Blog Archives

Which emits the most CO2 per day? Planes or Volcano?

Staying Grounded because of the Volcano? Just look at how much C02 has been saved during this no fly period.

(Spotted on Information is Beautiful) (via Do the Green Thing)

With better stoves, UN aims to cut risk of murder, rape for women seeking firewood

In schools and other institutions, bigger SAFE stoves are needed to cook enough food for several classes

16 December 2009 – The United Nations today launched a pilot project to provide fuel-efficient stoves to some 150,000 women in Sudan and Uganda to cut the risks of murder, rape and other violence they face in gathering firewood, while at the same time protecting the environment.

The Safe Access to Firewood and Alternative Energy in Humanitarian Settings (SAFE) stoves initiative organized by the World Food Programme (WFP) and other UN agencies, will be rolled out next year to reach eventually up to 6 million refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and returnees in 36 nations, where they are forced to walk further and further into the bush into unsafe areas to collect firewood.

“Women and girls should not have to risk their lives and dignity, and precious trees should not be lost, in the simple act of trying to cook food for their families,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said. “The SAFE stoves launch will help protect them and the environment with practical and urgently needed solutions.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the project at an event in Copenhagen held on the sidelines of the UN climate change talks.

He described the initiative as showing “a virtuous circle in action, thanks to technology – environmental protection… improved safety for women… access to clean energy for the poor… enhanced climate security.”

The project “is a simple, inexpensive and win-win solution… [that will] provide immediate, tangible benefits to their users,” he added.

WFP researchers have found that some women spend a full day’s wages on firewood alone. Others sell off food rations to purchase fuel. The SAFE project will scale up distribution of fuel-efficient and “improved mud” stoves to assist almost 100,000 women in North Darfur. These stoves consume less firewood and lower health risks associated with smoke.

In Uganda, WFP will focus on refugees and pastoralists in the drought-hit Karamoja region. It will provide more than 35,000 households and 50 schools with fuel-efficient stoves, as well as helping women to find other sources of income.

Project partners include the Women’s Refugee Commission, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Environment programme (UNEP).

Life floods back into outback

By environment reporter Sarah Clarke (updated 3/10/2010 about 12 midnight)

The massive flood across western Queensland may have caused millions of dollars of damage, but it has been a godsend for native animals and plants.

The floodwaters are driving a flush of vegetation which is changing the outback landscape. Waterbirds are already colonising lakes that have been empty for years, and native mammals are beginning to breed.

Moisture is being pumped into what was once cracked, dusty earth and sprouts of vegetation are appearing.

Max Tischler, an ecologist from Bush Heritage Australia, has spent the past day flying over the submerged outback including the Diamantina and Mulligan Rivers on the Queensland-Northern Territory border.

“It’s incredible,” he said.

“Some of the big drainage lines and the river channels are up to 10 kilometres wide, so there’s an enormous volume of water going down those streams.”

The aquifers have been recharged, the claypans are drenched, and some of these outback waterholes will be full for most of the year.

And not only are the floodwaters flowing through the system, but the rain has soaked remote parts of the desert which have not seen a drop for years.

Mr Tischler says as the vegetation starts to sprout, native mammals, reptiles and birds return.

“On some of the waterholes that we flew over today, we started to see that some of the waterbirds are starting to colonise in those areas and then with the water out in the dune fields and so forth they’ll start to get responses,” he said.

“We’ll start to get the seed-eating birds and so forth moving in there. The small mammals, particularly the rodents, will begin to go into their reproductive cycles.

“We weren’t on the ground but I’m sure it’s absolutely swarming with frogs that have come out of their long-term underground and are taking advantage of the water around.”

A team of scientists from Bush Heritage Australia has been monitoring the activity in the river system west of Boulia over the past three floods.

In 2007, they found fish. This time they are expecting more surprises, with desert waterholes popping up in places they had never been seen before.

Fish ecologist Adam Kerezsy says the Simpson Desert is set to markedly increase its fish stocks this year.

“At the moment we’ve caught up to eight species in the Mulligan, which is in the Simpson Desert,” he said.

“If there’s ever a year when we’re going to increase that total I’d say it’ll be 2010.”

Environmental Science And Technology Announces Video Contest: How Chemistry Helps You Be Green

March 1, 2010

The American Chemical Society (ACS) peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T), recently announced its first video contest themed, “How Does Chemistry Help YOU Be Green?” to recognize the significant milestones occurring in the environmental field this year.

The year 2010 is a milestone for environmental awareness, marking the 40th anniversary of the first observance of Earth Day, the founding of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, passage of the Clean Air Act Extension of 1970 and implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act that have all helped to shape the way we think and the way we live our lives with respect to the environment.

ES&T would like to give contestants the chance to show the world how chemistry helps them be green. Video submissions should creatively highlight what people are doing in their own communities, school, workplace, etc., to be more green and illustrate how chemistry can help sustain both efforts and the world we live in. Contestants may submit a video on their own, or join with a research partner, a classmate, a professor, or even as a whole class or lab, but please be creative, have fun, and help the journal show the world how chemistry helps you, or can help us all to be green!

Contest details, rules, guidelines, and prizes can be found at The contest ends on March 30, 2010.

Winning videos will be announced on April 22, 2010, Earth Day, and will be featured on the Environmental Science & Technology website. Winners will be notified by e-mail.

ES&T is an authoritative source of information for professionals in a wide range of environmental disciplines. The journal combines magazine and research sections and is published both in print and online.

The news and features section of ES&T presents objective reports and analyses of the major advances, trends, and challenges in environmental science, technology, and policy for a diverse professional audience. It aims to promote interdisciplinary understanding in the environmental field. The research section seeks to publish significant and original contributed material as current research papers, policy analyses, critical reviews, or correspondence.

About The American Chemical Society
The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

SOURCE: The American Chemical Society

Managing infectious disease under climate change

Health experts have called for a proactive, joined-up approach to public health in Europe under a changing climate. A recent study has examined the evidence for the influence of the climate on infectious disease and proposes a new integrated network for environmental and health data.

The impacts of climate change on health in Europe could be considerable, and include deaths and injuries resulting from heat waves, blizzards and floods. It could also lead to changes in the incidence and spread of infectious diseases through impacts on the agents or pathways which transmit disease, such as arthropod vectors (for example, mosquitoes and ticks), rodents, food, water and air.

Although the researchers conclude that there is still much uncertainty, by assessing what is currently understood about the climate’s effects on a wide range of infectious disease, they provide information to help guide adaptation and public health strategies.

For instance, it is understood that some arthropod vectors are shifting their geographical range in line with rising temperatures. This introduces illnesses to new areas, such as Lyme disease, carried by ticks which have progressively moved into more northern parts of Sweden and more mountainous areas of the Czech Republic. This illustrates the importance of integrated meteorological, ecological and health surveillance.

Pest control could become more important. Rodent populations grow rapidly under increasingly common, warm, wet winters and springs, and heat waves can drive rodents indoors creating greater risk of human contact. This in turn increases the risk of transmission of diseases, such as hantavirus, which can cause kidney failure. Plague, spread by rats, could even return under a new favourable climate in central Asia, posing a threat to eastern Europe.

Water managers also need to play a greater public health role. For example, extreme weather can damage ageing water treatment and distribution systems, encouraging the spread of diseases, including campylobacter, through drinking water. Warmer conditions may also favour cholera, which can spread through flooding. Improvements in infrastructure and environmental protection can avoid these negative health consequences of climate change.

Food poisoning caused by temperature-sensitive bacteria, such as Campylobacter spp and Salmonella spp, could also become more prevalent. However, this could be limited by appropriate food handling and storage. Effective food safety campaigns and regulations will therefore be important.

On the basis of the evidence cited in this analysis and expert consultation, a new infrastructure has been proposed by the EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control1 to address the multidisciplinary and complex nature of managing the impacts of climate change on disease. Called the European Environmental and Epidemiology (E3) Network2, it is envisaged that it will bring together data from a variety of sources and act as a central hub for information, surveillance and technical support.

  1. See:
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Source: Semenza, J.C., Menne, B. (2009). Climate change and infectious diseases in Europe. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 9(6):365-375.


Theme(s): Climate change and energy, Environment and health

Reducing environmental pollution by antibiotics to curb drug resistance

Widespread use of antibiotics to prevent and treat infections in people and animals as well as for promoting growth in livestock is causing environmental contamination. A new study highlights the need for extra measures to reduce environmental pollution from antibiotics. Such pollution can increase the risk of diseases caused by bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics.

Over recent decades large amounts of antibiotics have been released into the environment, but little is known about the effects of these antibiotics on microbes living in natural habitats. The antibiotics are released into the environment when they are excreted along with body wastes and pass into water systems, the soil and sewage treatment plants.

Since bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics and this resistance can be passed on to other bacteria, there is a risk that bacteria found naturally in the environment will develop resistance to antibiotics commonly used to treat human diseases. This resistance can in turn be passed on to bacteria that cause diseases in humans and animals, making it more difficult to control bacterial infections.

In addition to developing new resistance in natural microbial populations, antibiotics released into soil and water can change the composition and activity of local microbial communities. For example, antibiotics can reduce the numbers of naturally susceptible bacteria thus favouring the growth of resistant strains of bacteria.

Antibiotics break down at different rates in the environment. Over time, the concentration of antibiotic pollution in natural ecosystems diminishes, unless further contamination occurs. Some environments are repeatedly polluted, for instance, by hospital or farm discharges. Continued exposure to antibiotics is of particular concern in these environments as repeated exposure to low levels of antibiotics could promote resistance.

Although environmental bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics under selective pressure, the same antibiotic resistance genes, already present in human bacterial pathogens, have been found in bacteria in environments where no pollution by antibiotics has occurred. This may occur because resistance genes can be maintained and spread in natural bacterial populations through gene transfer when bacteria reproduce and migrate to different ecosystems. This indicates that it may be difficult to eliminate pollution by antibiotic resistance.

A lack of reliable information in some countries makes it difficult to estimate the global extent of antibiotic use in veterinary medicine. This issue needs to be addressed as antimicrobial use in livestock and, increasingly, in fish farming is an important source of antibiotic contamination. In the EU, antibiotics used to treat human infections cannot be used to promote growth in livestock. However there has been an increase of the use of antibiotics for therapeutic purposes in animals.

It is suggested that water, sewage and other wastes polluted with antibiotics should be specifically treated for antibiotics before being released to the environment or used as fertiliser in agriculture.

Source: Martinez, J.M. (2009). Environmental pollution by antibiotics and by antibiotic resistance determinants. Environmental Pollution. 157: 2893–2902.


Theme(s): Environment and health

NGOs Welcome BASIC Stance on Climate Change

Posted by Vamban on Jan 24th, 2010 22:11:01 and filed under National

New Delhi, Jan 24 – International NGOs Sunday welcomed the decision of Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC countries) to support the Copenhagen Accord but to have the agreement as part of a legally binding global treaty to combat climate change that would be negotiated by all countries.

‘Greenpeace welcomes the position taken by the ministers of the BASIC group that met today (Sunday) in New Delhi to continue negotiations on a fair and ambitious climate agreement within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,’ said Siddharth Pathak, Greenpeace India’s climate and energy policy officer.

‘However, Greenpeace wants to insist to the BASIC countries that such an agreement also needs to be legally binding in order to ensure its implementation,’ he added.

‘Greenpeace is encouraged by the willingness of the BASIC group to support vulnerable countries, both by ensuring their participation in open and transparent negotiations and by providing technological and or financial support,’ Pathak said.

Greenpeace, he added, ‘calls upon the BASIC countries to make this support more tangible by its next meeting in April.’

The NGO called upon BASIC countries ‘to ensure they take the responsibility that comes along with the renewed power from their alliance. Greenpeace expects these countries to demonstrate leadership, both in furthering negotiations on a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement, and in terms of both pushing industrialized counties to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions and making their own appropriate contributions in emission reductions, in order to avoid dangerous climate change.’

The India chapter of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) also welcomed the move by BASIC countries. The head of its climate unit Shirish Sinha said: ‘WWF welcomes the early lead on continuing climate negotiations and the level of commitment shown by the BASIC group of countries to a fair and effective UN-based outcome to climate change this year.’

‘It is highly encouraging that these key emerging economies intend to further outline their voluntary mitigation actions by January 31, and that they now declare an intention of taking climate action together in areas like technology, adaptation and research.’

Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF global climate initiative, said: ‘This presents a good challenge to developed countries, who must also announce of carbon emission reduction targets, and who must also live up to their promises of providing financial support to the vulnerable countries.’

‘WWF will watch them closely to see whether their commitments actually match their assertions in Copenhagen that they are committed to keep the world below the level where the risk of climate catastrophe becomes unacceptable,’ Carstensen said.