IFCE Global Environmental Weekly Events [10/12 - 10/19/2018]

Release time:2018-10-23

1.What’s at Stake in Brazil’s Election? The Future of the Amazon

Brazil’s election not only influences the destiny largest country in Latin American but also have an impact on Amazon. Amazon is the largest tropical forest in the world, named as the Earth’s lungs.

Jair Bolsonaro, who promise that Brazil will quit from Paris Agreements and open Amazon rainforest to the market,  has a significant advantage in the first round of the Brazilian presidential election. His promise will leave a negative effect on Amazon, having a strong ability to absorb a lot of carbon dioxide emission in the world. Therefore, the rest of the earth will be influenced, if Amazon’s environment has been damaged.

“It is no doubt that Brazil will lose its leading status in climate change area if Mr.Bolsonaro win president campaign. Brazil will become the biggest barriers for impeding the work for climate control,” said Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory. In fact, before Jair Bolsonaro announced to campaign the president election, Brazile has retreated its environmental policies for a long time. A study shows that Brazile could not meet its emissions under the Paris Agreement requirements if Brazil does not change its environmental tend.

Source:New York Times

2.Taxing carbon may sound like a good idea, but does it work?

Exxon Mobil supports US government enact a tax to oil, gas and coal companies. Then, the US government could redistribute the tax revenue to the public. Meanwhile, it proposes Washington to build 1 million dollars tax on carbon.

The taxing carbon plan is designed by US former officers, James Baker, and George Shultz, based on William Nordhaus’s research which is one of the two winners of the 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Although the scientist has been award by 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize because of his climate change research, the effectiveness of taxing carbon plan, aiming to change energy companies’ business structure and force energy companies to be responsible for their emission, which still has been doubted.

Based on scientists’ model, the US government could utilize the carbon tax to redistribute the money to the public or invest clean energy industry. Meanwhile, the carbon tax could decrease the demand and supply of oil, gas and coal industry.

Unfortunately, about half of Americans believe that climate change is not an urgent priority, leading  to the public does not support a carbon tax. Thus, the carbon tax is a tough issue politically.

3.EPA to unveil plans to weaken rule limiting toxic mercury pollution

In next month, the US Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) will publish plans to start to weaken the mercury rule which limits toxic mercury pollution from the coal industry. Recently, Trump Administration tries to change major environmental protection rules which have been published by the Obama Administration, because Trump Administration believes Obama’s environmental regulations overstate social benefits but understate the cost of company operations.

Currently, power companies have already spend money to conform to the mercury rule, but EPA still hopes to reconsider the cost-benefit analysis for the Obama-era. Air law experts state that EPA’s cost-benefit analysis may change current mercury pollution rules, leading to other relatives regulations change and creating a frenzy of lawsuits against the government.

US EPA is working on the review of the risks from mercury rules. In November, EPA will publish a new mercury rule draft after reconsidering the cost-benefit analysis for the Obama-era.

Source:The Guardian

4.Trump: Climate change scientists have 'political agenda'

US President Donald Trump doubts whether humans are responsible for climate change or not. He accused that Climate change scientists have 'political agenda' to provide the idea, which is humans are responsible for climate change. However, President Trump mentioned that he does not think climate change was a hoax.

Last week, UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report indicated the importance of setting the safe limitation of climate change as 1.5C. Nevertheless, President Trump response this report, said: “I do not want to waste trillions and trillions of dollars. And I don't want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”  Trump believes that the climate will decrease again in a natural cycle.

Roger Harrabin, BBC Environment Analyst, said:“ there is few scientists reject the idea that humans are responsible for the climate change. Moreover,  climate will decrease again in a natural cycle. The most important point is that Renewable energy also creates jobs. In America, the solar industry creates more jobs than the coal industry.”

Source: BBC News

5.UK is endangering people's health by denying their right to clean air, says UN

The UN believes that the UK government denies their right to clean air pollution, damaging people's health. David R. Boyd, a UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment,  told the Guardian that air pollution and climate change have a close tie with each other. He suggests UK government create a new air law for improving the air standard and implementing its obligations of controlling air pollution and protecting citizens. Thus, the UK could maintain its leading status in climate change area.

According to the latest studies, air pollutions damage people’s health for a long time. Especially, Children are the most vulnerable to facing air pollution. Meanwhile, air pollution can cause some serious diseases, such as asthma, dementia and heart disease. More seriously, the pollutions could damage unborn babies.

Boyd said:“ fossil fuels are the main source of air pollution. Movere, air pollution results in extreme climate events. If we could control air pollution at its source, we will more efficiently tackle climate change. This is not only a great opportunity but also is a great challenge. ”

Source: The Guardian

6.UK steps towards zero-carbon economy

The UK is taking a tentative step towards a radical "green" future with zero emissions of greenhouse gases.The government is formally seeking Committee on Climate Change guidance about how and when to make this leap.If it happens it would mark an extraordinary transformation of an economy built on burning fossil fuels.The decision was prompted by last week's UN report warning that CO2 emissions must be stopped completely to avoid dangerous climate disruption.

Ms Perry has declared this week to be Green GB Week, which aims to raise debate in society about how to tackle climate change while also growing the economy.The UK's current target is a reduction of 80% of emissions by 2050 based on 1990 levels.

But the CCC, which is an independent body set up to advise the government on emissions targets, is warning the UK will drift further away from this goal unless new policies are introduced.Experts say greater emissions cuts are already needed from cars, planes, industry, waste, farming, meat consumption and heating

Source: BBC

7.China's 'sponge cities' aim to re-use 70% of rainwater

Asian cities are struggling to accommodate rapid urban migration, and development is encroaching on flood-prone areas.

Recent flooding in Mumbai was blamed in part on unregulated development of wetlands, while hastily built urban areas are being affected by flooding across India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

This is not a trend only in developing countries; floods in Houston, United States, highlighted the risks of development in environmentally sensitive and low-lying areas. In 2012, a severe flood in Beijing wreaked havoc on the city's transportation systems, and in 2016 floods overwhelmed drainage systems in Wuhan, Nanjing, and Tianjin.

The challenges are clear.

Groundwater over-extraction, waterway degradation, and urban flooding are forcing China's cities to address a vicious cycle. Sprawling urban development and use of impervious material prevent soil from absorbing rainwater, prompting further investment in infrastructures that typically impede natural processes and worsen flood impacts.

China's "sponge city initiative" aims to arrest this cycle through the use of permeable surfaces and green infrastructures.

However, the initiative faces two challenges: lack of expertise of local governments to effectively coordinate and integrate such a complex set of activities, and financial constraints.

Source: CNN

8. UK scientists turn coffee industry waste into electricity

Scientists have turned coffee waste into electricity for the first time, in research that could help farmers and curb pollution in the developing world.

The coffee industry generates a huge amount of liquid waste during the process of turning the raw material of the tree – the coffee cherries – into the 9.5m tons of coffee the world produces each year.

Wastewater is generated by farms during the washing of coffee seeds, or beans, and during the water-intensive process of making instant coffee. But now a UK-funded programme, working with Colombian researchers, has proven that it can not only remove the contaminants from the water but make electricity in the process.

A team led by the University of Surrey developed a fuel cell that uses microbes instead of chemicals like a fuel cell in a hydrogen car, which eat the waste matter and generate a small amount of energy.

Dr Claudio Avignone Rossa, a systems microbiologist at the university, said: “You’re not going to light up London with these things, but you’re going to put a light where there was none.

“The farmer will be getting a little bit of energy coming from the waste they are throwing away. So the environment will be cleaner. The finances of the farm will be improved.”

While coffee waste has been used as biofuel before, and compacted to be sold as “biologs” to be burned, the project is believed to be the first to produce electricity from such waste.

Claire Perry, energy minister, hailed the work as an example of the UK’s expertise in the green economy. “Your morning latte could start its life on a remote Colombian coffee farm and now, thanks to UK-government funded research, those farms now have grounds to double up as producers of both coffee beans and electricity,” she said.

The microbes that convert the coffee waste were of the sort that occur in sludge from wastewater treatment plants, but Avignone Rossa said they could also be found on

Source: the Guardian

9. Top climate scientist blasts UK’s fracking plans as 'aping Trump’

One of the world’s leading climate scientists has launched a scathing attack on the government’s fracking programme, accusing ministers of aping Donald Trump and ignoring scientific evidence.

James Hansen, who is known as the father of climate science, warned that future generations would judge the decision to back a UK fracking industry harshly.

“So the UK joins Trump, ignores science… full throttle ahead with the worst fossil fuels,” Hansen told the Observer. “The science is crystal clear, we need to phase out fossil fuels starting with the most damaging, the ‘unconventional’ fossil fuels such as tar sands and ‘fracking’.”

Hansen has also written to the UK energy minister, Claire Perry, to underline his objections, warning that the decision was a serious policy error that would contribute to “climate breakdown”.

His intervention came as the first fracking operation in England for seven years – which had been due to get under way on Saturday in Lancashire – was postponed until Monday because of bad weather.

It also followed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report last week that warned the world has only 12 years left to avoid catastrophic climate change, calling on governments to take radical and far-reaching measures to decarbonise their economies.

Last week it emerged that Perry was considering relaxing rules on the earthquake limits on fracking, making it easier for companies to push ahead at sites in England.

But in his letter Hansen warned that young people could inherit an environment “out of their control” if fracking was pursued. “If the UK were to join the US by developing gas fields at this point in time it will lock in the methane problem for decades,” he wrote, adding that fracking would fatally undermine the UK’s attempt to fulfil its climate obligations.

“The fossil fuel companies are well aware methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and yet they seem willing to continue on a path which can have disastrous consequences for our grandchildren,” Hansen said.

The Conservative party’s fracking programme – which aims to release fossil fuel gas from wells at sites across England – has been dogged by criticism from environmentalists as well as fierce local opposition. There is a moratorium on the practice in Scotland and Wales.

Source:The Guardian

10.Can we turn carbon dioxide to stone to fight climate change?

As more heat-trapping carbon dioxide continues to concentrate in our atmosphere — and to wreak havoc on our climate — scientists are desperately seeking solutions. Some are looking for ways to limit the greenhouse gas we spew from smokestacks, tailpipes and the like; others, whose efforts remain largely under the radar, are aiming to thin the layer of gas that already blankets our planet.

One group of researchers in Canada, taking the latter approach, may have hit upon a novel yet ancient idea: harness and accelerate the carbon-absorbing power of rocks.

"We have to learn how to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, because we've already put too much into it," said Roger Aines, a senior scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's energy program, who was not involved in the research. "Just making everything electric. Just making everything renewable. We have to do that, but that's not enough."

Throwing rocks at the problem, in other words, could make a significant dent.

The oceans, soils and trees aren't the only tools nature employs to capture and store away carbon dioxide. Minerals soak up the gas, too. Just one cubic kilometer of rock laden with magnesite and other carbonate minerals — about the size of a medium-sized mountain — could lock down a billion tons of carbon dioxide.

But this occurs over extremely long time frames — far too slow to keep up with the rate at which the world emits carbon dioxide, which is estimated to be about 40 billion tons a year.

Now, the Canadian team has devised a recipe to speed up the formation of magnesite, or magnesium carbonate, from hundreds or thousands of years in nature down to just 72 days in the lab. The key ingredient: tiny polystyrene microspheres — essentially latex beads — coated with charged molecules that help magnesium ions bond with carbonate ions to create magnesite.

Source: NBC

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