Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Kingdom of Magical Rhinking

In 1935, an oilman visiting the Middle East reported back to his headquarters, "The future leaves them cold. They want money now."

Although the temptation of overspending has repeatedly undermined oil-rich governments from Caracas to Tehran, Saudi Arabia avoided this trap over the last decade through fiscal discipline that has kept its expenditures below its swelling oil receipts.

But in a recent report striking for the candor of its unpalatable conclusions, Saudi investment bank Jadwa laid out the kingdom's inexorable fiscal challenge: how to balance soaring government spending, rapidly rising domestic oil demand, and a world oil market that gives little room for further revenue increases. And that was before the recent economic turmoil knocked $20 per barrel off oil prices.

Saudi Arabia's government spending, flat since the last oil boom in the 1970s, is now rising at 10 percent or more annually. And it will rise faster still: The House of Saud's survival instinct in the wake of the initial Arab revolutions led King Abdullah to announce $130 billion of largesse in February and March. The resulting increases in government employment and salaries can be cut only at the cost of more discontent.

And that's only what the kingdom is spending on its "counterrevolution" at home. Saudi Arabia will pay the lion's share of the pledged $25 billion of Gulf Cooperation Council aid to Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, and Oman. With Iraq, Syria, and Yemen likely flashpoints yet to come, the bill will only increase. Already, nearly a third of the Saudi budget goes toward defense, a proportion that could rise in the face of a perceived Iranian threat. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Friday, August 26, 2011

10 Water-Saving or Water-Cleaning Technologies.. & Your Chance to Do Something!

This post is a contribution to Important Media’s celebration of World Water Week.

While most of the technologies we write on here on CleanTechnica – solar power, wind power, energy efficiency, and clean transportation technologies – are focused on addressing our climate and energy crises, another critical crisis facing the world today is the water crisis.

Did you know that 80% of the world’s people face water insecurity and lack of clean water kills more people each year than war?

The clean technologies above do actually go a long way in helping us address the water crisis, but there are others out there focused solely on that goal. Here are 10 water-saving and water-cleaning technologies we’ve written about so far: More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Irene: Is climate change affecting hurricane formation?

Hurricane Irene is a large and dangerous storm. In this image, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite on August 25, bands of thunderstorms spiral tightly around a dense center, forming the circular shape of a well-developed hurricane.

At the time the image was taken, 11:50 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Irene was moving over the Bahamas with sustained winds of 185 kilometers per hour (115 miles per hour).
Irene has a long reach. The storm is large, spanning nearly 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from east to west in this image. Though the storm is moving north-northwest at a mere 20 km/hr (13 mph), it will be within reach of U.S. shores within 48 hours, warns the National Hurricane Center. At the time the image was taken, a tropical storm watch extended from north of Edisto Beach, South Carolina to Surf City, North Carolina, and a hurricane watch covered the area from Surf City to the Virginia border. This means that tropical storm or hurricane conditions are possible in the next two days. See the National Hurricane Center for current watches and warnings.
Irene was a Category 3 storm when this image was taken, and it could intensify slightly in the next day or two. The storm’s currently forecasted track takes it over the Outer Banks and along the U.S. East Coast before going ashore over New England.
Even as cities throughout the densely populated East Coast prepare for the storm, residents of the Caribbean are beginning to assess the damage caused by the passing storm. Initial damage estimates are at $3.1 billion, said the Associated Press. Floods and mudslides forced 38,000 people from their homes in the Dominican Republic, which received a glancing blow from the storm. More >>>

As Hurricane Irene rumbles through the Atlantic Ocean, it needs fuel to sustain itself. Warm water is the main fuel, and there is plenty of it right now, as there usually is this time of year.

The map above shows sea surface temperatures (SST) in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea on August 23, 2011. The measurements come from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA’s Aqua satellite and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on both the Terra and Aqua satellites. The satellites measure the temperature of the top millimeter of the ocean.
Waters typically need to be above 27.8 degrees Celsius (82 Fahrenheit) to properly fuel tropical storms with warm, moist air. Red, orange, and yellow colors depict waters above the 27.8 degree mark. The warmer the water, the more intense the storm can grow, if upper level wind patterns cooperate. In the map above, such waters dominate the Gulf of Mexico and tropical Atlantic in late August 2011. They also run up the southeastern coast of the United States, following the Gulf Stream to Cape Hatteras before giving way to slightly cooler waters (shades of blue) in the Middle and North Atlantic.
As of 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on August 24, 2011, the NOAA National Hurricane Center reported Irene had maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers (120 miles) per hour and was located at 23.1 degrees North and 74.7 degrees West, about 45 kilometers (30 miles) east-southeast of Long Island in the Bahamas. The forecasted path had the hurricane sweeping over nearly all Bahaman islands, then turning toward the North Carolina coast and eventually New England. Forecasts are updated roughly every six hours.
Irene is the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, and potentially the first to make landfall in the United States in several years. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Time to refine energy security

What are we to make of the energy debate? If good public policy is the art of distilling the signal from the noise, the challenge has never been greater.

How to balance the risks of climate change against the costs of doing anything about it? And what, in turn, might these decisions mean for energy security?

For the past six months our national attention has, understandably, been focused on the carbon tax issue. The policy agenda now needs to move in a related, but different direction. The reason is a three-letter word – oil.
While oil producers will be affected by the carbon tax, politics ensures that there will be no tax on petrol.

Yet oil is, arguably, one of Australia’s key energy problems. As a nation, we passed ‘‘peak oil’’ some time ago. Domestic production plateaued more than 20 years ago, and since 2005, has been in decline. The oil that is left is a long way offshore, and a long way down. Extracting it will be costly and risky.

Australian refining capacity is more constrained now than it was a decade ago. South Australia lost its one oil refinery in 2003. A number of the refineries in Queensland, Victoria and NSW are small in scale, and subject to stiff competition from imported, refined products. Further rationalisation of refining capacity seems likely as imports continue to increase, particularly from large-scale refineries in Asia. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tourist island of Zanzibar to host climate change conference in December

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) - Standing among small island states threatened by effects of climate change, the tourist island of Zanzibar has organized a three-day symposium to deliberate the impact of climate change in small island states.

Scheduled from December 12 to 14 this year, the symposium bears the theme of “First International Symposium on Impact and Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in Small Island Developing States.”

Organizers of the event, the State University of Zanzibar, said the symposium is aimed to raise national and international awareness on threats of climate change to small island states, which are leading tourist attraction destinations in the world, including the island of Zanzibar.

Climate change scientists had earlier raised their concern over climate changes in Zanzibar and threats to rising water levels of the Indian Ocean, and predicted dangers ahead, among them, a possible sinking of some islands which make the Zanzibar archipelago.

Experts further warned of a possibility to see key beaches of Zanzibar and a big part of this island totally sinking in the Indian Ocean within the coming 100 years.

According to the State University of Zanzibar, key speakers will be drawn from other island states including Samoa and Japan. Other speakers confirmed to attend will come from Tanzania and South Africa. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Clean energy is path for security, not the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

The August 13 Washington Post editorial (Oil pipeline politics) diagnoses the problems with tar sands and then gets the solution wrong.

The proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will take us in the wrong direction, making global warming worse and bringing additional dangers of oil spills to America’s heartland. The United States is the main market for the bitumen that is strip-mined and drilled from under Canada’s Boreal forest. Despite Canadian claims that they’ll sell tar sands to China if we don’t take it, not only are there no major pipelines to the Canadian coasts, but opposition to these pipeline proposals is fierce. Instead of providing energy security, the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will give oil companies a Gulf Coast deepwater port for export and raise gas prices in the Midwest. After a summer of droughts and heat waves, we need to be working harder than ever to reduce our demand for oil. With fuel efficiency standards and cleaner ways to move people around, America can be a leader in clean energy rather than giving into our oil addiction. That is the path of true energy security. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Friday, August 19, 2011

Beyond Supply Risks: The Conflict Potential of Natural Resources

While the public debate about resource conflicts focuses on the risk of supply disruptions for developed countries, the potentially more risky types of resource conflict are usually ignored.  

As part of a two-year research project on behalf of the German Federal Environment Agency, adelphi and the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Energy, and Environment have analyzed the risks of international conflict linked to natural resources in a series of reports titled Beyond Supply Risks – The Conflict Potential of Natural Resources.

Resource extraction, transportation, and processing can create considerable crises and increase the risk of conflicts in producing and transit countries. This phenomenon – widely referred to as the “resource curse” – impacts consuming countries only if it leads to shortages and higher prices. However, in the producing and transit countries it can have much wider destabilizing effects – from increasing corruption to large-scale violent conflict. In addition, the extraction, processing, and transportation of resources often create serious environmental risks. Overexploitation, pollution, and the degradation of ecosystems often directly affect the livelihoods of local communities, which can increase the potential for conflict.

The eight reports that comprise Beyond Supply Risks explore plausible scenarios over the next two decades, focusing on four case studies: copper and cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo; theNabucco natural gas pipeline project across Southern Europe and Turkey; lithium in Bolivia; and rare earth minerals in China. More >>>

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jamaican Delegation Attends 4th Singapore International Water Week

Permanent Secretaryin the Ministry of Housing, Environment and Water, Genefa Hibbert, and Chairman of the Water Resources Authority of

Jamaica, Dr. Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr., recently attended the 4th
Singapore International Water Week, Water Convention and Water Leaders Summit.
The week-long event held in the South- East Asian city-state, was attended by over 2,500 delegates from around the world. Major issues, such as climate change, urbanization and water supply, as well as water security were discussed. High level meetings and discussions were also held with regional and global water ministers, as well as industry and academic leaders.

A session was also held with the Singaporean Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Hsien Loong on the policy and strategic direction for water affairs for the country, as well as providing leadership and sharing expertise with the rest of the world.

The Jamaican delegation met with senior members of Singapore’s Ministry of Environment and Water Resources including the Minister, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan; Junior Minister, Mrs. Grace Fu Hai Yien. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Monday, August 15, 2011

Raging Storms and Rising Seas Swelling the Ranks of Climate Refugees

In late August 2005, as Hurricane Katrina approached the U.S. Gulf Coast, more than 1 million people were evacuated from New Orleans and the small towns and rural communities along the coast.

Once the storm passed, it was assumed that the million or so Katrina evacuees would, as in past cases, return to repair and rebuild their homes. Some 700,000 did return, but close to 300,000 did not. They are no longer evacuees. They are the first large wave of modern climate refugees.

One of the defining characteristics of our time is the swelling flow of environmental refugees, including those displaced as a warmer climate brings more-destructive storms and rising seas. The prospect for this century is a rise in sea level of up to 6 feet. Even a 3-foot rise would inundate parts of many low-lying cities, major river deltas, and island countries. Among the early refugees will be millions of rice-farming families from Asia’s river deltas, those who will watch their fields sink below the rising sea.

The flow of rising-sea refugees will come primarily from coastal cities. Among those most immediately affected are London, New York, Washington, Miami, Shanghai, Kolkata (Calcutta), Cairo, and Tokyo. If the rise in sea level cannot be checked, cities soon will have to start either planning for relocation or building barriers that will block the rising seas.

River deltas contain some of the largest, most vulnerable populations. These include the deltas of the Mekong, Irrawaddy, Niger, Nile, Mississippi, Ganges-Brahmaputra, and Yangtze Rivers. For example, a 6-foot sea level rise would displace 15 million Bangladeshis living in the densely populated Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. The London-based Environmental Justice Foundation reports that “a one meter [3 foot] sea-level rise would affect up to 70 percent of Nigeria’s coastline affecting over 2.7 million hectares. Egypt would lose at least 2 million hectares in the fertile Nile Delta, displacing 8 to 10 million people, including nearly the entire population of Alexandria.”

Low-lying islands will also be hit hard. The 39 members of the Alliance of Small Island States stand to lose part or all of their territories as sea level rises. Among the most immediately threatened are Tuvalu, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Well before total inundation, islanders face salt water intrusion that can contaminate their drinking water and make it impossible for deep-rooted crops to survive. Eventually, all crops will fail. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Sunday, August 14, 2011

On thin ice

The Arctic — a mosaic of oceans, glaciers and the northernmost projections of several countries — is a place most of us will never see. We can imagine it, though, and our mental picture is dominated by one feature: ice.

Yet the Arctic sea ice is changing dramatically, and its presence shouldn’t be taken for granted, even over the course of our lifetimes. According to new research from MIT, the most recent global climate report fails to capture trends in Arctic sea-ice thinning and drift, and in some cases substantially underestimates these trends. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007, forecasts an ice-free Arctic summer by the year 2100, among other predictions. But Pierre Rampal, a postdoc in the Department of Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), and colleagues say it may happen several decades earlier. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

SIDS DOCK Launched to Catalyze Renewable Energy

3 August 2011: The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has announced the launch of SIDS DOCK, an international organization intended to catalyze sustainable energy projects in small island developing States (SIDS).

With US$14.5 million in funding from Denmark's parliament, SIDS DOCK will operate as a "docking station," connecting small islands with US and EU technologies, capital and carbon markets. SIDS DOCK is expected to be operational by September 2011.

According to Vince Henderson, Dominica's Ambassador to the UN, and Chair of the SIDS DOCK Steering Committee, the majority of small islands currently rely on fossil fuel imports and face growing debt as a result. In order to "radically transform" their economies, SIDS DOCK was developed jointly by AOSIS, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). SIDS DOCK will be led by an Executive Director and overseen by a Board of Directors, including AOSIS members, development partner organizations and technical experts. The organization also will partner with the World Bank and UN Development Programme (UNDP).

National Coordinators of SIDS DOCK will be responsible for coordinating the development of national, regional and inter-regional priorities in renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation projects, and for ensuring successful project coordination and outcomes. The first meeting of the SIDS DOCK National Coordinators, held from 27-28 July 2011, served as the launch.

According to AOSIS, SIDS DOCK aims to facilitate the development of a sustainable energy sector in small islands, providing the foundation for low carbon economic growth and adaptation to climate change, with the result of assisting small islands to generate at least 50 percent of their electric power from renewable sources, decrease petroleum use by 20 to 30 percent, and increase energy efficiency by 25 percent (using a 2005 baseline) by 2033.
More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Managing Contraction, Redefining Progress

Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend upon the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to
existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.
—Milton Friedman (economist)

Many analysts who focus on the problems of population growth, resource depletion, and climate change foresee gradually tightening constraints on world economic activity. In most cases the prognosis they offer is for worsening environmental problems, more expensive energy and materials, and slowing economic growth.

However, their analyses often fail to factor in the impacts to and from a financial system built on the expectation of further growth—a system that could come unhinged in a non-linear, catastrophic fashion as growth ends. Financial and monetary systems can crash suddenly and completely. This almost happened in September 2008 as the result of a combination of a decline in the housing market, reliance on overly complex and in many cases fraudulent financial instruments, and skyrocketing energy prices. Another sovereign debt crisis in Europe could bring the world to a similar precipice. Indeed, there is a line-up of actors waiting to take center stage in the years ahead, each capable of bringing the curtain down on the global banking system or one of the world’s major currencies. Each derives its destructive potency from its ability to strangle growth, thus setting off chain reactions of default, bankruptcy, and currency failure. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The World Needs a New Language

We know it is dangerous to cross a red light, so we wait until it turns green.

We do not go out sailing when the weather forecast promises a great storm. We accept it when a doctor tells us to take medicine to prevent hypertension.

We do not drink the water if there is sign saying that it is contaminated. We are constantly accepting different potential risks and manoeuvring to limit them.

But when it comes to climate change, our willingness to accept it as a potential great risk is missing - and so is our motivation to respond to it with our normal risk-behaviour.

97 percent of the climate scientists believe global warming is happening, that humans are largely responsible and that we need to take action now. From their perspective there is a mountain of evidence on the reality of climate change; the nearest thing to an open-and-shut case that scientist can produce. They are constantly trying to convince us -- the public -- of this fact.

But still the concern shared by almost every scientist is not concurrent with the general public opinion. 44 percent of Americans still believe that global warming is primarily caused by planetary trends, according to a poll from Rasmussen Reports conducted in April. And 36 percent do not believe climate change is a serious problem.

Thus we are currently witnessing an enormous reality gap between science and the public -- with very different perceptions of the risks posed by climate change.

If scientists could solve climate change on their own, the lacking public support wouldn't be a problem. But they can't. Without the endorsement from the general public, the fight against climate change does not stand much of a chance. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

UNGA Debate on Right to Water Highlights Impact of Climate Change

27 July 2011: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) held a debate on the human right to water and sanitation, during which a number of speakers highlighted that climate change constitutes an obstacle to the enjoyment of this right, stressing the particular situations of small island low-lying States.

The debate took place on 27 July 2011, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. In his opening address, Joseph Deiss, UNGA President, recalled that, in July 2010, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the human right to water and sanitation, which he said was an important first step towards the explicit acknowledgment of that resource as a human right.

Egypt said States must take all necessary measures to extend human rights, including the right to clean water and sanitation. He added that Egypt’s efforts were challenged by funding, climate change, population growth and other factors, and indicated that his Government had adopted an integrated national plan to address these challenges. Senegal stressed the need to address climate change and drought in order to achieve the right to water, calling for increased assistance.

Cuba called for enhanced cooperation in the face of climate change, calling for the creation of mechanisms that are not dependant on the international financial institutions.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines expressed support for the UNGA resolution by which the Assembly had recognized the right to water and sanitation as a human right. He underlined that his country's achievements in terms of ensuring the realization of that right, considering its limited resources, illustrate the importance of political will. He emphasized the urgency of “looming threats” to achieving the right to water, namely climate change and desertification. He added that his country often resorts to transporting water by ship and said sea-level rise would have a disastrous effect. He concluded by calling for mainstreaming the issue in the global agenda.

Maldives explained that her country's main source of water is shallow groundwater, underscoring its extreme vulnerability to water scarcity. She called for considering the legally binding right to water in the context of sea-level rise, climate change, and other critical phenomena. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands