• US EPA scraps Obama-era plan limiting coal emissions
• Bihar bans tree-felling
• Ozone pollution in Delhi worse this summer than last: CSE
• Among the world’s worst polluters, ASEAN vows to tackle ocean waste
• Device to trap ocean plastic waste relaunches
• Indian temple helps nurture ‘extinct’ turtle back to life
• Joint effort to conserve wildlife at Bandipur
• Himalayan glaciers are melting twice as fast since 2000: study
• Climate change affects major crops in India: Study
• World Population Prospects Report
• Four from India in top 20 water vulnerable megacities
US EPA scraps Obama-era plan limiting coal emissions
The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new guidelines dilute the Barack Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP) to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from thermal power generators. American states will now get to set their own guidelines to keep in check emission from coal-fired power plants, according to the new Affordable Clean Energy rule. Existing coal-powered plants can now continue to operate as they were; they would not be forced to meet the regulations, the CNN reported on June 19, 2019.
The US has been historically the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases that have led to climate change and still continues to be the second biggest emitter.
The CPP, that forced companies to switch to greener power sources, was opposed by a section for being restrictive — in line with President Donald Trump’s much-publicized skepticism about global warming and climate change.
Unlike the Clean Power Plan, ACE adheres to the Clean Air Act and gives states the regulatory certainty they need to continue to reduce emissions and provide a dependable, diverse supply of electricity that all Americans can afford.
ACE would outpace CPP. The CPP aimed to cut power sector emissions by 30 percent below the 2005 levels by 2030. ACE boasts of being able to reduce CO2 emissions “by as much as 35 percent below 2005 levels”.
Bihar bans tree-felling
The Government of Bihar recently banned the felling of trees, citing increasing pollution as well as a fatal heatwave. Trees on private land, however, can be felled in the absence of a tree-protection Act in Bihar.
The current order was passed under the Forest Conservation Act. All permissions granted to cut trees for development works have become null and void.
The order has cited increasing pollution in Patna, Gaya, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and other cities in the state. Another reason was the severe heatwave, which killed 90 people in Gaya, Aurangabad and Nawada districts besides rendering many others sick. The government’s decision could have been a reaction to the indiscriminate felling of big, old trees in Capital Patna during the last few years for the construction of roads and buildings.
Anybody who would now want to remove a tree for any development project would have to translocate it. Engineers have been asked not to cut trees while building or expanding roads. The forest department has also expressed its displeasure overfilling the roots of trees with concrete on roads in various towns.
Ozone pollution in Delhi worse this summer than last: CSE
People in Delhi faced more days with average ozone levels spiking over the national air quality limits in 2019 than last year, according to an analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). It is due to intense heatwaves this summer.
The national capital witnessed 122 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/cu m), of ozone pollution — which is 1.22 times higher than the eight-hour average standard. During 2018, it had gone up to 106 ug/cu m which is 1.1 times higher than the standard, the analysis showed. The eight-hour average standard for ozone exposure is 100 ug/cu m. Ozone — along with particulate matter — remained the dominant pollutant of the day for 28 days between April 1 and June 5. In comparison, the pollutant was the highest for 17 days in 2018.
This is a matter of serious concern as ozone is a highly reactive gas and can have an immediate adverse effect on those suffering from asthma and respiratory conditions.
Ozone is not directly emitted from any source. It gets formed when emissions from vehicles, industry or power plants — nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds — react in the air under the influence of sunlight and temperature.
To curb this, governments must –
• Keep real-world emissions from vehicles low and phase in electric mobility
• Scale up – massively — convenient, affordable and reliable public transport systems
• Initiate more pedestrian- and cycling-friendly, compact and accessible development
• Introduce city-wide parking management and pricing and low emissions zones to restrain the use of personal vehicles
• Aggressively control industrial emissions
Among the world’s worst polluters, ASEAN vows to tackle ocean waste
With Southeast Asia awash in rubbish, from plastic-choked whales to trash-clogged canals, leaders are planning to push through a deal to fight maritime debris at a regional meeting this weekend.
Just five Asian countries — China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand — dump more than half of the eight million tonnes of plastic waste that end up in oceans every year, according to a 2017 Ocean Conservancy report. The region has come under fire for not doing enough to tackle its mounting trash troubles, with single-use plastic and sub-par waste management adding to the problem.
Leaders at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are expected to sign a “Bangkok Declaration” on fighting maritime waste — a first of its kind — which promises to “prevent and significantly reduce marine debris,” according to a draft. But activists are worried the agreement doesn’t go far enough.
If we are not reducing single-use plastic in the production process, this ‘Bangkok Declaration’ will not succeed. The agreement also omits penalties for the worst offending companies or countries and fails to specify measures to tackle the problem.
In addition to spewing out billions of tonnes of trash, these nations are among the world’s top importers of trash from developed countries like the U.S. and Canada. Activists have urged countries to stop accepting rubbish, which can end up in landfills and waterways.
Alarming images of polluted canals in the Philippines, plastic-laden Vietnamese beaches, or whales, turtles choking on plastic debris have grabbed global headlines. Some private firms in Thailand and Vietnam have started replacing plastic products with recyclable materials, but government policies have yet to catch up.
Device to trap ocean plastic waste relaunches
A floating device designed to catch plastic waste has been redeployed in a second attempt to clean up an island of trash swirling in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii.
Fitted with solar-powered lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas, the device intends to communicate its position at all times, allowing a support vessel to fish out the collected plastic every few months and transport it to dry land.
The plastic barrier with a tapered 10-foot-deep (3-meter-deep) screen is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in the patch while allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it.
During its first run, the organization said marine biologists on board the support vessel did not observe any environmental impact.
Indian temple helps nurture ‘extinct’ turtle back to life
An “extinct” species of turtle is being reintroduced to the wild after a small population was found flourishing in a pond at an Indian temple.
The black softshell turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) was declared extinct in the wild 17 years ago by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. However, in Hayagriva Madhav temple in Assam, these reptiles are believed to be a reincarnation of Hindu deity Vishnu and so they are protected.
However, given their ritual nature, scientists are denied complete access to these ponds and hence have used the technique of extracting environmental DNA (eDNA) to confirm the presence of specific varieties. In addition to N. nigricans, tests at the Nagshankar temple pond in Assam have confirmed the presence of two more species — Nilssonia gangetica or Indian softshell turtle, classified as Vulnerable, and Chitra indica or South Asian narrow-headed softshell turtle, listed as Endangered by the IUCN.
(Environmental DNA or eDNA is DNA that is collected from a variety of environmental samples such as soil, seawater, snow or even air rather than directly sampled from an individual organism. As various organisms interact with the environment, DNA is expelled and accumulates in their surroundings. Example sources of eDNA include, but are not limited to, feces, mucus, gametes, shed skin, carcasses, and hair)
India hosts 28 species of turtles, of which 20 are found in Assam. But consumption of turtle meat and eggs, silt mining, the encroachment of wetlands and change in flooding patterns have had a disastrous impact on the State’s turtle population. 70% of the species found in Assam are threatened with extinction. The temple ponds have more turtles than they can sustain and lack egg laying space because of so-called beautification of these ponds with concrete boundary. Besides, temple turtles are fed non-natural food such as bread and wheat balls, which alters their biology.
Joint effort to conserve wildlife at Bandipur
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has convened an inter-state meeting of senior forest personnel from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala at Bandipur in Karnataka.
It discussed various issues, including the invasion of invasive plants in the forest areas, steps being adopted by the authorities to vulture conservation, movement of radio-collared higher mammals such as tiger and elephants and various measures to be adopted to mitigate man-animal conflict in the region.
The meeting decided to intensify joint efforts to eradicate invasive plants such as Senna Spectabilis which caused a major threat to the wildlife habitat in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
Standard operating procedures of the NTCA, such as joint patrolling, share enforcement-related information and monthly meeting of senior forest officials of border areas of tiger reserves and protected areas, would be executed effectively for the conservation of big cats.
Joint conservation measures with public participation would be executed to mitigate increasing human-wildlife conflict on the forest fringes of the region. As part of it, information regarding radio-collared animals and their movements would be exchanged among the department staff.
Joint actions would be taken to douse forest fire and information on such incidents would be handed over to the officials in the adjacent sanctuaries and tiger reserves.
Information on accused in forest cases would also be exchanged with each other to avert wildlife-related crimes.
Himalayan glaciers are melting twice as fast since 2000: study
Comparing data obtained by Cold War-era spy satellites with images from modern stereo satellites, scientists have shown that Himalayan glaciers have lost more than a quarter of their ice mass since 1975, with melting occurring twice as fast after the turn of the century as average temperatures rose.
In the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, the U.S. had deployed spy satellites that orbited the globe and took thousands of photographs, using a telescopic camera system, for reconnaissance purposes. Film recovery capsules would be ejected from the KH-9 Hexagon military satellites and parachuted back to Earth over the Pacific Ocean.
More than four decades later, scientists are using those same images to show the devastating impact of warming earth on the Himalayan glaciers. The overlapping images, each covering 30,000 square kilometers with a ground resolution of six to nine meters, have been pieced together to form digital elevation models of the Himalayas of that era.
The observed annual mass losses suggest that of the total ice mass present in 1975, about 87% remained in 2000 and 72% remained in 2016. Similar mass loss rates across subregions and a doubling of the average rate of loss during 2000–2016 relative to the 1975–2000 interval have been noticed.
The study goes on to assert that rising temperatures are responsible for the accelerating loss.
“This is consistent with the available multidecade weather station records scattered throughout HMA [High Mountain Asia, which includes all mountain ranges surrounding the Tibetan Plateau] which indicate quasi-steady mean annual air temperatures through the 1960s to the 1980s with a prominent warming trend beginning in the mid-1990s and continuing into the 21st century, noting an average increase of 1° Celsius since 2000.
Climate change affects major crops in India: Study Yields from rice, India’s main crop, experience larger declines during extreme weather conditions.
India’s grain production is vulnerable to climate change, says scientist who has found that the yield of the country’s rice crop can significantly decline during extreme weather conditions.
Researchers from Columbia University in the US studied the effects of climate on five major crops in India: finger millet, maize, pearl millet, sorghum, and rice. These crops make up the vast majority of grain production during the June-to-September monsoon season — India’s main grain production period — with rice contributing three-quarters of the supply for the season. Taken together, the five grains are essential for meeting India’s nutritional needs, researchers said.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that the yields from grains such as millet, sorghum, and maize are more resilient to extreme weather. Their yields vary significantly less due to year-to-year changes in climate and generally experience smaller declines during droughts. However, yields from rice, India’s main crop, experience larger declines during extreme weather conditions.
By relying more and more on a single crop — rice — India’s food supply is potentially vulnerable to the effects of varying climate. Expanding the area planted with these four alternative grains can reduce variations in Indian grain production caused by extreme climate, especially in the many places where their yields are comparable to rice. Doing so will mean that the food supply for the country’s massive and growing population is less in jeopardy during times of drought or extreme weather. Temperatures and rainfall amounts in India vary from year to year and influence the number of crops that farmers can produce.
With episodes of extreme climate such as droughts and storms becoming more frequent, it is essential to find ways to protect India’s crop production from these shocks.
The team combined historical data on crop yields, temperature, and rainfall. Data on the yields of each crop came from state agricultural ministries across India and covered 46 years (1966-2011) and 593 of India’s 707 districts. The researchers also used modeled data on temperature and precipitation. Using these climate variables as predictors of yield, they then employed a modeling approach to estimate whether there was a significant relationship between year-to-year variations in climate and crop yields.
This study shows that diversifying the crops that a country grows can be an effective way to adapt its food-production systems to the growing influence of climate change. And it adds to the evidence that
increasing the production of alternative grains in India can offer benefits for improving nutrition, saving water, and for reducing energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
Climate change can trip small island states en route SDGs: UN
Many small islands developing states (SIDS) may fail to achieve several Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 because of increasing population and climate change risks, according to the United Nation’s report on World Population Prospects 2019.
While population growth is keeping all the least developing nations from meeting the goals, the problem is compounded by climate change in SIDS. Several SIDS, including Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome, and Principe, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, are experiencing a sharper population growth than they can handle, read the UN report. The challenge is bigger for these small countries because of their vulnerability to climate change, climate variability and sea-level rise.
They have a higher population growth rate than the global average. While Comoros’ population grows 2.3 percent per year, the global growth rate is 1.07 percent, the report highlighted. Similarly, Solomon Island’s population growth rate is 2 percent, Sao Tome and Principe’s is 2.2 percent and Guinea-Bissau’s population is increasing by 2.5 percent every year. The total population of these countries is only 71 million, but growing fast: said to increase to 78 million by 2030 and 87 million by 2050, added the report.
SIDS is a group of small island countries that tend to share similar sustainable development challenges, including small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments. Climate change affects the development of all nations, regardless of the location or size of the economy. Yet, no other group of nations is as vulnerable to its devastating effects as the SIDS, according to the United Nations Development Programme. One-third of the entire population of SIDS lives on lands that are less than five meters below the sea level. This makes them highly vulnerable to sea-level rise, storm surge, and coastal destruction.
These countries contribute to only 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and yet are among the first to experience the worst impacts of climate change, the UNDP added.
Agricultural production, fisheries, and related sectors are declining as the climate changes, threatening livelihoods and economic growth. In addition, extreme weather spawned by climate change is destroying SIDS land, real estate and infrastructure, with economically catastrophic effects, highlighted the UN Environment Programme in a report.
Tourism forms the foundation of many SIDS economies, and the impact that climate change is having and will have on the tourism industry is undeniable. Tourists are also discouraged from traveling to SIDS in the fear of violent and life-threatening storms.
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are a group of small island countries that tend to share similar sustainable development challenges, including small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments.
The SIDS was first recognized as a distinct group of developing countries at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992. The Barbados Programme of Action was produced in 1994 to assist the SIDS in their sustainable development efforts. The United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) represent this group of states.
Currently, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs lists 57 small island developing states. These are broken down into three geographic regions –
Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea (AIMS).
Four from India in top 20 water vulnerable megacities
Four Indian cities, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi have been ranked among the top 20 megacities in the world facing high levels of water scarcity.
A study by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) evaluated 400 cities globally in 2018 with a focus on megacities facing high combined levels of water scarcity — recent and projected drought.
Chennai has emerged in top position as the city facing the most severe water scarcity and drought in the world. Kolkata has been ranked at number 2, Mumbai at 11 and Delhi at 15.
Large cities, mostly located along the banks of large rivers, are vulnerable to water scarcity because of the vastly over-allocated and mismanaged river-systems. Frequent droughts and flooding due to climate change and depleting levels of water in the reservoirs are some of the reasons behind the water crisis in these megacities.
The loss of wetlands is a key reason. Reports have noted that the world has lost 35% of its wetlands since 1970 and is losing them three times faster than forests. The wetlands are key. Over half of Kolkata’s wastewater once drained into the East Kolkata Wetlands without any need to treat the sewage. But as the wetlands shrink, the city, activists have time and again cited, loses its natural waste water tank, and in the absence of enough sewage treatment plants, the wastewater goes straight into the river. A Ramsar protected site, the EKW was such an efficient system of canals and ponds that treated the city’s wastewater that the sewage treatment plants were not sanctioned here under the Ganga Action Plan.