Management of organic waste is a major dilemma for developing countries. It generates unpleasant odors and helps rats, flies, bugs and mosquitoes multiply and spread diseases. As it decomposes, organic waste generates methane, a gas that contributes significantly to global warming. Last year Daniel Hoornweg, Perinaz Bhada-Tata and Chris Kennedy predicted in an article in the magazine Nature that the global rate of solid waste generation is expected to triple by 2100. This is bad news because if the investment for solid waste management in developing countries remains as low as it is today, the world is at risk of irreversible environmental deterioration.
Today (September 16) is International Ozone Day. This day offers the international community the opportunity to laud the achievements of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Since 1987, the Protocol has worked to reduce the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODS), man-made industrial chemicals that damage the earth’s ozone layer.
Yet, as has become clear over the past few years, International Ozone Day is about more than just successful ozone layer protection. Given that many substances that deplete the ozone layer also have global warming potential (GWP), the transition to the use of substances with lower or no GWP has contributed important climate co-benefits over the years. As a result, the Protocol’s agenda has increasingly focused on cross-cutting themes linked with climate mitigation and energy efficiency. From both ozone and climate perspectives, the Protocol is widely recognized as a success.
The World Bank–China Montreal Protocol partnership is a testament to this success. Over the past two decades, it has phased-out more than 219,000 tons of ozone depleting substances from sectors as varied as refrigeration, air-conditioning, foam manufacturing, aerosol production, and fire extinguishing. Since these substances have GWP, the phase-out also avoided the equivalent of 885 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) or having the effect of taking 184 million cars off the roads.
So you may be wondering if those scenes from the movie 2012 are not too much of a stretch after all, huh?
In the Hollywood blockbuster, apocalyptic images of rising oceans, erupting volcanoes and crumbling cities prelude the end of the world as we know it. Well, let me tell you that even though I’m not a great fan of end-of-days films –I think they oversimplify issues and de-sensitize the public-- I do believe that the world as we know it is on a path to dangerous climate change
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Food crisis warnings are getting louder, with many urging action to head off a repeat of 2007-08’s soaring prices and shortages. The Hindu lists driving forces behind food crises and “corrective steps” in “The Looming Global Crisis and the Way Out.” The story suggests a food crisis is no longer a “freakish phenomenon” in the same way extreme weather is no longer disconnected from global warming. Hot, very hot, and extremely hot summer weather has become more common since 1951, according to research by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA includes a visualization of temperature changes through the decades in “Research Links Extreme Summer Heat Events to Global Warming.” The just-wrapped London Olympics that dominated the Twittersphere for two weeks wasn’t a mere sporting event, argues The Guardian in “Briefly But Gloriously, London 2012 Bridged the Divide.” The Games at times demonstrated the power to “transcend negative stereotypes and transform perceptions” of developing countries. With concern over an Ebola Virus outbreak easing in Uganda, Development Policy Blog interviews epidemiologist Dr. Kamalini Lokuge, a veteran of responses of Ebola outbreaks, before her trip to the stricken area.
It’s environment week, kind of. Tuesday was World Environment Day and tomorrow is World Oceans Day. Both days were institutionalized through United Nations resolutions to draw attention to the environment and the threats it is exposed to. For communicators in development, climate change is one of the most relevant issues. Communication scholars also have thought a lot about how to effectively communicate climate change. I am not quite sure, however, whether the two sides are working together. Let me therefore discuss how framing can influence our understanding and acceptance of climate change.
Matthew Nisbet from American University has written an interesting article on “Communicating Climate Change: Why Frames Matter for Public Engagement”. He argues that the enormous divide between the factual reality of climate change and citizens’ perception is partly due to the way interest groups have been framing the issue. He identifies a number of frames that are being used in the public discussion (p. 18):
The global policy community seems unlikely to take drastic steps with regard to climate change any time soon. Politicians remain hesitant about taking action, although scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelming. It’s happening, it’s happening now, and it will cause massive damage. And it’s mostly caused by humans. Public opinion, on the other hand, is far behind the science. Are politicians unwilling to impose dramatic measures to slow down climate change because the public is unwilling to pay the cost – yet? Are they kicking the can down the road because the people are not yet willing to fully embrace the fact and the consequences of climate change?
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|Disappearing polar bear: climate change art work, Copenhagen. Photo ©Alan Miller/ IFC|
Having attended all but two of the 15 climate change conferences, I am pretty familiar with the atmosphere, processes, and even many of the attendees. Nevertheless, much about the Copenhagen Conference has been surprising -- the sheer number and diversity of participants, the large street protests, the media attention, the impressive engagement from the people and city of Copenhagen. The best comparison I can make is to imagine taking the United Nations, Times Square, and Greenwich Village and put them all together under one roof.
At the core, at most a few hundred negotiators, often sitting behind closed doors, undertake the difficult task of attempting to reach an agreement. It is no exaggeration to say that what they do -- or fail to do -- may determine the fate of us all. Swirling all around them are thousands of people from every imaginable (and unimaginable) perspective, traditional environmental groups, indigenous peoples, business organizations, religious and spiritual believers, the media (press interviews pop up randomly in the halls) and of course the international organizations.
|Hopenhagen: central square filled with climate change activities, Copenhagen. Photo ©Alan Miller/IFC|
Those of us from IFC (three or four this week) are a small part of the World Bank Group delegation, which numbers more than fifty; the World Bank is in turn only one of many international organizations. World Bank President Zoellick arrives today -- it will be interesting to see his role and impact.
As the senior political level officials enter this week, the process seems to be reaching a breaking point with four days still to go. The registration lines are slowing to a crawl and observer organizations have been told to reduce their numbers by half or more due to the capacity limits of the building (actually, multiple buildings several of which are temporary). Every day the few members of our delegation actually observing the negotiations report little or no progress. Yesterday they were told to leave when the meetings entered the sensitive "informal" stage.
|President Robert Zoellick (World Bank) with President Mohamed Nasheed (Maldives). Photo ©Alan Miller/IFC|
The ultimate hope for a positive outcome remains pending the arrival of an expected 110 plus heads of state. As the Convention Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer told us in a briefing last week, "they come to celebrate, not to commiserate." As of today it's difficult to believe that heads of state can do in two days what their ministers and staff have been unable to do in months of meetings.
We'll all know soon.
According to 350.org, it's—you guessed it!—350. This is because scientists say that the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million.
Editor's note: This post is part of Blog Action Day on climate change. For more information, visit blogactionday.org.
Apologies for having been out of touch since Carbon Expo. I needed a break, and summer in Croatia proved one can have a life beyond international development and carbon finance. Climate change, however, very much stayed on my mind with reports of wildfires in the United States and Greece. Clearly, one cannot escape all-encompassing global change, in particular when negotiations have now started in earnest on a post-2012 treaty to reduce carbon emissions and provide financing for developing countries.
Some still think that climate change is just a buzz topic and will quietly disappear from global attention. Let me assure you that many people in East Asian and Pacific countries would disagree. They are hit by natural disasters, which in recent years not only steadily increased in frequency, but also in intensity.
|"The glacier at Karo-la pass covered the whole rock face when our Tibetan guide began leading tours in 1996."|
The melting of the glaciers has accelerated dramatically in recent years. This is one of the most profound effects of global warming. The glaciers have shrunk 20% over the past 50 years, with much of that in the past decade. Our Tibetan guide took us to a number of different glaciers and showed us how they had receded since he starting taking tours around in 1996. At Karo-la pass we stood on hard, dry ground that had been covered by the glacier just 12 years ago. Climate scientists project that the glaciers will be 80% gone by 2035.