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.

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.

The subcontinent is being fried to death – and it is a warning for Sri Lanka

While Sri Lanka is the “coolest” country in South Asia, India’s land’s surface temperature rose to a high of 62 degrees Celsius yesterday. While we were aware that the Indian subcontinent’s main landmass (India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan) would be in the red zone for water by 2030 this seems way too early. It is also a sober reflection on how ill-planned capital driven development has caused it to cut down its forests, break soil mountains and black rock, create wet grounds etc. can turn around and take a serious chunk out of a nation’s rear end. It is now indeed the hottest summer in the mainland area and we are getting our fair share of hot days. Sure, Sri Lanka has its own set of problems to deal with but we cannot solve those by cannibalizing our natural resources – something that may actually be asked for by our creditors. We MUST stop that from happening. We are in the green zone so far but not for long if we let these things happen to us.

 

South Asian engulfed in heat

High of 62 degrees in some parts of India yesterday

High of 62 degrees in some parts of India yesterday

 

WG3 Report Out

The third and final report of AR6 of the IPCC came out a few days ago. It was much anticipated because it is the mitigation report and should tell the world what it should (or should not do) in order to stop itself from self-annihilation.  As with the other reports, it does not say anything more than what we knew already but it has given us more evidence that there are a few basics the world has perennially promised to do and perennially reneged upon.  The first is of course the most insistent message running like the main argument throughout the report “Stop burning fossil fuels – yesterday”. The second is that the various changes to laws and policies across the world has meant that there is apparently less likelihood of the SPM5 scenario of a global rise in temperature of 4-5 degrees unlikely. This is comparatively good news but not nearly enough with emissions going up for all GHGs with the report stating that “Emissions growth has varied, but has persisted, across all groups of greenhouse gases (high confidence). The average annual emission levels of the last decade (2010-2019) were higher than in 10 any previous decade for each group of greenhouse gases (high confidence)”.

 

GHG emissions keep going up regardless of changes to policy, laws and practice

GHG emissions keep going up regardless of changes to policy, laws and practice

 

However, despite these downsides, it is clearly seen from the mitigation report that the possibility of switching to renewables is now more doable than ever and there is absolutely no reason or rationale to keep persisting with fossil fuels. For example, with solar, the battery costs have plummeted over the last decade making it one of the tastiest options across the world. For such countries as Sri Lanka that has such as abundance of renewables and no fossil fuel resources these options are mandatory.

 

Costs of solar related storage options have plummeted

Costs of solar related storage options have plummeted

 

The report points to the fact that wind and solar are the cheapest and most profitable of all renewable energies and with Sri Lanka’s wind map and solar irradiance map showing massive potential, the switch should be a no-brainer but not apparently to the CEB (AKA the executor of the fossil fuel mafia). With the present energy crisis which the Green Movement’s leaders predicted as far back as 1990 and kept voices of the last three decades, it seems as if the the CEB has finally recognized its stance is untenable.

 

WInd and Solar are the cheapest and most profitable

WInd and Solar are the cheapest and most profitable

World Water Day 2022: Groundwater – Making the invisible visible

The World Water Day was celebrated on the 22nd of March with UNESCO publishing its 2022 report “Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible”. Groundwater is increasingly becoming life critical and the report calls for its sustainable management. It does have vast potential as the report states but it is an area that has been perennially overlooked despite the fact that it is the cleanest and most prevalent form of drinkable water available accounting for 99% of it. Apart from those who get piped water, the largest percentage of people across the world are those that live in rural enclaves and groundwater is, in many cases, the only source of drinking water for them. Furthermore, according to the report, 25% of withdrawn groundwater is used for irrigation and serves 38% of all irrigated land globally.

 

The problem with it is that increased requirements will deplete groundwater aquifers and other sources faster than rain (or snow) can replenish them with the estimate being that usage will increase by 1% each year over the next 30 years. Climate change compromises surface water availability and with increased switching to the use of groundwater, there is a very grave danger of its overuse and depletion beyond the point of recovery. The messaging for the Water Day of 2022 revolved around the various attempts to sustain the exploitation and use of water so that its availability is not compromised over time.

 

Various types of grundwater in Sri Lanka

Various types of grundwater in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has its own problems with respect to this source with some areas such as the north being overexploited to the point where there is real concern that areas might become deserts. Tube wells in the Poonekeryn area as well as salinization of aquifers in the Jaffna peninsula are two such indicators that our management of this resource is less than sound. There is currently a groundwater monitoring exercise underway through a multimillion dollar, five year project implemented by Royal Eijkelkamp. Whether this will have any lasting impacts is to be seen. However, the data itself should be priceless for any future water management strategies of the government or civil actors.

WG2 report out

Two days ago the report of Working Group II that forms part of the 6th Assessment Report of the IPCC was tabled. While the first part focused on the “physical science basis” of the Earth’s changing climate, the second report presents the latest evidence on the impacts of climate change and the ways of adapting to them.It details how the “rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt”. The full report was published on 28 February following a two-week online approval session where government delegates met to agree line-by-line the high-level summary for policymakers (SPM).

 

In it, for the first time, the IPCC notes that climate change is already contributing to humanitarian crises and that it does not affect everyone around the world equally but those who are poorest and least able to adapt. Proffesor Hans-Otto Poertner said that The science is unequivocal: any further delay will miss the brief window we have to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all while Dr. Lisa Schipper says that the development of the concept of climate-resilient development is the most exciting part of the report. Overall, the major take-home articulated by Dr. Carol Franco was that there was an urgent need for action in order to achieve a sustainable and climate-resilient world and, that “we can’t postpone it, the costs of inaction are too great and we are not on track.

Please find the GMSL’s take on this here.

Huge methane plumes from leaks mapped from outer space

Satellites have mapped for the first time, the massive plumes of methane leaking from oil and gas fields. These leaks, mostly thought to be unintended cover vast areas stretching as much as 200 miles at times and shows the true footprint of oil and gas operations for the first time says Riley Duren, an author of the paper and CEO of Carbon Mapper  which tracks methane emissions.The leaks generally occur during various maintenance exercises. Of course, as everyone knows landfill, agriculture and coal production also emits methane. The key here is that such leaks are easily fixed and since methane is one of the most potent of GHGs contributing about 30-50 percent of temperature rises, simple preventive measures it will have significant impact in reducing emission related climate negatives.

 

In most cases, the emission of such gases is by declarations from companies or nations and in that respect, this is one of the first ways in which completely independent data is available on methane emissions. The findings concluded that Turkmenistan, USA and Russia are the worst offenders although such potential countries as Canada and China could not be measured because of heavy cloud cover. Scientists estimate that plugging these leaks will result in savings of USD 6 billion for Turkmenistan, USD 4 billion for Russia and USD 1.5 billion for the USA while preventing between 0.005C and 0.002C of warming. This is equivalent according to the scientists of removing all of the emissions of Australia since 2005 or the emissions from 20 million cars a year.

 

According to Professor of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh, “Capping these very large leaks might seem like it would play only a negligible role, but the societal implications are significant”. With COP26 commitments being the reduction of methane emissions by 30% leak plugging is the equivalent of plucking very low hanging fruit.

Raid assessing CC risks to coastal cities

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) with the Commonwealth secretariat are in the process of conducting a rapid assessment of the risks posed by climate change to coastal cities. The whole exercise is being coordinated under the Commonwealth Blue Charter. The Stimson Center has created a 100 item index called the Climate and Ocean Risk Vulnerability Index (CORVI) as a decision support tool to improve responses through data-driven resilience. The indicators are in ten categories (climate, ecosystems, economics, fisheries, governance, geology and water, infrastructure, major industries, stability, social/demographic) and takes approximately a year to populate. Since we are a decent bunch of people who like to help out the world, Sri Lanka is lab ratting a rapid assessment version of this where the number of indices is recued to 30 and the duration to six months. The MFA team is headed up by Hasanthi Dissanayake (Acting Additional Secretary/Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change) and Dr. Sevvandi Jayakody (University of Sabaragamuwa/EFL) is heading up the research exercise. Two workshops were held in rapid succession to determine the best list of indicators from the full list of 100 with a pretty lively conversation on the various aspects. Key issues discussed were the relevance of the specific indices to Sri Lanka and the coastal cities of the western province in particular where the work will be done, the rationale for cutting the number of indicators by 70% while cutting the duration by 50%. Willy nilly, the formidable gathering of thinkers and officials from state, academic, civil society and commonwealth fought through the whole job lot and came up with a final listing. Much to be done as Dr. Sevvandi noted but well, it’s a start.

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