Environment Forum

Flood drowns Taipei in cinematic wake-up call

American sci-fi blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow warned global audiences about climate change as it showed New York smothered by ice as temperatures plunged worldwide.  But the 2004 movie evidently made little impact on growth-crazy Asia, which has gone ahead spewing pollutants without imagining risks that they might disrupt the climate.

This year a group of filmmakers in newly modernised, consumption-happy Taiwan is going to the densely populated western Pacific island’s public with an hour-long alarmist movie showing the world’s second-tallest building Taipei 101 as an island in a flood that has drowned the capital after a reservoir collapses in a freak super-strength typhoon.

The free film with an obvious mission titled “Plus or Minus 2 Degrees Celsius” began showing in late February, reaching at least 11,000 people so far and with dates to screen for more audiences later in the year.

 It also shows footage from snowstorms, droughts and other real natural disasters around Asia to rub in its point, which has set off critical debate among Taiwan academics.

“A lot of people know about climate change but don’t understand what its impact would be,” said Lu Yu-rou, media specialist with film promoter the Taipei-based Plus or Minus 2 Degrees Campaign Alliance. And after watching the film? “A lot of people actually think it’s pretty shocking. They never expected that such as severe situation could develop.”

from Photographers' Blog:

Asia’s largest solar power plant

Nicky Loh presents a series of time-lapse sequences of a solar power plant in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Asia's Largest Solar Power Plant in Kaohsiung, Taiwan from Nicky Loh on Vimeo.

The first time lapse sequence was shot over a period of one hour at 1 frame every two seconds on a lens baby. I chose to use still photography to capture the time lapse over video as the movement of the panels was so small that a continuous one hour raw video file on the 5D MKII would have crashed my computer.

The second time lapse sequence featuring the overview of Kaohsiung City, used to illustrate a city gaining electricity, was shot over a 3 hour period, at 1 frame every 4 seconds, from inside a hotel with an overview of the city. Because the hotel room lights reflect on the glass panel of the hotel room window which I shot through, I had to sit in the dark for nearly two hours for the camera to finish snapping.

Something fishy about deadly Taiwan typhoon

fish fish fishTaiwan fisheries flopped to an 18-year low point after Typhoon Morakot flooded much of the low-lying south in August, the island’s Central News Agency told us, casting aquaculture as a victim. Fish farmers, swamped by the stench of their own produce a month after the storm, struggled to recover.

But were farmers also villains?

Taiwan’s Control Yuan, a central government agency that can censure public officials, says in a report  this month they were at fault, as were Pingtung county officials who had given permits to only 29 percent of them, ignoring the rest as they pumped groundwater. The use of groundwater for fish farms has sunk surrounding land, leaving villages prone to floods, the report says.

“According to data the county gave us, still more than 70 percent of fish farming households and fish farm land area are illegal,” the Control Yuan autopsy says. “Registration of water rights is a county responsibility, but the county government over the long term pushed away the responsibility and neither offered timely guidance nor enforced laws.”

Rainy Taiwan faces awkward water shortage

jennings Chronically rainy Taiwan faces a rare water shortage as leaders ask that people on the dense, consumption-happy island of 23 million finally start changing habits as dry weather is forecast into early 2010. 

Taiwan, a west Pacific island covered with rainforests and topical fruit orchards, is used to rain in all seasons, bringing as much as 3,800 mm (150 inches) on average in the first 10 months of every year. But reservoirs have slipped in 2009 due to a chain of regional weather pattern flukes giving Taiwan too much dry high pressure while other parts of Asia get more storms than normal, the Central Weather Bureau  says.

Deadly typhoon Morakot  in August brought more than half the year’s rain to much of south Taiwan, washing away drought fears as well as a lot of other things. But the three-day storm dumped too much rain at once for much storage or use. Despite the typhoon, southern Taiwan’s anchor city Kaohsiung was 20 mm below average in the first 10 months of 2009, with the typhoon’s contribution about half the 1,747 mm total. Below-average rainfall resumed after the typhoon, the weather bureau said, and the same is forecast through February.jennings2

Coral erodes off Taiwan as divers take it home

Taiwan tourists are destroying a piece of exactly what they travel to see on an outlying mid-Pacific islet known — at least at one time — for its abundant coral reefs.

A pair of Taiwan environmental groups that marshaled 56 people to check the coral supply near Orchid Island, which is southeast of Taiwan proper, for the first time since 2004 found that the sensitive but colourful marine species covered only 18 percent of the surrounding ocean floor, down from 65 percent, said the Taiwan Environmental Information Center .

The Taipei-based information centre and its research partner the Taiwan Association for Marine Environmental Education suspect that the aftermath of a long-lasting August typhoon may have caused parts of the reef to break apart.

Taiwan seeks to participate in U.N. climate convention

Taiwan, hit by its worst typhoon in 50 years in August, has found a culprit for the disaster that killed about 770 people and begun using it to get precious attention overseas where the island is usually overlooked in favour of its giant political rival China.

Global warming is taking blame for Morakot, which was freakish as Taiwan’s only major typhoon of the year and because it lingered instead of blowing straight through. The island’s foreign ministry says that as global warming’s victim it should get to participate in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change  in time for its December talks in Copenhagen. Sixteen countries have already voiced support.

“We are a victim of this problem. It’s closely related to the public’s economic interests,” said Yang Kuo-tung, director general of the foreign ministry’s treaties and legal affairs. Morakot’s incessant rain caused agricultural losses of T$16.47 billion ($510 million).  ”It’s no laughing matter.”

Taiwan typhoon responses to get help from outer space

Slow-moving Morakot stormed into Taiwan’s typhoon hall of infamy this past week, rescue teams complained, largely because clouds hovered in the hardest hit areas even after the killer storm had passed.

The clouds blocked any aerial views of mountain villages in southern Taiwan where hundreds of people are presumed dead from landslides.

Disaster officials on this western Pacific island, a veteran of raging late summer typhoons, couldn’t even confirm the biggest landslide, which buried a village that was home to more than 1,000 people, until a day after it had happened.

Deadly 2008 typhoon set for TV re-run

A slow-moving typhoon that collapsed a tunnel, knocked out a bridge and set off mudslides, killing 12 people in Taiwan last September, is coming back this year.

This time it’s on worldwide TV.

Typhoon Hunter, a 46-minute documentary led by Local Tiger International Co. and funded in part by the Taiwan government, tracks an effort to send weather sensing aircraft into the eye of the typhoon.  Taiwan worked with Japan and the United States, both of whose territories were hit by the same storm, to fly the dangerous mission for recording changes at the centre of the typhoon.

“This reveals for the first time the scientific secrets to the incubation, formation and fierce destructive power of typhoons,” government information Minister Su Jun-pin said in a statement.

Cyclones’ silver lining: they may slow global warming

A Filipino resident wades across a flooded area after Typhoon Mindulle hit Baguio City, north of Manila, July 1, 2004. At least 16 people were killed when Typhoon Mindulle hit the country on Wednesday, packing peak winds of 190 km per hour near the center and gustiness of 230 kph, cut power and telecommunications lines. REUTERS/Tito Zapata RR/FAA cyclone slamming into a tropical island in the Pacific or the Caribbean sounds like unmitigated bad news – flattening homes, destroying crops, flooding towns or washing away coastlines.

But there may be a silver lining even to the worst storm clouds; hurricanes and typhoons may help — at least a bit – to slow global warming by washing huge amounts of leaves, branches, tree trunks, roots and soil into the ocean, according to research in the journal Nature Geoscience. Read a story about the findings here.

Plants soak up carbon dioxide – a non-toxic heat-trapping gas that is building up fast in the atmosphere because of human emissions of greenhouse gases – as they grow and release the stored carbon when they rot or burn.