Tag Archives: Water

Salt-free drinkable water comes at a cost

Two thirds of the world worries about water for at least a month annually. One successful source of salt-free drinkable water leaves a bitter aftertaste.

LONDON, 15 January, 2019 – Around the arid world, some 16,000 desalination plants are now purifying seawater and brackish aquifers, producing 95 million cubic metres of fresh, salt-free drinkable water daily. This is almost half the daily flow over Niagara Falls.

But there is a potentially-polluting price to pay: for every litre of fresh water, the same desalination plants produce around 1.5 litres of toxic brine. That adds up to enough in the course of a year to cover the whole of the US state of Florida to a depth of more than 30 cms.

A new study urges nations to explore better solutions – and new ways to exploit the minerals in the wastewater and support efforts to advance the declared UN sustainable development goal of reliable, safe water on tap for everybody in the world.

A second study confirms that the sustainable development goal of clean water and sanitation for everybody by 2030 is likely to cost around $1 trillion a year – and up to 8% more if the advances are matched by efforts to contain climate change and limit global warming to the agreed UN target of well below 2°C above historic levels by 2100.

“Reject brine has been used for aquaculture, with increases in fish biomass of 300%”

Four out of ten of the world’s people face severe water scarcity. More than six out of ten experience at least one month a year in conditions of water scarcity. There are now desalination technologies at work in 177 countries: two thirds of them in nations with high incomes.

Researchers from the UN University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), and from the Netherlands and Korea, report in the journal Science of the Total Environment that they found that 55% of all the hypersaline brine was produced by just four Middle Eastern nations. China, the USA and Spain produce most of the rest.

Small island nations depend on desalination technology for their survival, and eight countries could meet all their freshwater needs by evaporating sea water.

The waste tended to be directly discharged into the oceans, surface water or sewers, injected into deep wells or left to evaporate in ponds. Untreated, it was a threat to marine ecosystems. On land, it enhanced the increasing hazard of soil salination.

Exploitation possible

But such brines could be used effectively in aquaculture, or to nourish salt-tolerant crops. They were rich in sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, bromine, strontium, lithium, rubidium and even uranium: they could be exploited for industry and in agriculture. There aren’t the technologies yet to extract such elements economically, but the scientists make the case for trying.

“There is a need to translate such research and convert an environmental problem into an economic opportunity. This is particularly important in countries producing large volumes of brine with relatively low efficiencies, such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar,” said Manzoor Qadir, of UNU-INWEH, one of the authors.

“Using saline drainage water offers potential commercial, social and environmental gains. Reject brine has been used for aquaculture, with increases in fish biomass of 300% achieved. It has also been successfully used to cultivate the dietary supplement Spirulina, and to irrigate forage shrubs and crops (although this latter use can cause progressive land salinisation).”

Integrated policies

And researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria also believe in a twofold approach to the looming world water crisis: they report in the journal Environmental Research Letters that they want to see the provision of water and sanitation – from any source – and action on climate in an integrated approach.

Both are among the 17 goals of sustainable development adopted by UN agencies and 93 nations. The IIASA researchers think, for example, that water pumping and treatment plants could also work with a nation’s electricity grids to make the most efficient use of both.

“The results of our analysis show that combining clean water and climate policies can increase implementation costs, but these increases are relatively small in comparison to the cost for implementing each policy on its own,” said Simon Parkinson, a researcher from IIASA and the University of Victoria, who led the study.

“Finding and improving synergies between decarbonisation and water efficiency is crucial for minimising joint policy implementation costs and uncertainties.” – Climate News Network

Two thirds of the world worries about water for at least a month annually. One successful source of salt-free drinkable water leaves a bitter aftertaste.

LONDON, 15 January, 2019 – Around the arid world, some 16,000 desalination plants are now purifying seawater and brackish aquifers, producing 95 million cubic metres of fresh, salt-free drinkable water daily. This is almost half the daily flow over Niagara Falls.

But there is a potentially-polluting price to pay: for every litre of fresh water, the same desalination plants produce around 1.5 litres of toxic brine. That adds up to enough in the course of a year to cover the whole of the US state of Florida to a depth of more than 30 cms.

A new study urges nations to explore better solutions – and new ways to exploit the minerals in the wastewater and support efforts to advance the declared UN sustainable development goal of reliable, safe water on tap for everybody in the world.

A second study confirms that the sustainable development goal of clean water and sanitation for everybody by 2030 is likely to cost around $1 trillion a year – and up to 8% more if the advances are matched by efforts to contain climate change and limit global warming to the agreed UN target of well below 2°C above historic levels by 2100.

“Reject brine has been used for aquaculture, with increases in fish biomass of 300%”

Four out of ten of the world’s people face severe water scarcity. More than six out of ten experience at least one month a year in conditions of water scarcity. There are now desalination technologies at work in 177 countries: two thirds of them in nations with high incomes.

Researchers from the UN University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), and from the Netherlands and Korea, report in the journal Science of the Total Environment that they found that 55% of all the hypersaline brine was produced by just four Middle Eastern nations. China, the USA and Spain produce most of the rest.

Small island nations depend on desalination technology for their survival, and eight countries could meet all their freshwater needs by evaporating sea water.

The waste tended to be directly discharged into the oceans, surface water or sewers, injected into deep wells or left to evaporate in ponds. Untreated, it was a threat to marine ecosystems. On land, it enhanced the increasing hazard of soil salination.

Exploitation possible

But such brines could be used effectively in aquaculture, or to nourish salt-tolerant crops. They were rich in sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, bromine, strontium, lithium, rubidium and even uranium: they could be exploited for industry and in agriculture. There aren’t the technologies yet to extract such elements economically, but the scientists make the case for trying.

“There is a need to translate such research and convert an environmental problem into an economic opportunity. This is particularly important in countries producing large volumes of brine with relatively low efficiencies, such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar,” said Manzoor Qadir, of UNU-INWEH, one of the authors.

“Using saline drainage water offers potential commercial, social and environmental gains. Reject brine has been used for aquaculture, with increases in fish biomass of 300% achieved. It has also been successfully used to cultivate the dietary supplement Spirulina, and to irrigate forage shrubs and crops (although this latter use can cause progressive land salinisation).”

Integrated policies

And researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria also believe in a twofold approach to the looming world water crisis: they report in the journal Environmental Research Letters that they want to see the provision of water and sanitation – from any source – and action on climate in an integrated approach.

Both are among the 17 goals of sustainable development adopted by UN agencies and 93 nations. The IIASA researchers think, for example, that water pumping and treatment plants could also work with a nation’s electricity grids to make the most efficient use of both.

“The results of our analysis show that combining clean water and climate policies can increase implementation costs, but these increases are relatively small in comparison to the cost for implementing each policy on its own,” said Simon Parkinson, a researcher from IIASA and the University of Victoria, who led the study.

“Finding and improving synergies between decarbonisation and water efficiency is crucial for minimising joint policy implementation costs and uncertainties.” – Climate News Network

Bolivian glaciers melt at alarming rate

glaciers

A new study mapping the effects of dwindling glaciers on people living in Bolivia reveals rapid shrinkage and potentially dangerous glacial lakes.

LONDON, 22 October, 2016 Between 1986 and 2014 – one human generation – the glaciers of Bolivia shrank by 43%, according to new research.

This presents a problem in the long term for more than 2 million people who rely on glacial meltwater supply in the dry season, and immediate danger in the short term for thousands who might live below precarious glacial lakes.

Glaciers are in retreat as the world warms − a consequence of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in response to the increasing combustion of fossil fuels.

They are dwindling almost everywhere in the Andean chain, in Greenland, in Alaska and Canada, the Himalayas, across the entire mass of Central Asia, and everywhere in the tropics.

Tropical glaciers

But a new study in The Cryosphere, the journal of the European Geosciences Union, is one of the first to examine in detail precisely what this retreat could mean for the human communities in Bolivia, home to one-fifth of the world’s tropical glaciers.

Researchers from two British universities and a Bolivian colleague examined NASA satellite images of the region and found that the area of the Bolivia Cordillera Oriental normally covered by glaciers fell from 530 square kilometres in 1986 to about 300 sq km in 2014 − a shrinkage of more than two-fifths.

They then turned to the glacial lakes − bodies of water left behind as a glacier retreats. Some are in natural dips in the bedrock, some are accidentally dammed behind walls of glacial debris.

All such lakes are precarious: rockfalls, earthquakes and avalanches can breach them or tip water from them to create a dangerous downstream flow.

We mapped hundreds of lakes,” says Simon Cook, senior lecturer in physical geography at Manchester Metropolitan University, who led the study.

Some lakes are very small and pose little risk. Others are very large, but there’s little or no possibility that they would drain catastrophically. Others are large enough to create a big flood, and sit beneath steep slopes or steep glaciers, and could be dangerous.”

Studies such as these are a demonstration that climate change is happening, and that science can deliver practical help to communities in the path of potential disaster or economic stress.

Most glaciers will be gone or much diminished
by the end of the century – so where will the water come from in the dry season?”

Civil engineers, geographers, conservationists and hydraulic engineers are no longer simply warning about the hazards of climate change. They have begun to identify the communities most vulnerable to flooding, the hazards to local biodiversity as forests and grasslands begin to feel the heat, and the cities most at risk from routine coastal flooding as sea levels rise. and the US states that must start planning now for future power disruption as a consequence of drought.

Meltwater matters to mountain communities. It supplies the drive for hydroelectric power and it delivers clean drinking water to the cities and irrigation for crops in the dry season.

Reservoirs at risk

Through the year, the 2.3 million people in the Bolivian cities of La Paz and El Alto get 15% of their water from glacial supplies; in the dry season, this figure doubles. Glacial meltwater also keeps regional rivers and lakes topped up. So as the glaciers retreat and the body of surviving ice dwindles, some of these reservoirs, too, are at risk.

The researchers pinpointed 25 lakes as potentially dangerous. Even the smallest, were it to drain completely, would tip a peak flow of 600 cubic metres of water a second down the hillside. The largest could discharge 125,000 cubic metres − 50 times the volume of an Olympic swimming pool − every second.

A glacial lake outburst in 2009 killed farm animals, destroyed crops and washed away a road, leaving villagers isolated for months.

Dr Cook says: “We considered that a lake was dangerous if there were settlements or infrastructure down-valley from the lake, and if the slopes and glaciers around the lake were very steep, meaning that they could shed ice or snow or rock into the lake, which would cause it to overtop and generate a flood – a bit like jumping into a swimming pool, but on a much bigger scale.

Most glaciers will be gone or much diminished by the end of the century – so where will the water come from in the dry season?

Big cities like La Paz are partially dependent on meltwater from glaciers. But little is known about potential water resource stress in more remote areas. Much more work needs to be done on this issue.” Climate News Network

A new study mapping the effects of dwindling glaciers on people living in Bolivia reveals rapid shrinkage and potentially dangerous glacial lakes.

LONDON, 22 October, 2016 Between 1986 and 2014 – one human generation – the glaciers of Bolivia shrank by 43%, according to new research.

This presents a problem in the long term for more than 2 million people who rely on glacial meltwater supply in the dry season, and immediate danger in the short term for thousands who might live below precarious glacial lakes.

Glaciers are in retreat as the world warms − a consequence of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in response to the increasing combustion of fossil fuels.

They are dwindling almost everywhere in the Andean chain, in Greenland, in Alaska and Canada, the Himalayas, across the entire mass of Central Asia, and everywhere in the tropics.

Tropical glaciers

But a new study in The Cryosphere, the journal of the European Geosciences Union, is one of the first to examine in detail precisely what this retreat could mean for the human communities in Bolivia, home to one-fifth of the world’s tropical glaciers.

Researchers from two British universities and a Bolivian colleague examined NASA satellite images of the region and found that the area of the Bolivia Cordillera Oriental normally covered by glaciers fell from 530 square kilometres in 1986 to about 300 sq km in 2014 − a shrinkage of more than two-fifths.

They then turned to the glacial lakes − bodies of water left behind as a glacier retreats. Some are in natural dips in the bedrock, some are accidentally dammed behind walls of glacial debris.

All such lakes are precarious: rockfalls, earthquakes and avalanches can breach them or tip water from them to create a dangerous downstream flow.

We mapped hundreds of lakes,” says Simon Cook, senior lecturer in physical geography at Manchester Metropolitan University, who led the study.

Some lakes are very small and pose little risk. Others are very large, but there’s little or no possibility that they would drain catastrophically. Others are large enough to create a big flood, and sit beneath steep slopes or steep glaciers, and could be dangerous.”

Studies such as these are a demonstration that climate change is happening, and that science can deliver practical help to communities in the path of potential disaster or economic stress.

Most glaciers will be gone or much diminished
by the end of the century – so where will the water come from in the dry season?”

Civil engineers, geographers, conservationists and hydraulic engineers are no longer simply warning about the hazards of climate change. They have begun to identify the communities most vulnerable to flooding, the hazards to local biodiversity as forests and grasslands begin to feel the heat, and the cities most at risk from routine coastal flooding as sea levels rise. and the US states that must start planning now for future power disruption as a consequence of drought.

Meltwater matters to mountain communities. It supplies the drive for hydroelectric power and it delivers clean drinking water to the cities and irrigation for crops in the dry season.

Reservoirs at risk

Through the year, the 2.3 million people in the Bolivian cities of La Paz and El Alto get 15% of their water from glacial supplies; in the dry season, this figure doubles. Glacial meltwater also keeps regional rivers and lakes topped up. So as the glaciers retreat and the body of surviving ice dwindles, some of these reservoirs, too, are at risk.

The researchers pinpointed 25 lakes as potentially dangerous. Even the smallest, were it to drain completely, would tip a peak flow of 600 cubic metres of water a second down the hillside. The largest could discharge 125,000 cubic metres − 50 times the volume of an Olympic swimming pool − every second.

A glacial lake outburst in 2009 killed farm animals, destroyed crops and washed away a road, leaving villagers isolated for months.

Dr Cook says: “We considered that a lake was dangerous if there were settlements or infrastructure down-valley from the lake, and if the slopes and glaciers around the lake were very steep, meaning that they could shed ice or snow or rock into the lake, which would cause it to overtop and generate a flood – a bit like jumping into a swimming pool, but on a much bigger scale.

Most glaciers will be gone or much diminished by the end of the century – so where will the water come from in the dry season?

Big cities like La Paz are partially dependent on meltwater from glaciers. But little is known about potential water resource stress in more remote areas. Much more work needs to be done on this issue.” Climate News Network

South Asia slow to act on water threats

A study of the five countries sharing and relying on the Indian sub-continent’s great rivers shows that Bangladesh is the only one that is taking climate change seriously. NEW DELHI, 7 July, 2014: Even before this year’s delayed and inadequate monsoon recently brought some relief to the Indian sub-continent, researchers discovered widespread concern by local experts that their governments are mismanaging the water supplies on which a billion people depend for survival, and giving insufficient attention to climate change. A new report, Attitudes to Water in South Asia, explores domestic water management and transboundary water issues in five countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. It focuses on two river systems, the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and the Indus-Kabul basins, which are vital to the lives of a vast population. Chatham House – the home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs − worked on the report with India’s Observer Research Foundation, and similar partner organisations in the other four countries. Their findings are based on evidence from almost 500 interviews conducted in the five countries in 2013 with a range of water experts, government officials, policy-makers and decision-makers from NGOs and the private sector. Observing that water is “highly politicised in the region, with strong links to food security and the livelihoods of the large proportion of the population dependent on agriculture”, the report underscores the relation between the domestic mismanagement of water in each country and the failure to address transboundary water relations.

Few agreements

“In spite of the shared river system and the interdependencies, South Asian governments have signed few bilateral water agreements and no regional ones,” the report says. “Those transboundary water treaties that do exist face criticism on a number of grounds: for time periods too short to too long; and for their lack of provision for environmental factors or new challenges, such as climate change.”. Yet the ability of countries in South Asia to deal with the possible effects of climate change will be in part determined by their ability to manage water, and also how they deal with weather events such as floods and droughts.

“The majority . . .  expressed concern that their governments were giving the issue of climate change insufficient attention”

While many respondents across the region felt that other immediate concerns were more pressing, the majority of those interviewed expressed concern that their governments were giving the issue of climate change insufficient attention,” said Gareth Price, a senior research fellow at Chatham House and lead author of the report. For instance, in Afghanistan, even where respondents had some knowledge of the body responsible for setting government-wide policy on climate change, they were equally certain that the amount of practical action on ground was virtually zero. In Bangladesh, where most respondents were acutely aware of climate change and its possible effects, many said their government was doing better. There was a general consensus that ministers had made climate change a priority by setting aside funds for adaptation and mitigation. However, Afghani and Bangladeshi respondents noted the lack of availability of important policy documents − currently available only in English − in local languages.. And Indian respondents felt that climate change was not a major priority for the government, although it was widely recognised that it could wreak havoc on the country. “Inadequate water storage leaving farmers vulnerable to the vagaries of weather suggest an urgent need for appropriate investment in such facilities in order to not just increase agriculture production, but also to ensure farmers have an option to adjust to changing climate,” the report says.

Food security

Climate change could also have a big impact on the transboundary water relations, the report warns. Some respondents from India and Bangladesh feared that a variation in the timing and intensity of monsoons could affect agricultural production and weaken food security, “driving tension between the two countries over access to water in a dry period”. Interviewees from Nepal perceived climate change as a “future threat”, in comparison with immediate challenges and the need to increase access to water and electricity. Most respondents felt that Nepal’s approach was “inadequate” and pointed out the gap between national plans and local implementation. Pakistani respondents believed their country’s approach to climate change lacked “urgency”. They particularly pointed out that a Ministry of Climate Change had recently been reduced to a mere division of another ministry, and had had its funding slashed by 62%.

Brink of cataclysm

The report quoted a climate change expert working with the Pakistan government, who said his country stood on the brink of an environmental cataclysm, with the seasonal monsoon shifting away from traditional catchment areas towards Afghanistan. “This trend, reinforced by climate change, [has]increased the likelihood of extraordinary rainfall patterns, cloudbursts, and flash floods,” he said. The researchers’ recommendations Include: improving domestic water management, and rainwater harvesting; enhancing data collection, data sharing and discussions between the five countries, particularly in relation to floods and droughts, and the management of watersheds and river basins; easing water demand through less water-intensive crops and irrigation methods. They also stress that existing treaties should be revisited, ensuring that they address technological advances, environmental factors and climate change. – Climate News Network

  • Nivedita Khandekar is a journalist based in New Delhi, focusing on environmental and developmental issues. She has worked at the Press Trust of India, India’s premier news agency, and the Hindustan Times, one of the leading national daily newspapers in India. Her journalistic achievements include a national award for environmental reporting, an award for reporting on health issues, and a Rural Reporting Fellowship.

A study of the five countries sharing and relying on the Indian sub-continent’s great rivers shows that Bangladesh is the only one that is taking climate change seriously. NEW DELHI, 7 July, 2014: Even before this year’s delayed and inadequate monsoon recently brought some relief to the Indian sub-continent, researchers discovered widespread concern by local experts that their governments are mismanaging the water supplies on which a billion people depend for survival, and giving insufficient attention to climate change. A new report, Attitudes to Water in South Asia, explores domestic water management and transboundary water issues in five countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. It focuses on two river systems, the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and the Indus-Kabul basins, which are vital to the lives of a vast population. Chatham House – the home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs − worked on the report with India’s Observer Research Foundation, and similar partner organisations in the other four countries. Their findings are based on evidence from almost 500 interviews conducted in the five countries in 2013 with a range of water experts, government officials, policy-makers and decision-makers from NGOs and the private sector. Observing that water is “highly politicised in the region, with strong links to food security and the livelihoods of the large proportion of the population dependent on agriculture”, the report underscores the relation between the domestic mismanagement of water in each country and the failure to address transboundary water relations.

Few agreements

“In spite of the shared river system and the interdependencies, South Asian governments have signed few bilateral water agreements and no regional ones,” the report says. “Those transboundary water treaties that do exist face criticism on a number of grounds: for time periods too short to too long; and for their lack of provision for environmental factors or new challenges, such as climate change.”. Yet the ability of countries in South Asia to deal with the possible effects of climate change will be in part determined by their ability to manage water, and also how they deal with weather events such as floods and droughts.

“The majority . . .  expressed concern that their governments were giving the issue of climate change insufficient attention”

While many respondents across the region felt that other immediate concerns were more pressing, the majority of those interviewed expressed concern that their governments were giving the issue of climate change insufficient attention,” said Gareth Price, a senior research fellow at Chatham House and lead author of the report. For instance, in Afghanistan, even where respondents had some knowledge of the body responsible for setting government-wide policy on climate change, they were equally certain that the amount of practical action on ground was virtually zero. In Bangladesh, where most respondents were acutely aware of climate change and its possible effects, many said their government was doing better. There was a general consensus that ministers had made climate change a priority by setting aside funds for adaptation and mitigation. However, Afghani and Bangladeshi respondents noted the lack of availability of important policy documents − currently available only in English − in local languages.. And Indian respondents felt that climate change was not a major priority for the government, although it was widely recognised that it could wreak havoc on the country. “Inadequate water storage leaving farmers vulnerable to the vagaries of weather suggest an urgent need for appropriate investment in such facilities in order to not just increase agriculture production, but also to ensure farmers have an option to adjust to changing climate,” the report says.

Food security

Climate change could also have a big impact on the transboundary water relations, the report warns. Some respondents from India and Bangladesh feared that a variation in the timing and intensity of monsoons could affect agricultural production and weaken food security, “driving tension between the two countries over access to water in a dry period”. Interviewees from Nepal perceived climate change as a “future threat”, in comparison with immediate challenges and the need to increase access to water and electricity. Most respondents felt that Nepal’s approach was “inadequate” and pointed out the gap between national plans and local implementation. Pakistani respondents believed their country’s approach to climate change lacked “urgency”. They particularly pointed out that a Ministry of Climate Change had recently been reduced to a mere division of another ministry, and had had its funding slashed by 62%.

Brink of cataclysm

The report quoted a climate change expert working with the Pakistan government, who said his country stood on the brink of an environmental cataclysm, with the seasonal monsoon shifting away from traditional catchment areas towards Afghanistan. “This trend, reinforced by climate change, [has]increased the likelihood of extraordinary rainfall patterns, cloudbursts, and flash floods,” he said. The researchers’ recommendations Include: improving domestic water management, and rainwater harvesting; enhancing data collection, data sharing and discussions between the five countries, particularly in relation to floods and droughts, and the management of watersheds and river basins; easing water demand through less water-intensive crops and irrigation methods. They also stress that existing treaties should be revisited, ensuring that they address technological advances, environmental factors and climate change. – Climate News Network

  • Nivedita Khandekar is a journalist based in New Delhi, focusing on environmental and developmental issues. She has worked at the Press Trust of India, India’s premier news agency, and the Hindustan Times, one of the leading national daily newspapers in India. Her journalistic achievements include a national award for environmental reporting, an award for reporting on health issues, and a Rural Reporting Fellowship.

Food waste worsens GHG emissions – FAO

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says food wastage across the world – totalling 1.3 billion tonnes of food annually – is the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions after China and the USA. LONDON, 13 September – The FAO estimates the direct cost to producers of food that goes to waste is currently US $750 billion annually, a figure that excludes wasted fish and seafood. But the FAO says the waste not only causes huge economic losses but is also doing very significant damage to natural resources – climate, water, land and biodiversity. It says its report, Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, is the first study to analyse the impacts of global food waste from an environmental perspective. The authors say: “Without accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated at 3.3 Gigatonnes [billion tonnes] of CO2 equivalent: as such, food wastage ranks as the third top emitter after the USA and China. “Globally, the blue water footprint (i.e., the consumption of surface and groundwater resources) of food wastage is about 250 cubic kilometres, which is equivalent to the annual water discharge of the Volga river [in Russia], or three times the volume of [Switzerland’s] Lake Geneva. “Finally, produced but uneaten food vainly occupies almost 1.4 billion hectares of land; this represents close to 30% of the world’s agricultural land area.” “We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day,” said the FAO’s director-general, José Graziano da Silva. The FAO has also published a comprehensive tool-kit as a companion to the study; it contains recommendations on how to reduce food loss and waste along the food chain, and details projects around the world that are seeking to tackle the problem. The FAO and the UN Environment Programme are founding partners of the Think Eat Save – Reduce Your Foodprint campaign, which was launched earlier this year and which aims to help to co-ordinate worldwide efforts to cut wastage. The study says 54% of global food wastage occurs during production, post-harvest handling and storage, and 46% at the processing, distribution and consumption stages. As a general trend, developing countries suffer more food losses during the production stages, while food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher in middle and high-income regions. The report says that the later a food product is lost along the chain, the greater the environmental consequences, since the environmental costs incurred during processing, transport, storage and cooking must be added to the initial production costs. Meat production has a substantial impact on the environment in terms of land occupation and carbon footprint, especially in high-income countries and in Latin America, which together account for 80% of all meat wastage. Apart from Latin America, it is high-income regions which are responsible for about 67% of all wasted meat. Fruit wastage contributes significantly to water waste in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, and large volumes of vegetable wastage in industrialised parts of Asia and Europe mean a large carbon footprint for the sector. Wastage of cereals is a significant problem in Asia, affecting carbon emissions as well as water and land use. Rice is a particular problem: paddy fields account for around 20% of human-related emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and a significant amount of rice is wasted. Uneaten food that ends up rotting in landfills is also a large producer of methane, although there is another use to be made of it which can offer worthwhile returns. A British company is among those who are profiting by exploiting them. – Climate News Network

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says food wastage across the world – totalling 1.3 billion tonnes of food annually – is the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions after China and the USA. LONDON, 13 September – The FAO estimates the direct cost to producers of food that goes to waste is currently US $750 billion annually, a figure that excludes wasted fish and seafood. But the FAO says the waste not only causes huge economic losses but is also doing very significant damage to natural resources – climate, water, land and biodiversity. It says its report, Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, is the first study to analyse the impacts of global food waste from an environmental perspective. The authors say: “Without accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated at 3.3 Gigatonnes [billion tonnes] of CO2 equivalent: as such, food wastage ranks as the third top emitter after the USA and China. “Globally, the blue water footprint (i.e., the consumption of surface and groundwater resources) of food wastage is about 250 cubic kilometres, which is equivalent to the annual water discharge of the Volga river [in Russia], or three times the volume of [Switzerland’s] Lake Geneva. “Finally, produced but uneaten food vainly occupies almost 1.4 billion hectares of land; this represents close to 30% of the world’s agricultural land area.” “We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day,” said the FAO’s director-general, José Graziano da Silva. The FAO has also published a comprehensive tool-kit as a companion to the study; it contains recommendations on how to reduce food loss and waste along the food chain, and details projects around the world that are seeking to tackle the problem. The FAO and the UN Environment Programme are founding partners of the Think Eat Save – Reduce Your Foodprint campaign, which was launched earlier this year and which aims to help to co-ordinate worldwide efforts to cut wastage. The study says 54% of global food wastage occurs during production, post-harvest handling and storage, and 46% at the processing, distribution and consumption stages. As a general trend, developing countries suffer more food losses during the production stages, while food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher in middle and high-income regions. The report says that the later a food product is lost along the chain, the greater the environmental consequences, since the environmental costs incurred during processing, transport, storage and cooking must be added to the initial production costs. Meat production has a substantial impact on the environment in terms of land occupation and carbon footprint, especially in high-income countries and in Latin America, which together account for 80% of all meat wastage. Apart from Latin America, it is high-income regions which are responsible for about 67% of all wasted meat. Fruit wastage contributes significantly to water waste in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, and large volumes of vegetable wastage in industrialised parts of Asia and Europe mean a large carbon footprint for the sector. Wastage of cereals is a significant problem in Asia, affecting carbon emissions as well as water and land use. Rice is a particular problem: paddy fields account for around 20% of human-related emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and a significant amount of rice is wasted. Uneaten food that ends up rotting in landfills is also a large producer of methane, although there is another use to be made of it which can offer worthwhile returns. A British company is among those who are profiting by exploiting them. – Climate News Network

Acid oceans threaten billion-dollar oyster business

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Scientists have identified the problem that commercial hatcheries must overcome to keep baby oysters alive in increasingly acid seas − but wild oysters are still under threat LONDON, 22 June − Bad news for American gourmets: the commercial oyster industry in the Pacific Northwest has been failing for several years, and may go on failing as increasingly acid oceans put the larvae of the bivalve Crassostrea gigas seriously at risk. The good news is that US scientists now know exactly why things are going wrong in the oyster beds, which opens up the possibility of commercial hatcheries finding ways to get round the problem. First, the facts: as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise inexorably, so the gas dissolves in water and falls as a very weak carbonic acid rain, with a subtle but measurable change in the pH values of the planet’s oceans. There have always been dissolved gases in rainwater, but as long as pH levels remain stable, the ocean’s corals and molluscs not only adapt, they subtly exploit the water chemistry to build stronger bones and shells.

Sensitive to change

Oysters seem unusually sensitive to changes in pH, but marine biologist George Waldbusser and research colleagues at Oregon State University report in Geophysical Research Letters that the failure of the oyster harvest isn’t a simple case of acid waters dissolving calcium carbonate shells. Instead, water high in dissolved carbon dioxide tends to alter the shell formation rates, the energy usage and, ultimately, the growth and survival of young oysters. Females tend to produce eggs by the million as water temperatures reach around 20°C. Once fertilised and hatched, the embryos have about two days to start building a shell. Raised carbon dioxide levels in the water impose an extra energy cost for the little shell-builders. Mature oysters can take their time and assemble calcium carbonate production more slowly, but larvae don’t have the time. Their only energy supply is the nourishment in the egg. “From the time eggs are fertilised, Pacific oyster larvae precipitate roughly 90% of their bodyweight as calcium carbonate shell within 48 hours,” Dr Waldbusser says. “They must build their first shell quickly on a limited amount of energy – and, along with the shell, comes the organ to capture external food.

Death race

“It becomes a death race of sorts. Can the oyster build its shell quickly enough to allow its feeding mechanism to develop before it runs out of energy from the egg?” Armed with this insight into oyster bed ecology, the scientists say, there are interventions that can be introduced at hatcheries that may offset some of the effects of ocean acidification. Some hatcheries have started to “buffer” the water supplies in commercial hatcheries that supply the marine and estuary oyster beds − essentially, adding antacids to incoming waters. However, what may be hopeful news for fish farmers may not be such good news for the wild oyster, which will no doubt experience more stress in its native waters as carbon dioxide levels go on rising. The research matters at one level because Pacific oyster farming is now a billion-dollar business, and at another because it exposes something of the intricate connection between sea-dwelling creatures and the chemistry of the sea. It is also a reminder that any creature faces different hazards at every stage of its life cycle. The report’s authors say: “We suggest that the predictions of winners and losers in a high CO² world may be better informed by calcium carbonate kinetics, bioenergetics, ontogeny, and life-history characteristics than by shell mineralogy alone.” − Climate News Network  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Scientists have identified the problem that commercial hatcheries must overcome to keep baby oysters alive in increasingly acid seas − but wild oysters are still under threat LONDON, 22 June − Bad news for American gourmets: the commercial oyster industry in the Pacific Northwest has been failing for several years, and may go on failing as increasingly acid oceans put the larvae of the bivalve Crassostrea gigas seriously at risk. The good news is that US scientists now know exactly why things are going wrong in the oyster beds, which opens up the possibility of commercial hatcheries finding ways to get round the problem. First, the facts: as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise inexorably, so the gas dissolves in water and falls as a very weak carbonic acid rain, with a subtle but measurable change in the pH values of the planet’s oceans. There have always been dissolved gases in rainwater, but as long as pH levels remain stable, the ocean’s corals and molluscs not only adapt, they subtly exploit the water chemistry to build stronger bones and shells.

Sensitive to change

Oysters seem unusually sensitive to changes in pH, but marine biologist George Waldbusser and research colleagues at Oregon State University report in Geophysical Research Letters that the failure of the oyster harvest isn’t a simple case of acid waters dissolving calcium carbonate shells. Instead, water high in dissolved carbon dioxide tends to alter the shell formation rates, the energy usage and, ultimately, the growth and survival of young oysters. Females tend to produce eggs by the million as water temperatures reach around 20°C. Once fertilised and hatched, the embryos have about two days to start building a shell. Raised carbon dioxide levels in the water impose an extra energy cost for the little shell-builders. Mature oysters can take their time and assemble calcium carbonate production more slowly, but larvae don’t have the time. Their only energy supply is the nourishment in the egg. “From the time eggs are fertilised, Pacific oyster larvae precipitate roughly 90% of their bodyweight as calcium carbonate shell within 48 hours,” Dr Waldbusser says. “They must build their first shell quickly on a limited amount of energy – and, along with the shell, comes the organ to capture external food.

Death race

“It becomes a death race of sorts. Can the oyster build its shell quickly enough to allow its feeding mechanism to develop before it runs out of energy from the egg?” Armed with this insight into oyster bed ecology, the scientists say, there are interventions that can be introduced at hatcheries that may offset some of the effects of ocean acidification. Some hatcheries have started to “buffer” the water supplies in commercial hatcheries that supply the marine and estuary oyster beds − essentially, adding antacids to incoming waters. However, what may be hopeful news for fish farmers may not be such good news for the wild oyster, which will no doubt experience more stress in its native waters as carbon dioxide levels go on rising. The research matters at one level because Pacific oyster farming is now a billion-dollar business, and at another because it exposes something of the intricate connection between sea-dwelling creatures and the chemistry of the sea. It is also a reminder that any creature faces different hazards at every stage of its life cycle. The report’s authors say: “We suggest that the predictions of winners and losers in a high CO² world may be better informed by calcium carbonate kinetics, bioenergetics, ontogeny, and life-history characteristics than by shell mineralogy alone.” − Climate News Network  

India's climate change challenge

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT on Wednesday 30 January
India has made giant strides in increasing rice production, both to feed its own people and for export. But the price has been massive water consumption, and rising greenhouse gas emissions.

LONDON, 30 January – India has to find a new model of development if the twin challenges of job creation and climate change are to be met, says an Oxford University academic, Professor Barbara Harriss-White, of the Oxford Department of International Development.

“At present economic development in India is looked at very much in terms of catching up with Europe and East Asia”, says Professor Harriss-White, a South Asia expert and part of an Oxford-based team investigating greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in India’s informal economy – a sector, she says, which accounts for about 60% of the country’s GDP and for nine out of every ten jobs, yet one that has been “completely neglected” in debates about climate change.

“The position held by the overwhelming majority in India is that the country – which derives 70% of its energy from coal – has the right to pollute based on its relatively small contribution to the historical stock of CO2 in the atmosphere. Understandably, development and poverty reduction are the priorities.

“Yet the country’s natural resources are degrading at an alarming rate – a transition to development based on low carbon has to be initiated. And despite the economic growth of recent years, at least 260 million people are malnourished, 45% of them children.

Prodigious increase

“Meanwhile 16 million people are entering the jobs stream each year – most facing the prospect of poor quality jobs, or no jobs at all. All this presents an enormous challenge.”

Professor Harriss-White and her team are at present looking at GHG emissions in rice production and distribution systems. Much of the activity in this sector takes place in the so-called informal economy, based on part-time or seasonal jobs and loose marketing structures.

Over the last 30 years India has nearly doubled its rice production, mainly through the introduction of new, high-yielding varieties. While 95% of production is consumed domestically, India recently supplanted Thailand as the world’s biggest rice exporter.

But the increase in rice output has led to a massive over-exploitation of water resources, with millions of farmers using electric pumps to harness well waters for their rice fields.

Gone forever

The Oxford team have found there are GHG emissions in each phase of rice production and its marketing: for example when fields are cultivated and flooded large amounts of soil methane are released. Bullocks also produce a lot of methane.

But it’s the coal needed to produce the energy to lift the water that’s the biggest problem. Over-exploitation of water resources has not only led to more GHG emissions but could result in future rice shortages.

Professor Harriss-White says: “In many areas we’ve studied in the east of the country rice production has reached a plateau. This is due both to a lack of new rice strains coming on to the market and to the stress on water resources.

“Many farmers are having to drill bore holes right down to fossil layers for water – and those waters won’t be replenished.” Changes in climate are also likely to have an adverse impact on India’s rice production.

“Rice is vulnerable to climate change,” says Harriss-White. “A rise in temperature means more pests – and a greater likelihood of periods both of flooding and drought. Rice production must adapt to climate change. Most farmers we talk to don’t talk in terms of climate change – instead they talk of the monsoons becoming less reliable.” – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT on Wednesday 30 January
India has made giant strides in increasing rice production, both to feed its own people and for export. But the price has been massive water consumption, and rising greenhouse gas emissions.

LONDON, 30 January – India has to find a new model of development if the twin challenges of job creation and climate change are to be met, says an Oxford University academic, Professor Barbara Harriss-White, of the Oxford Department of International Development.

“At present economic development in India is looked at very much in terms of catching up with Europe and East Asia”, says Professor Harriss-White, a South Asia expert and part of an Oxford-based team investigating greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in India’s informal economy – a sector, she says, which accounts for about 60% of the country’s GDP and for nine out of every ten jobs, yet one that has been “completely neglected” in debates about climate change.

“The position held by the overwhelming majority in India is that the country – which derives 70% of its energy from coal – has the right to pollute based on its relatively small contribution to the historical stock of CO2 in the atmosphere. Understandably, development and poverty reduction are the priorities.

“Yet the country’s natural resources are degrading at an alarming rate – a transition to development based on low carbon has to be initiated. And despite the economic growth of recent years, at least 260 million people are malnourished, 45% of them children.

Prodigious increase

“Meanwhile 16 million people are entering the jobs stream each year – most facing the prospect of poor quality jobs, or no jobs at all. All this presents an enormous challenge.”

Professor Harriss-White and her team are at present looking at GHG emissions in rice production and distribution systems. Much of the activity in this sector takes place in the so-called informal economy, based on part-time or seasonal jobs and loose marketing structures.

Over the last 30 years India has nearly doubled its rice production, mainly through the introduction of new, high-yielding varieties. While 95% of production is consumed domestically, India recently supplanted Thailand as the world’s biggest rice exporter.

But the increase in rice output has led to a massive over-exploitation of water resources, with millions of farmers using electric pumps to harness well waters for their rice fields.

Gone forever

The Oxford team have found there are GHG emissions in each phase of rice production and its marketing: for example when fields are cultivated and flooded large amounts of soil methane are released. Bullocks also produce a lot of methane.

But it’s the coal needed to produce the energy to lift the water that’s the biggest problem. Over-exploitation of water resources has not only led to more GHG emissions but could result in future rice shortages.

Professor Harriss-White says: “In many areas we’ve studied in the east of the country rice production has reached a plateau. This is due both to a lack of new rice strains coming on to the market and to the stress on water resources.

“Many farmers are having to drill bore holes right down to fossil layers for water – and those waters won’t be replenished.” Changes in climate are also likely to have an adverse impact on India’s rice production.

“Rice is vulnerable to climate change,” says Harriss-White. “A rise in temperature means more pests – and a greater likelihood of periods both of flooding and drought. Rice production must adapt to climate change. Most farmers we talk to don’t talk in terms of climate change – instead they talk of the monsoons becoming less reliable.” – Climate News Network