A water quality emergency has been declared after two oil spills in theAmazonas and Loreto regions of Peru‘s Amazon. Two days ago the Ministry of Health declared the emergency in the districts of Morona, Manseriche, Barranca, Pastaza and Cahuapana (Loreto) as well as the Imaza district, located in the province of Bagua (Amazonas). The spills have contaminated water resources of as many as 8000 people living in the districts reported by local news outlet reports. A vast area of cocoa fields has been affected as well.
The first breach in the pipeline occurred on January 25th in the Bagua province of Amazonas, eight miles from a creek which feeds the Morona River, a major tributary of the Amazon river. The second spill from the same pipeline began on February 3rd in the Datem del Marañon province in the neighboring Loreto state, according to statements published on Perupetros website.
Anibal Velasquez, the Health Minister has visited the province of Loreto to assess the situation. The Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Northern Amazon of Peru (ORPIAN-P), a regional group, have filed a complaint with the Agency for Environmental Assessment and Enforcement (OEFA), alleging that Perupetro failed to oversee the maintenance work of the pipelines and did not act quickly enough to control the leaks. A commission from OEFA traveled to the site of the spill to investigate its environmental impact and obtain water samples for analysis. Allegations against Perupetro have surfaced for hiring minors in the cleaning process. The company is offering two dollars per bucket of crude oil that the residents collect.
For a long time, the oil and gas industry have left deep scars in Peru. And previous attempts to hide the real scenario have surfaced with protests andinvestigative reports.
In 2009, protests against oil exploration in the Bagua Province of Amazonia caused 32 police deaths, 41 native deaths and more than 150 native injuries.
Illegal logging and forest clearance by oil companies now accounts for about two-thirds of Peru’s carbon pollution, according to researchers from the Carnegie Institute for Science. Five Separate spills from the pipeline were reported in 2014, when the equivalent of over 10,000 barrel of oil is said to have leaked from the pipeline. Still the Peruvian government aggressively pursues expansion of oil and gas operations in the Amazon — with devastating consequences for local indigenous peoples and the environment, as well as those very same global efforts to reduce carbon pollution.
As the world leaders get ready to meet in Paris for 21st Conference of the parties (COP21), to establish a solid ground to solve the climate crisis, doubts shadow whether or not corporate business and big oil polluters have taken over the agenda.
The corporate involvement, specially fossil fuel lobby groups within the UNFCCC is not new. From the very beginning of the earth summit and 1995 COP1 (Statement by the International Chamber of Commerce before COP1) in Berlin till cop20 in Lima, we have seen corporate parties taking every action to jeopardize any climate agreement and to make sure their interest is not harmed, which they refer to as ‘Business as usual’.
The negotiation to bring the countries on same page in solving climate crisis has been going on for 20 years now through COP. And each time the outcome was same: No universal agreement. Closest were COP3 and COP15, but there were no legal binding. The corporations and fossil fuels lobbyist group played a key role ensuring that.The failure of 20 climate summits to date has corresponded with a dramatic speed up of greenhouse gas emission rates. In fact, since 1988, more than half of all industrial carbon emissions have been released, raising the prospect of irreversible climate change.
But, why do organizations like UNFCCC let business corporations take over things? A short history lesson will help us understand that.
Back in 70s, UN took up an initiative to monitor big corporations so that they can’t create pressure on underdeveloped nations for business. With time, UN changed that policy and the companies were given priority to invest in the name of foreign direct investment through UN. Later in the 90s, the financial crisis within the UN, opened doors for more Corporate-UN partnership. UNFCCC is just one part of it.
The corporate influence within UNFCCC—Polaris Institute
With COP, the whole world has seen the effort fossil fuel lobbyist group indulge in. From ‘business as usual’ market based solution to ‘greenwash’ every effort has been put into place to care for profit, not for the environment. To them, climate action is important, but can’t jeopardize the growth. Carbon tax is another loophole, which shifts focus from emission reduction to emission transfer.
So, when the French Senate cut funding for COP21, the French government’s announced that corporate sponsors would cover 20 percent of the €170 million event was not a surprise.
Corporate Europe Observatory, Corporate Accountability International and many other civil society organizations have been pointing out the corporate involvement with COP for years. The corporate sponsorship of COP21 creates a dangerous conflict of interest in two key points :
Most of the sponsors invest heavily in fossil fuel, and with a weak climate agreement, they benefit the most
UNFCCC and its member governments are allowing the corporations responsible for causing the climate crisis to greenwash their brands while continuing to make no meaningful changes to their polluting operations.
Just because we have not counted the victims of climate change, does not mean they are not there.
How do you define victims of climate change? What happens when climate change takes it’s toll?
One such phenomenon due to climate change is migration or mobility which can be characterized by the production of ‘refugees’. [Farbotko & Lazrus, 2011]. It took us some time to use the term ‘climate refugee’ even though ‘environmental refugee’ came into being in 1990s . These are yet to become legal terms.
Climate change refugee is a term used to describe people temporarily or permanently displaced across national/international borders by the effects of climate change. The concept is closely linked to that of ‘ecological refugee’ which has been used since the 1970s and ‘environmental refugee’ – used since 1990s – to denote persons who are forced to migrate for environmental reasons nationally or internationally [Docherty & Giannini, 2009; Farbotko & Lazrus, 2012; Williams, 2008].
Some have suggested that climate change refugees should be incorporated under the existing Refugee Convention, but for others the very usage of the term ‘refugee’ is considered inappropriate, as this might undermine the protections currently offered to conventional refugees [Williams, 2008]. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) avoids any reference to refugees, and instead refers to ‘environmentally displaced persons’ which it defines
persons ‘who are displaced from or who feel obliged to leave their usual place of residence, because their lives, livelihoods and welfare have been placed at serious risk as a result of adverse environmental, ecological or climatic processes and events
The UNHCR has also made clear that these persons do not fall under their mandate for internally displaced people. In recent times, migration and refugee has become a major concern for many of the developed and developing countries. Though many perceive, Ecological disasters do not typically lead to mass migrations, this has been proven to the contrary with increasing occurrence of climate disasters over the last 40 years. Most of this type of migration occurs within countries, instead of internationally. Case studies indicate that sudden onset disasters will generally cause only short-term local displacement, This may be due to economic and social factors, as those most affected are often poor with little social support and thus have limited mobility.
Norman Myer, first ever put a number about world’s Environmentally displaced people. According to estimates by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), around 185 million people were displaced by disasters in the period 2008–14. Found in a policy brief in 2008, below are some numbers.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) estimated in 2001 that for the first time the number of environmental refugees exceeded those displaced by war.
UNHCR (2002:12) estimated there were then approximately 24 million people around the world who had fled because of floods, famine and other environmental factors.
IPCC predicts 150 million environmental refugees by 2050 – equivalent to 1.5% of 2050’s predicted global population of 10 billion.
Myers, who in 1993 predicted 150 million environmental refugees, now believes the impact of global warming could potentially displace 200 million people (Myers 2005).
The Stern Review, commissioned by the UK Treasury, agrees it is likely there could be 200 million displaced by 2050 (Stern 2006).
UNEP argues that by 2060 there could be 50 million environmental refugees in Africa alone.
Most apocalyptically, Christian Aid have postulated that a billion people could be permanently displaced by 2050 – 250 million by climate change-related phenomena such as droughts, floods and hurricanes and 645 million by dams and other development projects (Christian Aid 2007)
Now, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified three expected effects of climate change which are considered as trigger effects for migration. These are: more frequent flooding; more frequent droughts; and a rise in sea levels. Climate change migration will affect populations in small island states, low lying coastal areas, Africa, Asia and Latin America with sea level rise symbolizing the greatest danger to these regions. Researches suggest that migration is not inevitable, as once financial resources are available protective measures can be implemented; thus, even sea level rise can be somewhat neutralized by engineering, like the case of Netherlands.
The countries which are and will suffer the most effects are generally those which contributed the least to climate change. These countries should get compensation and migration initiative to cope up with the change. As COP21 is few days away, it will be interesting to see what actions INDCs and country leaders take in order to address climate refugees if they take any at all?
Wetlands are the most productive ecosystem in the world, and the most threatened as well. Why? Cause 60% of the world’s population live around such environment. Wetlands provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife, protection from hurricanes and flooding. Then they have recreational opportunities, water purification ability and can recharge groundwater supplies. But, Wetlands continue to decline globally, both in area and in quality. As a result, the ecosystem services that wetlands provide to humans and society are diminishing. Ramsar Convention has been providing the basic framework for wetland conservation.
The Ramsar Convention is a major Environmental Agreement which works as standard for wetland management and biodiversity governance system. Though development of Ramsar was a lengthy process as universal consensus was the target, the convention was signed in Ramsar (Iran) in 1971 and came into force in 1975. The mission of Ramsar Convention according to 4th Strategic Plan (2016-2024):
Conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.
The Ramsar convention was adopted to stop the continued destruction of wetlands, particularly those which support migratory waterfowl, and to recognize the ecological, scientific, economic and recreational values of wetlands (Kusler and Kentula, 1990; Hails, 1996). There were two characteristics in the conceptual development of the convention: 1) Area protected by conservation approach and 2) an immutable deference to ‘national sovereignty’ was echoed (Hettiarachchi et al. 2015). International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was asked to host to ensure neutrality and there was funding shortage as well.
Ensuring the conservation and wise use of wetlands it has designated as Wetlands of International Importance,
Including as far as possible the wise use of all wetlands in national environmental planning, and
Consulting with other Parties about implementation of the Convention, especially in regard to trans-boundary wetlands, shared water systems, and shared species.
44 years later, the Ramsar convention works as the ‘bible’ for wetland regulation and management. In the 12th meeting of the Convention of Wetlands (2015), the key messages delivered were:
The global extent of wetlands is now estimated to have declined between 64-71% in the 20th century, and wetland losses and degradation continue worldwide.
Because of wetland losses and degradation, people are deprived of the ecosystem services that wetlands provide. Adverse changes to wetlands, including coral reefs, are estimated to result in more than US$20 trillion in losses of ecosystem services annually.
Despite some positive news about Ramsar Sites, even these are under threat. For example, although populations of wetland species appear to be increasing in Ramsar Sites overall, populations of wetland species in Ramsar Sites in the tropics are decreasing.
While there are ongoing initiatives that will provide a more precise picture of the extent of the world’s wetlands, it is clear that there is a negative trend and wetlands are still being lost or degraded, resulting in negative impacts on biodiversity and other ecosystem services.
Policymakers have sufficient scientific information to understand the urgent need to take appropriate actions to conserve wetlands and their services to people.
SO, how successful has the Ramsar Convention been? Michael Bowman in 2002-03 wrote:
considerable progress which has been made in the realms of wetland conservation over the thirty years since the Ramsar Convention was concluded, not least in the rehabilitation of the image of wetland features in human consciousness. Although the provisions of the Convention as originally drafted were deficient in various respects, a great deal of time and effort has been devoted to their clarification, amplification, and development, primarily through CoP resolutions, and this has undoubtedly enhanced the potential of Ramsar to advance the cause of wetland conservation
Ramsar Convention is one of the six treaties which are in the Liaison Group of Biodiversity related convention. Ramsar guidelines support legal initiatives, including litigation and advocacy, to protect wetlands worldwide e.g. Mexico, USA, South Africa.
Urban wetlands were not formally considered before 2008 (Res. 27), and Urban setting is the most complex and crucial due to the fact that environmental degradation is more complex in cities, specially in developing countries.
For example, Bangladesh has only two wetlands as Ramsar sites and the data for these two site are not up-to-date and there are other sites which should come within the convention.
Foundations for an energy storage plant in Ireland that could “revolutionise” the integration of renewable power into electricity supplies will be laid within weeks.
The plant will use a motor-generated flywheel to harness kinetic energy from the grid at times of over-supply. This will then be released from submerged turbines at times of supply shortfalls.
The project in Rhode, County Offaly, is expected to launch commercially in 2017, with an operating capacity of 20MW.
Although the system will initially feed off all energy in the grid – clean and dirty alike – it has the potential to resolve the transmission system operators’ dilemma of how to store large amounts of energy created during windy or sunny conditions for instantaneous use when the weather changes.
At the moment, such energy shortfalls are compensated for with fossil fuel generators such as coal or gas-fired power plants, or by hydro pump storage. Unlike conventional coal and gas generators which have an efficiency ratio of 35-40%, the flywheel operates at upwards of 85-90% efficiency.
“The hybrid flywheel is a disruptive innovation with the potential to revolutionise the system services market, decoupling its provision from electricity generation by delivering energy-less system services,” Jake Bracken, a research manager for the Schwungrad Energie project, told the Guardian.
“In Ireland we have a 50% maximum limit on the amount of intermittent renewable energy that we can take on at any one point. But Eirgrid [the Irish transmissions systems operator] is looking at increasing it to 75% over the next decades and our system has the potential to facilitate that,” he said.
In flywheel plants, advanced carbon fibre tubes up to 3m high and 1m wide are floated on magnets inside a vacuum, and spun by electricity in a near frictionless environment, until power is needed back in the grid.
The technology’s impact will be keenly watched in Brussels, where the EU’s vice president for energy union, Maroš Šefčovič last week called for an overhaul of Europe’s last-century grid networks for a future in which they will carry data, products and services, as well as energy.
“Smart grids will do for us what shale gas did for the United States,” he told a Brussels conference. “Smart grids should become the EU’s shale as, if we had them today, we would need 30% less transmission capacity.”
The EU envisions a future in which grids become immediately responsive to consumer demand, allowing people to sell back surplus electricity from their solar panels or electric cars to the electricity network. This would singularly reduce the power of energy utilities, but would require investment now.
Currently, “you have many streets in the EU where, if you plugged in five electric cars at the same time, you would blackout the neighbourhood,” Šefčovič said. “We will soon be talking about many thousands of electric cars on our roads and for that we need to make sure our grids are smart, resilient and can handle new demands that are not here today.”
One of the Irish project’s co-designers, professor Noel Buckley of the University of Limerick, said that it would be able to match variable renewable energy supplies to consumer demand, whenever it arose.
“The grid is designed to run at 50 hertz and when there is an imbalance between supply and demand, the frequency starts to change,” he told the Guardian. “When wind goes down, generating capacity goes down, and even if the wind comes back up in a few minutes, you need to have some energy to put back into the grid in the short term.”
By using back-up flow batteries which store electricity in tanks in a liquid form, “you can scale up your power and storage capacities separately so that, in principle, the storage can be unlimited,” he added.
So far the technology has only been used on a limited basis in the US, but the Irish project is already attracting interest from national grids across Europe, which plan to increase their renewable energy penetration in the years ahead.
The flywheel project has received funding from the European Commission and the Irish government. It is expected to create 50 new jobs.
Last Tuesday I came across an article on national geographic magazine stating that
Only 40 percent of Americans, according to the most recent poll from the Pew Research Center, accept that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming.
An explanation was given as well in the article:
The “science communication problem,” as it’s blandly called by the scientists who study it, has yielded abundant new research into how people decide what to believe—and why they so often don’t accept the scientific consensus. It’s not that they can’t grasp it, according to Dan Kahan of Yale University. In one study he asked 1,540 Americans, a representative sample, to rate the threat of climate change on a scale of zero to ten. Then he correlated that with the subjects’ science literacy. He found that higher literacy was associated with stronger views—at both ends of the spectrum. Science literacy promoted polarization on climate, not consensus. According to Kahan, that’s because people tend to use scientific knowledge to reinforce beliefs that have already been shaped by their worldview.
Americans fall into two basic camps, Kahan says. Those with a more “egalitarian” and “communitarian” mind-set are generally suspicious of industry and apt to think it’s up to something dangerous that calls for government regulation; they’re likely to see the risks of climate change. In contrast, people with a “hierarchical” and “individualistic” mind-set respect leaders of industry and don’t like government interfering in their affairs; they’re apt to reject warnings about climate change, because they know what accepting them could lead to—some kind of tax or regulation to limit emissions.
I tried to test this, and my findings were similar. I asked 10 of my friends who are American and half of them are involved in scientific research work. I asked them whether they believe climate change is caused by humans for the last 200 years. Interestingly the answer came up ‘no’ in 8, even though I gave 6 of them agreed there is scientific evidence.
One of the common reason came out, is—the record keeping. We have been keeping records from 1659 and a clear warming trend since 1880, when modern scientific instrumentation became available to monitor temperatures precisely. So, to them it’s not long enough to say humans are reason for global warming or climate change. According to one of my friend and participant:
Who knows this maybe a cyclic process, that happens every few thousand years, I believe it’s natural, we are not effective enough to change the course that god decided for us.
But most valuable comment came from a professor, when he told personally he believes that it is not caused by humans, but his research arena is climate change and he wants the funds to keep coming in.
That brings me to my focal point: Is not America suffering themselves from Climate Change?
Let’s just look at California for instance, facing it’s worst drought in 1200 years. Now, if you don’t want to believe science, stop believing in all the technology and medicines. Oh, I forgot 1 in 5 Americans do believe vaccine causes autism (Kahan Strikes in this case, as the 1998 research paper that set off a sharp decline in vaccinations in Britain after the paper’s lead author suggested that vaccines could cause autism. Kahan: Science can’t not take away the core believe you often have).
20 hours ago, standing in a brown field that would normally be smothered in several feet of snow, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered cities and towns across California to cut water use by 25% as part of a sweeping set of mandatory drought restrictions, the first in state history. Well, this is not just it. Let’s have a look at US overall Water Stress Index:
As you can see most of the west of severe water problem. Here is a comparison with the World on water Stress Index:
So, United States faces environmental problems. Whether you agree it’s you or not causing it (as human). Let’s look overall disasters. In 2014, there were 8 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $8 billion across the United States. These events included a drought event, a flooding event, 5 severe storm events, and a winter storm event. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 53 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.
Now, Most countries are concerned about climate change and they want to know what is going to happen in their own country first and are funding work for their specific area. So how much money does US spend on fighting climate change, is a question I asked my self, here is what I got from a simple Google search:
Estimates reveal that the federal government will spend more money on fighting global warming than it will on tightening border security. Global-warming spending is estimated to cost approximately $22.2 billion this year and $21.4 billion next year which is .57% of the total federal budget, twice as much as the $12 billion estimated for customs and border enforcement.Oct 30, 2013
I then tried to look at how much US contribution is in mitigating climate change effect. Turns out they are second in line contributing around 1.9 billion dollars:
There is also the spending on clean energy, US have spent 7.9 billion dollars in the clean energy field in FY 2014 and the overall R&D in USA is predicted to be declining:
All these brings me to again Kahen’s second type of Americans again. If you look at the Social Safety Net spending and climate change spending, that will tell you which side US government is working towards.
Now, in June 2014, EPA released the Clean Power Plan — the first-ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants on the path toward a 30 percent reduction in carbon pollution from the power sector by 2030 from 2005 levels. But here is the catch:
So, stats matter, as 30% sounds better than 15%. And there are states which have to work towards making a plan by 2016 for cutting emission and there is flexibility. There are states that are already not willing to go down easy with EPA. Since 1992 (Earth Summit), the world can see the political play of global warming at state and federal level in the United States
The United States, although a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, has neither ratified nor withdrawn from the protocol. In 1997, the US Senate voted unanimously that it was not the sense of the Senate that the United States should be a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol.
So, what has changed over time? Except for industrialization and population? I agree with gapminder regarding population, it will balance by 2100. But, the climate change will not, unless we work together. We have unearthed so much in the last 200 years that it will take centuries or even millenniums to restore it, or may not be ever possible. But right now what we can do is fight, fight climate change.
As I write, reports come in of 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit shines on Antarctica, the chilly continent recorded the temperature (15.5 degrees Celsius) on March 24, possibly the highest ever recorded on Antarctica. As the temperature rises across the globe, so does the energy consumption, disease and other side effects.
Many in USA will agree with me, while trying to balance power the system is almost failing. In short run, states may face loss economic and other sides, but in the long run, this can restore the balance. It was truly said,” Government by the people, for the people, of the people”, at least in this case. As the opinion is divided, people needs to understand the shear consequences of human activity on climate change. Otherwise, it might be too too late.
As I stand here in front of my contemporaries, I believe we are here to talk about one of the two core issues that the fate of the countries in 21st century will depend on—water. We often hear that “the third world war will be about water.” I often fear that it will be a reality for the third world nations. As we lag behind in natural resource and energy sources, sustainable source of water is a key concern for our countries.
Finding the source of fresh water and managing it—is a core issue, I feel specially for African countries. But what is surprising is the fact that most of the countries have policies and strategies regarding water and sanitation. But unfortunately, none of the instruments fully cover the ground reality as often those are made based on standard policies of developed world. The scenario is different in case of low and middle income countries. An example of such occurred in 1992, when nations of the world came up with their environment policies at Rio where each and every policy presented was illustrating a bright future. But few years later we found the implementation was tough at it met little of the ground reality.
Environment and women are linked like a chain to each other. Development of one can certainly be the reason of upholding the situation of the other and vis-à-vis. In the arena of water, it is the women, who play, nevertheless, a key role of associating the water with the human world. Therefore, we really need to understand the dynamics of the inner affiliation between women and water. Most framed Water Policies are not generated in gender sensitive manner and there are evident flaws in implementation of the policies.
Corruption, cost and quality are issues that we already talked about in water sector. As researches have proved that living condition is highly correlated with water access to people, it is high time we think of sustainable, affordable and effective process for developing countries. Community awareness is necessary to provide such service and to deal with associated problems I mentioned. With awareness corruption, cost and quality can be dealt with, authorities need to provide platforms to keep people accountable. We should focus on local research as well. Sustainability of water system will vary region to region and it’s important to consider local resources as well as supply method and purification process.
So core issues, I believe are source, quality, management, cost, gender sensitivity, accountability and sustainability for the water policies. To ignore any would be a mistake in this 21st century.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is offering 2 five-months fellowships to young professionals from the region who are interested in contributing to the work on climate change adaptation or on gender and youth related dimensions of climate action.
Funded by Norway, the deadline to Apply is 15th July, 2014. Eligibility Criteria are:
Be a SIDS national;
Be employed by a SIDS government or governmental institution/organization;
Be between 24 and 35 years of age;
Have experience or knowledge in the areas of either climate change adaptation, or gender and/or youth and climate change;
Have preferably completed a Master degree, or equivalent;
Have good communication skills in English
The fellowship programme is not intended for students and does not provide financial support for obtaining an advanced university degree or PhD studies.
Two weeks back, for academic purposes I had the chance to go to Dhaka City Corporation (North). I got to know about some of the amazing work they are doing including renovating public toilets, creating wifi zone within the corporation office arena, using the roof top space for composting, rain water harvesting and many more.
Here is a glimpse of some of the photos I got the chance to take.
I really liked what they did with the building as well. Trying to recycle and improvise. Such initiatives and steps should be told to people to make them aware of the good things the government and the authority is doing.