International Mountain Day 11 December

Mountains under pressure: climate, hunger and migration

Almost one billion people live in mountain areas, and over half the human population depends on mountains for water, food and clean energy. Yet mountains are under threat from climate change, land degradation, over exploitation and natural disasters, with potentially far-reaching and devastating consequences, both for mountain communities and the rest of the world.

Mountains are early indicators of climate change and as global climate continues to warm, mountain people — some of the world’s hungriest and poorest — face even greater struggles to survive. The rising temperatures also mean that mountain glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates, affecting freshwater supplies downstream for millions of people. Mountain communities, however, have a wealth of knowledge and strategies accumulated over generations, on how to adapt to climate variability.

Climate change, climate variability and climate-induced disasters, combined with political, economic and social marginalization, increase the vulnerability of mountain peoples to food shortages and extreme poverty. Currently, about 39 percent of the mountain population in developing countries, or 329 million people, is estimated to be vulnerable to food insecurity.

As the vulnerability of mountain populations grows, migration increases both abroad and to urban centres. Those who remain are often women, left to manage the farms but with little access to credit, training and land tenure rights. Out-migration from mountain areas will also result in an inestimable loss in terms of provision of ecosystem services and preservation of cultural and agrobiodiversity. Investments and policies can alleviate the harsh living conditions of mountain communities and reverse out-migration trends from mountain areas.

Celebrate International Mountain Day

International Mountain Day 2017 provides an occasion to highlight how climate, hunger and migration are affecting highlands and to ensure that sustainable mountain development is integrated into the 2030 Agenda and in the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

This year, the theme is also linked to the Mountain Partnership Global Meeting, to be held on 11-13 December at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, which will focus on the challenges and opportunities in sustainable mountain development and will launch a Framework for Action to support concrete actions and establish policies that strengthen the resilience of mountain peoples and environments.

While “Mountain under Pressure: climate, hunger, migration” is the suggested theme for 2017, countries, communities and organizations are welcome to celebrate International Mountain Day through the choice of a different theme that might be more relevant to them.

Sourcewww.un.org

 

atmospheric pollution by airplanes

Plane Pollution

Environmental pollution is directly related to the evolution of technology and science, the progress of which, in addition to significant benefits to mankind, also has adverse effects on the environment and hence on human health, the so-called “price of evolution” .

Today, air transport occupies a significant part of the passenger and freight transport activity. It accounts for over 3.3 billion passengers per year and 60 million jobs, accounting for 3.5% of global GDP. At the same time, however, the aviation industry produces about 2% of the world’s man-made CO2 emissions, which are the cause of the ozone depletion and global warming.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a report that carbon dioxide emissions rose 3% per annum from 1990 to 2015, contributing 3.5% to global warming. Other estimates raise this figure to 6%, while they even expect an increase of 300% by 2018. The scenarios show that the share of the whole aviation – international, national, military and other – as a source of CO2 emissions may increase to over 15% of total CO2 emissions in 2050.

However, CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas emitted by aircraft and is expected to increase in the future. Exhaust from aircraft engines consists of about 0.03% nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC), unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide (CO), other trace elements such as sulfur dioxide (SO2) hydroxide, nitrite and nitric acids and finally small amounts of soot particles (PM).

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As far as the ozone is concerned, airplanes create it as a result of the reaction of nitrogen oxide with various volatile organic compounds, a reaction which is catalysed by sunlight. Essentially, ozone can be produced from dry O2 driven to an area where high-voltage electrical discharges occur. The ozone hole raises today the interest of millions of researchers trying to find a solution to this ominous problem.

Among other things, the short-term impact of aircraft is strongly enhanced by cyclical clouds. In particular, SO2 forms sulphate particles and soot particles from the exhaust gases of the aircraft. These aerosols act as seeds which water vapor condenses or freezes by turning them into cloud particles (circular clouds). The exhaust of the aircraft produces condensation paths about 5 miles above the Earth’s surface and forms nicks. All these reflect the sunlight and absorb heat instead of letting it go.gf

It is worth noting here that emissions of pollutants depend on different phases of the flight, such as landing, sailing and take-off, since they require different engine power settings for the airplane. Both the amount of fuel consumed per second and the amount of pollutants per fuel unit may vary for each power setting. In particular, an aircraft uses a higher power setting during take – off typically about 70% of its total power, so it uses more fuel and will emit more pollutants for a few seconds, while during the course the engines will run at about 15-30% of total power this time but for several minutes. Finally, during the landing, aircraft engines will operate at less than 30%, so emissions per second will be much lower than any other phase. Also, the higher the airplane flies and the heavier it is, the harder it can be to break the CO2 into the atmosphere.

Aircraft manufacturers and airlines are working on ways to reduce pollutant emissions by increasing fuel efficiency – by making lighter and more aerodynamic airplanes, trailing fins on the ground and improving engine capacity. Designers even look at the case of aircraft using biofuels while it has been proposed to build a biological jet from next year. However, industry experts believe that these changes could improve efficiency by 1% or 2% per annum at most, while passenger miles will increase from 5% to 6% per year, confirming the sustainability gap. It is obvious, therefore, that scientists, activists and parliaments should work together to find a solution to this enormous environmental evil.

The environment is also directly connected with human health, which is seriously hindered by the lack of scientific initiative! Changing legislation to eradicate morbidity and mortality is imperative. If we wanted to pinpoint the issue of human health, we could say that the suspended particles of the airgass smoke can cause immediate and chronic effects on the human organism. Due to their diameter, they can be deposited in the tracheobronchial area (TB) of the respiratory system, even reaching the alveoli. They have the property of weakening the natural functions of the human, resulting in disfunctions of the nervous system, the right ventricle of the heart, in the bloodstream and can cause swelling and inflammation of the lungs. The most important impacts of air pollution are on the health of people in specific vulnerable groups. More particularly, we can mention the following examples:

a) Carbon monoxide reacts with blood hemoglobin and at high concentrations can lead to visual abnormalities, poor assessment of space and time and possibly anesthesia. Also, UV-C radiation is the cause of the cataract, as it is strong enough to pass through the retina of the eye.

(b) Sulfur dioxide affects the respiratory system, particularly when combined with high concentrations of suspended particles

c) It is the primary cause of melanoma, a form of lethal skin cancer. In Australia, where UV radiation is 15% more than Europe, it was estimated that in 2011, melanoma cases were increased by 23% for women and 28% for males compared to 2002.

d) Ozone iindividual to high concentrations may cause dizziness, es extremely toxic and exposure of the tc.

e) Last, and potentially, the main effect of UV-C radiation on living organisms is the mutation of their DNA. Indeed, it is so powerful that scientists use it in laboratories and under appropriate conditions to achieve gene mutations. In particular, UV-C alters the DNA to such an extent that it gradually loses its ability to divide and multiply.

It is obvious that the treatment of illnesses that are caused by aircraft costs trillions globally.

A prudent solution for removing harmful pollutants from the atmosphere is tree planting in large areas around airports. In the global fight for greenhouse gas mitigation, forest production has proven to be the most effective medium-term strategy. This conclusion has been reached by the scientific world, having identified the crucial role the forest plays in limiting carbon dioxide. Plants use light for photosynthesis, converting carbon dioxide into carbohydrate and releasing oxygen at the same time. The scientific team has now discovered that when carbon dioxide is bound by trees, it is stored in its trunk and in the soil under their roots while remaining on the leaves for a longer period of time, acting as a fertilizer and accelerating the growth of the plant. So we see the double profit we have in a tree planting initiative: the exhaust gases for which there is no way to be limited, are ultimately absorbed by the foliage of trees by benefitingthe tree itself.d

An airline crew who has realized how many pollutants it produces in each flight has already taken action, giving the example to other airlines and sensitizing its passengers to exert pressure.

 

 

Source: trimis.ec.europa.eu

Georgia Skiada

Penzance wins first plastic-free status award to help clean up beaches

A Cornish town has become the first community in the UK to be awarded “plastic-free” status after dozens of residents and business people backed a grassroots scheme aimed at helping clean up oceans and beaches. As part of a campaign being run by the marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), Penzance has been given “plastic-free coastlines approved” status.

Shops, cafes and visitor attractions have reduced single-use plastics and children and adults have taken part in beach cleans. The town’s status was confirmed after the town council voted to support the initiative.

Another 100 communities across the UK are taking part in SAS’s plastic-free coastlines scheme and working towards the status, which has been inspired by the fair trade and transition town schemes.

Rachel Yates, an SAS regional representative in Penzance, said she had been impressed by how keen people were to take part.

Everybody you speak to wants to do something,” she said. “People are contacting us asking what they can do. We haven’t had to chase people”.

Among those who have signed up to Plastic Free Penzance is the Cornish Hen Deli. Owner Sarah Shaw said she was using biodegradable pots, wooden cutlery, paper straws and cornstarch plates for outside catering jobs.

She said: “It’s hugely important because one of the reasons a lot of people live down here is the connection to the sea and the elements. You’re so much more aware of what’s going on that the thought of not doing something about it is awful”.

Flo Gibson, manager of the Jubilee open-air pool cafe, said reducing plastics was becoming easier. She said: “People are becoming more aware of plastic and the negative effects. Suppliers are also a lot more aware”.

Plastic Free Penzance’s next moves include setting up a plastic-free clinic to spread the word further and speaking to holiday home owners. They will also lobby local supermarket managers, although the emphasis is on changing behaviour on a local level and leaving national campaigning to SAS leaders.

To win the plastic free coastlines approved status, Penzance had to complete five objectives set out by SAS such as setting up a steering group and organising beach cleans. Its status was confirmed after Penzance town council passed a motion on Monday pledging to support all plastic-free initiatives in the area and to lead by example through removing single-use plastics from their own premises.

Sourcewww.theguardian.com

Google Reaches 100% Renewable Energy Goal By End Of 2017

Google has reached its goal to run on 100-percent renewable energy by the end of this year. Sealing the deal was the company’s move to sign onto three wind-generated power plants, which boost Google’s operating capacity up to three gigawatts. The landmark achievement continues a trend of tech giants diving into the renewable energy industry.

Contracts for the additional 535 megawatts of capacity came from two 98-megawatt wind plants in South Dakota, a 200-megawatt wind farm in Iowa, and a 138-megawatt plant in Oklahoma, according to Sam Arons, senior leader at Google’s Energy and Infrastructure division.

More than $3.5 billion worth of investments have been put into the renewable energy infrastructure for Google. The lion’s share of that money was put into solar and wind-powered energy sources, as those prices have dropped significantly; by as much as 60 to 80 percent. The investments have ensured no interruption in Google’s products and services while completely eliminating the need for fossil fuels.

“With solar and wind declining dramatically in cost and propelling significant employment growth, the transition to clean energy is driving unprecedented economic opportunity and doing so faster than we ever anticipated,” Gary Demasi, Google’s global infrastructure director, said in a company statement.

Google announced its target date operating at 100-percent off renewable energy in a blog post last December by Urs Holzle, senior VP of the technical infrastructure. At the time, the company had already purchased 20 different renewable energy sources around the world. Two-thirds of them are in the United States, and the company reports already seeing a return of “tens of millions of dollars” annually to property owners and the government.

While Google’s engineers have been able to improve the efficiency of data centers and office programs — up to 50 percent less energy being utilized — they continue looking for ways to help the company cut down on its carbon footprint. Holzle noted that by switching over to renewable energy, Google had a more stable price to pay for power as traditional methods will inevitably cost more in the future.

Google’s investments will help the communities that host the renewable energy sources, as well. Avangrid, who operates the wind farms in South Dakota, said the economy would improve from the influx of jobs to rural areas there. While Google’s power would still be coming from the grid, renewable energy credits will be matched to what’s generated from the source in order to reach the company’s target.

Other corporate giants have stepped into the renewable energy market, as well. Apple recently launched a store that’s completely powered by renewable energy, and is pushing to get operations at that level. Amazon has installed a 253-megawatt wind farm in Scurry County, Texas, to help operations become 100-percent renewable. Striving to reach half that mark by the end of 2017, Amazon is well on its way with four wind farms located in Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio.

Sourcewww.greenmatters.com

 

World Soil Day

World Soil Day (WSD) is held annually on 5 December as a means to focus attention on the importance of healthy soil and advocating for the sustainable management of soil resources.

An international day to celebrate Soil was recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002. Under the leadership of the Kingdom of Thailand and within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, FAO has supported the formal establishment of WSD as a global awareness raising platform. The FAO Conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly. In December 2013 the UN General Assembly responded by designating 5 December 2014 as the first official World Soil Day.

The date of 5 December for WSD was chosen because it corresponds with the official birthday of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, who officially sanctioned the event. In 2016 this day was officially recognized in memory and with respect for this beloved monarch who passed away in October 2016 after seven decades as head of state.

  • World Soil Day 2016

FAO/GSP dedicated World Soil Day 2016 to the theme Soils & Pulses: Symbiosis for life, in celebration of the synergy between the International Year of Soils (IYS) 2015 and the International Year of Pulses (IYP) 2016. There are various ways in which the “strategic alliance” between soils and pulses contributes to forging more sustainable food and agriculture systems. The book “Soils & Pulses: Symbiosis for life”, presents decision-makers and practitioners with scientific facts and technical recommendations for managing the symbiosis between soils and pulses.

  • World Soil Day 2015

FAO was nominated to implement the International Year of Soil (IYS) 2015, within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and in collaboration with FAO member countries. The theme for World Soil Day 2015 was “Healthy soils for a healthy life“.

Special focus was placed on increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions. Soils are a critical component of the natural system and a vital contributor to human wellbeing through its contribution to food, water and energy security and mitigation of biodiversity loss. It was celebrated by the global community of 60.000 soil scientists charged with the responsibility of generating and communicating soil knowledge for the common good of all.

  • World Soil Day 2014

The soils community could really contribute to the efforts of food security, hunger eradication, climate change adaptation, poverty reduction and sustainable development

This is how FAO and the GSP secretariat started their words of welcome during the first official celebration of World Soil Day… Soil specialists, politicians, leading experts, and top officials from all across the globe convened at FAO headquarters to emphasize the importance of soils beyond the soil science community.

  • World Soil Day 2013 and 2012

Recognizing the importance of soils, under the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and with the unanimous support of FAO members, the 37th FAO Conference endorsed 5th December as WSD and requested the UN General Assembly to provide its final endorsement. Since then the soils community has an important opportunity as soils are placed high in global discussions.

Sourcewww.fao.org

 

These Three Cities In Scotland Are Now Zero-Waste Utopias

Scotland is continuing to position itself as a global leader in environmental sustainability with the addition of three more cities gaining “Zero Waste Town” status: Perth, Leith and Edinburgh.

The designation is part of the country’s Zero Waste Plan, an ambitious project initiated in 2010 to promote the adoption of a circular economy and zero-waste approaches in cities across the nation. The newest three to attain the status join Dunbar and the Isle of Bute as the first to spearhead the soon-to-be nationwide project.

In Scotland, the project is described by the government as a vision in which “all waste is seen as a resource; Waste is minimized; valuable resources are not disposed of in landfills, and most waste is sorted, leaving only limited amounts to be treated.” Some of the targets set within those parameters include recycling 70 percent of material waste and sending a maximum of 5 percent sent to landfills by 2025. It also includes measuring the carbon impacts of all waste and bans on types of waste that enter landfills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Scotland also joins a growing community of Zero Waste cities across Europe and the world, including towns in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Slovenia and Romania. In Europe, the initiative is part of the Resource Efficiency operations, funded by the Resource Efficiency Circular Economy Accelerator Program to the tune of £73 million.

This is just one part of Scotland’s environmental plans. Earlier this year, a University of Sheffield report found that Scotland is positioned to become a global leader in the CO2 utilization market, and the Scottish government announced a new fund to further its manufacturing sector’s transition to a circular economy. All of this starts with the Zero Waste Towns initiative.

“Engaging communities in Scotland’s transition to a circular economy, where waste is eliminated and we make things last longer is absolutely essential,” said Iain Gulland, CEO of Zero Waste Scotland. “Only by engaging individuals at community level can we fully grasp the potential to deliver circular economy solutions in a way that maximizes social and local economic benefits. This is vital to achieving inclusive and sustainable growth for the future”.

In 2016, Scotland implemented the “circular economy strategy”, the goals of which include reducing all food waste by 33 percent by 2025—the first such target to be set in Europe—as well as “developing a more comprehensive approach to producer responsibility by setting up a single framework for all product types that drives choices for reuse, repair and remanufacture, while more fully exposing and addressing the costs of recycling and disposal”. The strategy also targets four “priority areas” that could have a large environmental impact—positive or negative: food, drink, and the broader bio-economy; remanufacture; construction and the built environment; and energy infrastructure.

Communities are right at the heart of delivering real, lasting behavior change,” Gulland said. “With their new Zero Waste Town status, these three areas will have new tools with which to build on their zero waste work — while contributing to coordinated action across the country to drive a more sustainable, circular economy”.

Sourcewww.greenmatters.com

Afghanistan Is Investing In Solar Power To Give More Citizens Electricity

Afghanistan has big demand for power. Just 15 years ago, only five percent of the country’s citizens had access to electricity, and while today just 32 percent of people have access to grid-connected power, the demand is growing by 25 percent annually, putting pressure on the nation to up their power supply.

This, however, is a pricey problem: Afghanistan imports 73 percent of its power from surrounding countries. So in 2008, the government allocated $2 billion to expand its onsite energy capabilities, including through conventional means like coal. But a large portion of the money will be spent on more eco-friendly solutions: wind and solar.

For the latter, the Asian Development Bank has announced that it will spend $45 million on a 20-megawatt solar power plant in Kabul’s Surobi district. The country’s total demand for power is about 3 gigawatts, with domestic generation at 300 megawatts, so while the solar power plant will solve just a portion of the problem, it’s a telling turn of events for renewables.

The demand for power is rapidly growing across Afghanistan,” Samuel Tumiwa, a country director at The Asian Development bank said in the statement. “The new on-grid solar power generation project, which is the largest of its kind in Afghanistan, will not only provide access to a clean and reliable power supply, but also demonstrate the viability of future renewable energy investments”.

The plant will generate at least 43,000 megawatts-hours of power and will offset the equivalent of 13,000 tons of carbon dioxide in the first year after it is complete, which should be about 18 months after final contracts are signed, a spokesman of government-owned utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat told Bloomberg. Once completed, it will satisfy part of the electricity needs for Kabul as well as the eastern province of Nangarhar and Laghman.

This turn towards solar makes sense on several levels for Afghanistan. For one, the cost of solar equipment is rapidly declining (prices for solar panels have dropped 62 percent over the past five years, according to Bloomberg) as popularity grows and systems become more efficient. Now, what was once seen as an expensive way to create power is a viable option for developing countries looking to build out their infrastructure.

Plus, Afghanistan has an abundance of sunlight.

“Considering 300 sunny days per year with free solar irradiation to generate solar power, it makes Afghanistan an attractive country for implementing solar power projects,” Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi said in the statement.

Though the plant in Kabul will be the largest in the country, it’s not the first. In September, Dynasty Oil & Gas PVT Ltd. of India began construction on a 10-megawatt solar power plant in southern Kandahar city, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Additionally, the country is looking to capture an estimated 158 gigawatts of wind energy as part of its master energy plan.

Sourcewww.greenmatters.com

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Costa Rica Runs On Green Energy For Record Breaking 300 Days

In addition to being a gorgeous tropical paradise and beloved tourist destination, Costa Rica is putting itself on the map with huge steps towards becoming as environmentally conscious as possible. The country has been working to grow its forest cover, it has banned single use plastic, and as of now, they’ve run almost entirely on renewable energy for 300 days.

EcoWatch reports that the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) is celebrating their accomplishment, citing numbers provided by the National Center for Energy Control which say that things have been operating on almost 100 percent renewable power.

This isn’t the first time Costa Rica has sustained a renewable energy streak. In 2015, they went 299 days, and in 2016 they did slightly less at 271. They’ve beaten both accomplishments and could easily go further before the end of 2017.

This year, Costa Rica’s renewable energy was split between different sources. Hydropower provided 78.26 percent of electricity, wind gave an estimated 10.29 percent, and 10.23 percent came from geothermal energy. Just 0.84 percent came combined from biomass and solar power. 

ICE noted that 2017 may see growth in one of those sectors—wind. The country’s 16 wind farms produced 1,014.82 gigawatt hours, which is a big growth in that sector. Costa Rica’s commitment to renewable energy is paying off in practice, and showing the potential in clean energy sources everywhere.

Sourcewww.greenmatters.com