Wednesday, July 29, 2015

UNESCO Reports on Climate Change Education Activities

21 July 2015: A report by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reviews the organization's recent work to support education policymakers and educators of teachers to incorporate climate change into their curriculum.

The report, titled 'Not Just Hot Air: Putting Climate Change Education into Practice,' presents results and lessons learned from country pilots in the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Mauritius, Tuvalu and South Africa.

Based on the case studies, as well as brief profiles of climate change and education in 16 countries' sustainable development policy processes, the document provides recommendations to policymakers in five areas: policy development; government and resources; curriculum development; capacity building of teachers and education planners; and public awareness, communication and stakeholder involvement.

According to the publication's conclusions, some of the remaining challenges to integrating climate change into education are: a lack of systematic information on existing climate change-related learning; a lack of clear governance structures for addressing education and skills development for sustainable development; the requirement that teachers have an accurate understanding of climate change and of how it relates to broader issues of sustainable development; and weak or non-existent public awareness about climate change or its politicized nature in some countries.

UNESCO, through its Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development programme, is working to capitalize on education as a tool to combat climate change through raising awareness of its causes and effects, and preparing students to both take action on its causes and face its impacts. [UNESCO Press Release] [Publication: Not Just Hot Air: Putting Climate Change Education into Practice] More


Friday, July 24, 2015

Is the Iran deal about staving off the coming oil shock - By Nafeez Ahmed

The Iran nuclear deal signals a major shift in the geopolitics of the Middle East. Integral to the equation is oil, economics, terror – and US hegemony.

The Bush administration had initiated a long-term covert strategy to undermine Iranian influence in the Middle East and Central Asia, combined with overt pressure through diplomatic initiatives and economic sanctions.

Under Obama, this strategy accelerated, largely in concert with other Gulf powers like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, who have long sought to roll-back Iranian influence.

Yet even as the strategy accelerated, unlike its predecessors which openly declared their warmongering hostility to Iran, the Obama administration had used the pressure to forge an unprecedented deal with the country.

Averting regional war

The reasons for the shift are, of course, pragmatic. For years, US intelligence agencies have told the White House that there is simply no evidence Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb.

And the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly certified that uranium is not being enriched to levels necessary for weaponisation, nor is it being diverted to a secret weapons programme.

Meanwhile, senior US military officials have long warned that the sort of US-Iran military confrontation which frothing neoconservatives have been pining for would likely fail and destabilise the entire region.

What about an Israel-Iran confrontation? A classified Pentagon war simulation held in 2012 found that an Israeli attack on Iran would also lead to a wider regional war.

Unlike the neocons, for the military pragmatists in successive US administrations, war with Iran could never be a preferred option.

The added bonus is that Iran might notch down its involvement in Iraq and Syria.

Earlier this year, the US assured its allies at the Camp David summit that under the nuclear deal, Iran’s growing geopolitical influence in the region would be curtailed. Simultaneously, the US gave Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and others the green light to accelerate support to the Islamist militants of their choice in Syria.

George Friedman, founder and CEO of private US intelligence firm Stratfor – which operates closely with the Pentagon and State Department – forecasted the US-Iran d├ętente four years ago.

His prescient assessment of its strategic rationale is worth noting. Friedman explained that by reaching “a temporary understanding with Iran,” the US would give itself room to withdraw while playing off Iran against the Sunni regimes, limiting Iran’s “direct controls” in the region, “while putting the Saudis, among others, at an enormous disadvantage”.

“This strategy would confront the reality of Iranian power and try to shape it,” wrote Friedman.

Ultimately, though, the US is betting on the rise of Turkey – hence the latter’s pivotal role in the new anti-IS rebel training strategy, despite Turkey’s military and financial sponsorship of IS. More


Thursday, July 23, 2015

New Energy Outlook 2015


By 2040, the world's power-generating capacity mix will have transformed: from today's system composed of two-thirds fossil fuels to one with 56% from zero-emission energy sources. Renewables will command just under 60% of the 9,786GW of new generating capacity installed over the next 25 years, and two-thirds of the $12.2 trillion of investment. • Economics – rather than policy – will increasingly drive the uptake of renewable technologies. All-in project costs for wind will come down by an average of 32% and solar 48% by 2040 due to steep experience curves and improved financing. Wind is already the cheapest form of new power generation capacity in Europe, Australia and Brazil and by 2026 it will be the least-cost option almost universally, with utility-scale PV likely to take that mantle by 2030.

• Over 54% of power capacity in OECD countries will be renewable energy capacity in 2040 – from a third in 2014. Developed countries are rapidly shifting from traditional centralised systems to more flexible and decentralised ones that are significantly less carbon-intensive. With about 882GW added over the next 25 years, small-scale PV will dominate both additions and installed capacity in the OECD, shifting the focus of the value chain to consumers and offering new opportunities for market share.

• In contrast, developing non-OECD countries will build 287GW a year to satisfy demand spurred by economic growth and rising electrification. This will require around $370bn of investment a year, or 80% of investment in power capacity worldwide. In total, developing countries will build nearly three times as much new capacity as developed nations, at 7,460GW – of which around half will be renewables. Coal and utility-scale PV will be neck and neck for additions as power-hungry countries use their low-cost domestic fossil-fuel reserves in the absence of strict pollution regulations.

• Solar will boom worldwide, accounting for 35% (3,429GW) of capacity additions and nearly a third ($3.7 trillion) of global investment, split evenly between small- and utility-scale installations: large-scale plants will increasingly out-compete wind, gas and coal in sunny locations, with a sustained boom post 2020 in developing countries, making it the number one sector in terms of capacity additions over the next 25 years.

• The real solar revolution will be on rooftops, driven by high residential and commercial power prices, and the availability of residential storage in some countries. Small-scale rooftop installations will reach socket parity in all major economies and provide a cheap substitute for diesel generation for those living outside the existing grid network in developing countries. By 2040, just under 13% of global generating capacity will be small-scale PV, though in some countries this share will be significantly higher.

• In industrialised economies, the link between economic growth and electricity consumption appears to be weakening. Power use fell with the financial crisis but has not bounced back strongly in the OECD as a whole, even as economic growth returned. This trend reflects an ongoing shift to services, consumers responding to high energy prices and improvements in energy efficiency. In OECD countries, power demand will be lower in 2040 than in 2014.

• The penetration of renewables will double to 46% of world electricity output by 2040 with variable renewable technologies such as wind and solar accounting for 30% of generation – up from 5% in 2014. As this penetration rises, countries will need to add flexible capacity that can help meet peak demand, as well as ramp up when solar comes off-line in the evening. More



Climate Change and Moral Responsibility -

On Tuesday, the British medical journal The Lancet will publish a landmark report highlighting the inalienable and undeniable link between climate change and human health.

We warmly welcome the report’s message of hope, which confirms the fact that climate change is more than just a technical or financial challenge (as Pope Francis did in his encyclical letter on June 18) and confirms the voice of health in the discussion on climate change. Indeed, the central premise of the Lancet commission’s work is that tackling climate change could be the single greatest health opportunity of the 21st century.

It is no surprise that climate change has the potential to set back global health. The greenhouse gas emissions that are warming our planet come from industrial activity that pollutes our air and water, and the temperature changes may lead to drought that brings malnutrition. Those with little or no access to health care — children and the elderly in particular — are more vulnerable to such predicaments.

However, health is symptomatic of a larger problem, which undermines and fragments our broader worldview. In addition to highlighting the effects of climate change, we must address the root of the problem. In so doing, we will discover how the benefits of assuming moral responsibility and taking immediate action — not just on matters related to health, but also world economy and global policy — far outweigh the cost of remaining indifferent and passive.

It is this vital link that The Lancet’s report conclusively and authoritatively demonstrates. In short, it proves that our response to climate change — both in terms of mitigation and adaptation — will reduce human suffering, while preserving the diversity and beauty of God’s creation for our children. God’s generous and plentiful creation, which we so often take for granted, is a gift to all living creatures and all living things. We must, therefore, ensure that the resources of our planet are — and continue to be — enough for all to live abundant lives.

The report could not appear at a more significant and sensitive time in history. This year, as all eyes look ahead to the Paris climate negotiations and as governments prepare to sign a universal commitment to limit global temperature rises, we have reached a critical turning point. We are — as never before — in a position to choose charity over greed and frugality over wastefulness in order to affirm our moral commitment to our neighbor and our respect for the Earth. Basic human rights — such as access to safe water, clean air and sufficient food — should be available to everyone without distinction or discrimination.

Because of our faith in God as creator, redeemer and sustainer, we have a mission to protect nature as well as human beings. The obligation of all human beings is to work together for a better world, one in which all human beings can flourish; our Christian vocation is to proclaim the Gospel inclusively and comprehensively.

To this purpose, as early as the mid-1980s, when the faith-based environmental movement that has come to be known as creation care was neither political nor fashionable, the Ecumenical Patriarchate initiated pioneering environmental initiatives. In 1989, it established a day of prayer for the protection of the natural environment and, from 1991 to this day, instigated a series of symposia and summits on an international, interfaith and interdisciplinary basis. Its ecumenical and ecological vision has been embraced in parishes and communities throughout the world.

In 1984, the Anglican Consultative Council adopted the Five Marks of Mission, the fifth of which is: "To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth." In 2006, the Church of England started a national environmental campaign, Shrinking the Footprint, to enable the whole church to address — in faith, practice and mission — the issue of climate change. In 2015, a clear direction has been set for the Church of England’s national investing bodies in support of the transition to a low-carbon economy that brings its investments into line with the church’s witness.

As representatives of two major Christian communions, we appeal to the world’s governments to act decisively and conscientiously by signing an ambitious and hopeful agreement in Paris during the United Nations’ climate conference, COP 21, at the end of this year. We hope and pray that this covenant will contain a clear and convincing long-term goal that will chart the course of decarbonization in the coming years. Only in this way can we reduce the inequality that flows directly from climate injustice within and between countries.

The Lancet report is further proof that all of us must act with generosity and compassion toward our fellow human beings by acting on climate change now. This is a shared moral responsibility and urgent requirement. Civil society, governmental authorities and religious leaders have an opportunity to make a difference in a way that bridges our diverse opinions and nationalities. More




The Lessons of the Loess Plateau

From John Dennis Liu here are the bare bones of what I have learned studying the Loess Plateau. There is more detail for those who crave knowledge.

John Dennis Liu

1. Functional ecosystems gave rise to life and are necessary for life to continue.

2. Ecosystem degradation has local, downstream (regional) and global impacts suggesting that we must rethink the way we see our relationship with the Earth. This is an essential part of globalization.

3. Human activity without ecological understanding leads to ecosystem collapse.

4. 4. Poverty and ecological destruction are interrelated. You must solve them together.

5. The collapse of ecosystem function is linked to the collapse of civilization.

6. It is possible to rehabilitate large-scale damaged ecosystems and restore ecosystem function that has been lost over vast areas.

7. It is necessary to differentiate and designate ecological and economic land to ensure that there will be at least some land that is able to function ecologically.

8. In order to restore ecosystem viability it is necessary to address the root causes of the degradation and so all unsustainable agricultural practices must end.

9. In order for unsustainable agricultural practices to end, policies must reflect these principles, alternative livelihoods must be identified, training and investment must be provided to help transition the poorest toward sustainable behaviors. They cannot do this alone.

10. Land tenure ensuring uninterrupted access to agricultural land for those who live near subsistence agriculture is required or they will be forced to devastate common ecological lands to survive.

11. Governments must understand these lessons and their policies must reflect these principles.

12. Ecosystem function and the ecosystem benefits that accrue have not been valued by traditional economic systems and so those systems are false.

13. The survival of people who live in or near large degraded ecosystems and the survival of people who live in wealth far from these places in the developed world, are both dependent on restoring viability to large ecosystems that have been disrupted or destroyed by human activity.

14. Learning these lessons will ensure that future generations will enjoy rushing rivers, forests, wildlife and more efficient, productive farms, as well as living in peace and prosperity.

15. We need to understand what is at stake. History provides strong, compelling evidence that ignoring these lessons will lead to ecosystem collapse and the end of our civilization.

16. When we look toward the future do we see growing deserts, more people living lives of desperation and poverty, or do we see forests, rivers, healthy and wealthy people with a sustainable future? These are two different paradigms. When we achieve the second paradigm the entire dynamic changes. This is exactly what is needed now to address climate change, poverty, and ecosystem health. The lessons of the Loess Plateau help to illustrate a sustainable future for humanity and represent "EARTH’S HOPE".



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

IRENA Conference Launches Martinique Action Plan for Renewables Deployment on SIDS

14 July 2015: A conference organized by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has launched an action plan to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy in small island developing states (SIDS).

The Martinique Action Plan outlines practical steps for deploying renewable energy resources and technologies in SIDS. It also seeks to demonstrate commitment of 27 SIDS and 19 development partners to the IRENA of SIDS Lighthouses Initiative in the run-up to the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference.

The ‘Martinique Action Plan for Renewable Energy Deployment on Islands' (MAP) focuses on the development of wind, marine, geothermal and sustainable biomass resources. It also identifies steps for promoting biomass and waste-to-energy systems, boosting renewable electricity generation on island power grids, and launching renewable desalination systems to meet increasing demands for freshwater.

The MAP recommends: supporting the energy transition of SIDS through concrete actions, including opening markets, facilitating financing and building capacities; facilitating the implementation of programmes and projects to achieve concrete outcomes, including through enabling policy environments and promoting successful business models; and contributing, where applicable and appropriate, to the development of concrete actions with a view to demonstrating progress at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, in November-December 2015.

It also, inter alia: emphasizes renewable energy as a key means for mitigating climate change and strengthening resilience to its impacts; notes public-private partnerships' role in unlocking investment capital; and acknowledges support from civil society and community engagement as critical for long-term success.

In September 2014, the Third International Conference on SIDS in Apia, Samoa, adopted an outcome document, titled ‘SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway,' which supports actions to, inter alia, develop a strategy and targeted measures to promote energy efficiency and foster sustainable energy systems, and calls for the establishment and strengthening of innovative energy road maps in SIDS.

At the 2014 Climate Summit, in September 2014 in New York, US, IRENA launched the SIDS Lighthouses Initiative, a joint effort of SIDS, development institutions and other partners aimed at mobilizing funding and political will to advance the deployment of renewable energy in islands around the world

The MAP was launched at the ‘Island Energy Transitions: Pathways for Accelerated Uptake of Renewables' conference, organized on Martinique, from 22-24 June 2015, by IRENA, in cooperation with the Government of France and the French Region of Martinique.

The conference, which attracted the participation of representatives of governments, companies, banks, development partners and subject matter experts, covered topics such as renewable energy resources, technologies, markets, financing, and the sharing of best practices. [IRENA Press Release] [Martinique Action Plan for Renewable Energy Development on Islands] [Island Energy Transitions Conference Webpage] [IISD RS Coverage of the Third International Conference on SIDS] [IISD RS Story of SIDS Lighthouses Initiative Launch]

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pakistan, Bangladesh face ‘state failure’ as globe heats up

Study compiled by experts from US, UK, China and India underlines migration potential from warming world

India will face a huge influx of refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh should high degrees of climate change develop, according to one of the country’s senior military officials.

Drought and flooding linked to sea level rise would place the governments of those countries under "severe stress" and lead to large-scale migration, said Vice Admiral Pradeep Chauhan, head of the Indian Naval Academy.

"In India, this would combine with an internal population shift from rural to urban areas, further increasing demographic pressure in cities," he wrote in a climate risk study backed by the UK Foreign Office.

A significant influx of migrants could further destabilise what is known as India’s "Red Corridor", a belt of land running through east India where Marxist rebels are fighting the state.

"The temptation to solve this problem through military intervention could become overwhelming," he added.

Current greenhouse gas emissions will "likely as not" mean temperature increases of 4C above pre-industrial levels by 2150 said the study, with severe implications for human health and crop yields.

A N M Muniruzzaman, a retired Bangladeshi major general, said millions of people in his country could be displaced as a result of sea level rise.

"Flooding is projected to increase in many regions, but it could be a particular problem in South Asia due to the contribution of melting glaciers," he said.

Planning battle

Chauhan’s and Muniruzzaman’s comments were based on a war gaming exercise held in Delhi in March, hosted by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water.

Former military officials from India, China, the US, the UK, Bangladesh, Germany, the Netherlands, and Finland took part, along with scientists and diplomats.

"In the game, it was notable that increasing numbers of refugees contributed to several large countries becoming more isolationist in their foreign policies," says the study.

"Participants in our exercise considered it extremely likely that climate change would exacerbate humanitarian crises over the coming decades."

Long term water stress in South Asia could become so severe previous agreements over resource sharing between India, Pakistan, China and Bangladesh "could be broken", the study warns.

"At the high degrees of climate change possible in the long-term future, participants in our scenarios exercise considered that there could even be risks to the political integrity of states that are currently considered developed and stable."

Alex Randall from the UK-based Climate Change and Migration Coalition said the document presented a "one sided view of migration" seeing it only as a security threat.

"While there is growing evidence linking climate change to changing patterns of migration, there is little evidence suggesting that migrants and refugee present the kind of security threat suggested in the report," he said.

"There is also strong evidence indicating that migration could become a key way for some people to adapt to climate change." More