Category Archives: Environmental news: International

World Toilet Day pleas for global recognition & proper sanitation

Across the world, countries will observe World Toilet Day on 19 November.  Because the stark reality is that one in every three people (predominantly people living in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia) do not have access to a toilet and proper sanitation systems.  To put this in perspective: the amount of people without proper sanitation is as high as half the developing world’s population.

Public sanitation facility in Liberia. Throughout the developing world, public sanitation is considered a luxury, something many people have to live without - and a far cry from Western standards.

Public sanitation facility in Liberia. Throughout the developing world, public sanitation is considered a luxury, something many people have to live without – and a far cry from Western standards.

Poor hygiene and the lack of sanitation is truly a silent killer.  Up to 6.3% of all deaths can be prevented by proper hygiene and sanitation.  And in terms of diarrhea morbidity, proper sanitation can eliminate up to 37.5% of diarrhea deaths.  This is exactly the aim of World Toilet Day: to bring awareness to the severe threats of not having access to proper sanitation, and how this is impacting on the world population.

As the global struggle for proper sanitation continues, UNICEF announced some less positive news: the world is not on track in meeting the Millenium Development Goal for sanitation.  Besides the MDG target for sanitation, another 1.8 billion people (about 25% of the world population) would have been left without proper sanitation.  And now, with the news that the world is not on track in meeting its sanitation target, failing to meet the MDG target means that as much as another half a billion people will be failed in the hope of proper sanitation.

Proper sanitation is a social, economic and environmental issue.  Sanitation is a central key to disease prevention, while it can reduce environmental pollution in some ways.  In economic terms, poor or lacking sanitation often goes alongside poor economic conditions, informal settlements and low-income levels.  Yet, the complexity of the apparent solutions remains an obstacle for much of the developing world.

As the world continues to face the sanitation crisis, this year’s World Toilet Day will aim to create opportunities and hope for those in need of proper sanitation – and the myriad of direct improvements sanitation can bring to their livelihoods and environments.


Photo credits: some rights reserved by EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection via flickr [Creative Commons]


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Rapid bee population die-offs while agrichemical companies plea innocent

For environmentalists, a spoonful of honey no longer bears a sweet taste.  Concern about the world’s bee population is rising sharply as research continues to show a rapid decline in bee numbers.  US beekeepers are reporting recent colony declines of up to 50%.  But what is causing this rapid bee die-off?  Well, Monsanto recently hosted a Bee Summit to find answers, although the answers they were looking for were supposed to prove agrichemical innocence.

What role do agrichemicals play in the rapidly declining bee population?

What role do agrichemicals play in the rapidly declining bee population?

Man’s existence relies on having bees around.  Bees pollinate plants allowing continued food chain cycles – crops and harvests for human consumption and for livestock feed.  There is some deep thought in the relationship between humans, plants and bees: without plants on the earth, humans are unable to survive.  Plants are primary food sources for the human race and at the same time we rely on the role of trees in the carbon cycle, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing pure oxygen.  Yet plants intrinsically rely on bees for pollination and continued existence.  Thus in basic terms, an unsustainable loss of bees means huge trouble for the human race.  

Many scientists believe that chemicals used in agricultural practices, agrichemicals, is the main suspected bee population decline cause (other potential causes still researched include electromagnetic disruption and GMOs affecting bee life cycles and nutrition).  On the point of agrichemicals, leading agrichemical companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta vehemently disagrees.  Conventional agriculture uses large volumes of agrichemicals for higher yields, but this means large volumes of chemicals, including aluminium, organophosphates, acid and alkaline agents released into the environment.  Last month, the European Union took definite action towards controlling insecticides.  Three of the most commonly used insecticides, all neonic insecticides, will soon be banned across the EU.  This step follows major debates and voting; agrichemical companies lobbied hard to avoid this ban while countries Germany and Britain previously refused to approve the banning of these insecticides.  

The bottom line remains this: agrichemicals are toxic substances.  It does not take an expert scientists to say that high volumes of these toxins in the environment will cause damage.  And high volumes it sure is.  The sole three insecticides banned in the EU have an economic value of billions of dollars – explaining why leading agrichemical companies refuse to acknowledge that their chemical products are harmful to bees.  But the European Food Safety Agency claimed otherwise, rating these insecticides as an acute risk for the world’s bee populations.

In the coming years we may see some greater resolution on which of human’s activities are in fact the greatest cause of bee die-offs, but till then, we are inclined to follow the EU’s resolution – agrichemicals are harmful and application control is necessary.  A proactive approach is critical, as the urgency of Einstein’s well-known prediction explains: “…if bees disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life on earth left.”

Photo credits: some rights reserved by cipovic and acidpix via flickr

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How aquaculture is placing food on the table and conserving the environment

ID-100134552The balance between human resource needs and the environment’s ability to supply these – the environment’s supply threshold, is a critical matter with a somewhat unfortunate future: a balance is not achievable for the world’s current population combined with the state of the environment.  But the good news is that innovation, coupled with the re-discovery of sustainable living, is showing us a brighter way forward.  As we came to understand and grasp nature’s thresholds, new ways are found to satisfy human needs and demands, while protecting our valuable and often irreplaceable environmental resources.  Aquaculture is one such example.  

Aquaculture, the cultivation or farming of fish, saw its first baby steps in the 1950s, after which it spawned across the entire globe, filling fish tanks on all continents.  This week, the New York Times announced the possibility that the majority of fish consumed during 2013, will be farmed fished.  This means that human pressure on wild fish populations are getting less as markets start to rely on aquaculture and less on fish caught in the open water.  And for specific seafood, the rate of aquaculture consumption is even higher: reports state that 90% of the shrimp consumed in the US,  is aquaculture produce.  In 2008, aquaculture production estimates indicated a 35% contribution to the world’s fish consumption.  Due to its global exponential growth, from China to Africa, aquaculture rates the fastest growing food-producing sector across the globe. 

Apart from relieving natural stock and contribution to food security, which in itself are major factors, aquaculture has added benefits of income generation, skills transfer, employment and economic development.  Aquaculture is however not without environmental impacts and constraints, many of which are high intensity impacts.  In aquaculture practices where the farmed fish remain in contact and near wild populations, known as mariculture, the risks of waste and pollution spreading to wild populations are significant.  The economic side of aquaculture has caused a bit of gold rush, with unfortunate exploitation of coastal ecosystems that would have remained intact if aquaculture did not prove to be such a booming business. By design, it is particularly the sensitive nursing spots of wild populations that are often favoured for specialised aquaculture.  Shrimp farming has caused significant degradation of mangrove forests.

Although environmental degradation and impacts accompanied the early phases of the aquaculture boom, considering aquaculture over the long-term, future term, it does illustrate sustainability: serving man by placing food on the table, providing economic benefits while conserving natural fish stocks.  As we head into the serious aquaculture production phase, environmental protection should be the most critical deciding factor, or else the benefits of aquaculture will start to trickle down to a negative level.


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Photos: Some rights reserved by atmtx via flickr and chayathonwong2000 and worradmu via

Sources: The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD):Aqualculture, 2008;  The New York Times: Milestone Looms for Farmed-raised Fish, 5 February 2013

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February 5, 2013 · 4:24 pm

How Brazil is slowing down deforestation of the Amazon rainforest

Brazil is slowing down deforestation of the striking Amazon rainforest which covers more than half of Brazil.  For four consecutive years, deforestation rates lowered consistently.  And this, is no small feat.

Rainforest loss of 1,798 square miles was recorded in 2011-2012.  However, a recent announcement by the Brazilian Minster of Environmental Affairs brought good news that deforestation decreased by 27% in the last year.  The country’s National Institute for Space Researched also confirmed a slower rate of deforestation.  The Institute started recording rainforest deforestation in 1988, and proudly announced that 2012’s deforestation recording is the lowest since the Institute started its recordings.  But how did Brazil manage to slow down deforestation of the rainforest which is under immense human and development pressure? And could the same measures be implemented to combat deforestation elsewhere on the globe?

Amazonia statistics

Field Trip - View from the Canopy WalkwayRecords show that since 1970, over 230,000 square miles of Amazon rainforest were destroyed.  Deforestation in Brazil’s recent past was the highest in the world.  And the environmental impacts are huge: the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, is one of the world’s greatest natural resources and environmental assets.  Up to 20% of the earth’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest – earning its title as “Lungs of the Planet”.  The biodiversity is incredibly high.  Scientists reckon that the canopy of the rainforest alone, is home to at least half of the world’s species.  In terms of economic benefits, the Amazon rainforest itself is not only a rich economical resource for the local region, but the soils and favourable climatic factors make the Amazon basin a valuable and productive agricultural region.  And for these reasons, the Amazon rainforest is critically vulnerable to extreme exploitation – exactly what has happened during the past century.  Preservation of the Amazon rainforest has been high on conservation agendas worldwide, but for many decades the need for economic growth and income generation, even if through illegal means, prevailed, causing continued loss of forest to transformation.

Turning deforestation around

Moving from severe forest transformation to the slowing down of deforestation, Brazil is set to slow down the exploitation of the Amazon rainforest even further.  A number of strategies in Brazil’s rainforest management process can be highlighted:

  • Forest Code: Following decades of debate on how the country should balance agricultural development and production with conservation of the rainforest, Brazil’s government passed the controversial Forest Code during April 2012.  Although the law provides somewhat limited protection to the forest, some controversial parts of the bill was vetoed – and is surely contributing to avoiding deforestation.
  • Focus on illegal forest clearing:  advanced information systems now guards portions of the forest – helping the government, federal police and Brazilian Intelligence Agency act on illegal forest clearing.  An even higher tech information system, exposing illegal deforestation taking place in small and hidden corners of the rainforest, will be launched early 2013.
  • Reducing carbon emissions:  Brazil is a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, as well as other legally binding agreements to carbon emission reductions.  Preventing the deforestation of the rainforest is a critical means for Brazil to achieve their carbon emission reduction targets.
  • Monitoring and enforcement: satellite monitoring plays a main part in Brazil’s fight against deforestation.  This is supported by a strong team of enforcement on the ground.
  • Integrated government policies: In 2004, Brazil launched the  Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation of the Amazon (PPCD-Am).  This integrated plan involves 13 government agencies, and actively work together with grassroot organizations to combat deforestation.

The future

Through means of both national and international legislation, technology, active enforcement, and involvement of the local community, Brazil has shown the world how deforestation can be slowed down, albeit slowly.  Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is deadly – and it remains a deadly impact of great concern for the future.  Likewise, deforestation across the globe is a long-term to permanent impact of national and global extent.  Other countries can indeed learn from Brazil – their deforestation combatting strategies can be tailored to specific needs and will bring about positive change if actively implemented.  However, as with many other global environmental concerns, enduring the pressure from human populations and establishing long-term forest preservation will need more than just management: solutions are needed.  Rainforest countries must find new means of development and growth – relying solely on the Amazon rainforest for economic growth and community development will mean that preservation of the rainforest will be overpowered.  Brazil is making excellent progress with rainforest preservation – now to apply innovation for lasting protection.

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Photo credits: some rights reserved by Dingilingi and Multivac42 via flickr

Sources: The Amazon Rainforest; Environment News Service; and PPCD-Am

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COP18 expectations: will it be enough, and in time?

The 18th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) kicks off today in Qatar with delegates, NGOs, activists, and media from 194 nations attending.  Ahead of COP18, UNFCCC’s executive secretary, Christiana Figueres, indicated their confidence that the climate conference will bring success for climate change negotiations and the transition towards a low carbon global economy.  But what specifically is COP18 aiming for? And what can we, the public, expect from the COP18 negotiations and thereafter?

UNFCCC’s expectations for COP18

  • Extension of the Kyoto Protocol:  Expectations are that the Kyoto Protocol will be amended at COP18, allowing extension of the protocol from 2013 to 2020.  The developed world’s global carbon emissions account notably to global emissions – the European Union and United States contribute 11% and 16% respectively to global carbon emissions.   The EU confirmed their willingness to sign the Kyoto Protocol 2013-2020 extension, but the United States remain unwilling – until such time as other major economies including specifically China, signs.  Other key developed countries including Australia, Norway and Switzerland, indicated their support for the Kyoto Protocol extension ahead of COP18.
  • KP2 could become a reality:  With the 1997 Kyoto agreement coming to an end with the closing of 2012, a second commitment period of the protocol, KP2, could begin January 2013.  Although negotiations under signature countries, and countries outside of the agreement, commenced even prior to COP17, and were feverishly undertaken during the last few months, all eyes will be on COP18 for final discussions on the second commitment period.   An unofficial draft of KP2 was finalised in September 2012, but Australia, New Zealand and Ukraine’s inclusion remain uncertain, but possible.
  • Finance talks: Funding for climate change action is a major problem for many countries and available funding is drastically reduced by the global economic stagnation.  This is also one of the key reasons for failing climate actions (or its absence) particularly in developing, but also developed countries.  A financial expectation from COP18 is to engage with the OPEC countries on potential contributions for the near future.  To date, OPEC countries were very much in the back seat, but are increasingly showing dedication to sustainability and renewable energy.
  • Green Climate Fund: The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established at COP16 with the aim of supporting developing countries in implementing climate actions.  At COP17, governing instruments for the fund were confirmed, subject to the Convention principles.  The expectation for COP18 is that delegates will finalise all outstanding arrangements, allowing for the GCF to act to its full potential.
  • Clean Development Mechanisms & carbon markets:  The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) success to date is not rated very highly.  WWF reported on design flaws and resulting negative atmospheric impacts, adding to the global carbon emission volume.  For KP2, the aim is that CDM projects will proactively deal with the expected carbon leakage, unlike CDM projects under the first commitment period which did not deliver real global carbon reductions.

A lot of talk and expectations, but is it enough?

KP, KP2, GCF, CDM… COP18 has a number of expectations to live up to, but let’s consider the larger picture.  Are these expectations enough?  This question is particularly relevant in light of UNEP’s recent warnings that this century’s global warming forecasting is now much more intense than ever before –  climate change scientists recently revealed shocking research: there is a 20% chance of a 4°C increase by 2100.  The opportunity to change our carbon emissions is quickly running dry, and climate change is not waiting for any sealing of negotiations or action plans to reach operational phases.  If all goes smoothly at COP18, we could expect to see the above negotiations fall in place, but there is a little voice, backed by scientific data, shouting that time is up.  Act today.

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Photo credits: some rights reserved by kk+ and CGIAR Climate via flickr

Sources: Responding to Climate Change (RTCC); Ernest & Young; WWF Position Paper (November 2012) &

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Amur falcon migration killings could seriously reduce total population

The Amur falcon, Falco amurensis, is a fine-looking and characterful little raptor.  This raptor family is known for its yearly transcontinental migrations, covering about 14,000 miles.  Southern Africa is their wintering grounds.  As winter arrives in the northern hemisphere, they make their way to Southern Africa from south-east Siberia and northern China.  A long journey from their breeding grounds to survive the hostile cold of the northern hemisphere winter.  The Amur falcon, as with most other bird migrations, does not fly non-stop, they temporarily rest at staging posts along the way.  For the Amur falcon, one such staging post is Nagaland, north-east India.  But for many of the 2012 migrating Amur falcons heading to Southern Africa, this stage post was their last stop, ever.  Conservationists recently confirmed the tragic reason why a notable percentage of Amur falcons, do not reach their migration destination points.

Quarter million Amur falcons hunted during migration stopover

Conservation India reported that a total of at least 120,000 Amur falcons, migrating to Southern Africa and stopping over in India, was killed in one week.  The organisation estimates that the falcon killings can be as high as 14,000 per day.  The method of mass capturing the birds is quite distressing – hunters hook up large fishing nets in trees on the banks of the Doyang dam, effectively trapping the tired birds intending to branch overnight.  Hunters sell the falcon as ‘bush meat’ on local markets, selling for US$ 0.3 – 0.5 per bird.  Ornithologists tracking the Amur falcon’s migration between Southern Africa and Mongolia, became worried after realising that large numbers of falcons are not leaving India after what is supposed to be a short stopover.  And this is how, with the help of Conservation India, it was discovered that up to a quarter million of Amur falcons are hunted down during their annual migration through India.

Even though the Amur falcon is listed as “Least Concern” in terms of the IUCN conservation status, ornothologists believe that such massive killings of the falcon, will affect the species’ survival.

Convention on Migratory Species: India a signatory

UNEP’s intergovernmental Convention on Migratory Species aims to ensure the safety of migrating animals and birds, avoiding obstacles in the way of safe migration, and allowing the safe arrival of the migratory species.  Migratory species often need more careful conservation, along the entire migratory route.  India is a signatory of this treaty – the falcon killings in Nagaland are thus utter disregarding of the treaty.  In response to the recent discoveries, Conservation India has actively stepped up and has already taken action in the Amur falcon killing hotspots.  Furthermore, the organisation has developed a range of mitigation measures to be implemented.  The localised nature of the hunting spots (the banks of the Doyang) allows for effectively control to be implemented, effectively preventing the extensive killings.  Following the 2012 migration season discoveries and alarm from Conservation India, district officials published a media notice in the Morung Express, warning against the trapping, killing and selling of Amur falcons.

Meat demand uncertainty

The greatest cluster of Amur falcon hunters was found in the small village of Pangti.  But Pangti has a very small population and authorities remain baffled by the large number of falcons killed – these numbers cannot be consumed by the villagers.  Even with selling of birds in nearby Doyang and Wokha villages, the supply is thought to exceed the demand.   A case of overhunting for no apparent reason, or a case for hopeful income?

Call for action – how you can help

Conservationists and NGOs globally were quick to follow the discovery with media publicity.  This is one conservation concern that can be resolved and Conservation India is optimistic that 2012 will be the last year for Amur falcon killings in Nagaland.  What can you do?  Support Bombay Natural History Society (BirdLife India) by donating to this fund to assist the organisation in preventing the Amur falcon slaughtering.  Spreading the news on the recent killings recorded, are equally pivotal.  Only in creating an awareness of these migratory species and working with the local authorities and communities, can this Amur falcon threat be eliminated.

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Photo credits: some rights reserved by Ian n. White, berniedup and ILRI via flickr

Source: BirdLife International; Conservation India and IOL SciTech

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Five environmental protection success factors learnt from Latin America

Latin America is known for its natural beauty and high level of ecological biodiversity, including many wonderful (and weird!) species.  An environment unmatched anywhere else in the world, Latin America is home to a number of the world’s ecologically most diverse countries, including Brazil, Ecuador, and Mexico.  And now, Latin America is showing the rest of the world how seriously they take environmental and resource protection.  It’s hard to believe, but this world region with its limited economic resources in comparison to other world regions, are leading in global environmental protection.  What is Latin America’s secret? Here are five environmental protection factors which helped Latin America reach their highly sought after environmental protection status:

#1: Well-defined conservation objectives

Latin America has well-defined conservation objectives, and this is a crucial step towards activating and achieving environmental protection.  With well-defined conservation objectives, developing action plans and keeping with the targets became easier and more effective as proven by Latin America’s recent conservation highlights.  One such example is the curbing of deforestation in Acre, Brazil.  With clear conservation objectives and action plans, deforestation was reduced by 70% over a mere five years.

#2: Side-stepping old technologies

Development in the Western world, particularly where energy generation and technologies are involved, highlighted major environmental impacts and concerns and unsustainable practices.  This could prove to be a successful learning curve for the developing world – showing where development and economic growth could be changed to avoid environmental impact.  And Latin America has ceased the opportunity.  Known environmental impacts associated with conventional technologies were side-stepped, allowing Latin America to bolt into the future, clean and sustainably.

#3: Securing conservation financing

Conservation efforts require a good financial support.  With reliance on public financial support declining, new avenues and collaborations are needed to secure conservation funding.  The World Bank reported on conservation funding escalations in Brazil.  The funding source?  Environmental trespassing compensation payments from industries.  With diligent management, conservation funding is allocated to the country’s environmental protection.

#4: Recognise conservation allies

Local communities.  Local communities often have generations of knowledge of their surrounding environment – they are part of the environment.  Latin America has shown how adopting coalitions with local communities, and giving them ownership of the environment and protection responsibilities, have resulted in environmental protection successes.

#5: Legal support

None of the above protection factors will be truly effective without legal support.  With broad spectrum legislation frameworks in place, the governments of Latin America have the necessary instruments to support and enforce environmental protection.  Legal support ties in closely with clear conservation objectives, and also include the empowering of all conservation role players to ensure that legislation is applied correctly and consistently.

Latin America has achieved a most-desirable level of environmental protection, and with it’s well-founded strategies expected to continue, a well-protected Latin American environment can be expected for the future.  Now, will other developing countries learn from Latin America’s success, and follow their example?

Photo credits: some rights reserved by bsmith4815, Roland & Sonja and joshbousel via flickr

Sources: The World Bank. Expanding Financing for Biodiversity Conservation: Experiences from Latin America and the Caribbean (2012);

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Rhino and elephant poaching receives US boost

Conservationists and animal activists worldwide are rejoicing the official ‘threat status’ given to rhino and elephant horn poaching.  This follows on the announcement made by the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, that the US Intelligence  Community recognises poaching as an international security threat and ordered for the official tracking of poachers.  Poachers heavily armed with automatic weapons and operating with air traffic, has raised the international risks involved to the extent that the US now intends to take action on these international crimes.  With the recent announcements made, Hillary Clinton noted that the US is one of the greatest markets for trafficked goods.  Markets, as the root of wildlife trafficking, could not be ignored.  Is the aim of her department, to spread the ethic: buying trafficked goods are socially unacceptable.  The US intelligence agencies received further orders to assess the impact of wildlife tracking on US security matters.

The US Intelligence Community’s intended focus area is Asia and Africa.  A country such as Tanzania loses around 10,000 elephants per year due to poaching.  South Africa in particular has been hit by a rhino poaching endemic , killing 1,500 threatened rhinos since 2008.  In 2012 alone, a total of 458 rhinos were killed – the highest number of yearly rhino killings for the country to date.  Despite vigorous attempts from animal activists, conservationists and the country’s security systems, South Africa’s rhino poaching tally continues to increase drastically.  Sadly and to the frustration of many, the entire illegal trade market is based on Asian medicinal myths.  Conservationists and activities worldwide urgently dissuades: rhino horns have no medicinal value.

Wildlife trafficking is reaching an ‘out-of-control’ state, particularly in Asia and Africa.  The need for new combatting strategies and measures, as never applied before, is clear.  Assistance from the US in establishing a global coalition against poaching and illegal trade will also bring much-needed discussions between world leaders – it is after all a global struggle.

Photo credits: some rights reserved by doug.kukurudza and johnmuk via flickr

Sources: TheGuardian, The New York Times: The Opinion Pages and The Calgary Herald

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What does Hurricane Sandy tell us about climate change?

The past week’s Hurricane Sandy was a superstorm of note.  Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane measured to date – and in the Unites States alone, the hurricane affected a total of 22 states.  A major storm surge hit New York City on the eve of October 29 and Lower Manhattan was severely flooded.  Hurricane Sandy left monstrous devastation in her path – New York and New Jersey are now declared disaster areas.  Considering that Hurricane Sandy is the worst recorded hurricane in our history, what does this tell us about climate change?

Sandy’s climate change components

With the recent coverages on superstorm Sandy, scientists warned that careful analysis is needed – and warned against purely and unconditionally accrediting the happenings to climate change and global warming.  However, scientists agreed that Hurricane Sandy’s impacts were indeed worsened by the following climate change elements:

  • Sea level rise: scientific records show that the current water levels surrounding New York is almost a foot higher than a century ago.
  • Increased ocean temperatures fuelling hurricanes: compared to data from a century ago, the current Atlantic Ocean temperature is two degrees warmer.
  • The Gulf Stream with water temperatures of 80F was warmer than usual, causing Hurricane Sandy to build up even more as it passed the Gulf Stream.
  • Climate change and meteorological scientists have finally agreed: with climate change resulting in higher temperatures, future hurricanes might be less, but definitely stronger and wetter.
  • The recent Arctic warming could potentially have contributed to Hurricane Sandy turning for New Jersey, unlike the usual eastern turn out to the ocean waters.  High pressure hovering over Greenland, potentially due to the warmer Arctic, is a possible reason believed to have blocked Hurricane Sandy, preventing the normal hurricane behaviour.

Sandy’s important conclusions

Considering recent scientific reviews of Hurricane Sandy, a few important conclusions need consideration:

Firstly, Sandy is not the complete manifestation of climate change.  But, climate change has definitely worsened the way it played out.  Weather patterns are changing – and with it comes new and unexpected weather happenings.  Climate change is at the door and it is bearing risks.  Therefore, climate change predictions should be taken seriously, and it cannot be considered in isolation of its safety and economic impacts.  This is what Hurricane Sandy is telling us about climate change.

Photo credits: some rights reserved by kakela, SlickChick170 and magicrabitt22 via flickr

Sources: MPR News; The Christian Monitor, Contra Costa Times,, The New York Times


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Britain’s public remains divided on fracking

A survey to determine Britain’s public view on energy sources delivered interesting results.  The British is all for renewable energy, but they remain divided, and perhaps even indecisive, on the matter of large-scale hydraulic fracturing.  But could this be due to published government reports leaning towards support for large-scale hydraulic fracturing in Britain?

‘Britain’s geohydrological conditions acceptable for fracking

Earlier in 2012, scientists associated with the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society officially reported that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is more commonly known, could be given the go-ahead in Britain.  Their reasoning is based on the geophysical characteristics of Britain: geological and geohydrological conditions that could potentially sustain fracking.  Sustaining fracking with limited environmental pollution and contamination, that is, according to the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society scientists.  

The study anticipated no major seismic risks, or at least, nothing more than small earthquakes with tremors similar to the ramblings of a truck.  The scientists involved did however recommend that rigid guidelines and monitoring be incorporated – should the British government go ahead with large-scale fracking.

A complicated and dry matter

According to Britain’s Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), shale gas exploration throughout the UK is still in an infant phase and figures on the available shale gas reserves are not yet reliable.  But this does not mean that the UK does not have significant sources of shale gas.  A 2010 British Geological Survey gave indications of potential shale gas supply that could fuel the UK for some time.

But the matter is largely more complicated than this.  A former BBC News journalist reported on two minor earthquakes associated with the UK’s very first fracking attempt.  And it is only after these two minor earthquakes that the study by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society study were undertaken.

The amount of water  needed for fracking operations is a major global concern.  Frankly, these water reserves are not available or sustainable, regardless of geographical location. The consumption figures is beyond worrying: estimates are that a single fracking attempt requires five million gallons of water. The amount of water required can vary with the depth of the well.  But note, freshwater is needed – it makes one question why on earth is fracking even potentially on the books?

Convincing against fracking needed

With the recent discovery of extensive shale gas in northern England,  as well as the shrinking oil and gas resources in Britain’s North Sea, there is a good chance that British government could explore large-scale  fracking as an option to secure the country’s energy needs, albeit for short-term energy security.

However, with the recent public survey totaling both the anti-fracking and pro-fracking groups of Brits at 30%, there could well be an opportunity for increased awareness raising on the environmental impacts and hazards associated with fracking.  And potential convincing of the 30% pro-fracking Brits that fracking indeed will cause large-scale environmental and resource destruction.

Photo credits: some rights reserved by simpson391 and cecily.rose via flickr.

Sources: UK Department of Energy & Climate Change, PlanetSave and Al Jazeera

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