Global environmental challenges
Kenyan blogger Juliana Rotich is the editor of Green Global Voices, which monitors citizen media in the developing world, and is a regular contributor to this page. Thomson Reuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone.
On the DotEarth blog, Andrew Revkin muses on the significance of Obama’s election, writing…
President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20 will become the most important leader of a species that has exploded in just six generations from a total population of 1 billion (around 1830) to a point today when teenagers alone number 1 billion, a species that is on a path toward more or less 9 billion people by mid-century. In numbers, think roughly of adding two Chinas on top of the one that exists today. Expectations that he will exert planet-scale leadership are high, as indicated in this letter from Nelson Mandela to the next president.
New research shows that both Antarctica and the Arctic are getting less icy – and the best explanation is mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases.
But will that convert anyone who doubts that global warming is caused by human activities, led by burning fossil fuels?
Coca-Cola is the latest American brand working to improve its environmental credentials with a sweeping new program that pledges to improve water efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions throughout its massive global system.
The soft drink maker today said that through a partnership with environmental group WWF, it has commited to eliminating 50 billion liters of water from its bottling plants by 2012 by improving water efficiency by 20 percent over 2004 levels. Coke’s announcement comes a few months after General Electric said it would cut water usage by 20 percent by 2012.
Something sinister is happening to bats in the United States — not only are their numbers declining due to a mysterious malady, but large numbers of them are also being caught mid-flight in the spinning wind turbines that are cropping up rapidly across the nation.
Getting caught speeding changed my life — for the better.
It inadvertently turned me into a devoted bike commuter, has saved me lots of money, aggravation — and even saved the world a little bit of carbon dioxide to boot. Since giving up the car for my daily commutes by bike to work in August, I’ve also lost about 2 kilos and now look forward to my daily 16 km journeys each way to and from the office.
Other colleagues who cycle to work had long tried to encourage me to try out commuting by bike. We’ve even got a little shower here where I work in the centre of Berlin. But it was always so much easier to jump into the car.
City-dwelling, bike-riding recyclers are finally getting the recognition they deserve for their environmentally friendly lifestyles.
A researcher at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development argues in a journal article published on Friday that many city residents actually pollute less than families in rural areas.
“People who live in the suburbs or commute actually have much higher greenhouse gas emissions per person than people living in (the London district of) Chelsea for the same income level,” David Satterthwaite told Reuters.
That’s because country-dwellers tend to have larger homes that need to be heated or cooled and higher car use per household.
The study in the journal Environment and Urbanization says cities are often blamed for producing most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions but actually generate just two-fifths or less.
Satterthwaite argues that cities in wealthy nations can set an example for low carbon living by providing good public transport and energy-efficient buildings. He singles out Barcelona – which has a third of Spain’s average emissions per person – and other historic compact cities like Amsterdam which are easy to walk around.
Culture is also an ally in the fight against climate change. “There’s so much in London or Paris that isn’t high greenhouse gas-emitting: the culture, the art, the buildings, the theatre, the music, the museums, the libraries,” Satterthwaite said.
But while cities are often unfairly blamed for producing 75 to 80 percent of the world’s greenhous gas emissions, their responsibility creeps back up when you look at it from a consumption perspective.
Satterthwaite believes it would be fairer to allocate greenhouse gas emissions according to the location of the people who consume the goods and services responsible for the emissions rather than to the place they are produced.
So if you live in Berlin and buy a Chinese-made T-shirt or digital camera, the emissions caused by the manufacturing process would go into your city’s pot, not Guangzhou’s.
On this measure, Satterthwaite estimates city emissions would account for between 60 and 70 percent of the global total. Breaking that down, richer cities would be the clear culprits.
Some parts of poor cities – like the inner-city settlement of Dharavi in Mumbai where 600,000 people live and work crammed into an area around 2 km square – might even have a negative tally, especially if they’re home to poor people who survive by reclaiming and recycling waste.
“Allocating emissions to consumers rather than producers shows that the problem is not cities but a minority of the world’s population with high-consumption lifestyles,” Satterthwaite said.
“But I can see the huge – or probably impossible – political difficulties of getting that accepted, if suddenly the responsibility of the rich world goes up even further,” he admitted.
What do you think? How could your city cut its carbon emissions? Should we measure emissions from the perspective of production or consumption?
Organisers of an annual “Clean up the World” campaign say that up to 35 million volunteers in more than 110 countries will be cleaning up trash, planting trees, working out better ways of recycling and taking part in other ways to stop pollution.
Of course it will take a lot more than just the Sept. 19-21 blitz but beaches from Vanuatu to Brazil, or cities from Buenos Aires to Sydney may benefit a bit.