News that is edifying not electrifying, information that produces hope not heat

The Greens work locally and internationally and so, have their pulse on the people, thoughts and activities that shape our world and our civilization. It is therefore mandatory that we are spidered into every part of the world and its happenings. We also know that we live in an age of fake and therefore, we know what is hearsay, what is rumor, what is blind belief, what is spin. We also know how to cut through that fog of lies and drive to the truth, inconvenient though it might be at times. This area covers the most pertinent and most reliable facts about our world that constantly upstream to us. Of course, we are kind and anti-sensation so our tone in these posts reflect that. We will certainly break any news we find important. We might even call some of it hot or electrifying. But not hot in the conventional meaning that term has acquired where news that boils one’s blood is equated to hot news. News that makes your hair stand on end is called electrifying news. Whatever else we do, we are not a bunch of jokers that subscribe those definitions of heat or electricity.

COP 27: So, green hydrogen is the next great fix eh?

Moving forwards with the debate started in Glasgow (COP 26), one of the three round tables on day 2 was all about the buzz related to transitioning to a so-called hydrogen economy and the debate on whether or not it is a viable option especially for the global south hungry for cheaper fuel options. Will it save us or damage us depending on how much water is withdrawn for the purpose is part of that debate. Overall, it is seen that while it does have immediate positives the mantra that it reconverts back to water when it is combusted with oxygen to “provide additional water for a country” is just duckspeak. Additionally, there is always the issue that the production chain of hydrogen can come in a variety of colors such as gray, blue and green and even pink, yellow and turquoise. Only the green variety will be produced climate-neutrally.

With competing uses for water, well, the overall outcomes vis-à-vis human security in which both water security and energy security play a part may not be all that clear when the effort to secure the one may negatively impact the other. With the world facing significant water security issues with ACC (Anthropogenic Climate Change) causing droughts and desertification coupled with an ever increasing population of humans on the planet, the more water is withdrawn for purposes other than for natural consumption by animals, people and plants, the water problem may only be exacerbated by these moves.

 

The countries with the highest water withdrawal for hydrogen to total water withdrawal

The countries with the highest water withdrawal for hydrogen to total water withdrawal: Source: World Bank and FAO

At present, 90 MT of hydrogen produced annually, just 0.5% is produced through renewable electricity while the rest comes from natural gas. 95% of current demand for hydrogen is in the Oil & Gas and Chemicals industries, to refine oil and produce ammonia or methanol.

 

However, ambitious plans have been put forward at the COP by various global north countries. Bart Kolodziejczyk, a research fellow at Monash University, Australia who studied the matter across 135 countries observes that only nine of the 135 countries studied would require an increase in their current freshwater withdrawal of over 10% to completely transition to hydrogen-based energy, whereas 62 countries would need to increase their freshwater withdrawal by less than 1%. There is a visible trend among the countries with a significant increase in water withdrawal to transition to hydrogen. These countries are either desert countries with little annual precipitation, such as Qatar, Israel, Kuwait or Bahrain, or small island states, such as Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago or Malta, which would also struggle due to limited freshwater reservoirs.

 

he countries with the lowest water withdrawal to meet energy demand in the form of hydrogen

he countries with the lowest water withdrawal to meet energy demand in the form of hydrogen: Source World Bank and FAO

Singapore, which relies highly on neighbouring Malaysia for freshwater resources, tops the list. It would have to increase the water it uses to convert to hydrogen-based energy by about 46.4%. On the other hand, Tajikistan, being at the very bottom of the list, would require an increase of only 0.056%. The average value for all 135 countries is 3.3%.

 

Sri Lanka, in that respect, is seen in the lower segment of percent withdrawals of water for energy against total withdrawals. While we can certainly look at the option, we have enough alternative renewable sources (solar and wind) that are cheaper and do not compromise water volumes. A careful study of the future energy mix will be required for such countries as the global south and as things stand now, it is possible that there is no requirement for these to switch completely to a hydrogen society but rather, use that option within narrower demand side channels.

Digital innovation offers a simple way to monitor the world’s trees

Monitoring our forests and trees is quick and it is easy with tech innovation. The SDG Knowledge Hub, the International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD) has brought attention to the Open Foris initiative of the Forestry Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) that was launched back in 2011. The idea was that software supporting monitoring should be open-source, easily accessible, and free for anyone to use from anywhere, at any time. This was marvelous and indeed it has created a platform that is truly rendering benefits.

 

As IISD mentions, the way we monitor our forests has changed dramatically in the last few years. Yes of course, we have our tried and tested physical media maps and records but these require special facilities and take years to get right and more importantly keep right as a continuous data stream becomes available. It was the domain of “experts”. In many cases, digitizing data, downloading images and processing them took months. With such expensive projects, in many cases, facilities were abandoned by the end of the funding and the data lost for ever.

 

However, today, we do not need such top-heavy facilities or computers and software purchased at heart-attack prices. Pretty much anyone can map and land and collect data using a mobile phone or laptop, to efficiently produce better data at a fraction of the cost. As IISD says, “This is not just because mobile devices and networks have improved. As the climate crisis grew, it became clear that a critical mass of accurate and timely information on deforestation and land degradation and restoration was fundamental to protecting ecosystems and fulfilling UN commitments for action for sustainable development. A quantum leap was needed to allow countries to gather and share data autonomously on the scale needed and without financial, legal, or logistical constraints”.

 

This is precisely what Open Foris offers. You can contribute as can we all by simply clicking here to download the handbook first and then here to push your own findings and data to the global info-space. Happy monitoring!

Egypt’s president on COP 27

In a year that saw the IPCC’s AR6 tabled and its contents analyzed and discussed by literally millions of people on earth, the next COP is shaping up to be an interesting one. The incoming presidency for COP 27, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt has issued the following welcome message to all participants at the soon to be held COP 27:

 

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt

The hosting of COP27 in the green city of Sharm El-Sheikh this year marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In the thirty years since, the world has come a long way in the fight against climate change and its negative impacts on our planet; we are now able to better understand the science behind climate change, better assess its impacts, and better develop tools to address its causes and consequences.

 

Thirty years and twenty-six COPs later, we now have a much clearer understanding of the extent of the potential climate crisis and what needs to be done to address it effectively. The science is there and clearly shows the urgency with which we must act regarding rapidly reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, taking necessary steps to assist those in need of support to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change, and finding the appropriate formula that would ensure the availability of requisite means of implementation that are indispensable for developing countries in making their contributions to this global effort, especially in the midst of the successive international crises, including the ongoing food security crisis exacerbated by climate change, desertification and water scarcity, especially in Africa that suffers the most impacts.

 

In 2015, the world came together and showed the will to make the necessary compromises which led to the successful adoption of the Paris Agreement. Today and in light of the unmistakable messages in the recent IPCC reports, and following COP26 in Glasgow, we are once again called upon to act rapidly if we are to really meet the 1.5-degree goal, build our resilience, and enhance our capacity to adapt. And while these are no doubt major undertakings, I sincerely believe that they can also become opportunities for transformation towards sustainability if we collectively think creatively and demonstrate the necessary political will.

 

With this in mind, Egypt and its people look forward to welcoming you all at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, where we trust the world will come together, yet again, to reaffirm its commitment to the global climate agenda despite the difficulties and uncertainties of our time. I am positive that all parties and stakeholders will be coming to Sharm El-Sheikh with a stronger will and a higher ambition on mitigation, adaptation and climate finance, demonstrating actual success stories on implementing commitments and fulfilling pledges.

 

I deeply believe that COP27 is an opportunity to showcase unity against an existential threat that we can only overcome through concerted action and effective implementation. As incoming Presidency Egypt will spare no effort to ensure that COP27 becomes the moment when the world moved from negotiation to implementation and where words were translated to actions, and where we collectively embarked on a path towards sustainability, a just transition and eventually a greener future for coming generations.

 

Welcome to Sharm El-Sheikh. Welcome to COP27.

 

How many types of trees are actually there on earth?

Despite Robert May optimistically stating back in 1994 that we will know all of the tree species by the year 2044, we are half ways there without even coming close. A January 2022 report by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), one of the world’s most cited and comprehensive multidisciplinary scientific journals says that there may be approximately 9000 tree species unknown to science of which 40% may be in South America. This was the result of a three-year research project that counted approximately 73,000 species currently living on earth and goes to show how rich our terrestrial ecosystems are. However, it also underlines their great vulnerabilities to anthropogenic changes from land use to climate change with the rarer the species the greater the risk. Referring to rare species a full third of the count fall into these categories with low populations and limited spacial distribution such as tropical lowlands and mountains.

 

According to the report, there is a gradual increase towards equatorial regions. With the taxa at higher latitudes lesser and more manageable, they are well characterized. However, the report says that if hyperdominance of a small fraction of species in the tropics is a general phenomenon, it would mean that these regions generally harbor a very large number of rare species, many of which are endemic.

 

One of the most important research areas is to determine the exact contribution of rare species to ecosystem services and this is still “a work in progress” according to the report. Given global issues related to the destruction of species as well as the appearance of modified or new species as well as the comparatively small amount of knowledge we have in terms of the actual count of these organisms, the ongoing studies are exceedingly more relevant to understanding how we as a planet should move forward with knowledge, care and concern for the flora of the world and its critical relevance to the continuance of life of all sentient beings on the planet.

 

You may read the full article by PNAS here.

Earth Day 2022

Earth Day 2022

Only One Earth.

The calls are increasingly more strident. The IPCCs AR6 report was a damning indictment of our collective failure to preserve things without which we shall all die. For the first time, we are now calling climate change ANTHROPOGENIC climate change and the deniers are left bereft after years of battling to keep their own comfort zones as the truth when the entire world was being pushed more and more into discomfort because of their ignorance, their ego and their base stupidity. Our world is one. We have just this and nothing else. If we do not want to know this now and push that realization into some vague future, then, we will not have a chance to reverse our idea of who we are and what we have done to our home because there will be no tomorrow for any of us. The response to our past actions that destroyed our planet individually and collectively is that we must all come together to  reverse the damage, the right the wrong. It is going to have to take that level of universal commitment. It is not a piecemeal, start-again-stop-again action. It must be a concerted, connected, comprehensive effort. This is the message from Earth Day (World Environment Day) 2022 where we call for every single person on this planet to understand that we have just one earth.

 

We, the Greens knew where the planet was headed as far back as 1990 and issued dire warnings back then. Those warnings went unheeded by some and laughed off by many. No one is laughing now. Yet, knowing the problem and acting to solve it are two entirely different things. The Greens have gone to ground with every weapon at their disposal and some that they thought they had but didn’t. Such was our heart-drive to succor our world. We are all part of that global network that is battling sleeplessly and tirelessly to win this for the earth, for its plants, its animals and its people. Join us. You may check out some of our work on the day by clicking on this link. Additionally, please take a look at this short video we did for earth day.

 

World Biodiversity Day 2022

World Biodiversity Day 2022

Building a shared future for all life

We know that the world is small and getting increasingly smaller. Shrinking not only the physical space available for its sentient life but also reducing the natural resources that they are all dependent upon. The theme this year is “Building a shared future for all life” and that theme is becoming increasingly non-negotiable. It is also going to have to be the mantra for ages to come if life in any form is to survive on earth. From ecosystem-based approaches to climate and/or nature-based solutions to climate, health issues, food and water security and sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity is the foundation upon which we can build back better. That is the main message from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), key international instrument for sustainable development.

 

The Green Movement of Sri Lanka has, for the last quarter of a century been in the forefront of action to get this message across to a planet that has, to all intents and purposes, gone mad. Insanely sucking at the rapidly dwindling resources of our earth and depriving everyone and everything else. Until we acknowledge the symbiosis that exists among all beings, until we recognize that the life of the one is only possible because of the lives of every other, there is no possibility for us, as the thinking species on earth to help that earth to live. We are one planet. Please take a look at the video below that we created for the day, share where you can and carry the essence of this desperate call to the world to every ear that wants to hear it but, more importantly, to those who either cannot or refuse to listen. It is their future too that we, the Greens are fighting for.

New plant species discovered in Knuckles Range

Mongabay, cited by The Sunday Island, describes a new plant species that has been found on the Knuckles Range by a team of local researchers. The discovery process according to both reports began in 2016 when researchers Champika Bandara, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Sri Jayawardenepura, and Sanath Bandara Herath of the Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL), were exploring the plant life along the banks of a stream in the Dothalugala area of the Knuckles range. It was here where they first spotted a purple impatiens flower that neither had ever seen before.Three years down the road, as they went deeper into their research, Bhathiya Gopallawa, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Peradeniya also encountered the same plant at Thangappuwa, about 20 km from the site where the others had found their specimens. Comparing notes they found it to be the same species. According to Mongabay, it is critically endangered and the researchers say that its prevalence has dropped by 80% since it was first sighted in 2016.

 

 Impatiens jacobdevlasii flowers

The color variation of Impatiens jacobdevlasii flowers: White, light purple, light pink, and deep purple. Images courtesy of Bhathiya Gopallawa.

The researchers have named it Impatiens jacobdevlasii in honor of Dutch botanist Jacob de Vlas, co-author along with his wife Johanna of a series of illustrated guides on the more than 3,000 known flowering plants of Sri Lanka and the description brings the number of known impatiens species found in Sri Lanka to 25. Sri Lanka is one of six global hotspots for the species. It is heartening to see this spirit of collaboration among a young cohort of Sri Lankan botanists whose work is inspiring greater interest in the island’s plant life, and a growing body of new discoveries.

 

As a critically endangered species, it goes without saying that significant effort must be made for its protection as highlighted by Gopallawa who said “Sadly, one site located near a waterfall [known to host impatiens plants] was cleared for tourist activities, indicating the kind of threats these plants face,” 

 

 I. jacobdevlasii

Impatiens subcordata was considered a possibly extinct species in Sri Lanka’s 2012 red list, after not having been seen in more than a century, but was “rediscovered” in 2013 by the same team of researchers who would go on to describe I. jacobdevlasii. Image courtesy of Bhathiya Gopallawa.

Urgent global need to recycle e-waste

E-waste discarded in 2021 alone amounts to 57 million tons according to a study and the Royal Society of Chemistry says that this is what should be mined – not the earth. Even with e-waste growing at around 2 million tons a year, less than 20% is collected. The critical materials that are now rapidly depleting during over-mining are the rare earth metals and with many of us across the world just keeping old phones and computers, there is a huge stockpile of these in dusty corners and drawers everywhere. Such elements as lithium and nickel which are key elements in the batteries used in electronic vehicles has seen massive spikes due to the war in Ukraine and other factors while such elements as Gallium, Arsenic, Silver, Yttrium and Tantalum used in such diverse industries as medical technology, lens tech, transistor manufacture, LED technology, race car tech, and rocket tech may well run out before the century is out. Both consumers and manufacturers need to take more responsibility to ensure that there is a committed investment made to recycle these elements instead of going back again and again into the ground for it.

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