Posts tagged UN.
The IPCC is releasing a massive new report on global warming. But is there anything we didn’t already know back in 1990?
liberalwithguts asked: I was wondering, what regions and what environmental issues are you the most concerned about?
Thanks a lot for following me all this time. Well, at a cerebral level, I worry that China is getting a free pass. The argument in favor of China’s growth while getting away with horrible environmental harms is basically that the country first has to grow and stabilize. This is hard to argue against. Once incomes and education and health indicators are at a certain level, so says the Chinese government, only then will they remediate their environmental destructions. (Go here for a list of China’s Environmental Issues). Only consumer-based economies have proven track records following this rapid growth/aggressive resource extraction and then stabilization/clean up model.
Most western countries followed this approach, too - rapid economic growth paired with extreme resource extraction, then efficiencies through technology, and then clean up. I’d argue that major countries, the UN, and the World Bank encourage this model.
Severe though China’s problems with water, soil and air are, they are not different in kind from those of other nations in the past. As Pan Jiahua of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) puts it, “We’re following the US, Japan and UK and because of inertia we don’t have the capacity to stop quickly.” Via
But I think China is different than the West. It’s compressing what Europe and the U.S. did in 400 years down to 25. China’s ravaging ecosystems at such great speeds and big scales that there’s no built-in recovery time.
During that 400 year growth period, New England, for example, was deforested four times. How four times? Because the forests had time to bounce back and recover. I’m not saying America is righteous. I’m saying that China seems to be ignoring the capabilities of ecosystems to recover at such rapid paces and large scales - it cannot deforest four times in 25 years.
In August, the Economist explored how China’s rapid growth comes at the expense of tremendous environmental pollution. Check it out if you can.
In real life I worry about sea level rise along coasts in western countries. Yes, poor countries will be hit hard. Distasteful as it sounds, coastal communities in poor countries can be moved (sometimes by force) much more easily than, say, Manhattan or Miami. And the world needs the economies of western countries in order to recover. If the west suffers, so will the rest of the world with respect to environmental recovery and disaster response efforts.
You can read about displaced people, called Climate Refugees, here.
And why should the world care about its new climate report? We tell you everything you need to know to sound smart at a cocktail party.
The international community spent $13.5 billion on reducing the risk of disasters in the past two decades, just 40 cents for every $100 of aid, and a tiny amount compared with the $862 billion in disaster losses suffered by developing countries, according to a new study.
The report from the London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI) said funding for disaster risk reduction (DRR) has been concentrated in a small number of middle-income countries, such as China and Indonesia, with many high-risk nations - especially poor, drought-prone states in sub-Saharan Africa - receiving negligible financing.
The top ten countries received nearly $8 billion between them, and the remaining 144 just $5.6 billion combined. The inequity of disaster risk reduction spending is clear when broken down on a per capita basis. Ecuador, the second-highest recipient per capita, got 19 times more than Afghanistan, 100 times more than Costa Rica and 600 times more than Democratic Republic of Congo , for example.
"A haven for human rights can be built for everyone, block by block." - New Lego model of United Nations Headquarters unveiled. Note, the UN building was designed by 11 of the world’s most famous architects, including leads Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer, and Wallace Harrison, Max Abramovitz, Sir Robertson, etc. Illustrations of the building, here.
Anonymous asked: What are your thoughts on vegetarianism/veganism? Especially taking into consideration the possibility of a (worsening) global food crisis.
I generally avoid food posts, but am interested in the infrastructure that supports food systems.
One part of my current contract with USAID is a resilient wheat project in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is the 6th largest wheat producer in the world and mostly exports to east and central Europe, the Caucuses, and Asia.
Farmers there are facing three main issues: extreme temperature swings, which are increasing in frequency and causing terrible economic havocs; when to plant their crop, a problem because the planting timing and growing seasons are shifting; and shortage of storage silos for the wheat, especially in bumper seasons.
This last part - where to store the wheat - is probably the biggest issue developing countries (DCs) face with respect to dealing with climate impacted growing seasons. The farmers in Kazakhstan don’t trust the government, nor their seasonal forecastings. Nor do they (generally) reliably purchase crop insurance. So, the farmers tend to plant “when my neighbor plants,” put their finger to the wind, and hope for a good season. It’s very risky, and very unstable. They lose when there is a bad year, due to bad timing of planting, storms, droughts, etc.
But, and back to your question-ish, some years produce so much wheat that the farmers actually lose money. The reason is two fold. First, they lose on market price. The market price goes down when there is an abundance of wheat, it goes up when there is a shortage. The other problem with high-volumes is that there’s no storage system or infrastructure to support a storage system. Thus, all the silos get filled very quickly when all farmers produce record crops - when the silos are filled, the wheat is literally thrown away.
Tl;dnr, “the food crisis” is typically not due to a bad weather year, but due to inefficiencies in distribution. There’s plenty of food grown in the world. Climate change will affect the patterns of growth, but not to such an extent that the systems cannot adapt and adjust.
Getting crops from farm to table is the real issue…
Check out the UN’s Food Security program for more.
Scientists will hike pressure next week on the UN’s troubled climatetalks as they release a report pointing to the dizzying challenge of meeting the international body’s target for global warming.
In the first volume of a massive trilogy, the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its projections for warming by 2100.
Just a single scenario — and by far the toughest to achieve — sees the possibility of safely anchoring the temperature rise to within two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), according to a draft seen by AFP.
In the other projections, the UN’s much-trumpeted 2 C goal will be overshot.
At the very top of the range, warming would be more than double the UN target and more than triple that set by vulnerable small-island states.
Warming on this scale would gravely accentuate the peril from drought, flood, storms and rising seas.
"It’s been known for a long time that we are running out of time," said Alden Meyer, with the US environmental group the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
"The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes and the more expensive it gets."
The UN’s panel of climate scientists has issued only four overviews in 25 years. The last was in 2007 and despite fierce opposition from skeptics, climate science has made many advances since then.
The work released in Stockholm on Friday comprises a 2,000-page report authored by 257 scientists, plus a 31-page Summary for Policymakers.
The World Meteorological Organization branded 2001-2010 as “a decade of climate extremes”. Over that decade, the yearly average number of severe storms with ‘names’ was 25 percent more than the average of 1981-2010. This surely indicates a severe decade ahead of us.
The United Nations’ Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR) 2013 adds further to our worry. It estimates that at least 50 percent of the direct financial losses are from smaller disasters taking place at the country level and is not counted in the global calculations.
If our post-2015 efforts need to “put sustainable development at the core,” despite worrying pasts and uncertain futures, we must address climate change and disaster resilience. To do so, among other things, we need creative funding systems with practical actions at the country and global levels.
The least-developed, climate vulnerable countries are often seen waiting for money to come to help them. Bangladesh is a different picture, however. Between July 2009 and June 2013, its government has put about $315 million of its own money to the ‘Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund’. Until April 2013, more than 200 projects have been supported from this Trust Fund to implement the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP, 2009) to prepare the country against the impacts of climate change.
The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Rainforest Alliance, and the World Wildlife Fund are pleased to announce the release of three new, self-paced and web-based courses on climate change and REDD+ on www.conservationtraining.org.
The curriculum, Introductory Curriculum on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Conserving and Enhancing Forest Carbon Stocks (REDD+), provides an introductory level of understanding on climate change, deforestation, forest degradation, and REDD+. This new version contains up-to-date information on policy and implementation as well as a cool new facelift and improved interactivity. It is divided into three courses:
•Course 1, Introduction to Climate Change and the Role of Forests, the focus is on background information on climate change, the drivers of deforestation, and strategies for reducing deforestation and forest degradation.
•Course 2, REDD+ Policy, we cover the essential aspects of the technical, political, financial, social, and environmental issues related to REDD+.
•Course 3, REDD+ Implementation, the focus is on the basics of implementing REDD+ activities at various scales.
The course is freely available to anyone who is interested.
Basically, methods to conserve forests. www.conservationtraining.org
The world has failed us
President Rafael Correa said Thursday that he has abandoned a unique and ambitious plan to persuade rich countries to pay Ecuador not to drill for oil in a pristine Amazon rainforest preserve.
Environmentalist had hailed the initiative when Correa first proposed it in 2007, saying he was setting a precedent in the fight against global warming by lowering the high cost to poor countries of preserving the environment.
Correa reverses his position, gets ready to drill the Amazon.
He said the global recession was in part responsible but chiefly blamed “the great hypocrisy” of nations who emit most of the world’s greenhouse gases.
“It was not charity that we sought from the international community, but co-responsibility in the face of climate change.”
Correa had sought $3.6 billion in contributions to maintain a moratorium on drilling in the remote Yasuni National Park, which was declared a biosphere reserve by the United Nations in 1989 and is home to two Indian tribes living in voluntary isolation.
But he said Thursday evening that Ecuador had raised just $13 million in actual donations in pledges and that he had an obligation to his people, particularly the poor, to move ahead with drilling. The U.N. and private donors had put up the cash.
Correa said he was proposing to the National Assembly, which his supporters control, oil exploration in Yasuni amounting to less than 1 percent of its 3,800 square miles
His no-drilling plan had envisioned rich countries paying Ecuador half the $7.2 billion in revenues expected to be generated over 10 years from the 846 million barrels of heavy crude estimated to be in Yasuni.
Not drilling in the reserve would keep 410 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, officials had said during their global lobbying campaign that included organizing tours of the reserve for journalists.
But while Correa’s proposal generated interest, there were few takers, in part because he insisted that Ecuador alone would decide how the donations would be spent. European countries expressed the most interest but still balked.
Ecuador is an OPEC member that depends on oil for a third of its national budget. The three oil fields in Yasuni represent 20 percent of its oil reserves. Via
A disaster resilient planet means everyone must be part of the solution.
If you’re living with a disability, take this survey from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and share your thoughts.
Interesting conversation at the link. How do city planners, architects, engineers, researchers, etc., think about people living with disabilities?
This one hits close to home. A few years ago, my grandfather was confined to a wheel chair and moved in to live with my mother for care. Her house was about 80 years old and was quite small. Doorways and halls were narrow. One day, as an experiment, I decided to sit in his wheel chair and get a drink of water. I was curious about how difficult it must have been. I was also curious about if I could fit through the doorways.
The entire experiment was incredibly frustrating. Getting through the narrow doorways wasn’t the biggest issue, it was the sharp turns just after some of them. To get to the kitchen, I had to do an immediate 90 turn. It was craziness, sort of like the ultimate parallel parking situation, wheeling back and forth, one hand pushing a wheel, the other pulling. Inch by inch. But that wasn’t the worst part, it was trying to get a glass from the cupboard. I couldn’t reach up past the counter, which at 36 inches high, impeded my reach. There simply was no way for me to reach a glass. I could reach the bottom corner of the cupboard to open it. But I couldn’t reach in to get a glass, nor could I reach the nobs on the back of the sink without getting out of the chair.
Right then I realized that western style homes were only for the able bodied, and certainly not for the disabled. Further, there was no affordable way, to my mind, to retrofit or ‘adapt’, homes with ease to accommodate people with failing faculties. Old people are physically weakened, and across a counter and up to a cupboard is, seriously, a dangerous task. It’s no wonder elderly are always falling - it’s a design issue.
Right after that experience I donated a wheelchair to the Environmental Design and Urban Planning departments at the University of Massachusetts, where I earned two of my degrees.
I asked one of the professors to be in charge of the chair, and challenge her students (with supervision) to perform one task: get a cup of coffee and bring it back to class. The results, I’m sure, are perpetually hilarious. But these students will, it is my hope, think about design in the built environment with everyone in mind.
In the Netherlands, urban planners and engineers think about all users. They think about how children, parents, the able bodied, and the elderly can use and grow with their cities. They also think about the disabled (great video, I cannot watch this without, err, the room getting all dusty).
So, there is precedent to include the disabled into planning. If you’re a disaster manager of any sort, try to think about what it would be like confined to a wheelchair - how would you find elderly people in time to evacuate them? How can the leave the house? Who could they call? Who would be around to respond? Do the side walks and streets provide a reliable exit?
She’s here! We are honoured to welcome Malala Yousafzai to the United Nations to celebrate her 16th birthday as part of the “UN Youth Takeover” event.
Join us in pledging to deliver the best gift of all — quality education for every girl and boy in the world.
Watch the special events taking place at the UN on Friday here: http://bit.ly/MdmCqq
Malala Yousafzai, inspiring girls around the world. Malala was shot in the head while coming home from school by a Taliban man for writing a critical blog post when she was 11. Now, at 16, she is the youngest person ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (tba October).
Four of the National Missions under India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change focus on climate change adaptation in the areas of agriculture, water resources, forests and the Himalayan eco-system. Successful adaptation to climate change, however, requires recognition of poor women as critical partners in both driving and delivering solutions because women often constitute a majority of the work force in these sectors.
This pilot research documented some of the gender-differentiated climate change impacts and adaptation interventions. It also examined scientific evidence and women’s perceptions on how key climate parameters like rainfall, temperature and wind patterns are changing and how this is affecting their agriculture-related livelihoods. The research suggests specific gender-responsive policy and practice recommendations for the implementation of the four adaptation-focused National Missions.