jueves, 27 de enero de 2011

Public transport and lower reliance on the automobile may make big cities not always the biggest polluters

Big cities like New York, London and Shanghai send less pollution into the atmosphere per capita than places like Denver and Rotterdam, said a study released on Tuesday.
Researchers examined data from 100 cities in 33 nations for clues about which were the biggest polluters and why, according to the report in the peer-reviewed journal Environment and Urbanization.
While cities across the world were to blame for around 71 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, urban dwellers who can use public transport rather than drive helped to lower per capita emissions in some cities.
For instance, the sprawling western US city of Denver's per capita emissions were nearly double those in New York City, home to eight million inhabitants and a gritty, heavily used subway system.
'This is mainly attributable to New York's greater density and much lower reliance on the automobile for commuting,' said the study.
Even Denver's per capita emissions, at 21.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, were sharply higher than Shanghai at 11.2 tCO2e, Paris (5.2) and Athens (10.4)
An analysis of three neighborhoods in Toronto found that the highest emissions came from the suburbs, where streets are lined with large single family homes that are far from commercial centers.
The lowest levels of emissions came from areas with apartment complexes in walking distance to shopping and transit.

martes, 25 de enero de 2011

Using seawater and sun power to produce food, energy and drinking water in deserted zones

EMWIS (Euro-Mediterranean Information System on the know-how in the Water Sector)-EMWIS is a program of the Union for the Mediterranean- informs the following:
A green machine that promises to turn sun and seawater into food, fuel and drinking water will be tried out in the desert near the Red Sea in Jordan, project partners announced. The Sahara Forest Project has the potential to turn deserts into green oases that soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thus curb global climate change. It’s the sort of thing environmentalists who aren't afraid of geoengineering might describe as dreamy.
How it works:
The machine integrates a 10-megawatt solar power plant with a high-tech greenhouse and desalination system to turn readily available sun and seawater into life essentials that are increasingly difficult to acquire affordably in the Middle East. Here's how it works: Saltwater pumped from the Red Sea is evaporated from grilles at the front of the greenhouse to create cool and humid conditions, which are good for growing food and algae. The algae can be used to produce more food or fuel. As the cool and humid air leaves the growing area, it passes over a second evaporator containing seawater heated by the sun, which warms the air so it can hold even more water. This hot and humid air then meets a series of vertical pipes that have been cooled by seawater, which causes the freshwater vapours to condense and trickle as freshwater droplets down the tubes for collection. This freshwater is then heated by a concentrated solar power plant, which creates steam to turn turbines that generate electricity. The electricity powers the pumps and fans used to bring saltwater in from the Red Sea and grow crops and algae in the greenhouse. Leftover freshwater will be used to re-green the area around the greenhouse, creating that carbon-soaking vegetative sponge.
Funding and rollout Project partners signed a deal to build a demonstration machine on a 50-acre site in Aqaba with funding from the Norwegian government. The designers estimate the construction cost to be $110 million (80 million euros). In addition, the project has rights for expansion onto 500 acres. In-depth feasibility studies will be conducted throughout 2011. Construction of the pilot plant is slated for 2012, with commercial-scale development eyed for 2015. Partners in the Sahara Forest Project include London-based Max Fordham Consulting Engineers, Seawater Greenhouse, Exploration Architecture, and the Oslo, Norway-based Bellona Foundation.

My comment is that it would be a great acheivement to expand as a new model of sustainable development taking advantage of sun power and seawater for desertic zones in many countries.

Read the complete information at:

lunes, 24 de enero de 2011

2010 was second warmest year

With a mean temperature of 14.50 °C, 2010 becomes the second warmest year on record, after 1998. The record is maintained by the Met Office and the Climatic Research Unit at UEA.

Read more at:

Speaking about the figures, Professor Phil Jones, Director of Research at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia said: "The warmest 10 years in all three datasets are the same and have all occurred since 1998. The last 10 years 2001-2010 were warmer than the previous 10 years (1991-2000) by 0.2 °C."
These figures follow two similar announcements last week from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which suggested that 2010 was the joint warmest year on their respective records.
Adam Scaife, head of long-range forecasting at the Met Office, said the studies painted a relatively coherent picture. "The three leading global temperature datasets show that 2010 is clearly warmer than 2009," he said. "They also show that 2010 is the warmest or second warmest year on record
The UN's World Meteorological Organisation , which bases its reports on all three sets of data, said that 2010 was the joint warmest year on record, tied with 1998 and 2005. "The 2010 data confirm the Earth's significant long-term warming trend," said the secretary-general, Michel Jarraud. "The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998."
2010 saw a number of extreme weather events, including a summer heatwave in Russia, floods in Pakistan, Australia and China and heavy snowfall in northern Europe.

jueves, 20 de enero de 2011

Climate change may cause crop shortfalls by 2020

El cambio climático puede causar déficits en la producción agrícola para 2020:

Según un estudio publicado el 18 de enero por Universal Ecological Fund, una ONG en Argentina, titulado “Déficit alimentaria: Los impactos del cambio climático sobre la producción agrícola de aquí a 2020”, la temperatura podría subir 2,4ºC si no se toman las medidas necesarias, con efectos sobre la producción agrícola, especialmente en regiones tropicales donde vive el 60% de la población mundial.
La combinación del impacto del calentamiento del planeta sobre la agricultura y el crecimiento de la población mundial, que alcanzaría los 7,8 mil millones de individuos de aquí a 2020, tendrá efectos negativos para garantizar la alimentación mundial, poniendo en riesgo la seguridad alimentaria mundial: la producción del trigo sufrirá un déficit del 14% respecto a la demanda de aquí a 10 años, según el estudio. Esta cifra sería de 11% respecto al arroz y el 9% para el maíz.

Leer sobre ello en: http://hendrawanm.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/will-climate-change-cause-crop-shortfalls-by-2020-scientific-american/

An interesting review on drought and global aridity changes

Where you read the following:

"The rapid warming since the late 1970s has increased atmospheric demand for moisture and likely altered atmospheric circulation patterns (e.g., over Africa and East Asia), both contributing to the recent drying over land. Since a large part of the recent warming is attributed to human-induced GHG increases,90 it can be concluded that human activities have contributed significantly to the recent drying trend."

You can read this interesting complete review written by Aiguo Dai at:


miércoles, 19 de enero de 2011

Prolonged drought may threaten many countries

The United States and many other heavily populated countries face a growing threat of severe and prolonged drought in coming decades, according to a new study by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Aiguo Dai. The detailed analysis concludes that warming temperatures associated with climate change will likely create increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe in the next 30 years, possibly reaching a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.
Using an ensemble of 22 computer climate models and a comprehensive index of drought conditions, as well as analyses of previously published studies, the paper finds most of the Western Hemisphere, along with large parts of Eurasia, Africa, and Australia, may be at threat of extreme drought this century.
In contrast, higher-latitude regions from Alaska to Scandinavia are likely to become more moist.
Dai cautioned that the findings are based on the best current projections of greenhouse gas emissions. What actually happens in coming decades will depend on many factors, including actual future emissions of greenhouse gases as well as natural climate cycles such as El Niño.
The new findings appear this week as part of a longer review article in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change. The study was supported by the National Science Foundation, NCAR’s sponsor.
“We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community,” Dai says. “If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous.”
While regional climate projections are less certain than those for the globe as a whole, Dai’s study indicates that most of the western two-thirds of the United States will be significantly drier by the 2030s. Large parts of the nation may face an increasing risk of extreme drought during the century.

Regions that are blue or green will likely be at lower risk of drought, while those in the yellow and red spectrum could face more unusually-extreme drought conditions. This color scale is different from the one used in the still images, below. (©UCAR. Visualization by Tim Scheitlin, Mary Haley, and Ryan McVeigh, NCAR. Based on Dai, 2010, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change. This image is freely available for media use. Please credit the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. For more information on how individuals and organizations may use UCAR images, see Media & nonprofit use*)
Other countries and continents that could face significant drying include:
• Much of Latin America, including large sections of Mexico and Brazil
• Regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea, which could become especially dry
• Large parts of Southwest Asia
• Most of Africa and Australia, with particularly dry conditions in regions of Africa
• Southeast Asia, including parts of China and neighboring countries
Read more at http://www2.ucar.edu/news/2904/climate-change-drought-may-threaten-much-globe-within-decades.

martes, 18 de enero de 2011

EUROPA: Safety of Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration and Production: Questions and Answers

Why do we need EU safety legislation for oil platforms?
Offshore accidents do not know borders. If a similar explosion would happen as the one in the Gulf of Mexico, this would have serious effects in many Member States. It is in the interest of citizens that the highest safety standard already existing in given company or Member States will become the standard throughout the European Union.
Although, oil platforms fall already under a series of existing EU legislation, loopholes exist: if a rig accident occurs within the zone of maximal 12 nautical miles from coast, the oil company has to pay for the water damage and take remedial actions under the EU Environmental Liability Directive. Beyond 12 miles, no such EU rules exist.
What is new?
The European Commission for the very first time envisages comprehensive EU legislation on oil platforms covering the prevention, the response and the financial liability. This might take the form of a single piece of legislation.
• Granting permits: Although Member States will continue to grant licences for drillings, they will have to apply key EU criteria. Oil companies must have a contingency plan and prove that they have the financial means available to them to pay for environmental damage caused in the event of an accident.
• Controls: Oil platforms are controlled by national authorities. These supervision tasks of national authorities should be evaluated by independent experts. This is a completely new requirement.
• Standards for safety equipment: Technical standards will ensure that only control equipment meeting the highest safety standards will be allowed. At the moment, EU product safety legislation does not apply to mobile offshore drillings.
• Damages: Oil companies will have to remedy the damage caused to the protected marine species and natural habitat up to max 200 nautical miles from the coast. At present, the EU Environmental Liability Directive does not cover fish in terms of commercial commodities but protected fish and covers only the 12 nautical mile zone as the water quality as such. The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), presently focussing on pollution caused by ships, will also help on those caused by oil platforms.
• International: The Commission will work for implementing existing international conventions and new common initiatives. At the moment, the protocol of the Barcelona Convention governing safety of oil rigs in the Mediterranean is not in force yet, as one signature is missing. If Italy will ratify as announced, the rules will enter into force.
Have you learnt from the Gulf of Mexico? Will new EU rules prevent what went wrong there?
In the case of the Deepwater Horizon rig, several failures coincided according to analyses available to date. It is already clear that the blow up preventer failed when pressure reached limits. Within the framework of technical standards of control equipment, we can set also quality standards for blow up preventers.
Likewise, in the case of the Deepwater Horizon, it took several months to design and drill a relief well to stop oil leaking into the sea water. In the contingency plans, which oil companies have to submit to national authorities, they should be required also to show that they can design these wells in a timely manner.
These are only examples. By the time EU rules are proposed in 2011, reports on the investigations of the Deepwater Horizon should be completed and will be fully utilized.
When will the Commission table the legislative proposals?
The Commission will present its legislative proposals early in 2011.
Are there any rigs in European waters being as deep as Deepwater Horizons?
Out of the 12 European Economic Area (EEA) countries having offshore operations, only Norway reports to have operating offshore activities in water depths of up to 1,300 meters. However, many countries want to follow Norway's example: In the UK, west of Shetlands, exploration is planned in a depths of up to 1,600 meters, near the Faroe Islands at a sea depth of 1,100 meters. Romania has awarded a licence for drilling in the Black sea, at a water depth of 1,000 meters.
In Libyan waters in the Mediterranean, wells were drilled at 1,500 meters and beyond, but drillings are also planned in water depth exceeding 2,000 meters. In Egypt, wells are planned in waters up to 2,700 meters.
Why does the depth matter?
As divers can only operate in a maximum depth of 200-250 meters, intervention in deeper waters in case of accidents become already difficult. In depths of 1000 meters, the pressure is such that even rescue work with remote control gets difficult.
Which EU countries have oil drillings?
Out of the nearly 900 offshore installations operating in the EU, 486 are in the UK, 181 in the Netherlands, 61 in Denmark, 2 in Germany, 2 in Ireland, 123 in Italy, 4 in Spain, 2 in Greece, 7 in Romania, 1 in Bulgaria and 3 in Poland. Cyprus and Malta plan to start drilling activities in the near future.

lunes, 17 de enero de 2011

Butterflies or business - Europe can have both!

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has released its fourth Environment State and Outlook report — SOER 2010 — a comprehensive assessment of how and why Europe’s environment is changing, and what we are doing about it. SOER 2010 concludes that a fully integrated approach to transforming Europe to a resource-efficient green economy can not only result in a healthy environment, but also boost prosperity and social cohesion.

Key findings and recommendations in this report:

• Climate change: The European Union has made progress in cutting emissions and expanding renewable energy. The EU-27's 2009 emissions stand 17 % below the 1990 level and therefore very close to the bloc’s target of cutting emissions 20 % by 2020. However, sectoral trends are not all positive. EU-27 emissions from transport rose by 24% between 1990 and 2008.
• Climate change adaptation: Even if Europe meets all its emission reduction targets and world leaders agree on bold measures during the climate talks currently taking place in Cancun, Mexico, Europe will still need to adapt to ongoing and expected climate change impacts. Dedicated management of natural capital can help deal with these challenges.
• Biodiversity, ecosystems and people’s health: The Natura 2000 network of protected areas, which now covers around 18 % of EU land, has helped protect endangered species and preserve green spaces for leisure. Air and water quality legislation has reduced pressure on biodiversity and people. On the other hand, intensification of land use, loss of habitats and overfishing prevented the EU from meeting its target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.
• Integrated solutions with a global perspective: By showing the many links between different challenges, environmental and others, SOER2010 encourages us to increase integrated actions across different policy areas dealing with these challenges, so as to deliver improvements quicker and maximise co-benefits (e.g. mitigate climate change and improve air quality at the same time).
• Resource efficiency: Food, energy and water security are key drivers of land use as often conflicting demands increase (e.g. for food, feed and fuel). Accounting and pricing that takes full account of resource use impacts are essential for steering business and consumers towards enhanced resource efficiency.
• Citizen involvement: Policy alone cannot halt or reverse environmental trends. We need to increase the number of citizens committed to reducing their impact on the environment by involving them in collecting data and through social media.

Very interesting report to read and to recommend.

Read more at http://www.eea.europa.eu/pressroom/newsreleases/butterflies-or-business-europe-can