Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Peak Oil Crisis: 2011 – A Pivotal Year?

DECEMBER 29 2010 - Wall Street is getting nervous. As oil prices continue to creep up and as more evidence accumulates that the age of ever-growing energy production and economic growth  is coming to an end, a specter is haunting the great investment banks and brokerage houses of New York. 

For five years now Wall Street and its chorus in the financial media have ignored or denied that global oil production has reached a plateau after 150 years of steady growth. Those who did admit to a problem were quick to assert that the markets would find substitutes first in the form of endless quantities of coal waiting to be exploited and more recently 100 years' worth of shale gas would come seamlessly to the rescue.

The nervousness of course is that once global energy production starts to decline, capitalism as we have known it for the last few centuries will no longer be the same. While some new form of an economic system will evolve, the transition is likely to be long and painful. Many, if not most, jobs in the financial industry will simply melt away. Hence, for many, putting off the fateful day when we have to admit the inevitable is much preferred solution. More >>>

Monday, December 20, 2010

Red Seaweed Could Be the Next Biofuel Super-Crop

Red is about to become the new green, if researchers from the University of Illinois are on the right track. They’ve developed a new super-efficient strain of yeast that can easily break down red seaweed into biofuel. 

The new development could help small island nations and other sea-bound regions grow biofuel crops without giving up scarce land resources that are needed to grow food. But it also opens up some challenges down the road as human use of the marine environment increases.
Biofuel from Red Seaweed

When it comes to extracting fuel from non-food biomass, seaweed has general advantages over land crops. The most obvious one is the relative absence of hard fibers that are difficult to break down into sugars. Marine biomass degrades much more easily than land crops, but there is still a catch. When red seaweed is broken down it yields both glucose and galactose (a less “sweet” form of sugar), and until now it has been difficult to find an efficient fermentation process for galactose. The University of Illinois team identified three genes in a common microbe, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that can be pumped up to increase galactose fermentation by 250 percent. More >>>

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Unstable Antarctica: What's Driving Ice Loss

Dec 16, 2010 Scientists have previously shown that West Antarctica is losing ice, but how that ice is lost remained unclear. Now, using data from Earth observing satellites and airborne science missions, scientists are closing in on ice loss culprits above and below the ice.

The findings, presented Dec. 15 at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, Calif., are expected to improve predictions of sea level rise.

Time Not Healing Glacial Wounds
A new analysis by Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder Colo., and colleagues found that more than a decade after two major Antarctic ice shelves collapsed, glaciers once buttressed by the shelves continue to lose ice. More >>>

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Climate-vulnerable island states get boost for moving into renewable energy

Some of the smallest and most vulnerable island nations in the world will benefit from a new initiative signed off in Cancun last week, aimed at increasing these countries’ access to renewable sources of energy.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Government of Denmark, the World Bank, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), recognising the disproportionate harm of climate change for small island developing states and aims to support island countries to scale up their renewable energy efforts and shift to greater energy efficiency.
An 80 million Danish kroner (€11 million) pledge of support from the Government of Denmark has helped kick off the initiative, which is expected to help island states from the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific Islands regions transition to low-emission, climate-resilient development paths.
World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick jointly signed the agreement with Tillman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada and head of AOSIS; Lykke Friis, Denmark’s Minister for Climate and Energy; and Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator. Zoellick said the initiative supports a group of nations that have been among the most active and most vocal at climate negotiations for many years.
“Small island developing states have been sounding the alarm about climate change for years now and have earned the title of ‘the conscience of the climate convention’,” Zoellick said. “They are leaders in taking actions on adaptation, and the World Bank Group has increased support to them for this purpose. This new initiative extends this support to clean energy, which will contribute to mitigation and also help reduce the islands states’ very high import bills for fuel.”
Breaking oil dependence
Because of their size and remoteness, most small island developing states are heavily dependent on imported petroleum for their energy needs. Some countries spend an estimated 25 – 50 percent of their GDP on imported oil, which leads to very high domestic electricity costs.
“Reducing fossil fuel consumption is a ‘win-win’ for small island developing states”, said Helen Clark of the UNDP. “It reduces the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the rise in global temperatures, while at the same time improving energy security and freeing up national spending for investment in climate-resilient development.”
One of the expected benefits from this renewable energy initiative will be the freeing up of “fiscal space” for governments to spend on development and climate-resilient action.
“Climate change has the potential to derail all the good work that countries have undertaken for decades to overcome poverty and boost growth,” Zoellick said. “In countries with the possibilities of renewable energy sources, overall development is undermined if governments are spending so much on imported fossil fuels.”
The World Bank and the UNDP will facilitate the trust fund that will be established from the memorandum of understanding.
For additional information:

Friday, December 10, 2010

World Bank: Governance and Climate Change

Governance and Climate Change

According to the World Bank Group’s Governance and Anticorruption Strategy (GAC), governance is “the manner in which public officials and institutions acquire and exercise the authority to shape public policy and provide public goods and services”. Poor governance permits and even promotes corruption resulting in private gain and abuse of public office. Resources that should fuel development and reduce poverty enrich corrupt elites. Institutions matter, and civil society groups and parliaments can promote transparency and accountability, thereby strengthening governance and helping countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Good governance is necessary to effectively overcome development challenges and ensure sustainable development. The urgency of addressing these challenges is heightened by the need to combat the impacts of climate change. For developing countries, better management of floods, droughts and storm surges is necessary, while also maintaining gains made in reducing poverty.

Climate change also provides opportunities in using new financial instruments to achieve low carbon, climate-resilient and socially equitable development.  However, for countries to receive international financing to address climate change, adequate governance institutions in developing countries must enable effective use of funds. Other governance-related questions include the following:

• Can funds support public sector works and do adequate institutions exist for implementing projects without corruption concerns?

• Can policy and legislative frameworks be developed for market-based instruments to be used effectively by the private and public sectors for climate-friendly development?

• Can existing institutional frameworks effectively combine weather-related insurance and natural disaster risk management as part of the adaptation agenda?

• Can different line ministries work together to address the climate-development challenges?

• Can public policies provide an umbrella for public-private initiatives, i.e., to: inform consumer choice on energy efficiency appliances and building construction; and ensure land tenure, access and rights of local and indigenous peoples are not eroded through reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD)?

• Can policies be developed to help reduce land-based carbon emissions and land-water degradation, and provide payments to local and indigenous communities to help reduce poverty?

To address some of these questions, the World Bank Institute (WBI) is bringing together its work on governance and climate change in many of its activities and for different stakeholders. For example, youth activists are critical to social accountability efforts, and, as future leaders, they have a role to play in shaping climate-friendly development. Parliamentarians shape national development agendas, and their representative, legislative and oversight responsibilities are essential for taking action on climate change and development. This issue of the e-bulletin addresses what WBI is doing to engage with and enhance the capacity of these stakeholders.

WBI’s Climate Change Practice is also facilitating action on adaptation, particularly in many African countries. The section on knowledge products and activities of the agriculture, water and natural resource management program showcases our efforts in this arena. This e-bulletin also covers other areas WBI is focusing its efforts on, such as Cities and Climate Change. It also addresses the ongoing work of Carbon Finance Assist, which highlights the use of market and, increasingly, non-market instruments to reduce emissions.

I would like to thank Mitchell O’Brien and Miriam Bensky in the WBI Governance Practice for their contribution to this preface. We hope you enjoy these articles and we look forward to interacting with you further.

Habiba Gitay
Sr. Environmental Specialist and Acting Practice Manager
WBI Climate Change Practice

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Many Strong Voices Holds First Advisory Committee Meeting

30 October 2010: Many Strong Voices (MSV), a collaboration between Arctic and small island developing States (SIDS) that seeks to promote the wellbeing of these areas vulnerable to climate change, held its first Advisory Committee meeting in the Seychelles from 28-30 October. 
The purpose of the Seychelles meeting was to review the MSV five-year plan (2008-2012) and communications strategy, and to identity opportunities and next steps for the MSV initiative.
The MSV Advisory Committee is made up of representatives from Arctic indigenous organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and SIDS representatives. Meeting participants included representatives from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, Organization of American States (OAS), Indigenous Peoples Global Summit on Climate Change, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Cayman Institute and Government of the Cook Islands, as well as the University of Seychelles and the Sea Level Rise Foundation.
Key outcomes of the meeting included: a revised MSV five-year Strategic Plan with a focus on activities in the next two years; agreement on the coordination of an MSV side event on "Voices from the North and South: Food Security and Human Rights in Small Island Developing States and the Arctic" at the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP 16) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancun, Mexico; agreement on the initiation of new projects on food security, ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change, and human rights; and the development of a new project on black carbon.
The meeting coincided with an exhibition, titled "Portraits of Resilience," photo and stories on climate change by youth from communities in the Seychelles, Fiji, Tuvalu, Alaska, Greenland, Canada, and Norway. [IISD RS Sources] More >>>

Monday, December 6, 2010

Outside Cancún climate conference, Caribbean Sea testifies to global warming

2010 was one of the deadliest years on record for coral reefs. The Caribbean Sea just outside the Cancún climate conference offers evidence of global warming's negative effect. 

This summer’s extreme heat may seem like a distant memory as winter approaches the United States.

But the summer that broke heat records across the Northern Hemisphere is still being felt below the surface of the Caribbean Sea: 2010 will likely be one of the most deadly years on record for coral reefs.

If diplomats attending the two-week global climate change talks that opened Monday in Cancún, Mexico, want more evidence of the negative and potentially devastating affects of warming temperatures, they need look no further than the blue sea outside their hotels. Researchers say that throughout the Caribbean coral reefs are “bleaching,” a condition that occurs when they are under extreme stress due to warmer-than-normal sea temperatures. More >>>

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Never an Empty Bowl: Sustaining Food Security in Asia

For the first time in history, the number of people suffering from chronic hunger reached one billion globally in 2009, with Asia accounting for approximately two-thirds of the world’s hungry. 
The future looks even more daunting. Population growth, increasing demand from changing diets, dwindling land and water resources for agriculture, higher energy costs, and the huge uncertainties regarding the effects of climate change present scientists and policy makers with additional challenges.
A new Task Force report issued jointly by the Asia Society and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) brings together a pragmatic approach to public policy and the best science, with substantial input from key players in the field, to advance a comprehensive plan of action to address food insecurity and poverty in the region. More >>>