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Hope on reducing air pollution in South East Asia
April 19, 2014 07:50 AM - NELLY STRATIEVA, Worldwatch Institute
Smoke from land clearing fires in Indonesia causes hazardous haze pollution in South East Asia every year. Record high levels of air pollution caused by haze were reached in June 2013 in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. In response to regional pressure after the latest haze crisis, Indonesia has finally agreed to adopt the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution from 2002. However, given the pact's weak compliance provisions, will the ratification really be a game-changer in South East Asia’s struggle with haze? In June 2013 South East Asia was suffocating in a cloud of record-breaking haze pollution. The haze, toxic smog caused by fires to clear land for agriculture in Sumatra, Indonesia, exceeded almost three times the hazardous limit for air quality. For a week the most affected areas of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia resembled a post-apocalyptic scene — people only dared go out with face masks, schools were closed, the economy took a hit as businesses suspended work, events were cancelled, tourists stayed clear of the area and hospitals faced a surge of respiratory illnesses. The fires also impact climate change because they produce large amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the burning of carbon-rich peatland and forests. To illustrate the magnitude of the problem: the land-clearing fires which cause transboundary haze are also the biggest contributor to Indonesia's overall GHG emissions. 2013 may have been the worst haze crisis in the region's recorded history, but similar occurrences are the norm during 'haze season' every year since the 1980s.
April 3, 2014 11:24 AM - By Esperanza Garcia, Worldwatch Institute
Climate change has been a constant reality for many Filipinos, with impacts ranging from extreme weather events to periodic droughts and food scarcity. The most affected populations are coastal residents and rural communities that lack proper disaster preparedness.
Agricultural Subsidies Remain a Staple in the Industrial World
March 12, 2014 11:20 AM - Grant Potter, Worldwatch Institute
In 2012, the most recent year with data, agricultural subsidies totaled an estimated $486 billion in the top 21 food-producing countries in the world. These countries—the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and seven other countries (Brazil, China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Russia, South Africa, and Ukraine)—are responsible for almost 80 percent of global agricultural value added in the world.
From Waste to Food to Fuel: Rice Production and Green Charcoal in Senegal
January 15, 2014 12:54 PM - Andrew Alesbury, Worldwatch Institute
Inadequate management of human waste is a dire problem in much of the developing world. Swelling urban populations can make matters worse by exposing increasingly dense populations to illnesses carried by human waste.
White House Highlights Importance of Reauthorizing Farm Bill
December 5, 2013 11:57 AM - Sophie Wenzlau, Worldwatch Institute
Last month, the White House Rural Council released a report highlighting the economic importance of reauthorizing the Farm Bill, the United States' primary food and agriculture policy tool. The bill—which impacts food prices, environmental conservation programs, international trade, agricultural research, food and nutrition programs, and the well-being of rural communities—has been stalled in congress for over a year, in part due to disagreement over reductions to the food stamp program. House Republicans aim to cut $40 billion in food stamp funds over the next 10 years, while Senate Democrats aim to cut only $4 billion.
Iroko trees, the new warrior for climate change
November 27, 2013 10:59 AM - Kristin Thiel, Worldwatch Institute
Iroko trees are native to the west coast of Africa. Sometimes called Nigerian teak, their wood is tough, dense, and very durable. Their hardwood is so sought after that the trees are often poached and are now endangered in many regions of Africa. But a new scientific discovery may aid in reforestation efforts.
GM Crops Causing a Stir in Washington State, Mexico, and Hawaii
October 28, 2013 10:30 AM - Sophie Wenzlau, Worldwatch Institute
Courts, councils, and voters across North America are weighing in on genetically modified (GM) crops this month In Washington state, voters are beginning to cast ballots in favor of or opposing Initiative 522, which would mandate that all GM food products, seeds, and seed stocks carry labels in the state.
Fossil Fuels Dominate Primary Energy Consumption
October 24, 2013 10:39 AM - Milena Gonzalez and Matt Lucky, Worldwatch Institute
Coal, natural gas, and oil accounted for 87 percent of global primary energy consumption in 2012, as the growth of worldwide energy use continued to slow due to the economic downturn, according to a new Vital Signs Online trend. The relative weight of these energy sources keeps shifting, although only slightly. Natural gas increased its share of energy consumption from 23.8 to 23.9 percent during 2012, coal rose from 29.7 to 29.9 percent, and oil fell from 33.4 to 33.1 percent. The International Energy Agency predicts that by 2017, coal will replace oil as the dominant primary energy source worldwide. The shale revolution in the United States is reshaping global oil and gas markets. The United States produced oil at record levels in 2012 and is expected to overtake Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas combined in 2013. Consequently, the United States is importing decreasing amounts of these two fossil fuels, while using rising levels of domestic natural gas for power generation. This has led to price discrepancies between the U.S. and European natural gas markets that in turn have prompted Europeans to increase their use of coal power.
Greece Considers Sacrificing Environment to Save Economy
October 17, 2013 10:37 AM - KATERINA BATZAKI, Worldwatch Institute
In crisis-hit Greece, government decisions taken in haste and despair to save the country from default, risk having a serious impact on the environment. A new bill seeks to relax restrictions on construction of public and private forestland even for those areas, which are considered protected.
Australian Environmental Politics in Denial
October 7, 2013 01:18 PM - Daniel Yeow, Worldwatch Institute
Australia seems to be going backwards in time with regard to environmental politics. A startlingly high number of people there deny climate change. Most Australians do believe in it, but in a country that no longer has a science minister, the newly-elected conservative government is populated by "leaders" who believe that it is some kind of conspiracy. The media that the average Australian consumes is overwhelmingly populated by sources which are owned by people of a highly conservative and libertarian belief. Libertarianism—the belief that people should be free to do as they wish so long as they do not impinge on the freedom of others, is a decidedly human-centric philosophy and as such, large-scale environmental problems are generally not well-handled. In the minds of people like Rupert Murdoch, among others, environmental regulations are an unnecessary burden on people's freedom, and even if you don't really believe that, if that's what you read in the newspaper every day, then that's what you will be led to believe.