Tag Archives: Ireland

Climate Assembly UK: Act now to save our planet

Climate Assembly UK tells British politicians to act faster on climate change. France and Ireland echo its message.

LONDON, 28 September, 2020 − A random group of United Kingdom citizens, Climate Assembly UK: The path to net zero, has delivered an uncompromising verdict on the British approach to the climate crisis: do more, and don’t delay.

The UK is not alone in demanding urgent action. Presented with detailed evidence about the effects of climate change, citizens’ assemblies in two other European countries have come to identical conclusions; we have to make immediate progress, and we must change the way we live.

The most striking common feature about the views of the assemblies convened in Ireland, France and the United Kingdom is that the measures their governments are currently taking are grossly inadequate to tackle climate change.

Policies that politicians have shrunk from imposing on their voters for fear of a backlash have suddenly been urged on them by their own citizens. In Ireland and France this gave both governments the courage to promise to implement most of the assemblies’ recommendations. The UK report released on 10 September has yet to receive a full response, but the signs are encouraging.

The assemblies in each country were composed of a random selection of people to represent all ages, sexes and social groups, first to hear evidence and then to recommend action, including giving clear guidance on priorities.

A similar set of proposals came from the citizens in each of the three countries.

“The Earth can live without us, but we can’t live without her… It is a question of life or death”

On energy they wanted more renewable technologies, wind and solar, to replace fossil fuels.

All three assemblies favoured a reduction in air traffic, taxes on frequent flyers, the phasing out of fossil fuel-powered vehicles, encouragement for all things electric, the insulation of homes, and energy efficiency.

Changes in what we eat – particularly less meat – were also common features. More local production both of food and other goods was  important.

There were detailed recommendations, with for example the French suggesting statutory rules on turning central heating thermostats down to 19°C, and not using air conditioning until temperatures reached 30°C. They also advocated lowering the speed limit for cars, to reduce their emissions.

All the reports also wanted more green spaces, places for wildlife and improved habitats.

The reaction of participants, some of whom knew very little about climate change before being selected, is perhaps best summed up by a quote from the French report: “We have lived together, during nine months, an unprecedented and intense human experience, that led us to become conscious of the imperious necessity to profoundly change the organisation of our society and our ways of life…

“The Earth can live without us, but we can’t live without her… It is a question of life or death.”

Vested interests object

One of the characteristics of this new form of democracy – the citizens’ jury – is the lengths the organisers have to go to in order to select a cross-section of the community. This ensures that all political views are taken into account as well as age, class and race. But as the French experience shows, taking in vast quantities of information about climate change and sharing this experience with others has a profound effect.

In theory the recommendations these juries make should be accepted by all, since the groups have been selected to represent everyone in the country, but it is clear that vested interests are not prepared to do that.

For example, the UK’s right-wing Spectator magazine said of the results of the French assembly: “The problem with citizens’ assemblies is that their members don’t, unlike elected politicians, actually have to deal with the consequences of their breezy and idealistic proposals.

“In the first place, they are rarely representative of the entire population: in France, 25,000 people were approached to see if they wanted to take part; most refused, and 150 were chosen.

“Most of those are people with an agenda, who are prepared to give up entire weekends in return for a stipend of £74 (€86) a day plus expenses: in other words, political activists and people with time on their hands.”

Industry disappointed

Similarly, within days of the British assembly members having heard a great deal of expert evidence making it abundantly clear they wanted more renewables, onshore and offshore wind and solar power, rather than more nuclear energy, the nuclear industry poured cold water on their judgement and preferences.

In a long article offered to the Climate News Network extolling the virtues of nuclear power in fighting climate change, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association, said he was pleased that the assembly wanted to see low carbon ways of producing electricity.

He added: “It is, however, disappointing to see that what this model of engagement was touted as delivering – an understanding of the complexity of decisions that need to be made – is all but absent when it comes to the future power mix.

“There are two lessons in this – firstly, for experts, industry and decision makers to have to communicate much more effectively on the reality of the challenges and the choices they open up. Secondly, that simplistic statements of the impossible made either through wishful thinking or wilful ignorance will not aid decarbonisation – but only increase reliance on burning fossil fuels and the emissions that come from them.”

So it seems that however hard organisers try to select a cross-section of citizens and provide them with clear evidence, there will be an immediate political backlash.

Whether it is climate scientists or citizens’ juries fearing for the future of civilisation, vested interests are always prepared to rubbish what they say. Perhaps though, now that voters (in the form of citizens’ assemblies) have added their voices to those of scientists, politicians will finally have the courage to act on their recommendations. − Climate News Network

Climate Assembly UK tells British politicians to act faster on climate change. France and Ireland echo its message.

LONDON, 28 September, 2020 − A random group of United Kingdom citizens, Climate Assembly UK: The path to net zero, has delivered an uncompromising verdict on the British approach to the climate crisis: do more, and don’t delay.

The UK is not alone in demanding urgent action. Presented with detailed evidence about the effects of climate change, citizens’ assemblies in two other European countries have come to identical conclusions; we have to make immediate progress, and we must change the way we live.

The most striking common feature about the views of the assemblies convened in Ireland, France and the United Kingdom is that the measures their governments are currently taking are grossly inadequate to tackle climate change.

Policies that politicians have shrunk from imposing on their voters for fear of a backlash have suddenly been urged on them by their own citizens. In Ireland and France this gave both governments the courage to promise to implement most of the assemblies’ recommendations. The UK report released on 10 September has yet to receive a full response, but the signs are encouraging.

The assemblies in each country were composed of a random selection of people to represent all ages, sexes and social groups, first to hear evidence and then to recommend action, including giving clear guidance on priorities.

A similar set of proposals came from the citizens in each of the three countries.

“The Earth can live without us, but we can’t live without her… It is a question of life or death”

On energy they wanted more renewable technologies, wind and solar, to replace fossil fuels.

All three assemblies favoured a reduction in air traffic, taxes on frequent flyers, the phasing out of fossil fuel-powered vehicles, encouragement for all things electric, the insulation of homes, and energy efficiency.

Changes in what we eat – particularly less meat – were also common features. More local production both of food and other goods was  important.

There were detailed recommendations, with for example the French suggesting statutory rules on turning central heating thermostats down to 19°C, and not using air conditioning until temperatures reached 30°C. They also advocated lowering the speed limit for cars, to reduce their emissions.

All the reports also wanted more green spaces, places for wildlife and improved habitats.

The reaction of participants, some of whom knew very little about climate change before being selected, is perhaps best summed up by a quote from the French report: “We have lived together, during nine months, an unprecedented and intense human experience, that led us to become conscious of the imperious necessity to profoundly change the organisation of our society and our ways of life…

“The Earth can live without us, but we can’t live without her… It is a question of life or death.”

Vested interests object

One of the characteristics of this new form of democracy – the citizens’ jury – is the lengths the organisers have to go to in order to select a cross-section of the community. This ensures that all political views are taken into account as well as age, class and race. But as the French experience shows, taking in vast quantities of information about climate change and sharing this experience with others has a profound effect.

In theory the recommendations these juries make should be accepted by all, since the groups have been selected to represent everyone in the country, but it is clear that vested interests are not prepared to do that.

For example, the UK’s right-wing Spectator magazine said of the results of the French assembly: “The problem with citizens’ assemblies is that their members don’t, unlike elected politicians, actually have to deal with the consequences of their breezy and idealistic proposals.

“In the first place, they are rarely representative of the entire population: in France, 25,000 people were approached to see if they wanted to take part; most refused, and 150 were chosen.

“Most of those are people with an agenda, who are prepared to give up entire weekends in return for a stipend of £74 (€86) a day plus expenses: in other words, political activists and people with time on their hands.”

Industry disappointed

Similarly, within days of the British assembly members having heard a great deal of expert evidence making it abundantly clear they wanted more renewables, onshore and offshore wind and solar power, rather than more nuclear energy, the nuclear industry poured cold water on their judgement and preferences.

In a long article offered to the Climate News Network extolling the virtues of nuclear power in fighting climate change, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association, said he was pleased that the assembly wanted to see low carbon ways of producing electricity.

He added: “It is, however, disappointing to see that what this model of engagement was touted as delivering – an understanding of the complexity of decisions that need to be made – is all but absent when it comes to the future power mix.

“There are two lessons in this – firstly, for experts, industry and decision makers to have to communicate much more effectively on the reality of the challenges and the choices they open up. Secondly, that simplistic statements of the impossible made either through wishful thinking or wilful ignorance will not aid decarbonisation – but only increase reliance on burning fossil fuels and the emissions that come from them.”

So it seems that however hard organisers try to select a cross-section of citizens and provide them with clear evidence, there will be an immediate political backlash.

Whether it is climate scientists or citizens’ juries fearing for the future of civilisation, vested interests are always prepared to rubbish what they say. Perhaps though, now that voters (in the form of citizens’ assemblies) have added their voices to those of scientists, politicians will finally have the courage to act on their recommendations. − Climate News Network

Ireland’s Supreme Court damns climate policies

The country’s highest judicial authority, Ireland’s Supreme Court, says the government’s climate policies are not up to the job.

DUBLIN, 4 August, 2020 – In what’s being seen as a landmark judgement, Ireland’s Supreme Court has ruled that the Dublin government’s policies on climate change are inadequate, and has called for more action and clarity on the issue.

A unanimous verdict by the seven-judge Supreme Court said the government’s policies on climate change were “excessively vague and aspirational” and lacked clear plans and goals.

The judgement in the case, brought by the group Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), is likely to have considerable impact elsewhere in Europe, with the courts being used to bring pressure for more decisive action on climate change.

Clodagh Daly, a spokesperson for FIE, said the judgement was a “groundbreaking and a landmark verdict” for climate action in Ireland, and across the world.

“It (the judgement) means the Irish government can no longer make promises that it cannot fulfil”, said Daly.

Inadequate detail

She said the ruling made clear that the government could not talk about long-term commitments on climate change without showing how these could be achieved. There was “no legal basis for a lack of political will” on the issue, said Daly.

In its case FIE argued that the Dublin government’s National Mitigation Plan, spanning the years 2017 to 2022, had failed to properly set out plans on how climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions will be substantially reduced over the coming years.

The court found that the government had not met its obligations under a 2015 Irish law on climate action and had not provided adequate detail of how it intended to achieve a transition to a low-carbon economy by 2050.

The government, said the judges, was required to give “some realistic level of detail” about how it will meet its carbon reduction targets: the 2017 National Mitigation Plan “falls a long way” short of providing the sort of specifics required on the issue.

They singled out the agricultural sector as one area lacking clear guidance on lowering carbon emissions.

“It means the Irish government can no longer make promises that it cannot fulfil”

Ireland’s agricultural industry is a mainstay of the economy, but it is also one of the primary sources of carbon emissions, in large part due to methane produced by the country’s seven million-strong cattle herd. Despite its green image, Ireland is, on a per capita basis, one of the leading polluters in Europe.

Observers say the Supreme Court judgement is a clear sign that governments can be held legally accountable for their action – or lack of action – on climate change.

Following a general election and extended political negotiations, Ireland’s Green Party is, for the first time, part of a coalition government.

Eamon Ryan, the Green Party leader and minister for climate action in the new government, said the Supreme Court ruling would act as a guard rail, keeping policy and political attention focused on climate issues.

Micheál Martin, Ireland’s Taoiseach or prime minister, said his government was giving the ruling serious and considered examination. – Climate News Network

The country’s highest judicial authority, Ireland’s Supreme Court, says the government’s climate policies are not up to the job.

DUBLIN, 4 August, 2020 – In what’s being seen as a landmark judgement, Ireland’s Supreme Court has ruled that the Dublin government’s policies on climate change are inadequate, and has called for more action and clarity on the issue.

A unanimous verdict by the seven-judge Supreme Court said the government’s policies on climate change were “excessively vague and aspirational” and lacked clear plans and goals.

The judgement in the case, brought by the group Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), is likely to have considerable impact elsewhere in Europe, with the courts being used to bring pressure for more decisive action on climate change.

Clodagh Daly, a spokesperson for FIE, said the judgement was a “groundbreaking and a landmark verdict” for climate action in Ireland, and across the world.

“It (the judgement) means the Irish government can no longer make promises that it cannot fulfil”, said Daly.

Inadequate detail

She said the ruling made clear that the government could not talk about long-term commitments on climate change without showing how these could be achieved. There was “no legal basis for a lack of political will” on the issue, said Daly.

In its case FIE argued that the Dublin government’s National Mitigation Plan, spanning the years 2017 to 2022, had failed to properly set out plans on how climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions will be substantially reduced over the coming years.

The court found that the government had not met its obligations under a 2015 Irish law on climate action and had not provided adequate detail of how it intended to achieve a transition to a low-carbon economy by 2050.

The government, said the judges, was required to give “some realistic level of detail” about how it will meet its carbon reduction targets: the 2017 National Mitigation Plan “falls a long way” short of providing the sort of specifics required on the issue.

They singled out the agricultural sector as one area lacking clear guidance on lowering carbon emissions.

“It means the Irish government can no longer make promises that it cannot fulfil”

Ireland’s agricultural industry is a mainstay of the economy, but it is also one of the primary sources of carbon emissions, in large part due to methane produced by the country’s seven million-strong cattle herd. Despite its green image, Ireland is, on a per capita basis, one of the leading polluters in Europe.

Observers say the Supreme Court judgement is a clear sign that governments can be held legally accountable for their action – or lack of action – on climate change.

Following a general election and extended political negotiations, Ireland’s Green Party is, for the first time, part of a coalition government.

Eamon Ryan, the Green Party leader and minister for climate action in the new government, said the Supreme Court ruling would act as a guard rail, keeping policy and political attention focused on climate issues.

Micheál Martin, Ireland’s Taoiseach or prime minister, said his government was giving the ruling serious and considered examination. – Climate News Network

Ireland looks forward to a greener future

Often called the Emerald Isle, Ireland prides itself on its green image – but the reality has been rather different.

DUBLIN, 6 July, 2020 – A predominantly rural country with a relatively small population and little heavy industry, Ireland is, per capita, one of the European Union’s biggest emitters of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Now there are signs of change: after an inconclusive general election and months of political negotiations, a new coalition government has been formed in which, for the first time, Ireland’s Green Party has a significant role.

As part of a deal it has done with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael – the two parties that have dominated Ireland’s politics for much of the last century – the Green Party wants a halt to any further exploration for fossil fuels in the country’s offshore waters.

It’s also calling for a stop to all imports of shale gas from the US. A new climate action law will set legally binding targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions – Ireland aims to reduce net emissions by more than 50% by 2030.

“We do not expect large emissions reductions as seen during the financial crisis of 2008”

Achieving that goal is a gargantuan task. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and an economic slowdown, Ireland’s carbon emissions are set to fall by nearly 10% this year according to a report by the country’s Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

The report warns that due mainly to low international energy prices, the use of fossil fuels is likely to surge after Covid.

“Though the economic impacts of the Covid crisis are severe, due to among others the decreased energy prices, we do not expect large emissions reductions as seen during the financial crisis of 2008”, says the ESRI’s Kelly de Bruin, a co-author of the study.

“Ireland would still need to put in considerable effort to reach its EU emission goals.

Methane abundance

“The results of the study underline the importance of having a well-designed government response policy package, which considers the unique economic and environmental challenges presented by the Covid crisis.”

Emissions have to be tackled mainly in two sectors – transport and agriculture – which together account for more than 50% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

With increased use of electric vehicles, higher diesel taxes and more efficient goods distribution systems, emissions in the transport sector are relatively easy to sort out. But agriculture – one of the mainstays of Ireland’s economy – is a much more difficult proposition.

Ireland has a population of five million – and a cattle herd of nearly seven million. The flatulence of cattle produces considerable amounts of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.

Determined Greens

Farming organisations have traditionally wielded considerable political power. In the past politicians have been accused of indulging in plenty of rhetoric but taking little positive action to address the perils of climate change.

Ireland’s Green Party, which has four ministers in the new 16-member coalition cabinet, says it will not hesitate to bring down the government if environmental promises are not kept.

Eamon Ryan, the Green Party leader and Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport, says the big challenge is to restore Ireland’s biodiversity and stop what he calls the madness of climate change.

“That’s our job in government. That’s what we’ve been voted in to do”, says Ryan. – Climate News Network

Often called the Emerald Isle, Ireland prides itself on its green image – but the reality has been rather different.

DUBLIN, 6 July, 2020 – A predominantly rural country with a relatively small population and little heavy industry, Ireland is, per capita, one of the European Union’s biggest emitters of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Now there are signs of change: after an inconclusive general election and months of political negotiations, a new coalition government has been formed in which, for the first time, Ireland’s Green Party has a significant role.

As part of a deal it has done with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael – the two parties that have dominated Ireland’s politics for much of the last century – the Green Party wants a halt to any further exploration for fossil fuels in the country’s offshore waters.

It’s also calling for a stop to all imports of shale gas from the US. A new climate action law will set legally binding targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions – Ireland aims to reduce net emissions by more than 50% by 2030.

“We do not expect large emissions reductions as seen during the financial crisis of 2008”

Achieving that goal is a gargantuan task. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and an economic slowdown, Ireland’s carbon emissions are set to fall by nearly 10% this year according to a report by the country’s Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

The report warns that due mainly to low international energy prices, the use of fossil fuels is likely to surge after Covid.

“Though the economic impacts of the Covid crisis are severe, due to among others the decreased energy prices, we do not expect large emissions reductions as seen during the financial crisis of 2008”, says the ESRI’s Kelly de Bruin, a co-author of the study.

“Ireland would still need to put in considerable effort to reach its EU emission goals.

Methane abundance

“The results of the study underline the importance of having a well-designed government response policy package, which considers the unique economic and environmental challenges presented by the Covid crisis.”

Emissions have to be tackled mainly in two sectors – transport and agriculture – which together account for more than 50% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

With increased use of electric vehicles, higher diesel taxes and more efficient goods distribution systems, emissions in the transport sector are relatively easy to sort out. But agriculture – one of the mainstays of Ireland’s economy – is a much more difficult proposition.

Ireland has a population of five million – and a cattle herd of nearly seven million. The flatulence of cattle produces considerable amounts of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.

Determined Greens

Farming organisations have traditionally wielded considerable political power. In the past politicians have been accused of indulging in plenty of rhetoric but taking little positive action to address the perils of climate change.

Ireland’s Green Party, which has four ministers in the new 16-member coalition cabinet, says it will not hesitate to bring down the government if environmental promises are not kept.

Eamon Ryan, the Green Party leader and Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport, says the big challenge is to restore Ireland’s biodiversity and stop what he calls the madness of climate change.

“That’s our job in government. That’s what we’ve been voted in to do”, says Ryan. – Climate News Network

Ireland’s turf war plan is 'bad news for climate'

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ireland’s farmers have been battling against environmental laws which restrict the cutting of turf  – used as fuel – on the country’s bog lands. A proposed Government compromise has been attacked by environmentalists who say it ignores the vital role the peat bogs play in storing greenhouse gases.

LONDON, 29 January – The cutting of turf or peat is one of the traditional images of life in Ireland. Many Irish households, particularly in rural areas, still rely on turf cut from the country’s bog lands for fuel – especially in these times of rising energy prices.

Environmentalists have long argued that these turf bogs or peat lands should be preserved. The bogs are not only home to a wide variety of flora and fauna: they also soak up excess water and are valuable carbon sinks, absorbing large quantities of greenhouse gases (GHG) and so curtailing climate change.

The European Union agrees and has threatened to impose large fines on Ireland unless it acts to preserve its bog lands, which are categorised as special areas of conservation.

Government attempts to stop turf cutting in many areas have failed: turf farmers insist on their right to cut turf, as generations before them have done. A leader of the turf cutters has been elected to the Dail, the Irish Parliament.

Now the Dublin Government has come up with a draft peat lands strategy which it hopes will bring peace to the bogs and head off the EU’s financial penalties: the strategy, while restricting turf cutting in some areas, allows it to continue on 45 bogs around the country.

‘Fantasy’ compromise

The plan, says the Government, is to meet national conservation targets while at the same time addressing the needs of affected communities. The strategy talks about the need to conserve environmental sites but says very little about the role of bogs in preventing climate change.

An Taisce, Ireland’s natural trust and the country’s oldest environmental body, has condemned the government’s plan as “the stuff of fantasy”.

“Bogs are a vital store of carbon and burning turf releases far more climate-altering gases than coal”, says An Taisce.

The strategy, it says, is inconsistent with both international and domestic scientific advice on carbon management. “Of all fuels, turf is the worst in terms of negatively affecting the climate.”

Other groups accuse the Government, by allowing turf cutting on a large number of bogs, of pandering to a powerful farming lobby and playing politics rather than attacking the issue of GHG emissions.

Massive emissions threat

In 2011 the Government’s own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report on the country’s bog lands which said that peat land degradation and burning resulted in 10 million tonnes of GHG emissions each year – equivalent to Ireland’s annual car emissions.

Peat bogs are formed over thousands of years, the result of the rotting down in flooded hollows in the land of reeds, sedges, moss and other vegetation.

Pollen grains locked away in peat bogs not only form a botanical record of the past but can also be used to provide evidence of how the climate has changed – much like ice cores in polar regions yield details of historical atmospheric levels of CO2.

Traditionally, turf was cut by hand, using a spade or slane. In the 1950s much of Ireland’s turf cutting became mechanized with the creation of a  state-owned turf company. Now only about 15% of Ireland’s raised peat lands are still intact. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ireland’s farmers have been battling against environmental laws which restrict the cutting of turf  – used as fuel – on the country’s bog lands. A proposed Government compromise has been attacked by environmentalists who say it ignores the vital role the peat bogs play in storing greenhouse gases.

LONDON, 29 January – The cutting of turf or peat is one of the traditional images of life in Ireland. Many Irish households, particularly in rural areas, still rely on turf cut from the country’s bog lands for fuel – especially in these times of rising energy prices.

Environmentalists have long argued that these turf bogs or peat lands should be preserved. The bogs are not only home to a wide variety of flora and fauna: they also soak up excess water and are valuable carbon sinks, absorbing large quantities of greenhouse gases (GHG) and so curtailing climate change.

The European Union agrees and has threatened to impose large fines on Ireland unless it acts to preserve its bog lands, which are categorised as special areas of conservation.

Government attempts to stop turf cutting in many areas have failed: turf farmers insist on their right to cut turf, as generations before them have done. A leader of the turf cutters has been elected to the Dail, the Irish Parliament.

Now the Dublin Government has come up with a draft peat lands strategy which it hopes will bring peace to the bogs and head off the EU’s financial penalties: the strategy, while restricting turf cutting in some areas, allows it to continue on 45 bogs around the country.

‘Fantasy’ compromise

The plan, says the Government, is to meet national conservation targets while at the same time addressing the needs of affected communities. The strategy talks about the need to conserve environmental sites but says very little about the role of bogs in preventing climate change.

An Taisce, Ireland’s natural trust and the country’s oldest environmental body, has condemned the government’s plan as “the stuff of fantasy”.

“Bogs are a vital store of carbon and burning turf releases far more climate-altering gases than coal”, says An Taisce.

The strategy, it says, is inconsistent with both international and domestic scientific advice on carbon management. “Of all fuels, turf is the worst in terms of negatively affecting the climate.”

Other groups accuse the Government, by allowing turf cutting on a large number of bogs, of pandering to a powerful farming lobby and playing politics rather than attacking the issue of GHG emissions.

Massive emissions threat

In 2011 the Government’s own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report on the country’s bog lands which said that peat land degradation and burning resulted in 10 million tonnes of GHG emissions each year – equivalent to Ireland’s annual car emissions.

Peat bogs are formed over thousands of years, the result of the rotting down in flooded hollows in the land of reeds, sedges, moss and other vegetation.

Pollen grains locked away in peat bogs not only form a botanical record of the past but can also be used to provide evidence of how the climate has changed – much like ice cores in polar regions yield details of historical atmospheric levels of CO2.

Traditionally, turf was cut by hand, using a spade or slane. In the 1950s much of Ireland’s turf cutting became mechanized with the creation of a  state-owned turf company. Now only about 15% of Ireland’s raised peat lands are still intact. – Climate News Network

Traditional knowledge 'vital to science'

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Peoples who have lived in the same place for countless generations – the Amazon, perhaps, or the Arctic – possess invaluable knowledge about living with climate change, and it is evolving all the time.

SAO PAULO, 23 July – Climate change often seems to be seen as the preserve of scientists and environmental journalists. But what about the accumulated wisdom of traditional and indigenous peoples?

A Brazilian anthropologist says they have an important contribution to make to knowledge about climate change, and it is about time they were heard.

Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, emeritus professor of the Department of Anthropology at Chicago University and the University of São Paulo, says scientists should listen to traditional and indigenous peoples because they are very well informed about their local climate as well as the natural world around them, and they can share this knowledge with scientists.

This knowledge, she says, is not a “treasure” of data to be stored and used when wanted, but a living and evolving process: “It is important to understand that traditional wisdom is not something simply transmitted from generation to generation. It is alive, and traditional and indigenous peoples are continually producing new knowledge”.

She points out that indigenous people often inhabit areas which are very vulnerable to climate and environmental change, and depend on the natural resources around them.

Yet despite this vast amount of accumulated wisdom it was only in 2007, after the publication of its fourth report, and nineteen years after it was set up, that the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) began asking them to help to develop ways to diminish global climate impacts.

Professor Cunha said confidence must be established between scientists and traditional peoples.  One of the best ways to do this was when a traditional community sought solutions for a problem which also interested the scientists.

An example, she said, was the Arctic Council – an intergovernmental forum of eight countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Russia, Canada and the US) and 16 traditional and indigenous populations, mostly reindeer herders – which takes strategic decisions about the North Pole.

With the herders who move their animals seasonally to other Arctic regions in search of better grazing, a group of researchers studied the impacts of climate change on the ecosystems, the economy and society in the region. NASA, universities and research institutes were also involved, and the result was the Arctic Resilience Report, produced in 2004.

This was perhaps the most successful experiment in collaboration between science and traditional and local knowledge, said Professor Cunha. It is important that each group knows what the other is doing, she said.

Local knowledge is not only vital: it is constantly developing to cope with new realities Image: RIA Novosti archive, image £501303/Mikhail Kuhtarev/CC-BY-SA 3.0

Local knowledge is not only vital: it is constantly developing to cope with new realities
Image: RIA Novosti archive, image £501303/Mikhail Kuhtarev/CC-BY-SA 3.0

She was speaking at the annual regional meeting of IPBES – the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – held in São Paulo earlier in July

The aim of  IPBES is to organise knowledge about the Earth’s biodiversity in order to offer information for political decisions at a world level, like the work carried out over the last 25 years by the IPCC.

Professor Cunha suggested that IPBES should involve local and indigenous populations from the beginning of the programme, calling on them to be involved in planning studies, identifying themes of common interest for study, and sharing the results.

“Their detailed knowledge is of fundamental importance. One of the limitations facing panels like the IPCC or the IPBES is how to identify problems and solutions for dealing with global climate change at the local level.

“This is something that only those who for generations have lived in these regions are able to perceive. They know in minute detail what directly affects their lives and are able to detect changes in the climate, in crop productivity and any reduction in the number of plant and animal species”.

On biodiversity loss, Professor Cunha and IBPES president Zakri Abdul Hamid presented data showing that, of roughly 30,000 species of plants cultivated worldwide, just 30 species account for 95% of the food eaten by humans. Within those 30, just five – rice, wheat, maize, millet and sorghum – account for 60%.

Why Ireland starved

The danger of relying on fewer and fewer species was cruelly demonstrated in 1845 when potato blight wiped out the crop and caused widespread famine in Ireland. Over a thousand potato varieties existed in South America, but only two were grown in Ireland. When blight struck, there were no other varieties to plant.

More recently the Green Revolution of the 1970s selected the most productive and genetically uniform varieties in preference to plants more adapted to the specific conditions of the world’s different regions. Differences of soil and climate were then corrected with chemicals. This led to the global spread of homogenous plants and the loss of many local varieties.

This is an enormous risk for food security because plants are vulnerable to attack by pests, for example, and each local variety of a plant had developed special defences for the type of environment in which it was cultivated.

Professor Cunha described how, far from the Green Revolution, in the Upper and Mid-River Negro in the Amazon, women of the indigenous communities who live there cultivate over 100 types of manioc, sharing their planting experiences with each other, experimenting with dozens of varieties simultaneously in their small plots.

Aware that these cultural practices create a diversity which is very important for food security, the Brazilian Government’s agricultural research company, Embrapa, has developed a pilot project with the indigenous organisations in the region, coordinated by Professor Cunha herself.

Whether it is with manioc growers in the Amazon, or reindeer herders in the Arctic, collaboration between scientists and these owners of traditional and local knowledge can only benefit the planet. – Climate News Network

 

The information in this article is drawn from one by Elton Alisson, published in the newsletter of FAPESP, the São Paulo Research Foundation, on 22 July 2013.

Editor’s note: IPBES will hold a series of meetings with scientists from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Europe in the next two months, producing regional diagnoses for a report on the planet’s biodiversity. Besides scientific knowledge, they will include the accumulated wisdom of the traditional and indigenous peoples of these regions to help develop conservation actions.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Peoples who have lived in the same place for countless generations – the Amazon, perhaps, or the Arctic – possess invaluable knowledge about living with climate change, and it is evolving all the time.

SAO PAULO, 23 July – Climate change often seems to be seen as the preserve of scientists and environmental journalists. But what about the accumulated wisdom of traditional and indigenous peoples?

A Brazilian anthropologist says they have an important contribution to make to knowledge about climate change, and it is about time they were heard.

Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, emeritus professor of the Department of Anthropology at Chicago University and the University of São Paulo, says scientists should listen to traditional and indigenous peoples because they are very well informed about their local climate as well as the natural world around them, and they can share this knowledge with scientists.

This knowledge, she says, is not a “treasure” of data to be stored and used when wanted, but a living and evolving process: “It is important to understand that traditional wisdom is not something simply transmitted from generation to generation. It is alive, and traditional and indigenous peoples are continually producing new knowledge”.

She points out that indigenous people often inhabit areas which are very vulnerable to climate and environmental change, and depend on the natural resources around them.

Yet despite this vast amount of accumulated wisdom it was only in 2007, after the publication of its fourth report, and nineteen years after it was set up, that the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) began asking them to help to develop ways to diminish global climate impacts.

Professor Cunha said confidence must be established between scientists and traditional peoples.  One of the best ways to do this was when a traditional community sought solutions for a problem which also interested the scientists.

An example, she said, was the Arctic Council – an intergovernmental forum of eight countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Russia, Canada and the US) and 16 traditional and indigenous populations, mostly reindeer herders – which takes strategic decisions about the North Pole.

With the herders who move their animals seasonally to other Arctic regions in search of better grazing, a group of researchers studied the impacts of climate change on the ecosystems, the economy and society in the region. NASA, universities and research institutes were also involved, and the result was the Arctic Resilience Report, produced in 2004.

This was perhaps the most successful experiment in collaboration between science and traditional and local knowledge, said Professor Cunha. It is important that each group knows what the other is doing, she said.

Local knowledge is not only vital: it is constantly developing to cope with new realities Image: RIA Novosti archive, image £501303/Mikhail Kuhtarev/CC-BY-SA 3.0

Local knowledge is not only vital: it is constantly developing to cope with new realities
Image: RIA Novosti archive, image £501303/Mikhail Kuhtarev/CC-BY-SA 3.0

She was speaking at the annual regional meeting of IPBES – the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – held in São Paulo earlier in July

The aim of  IPBES is to organise knowledge about the Earth’s biodiversity in order to offer information for political decisions at a world level, like the work carried out over the last 25 years by the IPCC.

Professor Cunha suggested that IPBES should involve local and indigenous populations from the beginning of the programme, calling on them to be involved in planning studies, identifying themes of common interest for study, and sharing the results.

“Their detailed knowledge is of fundamental importance. One of the limitations facing panels like the IPCC or the IPBES is how to identify problems and solutions for dealing with global climate change at the local level.

“This is something that only those who for generations have lived in these regions are able to perceive. They know in minute detail what directly affects their lives and are able to detect changes in the climate, in crop productivity and any reduction in the number of plant and animal species”.

On biodiversity loss, Professor Cunha and IBPES president Zakri Abdul Hamid presented data showing that, of roughly 30,000 species of plants cultivated worldwide, just 30 species account for 95% of the food eaten by humans. Within those 30, just five – rice, wheat, maize, millet and sorghum – account for 60%.

Why Ireland starved

The danger of relying on fewer and fewer species was cruelly demonstrated in 1845 when potato blight wiped out the crop and caused widespread famine in Ireland. Over a thousand potato varieties existed in South America, but only two were grown in Ireland. When blight struck, there were no other varieties to plant.

More recently the Green Revolution of the 1970s selected the most productive and genetically uniform varieties in preference to plants more adapted to the specific conditions of the world’s different regions. Differences of soil and climate were then corrected with chemicals. This led to the global spread of homogenous plants and the loss of many local varieties.

This is an enormous risk for food security because plants are vulnerable to attack by pests, for example, and each local variety of a plant had developed special defences for the type of environment in which it was cultivated.

Professor Cunha described how, far from the Green Revolution, in the Upper and Mid-River Negro in the Amazon, women of the indigenous communities who live there cultivate over 100 types of manioc, sharing their planting experiences with each other, experimenting with dozens of varieties simultaneously in their small plots.

Aware that these cultural practices create a diversity which is very important for food security, the Brazilian Government’s agricultural research company, Embrapa, has developed a pilot project with the indigenous organisations in the region, coordinated by Professor Cunha herself.

Whether it is with manioc growers in the Amazon, or reindeer herders in the Arctic, collaboration between scientists and these owners of traditional and local knowledge can only benefit the planet. – Climate News Network

 

The information in this article is drawn from one by Elton Alisson, published in the newsletter of FAPESP, the São Paulo Research Foundation, on 22 July 2013.

Editor’s note: IPBES will hold a series of meetings with scientists from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Europe in the next two months, producing regional diagnoses for a report on the planet’s biodiversity. Besides scientific knowledge, they will include the accumulated wisdom of the traditional and indigenous peoples of these regions to help develop conservation actions.