Environment Forum

Maldives: “Paradise Drowning”, partly due to tourism?

A tourist from London plays with her daughter on the jetty outside the Maldivian resort of Banyan Tree on January 9, 2005. Most tourists are leaving the Maldives after the atoll nation was hit by the Asian tsunami. REUTERS/Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachchi AL/TWThe Maldives has a dilemma — it fears that rising seas caused by global warming could wipe the country off the map but it doesn’t want to restrict tourists who visit the Indian Ocean coral islands in aircraft whose emissions are a cause of climate change.

Read Melanie Lee and Neil Chatterjee’s story about the problem faced by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who is writing a book about ”Paradise Drowning” but wants to keep the tourist-dependent economy going.

What should countries like the Maldives do?

Ending poverty is the overriding goal for developing nations, but how far should they take part in fighting global warming, caused by people in rich nations on the other side of the world?

Would high green taxes on visitors help? Or would that be just a symbolic pinprick in the problem of global warming that could drive holidaymakers to pick another tropical destination?

What do you think?

Puffins: clowns but also great timekeepers

A puffin with a mouth full of small fish stands on Norway’s Runde island in this July 25, 2007 file photo. Some 100,000 pairs of puffins will nest on the island from March till September. Picture taken July 25. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic (NORWAY)Puffins may look like clowns but have just proved once again that they’re excellent time-keepers.

April 14 is traditionally the day when thousands of the seabirds land on the cliffs at Lovund island off north Norway at the start of the mating season. They sometimes land a day or two on either side of the date, first gathering in vast flocks after the long winter spent out at sea, but April 14 is so reliable that it has become a tourist attraction.

“It’s just instinct,” says Torill Olaisen, who works at the local hotel on the island. “It could be the length of the day, it could be the amount of moisture in the air, it may be access to food. No one knows how they do it.”

Coaly smoke! Green ire over huge India coal plant

coal2.jpgGreens are seeing red this week after the World Bank approved partial financing for a $4.2 billion coal-fired power station in India.

   The 4,000 MW plant will provide crucial power for millions of Indians, prove a much-needed boost for industry and use “super-critical” technology that will make it India’s most-efficient coal-fired plant.

   The Bank’s board approved $450 million in loans through its International Finance Corp for the Tata Mundra project and the IFC said it looked at many alternative ideas, including wind and solar, but found the giant coal power station was the best solution.

The “Copenhagen Protocol” on global warming?

Red paint is seen on The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen May 15, 2007. The statue was damaged by vandalsWhat’s in a name? 

Will the next international deal for combating climate change be called the “Copenhagen Protocol”, consigning the “Kyoto Protocol” to history?

Who would want the name of their favourite city linked to a treaty about global warming? It may be a momentous step towards a clean energy future but, if Kyoto is anything to go by, will also be hated by many. The poor “Little Mermaid” statue in Copenhagen harbour already suffers enough from protests, like red paint thrown by vandals last year (right).

A new U.N. pact for fighting global warming is meant to be agreed at the end of 2009 at a conference in the Danish capital and, by normal international practice, it would then be called the “Copenhagen Protocol”. 

Galapagos bird brains survive wind turbines

Galapagos wind turbine — courtesy E8 group of power generatorsThree giant wind turbines are helping the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean towards a goal of eliminating use of fossil fuels by 2015 — and no birds have been killed in a six-month pilot scheme despite worries in many nations that big blades and bird brains don’t mix.

The Galapagos are home to mocking birds, finches, petrels, blue-footed boobies, doves, albatrosses and other exotic species many of which only live on the islands. Studies of Galapagos birds helped British 19th century naturalist Charles Darwin work out his theory of evolution.

“In six months of pilot operations there have been no bird kills,” said Melinda Kimble of the U.N. Foundation, a sponsor of the $10.8 million project led by power producers including American Electric Power and also backed by Ecuador’s government.

Way better than the subway


There are plenty of ways to get around New York City, not all of them savory — subway, bus, car, taxi, bike, shoe-leather — but few offer the environmental cachet of the plug-in electric motorbike. Sleek, slim and silent, the Vectrix two-seater owned by filmmaker Michael Bergmann is definitely preferable to rocketing around town under almost any other kind of power. The ride from the East Side to the West Side one recent evening was an absolute pleasure, with less ambient noise than a golf cart as we zoomed across Central Park.

“I’ve always felt that enjoying life in New York to the fullest requires a way to get around New York,” Bergmann said later in an e-mail. “A way that’s quiet and up on the surface so you can enjoy the varied life and changing neighborhoods as you travel. That requires a vehicle that’s street legal (so I don’t worry about being stopped or having it confiscated), always available, that isn’t hard to park, that doesn’t contribute to congestion or pollution (air or noise), that can carry the amount of stuff one ordinarily carries, and carry a passenger as well. So as soon as I found out about the Vectrix I wanted one.”

Vectrix, headquartered in Rhode Island, first started selling its electric plug-in motorbikes in Europe and is now expanding in the U.S. market. The company bills its plug-in model as “an advanced zero-emission, battery-powered motorcycle,” with comparable performance to a 400cc gas-powered motorcycle.

Planet not dim to turn off the lights?

skyline1.jpgPerhaps 50 million people took part in a global Earth Hour campaign to turn out the lights for an hour at 8 p.m. on Saturday to put attention on global warming, organisers said. Did you?

    In Australia, one survey showed that more than half the adults turned off the lights, they said. Bangkok saved 73.3 megawatts, or the equivalent of switching off 2 million fluorescent lights, and organisers said electricity use dropped 8.7 percent in Toronto, Canada.

    You don’t have to be a tree-hugging socialist to see that it makes sense to turn off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances, although it obviously only makes sense if you do so all the time and not as a gimmick one Saturday night a year.

Is lights off campaign a turn-off?

A workman holds onto a 32 metre balloon in the shape of a light bulb on Sydney Harbour to promote the Earth Hour event March 19, 2008. Earth Hour is to be held at 8pm on March 29 where the public and business worldwide are encouraged to switch off their lights to join the fight against climate change. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas (AUSTRALIA)Millions of people around the world are set to turn off lights and electrical appliances at 8 p.m. local time on Saturday, March 29, to highlight the problem of global warming.

Landmarks from the Sydney Opera House to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco  plan to turn off their lights for the event, pioneered by Australia last year.

Organisers of “Earth Hour” say the idea is to make people aware of the links between global warming and electricity, which is usually generated by burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil which emit greenhouse gases. They say 24 large cities around the world are taking part.  Last year 2.2 million Sydney residents switched off the lights.

Essential Earth Science — from your garage

Stuart Gaffin is a climate researcher at Columbia University and will be a regular contributor with his blog “Exhausted Earth”. Reuters is not responsible for the content — the views expressed are the author’s alone.

The root cause of all environmental problems-from beer cans floating on a lake to global warming-can be explained using the following two contrasting scenes:

Emissions well out of an exhaust of a car during traffic on a street in downtown Berlin on March 23, 2005. Members of the ruling German Greens party discuss a toll for vehicles entering the centre of major cites such as Berlin, Munich and Duesseldorf to reduce exhaust gas pollution. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz TOB/MADScene 1: We are sitting in an automobile inside a small, closed garage.

You are in the passenger seat and I am at the wheel. We are waiting for a third passenger from inside the building. Suddenly I reach for the ignition and turn the engine on. Alarmed by the thought of being poisoned by the exhaust, your eyes widen in amazement as you say, “What are you doing?” When you reach to turn the ignition off, I block your hands and soon a life-and-death struggle begins for control of the vehicle. You are screaming: “Are you crazy! You’re going to kill us both!”  If we manage to survive the episode you will seek to have me put under psychiatric care. Heck, I might even end up in prison for attempted manslaughter. My days as an ordinary law-abiding citizen are over.