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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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Secretary-General Assures CARICOM of Better Cooperation, Requests Engagement on SDGs and Post-2015 Agenda

27 September 2012: During a meeting on the sidelines of the opening of the UN General Assembly session, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon assured leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) of improved cooperation between the UN and CARICOM regarding trade, debt, climate change and transnational organized crime, among other issues.

He also pledged to continue to raise the issue of the vulnerability of Caribbean island nations to the international financial crisis with the Group of Eight (G8) and Group of 20 (G20) countries.

Ban made the remarks during a meeting with CARICOM Chair Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, as well as President Donald Romotar of Guyana, Prime Minister Simpson Miller of Jamaica, and other CARICOM leaders, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on 27 September 2012.

Ban said he is committed to ensuring that both the CARICOM Secretariat and CARICOM Member States receive UN assistance that is "more targeted and more responsive to the needs of the region." He mentioned, for example, current talks with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to implement a regional strategy and to return a small permanent office to the Caribbean.

The Secretary-General thanked CARICOM for its leadership in the lead-up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), and asked the Community to "continue that dynamic engagement" during the establishment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the construction of a post-2015 development agenda. [Statement of UN Secretary-General] More


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tian Huang: Climate Victims Deserve a Hearing, Whether Here or in The Hague

Last week, leaders of the 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly descended upon New York to open that body's sixty-seventh session. Among the pressing questions facing the body is the adequacy of the international community's current approach to the problem of climate change. The leaders also held a high-level meeting on the rule of law at the national and international levels.

The two agenda items could not be more in sync: All over the world, climate change is creating victims who lack protection of the rule of law. For instance, island nations such as Cape Verde, Grenada, the Marshall Islands, and Palau are seeing their lands increasingly affected by rising sea levels, intensifying storms, and other threats that owe their genesis to greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States, we also are seeing the devastating effects of anthropogenic climate change, most pointedly in the Alaskan village of Kivalina.

The city of Kivalina and its native village reside on the tip of a six-mile barrier reef. With a decline of protective sea ice and a rise of storms and surges, Kivalina's land is being swallowed up - -so much so that the U.S. Government Accountability Office has warned that the village could be flooded at any time and that "[r]emaining on the island... is no longer a viable option for the community."

To fight back, Kivalina filed suit against 19 major energy companies, claiming that they, as major contributors to global warming, should help defray the costs of relocating the city.

Shortly before the U.N. session opened, a U.S. appeals court ruled that, as far as the federal government is concerned, climate change is a political problem to be addressed by the legislative and executive branches. Basic legal principles of right and responsibility, in other words, have no bearing and if the residents of Kivalina want compensation for their harms, they will have to duke it out with their opponents in Congress.

Whether in this or a subsequent U.N. session, a parallel campaign to Kivalina's will be brought to the General Assembly and the question will be raised, will the international community follow the U.S. court's lead by throwing the climate change problem to the dustbin of politics?

Last year, several small island states called on the U.N. General Assembly to request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the responsibilities of nations whose emissions of greenhouse gases within their jurisdictions contribute to serious harms in other countries. Sensing that endless political negotiations have resulted in little progress internationally, the islands sought to show that the climate change problem is one of law and justice, rather than merely politics and power. More


Friday, October 5, 2012

Sea Level Rise: Within A Decade Vulnerable Islands Have To Evacuate Their Populations

Vulnerable island states may need to consider evacuating their populations within a decade due to a much faster than anticipated melting of the world's ice sheets. The warning comes from Michael Mann, one of the world's foremost climate scientists [1].

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University , said the latest evidence shows that models have underestimated the speed at which the Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets will start to shrink.

Mann says the Pacific islands, which are only 4.6 meters above sea level at their highest point, are facing the imminent prospect of flooding, with salt water intrusion destroying fresh water supplies and increased erosion.

Mann, who was part of the IPCC team awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2007, said it had been expected that island nations would have several decades to adapt to rising sea levels, but that evacuation may now be their only option.

His warning comes just weeks after the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado disclosed that sea ice in the Arctic shrank a dramatic 18% this year on the previous record set in 2007 to a record low of 3.41m sq km.

"We know Arctic sea ice is declining faster than the models predict," Mann told the Guardian at the SXSW Eco conference in Austin , Texas . "When you look at the major Greenland and the west Antarctic ice sheets, which are critical from the standpoint of sea level rise, once they begin to melt we really start to see sea level rises accelerate.

"The models have typically predicted that will not happen for decades but the measurements that are coming in tell us it is already happening so once again we are decades ahead of schedule.

" Island nations that have considered the possibility of evacuation at some point, like Tuvalu , may have to be contending those sorts of decisions within the matter of a decade or so."

Suggesting evacuations would accelerate a change in public consciousness around the issue of climate change, he said: "Thousands of years of culture is at risk of disappearing as the populations of vulnerable island states have no place to go.

"For these people, current sea levels are already representative of dangerous anthropogenic interference because they will lose their world far before the rest of us suffer.

"I think it is an example, one of a number, where the impacts are playing out in real time. It is not an abstract prediction about the future or about far off exotic creatures like polar bears. We are talking about people potentially having to evacuate from places like Tuvalu or the Arctic 's Kivalina, another low lying island which is already feeling the detrimental impacts of sea level rise."

Mann, who is one of the primary targets for attacks by "climate deniers," said that there is still uncertainty about the speed of global warming as it is not clear what the impact of feedback mechanisms could be. In particular, he pointed to the release of methane that will come as the permafrost in the arctic melts.

"We know there is methane trapped and as it escapes into the atmosphere it accelerates the warming even further," he said. "But we don't know quite how much of it there is, but there is definitely the potential to lead to even greater warming than the models predict."

Mann said it was not only island states that were feeling the impacts of climate change and warned that the terrible drought and wildfires suffered by the US this year were just the precursor of far worse to come.

"If you look at the US , some of these things are unfolding ahead of schedule and we are already contending with climate change impacts that were once theoretical," he said.

"We predicted decades ago that this might eventually happen. We are watching them unfold and there are very real consequences to our economy and to our environment.

"The climate models tell us that what today are record breaking levels of heat will become a typical summer in a matter of 20-30 years if we carry on with business as usual. Not only will this become the new normal but we will have to change the scale because we will see heat and drought far worse than anything we have seen before."

The silver lining in all the bad news is that while the political system is gridlocked when it comes to confronting climate change, public attitudes are starting to change.

"It is going to take a little while to sink in," says Mann "but there is evidence of a dramatic shift in awareness and the public increasingly recognises climate change is real and if the public becomes convinced of this, they will demand action and they are connecting the dots because we are seeing climate change playing out in a very visible way. More


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Better protection for persons displaced by natural disasters

Better protection for persons displaced by natural disasters

Bern, 02.10.2012 - Norway and Switzerland intend to set up an international agenda for the protection of persons forced to leave their country as a consequence of natural disasters. The Nansen Initiative was launched in Geneva on 2 October 2012 in the presence of Steffen Kongstad, Norway's Ambassador to the UN, and Manuel Bessler, the Federal Council delegate for humanitarian aid. The initiative aims to address the need for normative and institutional measures to protect those affected.

The ceremony in the Palais des Nations to launch the Nansen Initiative, which is named after the polar explorer and first High Commissioner for Refugees Fridtjof Nansen, was attended by numerous representatives of states, NGOs and the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Manuel Bessler, the Federal Council delegate for humanitarian aid, representing Switzerland, said in his address: "During my deployments in affected regions such as the Horn of Africa I found that cross-border movements caused by natural disasters are a real problem that has increased in importance in recent years.

It has been proven that there is a need for measures to protect persons displaced by natural disasters. Every year millions of people have to leave their homes and seek shelter elsewhere because of floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts and other natural disasters. Many of these find shelter in their own country but others have to cross national borders. Movements such as these are likely to increase as a result of global warming. National and international measures to protect the persons affected are either non-existent or inadequate.

While displaced persons are protected in their own country by the UN guidelines on internal displacement and by regional instruments, there is a gap in legislation governing cross-border movements caused by natural disasters. Usually such persons are not victims of persecution and are therefore not protected under the UN Convention on Refugees. Moreover, the Human Rights Conventions do not govern key aspects such as the right to enter a country, settlement and the basic rights of those affected. There is also a lack of criteria to distinguish between cross-border movements caused by natural disasters and voluntary migration.

An inter-state process is required in order to close these gaps. At the UNHCR Ministerial Meeting held in Geneva in December 2011, Norway and Switzerland pledged to cooperate with interested countries to formulate solutions to protect persons displaced externally due to natural disasters. This pledge was welcomed by various other States and provides the basis for the Nansen Initiative. The initiative of Norway and Switzerland aims to formulate a protection agenda to serve as the basis for concrete activities in the fields of prevention, protection and assistance during cross-border displacement, return and other permanent solutions for the period following a natural disaster.

Over the next three years the initiative will carry out a series of consultations with governments and representatives of civil society in regions which are particularly affected, on the basis of which a global dialogue will then be organised with a view to formulating a protection agenda. The Nansen Initiative will be headed by a steering group consisting of between six and eight States of the South and North under the chairmanship of Norway and Switzerland. Professor Walter Kälin, a well-known Swiss expert in human rights, has been proposed as envoy of the chairmanship. A consultative committee consisting of representatives of civil society and international organisations will assist the process. The Nansen Initiative is supported by a small secretariat based in Geneva. More

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