Friday, March 12, 2010

Climate Goal Is Supported by China and India

Source: The New York Times
Date: 9th March 2010

WASHINGTON — China and India formally agreed Tuesday to join the international climate change agreement reached in December in Copenhagen, the last two major economies to sign up.

The two countries, among the largest and fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, submitted letters to the United Nations agreeing to be included on a list of countries covered by the Copenhagen Accord, a three-page nonbinding statement reached at the end of the contentious and chaotic 10-day conference.

China and India join 107 countries that have signed up under the accord, which calls for limiting the rise in global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, beyond pre-industrial levels.

The agreement also calls for spending as much as $100 billion a year to help emerging countries adapt to climate change and develop low-carbon energy systems, to bring energy technology more quickly to the developing world and to take steps to protect tropical forests from destruction.

The 192 nations gathered at the Copenhagen climate meeting did not formally adopt the accord, but merely voted to “take note” of it. The inclusion of China and India has only a minor practical effect but will provide a boost for the agreement’s credibility.

“After careful consideration, India has agreed to such a listing,” Reuters quoted India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, as telling Parliament on Tuesday. “We believe that our decision to be listed reflects the role India played in giving shape to the Copenhagen Accord. This will strengthen our negotiating position on climate change.”

Mr. Ramesh confirmed India’s action in an e-mail message.

India sent a letter on Monday to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body responsible for international climate negotiations, stating its intent to join the Copenhagen Accord.

China’s chief climate change negotiator, Su Wei, submitted a single-sentence letter saying that the United Nations “can proceed to include China in the list of parties” signed up under the accord.

Todd Stern, who leads the American climate change negotiating team, said he was pleased to see China and India sign on. “The accord is a significant step forward, including important provisions on mitigation, funding, transparency, technology, forests and adaptation,” Mr. Stern said by e-mail.

Analysts who have studied the pledges find that they fall short of the overall goal of the agreement, but would make a substantial dent in the greenhouse gas emissions that are heating the planet.

China has said it will try to voluntarily reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide per unit of economic growth — a measure known as “carbon intensity” — by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels. India set a domestic emissions intensity reduction target of 20 to 25 percent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels, excluding its agricultural sector.

The United States pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent by 2020 compared with 2005, contingent on Congress’s enacting climate change and energy legislation.

Negotiators are trying to write an enforceable global climate change treaty, but there is little expectation that such an agreement will be reached this year.

The European Union’s climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard of Denmark, said Tuesday that nations should now aim to reach an agreement in 2011 at a United Nations conference in South Africa, rather than this year in Mexico.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Climate Change Report Sets Out an Apocalyptic Vision of Britain

Source: The Times Online
Date: 26th February 2010

Mass migration northwards to new towns in Scotland, Wales and northeast England may be needed to cope with climate change and water shortages in the South East, according to an apocalyptic vision set out by the Government Office for Science.

Heathrow would be converted into a giant reservoir by 2035, there could be severe restrictions on flying and driving and farmers would be forced to sell their land to giant agricultural businesses. Greenhouse gas emissions would be controlled by carbon rationing for individuals, which would lead to “significant shifts in lifestyle as everyone tries to stay within budget”.

The Government would ease pressure on the South East by planning to “disperse citizens to three new towns in Dumfries and Galloway, Northumberland and Powys”.

The vision is published today in a report entitled Land Use Futures: Making the Most of Land in the 21st Century. John Beddington, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, who directed the research, said that climate change and the growing population would present Britain with difficult choices about how it used its land.

“Business as usual is not an option over the longer term. The effects of climate change and new pressures on land could escalate, seriously eroding quality of life,” he said.

The report says that the projected population increase of nine million by 2031 and an increase in the number of single-person households would result in unprecedented demand for land for development and put pressure on natural resources such as water. By 2050, hotter, drier summers could reduce river flows by 80 per cent.

The report, compiled by 300 scientists, economists and planners, includes three scenarios to “stimulate thought” and “highlight difficult policy dilemmas that government and other actors may need to consider in the future”.

All the scenarios involve dramatic changes in lifestyles and landscapes in response to climate change. In the most extreme scenario, world leaders hold an emergency summit in 2014 when it becomes clear that the impacts of climate change are going to be far worse and happen much sooner than previously envisaged.

Read further here

Shrinking Glaciers Threaten Tajikistan's Economic Dreams

Source:Farangis Najibullah
Date:6th March 2010

Suffering From Change

Statistically, Tajikistan is not considered a major contributor to climate change. The country ranks 109th in the world in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions, and 129th in emissions per capita, according to a recent report by Oxfam International. The country’s 7 million people emit fewer than a ton of carbon dioxide per person every year, compared to nearly 20 tons per capita by North Americans.

However, it is one of countries hit hardest by climate change, according to nongovernmental organizations focused on reducing poverty and its causes. A recent Oxfam report, titled "Reaching Tipping Point? Climate Change And Poverty In Tajikistan," warned that shrinking glaciers and extreme weather conditions could erode food security over the next four decades in Tajikistan. It’s a scenario that could have dire consequences if not addressed in time: the loss of flora and fauna, outmigration, and even regional instability.

According to data cited by Oxfam, Tajikistan has seen a temperature rise of 1.0-1.2 degrees Celsius from 1940-2000, while 20 percent of its more than 8,000 glaciers have retreated, and some have disappeared completely. Drought in the country, in which nearly two-thirds of agricultural production depends on irrigation, has become common. Before good rains broke the cycle in 2009, Tajikistan endured three consecutive drought years. During those years, the country’s water supply was dependent on glacier melt to the tune of 80 percent during the summer months; in normal seasons melting glaciers would supply around 10-20 percent of the water that flows through the country’s immense network of rivers.

Temperatures have explored extreme limits: 2008 was one of the coldest winters on record, with temperatures reaching minus 40 degrees Celsius and contributing to crop losses.

Shrinking Glaciers

Scientists predict that droughts will be ever more frequent in the coming years. Oxfam says that in addition to those that have already retreated or melted, up to 30 percent of Tajikistan’s glaciers will shrink or disappear completely by 2050.

The Fedchenko Glacier, a massive glacier located in central Badakhshan Province some 80 kilometers to the north of Barchid, provides one of the most alarming examples. Sitting 6,500 meters above sea level and covering 700 square kilometers, the world’s longest glacier outside the polar regions is melting at a rate of 16-20 meters a year.

Overall, Oghonazarov of the Pamir Biological Institute says, "glaciers, the treasure troves of water, are getting increasingly thinner and smaller." "The amount of water coming from glaciers is diminishing. In the past, spring waters in each village were enough to cover our local irrigation needs," Oghonazarov adds. "Now there’s an obvious water deficit in our villages." Meanwhile, the rivers’ water volumes have fallen considerably because of the shrinking glaciers.

Left High And Dry

Considering that Tajikistan’s glaciers feed some 50 percent of the rivers in all of Central Asia, any drop in the water supply could have severe implications across the entire region. Water resources have already been a source of disagreements between the region’s upstream countries, like Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and downstream Uzbekistan. Dwindling water supplies could bring a rise in tensions.

There are also enormous economic issues at stake. Tajikistan has high hopes to boost its bankrupt economy and resolve its longstanding energy crisis by drawing on its immense wealth of rivers to generate hydroelectric power . Any drop in water volumes could put the country’s plans to become an energy exporter in jeopardy.

It’s not only people who stand to suffer from climate change. Oghonazarov says many rare species of animals and plants could face extinction. "I can speak in concrete numbers. In the recent past, there were, on average, 10-15 wild plants per square meter. Now, that number has decreased by 20-25 percent," he says. "Around residential areas, the amount of grass and plants -- the primary source of food for grazing animals -- has decreased by up to 40 percent due to water shortages."

Read more here

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Drinking water 'under threat'

By TANEKA THOMPSON

The Tribune

THE availability of fresh drinking water in the Bahamas could be jeopardised by climate change and hurricanes, warned State Environment Minister Phenton Neymour, who said this country urgently needs proper water networks and management policies.

Anticipated sea level rise from climate change, hurricane motivated storm surges -- and even heavy rain -- can all contaminate precious water well-fields with brackish, salty water, cautioned Mr Neymour, leading to severe water shortages and unavailability.

Likewise, human acts of environmental negligence -- like digging pits or quarries to obtain fill below the water table or dumping solid and liquid wastes indiscriminately -- also threaten our water supply.

His statements came as he chastised the Christie administration for its "reckless management or mismanagement" of two publicly owned utility companies -- the Water and Sewage Corporation (WSC) and the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) -- actions for which, he said, the Bahamian people are still paying heavily.

The threats underscore the need for properly designed water supply systems or a centralized sewerage system, especially in New Providence, which is burdened with a rapidly growing population of more than 300,000, said Mr Neymour.

"This administration has identified such instances and appropriate preventative and response mechanisms are in trend," he told Parliament during his contribution to the 2009/2010 mid-term budget debate.

The South Beach representative recalled several past natural disasters that wreaked havoc on fresh water well-fields on Cat Island, Long Island, Andros and Grand Bahama, in turn leaving these islands severely depleted of drinking water.

"We may presume that our wells will continue to provide the water we need, and that water will still come streaming from the tap. Hurricane Floyd should be a fervent reminder that being complacent or passive in establishing appropriate water networks could prove disastrous and consequential to our future water supply and to our overall well-being and could place us in jeopardy," said the South Beach representative.

During hurricane Floyd water wells in parts of Cat Island and Long Island were put out of use because of sea water contamination. Similarly, storm surges from hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004 had major affects on the water resources of Grand Bahama while hurricane Frances caused damage to water resources in North Andros, he said.

These two hurricanes adversely affected the country's two major well-fields -- W6 in Grand Bahama and the Barging Wellfield in North Andros, said Mr Neymour.

"These primary well-field locations, positioned in the centre of two of the largest Bahamian islands, were both inundated by the sea water, and became brackish as a result. Parts of the Andros well-field still have high salinity as a result of the saline intrusion. There is abundant evidence in Grand Bahama and Andros of previous events that caused saltwater damage to the environment."

Alarmingly few of these major events were recorded and analysed by the previous administration or officials at WSC handicapping the corporation from designing future mitigation plans, said Mr Neymour.

"This administration is addressing such planning deficits," he said.

The anticipated devastating affects of climate change -- which can lead to elevated sea levels that can devastate our low lying chain of islands -- is also a major threat to our water supply.

"Climate change is expected to result in rising sea levels, in addition to the threat of even more severe hurricanes and storm surges. Therefore, the Bahamas should elevate our awareness and preparedness to the threat that such likelihoods pose to our water resources and to our water supplies.

"In fact, even heavy rainfall events can be disastrous, similar to that which occurred during tropical Storm Noel. Heavy flooding can result in the wastes from septic tanks flowing directly into the private wells of our manipulation. This has been a repeat occurrence in some parts of New Providence."

To mitigate against these threats, the Ingraham administration will focus on enacting environmental and conservation laws and regulations; preventing future improper development in low-lying areas prone to flooding; restrict rock and sand mining activities to approved locations only; and protect beach ridge and coastal dune formations.

Government also plans to adopt appropriate physical planning policies, which will protect infrastructure from storm surges and rising water tables.