Bhutan: Carbon Negative, not Carbon Neutral

Source: TED Talks

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Rural Cambodian villagers defiant in face of looming hydropower flood

From the government’s perspective: hydropower will aid the country economically and elevate the standard of living of the people. Rural people will also be compensated and relocated to new, better residences with access to school, electricity and a market.

From villager’s perspective: as my old village is flooded to make way for the HEP plant, my old way of life also disappears. Unlike the past where the river can provide for my every need (especially food) for free, I now need to work to have enough money to pay for the basic needs I use to get so easily from the river.

Who’s right?

According to the article, proper negotiation with all parties are very important. While there is likely no way to avoid the building of the dam/HEP plant, the locals affected could have been consulted more to understand their concerns especially with regard to relocation.

Such consultation with locals is equally important with NGOs and disaster relief work.

Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/rural-cambodian-villagers-defiant-in-face-of-looming-hydropower/3293410.html

Cow farts + seaweed = no more methane?

This is one form of climate change mitigation.

The significance of cow farts and burps to climate change:

“Ruminant animals are responsible for roughly 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally, so it’s not a small number,” said Kinley, an agricultural research scientist now working at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Queensland, Australia.

“We’re talking numbers equivalent to hundreds of millions of cars.

How seaweed comes to the rescue?

Joe Dorgan began feeding his cattle seaweed from nearby beaches more than a decade ago as a way to cut costs on his farm in Seacow Pond. He was so impressed with the improvements he saw in his herd, he decided to turn the seaweed into a product.

“There’s a mixture of Irish moss, rockweed and kelp, and just going to waste,” he said. “And I knew it was good because years ago, our ancestors, that’s what they done their business with.”

Then researcher Rob Kinley caught wind of it.

The agricultural scientist, then at Dalhousie University, helped test Dorgan’s seaweed mix, and discovered it reduced the methane in the cows’ burps and farts by about 20 per cent.

Kinley knew he was on to something, so he did further testing with 30 to 40 other seaweeds. That led him to a red seaweed Asparagopsis taxiformis he says reduces methane in cows burps and farts to almost nothing.

While it’s difficult to consider a post with ‘farts’ and ‘burps’ seriously, the impact of this research is actually very impressive. 🙂

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-cow-farting-1.3856202

 

Marine West Coast Climate

The cool temperate (Marine West Coast) climate type always causes confusion for students unlike the other 2 climate types (equatorial and monsoon) learnt in the O level Syllabus.

Distinguishing Characteristics

Temperature

The marine west coast is noted for its mild summers and winters and, as a result, a small annual temperature range. Its location on the west coast of a continent in the midlatitudes places the climate in the path of the Westerlies. In this situation, the climate receives a constant influx of oceanic air throughout the year. The mild temperatures are a direct result of the moderating influence of ocean bodies on air temperatures. The is especially true for those situations where a warm ocean current borders the continent, like the North Atlantic Drift’s effect on northwestern Europe. Temperature ranges increase as one moves away from the coast.

Precipitation

Not only is the marine west coast noted for its mild temperatures but also for its heavy cloud cover and high humidity through much of the year. This is especially true for the marine west coast climate of North America where orographic uplift is an important climate control. Maritime polar air masses forced to rise up the windward, western slope create significant cloud cover and precipitation. The marine west coast climate is dominated by cyclonic activity embedded in the Westerlies. Frequent cyclonic storms bring prolonged periods of rain, drizzle and fog to these west coast locations. In some locations it is not uncommon to receive as much as 2540 mm (100 in) of precipitation in a year, an amount that rivals the rainy tropics.

Source: earthonlinemedia.com

Nile farmers adapt to Climate Change

There are 2 ways to face the threat of climate change:
1. Climate change mitigation – reduce the effect of climate change by reducing ghg emissions,
2. Climate change adaptation – accept that things are changing, consider ways to survive in the new conditions

It doesn’t mean that the 2 are mutually exclusive (an either-or choice) – one can adapt but still work to mitigate climate change’s impacts.

The Nat Geo article discusses how international organisations like the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) works with Egyptian farmers, who have for centuries been relied on the Nile River and consistent weather conditions for farming, to adapt to climate change and find new ways of growing crops.

Fortunately for Regaa and his peers, there is some help at hand. The FAO has launched 15 schools across five regions. Here, in informal settings such as the field shack, groups of 15 to 25 farmers meet once a week for four months to talk through their struggles and receive instruction in more efficient agricultural techniques. “We teach them to pick better seeds, to disinfect them before planting, and to level the soil—this is crucial. It saves water and improves germination,” says Zahra Ahmed, FAO’s lead project manager in Egypt.

And despite some early opposition from older agricultural laborers, who’ve regarded the reforming outsiders with suspicion, most indications so far suggest Ahmed and her counterparts might be onto something. The Beni Suef farmers who’ve adhered to their coach’s advice have seen their yields grow so much—often at least 50-60 percent, that the governor has pledged to roll the teaching scheme out across his entire portion of the Nile Valley.

Source: NatGeo

Multinational corporations vs local farmers

When we think of MNCs, we think of richer, developed countries exploiting the poorer, less developed countries.

This may no longer be the case as MNCs from developed countries are under the scrutiny of the media and their respective governments while MNCs from emerging economies like China, South Africa and Russia may not face the same pressure from their government and the public to ensure human rights are protected in the countries they invest projects in. Sometimes, the governments themselves work with the MNCs at the expense of the needs of their own people.

When you think of the worst abuses in poor countries — land grabs, sweatshops, cash-filled envelopes passed to politicians — you probably think they’re committed by companies based in rich ones: Nike in Indonesia, Shell in Nigeria, Dow in Bhopal, India.

These are the cases you’re most likely to hear about, but they are no longer representative of how these abuses actually take place — or who commits them.These days, the worst multinational corporations have names you’ve never heard. They come from places like China and South Africa and Russia. The countries where they are headquartered are unable to regulate them, and the countries where they operate are unwilling to.

Read the Foreign Policy article to find out more about how land grabs from a Zimbabwean MNC, Green Fuel, has affected the lives of local farmers. This is just one case of many.

Source: foreignpolicy.com

Reservoirs, climate change and the danger of methane

Turns out overcoming global warming is way more than merely reducing our energy consumption and burning less fossil fuels. What we thought was clean energy – hydropower – may end up being a source of greenhouse gas (methane) in the atmosphere.

Reservoirs are a classic instance of how major human alteration’s to the Earth’s landscape can have unexpected effects. Flooding large areas of Earth can set off new chemical processes as tiny microorganisms break down organic matter in the water, sometimes doing so in the absence of oxygen — a process that leads to methane as a byproduct. One reason this happens is that the flooded areas initially contain lots of organic life in the form of trees and grasses.

The impact of agriculture (farming) nearby also excerabates matters:

Meanwhile, as nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus flow into reservoirs from rivers — being poured in by human agriculture and waste streams — these can further drive algal growth in reservoirs, giving microorganisms even more material to break down. The study finds that for these reasons, reservoirs emit more methane than “natural lakes, ponds, rivers, or wetlands.”

“If oxygen is around, then methane gets converted back to CO2,” said John Harrison, another of the study’s authors, and also a researcher at Washington State. “If oxygen isn’t present, it can get emitted back to the atmosphere as methane.”And flooded areas, he said, are more likely to be depleted of oxygen.

Similarly, our asian food staple of rice also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

A similar process occurs in rice paddies, which are also a major source of methane emissions.

So what now? Stop consuming rice and abandon all reservoirs? No…

…reservoirs may be emitting just shy of a gigaton, or billion tons, of annual carbon dioxide equivalents. That would mean they contributed 1.3 percent of the global total.

Just as there are unavoidable contributions to ghg emissions – hydropower is most likely still cleaner than fossil fuels, and rice will still remain a staple food for many Asians, we can focus out attention on avoidable sources of greenhouse gases. These include the excessive usage of electricity, overuse of motor vehicles instead of public transport or other means of transportation, etc.

Source: washingtonpost