BIARRITZ, August 26 -- World leaders at the G-7 summit have agreed to help the countries affected by the huge wildfires ravaging the Amazon rain forest as soon as possible, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday.
"We are all agreed on helping those countries which have been hit by the fires as fast as possible," he told journalists at the summit in the south-western French resort of Biarritz. Ahead of the gathering, Macron called on world leaders to hold urgent talks on the wildfires ripping through the world's largest rain forest, pledging "concrete measures" to tackle it. Although about 60 per cent of the Amazon is in Brazil, the vast forest also takes in parts of eight other countries: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. "This morning, Colombia called on the international community (to help), so we must help out," he said. "Our teams are making contact with all the Amazon countries so we can finalise some very concrete commitments involving technical resources and funding." Macron's bid to put the Amazon crisis high on the agenda at the G-7 angered Brazil's far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro, who lashed out over what he sees as outside interference, denouncing the French leader's "colonialist mentality". Under intense international pressure, Bolsonaro agreed to send in the military to fight the fires. The army on Sunday deployed two Hercules C-130 aircraft to douse fires, as hundreds of new blazes were ignited ahead of nationwide protests over the destruction.
Heavy smoke covered the city of Porto Velho in the north-western state of Rondonia where the defense ministry said the planes have started dumping thousands of liters of water. Swathes of the remote region bordering Bolivia have been scorched by the blazes, sending thick smoke billowing into the sky and increasing air pollution across the world's largest rain forest. Experts say increased land clearing during the months-long dry season to make way for crops or grazing has aggravated the problem this year. "It gets worse every year - this year, the smoke has been really serious," Deliana Amorim, 46, told Agence France-Presse in Porto Velho where half a million people live. At least seven states, including Rondonia, have requested the army's help in the Amazon, where more than 43,000 troops are based and available to combat fires, officials said. Pope Francis on Sunday also voiced concern for the rain forest, which he described as a "vital" lung for the planet. The latest official figures show 79,513 forest fires have been recorded in Brazil this year, the highest number of any year since 2013. More than half of the fires are in the massive Amazon basin, where more than 20 million people live. Some 1,130 new fires were ignited between Friday and Saturday, according to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The new data come as protesters plan to take to the streets across Brazil on Sunday, after thousands held demonstrations in the country and in Europe on Friday.
LONDON, August 24 -- The world’s first solar farm to power a railway line directly is due to plug into the track near Aldershot, paving the way for solar-powered trains.
From Friday, about 100 solar panels at the trackside site will supply renewable electricity to power the signalling and lights on Network Rail’s Wessex route. The 30kW pilot scheme could pave the way for a larger project capable of directly powering the trains that use this route from next year. The solar breakthrough comes as Network Rail plans to spend billions of pounds electrifying rail lines to avoid running trains on diesel. This could help reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and costs. Solar panels are already used to power the operations of train stations, including Blackfriars in central London. But the Aldershot project is the first time a solar array will bypass the electricity grid to plug directly into a railway’s “traction” system.
Network Rail hopes to use the scheme, developed by the charity 10:10 Climate Action and Imperial College London, to solar-charge its rail lines across the country. Stuart Kistruck, a director for Network Rail’s Wessex route, said: “We have ambitions to roll this technology out further across the network should this demonstrator project prove successful, so we can deliver a greener, better railway for our passengers and the wider public.” The research team behind the project, called Riding Sunbeams, estimates that solar could power 20% of the Merseyrail network in Liverpool, as well as 15% of commuter routes in Kent, Sussex and Wessex. There is also scope for solar trams in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, London and Manchester, according to the team. The researchers began work on the plans over two years ago to discover whether bypassing the electricity grid could make solar power a more efficient energy source for trains. Innovate UK awarded the project funding from the Department of Transport after it proved that connecting solar power directly to rail, tube and tram networks could help meet a significant share of their electricity needs.
NEW YORK, August 23 -- The Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Demecrate) today excludes nuclear energy from the proposed mix.
If it were ever actually attempted nationally, it would increase greenhouse gas emissions — just as a similar effort did in Vermont. The written statement distributed by the office of Ocasio-Cortez says "the plan is to transition off of nuclear." Vermont is home to Ocasio-Cortez allies, and Green New Deal advocates, Senator Bernie Sanders and climate activist Bill McKibben. Both insist the world can be powered on renewables alone. But consider what’s actually happened in their own state. In 2005, Vermont legislators promised to reduce emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2012, and 50% below 1990 levels by 2028, through the use of renewables and energy efficiency only. What’s happened since? Vermont’s emissions rose 16.3%. That’s more than twice as much as national emissions rose during the same period.
When you account for the U.S.’s far faster growth in population, Vermont’s per capita emissions rose 5% while U.S. per capita emissions declined by 17%. Did Vermont fail to do energy efficiency, which the Green New Deal and green groups like Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) claim is the most important way to reduce emissions? Nope. In 2018, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Vermont among the top five states for aggressive action on energy efficiency — for the fifth year in a row.
GUAYAQUIL, August 22 -- Looking after the environment is paying off in Ecuador, at least for public transport users in the business hub of Guayaquil.
A new scheme aimed at combatting garbage and pollution allows people to exchange recyclable plastic bottles for money to buy bus tickets. The port city, in Ecuador's south-west, is the second-most populous city in the country with 2.7 million inhabitants, but it generates the most waste. Passengers who use the city's bus transit system, Metrovia, are now queueing at a newly installed machine, waiting to unload their plastic bottles for two cents each, which they can spend on public transport. "Imagine: Two cents (a bottle), for 15 bottles you get 30 cents, that's already a Metrovia ticket," said bus passenger Cristian Cardenas. It is proving more profitable than selling the bottles to a recycling centre, Washington Bravo told AFP. The 76-year-old pensioner lives outside Guayaquil, a US$9 (S$12.45) taxi ride into town. He makes the walk once a week, collecting plastic bottles from garbage cans and the streets along his way. Guayaquil produces 4,200 tonnes of waste a day, only 14 per cent of which is recyclable. "The city is full of corruption and dirty. Before it wasn't like this, it was cleaner," he said.
BANGKOK, August 21 -- The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation on Wednesday warned of flash floods and landslides in 21 provinces in the North, the Northeast, Central Plains and eastern regions until Thursday.
Of the 21 provinces listed as possible affected areas, certain districts in Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Nan, Tak, Uttaradit are particularly at risk from flash floods and landslides as a result of prolonged heavy rain, said department director-general Chayaphon Thitisak. The rain is the result of a monsoon trough in the Northern region and the impact from a southwest monsoon in the Andaman Sea and the upper Gulf of Thailand, according to the department. Emergency response teams have been put on round the clock standby in flood-prone localities in mountainous areas sucn as Nan province, according to Mr Chayaphon. Those living in low-lying areas are being advised to closely monitor weather updates throughout this period, he said.
In the South, however, rice growers in Nakhon Si Thammarat are calling on the government to declare a new drought-hit zone, with about 10,000 rai of paddy fields having been totally destroyed by drought over the past few months. Chetsada Banchongsut, their leader, said he and other rice farmers in Chalerm Prakiat district had tried to fight the drought themselves and lost about 130,000 baht pumping water into rice fields to save their crops, but the drought lasted so long that they could not cope anymore. The farmers now want the government to help by declaring their damaged rice fields a drought-hit zone so they will be entitled to compensation, he said. Sa Kaeo governor Wichit Chatphaisit said the province is assisting about 12,300 families, who own 79,950 rai of paddy fields in five tambon in Ta Phraya district which have already been damaged by drought. Two large water pumps were sent to affected areas to draw water and supply the communities, said the governor. As of Tuesday, Sa Kaeo's irrigation project had about 76.43 million cubic metres of water, which is enough to supply tap water for the entire province for the next 160 days, he said.
NEW YORK, August 18 -- Greta Thunberg’s sailing ship for the climate, Malizia II, must return to Europe after it has reached New York.
For this, four new professional sailors fly to the US. Their mission is to release the crew of two skippers on board and sail the boat back. Altogether, six sailors must take at least one trip each by plane. Amid invited to the UN Climate Summit in New York in September, Greta Thunberg refused to go by plane and wanted a carbon dioxide neutral way of travel. Fortunately for her, the Malizia II team came to her assistance, offering to sail Greta and her father across the Atlantic. As a return, the boat became the nine o’clock news all over the world when Greta set off from Plymouth a couple of days ago.
Multiple times more emissions
But going by sailing boat, might not be such a clever idea after all if the objective is to spare the climate. It turns out that Greta Thunberg’s trip adds many times more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than if she and her father just bought two airline tickets. Her sail results in multiple flights across the Atlantic since all the sailors must take one flight each. When Malizza II reaches New York, skipper Boris Hermann and Pierre Casiraghi must rest and after the boat has been on service, a new team of professional sailors will take over. A team of four will fly to New York to receive the boat there and then sail back to Europe. The operating crew will fly back to Europe.
Media hype expected
In addition to this, there will be hundreds or maybe thousands European news channels, newspapers, reporters and photographers awaiting Greta to visit the summit in New York. It is still unclear if media representatives will choose to do the risky sail over the stormy Atlantic themselves or travel by plane, which takes approximately 8 hours. But the climate trip is still successful from a PR perspective and Malizia II is now famous worldwide. Millions follow her windy tour on the stormy Atlantic via live updates.
TOKYO, August 14 -- Japan's weather agency said Wednesday that powerful Typhoon Krosa is set to make landfall in the west of the country the following day, warning of potential record rainfall, mudslides and floods.
Airlines and railway operators announced reduced services in regions near the storm's path, possibly disrupting millions of travelers returning to major cities following Bon holidays visits to their hometowns. The Japan Meteorological Agency said the typhoon, traveling at a speed of 20 kilometers per hour, had weakened from the day before but could still dump around 1,200 millimeters of rain on some eastern and western areas facing the Pacific. Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. have decided to cancel a total of more than 300 domestic and international flights on Thursday. Low-cost carrier Peach Aviation Ltd. canceled 35 domestic flights on Thursday, as well as 13 international flights departing from and arriving at Tokyo's Haneda airport and Kansai International Airport. West Japan Railway Co. will suspend almost all of its shinkansen bullet train services. Services between Shin-Osaka and Kokura will be canceled, while those between Kokura and Hakata in Kyushu will be significantly reduced, the company said.
Central Japan Railway Co., an operator of shinkansen services between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, and Kyushu Railway Co. said they will also cut their bullet train services. Shikoku Railway Co. said it plans to entirely suspend services in its area on the western main island. The season's 10th typhoon with an atmospheric pressure of 965 hectopascals at its center was packing winds of up to 144 kph as of 9 p.m. Wednesday, the agency said. In a valley in Kusu, Oita Prefecture, a group of 18 people including children were stranded following the rise of a river, local officials said. Rescuers headed to the scene where the group was apparently at a barbecue, the officials said, adding there were no reports of injuries. The typhoon is approaching as Japan on Thursday will mark the 74th anniversary of its surrender in World War II, with memorial services including those in Ehime, Fukuoka, Kumamoto and Oita prefectures already canceled. The government will hold an annual ceremony at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, but many relatives of the war dead from the Kyushu and Shikoku regions will be unable to attend the event. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to Tokyo on Wednesday afternoon earlier than scheduled from his hometown in Yamaguchi Prefecture and attended a meeting on the typhoon with ministers at his office.
BEIJING, August 11 -- Typhoon Lekima has left 28 people dead and 20 missing as it swept across China's eastern coastal cities, Zhejiang Radio reported on its official micro-blog account.
More than one million people in Shanghai and neighboring Zhejiang province have been evacuated due to the storm, which has damaged more than 3,000 homes, China Central Television reported. Lekima, which made landfall in Zhejiang early Saturday morning, has weakened to a strong tropical storm, according to the National Meteorological Center. The center has downgraded Lekima to yellow from orange, and has an orange rainstorm alert. China has a four-tier color-coded system for severe weather, with red being the most serious, followed by orange, yellow and blue. Lekima forced Shanghai to suspend services on several metro lines, according to the local government's official WeChat account. Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines were among those that announced flight cancellations, and high-speed rail services were affected in multiple cities, according to local media. Shanghai and Hangzhou airports are restoring operations gradually, according to Ctrip's flight tracking data and the local government. Taiwanese airlines cancelled about 520 international and domestic flights, according to local aviation authorities. Emergency units are working to repair roads, water and electricity, Global Times, a tabloid published by the Communist Party's People's Daily, reported on its Weibo account.
Mainland China's main financial hub had braced for Lekima after the typhoon ravaged Taiwan and affected Japan. Government offices, schools and businesses, including financial markets, were shut across northern Taiwan last Friday. More than 50,000 homes lost power overnight last Thursday, though electricity was mostly restored by last Friday morning. Taiwan's Central Emergency Operation Centre reported at least one death and four injuries in the wake of the storm. At least four people were hurt in Okinawa, while flights and ferries across the southern Japanese islands experienced widespread disruptions, according to a report by the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau said Lekima had sustained wind speeds of 184km per hour, with gusts of 227km an hour last Friday morning. Mr Scott Hsieh, a senior meteorologist at CWB, said it was the strongest typhoon in the western Pacific so far this year.
NEW YORK, August 8 -- Humanity faces increasingly painful trade-offs between food security and rising temperatures within decades unless it curbs emissions and stops unsustainable farming and deforestation, a landmark climate assessment said Thursday.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that efforts to limit global warming while feeding a booming population could be wrecked without swift and sweeping changes to how we use the land we live off. Its report on land use and climate change highlighted the need to protect remaining tropical forests as a bulkhead against future warming. But in a stark warning to those who may hope that vast reforestation and biofuel schemes alone can offset mankind's environmental damage, the report cautioned that these mega-projects could endanger food security, underlining that reducing emissions will be central to averting disaster. "This is a perfect storm. Limited land, an expanding human population, and all wrapped in a suffocating blanket of climate emergency," said Dave Reay, Professor of Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh. Land is intimately linked to climate. With its forests, plants and soil it sucks up and stores around a third of all man-made emissions.
Intensive exploitation of these resources also produces huge amounts of planet-warming CO2, methane and nitrous oxide, while agriculture guzzles up 70 percent of Earth's freshwater supply. As the global population balloons towards 10 billion by mid-century, how land is managed by governments, industry and farmers will play a key role in limiting or accelerating the worst excesses of climate change.
LAND USE TO BE PART OF GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE EFFORTThe report says Earth's land surface area is a key part of the solution to reducing the risks from climate change. The land, from tropical forests and peatlands to desert grasslands, soak up large amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. It is part of a natural cycle in which carbon is produced and recycled by plants on land and organisms in the oceans as a way to regulate the climate.
But large-scale burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal, as well as clearing and burning forests, has distrupted the natural order, leading to ever greater amounts of CO2 that nature can no longer absorb, fuelling a warming world.
The IPCC said the land should be part of any global effort to keep the world from overheating.
"But keeping global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors including land and food," the IPCC says.
The report finds that there are many solutions to reduce the impacts on farmlands, including switching to less intensive cropping practices, ecosystem conservation and land restoration, reduced deforestation, cutting food waste and switching to climate-friendly diets.
It says coordinated action to address climate change can simultaneously improve land, food security and nutrition, and help to end hunger.
FOOD SECURITY"Food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through yield declines -especially in the tropics - increased prices, reduced nutrient quality, and supply chain disruptions," said author Priyadarshi Shukla from India. "We will see different effects in different countries, but there will be more drastic impacts on low-income countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean," he said in a statement.
The report also highlights the changes in diets in recent decades, where the supply of meat and vegetable oils has more than doubled since 1961 as well as the disparity between those with access to food and those who don't.
There are about 2 billion adults who are overweight or obese, while an estimated 821 million people are still undernourished.
"The conclusion that we reached from the report is that the land that we are already using could feed the world in a changing climate and even provide biomass for renewable energy and to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it takes early and far-reaching action on several fronts," said Dr Andy Reisinger, an IPCC vice-chair and Deputy Director (International) for the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre.
That included much better land management and careful planning on where to grow energy crops for renewable energy in a way that does not harm nature or threaten food security.
"Land can't help us get out of climate change problems on its own. It has to be part of a broader mix. There are ways in which we could really make mistakes by focusing too much on land as a way to address climate change," he told The Straits Times.
At present, between 25 and 30 per cent of total food produced is lost or wasted, the report says.