Education, the key to save the climate?
Germany's Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards scholarships to young people from emerging and developing nations. They spend time in Germany working with organizations or studying at universities, gaining expertise on how to improve climate protection in their home countries. GLOBAL IDEAS met up with one of these scholarship holders: Kristy Pena Munoz, an environmental engineer from Mexico. She's an expert on biogas extracted from sewage sludge.
DateDecember 29, 2010
TagsAlexander von Humboldt Foundation, biomass, climate treaty, education, Germany, humboldt, Mexico
Warm Planet, Cold Winter
If you haven't noticed, winter has been especially harsh this year. Much of Northern Europe is in a deep freeze, and any passengers flying through London, Frankfurt or Paris know all too well what this winter has done to travel plans. The U.S. and Canada have been slammed with major snow storms that have left people stranded and desperate during the holiday season. And it's only December…
Some people are wondering: if the planet is getting warmer, why is it so cold? The New York Times has an interesting op-ed article about the reasons behind this trend. The author, Judah Cohen, says increased snow cover in Siberia actually has a major impact on our climate–but he believes scientists have ignored the region's role in warming and cooling earth.
Cohen says snow cover in Siberia has changed jet stream patterns, pushing more air north and south rather than just east and west. That's why Northern Europe and the U.S. have seen such extreme winter weather in recent years. What do you think? Is Cohen's theory a good explanation?
DateDecember 28, 2010
Tagsclimate, cold, Europe, Judah Cohen, New York Times, planet, Siberia, snow, U.S., weather, winter
Ancient Climate History
Researchers are drilling under the Dead Sea in Israel–almost 800 meters below sea level, to be exact. Why? Scientists are collecting rock samples far underneath the water level because they believe those sediments will be extremely well-preserved, and they could reveal some important clues about earth's history.
The International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) includes a team of researchers from around the world, and they think the rocks they find under the Dead Sea will paint a much clearer picture of climate change history in the area around Bethlehem. So far, the workers have already drilled through around half a million years worth of sedimentary rock, which has helped them learn more about earthquake activity in the region.
And what researchers learn in Israel could help them understand more about climate change across the planet. One scientist who's taking part in the drilling mission said the group's findings will have a major impact on science and environment studies, and they could tell us a lot about natural resources in the area.
DateDecember 27, 2010
TagsBethlehem, change, climate, Dead Sea, earthquake, history, ICDP, Israel, planet, researchers, rock, scientists, sediment
Green Energy Park
It looks like the UK is set to get its first ever 'green energy park' in the near future. Developers have struck a deal to create a huge plant that will produce energy and recycle large amounts of waste. Different types of trash will be separated and turned into things like glass, building blocks and even some metals.
A Malaysian manufacturing group called KNM will operating the park, and developers plan to open a whole network of energy parks around the UK. The idea is to phase out the concept of landfills and introduce a green-friendly way to manage waste.
It could also produce energy for more than 50,000 homes–all while releasing little to no emissions. Plus, it's expected to be a boost to the local economy because the plant will create a lot of new jobs.
DateDecember 22, 2010
Wild relatives – useful friends in a changing climate?
The mention of “wild relatives” around this time of year is something that would normally make me think about hibernating rapidly – or at least stocking up with extra supplies – before the hordes of cousins arrive looking for Christmas dinner. But when Cary Fowler of the Global Crop Diversity Trust talks about “wild relatives”, he’s talking about relations that could actually help to secure the world’s food supply in coming decades, when it’s endangered by a changing climate. He’s referring to the wild relatives of our food crops, like rice, wheat, maize or potatoes. Today’s crops are domesticated varieties, bred to provide a maximum yield under particular conditions.
But with climate change advancing rapidly, the experts fear that these modern versions will not be hardy or versatile enough to provide the increased food we’ll need to feed a population of more than 9 billion people by 2050. (The FAO says we’ll need around 70% higher agricultural productivity by then). Even a one degree rise in temperature could reduce the rice harvest by 10% for example. Since the temperature is likely to be a good bit more than that, (I am British, expect some understatement) we need to do something fast to make sure we can feed the world.
The Global Crop Diversity Trust believes the answer lies in making use of the genetic variety contained in wild crops – the ancestors of today’s food crops. They’re said to be a lot tougher than our new-fangled varieties. And there’s a wild rice variety, for instance, that actually flowers at night. So if you bred that characteristic into one of our commercial varieties, it could cope with warmer temperatures. Of course you have to catch the wild relatives first.
So in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, and 50 million US$ of funding from the government of Norway, the Trust has launched a campaign to collect and utilise these wild plants. Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be shown around the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, in the High Arctic, where seeds are being stored to be made available if they should be needed in the future, for instance after some huge natural disaster – or in the event of major changes to the climate.
The trouble is, only a very small fraction of the seeds there and in other gene banks around the world are from the tough wild plants. So these have to be found, collected and conserved, and that’s what this new initiative will be doing. It’s a great idea. But it is slightly worrying that Fowler says he HOPES he and his partners will be in time. It takes 7 to 10 years to breed a new crop variety, and within just 50 years on, he says agriculture will be facing climates it has never experienced before. He says climate change is the biggest challenge agriculture has faced in the last 12,000 years. Good luck guys, and “bring on the relis”.
Author: IRENE QUAILE
DateDecember 21, 2010