In July 2010, exceptionally heavy rains flooded hundreds of thousands of agricultural acres in Pakistan. Nearly 2,000 people died. The floods came as heat waves wreaked similar havoc in Russia and Europe, and while floods swept through China. By the end of the year, 2010 had become one of the hottest years on record globally. Real-world examples of extreme, once-anomalous weather events that climate scientists had been predicting were suddenly frequent and ubiquitous, prompting a heightened sense of urgency from the United Nations, including the UN Security Council.
When representatives from countries met in Kyoto in 1997, there was cautious optimism about getting ahead of what were largely believed to be future environmental problems. Since then, ice caps have begun melting at record rates; heat waves and droughts have scorched agricultural lands; once-in-a-lifetime super storms have ravaged coasts; and in general, a new normal has emerged for the planet’s climate.
Delegates from around the world met in Doha recently for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). While they discussed ways of limiting the impacts of climate change, they faced relatively low expectations and a public that, at least in many industrialized countries, appeared to have lost interest and hope in our ability to slow temperature increases. Yet new research continues to point out ways of mitigating those changes. The ability of coastal environments to absorb carbon is one such opportunity.
Uganda Stove Manufacturers got into the clean cookstove business before it was trendy. The vast majority of the country’s cooking—steaming savory bananas, boiling rice, grilling meat—is done on small, porous stoves that waste heat and leak smoke into homes. The owners of the family business, commonly called UgaStove, realized there was a market for less dangerous and wasteful cooking equipment. In 2001, they started manufacturing cleaner, more efficient versions: metal cladding painted red and orange, wrapped around a simple clay liner.
Twenty years after Brazil hosted the first international summit on sustainable development, the rising-star South American nation is playing host to the United Nation's conference once again. The so-called Rio+20 summit, which began on June 20, is the culmination of literally decades of environmental policy, projects, and new thinking about the way that humans exist on the planet. "It is...in everyone's interest that all countries, not just some or even most of them, advance towards sustainable development," summit Secretary General Sha Zukang reminded audiences in his opening remarks on Wednesday. "This is one planet—with one common future."
TBILISI -- Over the past nine years, the United Nations Development Programme has helped transform Georgia’s once-nascent hydropower industry into one of the country’s most dynamic economic sectors in Georgia. Since 2006, Georgia has nearly quadrupled its electricity production to more than 10,000 M KwH in 2011, the majority of which comes from hydropower. The result has proven a success not just for Georgia, but also for the future of renewable energy in the broader South Caucasus region. Yet so far, environmentalists are hardly dancing in the streets. The success of Georgia’s small and medium-sized hydropower industry, which has a limited environmental impact, has paved the way for the construction of larger, and potentially environmentally destructive, hydropower projects across the country.
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo., USA—Pikas like the cold. In fact, they need the cold. But it is getting increasingly difficult for the small, rabbit-like mammal to find its ideal climate on the mountain slopes it calls home.
When a government spokesman announced on April 4, 2012 that no country has better credentials for hosting the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June, he had a point. Brazil’s environmental record isn’t perfect; it is still home to vast pockets of poverty. But those challenges—echoed across the world in countless places—could make this South American giant the perfect forum for discussing the challenges ahead. Few countries are better acquainted with the difficulty of balancing human and natural needs.
As we commemorate UN Earth Day this year, our planet is in something of a bind. Over the last century, the global population has, overall, grown vastly wealthier as our societies and technologies have developed at breakneck speed. But that development has come at a cost; we are beginning to onerously tax the environment in which we live. Meanwhile, the world has hardly reached a point where everyone is well off. An estimated 3 billion people—or just under half the world's population—live on less than $2.50 a day.