Weekly climate disasters give new urgency to resilience

July 9, 2019 by  
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Somewhere in the world, there is a climate disaster unfolding every week. According to the leading disaster risk reduction adviser for the United Nation’s secretary general, climate related disasters are affecting thousands of people every week, whether or not they get media coverage. The U.N.’s adviser, Mami Mizutori, told reporters that governments need to adjust their policies to not only prioritize but mandate disaster-resilient infrastructure immediately. According to Mizutori, a 3 percent budget increase for all new infrastructure projects could cover the additional cost of making such projects resilient to storms, floods and other climate-related crises. That 3 percent rise in spending equates to a total of $2.7 trillion USD by 2040. While anything in the trillions might seem like a lot of money to the average person, when it is spread around the world’s nearly 200 countries across 20 years, the price tag is actually quite modest. In comparison, the U.N. estimates that these climate disasters cost the world at least $520 billion USD every year, so it seems logical to invest a little into reducing not only that cost but also the loss of lives. Related: Disaster-resilient housing saves lives and dollars “Resilience needs to become a commodity that people will pay for,” warned Mizutori. “This is not a lot of money [in the context of infrastructure spending], but investors have not been doing enough.” Most of the discussion about climate change at the international level revolves around reducing carbon emissions per nations’ Paris Climate Agreement commitments. While mitigation is important, curbing future emissions to reach a target and limit global warming does nothing to reduce the suffering of those impacted yesterday and today. According to the World Bank, there will be 143 million people displaced by climate-related incidences by 2050, and that’s only counting those from Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Low-cost, nature-based adaptation strategies are promising, such as restoring mangrove forests that protect coastal residents from sea-level rise, erosion and flooding. In order to adequately address the scale of these disasters though, a combined natural and built infrastructure approach will be necessary. According to Mizutori, these resilient solutions will require not only international collaboration but unlikely partnerships within governments as well. For example, most governments have separate departments for the environment and for infrastructure, but progressing toward resilience will require unprecedented collaboration at a scale that matches the unprecedented threat of climate change. Via Eco News and The Guardian Image via Jim Gade

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Weekly climate disasters give new urgency to resilience

Where the 2020 candidates stand on climate change

July 9, 2019 by  
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Climate change was predicted to be a hot topic for the first democratic presidential debates. Despite pressure from activists , the issue received just seven minutes of airtime on the first night of the debates and eight minutes on the second night. Still, it is important to be informed on where each person stands when it comes to the climate crisis. Below is a breakdown of the candidates’ current climate platforms (in no particular order). Jay Inslee (Governor, WA) Inslee has established himself as “the climate candidate.” Vox’s climate reporter went so far as to say that other candidates should simply adopt Inslee’s climate plan as their own platforms, as it is the only plan that adequately address the gravity of the crisis. Inslee’s Our Climate Movement plan includes: • Eliminating carbon emissions by 2045 • Investing $9 trillion in clean energy , green jobs and resilient infrastructure • Phasing out fossil fuel production Joe Biden (former Vice President) On June 4, Biden released a $1.7 trillion Clean Energy Revolution plan, which includes: • 100 percent net-zero emissions by 2050 • Investing in resilient infrastructure • Committing to the Paris Agreement • Spurring economic growth and green jobs Biden’s platforms are generally more moderate than other candidates, and he is wooing the labor unions. While some activists are sour about his appeal to moderate votes, others believe his ability to garner bipartisan support and labor votes may make him more effective in pushing through legislation. On June 27, Biden signed a pledge to refuse campaign money from oil companies. Elizabeth Warren (Senator, MA) Warren’s main focus is taking down big banks and big oil companies, including protecting public lands from oil corporations. She backed the Green New Deal , supports a ban on fracking and wants to focus on green job development and industries. She has also presented a plan to greatly reduce emissions produced by the military. Amy Klobuchar (Senator, MN) Klobuchar backed the Green New Deal and supports further development of nuclear energy as an alternative to dirty fossil fuels . Her proposal, released on March 28, includes a major investment in infrastructure adaptation and clean energy. She will also reinstate clean power rules and gas mileage standards and will rejoin the Paris Agreement. Seth Moulton (Representative, MA) Moulton backed the Green New Deal, plans to focus on green jobs and supports further innovation in carbon sequestration with farmers and rural communities. Kirsten Gillibrand (Senator, NY) Gillibrand co-sponsored the Green New Deal and avidly supported a carbon tax in the past. She opposes opening new land and water to oil drilling and supported legislation that would help the U.S. surpass its previous Paris Agreement commitment. Tim Ryan (Representative, OH) Ryan has defended his moderate stance on climate change and commitment to prioritizing jobs development and economic growth. He is critical of a carbon tax, arguing it would encourage companies to take jobs overseas. Pete Buttigieg (Mayor, South Bend IA) Buttigieg supports the Green New Deal, nuclear energy and a ban on fracking. He wants to focus on solutions that center low-income Americans and mentioned putting rural communities at the forefront of climate adaptation, such as supporting carbon sequestration innovation among farmers. He is also in favor of a carbon tax. Buttigieg would recommit to the Paris Climate Agreement and plans to decarbonize transportation and industries as well as support energy efficiency in homes. Marianne Williamson (author) Williamson wants to close existing nuclear power reactors and ban fracking. She supports the Green New Deal. Tulsi Gabbard (Representative, HI) Gabbard has been outspoken about climate action during her time in Congress. She supports aspects of the Green New Deal, including reaching carbon neutrality, but does not support nuclear power unless there is a solution for nuclear waste. She also supports a ban on fracking. Bill de Blasio (Mayor, New York City) Mayor de Blasio recently passed New York City’s own version of a Green New Deal, so he is expected to be an advocate for progressive climate action. Kamala Harris (Senator, CA) Harris has not taken a firm stance on a fracking ban, nuclear energy nor a carbon tax. She has come out in support of the Green New Deal and promised to rejoin the Paris Agreement. Joe Sestak (former Representative, PA) Sestak’s climate plan includes rejoining the Paris Agreement, ceasing subsidies for fossil fuel corporations, implementing a carbon tax and investing in regenerative agriculture . Bernie Sanders (Senator, VT) Sanders’ climate platform on his campaign website promises to: • Pass the Green New Deal • Invest in infrastructure for front-line communities • Reduce transportation-related pollution • Ban fracking and drilling • End exports of coal, gas and oil Corey Booker (Senator, NJ) Booker officially backed the Green New Deal, supports nuclear energy and wants to ban fracking. He also has an outspoken commitment to climate justice and to addressing the disproportionate impact that the climate crisis has on people of color and low-income families. Beto O’Rourke (former Representative, TX) O’Rourke has a $5 trillion climate plan that aims for net-zero emissions by 2050, but he still supports natural gas. His plan also includes $1.2 trillion in grants for energy and economic transformation at the community level. John Hickenlooper (former governor, CO) Hickenlooper previously worked as a geologist for a major oil company. He has not signed on to the Green New Deal and believes the U.S. should continue fracking. His climate plan includes: • Rejoining the Paris Agreement • Making $100 billion available annually in climate finance • Establishing a climate corps national service program Michael Bennet (Senator, CO) Bennet believes the U.S. should continue using natural gas and has not signed on the Green New Deal. On May 20, he released a climate plan with eight points: • Create 10 million green jobs by 2030 • Launch a 2030 climate challenge to push states to develop climate plans • Conserve 30 percent of land and oceans by 2030 • Establish a climate bank with $1 trillion to spend on infrastructure by 2030 • Cut energy waste in half by 2040 • Achieve 100 percent clean emissions by 2050 • Decarbonize agriculture • Develop options for houses to purchase retrofits, renewable energy and zero-emissions vehicles Andrew Yang (entrepreneur) Yang’s website mentions support for fossil fuel regulation and investment in renewable energy both for the environment and for the economy.  He also favors a carbon tax and dividend but believes much of the climate action needs to happen at the state and local level, with general support from the federal government. Steve Bullock (Governor, MT) Bullock said he would rejoin the Paris Agreement and invest in renewable energy; however, he does not support the Green New Deal nor does he think it will get very far. Bullock also has a long record of supporting the coal industry in his home state of Montana.  Wayne Messam (Mayor, Miramar FL) When pressed for his ideas about the climate crisis, Messam told radio station WBUR that he would develop an infrastructure bill that focused on resilience for bridges, dams and levees. He would transition the country to renewable energies and transition fossil fuel jobs toward the green economy. John Delaney (former Representative, MD) Delaney supports nuclear power and does not support the Green New Deal. He released a $4 trillion dollar climate plan that includes: • Establishing a carbon tax • Promoting negative emissions technology • Increasing renewable energy budget • Developing a climate corps national service program • Creating a pipeline network that delivers carbon dioxide to oil fields for sequestration Julián Castro (former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) Castro supports the Green New Deal and was one of only three candidates to say climate change will be the No. 1 priority of his presidency. He has mentioned that his first action as president would be to rejoin the Paris Agreement, and he is opposed to subsidizing oil corporations. Greenpeace developed a report card to grade all candidates on their climate policies. See the visual here . Via Politico , Inside Climate News , NRDC and Greenpeace Images via Shutterstock

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What’s the business case for climate-focused urban development in Africa?

May 8, 2019 by  
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As the continent urbanizes, it faces water shortages and deforestation. The private sector can help.

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What’s the business case for climate-focused urban development in Africa?

Scientists have declared a biodiversity crisis — here’s what that means for business

May 8, 2019 by  
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A ground-breaking UN report yesterday revealed scale of threat facing the natural world.

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Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project

February 20, 2019 by  
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Zimbabwe is raising awareness about animal trafficking with the annual World Pangolin Day. The pangolin is the most often trafficked mammal in the entire world, with an estimated one million of the scaly mammals being sold in the black market over the past 10 years alone. The pangolin project hopes to curb those numbers and raise awareness about the growing problem of animal trafficking around the globe. Behind drugs, weapons and humans, animal trafficking is the fourth highest illegal trade in the world. “It breaks my heart to know how the greed of mankind is pushing this animal to the brink of extinction,” the head of the Tikki Hywood Foundation, Lisa Hywood, explained. “Time is running out for the pangolin, so we all need to take action.” The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) outlawed the trade of pangolin in Asia and Africa, two regions of the world that contain all eight of the endangered species. The ban has given the pangolin protective status, but officials are still dealing with large scale poaching. Related: 60% of wild coffee species are now threatened with extinction In honor of Pangolin Day, several groups are using the occasion to raise awareness about other trafficked animals throughout the world. This includes the Tikki Hywood Foundation, which produced a documentary in 2016 about saving pangolins from poachers and the black market. While efforts like Pangolin Day are doing a great job at raising awareness, environmentalists and conservationists face an uphill battle ahead of them. In fact, animal trafficking numbers have steadily grown over the past few years, despite bans against trading endangered species like pangolins. Last week, for example, authorities in Hong Kong uncovered nine tons of pangolin scales in a shipyard, along with over 1,000 elephant tusks. The shipment was headed to Vietnam by way of Nigeria, and officials believe the cargo would have sold on the market for as much as $8 million. Sadly, experts believe around 13,000 pangolins were killed to account for the nine tons of scales seized in Hong Kong The incident in Hong Kong is one of many examples of the growing problem of animal trafficking around the world. Fortunately, initiatives like World Pangolin Day is helping raise awareness about animal trafficking and making it harder for illegal traders to operate. Via UN Environment Images via David Brossard 

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Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project

SolarCity’s co-founders charge up African venture dedicated to improving ‘energy access’

February 8, 2019 by  
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What’s next for serial entrepreneurs Lyndon and Peter Rive.

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SolarCity’s co-founders charge up African venture dedicated to improving ‘energy access’

Capturing carbon to fight climate change is dividing environmentalists

February 8, 2019 by  
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Bioenergy is a controversial topic — here’s why.

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Companies pledge $1.5 billion to reduce plastic waste

January 23, 2019 by  
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The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), a group of 28 companies that produce plastics and consumer goods, announced last week that it has pledged to spend $1.5 billion over the next five years to reduce plastic waste. Global companies like  Exxon Mobil , Dow DuPont, Procter & Gamble, Royal Dutch Shell and BASF are all part of the AEPW. The investment will go toward building waste collection infrastructure in Asia and Africa, designing waste-management systems in cities close to rivers that transport waste to the ocean, educating governments, cleaning up highly-polluted areas and funding startups that are developing technologies to prevent plastic waste. Related: Simple tips to reduce single-use plastic As the plastic waste problem continues to grow, 8 million tons are now ending up in the oceans every year, and this is resulting in bans on some single-use plastic products. According to the AEPW, 90 percent of global ocean pollution comes from only 10 rivers. More than half of the “land-based plastic litter” that leaks into oceans comes from five Asian countries: China , Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. A spokesperson for the AEPW said that none of China’s major plastics and chemical groups are part of the alliance, but the team is hoping to change that. While most of the alliance members are plastic makers, there are two that make consumer goods: Procter & Gamble and Henkel. More are expected to join the group in the near future. Kraft Heinz, Nestle and Unilever have already made individual pledges to transition their packaging into materials that are recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. Related: Nestle ditching plastic straws, water bottles to reduce plastic waste In an October report, IHS Markit, a London-based information provider, said that 59 percent of global plastic waste comes from single-use plastic packaging. “While there is no single answer to the issue of plastic waste in the environment, we are collaborating to promote infrastructure, education and engagement, innovation and clean-up efforts to keep plastic waste in the right place,” said the AEPW website . + AEPW Via Reuters Image via Monica Volpin

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Companies pledge $1.5 billion to reduce plastic waste

Global warming to blame for insect collapse in Puerto Rican rainforest

January 23, 2019 by  
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35 years ago, scientist Brad Lister left the Puerto Rican Luquillo rainforest after studying the arthropods of the region. He left an area that had a thriving insect population that provided food for all of the birds in the national park. But, when he returned in 2018, Lister and his colleague, Andres Garcia, made a shocking discovery — 98 percent of the ground insects had vanished. “We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” Lister told The Guardian. “We were driving into the forest, and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.” According to Lister’s study , published in October 2018, 80 percent of the insects in the leafy canopy were gone, and on the ground, 98 percent of the insects had disappeared. The believed culprit? Global warming. Lister noticed the huge decline as insects barely covered the sticky ground and canopy plates in the rainforest, and recalled the long hours it used to take to pick them off.  But now, after twelve hours in the forest, there were maybe one or two insects trapped on the plates. Related: Farming insects too much too fast could create an environmental disaster “It was a true collapse of the insect populations in that rainforest,” Lister said. “We began to realize this is terrible– a very, very disturbing result.” Lister’s study is one of a handful of recent studies about the decline of  insect population, and the results are “hyper-alarming” according to experts. In Germany’s natural reserves, the number of flying insects has plummeted 75 percent in the last 25 years. A lack of insects due to drought and heat in the Australian eucalyptus forest has been blamed for the disappearance of birds. Lister and Garcia also studied the insect numbers in a dry forest in Mexico, and found an 80 percent insect collapse within the last three decades. Scientists call the crash of insect numbers a significant development and an “ecological Armageddon” as they are a vital part of the foundation of the food chain. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Global warming to blame for insect collapse in Puerto Rican rainforest

60% of wild coffee species are now threatened with extinction

January 17, 2019 by  
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When people think of threatened and endangered species, charismatic animals like tigers and giant pandas are usually top of mind. But climate change  really hits home when it lands in your morning mug. Coffea arabica , the wild relative of the world’s favorite coffee, has hit the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. According to a study done by scientists at England’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew , 60 percent of wild coffee species risk extinction. The culprits? Climate change, deforestation, pests and fungal pathogens. Kew scientists undertook their research in African forests and on the island of Madagascar. Their computer models predict that by the end of the century, climate change could decrease the land now used for Ethiopian coffee production by 60 percent. Ethiopia is Africa’s largest coffee exporter — the annual export value tops $1 billion — and the birthplace of Arabica coffee. The wild Arabica coffee is a vital seed stock for coffee farmers. Related: Champagne could lose its classic taste due to climate change This is bad news for coffee lovers, the multi-billion dollar coffee industry and the farmers who depend on the crop for their livelihood. “Among the coffee species threatened with extinction are those that have potential to be used to breed and develop the coffees of the future, including those resistant to disease and capable of withstanding worsening climatic condition,” said Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at Kew. “The use and development of wild coffee resources could be key to the long-term sustainability of the coffee sector.” The Kew study is the first IUCN Red List assessment of the extinction risk to coffee worldwide. “A figure of 60 percent of all coffee species threatened with extinction is extremely high, especially when you compare this to a global estimate of 22 percent for plants,” said Eimear Nic Lughadha, senior research leader in Kew’s conservation department and lead scientist for Kew’s plant assessment unit. “Some of the coffee species assessed have not been seen in the wild for more than 100 years, and it is possible that some may already be extinct. We hope this new data will highlight species to be prioritized for the sustainability of the coffee production sector so that appropriate action can be taken to safeguard their future.” + Kew Images via Emma Sage and Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

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