Monday, December 21, 2009

Copenhagen and then...?

So Copenhagen is finally over. Time will tell if the somewhat nebulous good intentions expressed will result in action. I came across a couple of the many articles attempting to evaluate the state of play.
From the BBC "What did Copenhagen achieve?" with a comparison of what changed and what did not.
"The deal at COP15, as it stands, leaves the world on a pathway for temperature rises of 3C and above."
And from SciDev Net a more optimistic "Climate accord offers some grounds for hope, say analysts"
"But some commentators say that important principles behind fighting climate change have been established for the first time, and some action could start immediately even without the existence of a universal agreement. "

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Science education

Or may be I should say STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. I have blogged on this before so I noted two items emphasising the same concern in the UK and the US although the situation in Guyana is very different of course.

There was this article entitled "How should we save science education?" in on the New Scientist blog created for this very subject.

This had links to the UK Government STEM web site.

Then there was an article about President Obama launching a "massive science eduaction effort":

"This new effort, called Educate to Innovate, is "…designed to energize and excite America’s students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.""

Elements of this plan include partnering with the private sector and an annual science fair at the White House.

The US and UK feel the urgent need for such a program. Our need is even more urgent!

Climate change - more

Two recent items found on the BBC site (and elsewhere). Firstly the news that we are on course for a 4 to 6 degree temperature rise around the end of the century. Emissions are still rising despite the attention the problem is getting - clearly we are not taking it seriously enough.

Lots of interesting facts in this article such as:

"Emissions from within the UK's borders, for example, fell by 5% between 1992 and 2004, says the GCP analysis.
However, emissions from goods and services consumed in the UK rose by 12% over the same period."

Secondly a look at the question of which countries are most responsible for causing human-induced climate change. Some very interesting graphs showing historical carbon footprint - during the period 1751-2006 the US and Europe each produced over 80 Gigatonnes. Other countries will take a very long time to catch up with that.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Climate change - what to do?

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on 5 technologies which could provide a breakthrough:
"Over the next few decades, the world will need to wean itself from dependence on fossil fuels and drastically reduce greenhouse gases. Current technology will take us only so far; major breakthroughs are required.

What might those breakthroughs be? Here's a look at five technologies that, if successful, could radically change the world energy picture."

The technologies referred to are:

* Space based solar power
* Utility scale energy storage to enable a high percentage of solar and wind
* Next Generation Biofuels
* Carbon capture and storage
* Advanced Car Batteries

Also very interesting is a critique of this article at Next Big Future which puts these new technologies too far in the future and gives some alternatives which will impact sooner.

While most technologies above are nothing that we can implement or research here there are exceptions. Of particular interest, it seems to me, is that of biochar. Basically this means growing wood or woody material, charing it (making charcoal out of it) and burying it. This takes carbon out of the atmosphere and also can have a beneficial effect on the soil.

I should also mention that I saw no mention of the role of forests.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Carbon emissions and the economic crisis

Earlier this year I had speculated on the impact of the global recession on carbon emissions. The BBC has an item on this recently:
"The global recession and a range of government policies are likely to bring the biggest annual fall in the world's carbon dioxide emissions in 40 years."
Let us hope that the small respite gained will be used well before the economic recovery accelerates emissions again...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Some advice on using Power Point

Just came across an excellent and rather pointed article on the BBC site concerning the use and (often) misuse of Power Point. A couple of quotes are in order:

"If there's nothing but text on the screen, people will try to read and listen at the same time - and won't succeed in doing either very well."
"This highlights the biggest problem with slide-based presentations, which is that speakers mistakenly think that they can get far more information across than is actually possible in a presentation. At the heart of this is a widespread failure to appreciate that speaking and listening are fundamentally different from writing and reading."
"...we've known for years that audiences don't much like wordy slides and don't find them as helpful as pictorial visual aids."

Monday, July 06, 2009

Back to climate change

An article in New Scientist draws attention to the importance of methane in global warming and the fact that changes can be made faster for methane than with carbon dioxide. As a rice producing country there may be something we can do here.

The US Government has released a major new serious report on climate change which has much background information but is, of course, very focused on the US. See this article in Scientific American.

Another article in New Scientist notes recent revisions of the amount of sea level rise expected - more than predicted by the IPCC in 2007. Sea levels rose by 17cm in the 20th century. Estimates for the 21st century are now 100cm or more.

Alcohol and the drinking of it

An item on the BBC focused on a recent report on deaths and disability caused by alcohol:
"For 2004, the latest year for which comparable data are available on a global level, 3.8% of all global deaths (around 1 in 25) were attributable to alcohol."
And the problem is getting worse. According to an expert:
"We need an international framework convention for alcohol control, similar to that on tobacco, as soon as possible...".
Guyana needs to get serious about this... the recent introduction of new laws to control drinking and driving are a real step forward.

Comment on climate change

I hope to do a few quick posts to catch up so here goes... the first is to note a useful comment by Derek A Braithwaite in a letter to Stabroek News almost a month ago. He was commenting positively on the recent LCDS and focuses on the need for adaption as well as mitigation. He also mentions our need for computer simulations of climate change which are used extensively to try to predict the effects of climate change.

This is of special interest to me since I worked for a couple of years on early versions of these models at UK Met Office HQ in the 70's and have kept an interest in the field since.

A comment on this letter ascribes the whole problem to global population increases - this is only a small part of the problem. Here in Guyana our population has remained relatively constant but our emissions are rising due development and greater use of electicity, cars etc. Similar changes are occuring in other developing countries such as India, China and in Afica.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Guyana's Low Carbon Development Strategy

On June 8th our President launched Guyana's Low Carbon Development Strategy entitled 'Transforming Guyana's Economy While Combating Climate Change'. Having been present I recieved a printed copy but the document along with other supporting documents is available at the website.

The strategy was well recieved and its presentation was followed by sessions in which details were clarified and some initial comments made.

This writers initial impression was very favourable. The main thrust of the strategy was to present the maintenance of Guyana's forests as a service countering global warming and to seek financial remuneration to continue this service indefinitely. Details of how this is to be done are given and also how the income generated is to be used to promote development. I cannot really comment on the method used to evaluate the forests. To me the general idea seems to be entirely sensible and fair but the implementation depends heavily on international acceptance of this. See previous posts on the subject of Guyana's forests.

Friday, June 19, 2009

New environment web site

With the launching of the Low Carbon Development Strategy there is an important new web site to add to those mentioned in a recent post. See More soon on the strategy.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Angels and Demons - the movie

An exciting movie but not so accurate from a physics point of view. See here for a discussion. The part played by antimatter is especially misleading.

Climate change - not good news

The latest predictions show that temperatures rises may be about twice as much as predicted a few years ago.
"The most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth’s climate will get in this century shows that without rapid and massive action, the problem will be about twice as severe as previously estimated six years ago — and could be even worse than that."

"The new projections, published this month in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate, indicate a median probability of surface warming of 5.2 degrees Celsius by 2100, with a 90% probability range of 3.5 to 7.4 degrees. This can be compared to a median projected increase in the 2003 study of just 2.4 degrees. The difference is caused by several factors rather than any single big change." Climate Change Blog

Monday, April 13, 2009

Guyana's environmental web sites

Here are the local sites I could identify which related to the environment. First the major government and agency sites:

Climate Change Guyana - site of the government National Climate Committee. A new site with lots of information.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - official government site. Good information about the EPA.

Guyana Energy Agency - official government site. Recently revised.

Guyana Forestry Commission - official government site. A main source for forestry info.

Guyana Geology and Mines Commission - official government site. A lot of info here.

Hydrometeorological Service
of the Guyana Ministry of Agriculture - official government site. Includes climate change info and daily weather forecast.

Iwokrama International Rainforest Programme
. Plenty of info about the rainforest, climate change and the programme. Recently updated.

Pesticide and Toxic Chemicals Control Board
- official government site. Lots of info, updated in 2008.

And now a few other sites of interest:

ECO1 - local NGO

Guyana and the Environment. Some useful general info but not recently updated.

Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society. Info about their activities.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Guyana's Institute of Science and Technology (IAST)

I have extracted a brief summary of IAST's current activities based on an article in the Kaieteur News (print edition).

Four focus areas identified: biofuels, indigeous materials, bioprospecting and analytical lab services.

- a pilot plant continues to use recycled oil from restaurants to fuel IAST vehicles.
- a plant near Mabaruma produces fuel from palm oil. This is to expand.
- new plant is to be built at IAST to explore ethanol production using molasses and cassava.

Indigeous materials
- combining clay and recycled rubber from tyres to produce material for roads
- use of rammed clay for building
- building materials using coconut fibre and balata
- road building using kilned clay

Analytical lab services
- significant improvement in facilities including chromatography, extraction of bioactives and testing for environmental contaminants.

Other activities mentioned included training in biofuel plants and support for investors.

IAST has had its ups and downs over the years but currently seems to be achieving real progress.

Global warming and the economic crisis

I wonder if historian will look back and comment that the economic crisis did have one benefit, it slowed down carbon emissions and allowed more time for solutions to be found saving and some lives as a result.

Enforced lifestyle change?

Global warming - lifestyle change 1

This is a big subject and I am still working on a post. I have not yet found the kind of online resources I had hoped for. There are comments by many about the need for lifestyle change sometimes with a few suggestions but usually not more than that.
More later.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Solar halo visible in GT

This midday a solar halo is visible in Georgetown probably caused by ice crystals high in the atmosphere.

See Wikipedia for more on this phenomena.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Global warming - update

Two recent news items of particular concern to us in Guyana had me thinking more than usual about this issue.
Firstly there was a BBC report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the sea level rise by the end of the century was now expected to be around 1m, about twice their prevous projection. So presumably we can expect a rise of around 10cm within 10 years. A very serious issue here at sea level...
Secondly there was a report on the effect of global warming on the Amazon rainforest to the effect that the rainforest will start dying off as the temperature rises:
"It had previously been thought that the trees and other vegetation, and the vast range of animals living among them, would be safe if temperatures rose no more than 2C. Researchers have now found that even 2C will destroy large tracts of the forest but that the die-back is slow and will take up to a century to have its full effect."
A rise of 2C is likely by 2050 and die-back will likely be felt first at the edge of the Amazon basin in countries such as Guyana.
While the die off of the rainforest will be slow, giving some time for us to control global warming, it would seem to be very difficult to mitigate. For sea level rise there is at least the (expensive) option of reinforcing sea walls and drainage systems.
One expert commented that "that at least a fifth of the Amazonian rainforest was almost certainly doomed."
So what do we do? Some thoughts on this in the next post.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Future technology

Next Big Future is a great site for keeping up to date with cutting edge technological developments such as nanotech and the like. Some, I am sure, will impact us here but not for 5-10 years or so...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Baha'i Persecutions in Iran

Fundermentalists in Iran - many in government - continue their relentless but totally unjustified persecution of the Baha'i community there. Their latest tactic has been the arrest of 7 leading members and likely trial on groundless allegations such a spying for Israel.

I cannot do justice to this long-running story here so see the links below for more:
Baha'i World News Service - Iran Update
Baha'i World News Service - International Reaction

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Guyana Obama parade

11 am.  Just saw a truck with sound system pass slowly by my office with a large picture of Obama followed by around a hundred people waving flags (mostly Guyana flags, some US). It was a very mixed group though mostly young people and seemed in a very good mood.
Is there something special going on today? Just kidding.