperatures between 200°C and 500°C to produce electricity.
Until now, the ORC process has usually been used in combination with turbines leading to a lower part-load efficiency. Combining it with a steam expansion engine proves to be more flexible as it makes it possible to make adaptions to different levels of temperature and pressure. Given the same level of heat, an ORC process together with the steam expansion engine can generate significantly more electricity than in combination with turbines. Any waste heat still remaining after the generation of electricity can then be used for heating purposes.
The new system is currently being tested in several branches as part of a field test and is expected to be ready for market in 2013. Around 500 industrial firms in Germany, especially in the areas of metal processing, glass production, the chemical and paper industry as well as around 1,000 larger CHP plants are potential areas of application.
The forest fibre industry explores the future of climate change policy with their 2050 Roadmap to a low-carbon bioeconomy.
The roadmap attempts to lay out the future of the forest fibre industry and its potential to meet future consumer demands, stay competitive and deliver a CO2 emission reduction. This initiative addresses the European Commission roadmap, which modeled an overall industrial reduction of 80% in CO2 by 2050. The CEPI roadmap explores the technical, financial and resource constraints that lie ahead, and the policy framework that will be needed to tackle them.
The forest fibre industry has the ambition to be at the heart of the 2050 bio-economy, anessential platform for a range of bio-based products and the recycling society. The industry is expected to grow in line with EU GDP, by about 1.5% a year for the next 40 years. The future sector will be a cluster of more and more integrated activities and industries.
The exploration shows that a reduction of 50% CO2 by 2050 is possible given the right circumstances, based on investment patterns and available and emerging technologies. To achieve an 80% CO2 reduction, however, it will need breakthrough technologies. These have to be developed and available by 2030.
The forest fibre industry has a much broader carbon profile than simply one of direct and indirect emitter. Its products can substitute for carbon-intensive fossil fuel-based products, whether for construction, fuel, chemicals, packaging or other purposes. And it works within Europe’s forests, which, when sustainably managed, store carbon.
Although the 2050 future is far away and today’s economy changes on an almost daily basis, the time to act is short. The 40 years ahead comprise only two investment cycles for a capital intensive industry; in other words, “2050 is two paper machines away”.
“This roadmap is the start of a debate. It aims to contribute to the discussion on the future policies of the European Commission and member states”, explained Teresa Presas, CEPI Director General. “It is not an action plan. Uncertainties in modeling the economy are too great to simply translate a 2050 modeled future into an action plan. It is however a holistic exploration into the future of our sector; it’s an industry pathway”, she adds.
Consumer electronics company HP took the top position in Greenpeace's recently updated Guide to Greener Electronics, taking the lead over Dell and Nokia and scoring top marks for its sustainable operators.
The latest edition of Guide to Greener Electronics ranks 15 companies across three areas: Energy, Greener Products and Sustainable Operations. It also sets new criteria for companies, challenging them to reduce their carbon footprint in manufacturing, in their supply chain and through to the end-of-life phase of their products and to set ambitious goals for renewable energy use. The latest version of the guide also features new criteria for the sourcing of paper, conflict minerals and product life cycle.
"HP takes the top spot because it is scoring strongly by measuring and reducing carbon emissions from its supply chain, reducing its own emissions and advocating for strong climate legislation. However all companies we included in the Guide have an opportunity to show more leadership in reducing their climate impact," said Greenpeace International campaigner Tom Dowdall.
Computer manufacturer Dell takes second position in the Guide after making a dramatic improvement from tenth position in the previous version. Dell scores well for having the most ambitious climate target, with plans to reduce its emissions by 40 percent by 2015, and a strong policy on sustainable paper sourcing.
After three years at the top of the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, Nokia has slipped from first place to third, mainly due to weaker performance on the Energy criteria.
"If it hopes to regain leadership on environmental issues, Nokia, along with many other companies in the Guide, need to demonstrate how it will reduce future emissions through energy efficiency and renewable energy", said Dowdall.
The new criteria added to this edition of the Guide are based on the creation of truly sustainable electronics industry and include a holistic set for examining key supply chain issues. Electronics products are both resource and energy intensive to produce; the Guide's new energy section focuses on how companies can lead the way by reducing their own energy use and using their influence in support of clean energy legislation.
Blackberry manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) is ranked for the first time but ranks bottom of the table, and needs to improve reporting and disclosure of its environmental performance. However, RIM scores well on conflict minerals and sustainable paper policy.
Greenpeace credits the Guide to Greener Electronics as prompting improvements within the electronics industry, such as phasing out hazardous substances from their products. The guide is part of Greenpeace's wider campaign to persuade the IT industry to find solutions aimed at reducing global emissions. This includes targeting Facebook for powering datacentres with electricity sourced from coal.
President Obama has announced that alternative routes need to be proposed for the Keystone XL pipeline to move it away from environmentally sensitive areas.
The Canadian oil and gas company TransCanada plans to begin building a massive new oil pipeline that would trek close to 2,000 miles from Alberta, Canada to Texas, USA. If constructed, the pipeline, known as the Keystone XL, would carry what environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth call "one of the world's dirtiest fuels: tar sands oil". They, along with many other environmental organizations, believe that " this pipeline could devastate ecosystems and pollute water sources, and jeopardize public health".
Environmental groups are also opposed to the pipeline because they believe it will tie the USA even more deeply into a highly polluting source of energy.
During tar sands oil production, levels of CO2 emissions are three times higher than those of conventional oil, due to more energy-intensive extraction and refining processes. Vast amounts of water are also needed to separate the extracted product, bitumen, from sand, silt, and clay. It takes three barrels of water to extract each single barrel of oil – roughly 400 million gallons of water a day – leaving a lot of dirty water in its wake.
There are also safety concerns about pipeline leaks and the safety record of the company behind the project. The initial stage related to the Keystone project recorded 14 accidents in its first year of operation. Protesters in Nebraska are worried about the routing of the pipeline; it would cross the Ogallala Aquifer, an important source of irrigation and drinking water.
The US State Department was due to decide on whether the pipeline should go ahead by the end of this year. But the recent large scale protests have meant that this has become an issue for Barack Obama in the run-up to next year's elections.
By offering a delaying tactic, President Obama has escaped making a decision that could alienate key voting blocs – organized labour and environmental groups - on an issue that is being touted as a choice between the environment and the economy.
In a statement, Obama said: "this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood".
In a press conference call, The State Department declared that the review of the Canadian pipeline project was prompted entirely by public unease over its proposed route through the Sand Hills, a vast expanse of prairie grass seen as a treasure by Nebraskans.said the review of the Canadian pipeline project was prompted entirely by public unease over its proposed route through the Sand Hills, a vast expanse of prairie grass seen as a treasure by Nebraskans.
Frances Beinecke, president of the the US environmental action group Natural Resources Defense Council, commented on the decision: "President Obama is displaying leadership and courage in putting the interests of the American people before those of Big Oil. He has taken another significant step in the fight against climate change and in our march toward a clean energy future, which will mean healthier lives for all. The president's decision also means that our property, water and agricultural lands cannot be stripped from us without a fight."
French nuclear giant EDF convicted of spying on Greenpeace.
A French court has convicted the French state electricity company, Electricité de France SA (EDF), on charges of spying on Greenpeace, fined the company €1.5 million, and ordered it to pay €500,000 in damages to the environmental organisation for non-material loss.
EDF, Europe's largest producer of electricity, was charged with complicity in concealing stolen documents and complicity to intrude in a computer network. In 2006, EDF hired a hacker and a private investigator in a "cloak-and-dagger" undercover effort to spy on Greenpeace France's operations. The spying operation monitored Greenpeace while it challenged plans by the UK government to work with EDF to expand its nuclear operations. The hacking caused the theft of more than 1,400 documents from the computer of the Greenpeace France programme director.
"The fine against EDF, and the damages awarded to Greenpeace send a strong signal to the nuclear industry that no one is above the law," said Adélaïde Colin, Greenpeace France communications director. "In the run up to the next presidential elections, this verdict shows that the nuclear industry is not compatible with French democracy. Voters should keep this scandal in mind and try to ensure that the energy issue in France is not taken hostage by the nuclear industry and politicians."
Greenpeace has spent several years campaigning against EDF's nuclear operations; more than three-quarters of the electricity produced in France is from nuclear plants. The Fukushima nuclear disaster exposed the inherent dangers of nuclear power and the lack of safety in the industry. In Europe, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium have all announced they are phasing out nuclear electricity. In France, voters have an opportunity in the upcoming election to send a message to politicians that they too want nuclear power phased out.
In addition to the charges against EDF, two EDF nuclear safety officials and two staff from Kargus Consulting, the company EDF hired to spy, were convicted on charges related to spying. All four were jailed, with part of their sentence suspended, and three also fined.
At present, the four French European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) are being built in Finland, France and China are well behind schedule, hampered by significant construction problems and billions over budget, in the case of EDF's reactors in Finland, and France.
"This case of EDF's spying should send another signal to any country considering building reactors that the nuclear industry can't be trusted," said Colin. "Who can trust an industry that spies and in the case of Fukushima doesn't tell the public the truth about its nuclear disaster? Instead of working with the nuclear industry, countries should invest in clean, safe sources of renewable electricity".
According to new research by the Worldwatch Institute for Vital Signs Online, the number of countries running high-speed rail (HSR) trains is expected to nearly double over the next few years. By 2014, high-speed trains will be operating in nearly 24 countries, including China, France, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United States, up from only 14 countries today. The increase in HSR is due largely to its reliability and ability to cover vast geographic distances in a short time, to investments aimed at connecting once-isolated regions, and to the diminishing appeal of air travel, which is becoming more cumbersome because of security concerns.
"The rise in HSR has been very rapid," said Worldwatch Senior Researcher Michael Renner, who conducted the research. "In just three years, between January 2008 and January 2011, the operational fleet grew from 1,737 high-speed trainsets worldwide to 2,517. Two-thirds of this fleet is found in just five countries: France, China, Japan, Germany, and Spain. By 2014, the global fleet is expected to total more than 3,700 units."
According to Worldwatch, HSR is not only reliable, but it also can be more friendly than cars or airplanes. A 2006 comparison of greenhouse gas emissions by travel mode, released by the Center for Neighborhood Technologies, found that HSR lines in Europe and Japan released 30-70 grams of carbon dioxide per passenger-kilometer, versus 150 grams for automobiles and 170 grams for airplanes.
Although there is no universal speed definition for HSR, the threshold is typically set at 250 kilometers per hour on new tracks and 200 kilometers per hour on existing, upgraded tracks. By track length, the current high-speed leaders are China, Japan, Spain, France, and Germany. Other countries are joining the high-speed league as well. Turkey has ambitious plans to reach 2,424 kilometers and surpass the length of Germany's network. Italy, Portugal, and the United States all hope to reach track lengths of more than 1,000 kilometers. Another 15 countries have plans for shorter networks.
But in Europe, France continues to account for about half of all European high-speed rail travel. HSR reached an astounding 62 percent of the country's passenger rail travel volume in 2008, up from just 23 percent in 1990, thanks to affordable ticket prices, an impressive network, and reliability. And in Japan, the Shinkansen trains are known for their exceedingly high degree of reliability. JR Central, the largest of the Japanese rail operating companies, reports that the average delay per high-speed train throughout a year is just half a minute. On all routes in Japan where both air and high-speed rail connections are available, rail has captured a 75 percent market share.
According to a report by the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU), renewable electricity will be the cheapest source of energy throughout Europe by 2050.
On the basis of calculations for 36 countries in Europe and Northern Africa, SRU concludes that a power supply completely based upon renewable sources by 2050 is achievable at average costs of 65 €/MWh. The calculated costs are significantly lower than the pessimistic assumptions of the draft EU Energy Road Map 2050, which has been leaked to the media recently.
The SRU launched the scenario results for each of the 36 countries in the European and Northern Africa region together with the English version of its special report Pathways towards a 100% renewable electricity system. The scenarios assume a cost-optimised mix of renewable energy sources and a high level of national self-sufficiency.
Wind power is for most European countries the cheapest technology; in the Mediterranean region high shares of solar power can also be expected. A completely renewable electricity system, that guarantees security of supply at every moment throughout the year, is achievable at system costs of 65 €/MWh including the cost for grid expansion and storage. In countries with comparatively greater renewable potentials costs can even be lower. The pump storage potential in Norway is sufficient to function as the "green battery" of Europe.
A leaked draft of the Energy Roadmap 2050 of the European Commission has been recently discussed in the press. The European Commission compared different low carbon scenarios. It concluded that to achieve its climate targets until 2050 a share of renewable energy in the electricity mix between 59 – 86 % by 2050 is necessary, which implies that in any case renewables would become the most important source. However, the scenario with the highest renewables shares appears as the most expensive one.
The Commission results are at a level considerably above the calculations for a 100% renewables-based scenario calculated by DLR (German Aerospace Center) on the basis of the ReMix-Model for the SRU. "The European Commission systematically underestimates the low cost potential of renewable energies for a truly sustainable power system," comments Prof. Dr. Olav Hohmeyer, lead author of the SRU EUrope. "The cost pessimism of the European Commission is scientifically not well grounded." Exaggerated cost estimates may undermine political acceptance for further expansion of renewable energy in the EU.
In its special report, the SRU emphasizes that a supportive European framework is pivotal for a national energy transition towards renewable energies. The SRU recommends that the EU formulates ambitious binding targets for renewable energy for the year 2030 and that the future European electricity grid systematically has to match the needs of growing shares of renewable sources in the electricity mix. However, the SRU considers the harmonisation of support schemes as inappropriate because the conditions in member states are too different.
Australia's Senate approves the most comprehensive carbon price scheme outside Europe despite controversy.
The Gillard Government is claiming today to have secured a clean energy future for all Australians. The Senate's approval for the carbon price scheme, backed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, is a victory for her government and is also supported whole heartedly by environmentalists, but there have been large public protests against it.
When the new scheme comes into being, Australia's biggest polluters will have to pay for every tonne of carbon pollution they emit, which will deliver:
* A cut to carbon pollution of at least 160 million tonnes a year in 2020;
* Tax cuts and increases to household payments and pensions for millions of Australians;
* A clean energy economy with new economic opportunities and clean energy jobs.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the passing of the Clean Energy legislation through the Senate is a major milestone in Australia's efforts to cut carbon pollution and seize the economic and job opportunities of the future.
This history-making vote turns years of discussion into a reality.
Both Houses have now approved the Gillard Government's Clean Energy plan which will cut carbon pollution by at least 160 million tonnes a year in 2020 – the equivalent to taking 45 million cars off the road.
This will be done by putting a price on pollution, fostering renewable energy technologies, encouraging energy efficiency and creating opportunities to reduce pollution on the land.
The Clean Energy legislation will also deliver fair and generous assistance to householders while giving certainty to business and investors about Australia's move to a low pollution economy.
Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan said the 18 Bills comprising the Clean Energy legislative package represented one of the most important economic reforms in the nation's history.
Treasury modelling shows the Gillard Government's carbon price will reduce emissions and drive investment in clean energy while ensuring the economy continues to prosper, with 1.6 million jobs to be created by 2020.
For most people, the Gillard Government's comprehensive household assistance package will cover, and in many cases exceed, any price rises passed on by businesses:
* Nine out of 10 households will receive compensation from a combination of tax cuts and increases to family benefits;
* Almost six million households will receive assistance that covers all of their average price impact;
* Over four million households will receive assistance that exceeds their expected average price impact, leaving their household budget better off.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Greg Combet said the carbon price mechanism would apply to around 500 of the country's biggest polluters. It is a charge on pollution, not a tax on households or small businesses.
A fixed carbon price of AUD 23 a tonne will apply from 1 July 2012, moving to a flexible price after three years.
The initial fixed price stage will provide stability and predictability. This will give businesses time to get used to the new system, to understand their obligations and to start planning ways of reducing their pollution.
Passage of the legislation means the Government will now focus on implementing the carbon price and delivering the substantial household, industry, renewable energy, innovation, land sector and energy efficiency measures contained in the Clean Energy Future Plan.
Panthers, Polar Bears, Sea Turtles all American animals that could be crowded off planet.
In response to the world's population topping 7 billion, the Center for Biological Diversity released a list of the top 10 plants and animals in the United States facing extinction from pressure caused by overpopulation.
"There's a cost that comes with having 7 billion people on our planet, especially when it comes to species already on the brink of extinction," said Amy Harwood, the Center's 7 Billion and Counting campaign coordinator.
"The polar bear, Florida panther and bluefin tuna are just a few of the species being pushed toward extinction by the world's rapidly growing population. People have taken away habitat for plants and animals, sucked up their water, and surrounded them with pollution, causing a global mass extinction crisis."
As the human population grows and rich countries continue to consume resources at voracious rates, it looks the human race is crowding out, poisoning and eating all other species into extinction.
The 10 endangered species mentioned here represent a range of geography, as well as species diversity. Some, like the Florida panther and Mississippi gopher frog, are rapidly losing habitat as the human population expands. Others are seeing their habitat dangerously altered - like the small flowering sandplain gerardia in New England - or, like the bluefin tuna, are buckling under the weight of massive overfishing. Still others, like the polar bear, are facing extinction because of fossil fuels driving catastrophic global warming.
"Human overpopulation and overconsumption are simply taking away the land, air and water other creatures need to survive," Harwood proclaimed. "The world population is expected to hit 10 billion by the end of this century. Left unchecked, this massive population growth will have a disastrous effect on biodiversity around the globe - biodiversity we need to maintain the web of life we've always depended on."
The top ten
The Florida panther once ranged throughout the southeastern United States, but now survives in a tiny area of South Florida representing just 5 percent of its former range. It was listed as an endangered species in 1967 because of habitat destruction and fragmentation through urban sprawl.
As Florida's panther numbers plummeted, the state's human population nearly doubled over the past 30 years.
The western Atlantic bluefin tuna that spawns in the Gulf of Mexico has declined by more than 80% since 1970 due to overharvesting. Prized as a sushi fish around the world, it has become more valuable as it has become rare. One fish in 2011 sold for USD 396,000. The Atlantic bluefin, like so many other ocean species, is threatened by humans' ravenous appetites: Demand far exceeds sustainable fishing levels.
More than half the world's 7 billion people live within 150 miles of the coast, putting tremendous pressure on species trying to find space to live and reproduce among the crowds. Among them is the loggerhead sea turtle, which was listed as a federally threatened species in 1978 owing to destruction of its beach nesting habitat, harassment while nesting, overharvesting of its eggs, and bycatch death via commercial fishing gear. Just 42,000 nesting attempts were made on Florida beaches in 2011.
In New England and the Atlantic coast, brush fires once thinned out dense pine forests and created a constantly moving mosaic of grasslands and prairies. The fires have been suppressed to protect human structures, causing open habitats to be permanently replaced by forest and brush. This nearly caused the extinction of the sandplain gerardia, a coastal plant in the snapdragon family.
The sandplain gerardia was listed as an endangered species in 1998 when just 12 populations remained. Several were in historic cemeteries on Cape Cod as these made up some of the only open areas not covered by roads or development. Twenty-two populations exist today throughout the species' range from Massachusetts to Maryland. Many are threatened by development and fire suppression, needing constant, active habitat maintenance.
Many endangered species are endemics, meaning they naturally have very small ranges and populations sizes, and usually require very particular soil, vegetation or climate conditions to survive. These species are especially vulnerable to human encroachment. Among them is Lange's metalmark butterfly, protected as endangered in 1976.
Lange's metalmark lives only in the Antioch Dunes at the southern end of San Francisco Bay. This unique ecosystem harbored many unique species, and many species have gone extinct as its dunes were hauled away in massive increments. After the 1906 fires, the city of San Francisco was rebuilt using brick-building material removed from the dunes.
Lange's metalmark is one of the most endangered species in the United States. It declined from some 250,000 in historic times to just 154 in 1986. It improved a bit, but then declined to just 45 butterflies in 2006. Today the species is still on the knife edge of extinction, with about 150 individuals remaining.
The Mississippi gopher frog lives in stump holes and burrows dug by other animals, laying its eggs in ponds so shallow they dry up for several months of the year, keeping them free of fish that would eat frog eggs. It was placed on the endangered species list in 2001.
Reduced to approximately 100 individuals in the wild, the Mississippi gopher frog exists in just three small ponds just outside the proposed "town" of Tradition, Mississippi. Planned development would have a devastating effect on this rare frog.
The human population of Nevada grew by 35% between 2000 and 2010, nearly four times faster than the national average. Las Vegas was one of the fastest-growing areas of the state. But the city is in the middle of a desert, so accommodating that explosive growth requires securing more water from nonlocal supplies.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority has proposed a massive project to pump billions of gallons of groundwater a year from eastern Nevada and western Utah through a 300-mile pipeline to supply rapidly growing urban areas like Las Vegas. The project will have a disastrous effect on dozens of imperiled species, including the White River spinedace, which was protected as an endangered species in 1985. One population of this rare fish was extirpated in 1991 because of irrigation diversion, and fewer than 50 fish remained in a single population in northeast Nevada.
The White River spinedace's population at the Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area is directly threatened by the proposed pipeline, which will cut through the management area, draining and destroying critical habitat for the remaining populations. A recent environmental impact statement for the proposed pipeline project disclosed that major vegetation and ecosystem changes would occur on more than 200,000 acres, including wetlands that will dry up and wildlife shrubland habitat converted to dryland grasses and noxious weeds. More than 300 springs would also be hurt, along with more than 120 miles of streams.
The extreme impacts that human-caused climate change has had on the Arctic is pushing the polar bear closer to extinction.
Listed as a "threatened" species in 2008, polar bears are rapidly losing the sea ice they use to hunt, mate and raise their young. Polar bear numbers increased following the establishment of hunting regulations in the 1970s and today stand at 20,000 to 25,000. However, the rapid decline of Arctic sea ice because of global warming has reversed this trend, and currently at least five of the 19 polar bear populations are declining. The US Geological Survey predicts that under current greenhouse gas emission trends, two-thirds of the world's polar bears, including all those in Alaska, will likely disappear by 2050.
Gulf sturgeon numbers initially declined due to overfishing throughout most of the 20th century. Habitat loss was exacerbated by the construction of water control structures, such as dams, mostly after 1950. Other habitat disturbances such as dredging, groundwater extraction, irrigation and flow alterations also threaten the Gulf sturgeon. Poor water quality and contaminants, primarily from industrial sources, also contribute to population declines. Today the gulf sturgeon remains threatened as the tug-of-war continues over the supplies that feed the river where it lives and the region's ever-expanding human population.
The San Joaquin kit fox was relatively common until the 1930s, when people began to convert grasslands to farms, orchards and cities. By 1958, 50% of its habitat in California's Central Valley had been lost, due to extensive land conversions for agriculture, intensive land uses and pesticides. By 1979, less than 7% of the San Joaquin Valley's original wildlands south of Stanislaus County remained untilled and undeveloped.
The kit fox was listed as endangered in 1967. Today there are fewer than 7,000 scattered among fragmented populations. The four counties with known San Joaquin kit foxes have grown by 60% - by another 1.5 million people - since 1983.
In addition to impacts from farmland conversion, the San Joaquin kit fox is severely stressed by the changes to annual rainfall caused by climate change.
Fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas produce a great amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned, which contributes to the greenhouse effect. "For the purposes of electricity generation, these fossil fuels will only have a future if the emission of greenhouses gases are significantly reduced," says Professor Günter Scheffknecht of the University of Stuttgart. At the Institute for Combustion and Power Plant Technology (IFK), Scheffknecht's team is testing the novel "calcium looping process" in a pilot plant in order to remove CO2 from power plant emissions.
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a process with which to capture CO2 from power plant emissions and store it in the long term. Scientists are currently researching different ways to capture or bind the CO2 from power plant emissions. Previous approaches all have the disadvantage that far too much energy was spent capturing the CO2. This reduces the efficiency of power plants by up to 13 percentage points.
"A far more promising possibility to effectively capture CO2 is the calcium looping process, which our institute has been developing since 2005," says Scheffknecht. As a carrier material for capturing CO2, calcium looping provides naturally occurring limestone composed mostly of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The Stuttgart researchers circulates the limestone between two fluidised bed reactors, the regenerator and the carbonator. Before the carrier material can bind the CO2, it must first be carbonated or calcined into calcium oxide (CaO), also known as "burned" lime, in the regenerator at temperatures around 900 degrees Celsius. Calcium oxide only reacts with the CO2 from power plant emissions in the carbonator at temperatures around 650 degrees Celsius to once again create CaCO3. Back in the regenerator, the clean CO2 is released again through the calcination and can then be stored. The regenerated CaO is available for another capture cycle.
In a new pilot plant at the IFK, scientists have been able to remove more than 90 percent of CO2 from the exhaust emissions using this process under realistic conditions. "The results reveal that the efficiency of a CCS power plant can be reduced by six to seven percentage points using the calcium looping process," said Scheffknecht. And the electricity generation of an entire system could rise by around 45 percent because the heat energy that which has to be used to remove CO2 can be used to generate electricity. Conventional downstream CO2 removal processes cannot use this heat. Furthermore, used, burned lime from the calcium looping system is used in industry to manufacture cement. Here too it can contribute to reducing CO2 emissions because the production of cement eliminates the need for calcination.
The coupled fluidised bed unit at the IFK, which has a combustion capacity of 200 kilowatts, went into operation in May 2010. It is part of a four-year research project "CATS – CaO as a CO2 carrier material for CO2-free power generation from coal", which the Energie Baden-Württemberg AG is supporting until the end of 2011 with a total of 1.7 million Euro.
Professor Carsten Vogt from the University of Bochum in Germany is using game theory to analyze climate protection agreements.
According to Professor Vogt, there have not been many successes in the field of climate protection policy in recent years, with the last two summits in Copenhagen and Cancun hardly having accomplished little at all. This has led Professor Vogt and his colleague, Professor Bodo Sturm from the University of Business, Technology and Culture in Leipzig, to develop new and innovative approaches to solving this problem.
"State parties to climate protection agreements have very different interests," says Vogt, because every country is affected by climate change in radically different ways. In parts of Africa, famines will occur when crop yields decline due to higher temperatures, whereas in countries in north latitudes such as Canada, higher crop yields would be the outcome of the same phenomenon. Likewise, a country such as Bangladesh cannot afford any rise in the sea level because it lacks the financial resources to respond, whereas a country such as the Netherlands can afford to build higher levees. "As a result, it is very difficult to put developed, emerging and developing countries into the same boat."
Furthermore, the different actors involved in climate policy often have extremely different views as to what equitable international burden-sharing over climate change might look like. "Some developing countries point to their much lower per capita emissions of CO2. So when one regards per capita emissions as a standard, then the industrialised countries have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But if we instead focus on the 'polluter pays' principle on the basis of current total emissions, then countries such as China and India would also have to make reductions." The different ideas about what is "fair" further complicates climate negotiations, concludes Vogt.
With the help of mathematical methods from game theory, Vogt wants to investigate opportunities for solutions to climate policy. This has to take into consideration the differences between the countries and their different notions of fairness. "This is certainly not easy," says Vogt, "but it also does not bring us any further when important aspects that play a role in reality are covered up in climate negotiation models." Perhaps in the end it will turn out that the current approach of the United Nations – where all countries participate in a negotiated settlement – is completely ineffective.
Once the first concrete results are available, Vogt will provide them as "policy briefings" to international climate policy decision-makers. Workshops for experts from science and politics are also planned.
Parallel to the more theoretical part of this project at the University of Bochum, Professor Sturm from the University of Business, Technology and Culture in Leipzig wants to empirically determine the actual willingness to pay for climate protection. Ideally, the results of his surveys and economic experiments will be fed into the theoretical models.
The United Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report which tracks the environmental changes the planet has gone through over the past 20 years.
The report, Keeping Track of our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20, compiles relevant statistical data on population, climate change, energy and food security, among other key issues, to draw a picture of the current environmental landscape, spotlighting challenges ahead.
Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said the report was a timely reminder for world leaders of the areas that continue to need urgent attention such as the rapid build-up of greenhouse gases, the erosion of biodiversity and the use of natural resources, which increased by 40 per cent from 1992 to 2005, a much faster pace than population growth.
Other key issues highlighted by the report include ongoing forest loss in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, with a decrease of 300 million hectares of forest areas in the region since 1990, and the diminishing glaciers which have influenced the current rise in sea-levels, threatening the well-being of approximately one sixth of the world's population.
However, Mr. Steiner said the report also highlights areas where progress has been made and "underlines how, when the world decides to act it can dramatically alter the trajectory of hazardous trends that threaten human well-being – action to phase-out ozone-damaging chemicals being a spirited and powerful example."
The report notes that many environmental issues, which were only emerging in 1992, when the Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, are now part of mainstream policy-making in many countries due to consumer and civil society demands.
Some of these issues include the implementation of recycling practices, the commercialization of renewable energy, the rise in sales of organic products and eco-labelling, and the use of carbon trading as a way to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, the report draws attention to the increase in the support for developing green economies, with more government investment in ways to effectively manage their resources and curb their carbon emissions as part of their broader economic development strategy.
Mr. Steiner said the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro next June could help address the negative effects mentioned in the report and enhance efforts already having a positive impact.
"Rio+20, under the two themes of a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and an institutional framework for sustainable development, can, with the requisite level of leadership, trigger the necessary switches that may ensure that the balance of negative versus positive trends moves from the red into the black and that the right to development is enjoyed by the many rather than the few," he said.
The report is part of UNEP's Global Environmental Outlook-5 (GEO-5) series, which assesses the state and trends of the global environment. The full GEO-5 report will be launched next May, one month ahead of Rio+20.
The World Wind Energy Conference 2011 (WWEC2011) opened in Cairo yesterday. 500 delegates from all over the world attended the opening ceremony of the 10th WWEC and Renewable Energy Exhibition.
Several speakers highlighted the huge potentials of wind and other renewable energies for economic growth, sustainable energy supply and the creation of green jobs, including in the Middle East and North Africa. At the accompanying exhibition, companies from the wind energy sector are presenting their products and services to visitors.
Dr. Hassan Younes, Egyptian Minister of Electricity and Energy, underlined the importance of renewable energy for stabilisation of energy prices and for a more sustainable energy supply. Egypt aims at doubling its share of renewable energy in the electricity supply from 10% to 20% in the year 2020, which will include encouraging local manufacturing of equipment such as wind turbines.
Dr. Mahmoud Isa, Egyptian Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade, underlined the potential contribution of renewable energy to increased social justice. He said that his government has especially recognised the importance of private investment and has committed itself to liberalise the electricity market for independent power producers.
During the WWEC2011, Mr. Con Gregg from the International Labour Organisation ILO presented the first results of a study on job requirements and potentials in the renewable energy industry worldwide. The report on Occupational Skill and Needs in Renewable Energy was done in cooperation with the World Wind Energy Association and the International Renewable Energy Alliance and will be published soon on the ILO website.
On the first day of the conference, the General Assembly of the World Wind Energy Association elected Dr. He Dexin, Chairman of the Chinese Wind Energy Association, as the new WWEA President. Dr. He outlined what he sees are the main working areas for WWEA:
"WWEA will especially continue to enhance the cooperation between developing and developed countries. There is an urgent need to focus especially on the promotion of wind energy in the developing countries. Countries like my home country China have the responsibility to continue their leading role in wind energy, in order to support the global transformation towards a sustainable energy supply. Another important focus will be on the promotion of wind energy integration through smart grids and distributed generation."
The State of World Population 2011, a new report by the UNFPA, calls for additional investments in youth and promoting gender equality in order to secure a sustainable future.
By 1 November 2011, the world's population is projected to reach 7 billion. How we respond now will determine whether we have a healthy, sustainable and prosperous future or one that is marked by inequalities, environmental decline and economic setbacks, according to The State of World Population 2011 report, published today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
"With planning and the right investments in people now—to empower them to make choices that are not only good for themselves, but also for our global commons—our world of 7 billion can have thriving sustainable cities, productive labour forces that fuel economies, and youth populations that contribute to the well-being of their societies," says UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.
Our record population size can be viewed in many ways as a success for humanity because it means that people are living longer and more of our children are surviving worldwide, the report shows. But not everyone has benefited from this achievement or the higher quality of life that this implies. Great disparities exist among and within countries. Disparities in rights and opportunities also exist between men and women, girls and boys. Charting a path now to development that promotes equality, rather than exacerbates or reinforces inequalities, is more important than ever.
Of the world's 7 billion, 1.8 billion are young people between the ages of 10 and 24. "Young people hold the key to the future, with the potential to transform the global political landscape and to propel economies through their creativity and capacities for innovation. But the opportunity to realize youth's great potential must be seized now," Dr. Osotimehin said. "We should be investing in the health and education of our youth. This would yield enormous returns in economic growth and development for generations to come."
But while the report looks at the effects of rapid population growth on climate change, it doesn't tackle the difficult questions posed by the Optimum Population Trust and respected personalities such as Sir David Attenborough, which is whether the earth and its finite resources can even support the world's population – no matter how intelligently we attempt to cope with population growth . For more on this, please see our article Malthus' Children.
The State of World Population 2011 is mainly a report from the field, where demographers, policymakers, governments, civil society and individuals are grappling with population trends ranging from ageing to rapidly rising numbers of young people, from high population growth rates to shrinking populations, and from high rates of urbanization to rising international migration. The countries featured in this report are China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, India, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Are the recent weather extremes due to climate change? Researchers now believe they have proof that they could be.
The Moscow heat wave last year was, with high probability, the result of climate change – contrary to what some have assumed. With a likelihood of 80%, it was not natural short-term climatic variability but the long-term warming trend that caused the temperature record in the region surrounding the Russian capital in July 2010, according to scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). These scientists have developed a formula for calculating how frequently weather extremes occur in a changing climate. Their findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"In many countries unprecedented weather extremes were observed during the last decade, while at the same time global mean temperature is rising steeply," says lead-author Stefan Rahmstorf. "We looked at how these things are connected."
The researchers have quantified how many additional weather records are caused by climate change. Without climatic warming, natural fluctuations would also lead to new records, but they would do so less often. In this study, the researchers apply their method to heat records, but in the future, other extremes will be investigated. "For temperature, we show that climate change overall leads to more extremes," says Rahmstorf. "This is in many cases harmful to people."
The very hot summer of 2003 in Europe, often referred to as the summer of the century, resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. The record heat wave in 2010 even topped the summer of 2003, causing massive crop failure and forced Russia to ban wheat exports temporarily. In addition to this, huge wildfires plagued the country.
The steeper the climatic warming trend, the greater the number of heat records will be. In contrast, larger year-to-year temperature fluctuations lead to fewer records. At first this seems counter-intuitive as for a single event, it is of course a particularly high peak that scores the record. Such a peak, however, makes subsequent records less likely, so that variability overall reduces the number of records. It is the ratio of the climatic warming trend to the variability that determines the expected number of new records. Observational data supports this and is explained by this theoretical insight.
Extreme cold makes people suffer just as extreme heat does. "Unfortunately, our analysis shows that the increase of heat extremes is not at all compensated by a decrease in cold extremes," says co-author Dim Coumou. This decrease in fact is found to be quite small. "In total, the frequency of monthly temperature records has already multiplied."
Berkeley Earth Releases Global Land Warming Analysis
Global warming is real, according to a major study. Despite issues raised by climate change skeptics, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study finds reliable evidence of a rise in the average world land temperature of approximately 1 degree Celsius since the mid-1050s.
Analyzing temperature data from 15 sources, in some cases going as far back as 1800, the Berkeley Earth study directly addressed scientific concerns raised by skeptics, including the urban heat island effect, poor station quality, and the risk of data selection bias.
On the basis of its analysis, the group concluded that earlier studies based on more limited data by teams in the United States and Britain had accurately estimated the extent of land surface warming.
"Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK," said Professor Richard A. Muller, Berkeley Earth's founder and scientific director. "This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change skeptics did not seriously affect their conclusions."
Previous studies, carried out by NOAA, NASA, and the Hadley Center, also found that land warming was approximately 1 degree C since the mid-1950s, and that the urban heat island effect and poor station quality did not bias the results. But their findings were criticized by skeptics who worried that they relied on ad-hoc techniques that meant that the findings could not be duplicated. Robert Rhode, lead scientist for Berkeley Earth, noted that "the Berkeley Earth analysis is the first study to address the issue of data selection bias, by using nearly all of the available data, which includes about 5 times as many station locations as were reviewed by prior groups."
Elizabeth Muller, co-founder and Executive Director of Berkeley Earth, said she hopes the Berkeley Earth findings will help "cool the debate over global warming by addressing many of the valid concerns of the skeptics in a clear and rigorous way." This will be especially important in the run-up to the COP 17 meeting in Durban, South Africa, later this year, where participants will discuss targets for reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions for the next commitment period as well as issues such as financing, technology transfer and cooperative action.
WWF and the International Rhino Foundation have confirmed the extinction of the Javan rhinoceros in Vietnam.
The WWF report concludes:
* Poaching was likely the cause of death. The last rhino was found with a bullet in its leg and its horn removed.
* Ineffective protection by the park was ultimately the cause of extinction.
* Illegal hunting for wildlife trade continues to threaten many species in Vietnam including the tiger, Asian elephant and saola.
The Javan rhinoceros was believed to be extinct from mainland Asia, but in 1988 one was hunted and lead to the discovery of a small population.
In 2004, a survey conducted by WWF, Cat Tien National Park and Queen's University in Canada revealed at least two rhinos were living in the park. The report suggests that one of the individuals was lost between then and the beginning of WWF's survey in 2009.
There are still Javan rhinos left in the wild. As few as 40 critically endangered rhinos live in a small national park in Indonesia. The protection and expansion of this remaining population is crucial for the survival of the rhinos.
WWF is working to:
* protect the remaining Javan rhinos from poaching
* monitor the existing population
* establish a second population through translocation, which establishes different populations of a species in more than one area
Partners in these efforts include the Indonesian government, the International Rhino Foundation, the Indonesian Rhino Foundation, the IUCN/SSC Rhino Specialist Group, Aaranyak, the Eijkman Institute and local communities.
Nottingham Trent University took the top spot for the second year running in The People & Planet Green League comparison of UK universities.
The Green league compares the environmental and ethical performance of 142 universities, awarding First Class 'degrees' to the best and Fail to those doing the least to address their impacts.
Nottingham Trent University came first with strong scores for its environmental and carbon management policies as well as renewable energy and excellent recycling rates. The top five also includes the universities of Gloucestershire, Worcester, Plymouth, Bournemouth and Greenwich (the latter two tied for 5th place).
Professor Neil Gorman, Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, said: "We take our responsibility for reducing our environmental impact very seriously, and our position at the top of the People & Planet Green League shows that. I'm very proud of all the hard work and commitment from our staff and students that has helped towards this achievement and we will do all that we can to maintain our reputation as the most environmentally friendly and ethical university in the UK."
The results show major improvements in 12 out of the 13 criteria used to rank universities and measure their transition to a fair & sustainable future – including:
* 8.3% increase in universities generating their own renewable energy on-site
* 57% of sector has put in place strong Carbon Management plans and climate targets
* 10% increase in energy-saving & recycling initiatives for students in halls of residence
* 10% increase in universities publishing Sustainable Food policies#
* 20% increase in universities employing at least one Sustainability Manager
* 68% of universities have now achieved Fairtrade status
However, the Green League also reveals that the sector's carbon emissions have risen by 3.9% since 2005 and that 63% of universities are not yet on track to meet the UK government's carbon reduction targets of 34% cuts by 2020.
Russell Group institutions in particular have increased their climate emissions more than the sector average and none made it into the Top 20. The top of the league table is dominated by less research-intensive institutions and smaller teaching institutions who appear to be taking up the challenge of creating sustainability-savvy graduates more seriously.
Louise Hazan, who compiled People & Planet's Green League 2011, said: "This year's results show the sector is making a clear transition towards low-carbon, sustainable operations and responding to increasing student demand for greener universities that offer value for money. However, despite clear progress in the last year on issues such as carbon management planning and student engagement, the fact that carbon emissions are still rising should sound alarm bells for Vice-Chancellors and the Government alike".
As well as environmental impacts, the People & Planet Green League assessed how well universities are integrating sustainability in their core teaching and research activities with a new Curriculum criteria.
Robin Parker, President-elect of National Union of Students, Scotland, commented: "More and more, students are seeking an education which equips them with the skills and knowledge to deal with the global challenges that their generation will face - challenges like climate change and global inequality. Given the current funding situation, it would be easy for institutions to see the sustainability agenda as a luxury – in fact, it is more important than ever."
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the EU Energy Community, established to increase socio-economic stability and security of supply.
The Energy Community Treaty was signed between the EU and Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro Serbia, Ukraine and Kosovo.
The Energy Community was created for a period of 10 years, expiring in 2016 with the aim of creating an integrated energy market across the region which allows for cross-border trade, guarantees energy supply and takes into consideration climate and social aspects.
The Energy Community has so far set a good example of regional cooperation in which the EU and the South-Eastern European countries can diversify their energy sources. It has created a functioning institutional framework and more legal certainty for investors. Next steps are to enhance market reforms and to boost investments in the energy sector. The final objective is that the regional market should be fully integrated in the European's internal energy market.
EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said: "The Energy Community has proved to be an appropriate framework to boost business and favour sustainable growth. Now comes the time for the full implementation of the regulatory and legal framework set by the Community. When fully implemented it will ensure that citizens and companies benefit from fair competition on energy markets and are protected against unexpected power cuts."
Contracting Parties have been successful in creating a stable regulatory framework and aligning their rules to EU standards. The Energy Community Contracting Parties have adopted key EU legislation for the opening of their electricity and gas markets to competition, based on the Second Energy Package and including common rules on access to the market, on operation of the systems, on third party access to energy infrastructure and on consumer protection e.g.; they have also adopted EU rules on energy efficiency, renewables, energy performance of buildings and labelling of household appliances.
In the coming years the Energy Community will mainly tackle investment challenges it faces. A number of existing power plants require replacement or rehabilitation, electricity networks and gas interconnectors need modernisation. Strong energy regulatory authorities are needed, with enough powers, resources and independence to ensure non-discrimination, effective competition and efficient operation of the energy market. This will create a market environment that will help attract necessary investments. In its role as a coordinator of Energy Community activities the Commission will promote investments in the region and will offer specific advice on structural reform.
The Dalai Lama is a special guest at this week's Mind and Life conference where he will be interacting with top scholars on the consequences of individual choice on the environment.
The Mind and Life XXIII - Ecology, Ethics and Interdependence taking place this week in Dharamshala India will concentrate on the theme of the interconnection between individual choices and environmental consequences and try to find answers to the challenges thrown by the "slow meltdown of Earth's capacity to sustain much of life".
"The goal of the meeting is to provide an opportunity to articulate an engaged environmental ethics. This would include the understanding of interdependence through an examination of the most recent data on the scientific case for effective ecological action," said the conference organisers in a press release.
The Dalai Lama has been invited to attend and will be holding discussions with contemplative scholars, activists, and ecological scientists to "explore many dimensions, from the human-caused deterioration in the global systems that sustain life, and the role each of us plays as seen through the lens of industrial ecology, to a view from Buddhist philosophy and other faith traditions, to the on-the-ground realities faced by ecological activists".
"Our hope is that this conference will be a significant catalyst for the formulation of new research ideas in these fields and solutions to our planetary crisis" said the organisers.
Eminent scholars including John Dunne, Associate professor at Emory University, Sallie McFague, Theologian in Residence at the Vancouver School of Theology in British Columbia, and Jonathan Patz, Professor and Director of Global Environmental Health at the University of Wisconsin in Madison will be participating in the five-day conference.
A live webcast of the conference will be available on the official website of the Dalai Lama from 9am to 3pm Indian time.
The amount of eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna traded on the global market in 2010 exceeded the official quota by 141%. Such a gap threatens the future of this marine animal.
This figure shows an amazing amount of overfishing is going on as even two years earlier the amount traded exceeded the quota by 31%. These figures do not account for "black market" bluefin missing from official databases.
These figures are part of a new analysis commissioned by the Pew Environment Group that highlights the gap between the quota for Atlantic bluefin tuna allowed to be caught in the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern Atlantic Ocean and the amount traded on the international market during the period of 1998-2010.
In 2008, in response to plummeting bluefin tuna populations in the Mediterranean, member governments of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the organization responsible for managing tuna and similar species in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, adopted stronger enforcement and trade measures. These included lower catch limits and a paper-based documentation system designed to more accurately record the amount of bluefin caught and traded. The new analysis clearly shows that despite those efforts, significant problems with illegal and unreported fishing remain.
In light of the findings from the trade analysis, the Pew Environment Group urges ICCAT member governments to take immediate action at their annual meeting in November. Specifically, Pew calls for improving compliance with bluefin tuna catch quotas by ensuring that an electronic documentation system is in place for the 2012 fishing season.
"The paper-based catch documentation of the bluefin trade is rife with fraud and misinformation," said Lee Crockett, who directs Atlantic bluefin tuna conservation at the Pew Environment Group. "An electronic system would provide more-accurate information that can be easily shared and cross-checked instantly. Such a program should also include a physical bar code for each bluefin, which could be easily administered and not be cost prohibitive. This would allow the fish to be tracked from sea to plate."
Most bluefin tuna caught in the Mediterranean are destined for "ranches." Juvenile bluefin that have yet to reproduce are netted and transferred to these pens, where they are fattened for months and sometimes years before being killed and sold on the global market. The electronic catch documentation program would help track the amount of fish in ranches.
"Tuna ranching in the Mediterranean makes it exceedingly difficult to accurately track the number of bluefin caught," said Roberto Mielgo Bregazzi, a bluefin tuna trade expert who conducted the analysis. "These offshore bluefin tuna fattening ranches are part and parcel of the problem of underreporting and non-reporting of caught fish."
A conference in London on the health and security implications of climate change ends with statement that climate change poses a grave risk worldwide.
This week a conference was held in London that was born of an unlikely alliance – health leaders and military experts. Frustration at the slow progress in tackling the causes of climate change at national and international level led to a series of discussions and an editorial in the BMJ. From these beginnings, a loose partnership of concerned organisations emerged, with a common aim of highlighting the urgent need for action. The culmination was the conference held this week at the British Medical Association entitled: The Health and Security Perspectives of Climate Change - How to secure our future wellbeing
At the end of this conference, this alarming statement was released:
Climate change poses an immediate, growing and grave threat to the health and security of people in both developed and developing countries around the globe.
Climate change leads to more frequent and extreme weather events and to conditions that favour the spread of infectious diseases. Rising sea levels, floods and droughts cause loss of habitat, water and food shortages, and threats to livelihood. These trigger conflict within and between countries. Humanitarian crises will further burden military resources through the need for rescue missions and aid.
Mass migration will also increase, triggered by both environmental stress and conflict, thus leading to serious further security issues. It will often not be possible to adapt meaningfully to these changes, and the economic cost will be enormous. As in medicine, prevention is the best solution.
Action to tackle climate change not only reduces the risks to our environment and global stability but also offers significant health co-benefits. Changes in power generation improve air quality. Modest life style changes – such as increasing physical activity through walking and cycling - will cut rates of heart disease and stroke, obesity, diabetes, breast cancer, dementia and depressive illness. Climate change mitigation policies would thus significantly cut rates of preventable death and disability for hundreds of millions of people around the world.
The health co-benefits of lower carbon use save money: reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels) would save over €80 billion a year in healthcare costs and through increased productivity of a healthier workforce.
We therefore call upon governments around the world to prioritise efforts to address the causes and impacts of climate change. Specifically we urge:
• The European Union to unconditionally agree a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions domestically by 30% by 2020, and to prepare further targets towards 2050 which would incentivise the decarbonisation of the economy.
• Developed countries to adopt more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, to increase their support for low carbon development and to invest in further research into the impact of climate change on health and security.
• Developing countries to actively identify the key ways in which climate change threatens health and democratic governance, as well as undertaking mitigation and adaptation activities, including through supported and unsupported NAMAs.
• All governments to enact legislative and regulatory change to stop the building of new unabated coal-fired power stations and phase out the continuing operation of existing plants prioritising lignite generation as most harmful to health.
• All parties at the climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, to strive to adopt an ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction agreement consistent with the target of restricting the global temperature rise to 2°C as agreed in Copenhagen and Cancun, and in line with the pending UNFCCC review towards a 1.5°C limit above preindustrial levels. A mechanism ensuring that all people can share equitably the benefits of a safe atmosphere without penalising those with the least historical responsibility for climate change must be established.
• All governments to incorporate the UN Security Council Presidential statement from 20 July 2011 on the potential consequences of climate change on security into their short and long term security planning.
• All governments to strive to adopt climate change mitigation targets and policies that are more ambitious than their international commitments.
The statement has received a positive response from the public and press in the UK.
Young environmental leaders from 18 developing countries are gathering in Germany this week to showcase their own, innovative solutions for sustainable development.
The 47 young people were selected from over 800 applicants to represent their countries at the UNEP-Bayer Young Environmental Envoy Programme, which kicked off yesterday in Leverkusen, Germany.
From creating an online map of recycling centres in Argentina, to starting eco-tourism projects for cyclists in Chile or replacing charcoal with eco-friendly briquettes in cook stoves in Kenya, the young innovators are all involved in environmental initiatives in their home countries.
Through interactive workshops and field trips, the Environmental Envoy Programme aims to provide the young green innovators with expertise, support and new ideas to encourage them implement or expand their projects upon their return home.
"The participants in the UNEP-Bayer Young Environmental Envoy Programme are trailblazers in that they demonstrate the kinds of low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy solutions needed for a fairer, more sustainable and prosperous planet", said Nick Nuttall, Acting Director of UNEP's Division for Communications and Public Information.
UNEP will also hold workshops to advise young people on how they can communicate their green projects effectively to journalists, NGOs, governments and potential donors.
The Young Environmental Envoy Program, launched in Asia in 1998, is one of the main initiatives in the partnership between Bayer and UNEP, which centres on youth and the environment.
Originally introduced in Thailand, the Envoy Programme was subsequently extended to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Venezuela and Vietnam.
Since then, some 11,200 young people have applied for a place on the programme and around 500 envoys have been selected to travel to Germany.
Many former envoys now have jobs where they play a key role in environmental protection in their home countries. Through an alumni network on Facebook, envoys past and present can stay connected and exchange ideas and experiences on environmental protection with other green innovators around the world.
The production of cocoa is expected to decline in current cocoa producing regions such as Ghana and Ivory Coast, where the cocoa-growing topography is likely going to be quite different by 2050 as a result of global warming, according to a recent report by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.
The news is not all bad. The report, “Predicting the Impact of Climate Change on the Cocoa-Growing Regions in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire”, states that some currently suitable areas will remain suitable for cocoa farming, provided that the farmers adapt to changing conditions caused by climate change, with the expected higher temperatures and changing patterns of precipitation. Furthermore, the changing climate could cause other areas to become more suitable for cocoa production than they are today.
Notwithstanding that certain areas which are not so suitable now may eventually become more suitable for cocoa production, the report says that declines in cocoa production will be visible by 2030, as the currently suitable areas are expected to reduce in size significantly.
The report also points out the inherent risk that farmers take when they rely on a single crop for their livelihood. It calls for diversification into more heat and drought resistant crops.
As the supply of cocoa declines, producers will probably strive to improve quality. The effect for the consumer could be a higher quality cocoa, and hence chocolate, which is vastly more expensive.
Up until last year, humans consumed two of every 10 ears of corn produced in the US, i.e. 20% of all corn production, while animal feed and ethanol production split the remaining 80% more or less equally.
However, during the 12-month period from August 2010 to August 2011, for the first time, more corn was used by the US biofuels industry than used by domestic farms for livestock feed.
It is estimated that during the said period, animal feed and residual demand accounted for approximately 5 billion bushels, while 5.05 billion bushels of corn were consumed by ethanol production, i.e., the gas tanks of the USA. A small proportion of the corn used for the production of biofuels do get returned to the food supply as animal feed and corn oil.
The amount of corn used for ethanol is expected to rise, since the producers get very good margins from selling ethanol, as a result of a government policy that included a subsidy of 45 cents per gallon, as well as a tariff of 54 cents a gallon imposed on imported ethanol.
The rising proportion of corn being used for ethanol production is driving up food prices. The government policy, which in effect depresses the cost and price of ethanol, not only shuts off imports that are actually cheaper, but turns the US into an exporter of ethanol with its artificially low price.
As a result of the subsidy and tariff support, the price of ethanol became lower than that of gasoline, with the consequence that the US ended up exporting cheap subsidized ethanol while importing relatively more expensive foreign oil. In the meantime, the price of corn for food continues to rise. In response, several US congresspeople are working to eliminate the subsidy & tariff support that incentivizes using corn for ethanol production instead of food.
Australia’s House of Representatives has passed the Clean Energy Legislative Package, consisting of 19 bills. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the Package on Novemeber 7, 2011.
The Clean Energy Legislative Package aims to curb carbon emissions, provide incentive to businesses to transition to clean energy and sustainable practices. The transition to a clean energy future is also expected to ensure that Australia will be well positioned for new business and job opportunities.
Through passing the Clean Energy Legislative Package, Australia will create the world’s second largest carbon market, just behind the European Union Emission Trading System. The carbon pricing mechanism will start on July 1, 2012, at a price of AUD 23 per ton of carbon emissions.
The carbon pricing mechanism is expected to switch to a cap-and-trade system three years later, beginning on July 1, 2015. To prevent volatility, a floor price of AUD 15, and a ceiling price of AUD 20 over the expected international price, will be imposed when the market based trading system starts in 2015.
The Clean Energy Legislative Package has passed after 10 years of debate in Australia. Some business groups had called for the carbon tax to be deferred or watered down, such as reducing the initial AUD 23 per ton price to AUD 10. Finally, the package of 19 bills was passed by 74 votes to 72.
After the passage of the Clean Energy Legislative Package, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said: “Today is a significant day for Australians and the Australians of the future who want to see a better environment."
Autolib, a green car sharing program, is being launched this month by the city of Paris and its 45 surrounding towns.
The new vehicle sharing program is starting with a fleet of 3,000 of the electric Bluecars built by Bolloré.
The Autolib program works similar to Paris’s already existing bike sharing program, Velib, which was launched in 2007, as part of the city’s efforts to promote clean energy use, sustainability, and environmental protection. However, it is recognized that occasionally, a car is needed, while car ownership is not necessarily desirable. The solution being provided is Autolib, a car sharing program for the city of Paris and its 45 surrounding towns, with 100% electric cars that are completely emissions-free.
According to Autolib, the 100% electric Bluecars run on 100% recyclable Lithium Metal Polymer batteries with a life expectancy of 200,000 kilometers, and are made of non-polluting materials. These batteries are highly reliable, resistant to temperature variations, and require no maintenance.
Autolib claims that the 3,000 Bluecars now available in the Paris region correspond roughly to a reduction of 22,500 privately owned automobiles, or about 164,500,000 kilometers fewer per year driven by less environmentally friendly vehicles. The expected results will be better air quality, less traffic congestion, and overall stress reduction.
Subscribers to the Autolib car sharing program will be able to get a car when they need one, and not be stuck with a car when they no longer need it.
The world’s first zero-emissions data center is to be located on a former NATO base in Keflavik, Iceland, and it is expected to be powered entirely by renewable energy sources.
The data center is being built by Colt, a UK telecoms and IT services provider, for data center developer Verne Global.
Colt has manufactured the 500m2 data center, comprising 37 modules, within four months. The modules will be shipped by sea and assembled on site at the Verne Global data center campus.
The location of the Verne Global data center campus in Iceland has been strategically selected so that it can be powered 100% by geothermal and hydroelectric energy. Furthermore, Colt’s modular design has been customized to make optimal use of Iceland’s temperate climate, ensuring that cooling can be achieved by free, fresh air that is available 365 days of the year.
“This is a very interesting project and shows how the industry is transforming,” commented Chris Ingle, Associate Vice President, IDC. “Verne Global's Iceland location and dual source renewable energy provides a combination of sustainability and cost visibility. Colt's approach to data center build provides a fast and flexible way of fitting out the space. The ability to provide a traditional data center more efficiently than is currently the case provides a strong alternative in the market.”
Thomson Airways was the first UK airline to fly customers on sustainable biofuel when flight TOM 7446 took off from Birmingham Airport to Arrecife at 14.25 yesterday carrying 232 passengers.
Thomson Airways' announced "This landmark flight reiterates our position at the forefront of sustainable aviation. The airline already operates one of the highest load factors in the UK industry and therefore makes the most efficient use of its fleet and of the airport slots made available to it. It operates with an emission rate of 75g CO2 per passenger kilometre flown, significantly lower than average emission rates for both low cost and full service scheduled carriers."
Chris Browne, Thomson Airways Managing Director, said: "This is a very exciting day for Thomson Airways and a further step in our commitment to invest in sustainable aviation biofuel. We firmly believe the adoption of sustainable biofuels by airlines will help achieve the Government's carbon budget which commits the UK to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% by 2025. Most strikingly, sustainable biofuel has the potential to reduce aviation emissions by up to 80% in the long term."
The sustainable biofuel used by Thomson Airways is supplied by Dutch-based company SkyNRG, who is advised by an independent Sustainability Board consisting of two leading NGOs and a leading Government scientific institute. Platinum Fuels have been chosen as the fuel handler to fuel the aircraft.
Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers said: "I very much welcome Thomson Airways' announcement and wish them well with this project. The Government believes that sustainable biofuels have a role to play in efforts to tackle climate change, particularly in sectors where no other viable low carbon energy source has been identified – as is the case with aviation.
"We want aviation to flourish and grow but we have also been clear that the environmental impacts of flying must be addressed. I welcome the efforts being made by the UK aviation and aerospace industries to drive forward the technological change we need to tackle this challenge effectively."
However environmental campaigners have called the flight a hollow PR stunt due to what the biofuels are made up of.
Kenneth Richter, biofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth told the Guardian newspaper: "Biofuels won't make flying any greener – their production is wrecking rainforests, pushing up food prices and causing yet more climate-changing emissions. The government must curb future demand for flights by halting airport expansion, promoting video conferencing, and developing faster, better and affordable rail services."
The problem seems to be that biofuels which were once seen by green campaigners to be a viable alternative to fossil fuels are now regarded as being even more environmentally destructive than the fuels they replace. For example, palm oil is now a globally traded commodity and this had led to the widespread destruction of rainforest in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia in order to create plantations.
China's new found prosperity and growth are not surprisingly behind its extensive CO2 emissions but it is their long-outdated traditions that are killing rhinos.
A new study show that constructing buildings, power-plants and roads is what is behind the substantial increase in China's CO2 emission growth. Fast growing capital investments in infrastructure projects have led to the expansion of the construction industry and its energy and CO2 intensive supply chain including steel and cement production. As a result of this transformation of China's economy, more and more CO2 is released per unit of gross domestic product recently – a reversion of a long-term trend.
Previously China's greenhouse gas emission growth was driven by rising consumption and exports. Today this emission growth is offset by emission savings from efficiency increases. This now is thwarted by the building of infrastructure – which is even more important as it dictates tomorrow's emissions, the international team of researchers concludes.
"Up to 2002 there has been a race between consumption growth and efficiency gains," says Jan C. Minx from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Technical University of Berlin, Germany, lead author of the study. "However, the recent rise in emissions is completely due to the massive structural change of China's economy. Emissions grow faster and faster, because CO2 intensive sectors linked to the building of infrastructure have become more and more dominant. China has developed into a 'carbonizing dragon'."
Just recently, China became the world's largest consumer of energy and emitter of CO2, overtaking the US. Emissions almost tripled between 1992 and 2007. By far the biggest part of this increase happened between 2002 and 2007. The average annual CO2 emission growth alone in this period is of similar magnitude than the total CO2 emissions in the UK. Exports show the fastest CO2 emission growth. However, in absolute terms, capital investments and the construction industry are prime, after exports had briefly taken the lead.
There are other important drivers. Urbanization for instance is a more important driver of emissions from household consumption than the sheer growth of population or even the decreasing household size, according to the study. When people move from the countryside to the city, this goes with lifestyle changes. Urban dwellers for instance tend to seek gas heating and electricity. They also depend more upon a transport infrastructure to get to their workplace. All of this implies a higher per capita carbon footprint.
"The energy and carbon intensive nature of capital investment might be hard to avoid as China is an emerging economy building up its infrastructure," says Giovanni Baiocchi from the University of East Anglia, UK. "The high levels of CO2 emissions from capital investment might therefore only be of temporary nature." However, it is crucial that China now invests in the right kind of infrastructure to limit the growth of CO2 emissions that causes global warming." The type of infrastructure put in place today will also largely determine future mitigation costs," Baiocchi says. The study therefore emphasizes that putting a low carbon infrastructure in place in China as well as other emerging and developing economies from the beginning is a key global challenge for entering low emission pathways.
As well as being the world's largest consumer of energy and emitter of CO2, China is also one of the biggest rhino killing nations in the world.
Rhinos have been slaughtered to near extinction to fuel the insatiable demand for rhino horn products in China - all based on myths about its alleged medicinal properties. It is renowned in China for its aphrodisiac powers but is also believed to be a cure-all; sinking fevers, lowering blood pressure, curing arthritis and cancer.
A kilo of ground rhino horn can sell for over USD 120,000 - that makes a whole rhino horn worth more than a million dollars. Some 30 years ago the going price was USD 100 per kilo. The increase in worth is due to the new wealth and buying power of 21st century China.
Solutions to how to stop the poachers hunting the rhinos to death in their natural protected habitats in South Africa and Zimbabwe, among other counties, include poisoning the horns with a substance that is harmless to rhinos but deadly to man. But a life for a life is not really a workable solution. Even though there have been wide-spread educational programmes running in China explaining that the horns are made up of mere protein, keratin, melanin and calcium, the majority still cling to the idea of its magical properties.
Another solution put forward: cutting off all rhino horns to deter poachers would probably negatively affect the tourist trade, after all who wants to go on safari to see rhinos without horn, it would also not deter poachers who would still kill the animals for the stumps. Perhaps the only way to win is to flood the market. Discussions are being held to make it legal to sell the horns of deceased animals and allow the creation of farms where rhino horn would be grated off and sold at regular intervals without the animals being killed.
Asian and African governments must work together to disrupt trade chains and to bring wildlife criminals to justice," said Dr. Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF-South Africa. "Demand for rhino horn is threatening to destroy a large part of Africa's natural heritage. We want to see illegal markets for these products in Asia shut down for good."
The scientific journal Nature has published an article on an ozone hole detected over the Arctic polar region last spring. According to the article, for the first time in the observational record, the ozone hole was comparable to that over the Antarctic.
The article points out that the ozone hole formed over the northern hemisphere in March reached record-breaking dimensions owing to the combined effect of exceptionally cold conditions in the lower stratosphere and high concentrations of ozone-destroying forms of chlorine. Because the cold period lasted until early April, the ozone-destroying chlorine compounds remained active unusually long in spring. In consequence, 80 per cent of the central ozone layer at an altitude of 18-20 kilometres was destroyed. Researchers from the Finnish Meteorological Institute participated in the study, which utilised ozone observations made by the Institute.
Ozone depletion occurs in both polar regions every spring, but it is unprecedented that the phenomenon was so strong in the Arctic polar region. In the considerably colder ozone layer over the Antarctic, a vast ozone hole has formed every year during the local spring since the late 1980s.
The extensive scientific project led by NASA had participants from 19 research institutes in nine countries.
To support ongoing research into "the big melt" where glaciers are concerned a photo album of the changes in glaciers worldwide has been published. To see the often dramatic changes, go to "Glaciers on line", The Big Melt. Some pictures are published in 3D.
It is now six months since the Japanese nuclear power plant suffered three meltdowns at the hands of an earthquake.
On 11 March, an earthquake measuring nine on the Richter scale struck just off the coast of Sendai in Japan, close enough to the Fukushima reactor to cause devastation. In its wake, three of the plant's six reactors went into melt down, triggering explosions and fires. Six months later, what has been done to contain the problem, and what needs to be done?
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated to create a 20 km no-entry zone around Fukushima Daiichi. The Japanese government also removed residents living between 20 and 30 km away from the facility and in radiation "hot spots" further afield. Some of these may never be able to return to their homes.
At the site itself some 2,500-3,000 workers are still cleaning up the radioactive debris scattered by the explosions. Others are installing and operating systems to decontaminate radioactive water. Similar to that which was built at Chernobyl, a cement enclosure is being constructed over the Unit 1 reactor to prevent further contamination spreading to the environment. Similar shrouds will no doubt follow at Units 2 and 3.
Active cooling is still being carried out with water being injected into the reactor cores quickly reaching boiling point, which means that workers must continually replenish it. It is hoped that by the end of the year that the reactor cores will drop well below 100 °C and no longer require active cooling. Then the reactors can be considered stabile once more.
The radioactive water that is still leaking from the plant is being decontaminated and injected back into the reactor cores for cooling.
The biggest hazard for workers is the radioactive debris that was thrown around by the explosions. As some of this is still hot enough to kill anyone who comes close to it within minutes, remote-controlled vehicles are being used to clean it up.
The contamination which has spread beyond the site and is being cleared up by local authorities is mostly in the form of caesium-137.
Unsafe levels of caesium, which has a half-life of about 30 years, have been detected in beef, milk, vegetables and tea leaves. Even in Tokyo, the tap water was deemed too dangerous for infants at one point. Sludge containing radioactive materials is building up at sewage facilities across Japan. And contaminants have been found in sandboxes at dozens of parks and school playgrounds.
"We are doing our best, and counting and measuring the radiation level all the time," says Maeko Nakabayashi, from Japan's ruling Democratic Party (DPJ). "We are extending that to every food product so that people can feel better [and] be assured that the food that they are eating is safe."
Extensive aerial surveys, from the northeast to the central part of the country, are being made to track the spread of radiation. Plans to decontaminate farmland, residential areas and public spaces around the nuclear plant include power-washing buildings and scraping away topsoil from fields and playgrounds.
Cleaning up the surrounding area will take many years and decommissioning the reactor even longer as this will be a long, complicated and costly process which involves removing the uranium from the reactor cores and transporting it away from the coast. This will present an unprecedented challenge as it believed the radioactive fuel inside the reactors has melted down completely and if so some will have leaked out of the stainless-steel pressure vessel in which it was housed to the concrete enclosure below the reactor. As this radiation will remain powerful enough to kill for decades to come, a remote controlled clean up system will have to be developed.
Six months on the future for the Fukishimo area looks grim and the people of Japan are left discussing how it will affect all their futures.
Environmental groups in the UK slam plans to reinstate weekly bin collections claiming it will mean more than a million extra tons of recyclable material ending up in landfills.
UK Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced at the end of last week that an extra £250 million of government funds had been found to allow councils to reintroduce weekly rather than fortnightly dustbin collections.
Friends of the Earth and many charities have reacted angrily to the announcement saying it is a waste of money, disastrous for recycling and that the money could be better used to lessen the impact of spending cuts on services on the most vulnerable.
Over the last few years around half of the UK's local councils switched to fortnightly dustbin collections in order to save money and encourage households to recycle more glass, paper, plastic, tins and food and garden waste.
Fortnightly collections have been met with a mixed response by the general public arousing fear of pest infestations arising from the waste sitting longer in one spot.
Restoring weekly collections was, therefore, a Conservative pledge before the last general election. In response to the issue Mr Pickles said: "I believe every household in England has a basic right to have their rubbish collected every week."
However Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary thinks differently and this led to a clash with Cabinet colleagues when she tried to block the move. Her department's research shows that weekly collections could cut recycling of glasses, plastic and tin by up to 46kg per household and the amount of garden and kitchen waste by between 10 and 100kg.
That would lead to up to 1.5 million extra tons of recyclable materials being dumped annually and raise questions over whether Britain would be able to meet European Union targets for reducing landfill waste.
Friends of the Earth's waste campaigner, Julian Kirby, said: "A return to weekly bin collections is an astonishing waste of taxpayers' money and will have a disastrous impact on recycling."
He believes fortnightly collections have helped to encourage support for recycling, are cheaper and greener and are perfectly safe and hygienic if food waste is collected every week.