Currently, carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are sought to be decreased on an international scale. Nations have been working together to combat the dilemma of climate change by seeking zero emissions technologies and by addressing carbon emissions within their own borders. 

However, what makes it more difficult to calculate carbon emissions by country is that many institutions of wealthy, developed nations have been able to outsource their carbon emissions to developing countries. Apparently, studies show that, “the United States, Japan and many Western European nations have managed to ‘outsource’ more than half of their carbon dioxide emissions and evade responsibility for their share of the climate-altering pollution.”

There is already a prevalence of goods manufactured in developing countries such as India or China and consumed in developed countries in the United States and Europe. Accordingly, the carbon emissions produced by businesses or corporations are often unconsidered in regards to their total impact on the world.

After all, climate change is a global issue rather than regional or domestic. When carbon emissions are outsourced, the only winner is the public image of the institution that outsources the pollution—that is unless it is uncovered.

With prior calculations of carbon emissions categorized by country, analysts say that they will apparently have to be redone to account for all of the outsourcing. The implications are substantial for European countries who—in comparison to the rest of the world—seem to have low carbon emissons. However, with European nations accounting for a large amount of carbon emission outsourcing, the numbers may reflect their status differently.

Additionally, nations such as China and India—who attain international status as some of the highest ranking carbon polluters—see that many of their emissions actually ought to be attributed to institutions of other developed nations, such as the United States.

China and India in particular serve as examples that reflect the problems that may arise from outsourcing outdated and polluting technologies to developing countries in order to boost their economies. While their rapid industrialization has been able to increase their economic status to an extent, it has done much harm to the environment with their heavy reliance on fossil fuels.

Therefore, the issues presented require much more in-depth analysis on the true extent of carbon emissions. Thus it seems as though categorizing emissions by nation are essentially misleading.

Jugal Patel 

Sources: Carnegie Science, The Guardian, Stanford
Photo: Lemonde

Officials in Shanghai are holding their order that children and elderly persons remain inside their homes, since the outdoor smog levels reached dangerously high levels on Friday December 6.

The Chinese government ordered a stop to construction and for factories to cut production following the warning. Flights were delayed and cars were ordered off the roads due the thick haze reducing visibility to 150 feet in certain areas. The city’s Air Quality Index rose above 500, “beyond index” for the first time in history.

The Air Quality Index is a scale from 0-500; a warning for people to stay indoors is typically given when the index surpasses 200. Two days after the government issued warning, the air was still considered “heavily polluted” by a local monitoring center, with an index rating of 238.

Smog is formed when mono-nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react in the presence of sunlight. The main smog-causing sources are stationary industrial emissions and automobile exhaust. China’s rapidly increasing factory production, coal-burning plants and high use of automobiles are exceeding the few government regulations that are attempting to reduce air pollutants, creating a serious health issue for Shanghai’s citizens.

Shanghai’s dangerous particulate matter (PM) was 14 times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended daily exposure. In circumstances such as these, health is the main concern. According to an article from National Public Radio, a local resident reported having a headache, coughing, and difficulty breathing while on her way to work.

PM is a complex combination of solid and liquid particles of organic and inorganic substances suspended in the air, affecting more people than any other pollutant according to the WHO. When inhaled, PM may interfere with gas exchange inside the lungs, causing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases after chronic exposure. Outdoor air pollution contributes to an estimated 1.3 million deaths per year, with those in middle-income countries disproportionately suffering.

– Maris Brummel

Sources: Bloomberg, NPR, WHO
Sources: The Atlantic City

We need greenhouse gases. Without them, the Earth would be a cold, lifeless lump of dirt hurtling through space. Greenhouse gases allow the sun’s rays to pass through the atmosphere and warm the earth. They also prevent the warmth from escaping back into space. The problem with greenhouse gases, however, is that the more heat-trapping gases there are, such as carbon dioxide and methane, the warmer earth gets. This consequently increases the “greenhouse effect” and is what is causing a steady increase in the global temperature. The consequences are enormous.

Humans have been simultaneously burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests. Forests, which produce the oxygen needed to balance out carbon dioxide production, can be compared to a planet sized pair of lungs for Earth. The occurrence of fossil fuel burning and deforestation has increased the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere by 42 percent.

Carbon dioxide is one of the largest contributors to climate change. Though it is a byproduct of many actions, one of the main producers of carbon dioxide is the burning of coal. Coal, a fossil fuel created from the remains of dead plants from millions of years ago, produces enormous amounts of COwhen burned.

It also took center stage in a global warming debate on Monday in Warsaw, Poland during a U.N. climate conference. Environmental activists there said that the coal industry needs to be part of the climate discourse, because many countries continue to rely on coal as their primary energy source. Coal has been heavily used since the 19th century English Industrial Revolution. While it provides quick energy, it also results in smog, acid rain, and air pollution. In 2011, 44% of emissions came from coal compared to only 35% from oil.

“Leave the coal in the ground,” says UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres. However, the likelihood that countries who rely on coal will abandon it is low. Instead, many countries are aiming to increase the efficiency of coal-powered plants. Economically, many countries refuse to “give up” using coal because the demand for energy never ceases, and as populations increases, coal quickly meets these needs.

China, for example, is the world’s largest carbon polluter, and while it is investing in renewable energy, its coal consumption continues to rise. Coal was 68% of Chinese energy consumption in 2012 and it continues to be the largest producer. As it’s population and energy needs increase, it must meet these demands.

The amount of greenhouse gases is at an annual record high – 39 million tons this year. However, in a study published by the University of East Anglia (UEA), the level at which people are polluting is leveling off. The good news even presents itself in the West, where emissions have dropped. The U.S. produced 3.7% less carbon dioxide in 2012 than the previous year, and Europe, 1.8%. However, individual emissions per person in the US is still 16 tons, compared to people in India who produce only about 1.8 tons.

Nevertheless, the 2.1% rise projected for 2013 means that global emissions from burning fossil fuels are 61% above 1990 levels, the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement developed in Japan on December 11, 1997, was a commitment made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 18% below 1990 levels from 2013 to 2020.

Professor Corinne Le Quéré of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia led the Global Carbon Budget report. She said: “Governments meeting in Warsaw this week need to agree on how to reverse this trend. Emissions must fall substantially and rapidly if we are to limit global climate change to below two degrees. Additional emissions every year cause further warming and climate change.”

The problem remains that while many countries have signed the Kyoto Protocol to decrease emissions, China and the United States have not.

The world, if it continues with it’s current emission levels, will see a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius, the worst climate change scenario predicted by the U.N. panel on climate change.

– Chloe Nevitt

Sources: David Suzuki Foundation, Fox News, United Nations, University of East Anglia, CNN
Photo: Energy.Gov

In a slew of recent press releases, the United Nations has expressed strong support for urban design with an aim to reducing urban sprawl. Over-crowding, out of control gasoline consumption for long commutes and a voracious appetite for land is responsible for some of the major problems facing humanity and the global environment; acknowledging this, Under Secretary General Joan Clos criticized the spontaneous development which many urban areas allow, instead of developing a coherent, sustainable plan.

In the recent past, urban density was directly linked to poor living conditions. Tenement housing was a social blight on every city it touched and contributed to uncounted deaths and hardship. Unceasing pavement contributes to joint degeneration, sewage systems can spread disease with unmatched efficiency when they fail, acid rain and smog conglomerate under the right geographical conditions and can become semi-permanent fixtures on the environment.

New technology and research means modern cities have the capacity to consolidate their populations in ways with no drawbacks. The potential benefits span from the ecological to the political to the social to the economic.

Ecologically, denser cities mean that the inevitable pollution which accompanies humans everywhere will be centralized and minimized–the area occupied by the city may become unusable by any other species, but the surrounding lands can be spared from needless development. Socially, a dense city which does not encourage automotive transportation inherently puts people into closer contact with others; instead of driving alone in a car, people walk among others, or take public transportation, where conversation and interaction is possible.

Economically, when people are not required to spend significant parts of their income on transportation, they are allowed more freedom in discretionary spending, which stimulates the economy. And all these improvements combine to make urban areas more politically stable, as happier, healthier people with a sense of community are less likely to riot or seek out lives of crime. Furthermore, a centralized population makes it easier for governments to provide top-of-the-line infrastructure and services to its constituents.

Designing or redesigning cities in this way is not without a plethora of obstacles. Automakers and oil companies would see huge hits to their profits if people had less incentive to drive everywhere and can be counted on to lobby hard to keep suburbs expanding. Individuals cannot be counted on to relish the idea of relocation, particularly if they deem new housing as worth less than what they currently have. As with any big transition, costly surveys and consultations will soak up massive amounts of public funds.

But the U.N. and its constituents have the power to counteract those obstacles with measures of its own. Clos suggested replacing gasoline subsidies with others, which encourage new uses of land. Independent studies, according to Alexander Felson of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, can provide major insights into the ecological aspects of urban design, and could operate from separate funds than those used by governments. Furthermore, businesses–nationalized or privatized–which currently have small markets could grow in influence to rival the old regime of petroleum-based industries and provide corporate power to the movement.

Urban development is not without precedent; Edinburgh, for example, was burdened by nearly unlivable conditions until James Craig, under the sponsorship of various sections of the royalty and nobility, won an open contest with a design which is still considered one of the finest examples in history, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite the numerous differences between 18th century Scotland and the modern urban world, Edinburgh stands as an example to be aspired to and superceded. Hopefully, governments around the world will commit to the challenge and not leave the UN disappointed.

– Alex Pusateri

Sources: WRAL, UN, Yale, Good Is
Photo: Oodles

China is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. With that being said, it can be safe to say that it has one of the fastest growing industries in the world. These industries require a lot more labor and resources. Recently, it has been reported that in order to “meet its growing energy needs, China is planning to build hundreds of coal fired power plants in the next few years.” However, developing the coal industry could have a devastating effect on China’s freshwater resources. The development of these plants threatens other areas such as drinking water supplies, industry, farming, and the environment.

In 2011, the Associated Press reported that around 68.4 percent of China’s energy came from coal. China’s coal industry is the fastest and most dominant in the country. Other nations such as the United States and Germany reported that around 30-37 percent of their energy came from coal. Moreover, China is the world’s largest consumer of coal. Around 50 percent of the world’s coal is consumed by China. This number is expected to grow.

According to the Washington Times, the Chinese government recently announced its plans to build 363 new coal-fired plants. The new power plants would increase the country’s coal-powered generating capacity from 68.4 percent to 75 percent. As a result, China’s coal consumption would significantly increase.

Although China’s industries depend on cheap, easy-to-use resources to keep the economy going, the cheap energy sources are considered dangerous and detrimental to society. One example is coal. Coal is considered to be the less costly and more effective way to address China’s energy problem. However, coal is extremely labor and water intensive. This creates a problem for people and for areas where water is scarce. In these areas, water resources can diminish further. The problem is that China does have enough water resources, however, these resources are not evenly distributed between communities. According to the Washington Times, “demographics, population, geography and politics make water a complicated issue.”

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: Washington Times, Reuters

The war in Iraq is finally over – new leadership is in place and the country has begun to rebuild. But the effects of the Iraq War continue to have a deadly impact. Contamination from depleted uranium used in U.S. munitions has resulted in an increase of cancer and birth complications throughout the region.

Toxic waste, as well as radiation from U.S. bombings, still linger in the war-ravaged nation.  Chris Busby, author of “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ration in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009,” says Iraq’s medical records show “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied.”

There has been a startlingly rise in premature births, infertility and congenital birth defects. Doctors report children born with tumors, deformities, multiple limbs and underdeveloped nervous systems.  Mothers sometimes do not survive through the delivery process due to unexpected complications.  Most babies born with these extreme abnormalities do not survive. Dr. Alani, who has been studying the effects of radiation in Iraq, reports that 14.7 percent of all babies born in Fallujah have birth defects.  In post-atomic bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the birth defect rate was about 2 percent.

Exposure to lead and mercury during the 1991 bombings and the 2003 invasion have also led to increased cancer rates.  Busby reports that childhood cancer in Fallujah, Iraq is 12 times higher since the heavy bombing started around 2004.  Basra University reports that leukemia in children has increased by 22 percent, and the number of patients with breast cancer has increased 19 percent since the 2004 invasion.  Cancer is now the leading cause of death in southern Iraq, according to a report published by the Basra University Medical College.

So far, the United States has refused to acknowledge the damage caused by its chemical weapons. No compensation or assistance has been provided for Iraq, similar to refusals to clean up Agent Orange after the Vietnam War.

The medical impact of war will not go away any time soon.  When depleted uranium bombs explode, they produce a fine dust containing uranium.  The uranium is absorbed by plants, contaminating the food and water supply. To make matters worse, Iraq’s infamous sandstorms can also  stir up the uranium, making the contaminants airborne. It will be 4,000 years before the depleted uranium will decay to a safe level.

– Stephanie Lamm

Sources: Al Jazeera, Fire Dog Lake
Photo: Inter Press Service

In the wake of numerous high-profile corruption and pollution cases in China, concerns about the environment  and social issues have been on the rise, according to a recent survey by the US-based Pew Research Center between March and April 2013.

Nearly half of all respondents list air pollution, food safety, and the gap between the rich and poor as “very big problems,” showing significant increases from 2012. More than half of respondents also described political corruption as a significant concern, an issue highlighted by this year’s trial of former Chongqing Communist Party leader Bo Xilai.

Overall, the survey illustrates the evolving set of priorities of the Chinese people. As the Chinese economy strengthens and the middle class grows, concerns about the environment and consumer safety move to the forefront, and more people become concerned that the nation’s economic growth unfairly benefits the wealthy and politically connected.

Concerns about food safety and water pollution followed headlines about thousands of rotting pigs floating down a river through the center of Shanghai, as well as stories about tainted infant formula and other products.

Chinese citizens are far more optimistic about the national economy, with 80% saying they expect the economic situation to improve over the next 12 months, but the Chinese government has been increasingly alarmed by social unrest caused by environmental issues and public health threats. This month, a slew of pollution measures were unveiled in Beijing with the hopes of curbing air pollution by 25% by 2017.

– Michael DeZubiria

Sources: Pew Research Center, Reuters, South China Morning Post

Though increasing access to food may be the key to saving lives in the developing world, the act of cooking kills many.

Many people enjoy the idea of cooking over an open fire, whether through roasting marshmallows on a camping trip or gathering for a weekend barbecue. In remote villages and city slums, however, women who spend the whole day cooking over an open fire end up inhaling smoke that equates to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the dangerous pollutants in this smoke severely damage the womens’ lungs as well as the lungs of the children that are strapped to their chest or back during the day. Inhaling this polluted air and smoke has been linked to pneumonia, heart disease, lung cancer, low birth weight, and other maladies.

In response to the problem, 70-year-old grandmother and Oregon native Nancy Hughes created StoveTeam International. Hughes teamed up with engineers to create the Ecocina, a stove that burns cleaner to make it safer for people who use it and better for the environment.

Hughes was motivated to create StoveTeam after working with a medical team in Guatemala in the 1990s and discovering the sad irony that the act of cooking meant to nourish families was, in fact, slowly killing them.

StoveTeam’s goal is to reduce the reported four million people who die each year from cookstove smoke exposure by reducing their stoves’ carbon emissions and particulate matter by up to 70 percent. The Ecocina also helps the environment by requiring 50 percent less wood than a traditional open fire.

What’s more, the Ecocina is inexpensive, portable, and requires no installation or external chimney, thus making it widely accessible to the communities in the developing world that need them the most. The Ecocina stoves are produced by local laborers using local materials, and thus serve as a way to boost communities’ economies while improving health and environmental standards as well.

StoveTeam International has already helped start factories in five countries throughout Latin America and plans to expand to two more within the next year. Through the innovation and efforts of Hughes and her devoted team, the world can rest assured that cooking will again become a healthy, social, and cultural experience for all, rather than a fatal one.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Sources: CNN, StoveTeam International, Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves
Photo: Bioenergy Lists

Guyana Shines

‘Guyana Shines’ is a project spearheaded by the U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, D. Brent Hardt, with the goal of educating young people about the importance of protecting the environment and the dangers of pollution. Ambassador Hardt believes that the key to a healthy world is educating young people to have the tools for a sustainable future. Guyana Shines is supported by Youth Challenge Guyana and the Environment Ministry as well as the British and Canadian representatives to Guyana.

The project is centered around visiting the school and making presentations about the dangers of pollution and the importance of cleaning up litter and waste. Last year the ambassador visited 15 schools and plans to visit at least 50 more this year. Students are given information about where to recycle and offered the incentive of trading garbage for money. This year students will also learn how to make compost heaps and become advocates for a cleaner Guyana.

To further boost excitement about ‘Guyana Shines” as well as establish broader goals of cleaning up the environment two contests have been launched. The Wildlife Drawing Contest and the Innovation and Creativity Contest: Looking for New Ways to Reduce our Ecological Footprint both aim to inspire young people to protect the environment.

Communities have also sponsored clean up days targeted at heavily polluted areas of Guyana. Ambassador Hardt says, “Our motivation and our goal in creating Guyana Shines is to encourage and mobilize citizens and communities to maintain a clean environment, address the serious littering problem, and return Guyana to its former splendor as the Garden City of the Caribbean.” As ‘Guyana Shines’ enters its second phase those goals are becoming more attainable.

– Zoë Meroney

Source: Guyana News and Information,Capitol News,Guyana Times
Photo: The U.S. Embassy

Energy Poverty
Energy poverty is an issue that is little known by people around the world. Many people assume that poverty only means lacking money or food, but it also means cooking and living with very primitive energy sources, which could be even deadlier than malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS. If nothing is done by 2030 about the energy poverty crisis, 4,000 people could die each day of the toxic smoke and fires from primitive, unsafe stoves. Also, there are a few surprising facts about energy poverty that many people may not know.

1. There has been a tremendous amount of progress in delivering safe energy to people who need it, but it makes little difference. From 1990 to 2010, 1.7 billion gained access to electricity, and an additional 1.6 billion gained cleaner cooking fuels. But because the population grew by 1.6 billion during those years, there were still billions without safe energy.

2. It’s the quickly-developing countries that have the biggest energy problem. India is the fastest country to get her people access to electricity, and China has the most efficient energy on the planet, yet both countries have millions of people without electricity and other forms of safe energy.

3. About 3.5 million people each year die from indoor pollution caused by the smoke when cooking on wood and biomass cookstoves. Cookstove smoke is considered by some to be the largest environmental threat because it kills more than malaria (1.2 million) and HIV/AIDS (1.5 million) each year.

4. Countries with the most energy have people with the least. Nigeria produces the highest quantity of oil in Africa, yet it has the second highest number of people without safe energy in the world (behind India).

5. Renewable resources are currently not enough to provide safe energy across the world. The UN’s Sustainable Energy For All programs rely on creating more energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind, to provide energy without polluting the earth, but renewable energy only accounts for less than 1% of the world’s energy consumption.

Katie Brockman

Source National Geographic, National Geographic