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Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
 
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.


Facebook’s Gateway Drug
The New York Times
SILICON VALLEY was once content to dominate the tech world. But recently, its leading companies have ventured deep into areas well outside its traditional bailiwick, most notably international development — promising to transform a field once dominated by national governments and international institutions into a permanent playground of hackathons and app-fueled disruption.  To observe this venture humanitarianism in action, look no further than Internet.org, a coalition of Facebook, Samsung and several other large tech companies that promises to bring low-cost Internet access to people in underserviced parts of the world, via smartphones. 

New World Order, Labor, Capital, and Ideas in the Power Law Economy
Foreign Affairs
Recent advances in technology have created an increasingly unified global marketplace for labor and capital. The ability of both to flow to their highest-value uses, regardless of their location, is equalizing their prices across the globe. In recent years, this broad factor-price equalization has benefited nations with abundant low-cost labor and those with access to cheap capital. Some have argued that the current era of rapid technological progress serves labor, and some have argued that it serves capital. What both camps have slighted is the fact that technology is not only integrating existing sources of labor and capital but also creating new ones.

Do the IPCC Report Messages on Transport Provide a Strong Rationale for Action?

Andreas Kopp's picture

 Miso Lisanin/World Bank

In April, the preeminent scientific body known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the contribution of Working Group III to the 5th Assessment Report on climate change with a focus on climate change mitigation, including transport and other sectoral policies. What is new for transport since the 4th Assessment Report was released seven years ago? 
 
Quite a bit, it turns out. The 4th IPCC report strongly focused on fuel and vehicle technology substitution. Deep cuts in emissions would mainly be brought about by a switch from gasoline to biofuels and fuel cell cars. The 5th report’s messages are different and more in tune with the growing consensus around the need for new mobility patterns and a change in transport user behaviors: “When developing low-carbon transport systems, behavioral change and infrastructure investments are often as important as developing more efficient vehicle technologies and using low-carbon fuels,” say the authors of chapter 8 on transport. This is progress in my view, and the emphasis on different modes of transport (besides individual cars) is very much in line with the recent World Bank flagship report Turning the Right Corner
 
But how do we get there?
 

A Global Check-up: We Need Safer and Cleaner Mobility

Marc Shotten's picture
Many years ago in Bangkok, on my first World Bank mission, I made an error in judgment by taking a Tuk-Tuk, the ubiquitous three-wheeled "golf cart" taxi, in order to experience local transit patterns in a more intimate manner. At least that's how I retroactively justified what was nearly a fatal decision as the driver weaved in-between two buses which narrowly avoided squashing the tiny vehicle. What struck me more than anything at that time were the overall chaos of the transit system and the lack of safe mobility, unfortunately both quite common in a majority of low and middle-income countries which shoulder 90% of the world's road crashes.

In this context, and to better assist countries achieve safer and cleaner mobility, the World Bank,  in partnership with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), has issued a new report: Transport for Health: The Global Burden of Disease from Motorized Road Transport. The IHME is the home of the Global Burden of Disease study, widely considered among the preeminent global health metrics publications.

The Transport for Health report, for the first time, quantifies the global health loss from injuries and air pollution that can be attributed to motorized road transport. The results are stark and call for immediate action: deaths from road transport exceed those from HIV, tuberculosis, or malaria; together, road injuries and pollution from vehicles contribute to six of the top 10 causes of death globally. Moreover, road injuries are among the top-10 causes of death among women of childbearing age and the fourth leading cause among women aged 15-29.

Carbon Dioxide Levels Reach Unprecedented Highs: But Catastrophic Climate Change Can Still be Avoided

Alan Miller's picture

 Courtesy of World Meteorological Organization
Graph shows concentrations of atmospheric Co2 for the last 800,000 years, with measurements, starting from 1958, made at Mauna Loa in Hawaii. - Image courtesy of World Meteorological Organization

Scientists monitoring atmospheric concentrations of CO2 from a mountaintop in Hawaii recently reported that the presence of this greenhouse gas exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in at least three million years – a period when temperatures were much warmer than today. The significance of this seemingly dry statistical trend is stunning as reported in the New York Times:

From studying air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice, scientists know that going back 800,000 years, the carbon dioxide level oscillated in a tight band, from about 180 parts per million in the depths of ice ages to about 280 during the warm periods between. The evidence shows that global temperatures and CO2 levels are tightly linked.

In addition to the location in Hawaii, several other Global Atmosphere Watch stations from the Arctic to the Equator reported CO2 concentrations exceeding 400ppm.

Experts believe that in order to limit warming to 2°C – a goal based on expected impacts – concentrations should rise to no more than 450 ppm, a level we may reach in only about 25 years based on current trends.

Fighting Black Carbon as Oceans & Temperatures Rise

Rachel Kyte's picture

Scripps Institution of OceanographyLast week, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography released data showing that CO2 atmospheric levels had briefly passed 400 parts per million (ppm) and were close to surpassing that level for sustained periods of time. This is bad news. At 450 ppm, scientists anticipate the world will be 2 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial times, and world leaders have agreed that’s a point of dangerous consequences.

Along with this grim news came important new research findings from Professor V. Ramanathan of the Scripps Institution at the University of California, San Diego, and other researchers regarding short-lived climate pollutants – black carbon, methane tropospheric ozone and some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). While we continue – and must continue – to hammer away at reducing CO2 emissions, their work supports the argument that also reducing these short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) can have an immediate effect on slowing warming and the resulting sea-level rise.

India's Air Pollution Woes

Muthukumara Mani's picture

The World Health Organization’s recent Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Assessment estimates that outdoor air pollution causes 620,000 premature deaths per year in India, a six fold increase since 2000. The main causes are growing emissions of particulate emissions (PM10) from transport and power plants. GBD in this analysis has ranked air pollution as the sixth most dangerous killer in South Asia and fifth leading cause of deaths in India.

Also, according to the WHO, across the G-20 economies, 13 of the 20 most polluted cities are in India and over 50% of the sites studied across India had critical levels of PM10 pollution. A recent rapid survey by Delhi based Center for Science and Environment revealed that almost 75% of respondents considered air pollution as a major cause of concern and as responsible for respiratory illnesses.

Longreads: Black Carbon, Combating Violence Against Women, Global Trends 2030, Boomtown Slum

Donna Barne's picture

Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.

 

LongreadsSatellite images of Beijing’s smog have been popping up on Twitter and blogs as the city suffers shockingly high air pollution levels. Some bloggers point out Beijing’s black skies aren’t so different from pre-1960s London or Pittsburgh in their industrial heyday. Even so, a new study warns that the heat-trapping effect of “black carbon,” or soot, is second only to CO2. Yale’s Environment 360 explains why cutting it could “go a long way to slowing climate change.” Check out cities with high air pollution levels in the Guardian’s data visualization showing exposure to outdoor air pollution, mapped by city.


(Source: Guardian)

Concern over the brutal and fatal rape of a young woman in India continues to grow. Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown highlights a global online petition that has attracted more than a million signatures in “Without frontiers, young people mobilize for change.” On Twitter, plans for a February 14 worldwide event to raise awareness about violence against women are being spread using hashtag #1billionrising, For an academic read on the issue, check out a recent study, linked below, on combating violence against women, covering 40 years and 70 countries. It finds that the “mobilization of feminists…is the critical factor accounting for policy change.” What will the world be like 17 years from now? A new report by the National Intelligence Council -- Global Trends 2030 (pdf) -- is sparking interest. Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor Joseph S. Nye offers his take on the report’s “gamechangers” and megatrends. One key trend—urbanization—is keenly felt in Nairobi. The city’s Kibera slum is a place where “government is absent,” and where the economy is booming and incomes are rising, according to the Economist, adding it “may be the most entrepreneurial place on the planet.

Buying time as the climate clock ticks on

Mary Barton-Dock's picture

 

We’ve all had our moments of frustration with the unending negotiations on mechanisms to control carbon dioxide emissions. In the last Conference of Parties held at Durban in 2011, it was decided that the global deal for the post Kyoto framework will only be reached by 2015.

Meanwhile, the climate clock is ticking: countries continue to face the impacts of climate change with the poorest being hardest hit. Science has shed the spotlight on a “parallel track” which could help us deal with part of the climate change problem in a faster, cheaper way – it is tackling short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), primarily black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

These pollutants, while being extremely potent in terms of their global warming potential are short-lived in the atmosphere. For example, black carbon persists in the atmosphere for about two weeks (compared to CO2 that lives for up to 100 years) and is 917 times more warming than CO2 over a 100 year timeframe (and 3,320 times over 20 years).So, action on SCLPs can help buy time in addressing the more important and longer-term greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Vietnam: Say NO to plastic bags for a prosperous Year of the Dragon

Hoang Duc Minh's picture

Cũng có ở Tiếng việt

 
Pop singer Ngoc Khue and MC My Linh, along with 80 volunteers, took part in a flash mob to support the ‘I Hate Nylon’ project.

These days, when most people in Vietnam stay home to celebrate the Lunar New Year (locally known as Tet holiday), hundreds of Vietnamese youth flocked to the streets of Hanoi, the country’s capital, to work on a community project to reduce plastic bag usage in the city.

The ‘I Hate Nylon’ project (plastic bags are commonly called nylon bags in Vietnam) aims to raise Vietnamese people’s awareness about the dangers of plastic bag usage through several community activities before the Lunar New Year, the biggest holiday in Vietnam when people consume a lot of plastic bags.

Ulaanbaatar’s air pollution crisis: Summertime complacency won’t solve the wintertime problem

Arshad Sayed's picture
No mountains are visible beyond this pollution cloud. (Late November 2007)

It certainly feels like the worst of winter is over for another year, well until December anyway. Daytime temperatures now reach above 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) regularly, the city’s ice sculptures have melted and the slippery footpaths have thawed, making walking in the city safer and easier. There’s also a visible improvement in Ulaanbaatar’s (UB) air quality.

On most days, from my office window, I can now see the beautiful snow-dappled mountains that surround UB; during the heavily polluted winter months the horizon is completely hidden behind a thick grey-brown smoky haze. 


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