As if the president-elect didn't have enough on his plate already, he needs to act now to prevent an environmental catastrophe in Latin America.
The World Bank released a report today on climate change in Latin America, warning of political and social risks if nothing is done to mitigate global warming.
First, climate change could lead to a massive decline in agricultural production. As report co-author John Nash told me, "you [could] have a huge crash in productivity; 30 to 80 percent of farms in Mexico would have to be abandoned." The political implications are obvious, particularly in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, where farmers wield serious political and economic clout.
Changing water patterns could also threaten stability. "[That is something which has been] flagged as a flashpoint for conflict within countries and among countries," says Nash.
Drug war, civil war, poverty, unrest, pollution? You ain't seen nothing yet.
Since the impact of global warming is already hitting the region--shrinking glaciers and intensifying storms--action is something that just can't wait, the report claims. The authors pin responsibility for action on Latin American countries--but even more on the world system and, yes, the United States.
Obama already has climate change on his agenda, but the stakes only seem to getting higher...
Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Al Gore is in Chicago today meeting with President-elect Obama to talk about "energy, climate change, and job creation." This has raised speculation that Obama plans to appoint him as a special "climate czar."
However, it's far more likely that Obama is just consulting with Gore on his upcoming choice for secretary of energy. Gore's staffers have made it clear that he has no intention of joining the administration:
"Vice President Gore feels now that his calling really is to educate Americans about the climate crisis," Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider said Tuesday morning.
"He served for 30 years in electoral politics in the House, Senate and as vice president and surely understands the great importance of serving in those types of roles and in public service, but just feels now that his calling is in educating the public and in the roles that he's serving now at the Alliance for Climate Protection."
I find this disappointing. It was one thing for Gore to take up the role of climate change evangelist when he had just lost an election and frankly didn't have much else to do. His message resonated more than anyone could have anticipated and he picked up a Nobel Peace Prize, on Oscar, and made himself a very wealthy man along the way.
But now, Gore finally has a president who's largely sympathetic to his message and it's hard to believe that he really has more of an impact as a spokesman than he would with a role in government. Folksy commercials about wind farmers stickin' it to "the boys in Tehran" aren't going to cut carbon emissions. But a serious cap-and-trade system possibly could. Getting such a system in place is going to take someone with some serious political chops, for instance, a guy with over 15 years of experience in congress and eight in the White House.
Al Gore's been a great international spokesman. But the climate crisis doesn't need its own Bono, it needs a serious and capable political leader. It's time for the Gore-acle to get his hands dirty again.
Very cool news out of Tel Aviv where Project Better Place, a company working to develop electric car charging stations, demonstrated a plug-in charging post yesterday. Better Place has been contracted to set up the posts throughout Israel and will soon expand its service to Denmark and Australia. Using these posts, drivers will be able to charge their cars through sockets like the one shown above.
For more on this exciting project, check out Wired's excellent profile of Better Place founder Shai Agassi.
Photo: David Silverman/Getty Images
The lede of the day was written by Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times, who grabbed my attention with this first sentence:
A noxious cocktail of soot, smog and toxic chemicals is blotting out the sun, fouling the lungs of millions of people and altering weather patterns in large parts of Asia, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations.
Interstingly, the report (pdf), put together by the United Nations Environment Program, says that the "atmospheric brown clouds" (ABCs) could be mitigating the impact of climate change on a global basis by as much as 80 percent, though they are in some places amplifying the impacts of greenhouse gases and on the whole are a Very Bad Thing.
Below is a graphic showing different "plumes" where the brown clouds peaked at different times of the year from 2001 to 2003:
The report names 13 "mega-city ABC hotspots": Bangkok, Beijing, Cairo, Dhaka, Karachi (sorry, guys), Kolkata, Lagos, Mumbai, New Delhi, Seoul, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Tehran.
Having lived in Cairo for about a year and a half, I can testify that the air there is simply awful. I used to start coughing as my plane was landing at the airport outside of town, if only out of habit.
(Hat tip: Matt Yglesias)
Small island nations have been one of history's consistent political losers. Precisely because they are so small, they lack the power to resist domination by larger powers.
After seizing the Marshall Islands from Japan during World War II, the United States proceeded to use the the islands as a site for over 100 atmospheric nuclear tests. Decades of litigation resulted in only paltry compensation for the disposessed islanders.
The British expelled thousands of Chagos islanders from their homeland in the 1960s to make way for a military base and recently refused them the right to return to their tiny island in the Indian Ocean. The grounds? It would be too expensive to relocate them.
Nowadays, it is through pollution and global warming that world powers most threaten small island nations. If current trends hold, many inhabited islands will be submerged completely due to rising sea levels. Assuming large states are unwilling to reverse this trend by implementing drastic pollution controls, we have to ask: Will they compensate islanders for eliminating their territories altogether, and how?
[S]catter his people of about 100,000 through the nations of the world as rising sea levels swallow up their native island.
Risse justifies this solution by invoking the 17th-century ideas of Hugo Grotius, who argued that the Earth should be viewed as owned collectively by humanity. If we take this view, states are obligated to accept immigrants whose ownership rights have been infringed upon because their home territories no longer exist. This raises the further question: Are states that contribute more to global warming more obligated to accept the resulting refugees?
This is all abstract, normative philosophy that rests on a contestable assumption; Risse theorizes about about what governments should think and do rather than what they in reality do think and do. But these issues might end up in court. Such philosophical arguments would then play an important role in determining the fate of the many islanders soon-to-be made homeless by global warming.
Photo: TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images, Wikipedia
As I sip my coffee this morning, the Financial Times has given me new reason to appreciate my Robusta roast. Stung by the falling price of coffee, exporters -- particularly Southeast Asian exporters like Vietnam and Indonesia -- have started hoarding their stocks. Other big exporters, such as Colombia and Brazil, also look worried.
The coffee industry took a quick and nasty turn when markets fell last month and credit froze up. Traders found it harder to get credit to buy supplies, so demand -- and prices -- plummeted. Prices for Robusta have fallen anywhere from 20 to 40 percent in just two months. Some say the problem is less hoarding than the fact that traders are purchasing cautiously small sums at a time.
That's bad news for my wakeup call. Before the crash, the United States imported over 2 million 60kg bags of coffee in just 5 months. It's even worse news for the farmers whose crops are now worth less. Coffee plants don't produce beans for two to three years after planting -- meaning the newest converts to the crop are the hardest hit; their first payoffs are naught.
That could be hard to swallow.
Need an even greater economic catastrophe to keep your mind off the financial crisis? How about the rainforest crunch?
According to a report by the European Union commissioned study, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, deforestation is costing the world up to five times more than the financial crisis figures (so far) -- between $2 and $5 trillion a year.
Sound like a stretch? As FP likes to say, "think again." Forests provide a plethora of "services," such as carbon dioxide absorption, erosion prevention, and biodiversity (which, in the most selfishly pragmatic evaluation spells out new medicines, new food sources, and eye candy). So if the forests disappear, we'll have to find a new way to pay for -- or live without -- those kinds of services. The price tag is basically impossible to estimate (though leave it to the EU to try) but certainly huge.
A second phase of the study will be completed by 2010. If things keep going the way they have been for the last couple of days, the financial crisis might just have time to catch up.
When you're a herdsman in Kenya experiencing a particularly nasty drought desperate times call for, well, a fairly practical and simple measure: birth control, or as some are naming it, the goat condom.
The "condom" is actually a square piece of rawhide or plastic called an "olor" that is tied around the male goats belly and "blocks" them from mating with the female goats.
Herdsmen in the Maasai community -- where livestock is often the only means of income -- live in a region outside Nairobi that usually has erratic and unreliable rainfall that increasingly threatens their livelihood. The fear is that if the goats breed before the rainy season comes, the females will not be healthy enough to nurture their kids and there will be more goats than there are resources necessary to sustain the herd.
The olor may not be a modern measure, but it's certainly effective. Separating the males from the females is not an easy alternative and is, in fact, far more expensive since another herdsman is needed. Once the rains come and the land is rich and green, the olors will be removed and the goats will be free to live free and procreate.
All in all, it sounds quite sensible. Thank goodness the global gag rule doesn't apply to livestock.
Stop the climate negotiations. There's a better answer. Two words: white roofs.
If stats from a paper by Hashem Akbari of the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory are correct, re-roofing 100 global cities could stop 44 metric gigatons from entering the atmosphere -- more than all the countries in the world combined emit now.
A white-out never looked so cool.
The world's biggest reinsurance companies are gathering this week in Monte Carlo for Les Rendezvous de Septembre, the annual meeting where they discuss prices with their clients, insurance companies seeking to hedge against major losses.
You might think that, with all the recent storm activity in the Gulf of Mexico, reinsurers would be crossing their fingers like all the rest of us, hoping that the rest of the season will pass with minimal property damage.
But you'd be wrong. As one knowledgeable source explained to me when I was reporting on catastrophe bonds for the current issue of FP, reinsurers like it when storms cause enough damage to keep rates high, but aren't big enough to put them on the hook for hefty payouts. That's the sweet spot.
A little-noticed item in Monday's Financial Times catches one such reinsurer in a moment of frankness:
It would take $50bn-$100bn of insured catastrophe losses to stem the slide in prices in many areas of the insurance and reinsurance markets, Willis, the broker, has warned.
Without heavy catastrophe losses, it could be the end of 2009 or into 2010 before the markets stabilised, said Joe Plumeri, chairman and the chief executive.
In other words, Plumeri wants to see at least $50 billion in storm-related damages this year. Reinsurance is an important business and I'm glad it's there, but you have to admit that the incentives can be a little disconcerting sometimes.
The good news is that all three Gustav successors look like they won't develop into full-on hurricanes. Keep your fingers crossed.
By the way, one group of folks that is likely watching these storms with great interest? Investors in cat bonds, featured in FP's current issue. Cat bonds, short for catastrophe bonds, allow insurance companies to transfer the financial risks that come with disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes to the broader capital markets. If any of these storms cause major damage, investors in such bonds could be wiped out.
(Hat tip: Google Earth Blog)
The Arctic oil rush is going to be messy. Need proof? Look no further than this new map from researchers at Durham University -- the first of its kind to delineate countries' current territorial claims and predict where disputes may arise in the future.
The U.S. Geological Survey last month revealed that as much as a fifth of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves may be in the Arctic, with perhaps as many as 90 billion barrels of oil, enough to meet current global demand for nearly three years at current rates. Heads-up to the six countries with territorial rights: Iceland, U.S., Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark. Get ready for the scramble.
(Hat tip: Popular Science)
If going green isn't cool anymore in today's economic climate, this recent batch of news isn't going to help. According to a recent study published in the journal Conservation Letters, farming and eating kangaroos instead of cattle and sheep would made a dent in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
Unlike sheep and cattle, kangaroos emit little methane, which accounts for 11 percent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. The study suggests that increasing the kangaroo population to 175 million while simultaneously decreasing the the number of other livestock would lower emissions by 3 percent over the next 12 years. The plan would have added benefits for soil conservation, drought response, and water quality as a result of reducing the number of hard-hoofed livestock.
Still, there's the small issue of kangaroos being a national icon and all:
The change will require large cultural and social adjustments and reinvestment. One of the impediments to change is protective legislation and the status of kangaroos as a national icon," [the study] said.
For Australians, that's an inconvenient truth not likely to go away any time soon.
Just a brief note this morning. I'm watching Morning Joe on MSNBC right now, and they've been periodically showing shots of China's famous "Bird's Nest" stadium, trying to build excitement for tonight's broadcast of the opening ceremonies.
They're probably not allowed to say it, so I will: Beijing's skies look horrible right now. There was even a moment when host Joe Scarborough said, speaking over top of an image of gray mush, that the city was "showing its Olympic colors." Awkward.
Tim Johnson has more.
A new BBC series called Britain From Above looks absolutely stunning. Using satellite technology, the producers have created interactive, dynamic maps of the country's modern migrations -- everything from watching a sped-up version of the hundreds of ships that pass through the English Channel each day to tracking the routes of London taxis through GPS signals. The resulting dance -- around one another, off crowded thoroughfares -- is fascinating to watch. Check out the teaser below.
A few U.S. cyclists made a fashion statement this morning in China, rolling into the Beijing airport wearing black respiratory masks. The athletes ostensibly donned them as a precaution against the city's notorious air pollution, but they look, well, a bit excessive.
The International Olympic Committee's medical commission chief expressed serious doubts about the "efficiency" of the masks, but the U.S. Olympic Committee's chief communications officer was less diplomatic, calling them downright "unnecessary."
The move does seem a little dramatic. After all, couldn't the cyclists have at least waited until they got outside the airport to put them on? And how long can you actually wear those things around all day?
Bangladesh's low coastline and severe weather make it especially vulnerable to the effects of global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change even predicted that the country could lose 17 percent of its land area by 2050 due to rising sea levels.
But according to a new study by a Bangladeshi research institute, the country has grown by 386 square miles since 1973 due to a freak environmental condition, whereby rivers dump sediment along the shoreline as they flow into the sea.
It's unclear to what extent this will offset the rising oceans, but a cause for optimism, however cautious, is certainly welcome.
FP's January 2006 photo essay on Bangladesh's shipbreaking industry in Chittagong shows another way that the country has used its long beaches and unusual tides to its advantage. Check it out.
First bikes, and now... electric cars? Oui, says Paris's Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, who recently proposed a program that would soon put 4,000 of the zippy, fuelless vehicles on his city's streets. "Autolib'" would mimic Paris's widely successful Velib' (bike rental) system, with hundreds of lots situated around the city to provide pick-up and drop-off points for vehicle users.
While there are still plenty of details to work out -- including rental costs and how to monitor car lots -- Autolib's expected start date is a little over a year from now. Some Parisians can hardly wait, especially given skyrocketing gas costs and parking headaches. Others are looking forward to the program for environmental reasons, including Greenpeace France's President Pascal Hunting:
Today we have consumer habits, whether it’s going to Ikea or elsewhere, which necessitate that once in a while, even those who can’t afford cars need to use one...we should be open to this type of initiative, knowing that there is not one solution to the problems of transportation and climate change."
Some Parisians have pooh-poohed the plan, including members of the city's influential Green Party, who claim that their city's goal should be to reduce car use altogether. Others worry about worsening the already notorious Paris traffic.
As for moi, I think the mayor is onto something. But if some of the problems the bike rental program has faced are any indication, Delanoë might want to figure out a security plan before Paris's cool new rides start turning up in Australia.
With the 2008 Olympic Games just 10 days away, Beijing officials are scrambling to improve the city's awful air quality. One drastic measure that city officials are considering would essentially ban 90 percent of private-owned automobiles from the roads. This comes after an initial ban has already forced residents to drive every other day.
Meanwhile, the International Olympic Commmittee has been setting a "gold standard" for unfounded praise of the Chinese capital. Just look at this press release from early July:
The city feels ready; it looks ready, with the stunning venues all completed. The quality of preparation, the readiness of the venues and the attention to operational detail for these Games have set a gold standard for the future.
Uh huh. That's why many athletes are staying in South Korea and Japan for as long as possible to avoid Beijing's smog. The U.S. Olympic Committee is even providing protective masks for American athletes. And where does the IOC stand on ozone and particulate levels that might interfere with some of the outdoor events? Here's Gunilla Lindberg, an IOC vice president:
No, it doesn't really look so good, but as I said, yesterday was better. We try to be hopeful. Hopefully we are lucky during the games as we were with Atlanta, Athens and Barcelona."
Right. Barcelona and Athens were pure luck. That's why, according to the World Bank, Beijing boasted twice the particulate matter of either of those two former Olympic cities. Twice last week, the air-quality readings in the Chinese capital were nearly double the targeted levels for developing countries set by the World Health Organization.
Maybe the resourceful Chinese can turn things around by August 8, but I wouldn't hold your breath.
The Japanese fishing industry is in dire straits, the LA Times reports:
If we lose our fishing industry, we Japanese will face a food crisis," said Masahiko Ariji, a fishery specialist at the Amita Institute for Sustainable Economics in Kyoto. About two-thirds of the nation's fishing groups were in the red last year, he said. With fuel prices higher this year, some "are about to collapse." [...]
If fuel prices keep rising, as many as 20% of Japan's fishing companies will close and 85,000 fishermen could leave the industry, the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Assns said. The fish catch, it says, could fall by almost half.
On balance, the fact that the Japanese fishing industry is suffering isn't necessarily a bad thing. If the trend keeps up, high gas prices might end up saving Pacific fisheries from imminent doom where regulation and conservation have failed. Add this one to the list.
Here's some fodder for the offshore drilling debate:
A rare and endangered blue whale, one of at least four feeding 11 miles off Long Beach Harbor in the Catalina Channel, spouts near offshore oil rigs after a long dive July 16, 2008, near Long Beach, California. In decades past, blue whales were rarely seen along California's coastline, but their migration and feeding patterns are changing. In the past four years sightings in southern California have increased dramatically and blue whales have been reported almost daily this summer. Scientists suspect that climate change is having an effect on the food of the blues but other factors have not been ruled out. Before whalers stepped up their kill rate in the 1800s, there were at least 220,000 to 300,000 around the world. Today less than 11,000 survive worldwide with 1,200 to 2,000 in the Pacific waters off California. Blue whales are the largest animals on the planet, growing up to 110 feet long and reaching a weight of 200 tons. The U.S. Navy uses loud sonar blasts in submarine detection training exercises off Southern California that can harm or kill whales at great distances, a controversial issue that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, and the high price of gas has increased political pressure to increase oil drilling in the waters where the whales live.
Feeling like a million bucks? Maybe not so much after reading this. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lowered the value of a "statistical life" by nearly a million dollars this past May. Five years ago, your typical American was worth $7.8 million, according to the agency. Now, the EPA puts human value at just $6.9 million per person, based on what it says are "improved" calculations from payroll statistics and opinion surveys.
That lower number is a low blow, and not just to Americans' self-esteem. Government agencies weigh the costs versus the lifesaving benefits of a rule when they make policies, meaning that a lower-valued human life could make certain regulations seem less urgent (like those on pollution, for instance). Here's a scenario that might result:
A hypothetical regulation that costs $18 billion to enforce but will prevent 2,500 deaths. At $7.8 million per person (the old figure), the lifesaving benefits outweigh the costs. But at $6.9 million per person, the rule costs more than the lives it saves, so it may not be adopted.
The EPA says it doesn't use data based on a person's earning capacity or potential societal contributions -- rather, it bases the figure on what people will pay to avoid "certain risks," and on the added amounts employers pay workers to take on those risks. The new number came from the EPA's decision to "split the difference" of two studies that looked at those factors.
Some think the whole revaluation is a joke. Said Grainger Morgan, chairman of the EPA's Science Advisory Board:
This sort of number-crunching is basically numerology... This is not a scientific issue."
Others accuse the Bush administration of "cooking the books" to avoid the passage of tougher environmental regulations.
Still, the EPA remains the government agency that places the highest value on life, despite pressure to bring its figure in line with that of other agencies, such as the Department of Labor or Department of Transportation (which recently raised its value to $6 million per human life).
More than 10,000 people have been mobilized to clean up green algae that has invaded the Olympic sailing venue in Qingdao, Shandong, China. The Qingdao Olympic Sailing Committee estimates that the area will be cleared before July 15.
You've heard of peak oil? Get ready for peak phosphorus:
Researchers in Australia, Europe and the United States have given warning that the element, which is essential to all living things, is at the heart of modern farming and has no synthetic alternative, is being mined, used and wasted as never before.
Massive inefficiencies in the "farm-to-fork" processing of food and the soaring appetite for meat and dairy produce across Asia is stoking demand for phosphorus faster and further than anyone had predicted. "Peak phosphorus," say scientists, could hit the world in just 30 years. Crop-based biofuels, whose production methods and usage suck phosphorus out of the agricultural system in unprecedented volumes, have, researchers in Brazil say, made the problem many times worse. Already, India is running low on matches as factories run short of phosphorus; the Brazilian Government has spoken of a need to nationalise privately held mines that supply the fertiliser industry and Swedish scientists are busily redesigning toilets to separate and collect urine in an attempt to conserve the precious element.
I'll believe this is a real trend when Vin Diesel makes a movie called The Fast and the Fuel-Efficient:
Today, ecomodding is rapidly becoming a movement. Forums devoted to ecomodding specific vehicles — such as priuschat.com and metrompg.com — are launched frequently and gain popularity rapidly.
One site, ecomodder.com, went online in December 2007 and 45,000 readers were checking in daily within three months. "It just sorta went viral," says Darin Cosgrove, 38, of Brockville, Canada, who cofounded the site with Benjamin Jones, 19, of Hanover, New Hampshire. [...]
With advice gleaned from the forums, Cosgrove yanked the gas engine and installed an electric drivetrain using donated lead-acid batteries and about $700 in parts scrounged from an old forklift and a golf cart. Today, he drives the electric car around town, getting what he figures is the equivalent of 80 mpg. For highway trips, he still uses gasoline, but in an ecomodded '98 Geo Metro that now gets 76 mpg, up from its original EPA highway rating of 46 mpg.
Courtesy of Wired's Noah Schactman, here is National Intelligence Council Chairman Thomas Fingar's testimony about the first ever National Intelligence Assessment on the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change (pdf).
I attended Fingar's testimony on the Hill this morning and was struck less by the NIA's findings -- droughts and crop failures might lead to instability in the third world and coastal flooding may threaten the U.S. defense infrastructure -- than the unique nature of the report itself. Fingar acknowledged this in his testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming:
This study used a fundamentally different kind of analytical methodology from what is typical for an intelligence product such as a National Intelligence Estimate. We depended upon open sources and greatly leveraged outside expertise."
Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Rep. Anna Eshoo and her fellow Democrats at the hearing were excited about a greater future role for open-source intelligence gathering, and Fingar seemed receptive to the concept. But from his testimony, it didn't seem as if the research conducted contained any new information that couldn't be inferred by a layman reading the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was the starting point on the NIA's research. As such, the NIA doesn't really seem to accomplish much beyond stressing the urgency of climate change by describing it as a security issue.
This makes it all the more odd that the actual text of the NIA was classified by the National Intelligence Council. Fingar suggested that releasing specifics about how certain countries would be specifically affected would complicate U.S. diplomatic efforts, though my guess is that the countries in greatest danger from global warming are already well aware of it. Rep. Ed Markey saw a White House agenda in the classification:
If people know specifically what these problems will be and where they will be and who they will affect then perhaps we will finally have the political will to solve the problem... The president doesn't want America to know the real risks of global warming.
I'm mostly curious to know if the report actually contains information that isn't already public knowledge. If nothing else, it would be nice to think that this partisan tug-of-war is being fought over a document that actually matters.
Australia's track and field athletes won't be marching in the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics due to fears that prolonged exposure to Beijing's smog could negatively affect their performance. Instead, the athletes will fly up from their training camp in Hong Kong a few days before their events are scheduled. Beijing has vowed to bring down pollution levels before the games begin, but the performance manager of Athletics Australia believes the smog poses a serious health risk for Australian athletes:
We have had athletes come back from a recent test event and one athlete has got 10 days off training because of a respiratory problem," he told ABC radio. "We don't want our athletes to be undertaking that sort of risk."
If skipping the ceremonies is perceived as giving the Australians even the slightest competitive advantage, it's hard to imagine that other countries won't follow suit.
This week's Tuesday Map comes compliments of a new atlas, released today by the United Nations Environment Program. "Africa: Atlas of our Changing Environment," paints a grim picture of the African landscape, as climate change, deforestation, urban pollution, and refugee flows are all taking their toll.
Vegetation and forests in the Jebel Marra foothills in Western Sudan (below) have declined significantly from 1972 (left) to 2006 (right). The authors of the study attribute this change in part to an "influx of refugees from drought and conflict in Northern Darfur." Reuters reports that deforestation is occurring in Africa at twice the world rate.
While many people are familiar with the snows of Kilimanjaro, or lack thereof, climate change appears to be having an impact on smaller peaks as well. The second map illustrates a noticeable shrinking of the Rwenzori Glaciers, which border Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, over just an 18-year period.
Explore more climate change maps -- both in Africa and worldwide -- at UNEP's Web site.
I can't imagine how La Scala intends to stage An Inconvenient Truth:
La Scala officials say the Italian composer Giorgio Battistelli has been commissioned to produce an opera on the international multiformat hit for the 2011 season at the Milan opera house. The composer is currently artistic director of the Arena in Verona.
After all, the movie was basically an extended PowerPoint presentation. Are they going to put Al Gore's slides up where the libretto usually goes? And what's the plot?
The biggest winner from the Kyoto protocol, the 1997 treaty that requiries participating countries to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions?
That would be China, Fiona Harvey reports for the Financial Times:
China has been by far the biggest winner from the Kyoto protocol, receiving tens of billions of dollars in investment to finance low-carbon technology. Last year, 73 per cent of carbon credit projects certified by the United Nations under the protocol were based in China.
The next-biggest shares of the carbon pie went to Brazil and India, with 6 percent each, while the entire continent of Africa captured just 5 percent of U.N.-certified carbon credit projects.
What's going on? Under Kyoto, developed countries can meet their carbon targets partly by investing in emissions-reduction projects in the developing world. And China, as Harvey explains, produces a great deal of hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, greenhouse gases produced as a byproduct of manufacturing refrigerants. HFCs are roughly 11,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so investing in relatively cheap HFC projects in China gives you a lot of bang for your carbon credit buck. (The World Bank has played in major role in promoting these projects, with some controversy.)
Most carbon credit projects in China, therefore, are related to HFCs rather than things like windmills and solar panels -- at least so far. New HFC projects are increasingly hard to come by since most factories already have the proper equipment installed.
But what about Africa? Why so little investment? Well, the continent has few factories -- hence few carbon projects.
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