Sunday, December 23, 2012

West Antarctic Ice Sheet warming twice earlier estimate

A new analysis of temperature records indicates that the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming nearly twice as fast as previously thought.

US researchers say they found the first evidence of warming during the southern hemisphere’s summer months.

They are worried that the increased melting of ice as a result of warmer temperatures could contribute to sea-level rise.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The scientists compiled data from records kept at Byrd station, established by the US in the mid-1950s and located towards the centre of the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS).

Previously scientists were unable to draw any conclusions from the Byrd data as the records were incomplete.

The new work used a computer model of the atmosphere and a numerical analysis method to fill in the missing observations.

The results indicate an increase of 2.4C in average annual temperature between 1958 and 2010.

“What we’re seeing is one of the strongest warming signals on Earth,” says Andrew Monaghan, a co-author and scientist at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to determine that there’s warming going on during the summer season.” he added.

Top to bottom

It might be natural to expect that summers even in Antarctica would be warmer than other times of the year. But the region is so cold, it is extremely rare for temperatures to get above freezing.

According to co-author Prof David Bromwich from Ohio State University, this is a critical threshold.

“The fact that temperatures are rising in the summer means there’s a prospect of WAIS not only being melted from the bottom as we know it is today, but in future it looks probable that it will be melting from the top as well,” he said.

Previous research published in Nature indicated that the WAIS is being warmed by the ocean, but this new work suggests that the atmosphere is playing a role as well. More



Friday, December 14, 2012

Caribbean Islands Find Economic Advantages in Sustainable Energy

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec 13 2012 (IPS) - With the exception of oil rich Trinidad and Tobago, most, if not all, other Caribbean islands are extremely vulnerable when it comes to the high costs of imported fuels that are easily disrupted by natural disasters and other phenomena.


Barbados, for example, has spent an estimated four million dollars on oil imports in 2011, equal to six percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). This amount has had a direct negative impact on direct production costs and the overall competitiveness of the Barbadian economy.


The island’s prime minister, Freundel Stuart, however, pointed out that “although many small island developing states are energy deficient in conventional energy, limitless potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency resides in our countries”.


Stuart said that the fundamental issue is how small island developing states (SIDS), which have “inherent structural problems and limited resources”, can “convert this renewable energy potential into a tangible product that is accessible, affordable and adaptable”.


Barbados has been actively promoting sustainable energy practices both on the supply side, mainly using renewable energy sources, and on the demand side, encouraging energy efficiency and energy conservation, in an effort to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, enhance energy security and stability, improve the economy’s competitiveness and achieve greater environmental sustainability.


Barbardos has more than 40,000 solar water heaters that save the country nearly 13 million U.S. dollars every year. “We are using the country’s success in this industry as a platform for renewable energy development,” Stuart said.


The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) observed its second annual CARICOM Energy Week from Nov. 11-17 under the theme of “sustainable energy powering a green economy”. The Energy Week was established in 2011 to provide a platform for increased awareness about energy matters, especially given the critical importance of energy to economic developmenHour Grows Late to Act on Climate Change, Caribbean Warns


This year, the Community focused on building awareness about energy conservation and efficiency, as well as the development of renewable energy. It also focused on the necessity of a cleaner, greener energy outlook to mitigate the effects of climate change.


Currently, the Caribbean region depends heavily on imported petroleum and petroleum products, to the tune of 9 billion U.S. dollars per year over the last few years.


Stuart’s Antigua counterpart, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, told IPS that energy in all its various forms is essential to all forms of economic and social development. Energy Week provided an opportunity to reflect on the uses of energy in Antigua and Barbuda and develop strategies for promoting its efficient and sustainable use.


“As a small island state, Antigua and Barbuda is also among the countries most vulnerable to global climate change resulting from the use of fossil fuels, and therefore must lead by example in promoting sustainable uses of energy resources, including through energy conservation and energy efficiency,” he said. More


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Doha summit launches climate damage aid

THINGS took an interesting twist at the latest UN climate summit held in Doha, Qatar, over the past two weeks when nations began talks over paying for the damage caused by climate change.

Who Pays
Delegates were split over a deal under which rich nations would pay when poor ones suffered the consequences of global warming. Developing countries demanded future compensation and developed ones - particularly the US - were unsurprisingly reluctant to agree.

The talks ended with yet another agreement to agree, but many are calling this small victory a significant step forward. The deal offers a distant promise of climate aid. But first, science will have to catch up with politics.

All countries will suffer as a result of climate change, even if humanity slashes its emissions and stops temperatures rising more than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels - the stated goal of the UN negotiations. At current rates, a 3 or 4 °C rise is likely this century.

As a consequence, deserts will spread and lethal heatwaves will become more frequent. Changes in rainfall will bring droughts, floods and storms, andrising seas will swamp low-lying areas, obliterating valuable territory.

So far, climate negotiations have taken a two-pronged approach to the problem. On the one hand, they have sought to create incentives or imperatives to cut emissions. On the other, they have established funds to help poor nations pay for "adaptation" measures, such as sea walls and irrigation systems, to help fend off the unavoidable consequences.

That, according to some, leaves a third element missing. Some consequences cannot easily be kept at bay. Countries will suffer food shortages and more frequent and more severe storm surges. On 28 November, the charities ActionAid, CARE International and WWF released a report arguing that rich countries should compensate poor ones for such damages. Doing so is a moral obligation and must be part of any treaty on climate change, says Niklas Höhne of renewable energy consultancy Ecofys in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

In Doha, a coalition including China, the Alliance of Small Island States and the G77 group of developing countries proposed a scheme that would decide when countries had suffered climate damages, and compensate them for their loss. The idea gained momentum after typhoon Bopha struck the Philippines last week. That country's negotiator Naderev Saño broke down in tears during a speech. "As we sit here, every single hour, even as we vacillate and procrastinate here, we are suffering."

Developed nations balked at the prospect of being held accountable for the consequences of emissions. Early versions of the text included the word "compensation" but they objected that it implied blame. In the end, they agreed to create "arrangements [...] to address loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change".

The deal poses a fundamental challenge to climate science, because it is difficult to work out whether trends and events are caused by greenhouse gases or would have happened anyway. "We can't say that an individual event was caused by climate change," says Nigel Arnell of the University of Reading, UK. "What we can do is say that the chance of it happening was greater."

Computer models can be made to replicate the decades preceding a natural disaster with and without humanity's impact. If the odds turn out to be different with and without greenhouse gas emissions, it suggests that emissions were at least partially to blame. In this way, studies led by Myles Allen at the University of Oxford have shown that the 2003 European heatwave and 2011 Texas drought were both made more likely by human emissions.

The costs of such extreme events is relatively straightforward to calculate. But "attribution" science is in its infancy. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, speculates that superstorm Sandy would not have flooded the New York subwaysMovie Camera without climate change, but says it is not possible to prove that.

On the other hand, we can link slow processes like rising global temperatures or sea level rise to emissions. For this reason, many people think we should focus first on compensating people harmed by these processes - Pacific islands whose shorelines are gradually disappearing underwater for instance - and worry about extreme weather events once the science has caught up. The trouble is, unlike the damage caused by a hurricane, it is difficult to work out how much these slow processes cost. According to Arnell, the problem may prove unworkable. More


Sunday, December 9, 2012

How Many More Sandy's Will It Take

Ambassador Ronny Jumeau, leader of the Seychelles delegation, speaks out as the 18th UN Climate Summit in Doha threatens a disappointing end.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Website Launched on Climate Change Weather Impacts in the Caribbean

29 November 2012: The Caribbean Weather Impacts Group (CARIWIG), a project funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and implemented in partnership with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCC), has officially launched a website devoted to the project.

CARIWIG seeks to: provide unbiased, locally-relevant information on modelling weather impacts of climate change in the Caribbean over different time horizons (short-term, 2030s, or 2080s); train technical staff in its national, regional and intergovernmental stakeholder organizations about the use of such data; and develop related support networks within the region.

A central feature of the project will be a web-based service providing locally-relevant weather projections information based on the best available observed data for the region and outputs from adaptation of leading weather-generator models from the UK's Environment Agency Rainfall and Weather Impacts Generator (EARWIG) and Climate Impacts Programme 09 (UKCIP09) climate scenario systems. The new web service will provide inputs for climate impact studies and training programmes concerning the Caribbean, as well as inform management decisions and policy development regarding specific potential hazards and impacts of climate change.

CARIWIG also will: promote exchange visits to specialist institutions in order to build capacity within the Caribbean on climate-compatible development; foster climate change research within the region; and exchange research findings and best practice among stakeholder institutions.

The inaugural stakeholder consultation for the project will be held from 6-7 February 2013, in Kingston, Jamaica, to discuss how CARIWIG can best serve the three sectors identified as priorities for the project, namely, water, agriculture and coastal resources.

In addition to CCCCC, CARIWIG's implementing partners include the University of West Indies (UWI), the UK's University of East Anglia and Cuba's Institute of Meteorology. [CARIWIG Project Website]


Website Launched on Climate Change Weather Impacts in the Caribbean

29 November 2012: The Caribbean Weather Impacts Group (CARIWIG), a project funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and implemented in partnership with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCC), has officially launched a website devoted to the project.

CARIWIG seeks to: provide unbiased, locally-relevant information on modelling weather impacts of climate change in the Caribbean over different time horizons (short-term, 2030s, or 2080s); train technical staff in its national, regional and intergovernmental stakeholder organizations about the use of such data; and develop related support networks within the region.

A central feature of the project will be a web-based service providing locally-relevant weather projections information based on the best available observed data for the region and outputs from adaptation of leading weather-generator models from the UK's Environment Agency Rainfall and Weather Impacts Generator (EARWIG) and Climate Impacts Programme 09 (UKCIP09) climate scenario systems. The new web service will provide inputs for climate impact studies and training programmes concerning the Caribbean, as well as inform management decisions and policy development regarding specific potential hazards and impacts of climate change.

CARIWIG also will: promote exchange visits to specialist institutions in order to build capacity within the Caribbean on climate-compatible development; foster climate change research within the region; and exchange research findings and best practice among stakeholder institutions.

The inaugural stakeholder consultation for the project will be held from 6-7 February 2013, in Kingston, Jamaica, to discuss how CARIWIG can best serve the three sectors identified as priorities for the project, namely, water, agriculture and coastal resources.

In addition to CCCCC, CARIWIG's implementing partners include the University of West Indies (UWI), the UK's University of East Anglia and Cuba's Institute of Meteorology. [CARIWIG Project Website]


UNGA Second Committee Approves Two Resolutions on SIDS

28 November 2012: On 28 November 2012, the UN General Assembly's (UNGA) Second Committee approved draft resolutions on “Follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States” (A/C.2/67/L.40 ) and on the “International Year of Small Island Developing States" (A/C.2/67/L.42).

The first text reaffirms States' commitment to addressing the vulnerability of small island developing States (SIDS), through the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA) and the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation (MSI), while deciding to convene the third International Conference on SIDS in 2014, hosted by the Government of Samoa. According to the draft, the Conference should seek renewed political and financial commitments to SIDS, and it will identify their priorities for sustainable development, partnerships, and the post-2015 development agenda.

In 2013, regional preparatory meetings for the Conference will take place in each of the three SIDS regions, along with an interregional preparatory meeting to develop inputs to the Conference. The draft invites the UNGA President to convene the first meeting of the preparatory committee in early 2014. The modalities and format of the Conference will be discussed during the UNGA's 68th session, and the contributions of all relevant stakeholders, international donors, and civil society in the preparations are welcomed.

The second text approved by the Committee would declare 2014 to be the International Year of SIDS. States would invite the Secretary-General and relevant UN agencies to facilitate the implementation of this Year. Costs of all implementation activities will be met with voluntary contributions, and a report of the Secretary-General on the evaluation and financial details of the Year is requested during UNGA 70. Member States and stakeholders are encouraged to promote action at all levels of government in 2014 to address the sustainable development of SIDS. [Publications: Draft Resolution A/C.2/67/L.40] [Publication: Draft Resolution A/C.2/67/L.42] [Meeting Summary]


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Adapting to a warmer world: No going back

When Superstorm Sandy hit the US coast last month, it blew millions of New Yorkers back into the nineteenth century.

The southern part of Manhattan went black after floodwaters shorted out electrical systems. With the subway system disabled, many residents resorted to traversing the island by foot, and water supplies in some areas became contaminated with bacteria and pollutants.

The largest Atlantic hurricane on record, Sandy wreaked US$50 billion in economic losses along the US northeast coast, providing a costly reminder of how ill-prepared even the richest nations are for weather extremes. Some recent weather disasters have now been attributed, at least in part, to human activity, including the 2003 European heatwave1 and the floods in England in 2000 (ref. 2). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), storms, floods and droughts will strike more frequently and with greater strength as the climate warms3. And if nations are struggling to cope now, how will they manage in a warmer, harsher future?

Just a decade ago, 'adaptation' was something of a dirty word in the climate arena — an insinuation that nations could continue with business as usual and deal with the mess later. But greenhouse-gas emissions are increasing at an unprecedented rate and countries have failed to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty. That stark reality has forced climate researchers and policy-makers to explore ways to weather some of the inevitable changes.Nature

“As progress to reduce emissions has slowed in most countries, there has been a turn towards adaptation,” says Jon Barnett, a political geographer at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Adaptation has tended to focus on hard defences, such as shoring up sea walls and building dams. But as awareness of adaptation has grown, so too has the concept. “Adaptation means different things to different people, and is extremely location specific,” says Neil Adger, an environmental and economic geographer at the University of Exeter, UK. Although residents in Bangladesh can raise their houses on stilts to survive floods, some settlements in Alaska and the Maldives must move in the face of rising sea levels. More


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Third LAC Political Dialogue on Energy Efficiency Adopts Declaration

20 November 2012: The Third Regional Political Dialogue on Energy Efficiency in Latin America and the Caribbean met to discuss the institutional and policy frameworks needed in the region to promote rational and sustainable energy use to guide mutual and international cooperative efforts in LAC on the issue.

The Dialogue, held from 15-16 November 2012 in Panama City, Panama, under the theme "Measuring Energy Efficiency," was organized by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Panama's National Energy Secretariat (SNE), with financial support from the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ). In addition to representatives from national governments, regional organizations and UN agencies, the meeting included most of the national parliamentarians serving on Parlatino's Energy and Mines Committee.

The meeting was organized into six thematic dialogues on: result indicators for energy efficiency; energy efficiency standards and certification; new advances in national energy efficiency programs; smart grids; energy efficiency in transport; and normative and legislative changes for promoting energy efficiency. It closed with a roundtable on proposals and future steps to reinforce energy efficiency promotion and measurement initiatives in LAC.

At the end of the meeting, the Parlatino participants adopted a Declaration committing the legislators to work in their national legislatures to pass laws that, inter alia: correct price distortions that impede sustainable energy demand management; fund national energy efficiency programs; permit the introduction of performance indicators for energy efficiency programs; and promote the role of governments in energy efficiency as planners, promoters and regulators. They also created a Parlatino working group to track national initiatives.

The Dialogue was preceded on 12-13 November 2012 by a workshop convened in Panama City by ECLAC and ADEME of the six-nation (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay) "Energy Efficiency Indicator Base" (known by its Spanish acronym BIEE) project. Workshop participants presented the results of national efforts to collect statistics related to energy efficiency and other issues as discussed at a May 2012 BIEE workshop. They then selected several indicators which all LAC nations may use, which were presented at the Political Dialogue. [ECLAC Release and Presentations(in Spanish)] [document: Parlatino Declaration on Energy Efficiency (in Spanish)] [IISD RS article on May 2012 BIEE workshop]


Monday, November 19, 2012

Taking Stock: World Fish Catch Falls to 90 Million Tons in 2012

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projects that the world’s wild fish harvest will fall to 90 million tons in 2012, down 2 percent from 2011. This is close to 4 percent below the all-time peak haul of nearly 94 million tons in 1996.

The wild fish catch per person has dropped even more dramatically, from 17 kilograms (37.5 pounds) per person at its height in 1988 to 13 kilograms in 2012—a 37-year low. While wild fish harvests have flattened out during this time, the output from fish farming has soared from 24 million tons in the mid-1990s to a projected 67 million tons in 2012.

Over the last several decades, as demand for fish and shellfish for food, feed, and other products rose dramatically, fishing operations have used increasingly sophisticated technologies—such as on-vessel refrigeration and processing facilities, spotter planes, and GPS satellites. Industrial fishing fleets initially targeted the northern hemisphere’s coastal fish stocks, then as stocks were depleted they expanded progressively southward on average close to one degree of latitude annually since 1950. The fastest expansion was during the 1980s and early 1990s. Thereafter, the only frontiers remaining were the high seas, the hard-to-reach waters near Antarctica and in the Arctic, and the depths of the oceans.

The escalating pursuit of fish—now with gross revenue exceeding $80 billion per year—has had heavy ecological consequences, including the alteration of marine food webs via a massive reduction in the populations of larger, longer-lived predatory fish such as tunas, cods, and marlins. Unselective fishing gear, including longlines and bottom-scraping trawls, kill large numbers of non-target animals like sea turtles, sharks, and corals.

As of 2009, some 57 percent of the oceanic fish stocks evaluated by FAO are “fully exploited,” with harvest levels at or near what fisheries scientists call maximum sustainable yield (MSY). If we think of a fish stock as a savings account, fishing at MSY is theoretically similar to withdrawing only the accrued interest, avoiding dipping into the principal.

Some 30 percent of stocks are “overexploited”—they have been fished beyond MSY and require strong management intervention in order to rebuild. The share of stocks in this category has tripled since the mid-1970s. A well-known example of this is the Newfoundland cod fishery that collapsed in the early 1990s and has yet to recover.

This leaves just 13 percent of oceanic fish stocks in the “non-fully exploited” category, down from 40 percent in 1974. Unfortunately, these remaining stocks tend to have very limited potential for safely increasing the catch.

These FAO figures describe 395 fisheries that account for some 70 percent of the global catch. Included are the small minority that have undergone the time-consuming and expensive process of formal scientific stock assessment, with the remainder being "unassessed" fisheries. There are thousands more unassessed fisheries, however, that are absent from the FAO analysis. In a 2012 Science article, Christopher Costello and colleagues published the first attempt to characterize all of the world’s unassessed fisheries. The authors report that 64 percent of them were overexploited as of 2009.

The top 10 fished species represent roughly one quarter of the world catch. Nearly all of the stocks of these species are considered fully exploited (most of these fish have more than one geographically distinct stock), including both of the major stocks of Peruvian anchovy, the world's leading wild-caught fish. Stocks that are overexploited and in need of rebuilding include largehead hairtail—a ribbon-like predator caught mainly by Chinese ships—in its main fishing grounds in the Northwest Pacific. (See data.)

Despite the unsustainable nature of current harvest levels, countries continue to subsidize fishing fleets in ways that encourage even higher catches. Governments around the world spend an estimated $16 billion annually on increasing fleet size and fish-catching ability, including $4 billion for fuel subsidies. Industrial countries spend some $10 billion of that total. More than $2 billion is spent by China, whose 15-million-ton catch is nearly triple that of the next closest country, Indonesia. More


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

European Union may open up to OT travellers

(CNS): The European Commission has proposed adding five Caribbean Island Nations, 10 Pacific Island Nations and specific categories of British citizens currently under visa obligations that reside in some of Britain’s overseas territories to the list of third countries whose nationals are exempt from the visa obligation.

It is now up to the European Parliament and to the Council of the European Union to make a final decision on the Commission proposal. This would mean easier travel to and from the various destinations as the countries included on the list would be expected to reciprocate, making it easier for Europeans to travel to the Caribbean and the various territories.

The move is aimed at simplifying travel and nationals from the countries would no longer require a visa for short stays of up to 90 days if they have a relevant passport for business or pleasure.

"Traveling without a visa is not just a symbolic gesture - it will have a direct impact on citizens of these countries and on EU citizens, in the form of more people-to-people contacts and business opportunities," said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

In addition to the UK’s overseas territories, the list of proposed countries includes Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu and Timor-Leste. More


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Will President Obama Seize the Moment for Action on Climate Change?

Superstorm Sandy changed the U.S. political zeitgeist on climate change virtually overnight.

When BusinessWeekruns a cover blazoned with "It's Global Warming Stupid" and politicians start breaking their "climate silence," you know the jig is up. President Obama acknowledged as much in his acceptance speech, when he said he wanted to "pass on a country that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."

The question is, where we go from here. Are Americans now prepared to accelerate action to slow climate change? Or will a new fortress mentality take hold? And I mean that quite literally. One commentator recently suggested surrounding lower Manhattan with retractable walls, begging the question of where all that displaced water would go.

As the dust settles from the election, the president will come under increasing pressure to make good on his promise, through both domestic action as well as taking a more cooperative stance at the UN climate negotiations. Much will be written about this in the weeks to come.

In the meantime, he might take some inspiration from some of the many transformative solutions being put into practice elsewhere. The good news is that there are many such examples, so many that the United Nations climate agency launched an initiative to celebrate some of the most exciting, inspiring stories they could find. "Momentum for Change" is a platform for encouraging and celebrating innovative action -- designated as "lighthouse" activities -- either to reduce climate change, or to reduce its impacts.

In 2012, the initiative focused on the urban poor. To qualify as lighthouse activities, projects needed to not only address climate change, but also to improve the lives - both socially and environmentally - of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the community. They also had to demonstrate their catalytic potential for long-term transformational change, which meant that they had to be capable of being repeated elsewhere, and could be scaled up over time. More


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tokelau islands shift to solar energy

Tokelau has become the first territory able to meet all its electricity needs with solar power, officials say.

The South Pacific territory - comprising the three atolls of Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo - had been dependent on diesel to generate electricity.

New Zealand, which administers Tokelau, funded a $7m (£4.3m) solar project.

Solar grids were constructed on the three atolls, with the last completed earlier this week.

"The Tokelau Renewable Energy Project is a world first. Tokelau's three main atolls now have enough solar capacity, on average, to meet electricity needs," New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said in a statement.

"Until now, Tokelau has been 100% dependent upon diesel for electricity generation, with heavy economic and environmental costs," he added.

Project co-ordinator Mike Basset-Smith said that the move represented a "milestone of huge importance" for Tokelau, as it would now be able to spend more on social welfare.

The remote islands of Tokelau lie between New Zealand and Hawaii. More


Sunday, November 4, 2012

PEC Supports Water Access Projects in Palau, Marshall Islands

26 October 2012: The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) has reported on recent grants to Palau and Marshall Islands from the Pacific Environment Community (PEC) Fund, which PIFS administers.

Palau will receive US$4 million to establish a solar-powered desalination project, to ensure a regular and reliable supply of safe drinking water to residents in Peleliu, Palau. The project includes the installation of a solar-powered Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant that desalinates groundwater using solar energy, producing fresh water. The solar power generation system will produce approximately 98,820 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per year, contributing 0.11% electricity towards Palau’s current power generation. Palau’s Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Industries and Commerce through the Energy Office will be the focal point for the project, and the Bureau of Public Works will operate and maintain the systems upon completion.

A similar project was approved for the Marshall Islands, which will receive US$3,150,105 to establish the Potable Water Solutions for Outer Islands by Photovoltaic (PV) Reverse Osmosis (RO) System Project. This project will assist islands in maintaining water supply while minimizing the effects of long, dry periods of little to no rainfall. Under the project, small portable solar PV powered RO systems will be installed at community elementary schools in each outer atoll, providing 150 to 300 gallons of fresh potable water daily.

The PEC Fund is a commitment by the Government of Japan to provide 6.8 billion Japanese yen (approximately US$66 million) to Forum Island Countries for the establishment of solar and desalination initiatives to address environmental challenges. Islands which have accessed the fund include Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, the Republic of Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. [PIFS Press Release: Palau] [PIFS Press Release: Marshall Islands] More


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Watching Sandy, Ignoring Climate Change

A couple of weeks ago, Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance firms, issued a study titled “Severe Weather in North America.”

According to the press release that accompanied the report, “Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” The number of what Munich Re refers to as “weather-related loss events,” and what the rest of us would probably call weather-related disasters, has quintupled over the last three decades. While many factors have contributed to this trend, including an increase in the number of people living in flood-prone areas, the report identified global warming as one of the major culprits: “Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity.”

Munich Re’s report was aimed at the firm’s clients—other insurance companies—and does not make compelling reading for a general audience. But its appearance just two weeks ahead of Hurricane Sandy seems to lend it a peculiarly grisly relevance. Sandy has been called a “superstorm,” a “Frankenstorm,” a “freakish and unprecedented monster,” and possibly “unique in the annals of American weather history.” It has already killed sixty-five people in the Caribbean, and, although it’s too early to tell what its full impact will be as it churns up the East Coast, loss estimates are topping six billion dollars.

As with any particular “weather-related loss event,” it’s impossible to attribute Sandy to climate change. However, it is possible to say that the storm fits the general pattern in North America, and indeed around the world, toward more extreme weather, a pattern that, increasingly, can be attributed to climate change. Just a few weeks before the Munich Re report appeared, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in New York, published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the apparent increase in extreme heat waves. Extreme summertime heat, which just a few decades ago affected much less than one per cent of the earth’s surface, “now typically covers about 10% of the land area,” the paper observed. “It follows that we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies”—i.e., heat waves—“such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small.” It is worth noting that one of several forces fuelling Sandy is much-higher-than-average sea-surface temperatures along the East Coast.

Coming as it is just a week before Election Day, Sandy makes the fact that climate change has been entirely ignored during this campaign seem all the more grotesque. In a year of record-breaking temperatures across the U.S., record drought conditions in the country’s corn belt, and now a record storm affecting the nation’s most populous cities, neither candidate found the issue to be worthy of discussion. Pressed about this finally the other day on MTV, President Obama called climate change a “critical issue” that he was “surprised” hadn’t come up during any of the debates, a response that was at once completely accurate and totally disingenuous. (Asone commentator pointed out, he might have brought up this “critical” issue on his own since “he is the friggin’ POTUS.”) More




Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Assessing the Damage From Hurricane Sandy

What will climate change bring to New York next year?


Five of New York’s 14 wastewater treatment plants are in the lowest-lying areas of the city, within the mandatory evacuation zone. When the plants get filled to capacity or flooded, sewage and stormwater mix and bypass the plant, flowing directly into New York’s waterways — and now, into flooded streets and buildings.


Subways and Railroads

By Tuesday evening, subway and commuter rail service remained suspended, and limited bus service was set to resume at 5 p.m. Joseph J. Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said that damage to the subway system was being assessed, and that service would be restored in pieces. Tunnels under the East River were all flooded and pumping had begun at some of them. Mr. Lhota said that flooding was “literally up to the ceiling” at the South Street subway station in Lower Manhattan. Long Island Railroad remained closed due to flooding on the tracks. Two Metro-North lines north of 59th Street continued to be without power, and Mr. Lhota estimated that there were at least 100 trees downed on the tracks. Staten Island ferry and railway service were also still suspended. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie said there was “major damage on each and every one of New Jersey’s rail lines.” New Jersey Transit and PATH service remained suspended.

Work Begins on Flooded Subways

Seven subway tunnels under the East River were still flooded on Tuesday, most of them in Lower Manhattan, where a 14-foot storm surge topped subway entrances and grates.


It is a horrible event and a rough lesson for any city and country to experience, however, I know that residents of Small Island Developing Stares (SIDS) and Arctic Communities will sympathize and commiserate with the residents of New York and other devastated area of the East Coast of the United States.

This however, is what residents of Small Island Developing Stares (SIDS) and Arctic Communities either go through or have the possibility of being faced, with every year. I therefore sincerely hope that the United States will become more cognizant of what the future holds for SIDS and Arctic communities, and support our adaption and mitigation efforts both financially and in the International Community by supporting international climate change treaties that will bring about a lowering of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere, our only Home. Editor



Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Hits East Coast

Hurricane Sandy Hits East Coast

Published onOct 28, 2012byokrajoe


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Hurricane Sandy Clouds Spread Over East Coast. This animation of observations from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite (Oct. 26-28, 2012) shows Hurricane Sandy move out of the Bahamas and its western clouds spread over the U.S. eastern seaboard. The circulation is evident over the Atlantic Ocean as Sandy moved northward. This visualization was created by the NASA GOES Project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Credit: NASA GOES Project.

Friday, October 26, 2012

sustainability news: 'Aquaponics' Help Islanders Cultivate Crops and Raise Fish

A pilot aquaponics experiment is now underway in the Cook Islands that has the potential to become the South Pacific region’s best chance for preventing food shortages.

First announced during the Pacific Islands Forum earlier this year (27—31 August), the pilot project combines aquaculture (raising aquatic animals like fish in tanks) and hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in symbiosis, a strategy that can be replicated in other island nations.

The project’s long-term objective is to give Pacific islanders — who are facing climate-related issues such as drought and fish poisoning — a way to sustainably grow crops using minimal water and no pesticides.

The Cook Islands aquaponics project was the brainchild of Pacific Islands Trade and Invest, the business arm of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, which has teamed up with the New Zealand and Cook Islands governments, and with Lynnsay Rongokea and Barbara Thomson, both from the Cook Islands, to design and implement the project.

Over the past three months, the team has been successfully growing vegetables using aquaponics in a tank-like structure that emulates a natural ecosystem.

The premise of the project is simple: an attendant feeds fish in a tank, which excrete nitrate-rich waste into the water that runs through a mesh filter and irrigates plants.

Those plants filter out by-products, their roots and microbes, removing nitrates to use as vital nutrients. Once the crops have naturally filtered the water, it is aerated and re-circulated back into the fish tank.

The end products are sustainably grown fish and vegetables free from chemical contamination. The system uses just two per cent of the water used up by traditional agriculture and has zero impact on the health of the lagoon.

There is no need to discard or drain water circulating throughout the system and there is no need for chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. More





Sunday, October 21, 2012

$138 Million Maldives Renewable Energy Project Backed by World Bank Launched

The Energy Authority of Maldives has announced the inception of $138 million renewable energy project which would generate 26 MW of electricity in Maldives.

Abdul Matheen, State Minister for Energy revealed that the project is expected to be completed within five years. Out of a total 26 MW of generated electricity, 16 MW will be supplied to the Male region, which constitutes 30% of the total population of the country.

This project is a part of a renewable energy investment plan of the government which has been developed under the Sustainable Renewable Energy Project (SREP) of the Climate Investment Fund. The project would be funded by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and German and Japanese Banks.

According to the Energy Authority of the Maldives, the project will be extended to 50 islands to promote the use of renewable energy.

“We are making preparations to commence the project during next month. Under the project, ten islands would run solely on renewable energy. In addition, 30 percent of electricity in 30 islands will be converted to renewable energy,” Matheen detailed. More



Saturday, October 20, 2012

Many Strong Voices: What we do

Global engagement in climate negotiations & IPCC

Many Strong Voices uses the Unted Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations to spread the word on climate change and its effects on SIDS and the Arctic while raising awareness about the rapid changes happening in these regions.

A storm off the Seychelles
Lobbying and awareness raising

Over the years, MSV and its partners have organized side events, lobbied and developed language for official documents and draft texts, held exhibitions of works by student photographers as part of the Portraits of Resilience project. Highlights include:

  • Getting human rights language into the report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA)
  • Holding successful side events, including one on Food Security and Human Rights in the Arctic and Small Island Developing States, which was reported in the MSV blog. Speakers included Patricia Cochran (head of the Alaska Native Science Commission), Ronny Jumeau (Seychelles Ambassador to the United Nations), Kirt Ejesaik (Vice-president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council – Canada), and Margreet Wewerinke (a member of the Climate Change Human Rights Working Group).
  • Portraits of Resilience exhibitions have been held at negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009 and Durban in 2011. The project has been featured by UNEP and on numerous web sites, including Google Earth.
  • Outreach and communications are important parts of MSV activities at UNFCCC events. Besides the activities mentioned above, these include displays, posters, participation in activities such as Development and Climate Days, and media interviews. Social media play a major role in MSV communications at the COP with information circulating on MSV blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
Observer at IPCC

MSV has recently become an observer at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and will use this position to support efforts by partners in the Arctic, SIDS and other regions to support science and research from some of the most vulnerable regions being included in the next Assessment Report in 2015.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Many Strong Voices Advisory Committee Meets In Washington

The Many Strong Voices Advisory Committee met this week in Washington, DC to plan the organization's strategy for the next three years.

Auyuittuq - The Land that Never Melts is Melting
The committee, consisting of volunteers from around the world, meet once a year, sometimes is a Small Island Developing State and sometimes in the Arctic and occasionally, as we did this year, in a location halfway between the two.

The goal of Many Strong Voices (MSV) is to promote the well-being, security, and sustainability of coastal communities in the Arctic and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) by bringing these regions together to take action on climate change mitigation and adaptation, and to tell their stories to the world.

New wind turbine in the Seychelles
The Arctic and SIDS are barometers of global environmental change. As they are on the frontlines of climate change, they are also critical testing grounds for the ideas and programmes that will strengthen the adaptive capacities of human societies confronting climate change.

Why link the Arctic and Small Island Developing States?

At first glance, the Arctic and Small Island Developing States appear to have little in common. Yet Arctic and SIDS societies share characteristics of vulnerability and resilience, and both of their environments are sensitive to climate change impacts.

MSV committee members at work
Although natural and human environments in the two regions differ markedly, the effects of climate change threaten the ecology, economies, and the social and cultural fabric of both regions posing serious challenges for their sustainable development. While communities in both regions have adapted to changing conditions in the past, climate change presents a new and formidable challenge.

The impact of climate change on coastal zones is an important common denominator between the two regions and provides a context for comparing vulnerability and adaptation processes. Developing adaptation strategies that contribute to sustainable development in both regions is the key to their longterm survival. At the same time, successful adaptation requires immediate and deep cuts to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Lessons learned through MSV support policy development at local, regional, and international levels. They provide decision-makers in the two regions with the knowledge to safeguard and strengthen vulnerable social, economic, and natural systems. More


The two FIELD papers below may be of interest to readers from SIDS.

The two FIELD papers below may be of interest to readers from SIDS.

“Loss and damage caused by climate change: legal strategies for vulnerable countries” (available at suggests that vulnerable countries may benefit from considering a range of options, including options beyond the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. The paper considers negotiations on loss and damage under the UNFCCC, dispute settlement under the UNFCCC or Kyoto Protocol, and international litigation. The paper then focuses on the evolving international law concept of reparations for damage. It suggests that vulnerable countries might consider pursuing a reparations-based strategy in international negotiations beyond the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, in particular negotiations about the UN’s post-2015 development agenda. The paper highlights new proposals about reparations, including proposals by Maxine Burkett related to climate reparations. FIELD believes that vulnerable countries should play a strong role in shaping how international law on reparations for climate change damage develops.

“International institutions and new sustainable development goals beyond 2015: climate change, poor and vulnerable countries” (at argues that post-Rio + 20 changes to international institutions and proposed global sustainable development goals should give priority to climate change and poor and vulnerable countries. The paper highlights that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol recognize that particularly vulnerable countries and countries such as LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS require special attention and argues that this should also be reflected in changes to international institutions and in new sustainable development goals. The paper considers human security as a potential conceptual framework for strengthening international institutions and determining new goals. It emphasizes challenges for poor and vulnerable countries in a world where advancing climate change is likely to pose an increasing threat to sustainable development and human security.

FIELD would welcome comments on the papers (<>).

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