Environment Forum

from India Insight:

Why let a debate determine the fate of GM foods?

Students hold a mock funeral procession against genetically modified brinjal crop in Chandigarh January 28, 2010. REUTERS/Ajay VermaThere's nothing Indians like better than a good debate.

So when Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh announced last month that he would hold public debates to decide the commercial fate of genetically modified brinjal (eggplant), there were hopes these would provide a chance for all stakeholders to be heard.

But the debates, in seven cities including Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, were chaotic, nothing more than acrimonious shouting matches between environmental activists and scientists, who say they were not given a fair chance to voice their opinion.

One scientist said he had his hand raised for more than half an hour, but was not allowed to speak. Another said he was told he could make a presentation, but was again not allowed to. Others were not even permitted to enter the premises.

So are townhalls such as these the best way to discuss matters of serious scientific weight?

Sure, the decision affects farmers who grow brinjal and people who cook it in their homes everyday. And a decision to let them speak is a laudable one.

from Tales from the Trail:

Amidst the shivering in Washington, the case for global warming

WEATHER/OK, it's cold in Washington. It's really cold. And snowy. And blizzardy. It's hard to recall that long-ago moment -- what was it, six days ago? -- when you could go for a walk without cross-country skis and a flask of brandy. But just because it's winter doesn't mean global warming is a myth.

But the storms gave conservatives fresh fodder for mocking former Vice President Al Gore and his efforts on global climate change.  Senator Jim DeMint tweeted "It's going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries 'uncle'," Politico reported.

For decades, scientists have struggled to explain the difference between weather, which changes in the short term, and climate, which changes over the long term. There's a good explanation at the new government Climate Service Web site called "Short term cooling on a warming planet." The new site went up this week, between blizzards, and is supposed to guide consumers and businesses so they can adapt to climate change. The Climate Service itself is expected to be up and running by the start of the next U.S. fiscal year that begins on October 1.

Making a consumer market for zero-emissions miles

bikeToday travelers can rack up frequent flyer miles and trade them in for upgrades, tickets and other amenities. 

How about perks not for zooming across thousands of miles in a fossil-fueled jet, but for zero emission miles? Consumers who collect miles for zero-emissions travel — say, bike riding — could swap them for a cool gadget, like an Apple iPhone, paid for by companies or other individuals who need or want to cut carbon emissions, for example.

That’s an idea from Volvo Group, the global heavy duty transportation company, and its environmental initiative at Commute Greener, which offers an application for consumers, businesses and governments track their carbon footprint and meet goals to cut their emissions.

SEC wants climate risks disclosed


– Kathy Nieland is U.S. Sustainability and Climate Change leader for global accounting and advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. She also serves on the independent, not-for-profit Carbon Disclosure Project. The views expressed are her own. –

If you think the Securities and Exchange Commission’s new interpretative guidance on disclosing the risks of climate change applies only to big polluters, think again.

The guidance is evidence that the SEC views climate change as among the potential business risks that companies should evaluate and disclose.

Delivering coup-de-grace to cap and trade

kempJohn Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own.

President Barack Obama read the last rites for national cap and trade in 2010 on Feb. 2, while senior Democrats in the House of Representatives prepared to put a stake through its heart to ensure the Environmental Protection Agency does not try to resurrect it unilaterally without congressional approval.

Obama finally bowed to the inevitable and admitted cap and trade might need to be separated from a more popular green jobs bill in the Senate, a shift that would effectively end prospects for cap and trade in 2010.

In a question-and-answer session the president commented: “The only thing I would say about it is this: We may be able to separate these things out. And it’s possible that’s where the Senate ends up.”

Walmart accused of hypocrisy in green initiatives



Just last month, Walmart announced that it would be moving to eliminate non-biodegradable plastic bags from stores across the United States to reduce their collection in landfills. While they’ve demonstrated positive green initiatives, this week there’s been accusations of hypocrisy because they’ve been passing off a harmful, manufactured textile as sustainable.

Environmental advocates had been applauding Walmart for their plastic bag reduction goals and the installation of more energy-efficient systems. For example, coolers that only light up when a shopper’s presence is detected. So this new accusation from the Federal Trade Commission comes at a bad time.

Walmart, along with many other big box and chain stores across the United States, has been selling products as bamboo that are actually rayon. It is a textile shrouded in debate, because it contains cellulose that is naturally occurring. However, it does require an extensive manufacturing process to produce.

Mount Everest of the seas


David Rockefeller, Jr., a philanthropist, is sponsoring a year-long sailing trip around the Americas looking at environmental impacts on the oceans — from melting ice to fish farms. Here are his thoughts after stepping aboard the voyage for two weeks around Cape Horn.  The views expressed are his own.

For climbers, there is just one Everest.  For sailors, there is just one Cape Horn – the southernmost piece of the American Continents, and often the windiest, most treacherous place in all the oceans.

Eight of us voyagers recently sailed around “the Horn” on a boat called Ocean Watch.  We flew a billowing spinnaker with a graphic of the two American continents and a mainsail sporting our own expedition logo, “Around the Americas, 2009-2010.”  A flock of thirty albatross rode the surprisingly benign ocean swells.  Two breakfasting cruise ships gave scale to the forbidding cliffs.

from The Great Debate UK:

Time to invest in Europe’s bio-clean tech delta

Luuk- Luuk van der Wielen is at BE-Basic and Delft University of Technology; Roger Wyse is Managing Director, Burrill & Company, San Francisco. The opinions expressed are their own.-

Today the global megatrends of food security, energy security, global climate change and sustainability command the attention of nations worldwide.  Confronting these challenges will test political systems, drive policy and stress international relations.

To address them successfully, nations and companies are making massive investments in R&D, seeking solutions that will drive global innovation for decades.  The application of modern discoveries in biology and biocleantechnology will be a major enabling force to address these issues.

from UK News:

Climate scientists seek to calm storm of doubt

INDIAIf the scientific evidence for manmade global warming is so compelling, why do so many people still have their doubts?

Why do politicians and the media often discuss global warming with such certainty, ignoring the scientists' carefully worded caveats?

And how much harder will it be to persuade the sceptics after the uproar over whether scientists exaggerated unreliable evidence or colluded to withhold information to strengthen their case?

Chinese solar player Yingli looks to score at World Cup

worldcupChinese solar power companies have shone amid the downturn in the solar industry,  converting their low cost advantage into bigger market share and profits.

Now, China’s Yingli Green Energy Holding Co Ltd is making a play to raise its global profile.  It’s taking its solar panels to the world’s biggest sporting event, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and has signed up to help sponsor the event.

The news makes Yingli the first renewable energy company to sponsor the World Cup — where the world’s best football (or soccer for U.S. fans) teams compete —  as well as the first Chinese company to seal a global sponsorship deal with FIFA, the world’s governing body for football.