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Sonia Phalnikar | ClimateChamps

Climate champ – ‘Climate change fight will dictate the future’

Mourad Farahat is just 16. But he’s already involved in a recycling project in Cairo

Do you feel responsible for our future? Are you tired of waiting for a breakthrough at climate conferences? If you are already taking action yourself, you are our ClimateChamp and we want to get to know you! Answer our questionnaire to become a part of our new blog series, take your chance to be nominated as a Climate Champ.  This time we feature Mourad Farahat from Cairo.

What is your name? How old are you? And where do you live?

My name is Mourad Farahat, I am 16 and I live in the Cairo suburb of El Tagamoa El Khames.

How does climate change affect your everyday life in your community?  

Climate change has had several adverse effects on the Egyptian community, and could lead to damage beyond repair. For example, it has caused an ever-increasing amount of problems in the food sector, as food production is not able to keep up with the increase in the Egyptian population. The effects are amplified by the incessant erosion of the Nile Delta. As seawater levels rise, the once fertile Nile Delta begins to absorb saltwater instead of freshwater, making it infertile. This has led to rising food and water prices, which widens the gap between rich and the poor.

What prompted you to get involved in fighting climate change? 

There was no specific trigger which encouraged me to start fighting climate change. Rather,  it was the fact that the fight against climate change has given me the opportunity of a lifetime – to be part of a cause which will dictate the future.

How exactly do you fight climate change? 

I fight climate change in any legal way I can. I have joined an organization called youthinkgreen, which has given me a perspective on the fight against climate change on a global scale. And I am a  part of a local grassroots division of youthinkgreen in Egypt which promotes green action, most notably a recycling project which we have successfully initiated in our school and are hoping to expand. It may not seem like much, but it is a start nonetheless.

What do you have to say to climate change deniers? 

There is ample evidence which proves beyond reasonable doubt that climate change is not only real, but that it has already started taking a toll on our planet. Now is not the time for petty squabbles about the existence of climate change; it is time for us to ask ourselves how we, as the human race, can overcome this global epidemic.

Worst case scenario: What do you think your city will look like 10 years from now if no action is taken to fight climate change? 

The city of Cairo will be dirtier, louder, more polluted and consequently its inhabitants will be more prone to pollution-induced illnesses, gridlocks and as a result will consume more energy.  The number of slums will continue to grow in correlation with the population and the living standards of each Egyptian. People will be less happy with their quality of life, as food and utility prices will continue to rise. It is a very bleak outlook, and a slightly frightening one for that matter.

Best case scenario: What do you think your city will look like 10 years from now, if more and more action is taken to fight climate change? 

People will have a completely different outlook on life. Many people will have found a cause worthy of their support, which would completely alter their outlook on life. In other words, the city and its inhabitants will respond to the actions taken against climate change. This could translate into more job opportunities in the field of sustainable technologies, a greener Cairo and an increase in foreign investment in the Egyptian “green” market, which would bolster the economy.

Briefly, what do you want your government  to do as far as climate change is concerned? 

I am of the opinion that the government should re-evaluate its expenditures and prioritize investment in green technology which offers a sustainable solution to Egypt’s pressing problems. Also, the government should begin taking action against rising sea levels in the Nile Delta, which threatens to displace seven million people and cause massive food shortages.

How can interested people take part in your project? 

Our project’s aim is to encourage people around the world to live sustainably. Therefore, I believe that anyone who is interested in my project should independently develop a sustainable framework suitable for his/her local community, and seek support for its application. By doing so he/she would be advocating a sustainable lifestyle and making it available to the people who require it, which is what we aim to do at youthinkgreen (


August 30, 2013



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Sonia Phalnikar | Ideas

Climate change linked to more violence

Photo credit: CC BY 2.0: Santiago Medem/flickr: small changes in average temperatures or rainfall can cause people to become more aggressive and resort to violence. That’s what a new study published in Science by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley claims. The researchers say there’s a “substantial” correlation between climate and conflict, including domestic and ethnic violence.

Their examples include an increase in domestic violence in India during recent droughts, and a spike in assaults, rapes and murders during heatwaves in the US. The researchers also say that with the current projected levels of climate change by 2050, the world is likely to be a more violent place. They estimate that frequency of violence between individual people could rise by 8 to 16 percent and conflicts between groups by as much as 28 to 56 percent.

Marshall Burke, from the University of California, Berkeley, said: “This is a relationship we observe across time and across all major continents around the world. The relationship we find between these climate variables and conflict outcomes are often very large.”

The researchers looked at 60 studies from around the world with data spanning hundreds of years. Some of the individual studies they examined looked, for instance, at whether people blow their horns more with rising temperatures or whether players at a baseball game are likely to play rougher. But they also studied rapes and murders, violence between groups such as conflicts between Hindus and Muslims in India, land conflicts in Brazil and civil wars in Africa.

The authors said that in all of the studies of modern societies they looked at, higher temperatures showed a correlation with rising rates of violence. Though the researchers say they do not want to attribute any single event to climate in particular, they say economic and even psychological reasons – with some studies suggesting that heat causes people to be prone to aggression – could be at play.

“One of the main mechanisms that seems to be at play is changes in economic conditions. We know that climate affects economic conditions around the world, particularly agrarian parts of the world,“ Burke said. “There is lots of evidence that changes in economic conditions affect people’s decisions about whether or not to join a rebellion, for example.”

It’s not the first time that a warming climate has been linked to climate. The United Nations has warned that the growing number of climate refugees displaced by extreme weather could lead to conflict. The UN estimates that between 150 to 200 million people will be forced to flee climate changes by 2050.


August 3, 2013



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Sonia Phalnikar | Ideas

Mafia launders dirty money in clean energy

Wind farms are attracting much attention from the Italian mafia (Photo credit: CC BY 2.0: Peter Rood)

We recently reported on corruption in the climate change industry. Now, a new report by the European Union’s police authority, Europol, says the Italian mafia is increasingly zooming in on clean energy projects such as wind farms in Italy as a way of laundering their illegal money.

The report say that green schemes in Italy “offer attractive opportunities to benefit from generous EU grant and tax subsidies.”

Though Italy is struggling with recession and unemployment, the renewables industry in the country is booming. Reports suggest the Italian government, helped by EU funds to promote clean energy, has provided more than $75 billion to producers of wind and solar energy over the past six years, leading to surging revenues.

That boom, the Europol report says, as well as the legal business structures that the renewable projects offer make the industry attractive to the mafia.

“The Italian mafia is investing more and more in renewable energy, especially in wind farms, to profit from generous European grants paid for by member states which allow them to mix dirty money with legitimate economic activities,” the report said.

In April this year, Italy made its biggest confiscation of mafia assets in history, including dozens of alternative energy companies worth a total of over $1.6 billion, according to news agency Reuters.

The owner Vito Nicastri, a 57-year-old businessman , once dubbed the “Lord of the Wind” because of his vast wind farm holdings, invested money made from extortion, drug sales, and other illicit activities for a heavyweight in Sicily’s Cosa Nostra crime group.


July 7, 2013



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Gianna Gruen | Ideas

Copying nature for better flood protection

The Elephant foot plant serves among others as a prototype for flood protection (Photo credit: CC BY 2.0: reibai/

What do a giraffe, an Elephant foot plant and a European Water Vole have in common? What sounds like the beginning of a joke is actually the brainchild of a British PhD student who tried to find innovative ideas for cities facing stormwater.

Due to climate change, such extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. So if nature becomes destructive, why not beat it with its own weapons? That’s what designer Richard MacCowan may have thought  – and looked for solutions in nature. He came up with a design proposal for an industral park in flood-prone areas that can “capture, store and distribute excess volumes of stormwater,” Treehugger writes.

Copying nature is known as biomimicry. The most famous example is the lotus effect for protecting surfaces from dirt. Whether this biomimicry approach is feasible or as costly as the protection plans for NYC has yet to be proven.


June 16, 2013



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Klaus Esterluß | Ideas

Quitting fossil fuel could be the hardest plan ever

Photo Credit: CC BY 2.0, Trostle/

Photo Credit: CC BY 2.0, Trostle/

Quitting to smoke cigarettes is hard. At least for a few days you won’t be able to think about something else then the lovely features of a cigarette: it makes you calm, it helps you start a conversation (“Got a lighter for me?”), it’s perfect with a good coffee. Wrong. After a while you will enjoy your coffee as well as before, you recognize that you are able to talk to strangers without asking for fire or you will be able to sit and relax without a smoke.

A new study from the George Washington University took that experience and compared it to our use of fossil fuel. And it says that it’s basically the same.

How do you consume fossil fuel? Think about it for a moment. Do you see any analogy? Well, yes, there might be comprehensible parallels. But it’s more like a metaphor.

Of course, we will not be able to stop using fossil fuel, or carbon compounds, right away. They are almost everywhere around us. We use them in our daily routines, sometimes without being aware of it. Think about the plastic in your toothbrushes or salat bowles or about the fuel in your car. It’s bad and you know it, but there’s no way out, right? It’s the same about smokers. Besides that smoking has a lot of socio-cultural reasons, most smokers know about the dangers of cigarettes. But a lot of them won’t stop anyway. They are “unhappy addicts”, both of them, smokers and carbon compound users. And if it’s hard to stop smoking, it’s harder to stop using fossil fuels.

But when smokers have the opportunity to just quit and feel sick for a short period of time, or look for a “healthier alternative,” like … bubble gum or cookies, the alternatives of fussil fuel junkie are still rare or harder to achieve.

The society is addicted entirely to energy, the services and convenience that fossil fuels provide. But maybe it’s possible to learn something from the way to deal with other bad habits. If we really want it, we can make it? Tell us your opinion!


June 2, 2013



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