Wednesday, August 20, 2008

UN to Help Pacific Island States Fight Climate Change

NEW YORK, New York, August 19, 2008
Environmental News Service (ENS)

Coconut palms on the island of Niue in the South Pacific
(Photo by Ekrem Inozu)
(ENS) - The United Nations and Samoa plan to establish an Inter-Agency Climate Change Centre to help coordinate support to Pacific Island countries to combat the impact of global warming in their region.

Given the direct impact of climate change on vulnerable countries in the region, the new agency will focus its support on the mitigation, adaptation and reduction of the risk of disaster facing the Islands, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said today in a message to the Pacific Islands Forum Summit meeting, held in Alofi, Niue.

The main theme of this year's summit is climate change, as the effect of global warming is a threat to food security and safety of island communities.

Coconut palms on the island of Niue in the South Pacific (Photo by Ekrem Inozu) Many Pacific Island countries are already experiencing sea level rise as a consequence of climate change.
Several UN agencies already collaborate with the Pacific Islands Forum, assisting on issues from farming and fisheries to urbanization.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Coastal Dead Zones Are Growing

Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008 By UNMESH KHER
From Time, Coastal Dead Zones Are Growing

Over the past two or three decades, scientists have noticed with growing alarm that vast stretches of coastal waters are turning into dead zones — patches of seabed so depleted of oxygen that few creatures, if any, can survive there. In 2004, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) took stock of the phenomenon — which is caused in large part by agricultural runoff — and pronounced it one of the biggest environmental problems of the 21st century. Two years later it noted that the number of identified dead zones, some of which cover thousands of square miles, had climbed from 150 to 200.
Dead zones are created when excess nitrogen and other pollutants in ocean water promote large blooms of algae and phytoplankton on the surface. The nitrogen gets there in a couple of ways: through river water filled with fertilizer from farm runoff and from air polluted with tailpipe and smokestack emissions. When the algae die and sink to the ocean floor, bacteria there break them down, while consuming pretty much all of the available oxygen in the water. The bacteria also proliferate wildly, taking over the ecosystem and exacerbating the oxygen depletion.

The best way to prevent this from happening would be to reduce the amount of nitrogen introduced into the ocean. The technology already exists to do that. If, for example, farmers in the upper part of the U.S. were given a financial incentive to plant crops like winter wheat, rather than leaving their fields fallow after the fall harvest, says marine ecologist Robert Howarth of Cornell University, much of the nitrogenous fertilizer that would normally get washed into waterways by spring thaws could instead be absorbed into winter grain crops. Measures of this sort, if uniformly implemented, could all but eliminate the Gulf of Mexico's famously ballooning dead zone.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Emerging Careers: Sustainability Consulting

Triple Pundit
August 13, 2008 By Frank Marquardt

Energy costs and climate change are two key drivers of many companies looking for green solutions. It’s not surprising then that specialized (as opposed to general management) consulting firms have also put together practices. IBM, for example, consults on greening data centers. CH2M Hill and Arup have practices looking at greening building, reducing the energy use and carbon footprints of their clients.

In some cases, these firms offer sustainability as a component of risk management. Where it’s far more exciting and innovative, of course, is when it looks at a wholesale transformation of business strategy. Over the last 20 months A.T. Kearney, for example, has created a sustainability practice but also integrated sustainability thinking into all its other practices. Kearney has also created a far-reaching internal program to go carbon neutral by 2010—an ambitious goal, considering how much consultants travel, and one that might have a correspondingly positive affect on work/life balance in an industry where work/life balance is notoriously out of whack (despite the good efforts of many firms to improve it).