The environment in the news

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Tuesday, 09 February, 2010

UNEP and the Executive Director in the News

  • UPI (US):U.N. deflects climate-change criticism

  • Gulf-Times (Qatar): Let us renew our efforts to support IPCC’s work

  • Daily Mail (UK): As the IPCC turns

  • Huffingtonpost (US): Going, Going, Gone: Endangered Species Being Dammed

  • Business Daily (Kenya): Kenya launches online marine information portal

  • Goallover (Blog): Fishing nets are a deadly threat to marine life, says UN

  • Next (Timbuktu): International minorities group seeks cleaning of Ogoni land

  • Voxbikol (US): UNEP Spearheads Regional Conference for Librarians

  • Voie3 (Germany): Le rapport du GIEC est « la meilleure évaluation des risques disponible

  • Terra (Brasil): PNUMA defende papel do IPCC no debate sobre clima

  • Actualites-News (France): Le PNUE prend la défense du GIEC

  • Laprensa (Bolivia): La agricultura puede proteger o diezmar la biodiversidad

Other Environment News

  • Deutsche Welle (Germany): The catwalk offers hope to dying species

  • Jakarta Post (Indonesia): Is it really possible to save our biodiversity?

  • AFP: Climate change impact of soil underestimated: study

  • NY Times (US):U.N. Climate Panel and Chief Face Credibility Siege

  • Guardian (UK): The case for climate action must be remade from the ground upwards

  • Telegraph (UK): Climate change research bungle

  • Telagraph (UK): Climate makes money move in mysterious ways

  • AFP: Global warming an Olympic worry, says Rogge

  • AFP: US government plans new climate service

  • Guardian (UK): Climate scientists hit out at 'sloppy' melting glaciers error

  • Shidi (China): 两部合作保育红树 改良湿地生态功

Environmental News from the UNEP Regions

  • ROA

  • ROAP

UNEP and the Executive Director in the News

UPI (US):U.N. deflects climate-change criticism
8 February 2010
Scientific evidence from the environmental community suggests global warming trends are the result of human activity, a U.N. official said in Ankara.
Achim Steiner, the head of the U.N. Environment Program, deflected criticism of a U.N.-backed panel that admitted to errors in its reporting on the rate of climate change.
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in January it made errors in reports saying the Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035, which the U.N. body used in its 2007 data on the impacts of climate change.
Steiner wrote in Turkey's leading English-language daily Today's Zaman that while critiques of the reporting were welcome, the evidence suggested the overall assumptions on climate change were accurate.
"The overwhelming evidence now indicates that greenhouse-gas emissions need to peak within the next decade if we are to have any reasonable chance of keeping the global rise in temperature down to manageable levels," he wrote.
Steiner maintained that switching from polluting fossil fuels to cleaner and renewable energy alternatives is imperative as the global population rises from 6 billion to 9 billion within 50 years.
"What is needed is an urgent international response to the multiple challenges of energy security, air pollution, natural-resource management, and climate change," he concluded.
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Gulf-Times (Qatar): Let us renew our efforts to support IPCC’s work
8 February 2010
The science of climate change has been on the defensive in recent weeks, owing to an error that dramatically overstated the rate at which the Himalayan glaciers could disappear.
Some in the media, and those who are sceptical about climate change, are currently having a field day, parsing every comma and cough in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) 2007 assessment.
Some strident voices are even dismissing climate change as a hoax on a par with the Y2K computer bug. As a result, the public has become increasingly bewildered as the unremitting questioning of the IPCC and its chair assumes almost witch-hunting proportions in some quarters.
The time has really come for a reality check. It is quite right to pinpoint errors, make corrections, and checked and re-check sources for accuracy and credibility.
It is also right that the IPCC has acknowledged the need for ever more stringent and transparent quality-control procedures to minimise any such risks in future reports.
But let us also put aside the myth that the science of climate change is holed below the water line and is sinking fast on a sea of falsehoods.
Over the course of 22 years, the IPCC has drawn upon the expertise of thousands of the best scientific minds, nominated by their own governments, in order to make sense of the complexity of unfolding environmental events and their potential impacts on economies and societies.
The Panel has striven to deliver the “perfect” product in terms of its mandate, scientific rigor, peer review, and openness, and has brought forward the knowledge – but also the knowledge gaps – in terms of our understanding of global warming.
Its 2007 report represents the best possible risk assessment available, notwithstanding an error – or, more precisely, a typographical error – in its statement of Himalayan glacial melt rates.
One notion promulgated in recent weeks is that the IPCC is sensationalist: this is perhaps the most astonishing, if not risible claim of all. Indeed, the Panel has more often been criticised for being far too conservative in its projections of, for example, the likely sea-level rise in the 21st century.
Indeed, caution rather than sensation has been the Panel’s watchword throughout its existence.
In its first assessment, in 1990, the IPCC commented that observed temperature increases were “broadly consistent with predictions of climate models, but it is also of the same magnitude as natural climate variability.”
The second assessment, in 1995, said: “Results indicate that the observed trend in global mean temperature over the past 100 years is unlikely to be entirely natural in origin.”
In 2001, its third assessment reported: “There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.”
By 2007, the consensus had reached “very high confidence” – at least a 90% chance of being correct – in scientists’ understanding of how human activities are causing the world to become warmer.
This does not sound like a partial or proselytising body, but one that has striven to assemble, order, and make sense of a rapidly evolving scientific puzzle for which new pieces emerge almost daily while others remain to be found.
So perhaps the real issue that is being overlooked is this: confronted by the growing realisation that humanity has become a significant driver of changes to our planet, the IPCC, since its inception, has been in a race against time.
The overwhelming evidence now indicates that greenhouse-gas emissions need to peak within the next decade if we are to have any reasonable chance of keeping the global rise in temperature down to manageable levels.
Any delay may generate environmental and economic risks of a magnitude that proves impossible to handle.
The fact is that the world would have to make a transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient future even if there were no climate change.
With the world’s human population set to rise from 6bn to 9bn people in the next half-century, we need to improve management of our atmosphere, air, lands, soils, and oceans anyway.
Rather than undermine the IPCC’s work, we should renew and re-double our efforts to support its mammoth task in assembling the science and knowledge for its fifth assessment in 2014.
What is needed is an urgent international response to the multiple challenges of energy security, air pollution, natural-resource management, and climate change.
The IPCC is as fallible as the human beings that comprise it.
But it remains without doubt the best and most solid foundation we have for a community of more than 190 nations to make these most critical current and future global choices.
Article also appears in the ‘China Daily’
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Daily Mail (UK): As the IPCC turns
8 February 2010
How bad are things going for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?
So bad that Greenpeace had to issue a statement saying it was not calling for the head of the IPCC to resign.
That was just the head of Greenpeace in Britain who called for the resignation.
The Times of London, which has bought the Man-made Global Warming hook, line and suckah!, reported that the IPCC head, Rajendra Pachauri, has written a novel. he has a knack for writing fiction. Said the Times of London:
More controversially, it was released in Mumbai by Mukesh Ambani — India’s richest man and the head of the oil and gas conglomerate Reliance Industries, the largest private Indian company.
Reliance has close links to Dr Pachauri’s The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), and has received environmental awards from it, including one for its work on HIV/Aids in 2007. Mr Ambani has also been on the steering committee of TERI’s Centre for Research on Energy Security.
Gee, you think it might be Captain Planet who profits from all this and not Looten Plunder?
United Nations environment chief, Achim Steiner, penned an op-ed for a newspaper in Turkey that defended the IPCC’s false claim that the Himalayas will be ice-free in 25 years. He called it a typo.
As a master of the typo, let me just say that I have never made a typo that would have turned the world’s economy upside down and paved the way toward a One World government funded by taxing air.
Peter Sale, assistant director, Institute for Water, Environment and Health, United Nations University, in the liberal Toronto Globe and Mail: “Margaret Wente’s message — that the global warming movement has been done in by bad science, and that we can stop worrying about it — is not true.
The message from the IPCC and other scientists that we are going down a path toward dangerously changed climate is alive and well, despite minor errors by a few.
Some of the changed predictions being reported as mistakes (or deliberate falsehoods) are simply the usual process of science improving its estimates as more, or more precise, data are obtained. Ms. Wente’s reference to the science scandals are typical of the ‘let’s kill the messenger’ approach to unwanted news.”

Now he tells us that making mistakes is part of the scientific process. Are there any straws left that these bureaucrats-in-science -frocks haven’t grasped at?

Roger Simon at Pajamas Media: “Since it’s clear the Internet (notably the blogosphere) exposed the dubious science of anthropogenic global warming, thankfully before we all went broke (or more broke than we already are), it’s time to turn to our next assignment – following the money.”
Short path. UN IPCC clears the way for a UN tax on carbon dioxide.
Finally, from Science Daily: “The notion that scientists understand how changes in Earth’s orbit affect climate well enough for estimating long-term natural climate trends that underlie any anthropogenic climate change is challenged by findings just published.”
Maybe carbon dioxide changes the Earth’s orbit…
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Huffingtonpost (US): Going, Going, Gone: Endangered Species Being Dammed
8 February 2010
In a reversal of the animated movie Madagascar, all of the world's Kihansi spray toads suddenly found themselves living in the Bronx Zoo, far from their home at the base of a waterfall in Tanzania.
The tiny toads were no match for a dam that destroyed not only their life in the wild, but a beautiful waterfall too. "Maybe the story will have a happy ending," The New York Times wistfully mused.
The UN has declared 2010 the Year of Biodiversity as a wake up call on the state of the planet's endangered plants and animals. "The latest data from scientists indicates to us that the loss of species is occurring at anywhere between 100-1000 times faster than has traditionally been the case," says Achim Steiner, head of UNEP.
The number-one cause of species extinction is habitat loss. The number one habitat type with the highest loss of biodiversity is thought to be freshwater ecosystems.
The dam-building industry is probably not planning a big celebration for Biodiversity Year. In fact, if it was up to them, they might rename it "the Year of see-no-evil." Or maybe simply "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Year."
Although dams are one of the leading causes of aquatic species extinction, we don't even know exactly what has been lost. Most of the time, there is no marking of the passage of loss, no requirement on dam owners to account for species at risk after the dam is built.
In the past sixty years or so, we've dammed most of the world's major rivers, resulting in huge hydrological changes, and major disruptions to the web of life once supported by free-flowing waters.
Gone are the famed river dolphins of the Yangtze, thanks to Three Gorges Dam - the first human-caused extinction of a dolphin species. Most of the damned species are less charismatic than the Baiji dolphin, but no less important in the big web of life.
Tragically, many governments are planning big, destructive dams in biodiversity hotspots. Brazil's President Lula wants to build the world's third biggest dam in the Amazon.
He says the Belo Monte Dam won't proceed without an $800 million "mitigation fund" to compensate indigenous people living in the dam's way, and to address the project's environmental impacts.
But species on the edge can't use money, they need habitat. The Kihansi Spray Toad can tell you all about that; the millions spent have not brought back its water world.
Asia's Mekong is another species-rich ecosystem that is threatened by a wave of big dams (the species at risk include another dolphin, and many, many fish that provide the bulk of protein for the region's people).
The most remarkable animal that could fall to the walls of concrete now being built or planned by China, Laos, Burma and Vietnam is the giant Mekong Catfish, a grizzly-bear-sized creature that breaks all records for freshwater fish.
More than a thousand fish species live in the Mekong River system, a biodiversity second only to the Amazon. The river's fisheries support some 40 million people, and bring in $2 billion a year.
We can't do anything once a species is lost. But we -- the species with almost total power over this planet -- can most definitely do better at preserving our fellow species, and stop pushing others over the brink.
For freshwater species, that means letting rivers flow; restoring and preserving wetlands; ending the pollution of waterways, and preventing diversions that dry up lakes and rivers.
Everyone on our planet needs healthy rivers. It's time to get serious about protecting these lifelines, and just say no to destructive dams.
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Business Daily (Kenya): Kenya launches online marine information portal
9 February 2010
The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KEMFRI) has launched an online information sharing portal to improve management and protection of marine life and environment in the coastal region.
Dubbed the Kenya Coastal and Marine Clearinghouse and Information Sharing System, the portal will be used to provide data and information on the environment in the West Indian Ocean region.
The clearing house will acquire data from various sources and make it available on the internet and provide mechanisms for search by users, according its co-ordinator, Mr Harrison Ong’anda.
“We expect the tool to improve efficiency in data access, reduce duplication and increase gathering and supply of information from stakeholders,” he said.
“It will facilitate the identification of priority areas of action, raise awareness on key environmental issues and enhance the visibility of the country in its efforts to conserve marine environment,” Mr Ong’anda added.
The portal, he said, would also support environmental assessments necessary in the development of strategies and policy making concerning environmental management.
Seven institutions were involved in collection and correlation of data contained in the portal— the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA); Coast Development Authority (CDA); Fisheries Department; Kenya Forestry Research Institute, the World Conservation Society; the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) and KEMFRI which coordinated the exercise.
The information system is also a mapping tool that enables users to combine data from different live map sources useful in environmental studies.
During the launch at KEMFRI offices in Mombasa, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Fisheries Development, Mr Japhet Micheni, said issues such as resource depletion affecting fisheries, mangroves and coral reef pose environmental challenges that information contained in the portal would seek to address.
“Worrying trends in habitat degradation, some of which are linked to bad practices have been observed in our coastal areas though some may be linked to climate change,” the PS said in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Patrick Osare, the director of administration in the ministry.
By launching the portal, Kenya joins Madagascar as the second country to create the information centre.
Other regional countries expected to launch their portals and among which information would be shared include Mauritius, Comoros, South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique and Seychelles.
The system was developed by the secretariat of the Nairobi Convention of 2004 and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at the request of governments within the western Indian Ocean region, to enable them share information on the coastal marine life. It is funded by the Norwegian government and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
According to Mr Mwangi Theuri, of Division of Early Warning and Assessment at UNEP, the clearinghouse will support the implementation and monitoring of national and regional development strategies including those of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“This is a data shop from which institutions offering information it contains can earn income,” Mr Theuri added, however noting that there was need to keep the clearinghouse updated with current data and periodic reviews of information.
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Goallover (Blog): Fishing nets are a deadly threat to marine life, says UN
8 February 2010
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) says large-scale fishing operations are proving detrimental to the lives of the majority of dolphin, porpoise and whale species.
A recently released report says that the large nets used in commercial fishing operations are causing high death rates amongst 86% of the toothed whales species, a suborder of the cetaceans including dolphins, porpoises, and killer and sperm whales.
In addition to entanglement in fishing equipment, many species face forced changes in diet and a lack of food resulting from overfishing.
UNEP says other risks to the toothed whale populations include habitat degradation from dams, the withdrawal of water from lakes and rivers, noise from seismic explorations, military sonar pose and marine construction projects, all of which are also becoming increasingly dangerous for the marine mammals.
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Next (Timbuktu): International minorities group seeks cleaning of Ogoni land
9 February 2010
Aninternational organization for minorities, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) has counseled the new oil operator likely to take over the operations of Anglo/Dutch oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), in Ogoniland to adequately dialogue with the people of the area before they commence operations.
The group is also insisting that Shell be made to conduct a proper clean up of the land in the area before leaving.
The organisation’s Programme Coordinator, Maggie Murphy, who met with reporters in Port Harcourt at the weekend, said SPDC had undermined its position in the area by not living up to internationally acceptable standards.
Shell was forced to suspend its operations in Ogoniland in 1993, following a communal uprising which eventually led to death of the late environmental rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, on November 10, 1995 by the regime of late Sani Abacha.
The Ogoni people, under their umbrella of the Movement for the Support of Ogoni People (MOSOP), have insisted that they would not welcome the return of Shell to their land and are, in addition, demanding a thorough clean up of the highly polluted lands.
The federal government recently invited the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), to take up the task of cleaning up the area. It started with an on-going assessment and consultation with the Ogoni for the clean-up of 350 impacted sites in four Ogoni local government areas of Khana, Tai, Gokana and Eleme.
Ms Murphy, who came to Nigeria from Netherlands last week and moved round Ogoniland to assess the situation, predicted a promising future for the people.
Mr Saro-wiwa was a Vice Chairman of UNPO, before his death while the current MOSOP President, Ledum Mitee, is the organisation’s president-elect.
“Ogoni people are the only members of the organisation in Nigeria,” Ms Murphy said. “We acknowledge the enthusiasm of youths of the area to better their lives and this must be encouraged. MOSOP should be consulted and be made an integral part of the processes, to ensure peace in Ogoniland and other parts of the Niger Delta.
“MOSOP wants another oil company, which should be open in dialoguing with the people. Engaging the people is very important.
The local, state and federal governments must be committed to developing the Niger Delta. People of the communities must also be part of the processes,”Murphy said.
Mr Mitee said the tremendous success made by MOSOP in garnering international exposure was made possible through its partnership with UNPO.
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Voxbikol (US): UNEP Spearheads Regional Conference for Librarians
8 February 2010
The never-ending quest for advancement through digital modernization spreads even through the nooks and corners of traditional libraries.
Literacy innovations became an aim, not just for educators but also for librarians.
They challenge themselves to make this comprehension available in every information alley. The digital distribution of information became a must ---- and libraries are not spared from this.
In order to be at par with this modernization, librarians should also be equipped with corresponding know-how and expertise in order to implement these changes properly.
In response, the University of Northeastern Philippines (UNEP), is all set to conduct a 2-day regional seminar-workshop on February 18 and 19 at UNEP Mini theater.
Entitled "Building Literate Communities through Books and Libraries", the conference aims to generate awareness on the significance of information literacy among students and teachers. It also intends to define the role of libraries in the promotion of information literacy.
UNEP President Atty. Remelisa Alfelor-Moraleda said that the conference will shed a new light on the true role of librarians as providers of easy-access information.
"One of the objectives of this conference is to provide our intended recipients, particularly our librarians with the concept of information literacy. Their primary role as front liners is also vital for the dissemination of correct and factual data and information."
Libraries served as a "store room" of information and publications, making it available for every user who wants to learn and research facts and information. Yet as time passed by, librarian's role became more challenging.
Amidst the digital revolution where information is just a click away, the increasing herd of library-users has maintained its steady pace.
For one, a computer cannot assist a student who simply finds it difficult to search the internet site, find the right web address and browse the net, but a librarian can guide you in searching what you need thru the reference books which she carefully labeled and catalogued.
UNEP Executive Vice President and the university's Vice President for Finance, Ms. Deli Aldelor-Tibi, said that the role of librarians is not an easy task.
"The amazing task of librarians might have been neglected by many, the reason why we need to reinforce their vital role in our society. We hope that through this seminar, we will also be able to see and appreciate what they have done and what they have preciously contributed to help mold the minds of our students."
Target participants for the regional confab are teachers, librarians and education students. Elvira B. Lapuz and Zarah Grace C. Gagatiga, both from the University of the Philippines (UP), were invited as resource speakers for the conference.
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