THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS
Wednesday, 12 September 2007
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News
; UN panel wakes up to prof‘s idea (The Telegraph)
; Europe Global Leaders from the Worlds of Art, Conservation, Design,
Policy, and Technology Ignite New Perspectives Through a Symposium on
Creative Approaches to Climate Change (PR Newswire)
; Kenya; Kibera Slum Wakes to Bright Dawn (East African Standard)
; Climate change A geoengineering fix? (Aerospace America)
; Le nombre de fortes tempêtes augmente (La Croix)
Other Environment News
; Berlin climate meeting helps to pave way for Bali: UN official (AFP) ; Support builds for carbon cash to save forests (Reuters) ; Expert says climate change will spread global disease (AFP)
; Move to identify climate change security hotspots (The Guardian) ; U.N. urged not to exclude Taiwan from Basel Convention meeting (Central News
; ‗Feel Good‘ vs. ‗Do Good‘ on Climate (The New York Times)
; Study to eye environment effects on children (NY Daily News) ; Whale 'success story' questioned (BBC)
; Cyprus to give away energy saving bulbs (Reuters)
; Mercedes to sell fuel-cell car from 2010 (Reuters)
; Getting Some More Blue Into the Danube (IPS)
; Côte d'Ivoire: Le ministre de l'environnement encourage le reboisement (Fraternité
; Swaziland: La sécheresse affecte la production de maïs (Le Potentiel) ; Anita Roddick, pioneer whose dreams turned the high street green, dies at 64 (The
Environmental News from the UNEP Regions
Other UN News
; UN Daily News of 11 September 2007
; S.G.‘s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 11 September 2007
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News
The Telegraph (India): UN panel wakes up to prof’s idea
Professor Bharat Desai still remembers the day in 1999 when, at a World Bank conference in New York, he had first suggested that the United Nations‘ top environment programme be upgraded to a permanent body.
No one paid much heed to Desai‘s proposal then. Eight years down the line, the UN is considering a fresh plan almost identical to the one made by Desai, and has approached the Jawaharlal Nehru University professor for assistance.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) may soon be upgraded to the United Nations Environment Organisation, but Desai is unlikely to be directly credited for the change. ―The proposal being considered isn‘t the one Desai made. But his contribution will also be recognised,‖ a senior UNEP official in Delhi said.
Desai himself said he was not ―hankering‖ after recognition. His aim, as in 1999, was to bring environmental problems to the forefront of global talks. Desai holds the chair for International Environmental Law at the university‘s Centre for International Legal Studies.
PR Newswire Europe Global Leaders from the Worlds of Art, Conservation, Design, Policy, and Technology Ignite New Perspectives Through a Symposium on Creative Approaches to Climate Change
SAN FRANCISCO, September 11 /PRNewswire/ --
- Symposium to Coincide with the Opening of Art Exhibit Melting Ice - A Hot Topic: Envisioning Change in Brussels on 5 October 2007
The Natural World Museum (NWM) partners with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) through the global "Art For the Environment" initiative, a curatorial program that utilizes the universal language of art as a catalyst to unite people in action and thought on a broad spectrum of environmental topics. As part of the "Art For the Environment" program, NWM is hosting a traveling exhibit entitled Melting Ice / A Hot Topic: Envisioning Change, which kicked off its tour in Oslo at the Nobel Peace Center during UN World Environment Day in June, and will next arrive at the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, on 5 October 2007.
"UNEP and NWM have joined forces to generate environmental awareness through the Art for the Environment initiative," said Achim Steiner, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UNEP. "This initiative utilizes the universal language of art as a catalyst to unite people in action and thought and to empower individuals, communities, and leaders to focus on environmental values across social, economic, and political realms."
Melting Ice / A Hot Topic: Envisioning Change features more than 40 international artists from 25 countries and will coincide with NWM and UNEP's annual international symposium of acclaimed speakers.
As the capital of Europe, Brussels is the ideal city on this exhibit tour to host NWM and UNEP's annual international symposium discussing critical social, economic and political aspects of global warming from diverse perspectives. The symposium, coinciding with the exhibit opening, aims to foster a deeper understanding of the causes and effects of climate change, as well as discuss sustainable solutions for individuals, communities and industries.
Melting Ice / A Hot Topic: Envisioning Change features paintings, sculptures, photography, multimedia and conceptual installations to explore such questions as "What is climate change?" "What are the political implications?" "How does sustainable development create a pathway to peace?" and "Why should we care?"
These questions will also be addressed by the symposium's panelists: Carl Bass, President and CEO of Autodesk; David Guggenheim, President of 1 Ocean 1 Planet; Peter Matthiessen, Novelist and Environmental Activist; Subhankar Banerjee, Artist and Educator; and moderated by Haroldo Castro, Conservation Filmmaker and Journalist.
"The Natural World Museum is not a traditional museum, it's a museum without walls," stated Mia Hanak, Founding Executive Director of the Natural World Museum. "We offer traveling curatorial programs with environmentally inspired art to a broad spectrum of people. By presenting innovative programs that parallel our exhibits, such as this symposium, we provide creative resources to engage our international audience in sustainable actions."
Transcending the traditional museum venue, the Natural World Museum is a mobile and global cultural institution that presents art through innovative programs to inspire and engage the public in environmental awareness and action. NWM has already produced exhibits in partnership with UNEP in cities such as Algiers, Nairobi, Oslo, and San Francisco.
The current international exhibit tour of Envisioning Change, sponsored by Autodesk -- a global design software leader -- will remain at the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium from 6 October 2007 -- 6 January 2008 and travel on to Monaco and Chicago in 2008.
"Autodesk is proud to be supporting the Natural World Museum and the UN Environment Programme through this important international exhibition," said Carl Bass, President and CEO of Autodesk. "Together we will further the dialog about promoting smart growth in a sustainable world, and demonstrate the critical role design can play in this process."
While the effects of climate change are taking place on a global level, from the Andes to the Arctic, from Africa to Asia and the Americas, Natural World Museum's curator Randy Rosenberg states "We've asked artists from around the world to focus on just one dimension: the thawing and melting of the ice caps and permafrost, and the implications for humans and other species."
Artists participating in Melting Ice / A Hot Topic: Envisioning Change, including Subhankar Banerjee, Bobert Bateman, Alfio Bonanno, David Buckland, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Margaret Cogswell, Sebastian Copeland, Xavier Cortada, Siobhan Davies, Era & Don Farnsworth, Helen Mayer Harrison & Newton Harrison, Mona Hatoum, David & Hi-Jin Hodge, Laura Horelli, Gary Hume, Icelandic Love Corporation, Ichi Ikeda, Svein Flygari Johansen, Chris Jordan, Yoshiaki Kaihatsu, Fred Ivar Utsi Klemetsen, Angela Lergo, Jonas Liverod, Ives Maes, Dalibor Martinis, Strijdom Van Der Merwe, Jacob McKean, Gilles Mingasson, David Nash, Lucy & Jorge Orta, Sven Pahlsson, Cecilia
Paredes, Shana & Robert Parkeharrison, Andrea Polli, Ana Prvacki, Kahn Selesnick, Anne Senstad, David Trubridge, Theo Wujcik, and Justin Young.
East African Standard: Kenya; Kibera Slum Wakes to Bright Dawn
Open, running of sewers reeking human waste crisscross Kibera, one of the largest slums in the world.
Mr Josiah Omotto, Umande Trust managing trustee, displays a trophy awarded during the Africities summit in Nairobi.
A walk between the shanties that house millions of poor is a delicate balancing act, miss a step and you are messed up.
It is here where the world conjured up the notion of flying toilets.
But things are looking up - the murky streams are slowly drying up and the flying objects could soon disappear from the Kibera airspace.
Residents are now embracing a new dawn of improved sanitation through increased access to clean water, a basic right that they have been denied for ages.
And the slum dwellers, who had to grapple with raging poverty, are now cashing in on some innovative simple technologies that could rid their lives of unhealthy practices.
The slums had been a tourist attraction of sorts. This has attracted top environmentalists, human rights activists and local and international non-governmental organisations.
Kibera's 'fame' has also beckoned high-profile persons such as the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. The Executive Director of the UN Habitat, Dr Anna Tibaijuka, has been a regular figure in the slums.
But it is a community organisation that has brought the good tidings. Umande Trust believes that modest resources strategically invested in community-led initiatives will significantly improve access to water and sanitation.
Umande has mobilised groups in Katwekera, Laini Saba and other sections of the sprawling slum.
"We seek to be an instrument of transformation by building on the resourcefulness of individuals, groups and coalitions of communities to protect their dignity and to demand equitable, accountable and efficient services," says Mr Josiah Omotto, Umande managing trustee.
The Trust, founded about three years ago, is striving to promote active partnerships with the public and civil society organisations in Kisumu and Nairobi.
It has started a project to transform human waste into biogas and liquid fertilizer.
The bio-centre comprises circular towers with toilets and showers on the ground floor, while the first floor hosts a meeting room, offices and information resources.
On the top floor is an open space under a simple makuti thatched roof where communities hold barazas.
A bio-centre in Katwekera, Kibera, where human waste is converted to cooking gas. Picture by Collins Kweyu
"This bio-sanitation facility is an attempt to find a permanent solution that converts human waste into biogas energy for cooking and liquid fertilizers for sale," says Omotto.
Toilets are a rare facility and a preserve of the slum's 'elite'. Children born and brought up in the area perceive them a luxury.
One centre lies in Katwekera, the heart of the slum, and another is under construction less than a kilometre away.
"The drive for the bio-centres was derived from the fact that the existing pit latrines were a short-time solution to the sanitation problem," says Omotto.
He adds: "People are then forced to turn back to their old ways when eventually the latrines are filled up and the waste starts spilling in front of houses."
The situation is at its worst during rainy seasons when toilets are flooded and the area is awash with human waste.
One bio-centre has about six pit latrines and four bathrooms, which serve close to 400 people. Residents pay Sh2 to use them. Some 30 households have been issued with cards, at a cost of Sh80 per month, to enable them to use the facilities all through.
Other clients are two schools, which pay Sh150 each per month, three clubs and a church.
The centre also sells water at Sh1 per 20 litres. "Here, people cut their cost of purchasing water since other people charge them Sh5 for similar quantity of water," says Mr James Onyango, chairman of one of the groups running the bio-centre.
The total annual collection, according to Onyango, is envisaged to hit Sh250, 000 mark, and would be distributed among members of the five community groups running the project.
"In liaison with Muungano wa Wanavijiji (coalition of villagers), we have set up a fund in Nairobi and Kisumu, managed by elected representatives," says Omotto.
To demonstrate their accountability, members display their accounts on a notice board at the centre.
Plans are under way to have biogas pipes connected to households for cooking. This will go along way in saving money spent on cooking fuel.
Onyango says the fertilizers will be sold to large-scale flower farmers.
One centre cost Sh1.7 million in materials. In addition, the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company connected supplies, while the Athi Water Services donated a tank.
"A UK engineering firm gave ?10, 000 and the communities provided labour and some building materials," says Omotto.
The centre also has a kitchen, which will by next week be equipped with modern cookers courtesy of GTZ, a German organisation.
Office space has been leased to the Tourism Board and a doctor. The groups also plan to hire out the top floor for seminars at Sh2,000.
It is for such efforts that Omotto, a social scientist, earned recognition at Africities summit held in Nairobi recently.
Omotto says 20 bio-centres will be replicated in different places in Kibera, Kibagari in Westlands, Mukuru, Korogocho and Kisumu with the support from the French
Development Agency by April next year. He describes the community's response overwhelming.
The Trust, according to Omotto, has taken a different approach to first convince the community that it is not like other organisations that have turned the slums into a cash cow, drawing donor aid in the pretext of providing humanitarian services.
"Civil society organisations have for long been a theatre of corruption, so our main aim is to tackle the vice at the community level," he says.
The centre does more than offer services. "We strive to educate the community of their right to sufficient and clean water Sanitation is now part of the international human rights agenda," says Omotto.
The Trust also derives its funding from the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency, United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations Development Program, HALCROW Foundation, and families of Per Josefsson and Torbjorn Gunnarsson of Sweden.
Aerospace America: Climate change A geoengineering fix?
Leonard David, Contributing writer
Scientists are devising creative remedies for global climate change, including manipulation of the environment itself. Some space-based approaches would involve power-beaming microwave energy from satellites to weaken storms, or launching millions of small spacecraft that would shade the planet from sunlight to offset global warming. Such projects face major obstacles, however, including concerns that unforeseen consequences could make matters worse.
In discussions of climate change, an updated adage might well apply today: Everybody talks about global warming...but is anybody doing anything about it?
The scientific evidence apparently is no longer in dispute. In tackling concerns about the worrisome outcomes of global climate change, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. Recent reports issued by the IPCC involve some 600 authors from 40 countries. More than 620 experts and a large number of government representatives reviewed the documents.
Volumes of fact-finding IPCC reports paint a less-than-rosy picture of Earth's future: Greenhouse gas emissions are increasing, and human activities now occur on a scale that has begun to cripple natural systems such as our world's climate. The take-home message from IPCC is clear: Climate change is happening now, mostly as a result of these human activities. Impacts will be felt everywhere, including cities, with most of the damage occurring in developing countries.
Because climate change is such a multifaceted and challenging issue, policymakers must grapple not only with its causes and its potential environmental and socioeconomic effects, but also with determining possible response options. IPCC experts agree that,
together with lifestyle and behavior changes, known technologies and policies could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A move in that direction has been labeled "geoengineering"--making choices that involve large-scale engineering of Earth's environment to take on the effects of altered atmospheric chemistry. In reality, given global climate change, our planet's ecosystem is being terraformed. The trick now, some scientists argue, is to manipulate the environment in a healing way.
However, IPCC experts sense that geoengineering options remain largely speculative and unproven. They also carry with them the risk of unknown side effects. In addition to all this, reliable cost estimates for these options have not been published.
Stanford University's Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) team is delving into a suite of research activities geared toward developing technology that could lead to a future of significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions. One of those study avenues entails geoengineering techniques to combat the predicted effects of climate change.
Under discussion are global-scale atmospheric chemistry or infrastructure projects that might either reduce the amount of solar radiation being trapped as sensible energy or consume the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases already resident in the atmosphere.
While many approaches are possible, techniques spotlighted by GCEP include seeded gas-phase chemical reactions or fertilization of the ocean for CO2 uptake. Another approach could involve applying a layer of reflective chemicals or particles to Earth's upper atmosphere to reduce incident radiation at the planet's surface. One more line of attack would be to build a large reflective object between the Earth and Sun to block some incident radiation before it even reaches the atmosphere.
Made in the shade
In case a global heat-up emergency should occur, University of Arizona astronomer Roger Angel has been looking at ways to cool the Earth. If our world is headed for a disastrous climate change within a decade or two, he has examined the feasibility of placing a sunshade in space.
The initiative would involve uniformly reducing sunlight by about 2% over the entire planet, enough to balance the heating caused by a doubling of atmospheric CO2 in Earth's atmosphere. While the sunshade scheme is a tour-de-force of technology, it also serves as a memorandum of understanding on how tough wrestling with global climate change can get.
Grant money provided by the recently closed NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts has allowed Angel and his colleagues to devise a plan that entails launching trillions of small free-flying spacecraft, spread out a million miles above Earth in an orbit aligned with the Sun, the L-1 orbit. Catapulted into space by electromagnetic launchers, these small, light, ultrathin spacecraft would require no assembly. They would be flung spaceward in stacks of a million at a shot.
Each lightweight flyer would be made of a transparent film pierced with small holes. It would be 2 ft in diameter, one-five-thousandth of an inch thick, and weigh about a gram, the same as a large butterfly, says Angel. It would use microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology mirrors as tiny sails that would tilt to hold its position in the orbiting
constellation. The flyer's transparency and steering mechanism would prevent it from being blown away by radiation pressure from the Sun's light.
Angel and his colleagues figure that the total mass of all the fliers making up the space sunshade structure would be 20 million tons. Through use of electromagnetic space launchers, the cost for space access of the constellation could be as little as $20/lb. The sunshade could be deployed by a total of 20 electromagnetic launchers dispatching a stack of flyers on the order of every 5 minutes for a decade.
"The concept builds on existing technologies," Angel says. "It seems feasible that it could be developed and deployed in about 25 years at a cost of a few trillion dollars. With care, the solar shade should last about 50 years. So the average cost is about $100 billion a year, or about two-tenths of one percent of the global domestic product."
Angel adds that the sunshade is no substitute for developing renewable energy, the only permanent solution. A similar massive level of technological innovation and financial investment could ensure that, he says.
"But if the planet gets into an abrupt climate crisis that can only be fixed by cooling, it would be good to be ready with some shading solutions that have been worked out," Angel believes.
Jet stream heating
Bernard Eastlund is chief technical officer and founder of Eastlund Scientific Enterprises in San Diego, Calif. For years he has been looking into weather modification and control...even at how to take the twist out of a twister--a signature weather phenomenon likely to be on the increase with global climate change.
In 2000, Eastlund teamed up with Lyle Jenkins, a NASA Johnson veteran. They scoped out how microwave energy beamed down from a satellite could be used to suppress the destructive force of a tornado. Labeling their craft the Thunderstorm Solar Power Satellite, the two researchers envisioned using its microwave energy to make surgical strikes on storm systems, lessening their fury by modifying their temperature and fine structure.
Lately, Eastlund has been busy extending this concept to a new application called the Jet Stream Solar Power Satellite. The idea behind this is to direct large amounts of microwave energy toward an edge of a jet stream, at a frequency of around 55-150 GHz, which would be absorbed by oxygen molecules and heat this area of the jet stream.
"This localized heating can influence the temperature and pressure of the region and result in a deflection, or steering, of the jet stream without changing the chemistry," Eastlund says. He notes that global climate is strongly influenced by the path of the jet streams. In fact, the influence of El Niño is a good example of large geographical temperature changes influencing the trajectory of the jet streams.
A large solar power satellite with 10,000-MW output could have enough energy to accomplish such global manipulation, Eastlund calculates. "A jet stream could be steered to bring rain to a drought-ridden area. Conversely, it could be steered to prevent flooding. A solar power satellite could supply power to Earth without a carbon dioxide consequence and could help control the effects of the carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere."
Talk of broadcasting power beams from space into tornadoes and hurricanes to "defuse" the wrath of Mother Nature raises the scientific eyebrow of Ross Hoffman, principal scientist with Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Lexington, Mass.
"How do you aim your energy...can you control the height of energy disposition? It is important to bear in mind that the atmosphere is chaotic. This is one big contributor to why our forecasts of hurricanes and tornadoes go wrong. That is, the computer models are so sensitive to initial conditions and so too, probably, are the real storms," Hoffman tells Aerospace America.
Numerical models cannot predict or "hind-cast" an actual tornado, Hoffman says. "Simulations of hurricanes and tornadic thunderstorms now look more and more realistic, but getting the predictions to be in the right place at the right time with the right intensity is still very challenging." he says.
Also, liability concerns are a big issue, he adds--especially coupled with the uncertainty of weather forecasts, and the uncertainty of predicting the impact of weather modification.
Research funding from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts has led Hoffman to propose the Global Weather Control System, an initiative that includes real-time data gathering, prediction, and command capabilities. Some possible ways of introducing small changes to the atmosphere include contrails produced by aircraft, solar reflectors in LEO, microwave energy from solar power satellites, and wind turbines that can also function as fans.
On a larger scale, can space-based assets be useful for fending off the negative effects of climate change on Earth?
"Just thinking about control of the solar input to the Earth system can change the terms of the discussion," Hoffman responds. "Making the Earth's surface or cloud cover or stratosphere aerosol layer more reflective to solar energy is likely much less costly than constructing some sort of space parasol, but may have additional environmental impacts."
Proposals for L1 solar shields are innovative and include various features for making the overall system robust, Hoffman says. "However, while not impossible, such programs require space manufacturing capabilities well beyond our reach. Since the individual free-flyer components of an L1 shield can be controlled, it would be possible to modulate the solar input at the top of the atmosphere, possibly allowing for regional climate control and/or control of the large-scale weather patterns and intensity."
Still, Hoffman concludes that actively managing the planet's albedo--the fraction of the incident sunlight that is reflected--should be a much more cost-effective approach than any
"Maybe the first application will be eliminating global sandstorms on Mars," Hoffman suggests with a smile.
Danger and opportunity
"Curbing global warming is a project [that presents] a magnitude and complexity that we, as a society, may not be ready to deal with," says Brad Edwards, CEO of Black Line Ascension in Seattle, Wash. Edwards is a leading expert on the practicalities of building and operating a space elevator--an ultrastrong carbon nanotube ribbon that would stretch from Earth into geosynchronous orbit to handle cargo and passenger traffic. No question, the space elevator is a technical challenge in its own right.