TEN ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTS

May 2022

1.   Protecting the rights of indigenous people

Forest Declaration Assessment, Sink or swim: How Indigenous and community lands can make or break nationally determined contributions (March 2022).  bit.ly/3DAeDCq

See also, Arthur Neslen, “Protect Indigenous people’s rights or Paris climate goals will fail, says report:  Rainforests looked after by communities absorb twice as much carbon as other lands,” The Guardian ( 31 March 2022). bit.ly/35FxiAw

“Paris climate agreement goals will fail unless the rights of Indigenous people who protect rainforests are honoured, according to a new report.

Forest lands stewarded by Indigenous people and communities in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru sequester about twice as much carbon as other lands, according to the analysis.

To meet national climate goals – known as NDCs – without protecting this land would require draconian and abrupt lifestyle changes in forested countries.

Peru would have to take all vehicles off the roads to compensate for losing just half of the carbon sinks protected by Indigenous and community-held forests, says the study by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Climate Focus. Brazil and Colombia would have to retire 80% of their vehicles to compensate for the increase in net emissions.”

2.   Disappearing New Zealand glaciers 

NIWA, Victoria University of Wellington, and Department of Conservation, The annual end-of-summer snowline survey of more than 50 South Island glaciers has revealed continued loss of snow and ice (28 March 2022). bit.ly/3JhD4Gl

See also, Eva Corlett, “Many of New Zealand’s glaciers could disappear in a decade, scientists warn:  Glaciers becoming ‘smaller and more skeletal’, annual end-of-summer survey of the snowline finds,” The Guardian (31 March 2022). bit.ly/3uUoiQo

New Zealand’s glaciers are becoming “smaller and more skeletal” due to the effects of climate change and scientists predict many could disappear within a decade.

An annual end-of-summer survey that records the snowline of more than 50 South Island glaciers has revealed continued loss of snow and ice.

Every year, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa), the Victoria University of Wellington and the conservation department gather thousands of aerial photographs of the glaciers to measure the altitude of the snowline and see how much of the previous winter’s snow has remained covering each glacier.

3.  Decline of pollinators and threat to global food supplies

James T. Murphy, Tom D. Breeze, Bryony Willcox, Saorla Kavanagh, and Jane Stout, “Globilisation and pollinators: Pollinator declines are an economic threat to global food systems (29 March 2022).  bit.ly/3vQ8WwR

See also, Caroline O’Doherty, “Loss of bees to pollinate crops will affect food global supplies and cost billions of euro, Irish study warns,” Irish Independent (30 March 2022). bit.ly/3Dzbwe0

“Rich nations must move to protect bees and other pollinators in poor countries to safeguard global food supply and avoid spiralling import costs, a joint Irish-British study says.

Climate change, natural disasters and loose pesticide regulation threaten bees and other pollinating insects in countries relied on for many food crops, scientists say.

They say national pollinator plans are important to prevent loss of bees domestically in rich countries, but poorer producer countries often lack the resources to implement these.

So richer nations must help or risk reductions in food supplies and ingredient shortages that could cost them billions of euro in economic disruption, they say.”

4.  Exclusion of low-income communities from planning

Environmental Justice in Ireland: New research and resources by DCU and Community Law & Mediation (24 March 24 2022). bit.ly/39p6Ah0

See also, Caroline O’Doherty, “Low income communities not getting fair say in environmental and planning decisions,” Irish Independent (24 March 2022). bit.ly/3j1xop9

LOW-INCOME communities feel excluded from environmental decisions with little input into energy policy or the planning of housing, public transport, essential services and green spaces.

They are also disproportionately affected by high traffic levels, poor air quality, pollution related illness, flooding, dumping and development that favours tourists, students and other groups who pass through rather than stay to form permanent neighbourhoods.

These are the some of the findings of a study that calls for much greater consideration of the impacts of planning and environmental policies on marginalised areas and groups.

The research was carried by the Centre for Climate and Society at Dublin City University (DCU) for the Centre for Environmental Justice run by the Community Law & Mediation charity.

5.  IPCC latest global warning

UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, Sixth Assessment Report Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change bit.ly/3JcIXEu

Kevin O’Sullivan, “Climate change report: ‘It’s now or never if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees,’” The Irish Times bit.ly/3u9gfjO via IrishTimes

“Without immediate and deep carbon emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees “is beyond reach”, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns in its latest report.

There are options in all sectors to at least halve emissions by 2030, the IPCC concludes, but limiting global warming “will require major transitions in the energy sector… a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels – such as hydrogen”.

Compiled by leading climate scientists, economists and social scientists, the report underlines the need for immediate action: “The next few years are critical. In the scenarios we assessed, limiting warming to around 1.5 degrees requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43 per cent by 2030; at the same time, methane would also need to be reduced by about a third.”

Even if this is achieved “it is almost inevitable that we will temporarily exceed this temperature threshold [a key Paris Agreement target] but could return to below it by the end of the century”.

Previous IPCC reports have highlighted that exceeding 1.5 degrees risks unleashing a far more severe climate change effects on people, wildlife and ecosystems.”

6.  Rising global methane emissions

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Increase in atmospheric methane set another record during 2021 (7 April 2022).  bit.ly/3v8DpWH

“For the second year in a row, NOAA scientists observed a record annual increase in atmospheric levels of methane, a powerful, heat-trapping greenhouse gas that’s the second biggest contributor to human-caused global warming after carbon dioxide.

NOAA’s preliminary analysis showed the annual increase in atmospheric methane during 2021 was 17 parts per billion (ppb), the largest annual increase recorded since systematic measurements began in 1983. The increase during 2020 was 15.3 ppb. Atmospheric methane levels averaged 1,895.7 ppb during 2021, or around 162% greater than pre-industrial levels. From NOAA’s observations, scientists estimate global methane emissions in 2021 are 15% higher than the 1984-2006 period.”

7.   The US and Europe are responsible for the majority of global ecological damage caused by the overuse of natural resources

Jason Hickel, Daniel W. O’Neill, Andrew L. Fanning, and Huzaifa Zoomkawala, “National responsibility for ecological breakdown: a fair-shares assessment of resource use, 1970–2017,” The Lancet Planetary Health (April 2022). bit.ly/3DZQTIr

Arthur Neslen, “US and Europe behind majority of global ecological damage, says study,” The Guardian (6 April 2022) bit.ly/3O2KuRi

“The US and Europe are responsible for the majority of global ecological damage caused by the overuse of natural resources, according to a groundbreaking study.

The paper is the first to analyse and assign responsibility for the ecological damage caused by 160 countries over the last half century.

It finds that the US is the biggest culprit, accounting for 27% of the world’s excess material use, followed by the EU (25%), which included the UK during the analysis period. Other rich countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan and Saudi Arabia were collectively responsible for 22%.

While China overshot its sustainability limit to claim 15% of resource overuse, the poorer countries of the global south were en masse responsible for just 8%, the analysis found…”

“Hickel and the paper’s other authors distributed fair shares of globally sustainable levels of resource use to countries based on population size. They then subtracted these shares from the countries’ actual resource use to determine ecological overshoots in the 1970–2017 period.”

8.  Reducing car use in European cities

Paula Kuss and Kimberly A. Nicholas, A dozen effective interventions to reduce car use in European cities: Lessons learned from a meta-analysis and Transition Management, Case Studies on Transport Policy (10 February 2022).  bit.ly/3vrpESW

From screening nearly 800 peer-reviewed studies and case studies, including in-depth analysis of 24 documents that met quality criteria and quantitatively estimated car use reduction, we identify 12 intervention types combining different measures and policy instruments that were effective in reducing car use in European cities. Most interventions were led by local government, planned and decided in collaboration with different urban stakeholders.

See, also, Kimberly Nicholas and Paula Kuss, “What are the most effective ways to get cars out of cities?  Using real-world data, we rank the most successful measures European cities have introduced,” The Guardian (16 April 2022).  bit.ly/3JPEpnX

“To improve health outcomes, meet climate targets and create more liveable cities, reducing car use should be an urgent priority. Yet many governments in the US and Europe continue to heavily subsidise driving via a combination of incentives such as subsidies for fossil fuel production, tax allowances for commuting by car, and incentives for company cars that promote driving over other means of transport. Essentially, such measures pay polluters while imposing the social costs on wider society.”

9.  Warming seas and Atlantic hurricanes

Peter Pfleiderer, Shruti Nath and Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, “Extreme Atlantic hurricane seasons made twice as
likely by ocean warming,” Weather and Climate Dynamics bit.ly/3rwtQzV

See, also, Oliver Milman, “Extreme Atlantic hurricane seasons now twice as likely as in 1980s,” The Guardian (13 April 2022). bit.ly/3uNlgyK.

“Extremely active Atlantic hurricane seasons are now twice as likely as they were in the 1980s due to global heating, according to new research that warns the climate crisis is supersizing storms that threaten life and property in coastal areas.

Climate breakdown has contributed to a “decisive increase” in intense hurricane activity since 1982, the study states. Researchers in Germany and Switzerland who undertook the analysis wrote that the growing hyperactivity of storms could be “robustly ascribed” to the rising temperature of the oceans.

The warming of the sea surface has “contributed significantly to more extreme tropical cyclone seasons and thereby to the fatalities, destruction and trillion-dollar losses that these cyclones have caused over the last four decades”,..”

10. Safety issues for CO2 pipelines

Richard B. Kuprewicz, Accufacts’ Perspectives on the State of Federal Carbon Dioxide Transmission Pipeline Safety Regulations as it Relates to Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration within the U.S..   Prepared for the Pipeline Safety Trust   bit.ly/3Md66Zj

See, also, EmilyPontecorvo, “CO2 pipelines are coming. A pipeline safety expert says we’re not ready,” Grist (18 April 2022).  bit.ly/3jNBa5Z

“Researchers assert that capturing carbon dioxide from industrial facilities and sucking CO2 directly from the air will be essential tools to tackle climate change. In order to deliver that CO2 to sites where it can be permanently sequestered underground, they estimate the U.S. could need between 30,000 and 65,000 miles of pipeline.

CO2 is heavier than air, and a plume of CO2 can travel for miles, depending on wind and terrain, and settle into low-lying areas. The report warns that such an event [releases into environment] would be difficult for people in the vicinity and first responders to detect, since CO2 is colorless, odorless, and nonflammable.”

 

EDITORS NOTE (August 2021) re revision to Reports section

In August 2021, we revised the Reports section of the magazine.   In the past we used the Reports section to provide digests of generally long, complex and usually technical discussions of environmental issues or developments.  The authors of these reports were typically environmental agencies, non-government organizations (NGOs), or academics.  The intent was to make these reports more accessible to a wide, general audience so readers could get a sense of what the reports covered and what they concluded. Readers then could connect to the link for the reports and delve further into the details and findings.

Over the past dozen years publications of technical reports have included executive summaries, often written in simpler language than the reports themselves.  At the same time there has been a rapid growth in environmental studies across the globe and just finding relevant or interesting reports through the internet is a challenge.

So we have converted the Reports section to a list of ten of the most interesting, long form examples of writing on key environmental issues and developments.  We will include the information necessary to find the writing — authors, title and link to publication — and we will add a short subheading to provide more clues about what is covered in the writing, much like a subheading expands on the headline for a newspaper article.  We interpret the term “reports” liberally to include almost any format that provides us with data, information, and opinion on environmental matters.  For instance, in the first of these new reports, we included a website, The Geography of Future Water Challenges, derived from a written report by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency with the same name and found at bit.ly/3fgSK0n

On one level this list of reports will do for long-form writing what our News section does for newspaper articles.

With the explosion of information across the internet, just finding what’s out there can be difficult.  We hope this new version of the Reports is helpful.

As with the other material in the irish environment magazine, the focus is on environmental matters on the island of Ireland, and that necessarily requires coverage of developments in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.  We will also continue to include material from across the globe as developments everywhere can inform developments anywhere.

 

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