To celebrate Earth Day 2017, which is tomorrow, I would like to highlight the important findings of a paper by Campbell et al. published earlier this month in Nature (1). The paper documents, through the analysis of air trapped in ice from Antarctica, that the growth of global terrestrial gross primary production (GPP) –the amount of carbon dioxide that is ‘fixed’ into organic material through photosynthesis– is larger now than it has been at any time during the last 54,000 years. This basically means that the planet is greener and nature is thriving more now than at any time during human history, despite all the havoc we humans are wreaking everywhere.
By Anna Sophia Doyle*
I was browsing through one of my favorite environmental news and commentary sites (favorite as it’s both intelligent but also hilarious when reporting on very serious issues such as climate, food, energy, etc.) and came across a great article on whether eating meat could be eco-friendly.
Having wrestled with the subject myself and in honor of it being Meatless Monday, I thought I’d share some if the article’s insights with the Development Roast readers as well as a few other thoughts and related links. Read More »
By: Lykke E. Andersen*
Bernard Francou, a famous glaciologist from the IRD in France, today made a very interesting presentation in La Paz about the loss of tropical glaciers around the World. It was only one of many interesting presentations made at the Climate Change Conference that is taking place these days, but it was so interesting indeed, that it inspired me to write my second blog in one day.
Francou documented the decrease in tropical glacier mass starting roughly in 1976 for the glaciers in the Andes and the Rocky Mountains and about a decade later for most other tropical glaciers in the World. Although tropical glaciers contain only a tiny part of all the ice on the planet, their melting currently contributes to about 26% of global sea level rise.
There is little doubt that human greenhouse gas emissions, mainly arising from the burning of fossil fuels and forests, are warming the planet. The physical properties of CO2 in the atmosphere imply that a doubling of CO2 concentrations from the current 400 parts per million (ppm) to 800 ppm would directly cause an increase in the average global temperature of about 1°C, and with that increase in temperatures we would also experience an increase in global precipitation. That much we know with a high degree of certainty.
Anything beyond that, however, is highly uncertain. While most climate models incorporate positive feedback effects that amplify the initial direct warming effect several times, historical data suggests that there are important negative feedbacks that help stabilize global temperatures. Most importantly, Earth’s temperature has oscillated within a relatively narrow band for hundreds of millions of years despite much higher and much lower CO2 concentrations in the past (see Figures 1 and 2). In addition, during the last couple of decades, global temperatures have not increased nearly as much as suggested by the models with strong positive feedbacks. Thus, we should have only low confidence in our knowledge about feedback effects and temperature increases beyond 1°C.
“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.”
Pope Francis, 2015
“I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” is one of the beginning lines of the Pope’s encyclical, released by the Vatican yesterday at noon. Traditionally the encyclical is a letter from the Pope to the Bishops about Catholicism, but it has evolved into an open letter to society discussing the Pope’s insights and concerns on a particular matter. Pope John XXII (1963) was the first, to my knowledge, to address society in general in his efforts to reform the Catholic Church.
Within the Bolivian government, there are parts that encourage a massive expansion of the agricultural frontier, and other parts that work to control deforestation in order to reduce the local and global impacts of climate change. These are pretty much opposing policies, so consider the following hypothetical question: How large an area would we have to reforest in order to compensate the carbon emissions caused by the expansion of the agricultural frontier by 2.5 million hectares, if we wanted to reach carbon emission neutrality by 2030. Read More »
By: Lykke E. Andersen*
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is about to end its 20th annual conference in Lima, Peru, and heads of state and negotiators from every country on Earth are fighting to get other countries to reduce their CO2 emissions as much as possible, in order to keep global warming below catastrophic levels.
This approach to tackling climate change has, as one might have expected, proven depressingly ineffective. Since the Kyoto Protocol was agreed on in 1997, CO2 emissions have increased steadily, with not the slightest hint of a slow-down. The level of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere has now reached 400 ppm (parts per million), which is more than ever before observed in the history of Homo Sapiens.
Fortunately, there are lots of creative, constructive and persistent people working on practical solutions for a happier, healthier, greener and more sustainable future. Of the thousands of inspiring, creative and constructive TED talks, I have selected three that focus on transforming our current climate change problems into opportunities by mimicking nature:
During the first week of September 2014, the California-based film company GLP films came to Bolivia to make a video about the Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism for the Integral and Sustainable Management of Forests and Mother Earth, which is Bolivia’s alternative to the international REDD+ mechanism to reduce deforestation (see expedition web-site).
The video project is financed by the Think Tank Initiative managed by the International Development Research Centre in Canada, and the resulting video is expected be featured at a side event at the COP20 in Lima in December 2014.
Under the direction of Lykke Andersen from INESAD, and with the help of many other institutions and individuals, a 6-person film crew, armed to the teeth with gear, visited La Paz, Rurrenabaque, Bella Altura, Pando, Santa Cruz, Concepción, and El Torno.
By: Lykke E. Andersen*
During the last decade, Bolivia had one of the highest per capita deforestation rates in the World (1). Apart from this being decidedly unkind to Mother Earth and exacerbating problems of wild fires, droughts and flooding in Bolivia, this also caused Bolivians to be among the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions in the World (approximately 11 t/CO2/person/year – more than almost all European countries and more than twice the global average) (2).
This was obviously a major problem in Bolivia, and at INESAD we have been working for several years on promoting policies to reduce deforestation. Thus, we should be thrilled by the recent news from ABT showing that Bolivia has reduced deforestation by 64% since 2010 (see Figure 1).
But it almost seems too good to be true. I suspect that everybody working in this area are asking themselves: Can this really be true?
By: Lykke E. Andersen*
In an attempt to deal with the threat of climate change, many development banks and development institutions have established considerable budgets in support of climate change mitigation and adaptation projects in addition to their usual development projects. For example, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is aiming for 25% of their lending portfolio to be destined to climate change and sustainable development projects by 2015.
There is a concern, however, that these climate change projects may not be truly additional, compared to the business-as-usual scenario, but may just represent a renaming of already existing projects (compare panels (i) and (ii) of Figure 1), or worse, that the climate change projects are actually diverting funds away from development projects to the detriment of the poor (panel (iii)).