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.

Systemic bias and “helicopter science” prevents global south scientists from being heard

In a slap to the entire scientific community and their ways of doing things, researchers from Carbon Brief found systemic bias in whose work gets published or recognized.

 

Checking backgrounds of 1300 authors involved in the 100 most cited climate change research papers during 2016-2020, they found  90% of them were from North America, Europe or Australia. Just 1% of authors were from Africa and only 12 had a female lead researcher. Again, of the 10 authors from Africa, 8 came from South Africa.

 

Ayesha Tandon who did the study said that if the vast majority of research around climate change was coming from people with very similar backgrounds such as male scientists from the global north, then the entire body of climate science will be skewed towards their interests, knowledge and training, calling into question the very foundation of the body of knowledge that is being used to increase our understanding of climate change and the fact that work from the large majority of people most affected by it is being ignored.

 

She further went on to state that “One study noted that a lot of our understanding of climate change is biased towards cooler climates, because it’s mainly carried out by scientists who live in the global north in cold climates”. Funding and opportunities also play a big role in shutting down scientists from the global south because they cannot afford the expensive computers that can run models that have now become the bedrock of climate predictive analytics. Teaching focus, lack of access to expensive libraries and data repositories are also contributing factors.

 

Even when there is collaboration, the northern scientists very often bring their own grad students and for them, the local partners are merely logistic, cultural, language and administrative facilitators and not scientific colleagues or collaborators said one Tanzanian scientist Dr Tuyeni Mwampamba, from the Institute of Ecosystems and Sustainability Research.

 

Researchers from the north are often seen as wanting to extract resources and data from developing nations without making any contribution to local research, a practice sometimes known as “helicopter science”.

 

Solving the problem is critical to climate science but as Ms. Tandon points out, “This is a systemic problem and it will progress and keep getting worse, because people in positions of power will continue to have those privileges and it won’t go away until people really start working at it”.

The Nobel Prize for physics goes to climate scientists

Computer modeling of behavioral systems that directly and indirectly informed the world on the complex science and a demonstration of similar changes in metal mixes together won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2021.

 

Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi were announced as the winners at an event in Stockholm.

 

With predicting long-term behaviour of complex systems such as climate extremely difficult, it is crucial to have computer models that can show how the climate can be impacted by such phenomena as greenhouse gas emissions and further our understanding of this global crisis.

 

It is a sharp, directional commitment on the part of the Nobel Committee with the crucial COP26 just around the corner and very heartening to the greens because it will be crucial evidence that bolsters the findings of the IPCC’s WG1 and acts as a base level proof of their more direct claims.

 

The 90 year old Syukuro Manabe, senior meteorologist at Princeton demonstrated first back in the 1960s that increased levels of carbon dioxide could increase tempratures and his findings eventually led to the development of climate models while Kalus Hasselmann, the 89 year old from the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology created the computer model that linked weather and climate and importantly, proved why such modelling can be reliable despite the chaotic and changeable nature of weather. The work of Professor Parisi from the University of Rome is a bit off beat but his demonstration of how the magnetic properties of spin glass which has a grid of copper atoms that was significantly and puzzlingly altered by the addition of a few atoms of iron proved to the Nobel committee in a microcosm the behaviour of earth’s climate. Parisi, 73, found that there were hidden rules that influence seemingly random behaviour of solid metals and also found a way to describe them mathematically.

Strong regulation needed to rid our homes of killer “forever chems”

PFAS (poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances), a class of chemicals dubbed “Forever chemicals” for their extraordinary persistence are linked to liver cancer, lung damage and birth defects. Copious qualities are found all over our homes and have now come under the spotlight.

 

Have you ever tried to figure out why food does not stick to frying pans? Or why your jacket does not permit water to enter? Coating any material with these makes them resistant to heat, oil, stains and water. They are present in household utensils, food packaging and furniture just to name a few. There are 4700 different forms of these toxins being used already so there is not much to be wondered at the fact that every home everywhere in the world has large amounts of these killer chems in many commonly used products.

 

Consumers don’t realize the poisons they are bringing home despite strong lobby by watchdog groups because it is not easy for the average buyer to figure out what is being said in the small print of common products. Because of convenience, their use is habit forming and repurchase is almost automatic. In fact, many companies may not even know they are using these chemicals in their products.

 

However, there certainly is pushback. The 2019 film Dark Waters shows the severe health issues that have occurred in areas where they are heavily used or disposed of.

 

It is not enough. We need strong regulation and even stronger oversight as well as excellent and permeating consumer education to prevent these from continuing to proliferate.

 

16th UNESCO session on intangible cultural heritage to be held in Colombo

The sixteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage will be hosted by Sri Lanka in its capital Colombo from 13 to 18 December 2021.

 

Mr Punchi Nilame Meegaswatte, Secretary-General – Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO, will chair this annual gathering which brings together more than 800 participants – representatives of States Parties, non-governmental organizations, cultural institutions and other stakeholders – from across the globe.Participants who have still to register (including civil organizations accredited to UNESCO) may apply online here.

Number of hot day (>50C) double over the last decade

A global BBC analysis found that the total number of hot days across the world has doubled since the 1980s.

 

With more areas susceptible to these high heat days, the challenges to civilization, ways of life and human health are now reaching unprecedented levels. As the IPCC mentions and the BBC affirms, the number of hot days (where the heat reaches 50 degrees Celsius or 122 degrees Fahrenheit) have increased in each of the three decades from 1980 onwards. While the number between 1980 and 2009 was 14 a year, over the last ten years, it rose to 26 days a year.

 

Dr. Friedrike Otto, associate director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford says that this increase can be 100% attributed to the burning of fossil fuel. While hitherto, there has been much talk and little action to break out of our current societal framework that has on the one side been built on fossil fuel and on the other habituated  most human beings to its continued use, scientists and opinion makers are both now on one side, urging the world leaders to exercise a global will towards righting the wrong and reducing ever increasing massive impact climate events.

BBC graphic runner on number of hot days

Animation courtesy of the BBC

IUCN World Conservation Congress Closes with Marseille Manifesto

As climate and biodiversity emergencies escalate, the IUCN’s World Conservation Summit, originally slated to be held in 2020 but postponed to 2021 came to a close in Marseille, France today. The weeklong program was held in part on site and part remote due to the continuous threats posed by the pandemic.

 

The congress identified that the climate and biodiversity crises were not two but one with truly horrible human activities infinitely compounding an already extremely dangerous problem. A key theme of the sessions was that the environment and human beings were inseparable and that any response to these crises must be mutually reinforcing, implying that the harmonization of the human-environment interface which the Green Movement has promoted for so long is in fact a foundation for conservation.

 

The Marsielle Manifesto, the outcome document of the convention recognizes that the world has one nature and one future and as such commits itself to respecting and harnessing the perspectives and agency of all citizens, the pursuance of collaborative partnerships and local action as a tool for significant change. It also underscores the fact that the pandemic proved the unsustainable relationship that human beings have with nature and the way in which it amplified inequities within and between communities as well as between the global north and global south.

 

Particular attention was given in the manifesto to the rights of indigenous and local communities while additionally and significantly, noting that they were the leaders and custodians of conservation. There was also much focus placed on initiatives such as the WIO IUCN partners’ Great Blue Wall initiative.

 

Furthermore, the manifesto calls for positive public, private, people partnerships through promoting investments in nature – especially those that promote social justice and inclusion as well as transitioning to a nature-positive economy.

 

In terms of biodiversity, the document calls for a transformative, effective and ambitious post 2020 global biodiversity framework that includes cultural shifts in relationships with nature to ensure its conservation, restoration and sustainable use.

 

Noting the congruence of the climate and biodiversity crisis it calls for urgently reducing GHGs with the overarching messaging being action from all, by all.

15 nations including Sri Lanka in 2022 VNR

Collen Vixen Kelapile, president of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) said that four additional countries join the previous 11 including Sri Lanka in presenting their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) to the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Develop (HLPF). The deadline for new EOIs has been set for 17 September 2021.

 

The VNRs, which have become a sort of centerpiece of the HLPF according to UNDSG Amina Mohammed, provides updates on the efforts of each of the participating countries to reach SDGs as well as the way the face up to challenges and the solutions they have tried.

 

According to the ECOSOC, as of 24 August, Andorra, Argentina, Belarus, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Philippines, Tuvalu, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Switzerland were the countries that were listed as interested in presenting their VNRs in 2022 while in a letter from the ECOSOC president on 7 September stated that Botswana, Eswatini, Jordan, and Luxembourg had also expressed their interest. The closure of the list in mid-September is to allow participating countries time to prepare their VNRs.

 

As of 24 August 2021, 11 countries were listed as interested in presenting a VNR in 2022: Andorra, Argentina, Belarus, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Philippines, Tuvalu, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Switzerland. In a 7 September letter to UN Member States, ECOSOC President Collen Vixen Kelapile writes that four additional countries have also expressed interest: Botswana, Eswatini, Jordan, and Luxembourg. He intends to close the list in September “to give countries sufficient time to prepare their VNRs” while the overall number will be limited in order to “maximize the value of the VNRs” by optimizing the interactive discussion.

 

The VNRs have become a key vehicle in monitoring the acquisition of knowledge and the implementation of the 2030 agenda according to Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB). The last sessions of the HLPF in 2021 saw 42 countries presenting their VNRs. The ENB goes on to state that the VNRs are opening doors to better problem solving at the level of each nation with more inclusive and transparent involvement of stakeholders such as civil society, the private sector, local authorities in the overall preparation of the presentations and their review.

 

The 2022 HLPF will take place from 5-15 July

largest source of lead pollution no more!

In a welcome outcome amidst much bad news, the UN Environment Program has announced that the use of lead in petrol has been stopped around the world after a multistakeholder effort that commenced back in 2002. A gradual ban across the world’s countries and regions ended with the complete phase-out that has now been completed.

 

The Tetraethyllead that had been added in to petrol to improve engine performance and widely used in many forms of petrol across the world had become a serious threat, contaminating air, dust, soil, drinking water, and food crops and resulting in heart disease, stroke, and cancer, and it harms development of children’s brains.

 

The move commenced at the RIO+10 Johannesburg summit with the establishment of the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV), which is an alliance of governments, fuel and vehicle industries, and civil society. The UNEP hosts the secretariat. The group provided technical assistance, investment in refinery upgrades and overcame resistance from lead producers.

 

Adopting cleaner fuels and vehicles can reduce emissions by more than 80% and the transport sector is known to be responsible for one fourth of the energy related GHGs and this percentage is expected to rise to one third by 2050.

 

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said that with this milestone “we are invigorated to change humanity’s trajectory for the better through an accelerated transition to clean vehicles and electric mobility.” She called for adopting cleaner vehicles standards globally. Additionally, UNSG Antonio Guterres called for a shift from fossil fuels to renewables to mitigate climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

 

Despite the fact that fossil fuels are the largest single contributor of lead pollution, the UNEP underscored the fact that there is still an urgency to prevent pollution from such sources as paints, batteries, and household items.

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