Hope in adversity was the Easter message for those who had suffered through earthquakes, tsunamis and foods of late and Earth Day produced “a billion acts of green”. Hopeful signs around the world. But the global media focus is on London for the Royal wedding (29 April). We sincerely hope this is a great occasion of joy, commitment and peace, not marred by any untoward event or ugly demonstration. We wish the young Royal couple a long and happy future. To those of our readers in Australia and New Zealand, ANZAC Day is marked as always on 25 April, respectfully remembering the fallen in wars past and present, as well as those who have suffered in some way through such atrocities. Increasingly looming on the horizon is the “clear and present danger” posed by food security, water shortages, climate refugees and other likely consequences of a warming world. Let’s hope our leaders in Governments and in business do more to limit such disastrous outcomes by collectively agreeing to peaceful and constructive solutions. “Acts of God” we might still call some of these major calamities, but increasingly it is becoming apparent that humankind must accept a large part of the blame. Industrialisation, burning fossil fuels and destroying our forests have all led to severe and obvious environmental degradation, but also to marked changes in our climate. The evidence is there to see, according to Live Science, acknowledging “the scientific community’s unified stance regarding the warming of our planet.” Read also how China is “dam-mad” and adding to Asia’s water woes. The ozone layer’s hole continues to be a problem that won’t go away for some time. Singapore is making its contribution to environmental research with the take-off of a new small satellite and the launch of a paperless transaction service, called GreenPost. Investment in sustainable business in Australia is showing some promise, Google invests more in wind energy for data centres and Singapore is attracting strong wind investors. The Clintons and Bloombergs are teaming up to focus on urban renewal, while Lockheed Martin says sustainability makes good business sense. Australia calls for more energy efficiency to be built into buildings and wave energy turbines get turning out west, while salt – according to the New Scientist – could be an important ingredient in our energy diet. Seasoning for the future! – Ken Hickson
Archive for April, 2011
Profile: Pierre-Yves Cousteau
The son of world-famous French explorer, inventor, film-maker and environmentalist Jacques-Yves Cousteau, made history when he took a dive in Singapore waters last week and told of his work managing the Cousteau Divers, transforming the way people dive and playing a decisive role in the preservation of the marine environment. Pierre-Yves Cousteau says: “We will become stewards of the oceans – raising concern, knowledge, awareness and hope around them for the future of our blue planet.”
Report from the Cousteau Divers and New Paper, Singapore:
Pierre-Yves Cousteau, the son of world-famous French explorer, inventor, film-maker and environmentalist Jacques-Yves Cousteau, made history when he took a dive in Singapore waters on Wednesday.
He is visiting Singapore for the first time and it was his first-ever scuba dive in Asia.
The dive took place near Sisters Islands and Pulau Hantu.
Says son Pierre-Yves Cousteau: “If he were alive today, my father would surely be awed by the technology and skill behind the work of his cinematic successors, who share my father’s philosophy that ‘people protect what they love – and we love what enchants us.”
“He would be gratified by the creation of marine protected areas in many countries and by the growing community of scientists working to advance understanding and conservation of ocean biodiversity, such as those completing the first Census of Marine Life and its inventory of ocean species,” he adds.
“However, I know he would also be distressed by the ongoing pillage of oceans by industrialized fisheries, by those who decimate the seabed and indiscriminately harvest fish and by-catch by the shipload, by the catastrophes that stem from exploiting off-shore oil resources, and by the acidification of seawater due to greenhouse gases, which threatens the health of all life on Earth.”
“In this year, the 100th anniversary of his birth, we owe it to his memory to ensure that the spirit of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his work inspires new generations,” says Pierre-Yves.
“The oceans occupy nearly 72% of our planet’s surface and they contain more than 97% of all our planet’s water. They are the place where life appeared 3.8 billion years ago and remain the largest living space in our known universe. Nevertheless, less than 20% has been explored by humans and we have already damaged most of it.” says Tarik Chekchak, the Cousteau Society’s Director, Science and Environment.
“Our research with UNESCO into how best to educate people and protect our oceans and indeed all our vital waterways is more necessary today than ever – as the tragic event unfolding this past month in Gulf of Mexico sadly demonstrates.”
Under Pierre-Yves’s leadership, the Cousteau Society is developing a monitoring program of the oceans, Cousteau Divers, which will involve the active participation of divers worldwide.
“By uniting a community of divers concerned about the marine environment, Cousteau Divers will bring the legacy of Jacques-Yves Cousteau to life, making each diver an agent of the study and conservation of the aquatic realm,” says Pierre-Yves.
“Using the latest communication and multimedia technologies to engage and delight its members, Cousteau Divers will transform the way people dive and play a decisive role in the preservation of the marine environment. Cousteau Divers and Dive Centers will become stewards of the oceans – raising concern, knowledge, awareness and hope around them for the future of our blue planet.”
Starting this month, Pierre-Yves will also oversee a one-month filming expedition with the National Geographic Society in the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Cousteau Society ship Alcyone. The goal: to document changes in the Mediterranean since Captain Cousteau’s first films in the 1940s and promote the expansion of marine reserves by demonstrating their economic viability and efficiency.
“By filming in three marine areas that have been protected as reserves for more than 25 years, the divers will also present a picture of the spectacular extent to which biodiversity richness can be restored,” says Pierre-Yves. “Using archival Cousteau footage, it is hoped this unique documentary will both raise public awareness and convince European leaders to expand marine reserves.”
Legendary marine explorer, inventor, innovator, filmmaker and environmental activist Jacques Cousteau was born June 11, 1910 in Saint André de Cubzac, a small town in southwest France.
To mark the centennial of his birth, the Cousteau Society is launching a year-long celebration in Paris with Cousteau’s global legion of admirers, and welcomes proposals from around the world .
The re-launch and tour of Calypso, the ship aboard which Cousteau created many of the world’s first glimpses of deep-sea life, will highlight the end of the centennial in 2011.
Instantly recognizable by his red cap and gaunt silhouette, Cousteau was just 33 when he co-invented the aqualung that enabled divers to explore ocean depths for extended periods, opening a window to an entire world then virtually unknown to humankind.
He went on to pioneer many areas, including documenting the sonar-like capabilities of dolphins, public demonstrations to protect the oceans from radioactive dumping and over-exploitation, and mass communication of marine research through films and television.
In 1996, the year before his death at age 87, Cousteau’s historic Calypso was sunk and badly damaged when a barge in Singapore accidentally rammed it. Today the vessel is in the Brittany region of France being refurbished under the direction of the Cousteau Society and l’Equipe Cousteau, led by Francine Cousteau, widow of the late explorer.
20 April 2011
This first hand report from Wild Shores of Singapore on Pierre-Yves Cousteau’s visit and a record of the amazing sea-life identified in and around the Singapore islands , better known for the abundance of container ships, oil refineries, day trippers and a tourist boats.
Sharing our shores with Pierre-Yves Cousteau
What a delight to spend almost the entire day sharing our shores with Pierre-Yves Cousteau who is in town for ADEX 2011. Singapore Environment Council (SEC) and National Parks National Biodiversity Centre organised a trip for him to see our intertidal shores as well as to dive our waters!
It was very kind of them to invite me to come along for this special trip. Our first stop at sunrise was at Sisters Island!
Also with us were journalists and photographers from The New Paper and My Paper. So there were many stops to pose for photos. Here, in the lovely sunrise over St. John’s Island. It was also a great opportunity to showcase our shores to our local journalists!
How fortunate that we managed to get a glimpse of two very shy ‘Nemos’ or the False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) hiding in their home, the Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea).
Another Giant carpet anemone had anemone shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis). Jeff earlier shared how some people thought they had to dive in Manado to photograph these animals, only to find out that they are quite commonly seen on Singapore shores.
The visitors are great at spotting stuff. Like this tiny flatworm (Pseudoceros sp.) as well as an even tinier Pimply phyllid nudibranch (Phyllidiela pustolosa).
These Very hairy hermit crabs (Dardanus lagopodes) are often seen on Sisters Islands, although they are quite hard to spot.
Pierre-Yves spotted this Ornate leaf slug (Elysia ornata)! These are also well camouflaged.
Jeff finds and shows us the Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa) found in the lagoon.
Here’s a closer look at the clam. The stake next to it shows that Mei Lin has already recorded it in her study of the Giant clams in Singapore.
Pierre-Yves also finds a pair of Spider conch snails (Lambis lambis)! Although well camouflaged from above, they are very pretty underneath.
The hard corals that I saw seemed to have recovered from coral bleaching. They seemed much better than during my last trip here in Jan 2011. Although the lagoon seems a little sparse. Perhaps not all of the corals survived the bleaching?
Circular mushroom corals (Family Fungiidae) are still abundant on Sisters Island! They seemed quite well and unbleached. More about coral bleaching on Bleach Watch Singapore.
Oh, a hidden Blue-spotted fantail ray (Teaniura lymma) is seen! Only by the little blue tail is sticking out as the rest of the fish was hidden under the sand and a hard coral.
Wow, Ivan Choong found a pair of seahorses! They blend right in with the branching sponges that are commonly seen here. They are probably Tiger-tailed seahorses (Hippocampus comes).
Fortunately, today we didn’t meet Mr Stonefish (Synanceia horrida). But we saw Lined eel-tail catfishes (Plotosus lineatus), rabbitfishes (Family Siganidae), lots of other small fishes. And this False scorpionfish (Centrogenys vaigiensis)!
Ivan also finds a reef octopus! Ivan runs Dive Books which will also be at ADEX 2011 with special offers on marine reference books.
Another awesome part of the trip was that we travelled on the Seashaw, at the kind arrangement of Howard Shaw. This yacht is so enormous that it had to park quite a way off the Sisters Islands. We took a smaller boat there.
Before we left for our intertidal trip, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast.
After the intertidal trip, the more intrepid among us went for a dive at Sisters Island. Here’s Jeff starting them off. They saw sea fans, feather stars, and lots more.
Then we were off to Pulau Hantu for the second dive. The Seashaw is so awesomely huge that it has a crane to lift up the smaller boat.
In between the trip and dives, Jeff gave two presentations about our shores and some of the issues that impact them as well as the many efforts for our shores. With lots of pretty pictures!
Pierre-Yves also shared with us his “Cousteau Divers” programme, a global network of divers engaged in the study and preservation of marine ecosystems worldwide. It comes with a great checklist that divers can use to record and share their sightings.
After a delightful lunch, the team went for their second dive despite the rainy weather. It sure looks cold. I’m glad I could stay warm and dry on the big boat.
They saw lots of stuff at Pulau Hantu! I sneak some shots of photos that Jeff took. Like this pair of mating nudibranchs.
And a black anemonefish with white spots, the Dascyllus anemonefish (Dascyllus trimaculatus)! This fish is not often seen in our waters. They also saw a grey nurse shark, stingrays. Before the dive started, Uma spotted a sea turtle! We are glad Singapore’s shores put up a good show today despite the wet weather. Especially since this is Pierre-Yves’ first dive in Asia!
Our special guest had to work very hard all day. After the dives, more interviews with the journalists.
All too soon, the trip ended and we leave the awesome Seashaw!
Pierre-Yves Cousteau will be at ADEX 2011 to give talks, and will also be appearing on radio and other media to share about marine conservation.
For full pictorial coverage of the sea life observed by Pierre-Yves Cousteau on this trip, please visit the Wild Shores blogspot.
Ozone Hole Impacts Arctic, Antarctic & Australia
The Antarctic ozone hole is about one-third to blame for Australia’s recent series of droughts, scientists say. Earlier this month, the World Meteorological Organization revealed that the Arctic was experiencing the worst ozone depletion on record – a consequence of unusual weather conditions. But the forecast is that even the Antarctic ozone hole – which is more severe than its Arctic equivalent – should be repaired by 2045-60.
By Richard Black, Environment correspondent, BBC News (21 April 2011):
The Antarctic ozone hole is about one-third to blame for Australia’s recent series of droughts, scientists say.
Writing in the journal Science, they conclude that the hole has shifted wind and rainfall patterns right across the Southern Hemisphere, even the tropics.
Their climate models suggest the effect has been notably strong over Australia.
Many parts of the country have seen drought in recent years, with cities forced to invest in technologies such as desalination, and farms closing.
The scientists behind the new study – led from Columbia University in New York – added the ozone hole into standard climate models to investigate how it might have affected winds and rains.
“The ozone hole results in a southward shift of the high-latitude circulation – and the whole tropical circulation shifts southwards too,” explained Columbia’s Sarah Kang.
Of particular interest was the southward migration of the Southern Hemisphere jet stream.
These high-altitude winds are key to determining weather patterns, in both hemispheres. Much of the cold weather felt in the UK over the last couple of winters, for example, was caused by blocking of the Northern Hemisphere stream.
The Columbia team found that overall, the ozone hole has resulted in rainfall moving south along with the winds.
But there are regional differences, particularly concerning Australia.
“In terms of the average for that zone, [the ozone hole drives] about a 10% change – but for Australia, it’s about 35%,” Dr Kang told BBC News.
Their modelling indicated that global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions was also a factor – although natural climate cycles are also thought to be important, as Australia suffered severe droughts in the era before ozone depletion and before the warming seen in the late 20th Century.
“This study does illustrate the important point that different mechanisms of global change are contributing to the climate impacts we’re seeing around the world,” observed Professor Myles Allen of Oxford University, a leading UK climate modeller.
“It’s very important to unpack them all rather than assuming that any impact we see is down simply to greenhouse gas-mediated warming.”
Ozone depletion is caused by chemical reactions in the stratosphere, the upper atmosphere.
The chemicals involved derive from substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and their relatives, which used to be staples in air-conditioning, refrigeration and aerosol cans.
Desalination is one of the approaches being used to combat Australia’s dwindling supply of water Although the UN Montreal Protocol has significantly curbed emissions of these substances, they endure for decades in the atmosphere, and so their effects are still being felt.
The ozone layer blocks the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, which can cause skin cancer and other medical conditions.
Earlier this month, the World Meteorological Organization revealed that the Arctic was experiencing the worst ozone depletion on record – a consequence of unusual weather conditions.
But the forecast is that even the Antarctic ozone hole – which is more severe than its Arctic equivalent – should be repaired by 2045-60.
Sarah Kang cautions that this alone will not restore prior climate conditions to Australia or anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere.
“As the ozone hole repairs, it is going to work to reverse this trend; but there is also the rising trend in carbon dioxide, and that is acting in the same direction as the ozone hole,” she said.
Australia’s persistently dry weather has caused major impacts on communities, farms and nature.
In recent years, the volume of water flowing into the reservoirs of Perth, the Western Australian capital, has been just one third of what it was during most of the 20th Century.
The Murray-Darling basin, which lies in the highly populated southeast, is the subject of a somewhat controversial plan aiming to distribute water fairly against a backdrop of over-extraction, prolonged drought, natural climate variability and greenhouse gas-mediated global warming.
The blame game, voiced in vulnerable river towns and Asian capitals from Pakistan to Vietnam, is rooted in fear that China’s accelerating programme of damming every major river flowing from the Tibetan plateau will trigger natural disasters, degrade fragile ecologies and divert vital water supplies. Beijing is signalling it will relaunch mega projects after a break of several years to meet skyrocketing demands for energy and water, reduce dependence on coal and lift some 300 million people out of poverty.
Associated Press & The Straits Times (18April 2011):
The wall of water raced through narrow Himalayan gorges in north-east India, gathering speed as it raked the banks of towering trees and boulders. When the torrent struck their island in the Brahmaputra river, the villagers remember, it took only moments to obliterate their houses, possessions and livestock.
No one knows exactly how the disaster occurred, but everyone knows whom to blame: neighbouring China.
‘We don’t trust the Chinese,’ says fisherman Akshay Sarkar at the resettlement site where he has lived since the devastating flood a decade ago.
About 800km east, in northern Thailand, Ms Chamlong Saengphet stands in the Mekong river, in water that comes up to only her shins. She is collecting edible river weeds from dwindling beds. A neighbour has hung up his fishing nets, his catches now too meagre. Using words bordering on curses, they point upstream, towards China.
The blame game, voiced in vulnerable river towns and Asian capitals from Pakistan to Vietnam, is rooted in fear that China’s accelerating programme of damming every major river flowing from the Tibetan plateau will trigger natural disasters, degrade fragile ecologies and divert vital water supplies.
Beijing is signalling it will relaunch mega projects after a break of several years to meet skyrocketing demands for energy and water, reduce dependence on coal and lift some 300 million people out of poverty.State media recently said China plans to construct dams on the still pristine Nu river, known as the Salween downstream.
The remapping of the water flow in the world’s most heavily populated and thirstiest region is on a gigantic scale, with potentially strategic implications. On the eight great Tibetan rivers alone, almost 20 dams have been built or are under construction, while some 40 more are planned or proposed.
But the stakes may be even higher, since those eight Tibetan rivers serve a vast west-east arc of 1.8 billion people stretching from Pakistan to Vietnam’s Mekong river delta.
Chinese officials have said the dams can benefit their neighbours, easing droughts and floods by regulating flow, adding that hydroelectric power reduces China’s carbon footprint.
‘China will fully consider the impact to downstream countries,’ Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu told Associated Press. ‘We have clarified several times that the dam being built on the Brahmaputra River has a small storage capacity. It will not have a large impact on water flow or the ecological environment downstream.’
China is hardly alone in disrupting the region’s water flows. Others do it with potentially even worse consequences. But China’s vast thirst for power and water, its control over the sources of the rivers and its ever-growing political clout make it a singular target of criticism and suspicion.
In north-east India, a broad-based movement is fighting central government plans to erect more than 160 dams in the region, and Laos and Cam-bodia have proposed plans for 11 Mekong dams, sparking environmental protest.
‘Everyone knows what China is doing, but won’t talk about it. China has real power now. If it says something, everyone follows,’ says Thai environmental advocate Somkiat Khuengchiangsa.
But there is little chance the activists will prevail.
‘There is no alternative to dams in sight in China,’ says Mr Ed Grumbine, an American writer on Chinese dams. Mr Grumbine, currently with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Yunnan province, notes that under its most recent five-year state plan, China failed to meet its hydroelectric targets and is now playing catch-up in its 2011 to 2015 plan, as it strives to derive 15 per cent of energy needs from non-fossil sources, mainly hydroelectric and nuclear.
Noting that Himalayan glaciers which feed the rivers are melting due to global warming, India’s Strategic Foresight Group last year estimated that in the next 20 years, India, China, Nepal and Bangladesh will face a depletion of almost 275 billion cubic m of annual renewable water.
Mr Jeremy Bird, who heads the Mekong River Commission, an inter-governmental body of Laos, Cam-bodia and Thailand, sees a tendency to blame China for water-related troubles, even when they have natural causes. He says diplomacy is needed, and believes ‘engagement with China is improving’.
Global Eco View Via Singapore’s Micro Satellite
Riding on a rocket owned by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), Singapore’s micro-satellite X-Sat blasted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India last week to take photographs to measure soil erosion and environmental changes on Earth. The 105kg fridge-size satellite was one of three riding on Isro’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C16).
Jermyn Chow Straits Times (21 April 11):
Riding on a rocket owned by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), the micro-satellite X-Sat blasted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India yesterday, more than four years late.
The 105kg fridge-size satellite, which will be used to take photographs to measure soil erosion and environmental changes on Earth, was one of three riding on Isro’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C16). The other two were built by India and Russia.
Yesterday’s launch, at 12.42pm Singapore time, was PSLV’s 18th successful lift-off since its maiden flight in 1994. Only two launches have failed.
X-Sat is designed and built from scratch by scientists and engineers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore’s defence research body DSO National Laboratories.
Now in orbit, X-Sat is establishing communication contact with ground control in NTU, a process likely to take up to a week. Once contact has been made, an ‘initial health status of the satellite will be ascertained and confirmed’, said an NTU spokesman.
This includes checking its solar panels and communication systems and the Korean-made camera, dubbed Iris, that can capture forest fires and sea pollution.
It will then relay data and beam images back to the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing.
With the successful launch of X-Sat, Singapore is one of the first countries in South-east Asia to have its own satellite in space. Previous satellite launches by the Republic involved construction efforts by foreign companies.
The launch capped more than nine years of hard work by scientists and engineers. Experts say the series of starts and stops had sent the cost of X-Sat from $10 million to more than $40 million.
NTU president Su Guaning congratulated the team, and said the launch represents ‘a huge leap’ in Singapore’s efforts to build space technology. He added that he hopes X-Sat’s launch will ‘excite and inspire’ more youth to take up engineering and venture into space technology.
Other countries with more established space programmes such as China, the United States and Israel launch more sophisticated satellites weighing between 500kg and 1,000kg every year. While X-Sat is small, space analysts say its launch is a credible effort by Singapore.
But defence analyst Bernard Loo of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies does not see a ‘strategic need’ for Singapore to have its own space programme yet.
‘Singapore’s strategic space is so small, there is no need for such sophisticated technology for early warning of an impending attack,’ he said.
Singapore’s satellite capability gains traction with successful launch
Bloomberg/Clinton Double Act For Cities and Climate Initiative
This is the genius of C40 and CCI. Cities comprise 2% of the geography of the world and 70% of the world’s emissions. So the newly formed C40 Clinton Climate Initiative, which combines previous efforts led by former President Clinton and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to leverage big cities in the fight against global warming, has Jay Carson as its CEO and an important job to do, says Fortune magazine.
By David Whitford, editor-at-large, Fortune (22 April 2011):
Jay Carson is CEO of the newly formed C40 Clinton Climate Initiative, which combines previous efforts led by former President Clinton and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to leverage big cities in the fight against global warming. He’ll have a budget this year of $12 million and a staff of 65.
Carson is only 34 but he’s been in the spotlight basically since he graduated from Columbia — as deputy mayor of Los Angeles, press secretary for former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and for two failed Democratic presidential contenders (John Dean, Hillary Clinton), and communications director for the Clinton Foundation, a job he once described to The New York Observer as “playing cards, riding in cars, traveling the world with President Clinton.”
He’ll be doing a lot of traveling in this job, too. Fortune caught up with Carson by phone earlier this week while he was waiting at LAX to board a flight back East.
Why do you think cities should lead the environmental movement?
In a number of policy areas, cities are the future. But on this issue in particular it’s because elsewhere the hurdles are so high. It is very hard to target one piece of climate action for the entirety of China. Or one piece of climate action for the entirety of the United States of America, if only because the needs in Montana are very different than the needs of New York. This is the genius of C40 and CCI — you don’t need to get Montana. Cities comprise 2% of the geography of the world and 70% of the world’s emissions.
Is it also because cities are more agile and can act more quickly and more effectively than nations can?
As Mayor Bloomberg likes to say, while nations talk, cities act. That’s the fundamental principle of our organization. [Los Angeles] Mayor Villaraigosa was the genius behind this. He said I can get four or five of my mayoral colleagues and we’re 100 million people. I love Montana, but instead of trying to get Montana, let’s get a few like-minded mayors around the world on board to really take action. And then bring that action to scale with other similar cities. What worked in Moscow may not work in Los Angeles, but sometimes in surprising ways the policies are transferable.
Another way to look at this is that it’s bottom-up instead of top-down. Cities know what the carbon drivers are. I don’t want to oversimplify but it’s transportation, it’s your cars; it’s your building output; and it’s the generation of your electricity. Those are the three things. So if we work to reduce the carbon output in those areas, we will reduce our overall carbon output.
The way that Mayor Bloomberg and the City of New York did it was they simultaneously set a 30% carbon reduction goal while figuring out over 200 ways that they were going to get it done. That’s just the way cities and mayors work. At these international treaty talks, everyone talks about carbon percentage reduction without talking about how that will happen, except in the most macro ways. Cities and mayors don’t get to sit around and talk lofty rhetoric and not back it up.
Some Fortune readers might say that what you’re describing — leverage, impatience with rhetoric, a focus on results — fits business better than it does politics at any level, even cities.
Businesses tend to look at what works, at what will affect the bottom line. And by the way, smart companies around the world see that reducing their carbon emissions actually helps their bottom line. There’s this great nexus at Wal-Mart between shrinking its packaging and saving money in terms of transport costs. Fewer trucks on the road, less paper used in packaging, more money saved for Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500). Everybody wins.
Just like a business, a city can’t implement a policy that ultimately doesn’t work. Green building codes, for example. You cannot pass green building codes that ultimately bankrupt your developers because cities need developers. You have to make sure that your building codes save energy to a degree that, while it may cost slightly more to build, the savings over the long run will benefit developers and building owners.
What kind of green policy initiatives can we expect from cities?
Nothing about this is overly prescriptive. Cities can figure out what works for them. You can literally do this on an XY matrix. One axis is carbon output, ranked 1 to 10. The other, areas of control that the mayor has, ranked 1 to 10. If you get something that’s a 10 on both, that needs to be a policy that you’re pushing.
In New York, buildings are huge on the carbon output axis. And the mayor has a reasonable amount of control over building codes. Taxis have a huge carbon output and a reasonable amount of control by the mayor. So you go after those two, which Mayor Bloomberg has done. With a far-reaching green building code, which by the way was supported by the Real Estate Board of New York when they understood what the financial savings would be. And you have a green taxi law, which was to some extent fought by the taxi lobby but I think has been embraced by the city; people are coming around. New York has more than 12,000 taxis. Move all those to hybrids and you make a huge impact.
On the other hand, New York has nothing to do with Con Edison (ED, Fortune 500). So New York cannot touch power generation. But the city of Los Angeles — and by the way, the city of Austin, too, and several other cities around the world — controls power generation. The mayor appoints five members to the board of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, and they run it. So when Mayor Villaraigosa came in, he said, “We need to generate cleaner power, we’re far too reliant on coal, let’s move more heavily into renewables.” He was a visionary in that realm.
What we will do in C40 is link other cities together with municipal utilities and have them learn from Los Angeles. And by the way, L.A. is now implementing a drastic carbon reduction program that is highly affordable and supported by the business community.
Bloomberg’s a big-city mayor. Clinton grew up in Arkansas. I’m wondering how they get along.
They both have enormous drive. They both love what they’re doing. They both are self-made. These are two guys who started essentially at the bottom rung. One went on to become the first two-term Democratic president since FDR, with the strongest economy that the country has ever seen. The other built one of the most successful companies ever and became a three-term, extremely successful Mayor of New York. That is a bond that they absolutely share. In addition to loving New York.
Election Fever and Earth Day Action in Singapore
Announcing the date for the next General Election and celebrating Earth Day all fell in the same week. The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) announced that under Earth Helpers, businesses and organisations keen on launching an environmental project – but lacking the resources to do so – will be invited to partner with the Singapore Environment Council and a group of Singapore environmentalists who assemble informally every month as “Green Drinks” is advocating for more green discussions in the new Parliament. Meanwhile, Singapore schools will be observing an environment day every April 22 (Earth Day) in a bid by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to encourage youth to be pro-nature. Pictured is the Earth Day Eco Walk at Siloso Beach Resort.
‘More green discussions in Parliament, please’
By Lynda Hong Ee Lyn in Today (20 April 2011):
Employment, rising costs of living and many other bread and butter issues have been so-called hot-button election topics but a group of environmentalists in the latest Green Drinks – an informal monthly gathering of environmentalists – is advocating for more green discussions in the new Parliament.
Together with seven panellists – leaders of environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), businessmen and a former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) – some 40 participants discussed how environmental issues can be further advocated on a political level.
Former NMP and IUT Global CEO Edwin Khew said discussions on environmental issues in the latest Parliament that was dissolved yesterday were rare, adding that his predecessor NMPs had mostly raised bread and butter issues.
One example on the lack of green empathy was the national recycling rate of 58 per cent. If industrial recyclables from construction waste were excluded, the household recycling rate would sink to such a low rate it would “stick out like a sore thumb.”
While greater scrutiny of environmental issues is needed, the majority agreed that Singapore is not ready for a Green Party, as is the case in Germany and Australia.
Green issues could be looked at in totality as a part of all national issues, including defence, foreign affairs and housing, suggested participant Joseph Chun.
Another way would be to have an official to overlook green issues in every ministry, said Mr Mark Cheng, co-founder of NGO Avelife.
Panellist Allan Lim, CEO of Alpha Biofuels, suggested a bottom-up approach in pressurising politicians to be more environmentally aware.
This, he said, could be achieved by building a critical mass of environmentalist Singaporeans.
He asked – a rhetorical question perhaps – would political candidates be more inclined to attend Green Drinks sessions if they were held at a Community Club instead?
Another way to get more politicians to be more environmentally aware is to press for more green jobs, said Mr Wilson Ang, founder of ECO Singapore.
Agreeing, Mr Howard Shaw, former executive director of the Singapore Environment Council, added that a green economy can spur political will.
Despite the People’s Action Party’s promise to build a green and sustainable society, five previously elected Members of Parliament and Ministers of State have declined to attend Green Drinks gatherings.
Organisers say discussions at Green Drinks sessions will be collated and presented to the various political parties.
A helping hand for those going green in Singapore
Yuen Sin in Straits Times (22 April 2011):
THE staff of Siloso Beach Resort are keen to expand their environmental initiatives but are often too busy conducting tours of its natural surroundings for guests.
With the launch of the Earth Helpers programme by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), they will be able to get a helping hand to do these tours, leaving them free to nurture other initiatives.
At SEC’s Earth Day celebrations yesterday, chairman Isabella Loh said organisations have often raised the issue of having difficulty in finding the right people with the expertise and passion in managing or implementing environmental initiatives.
This is where the SEC comes in.
Under Earth Helpers, businesses and organisations keen on launching an environmental project – but lacking the resources to do so – will be invited to partner the SEC and tap on its staff and volunteers.
Management and staff from these organisations will also be encouraged to participate.
There are no restrictions on the type of projects that can be proposed but the commitment of organisations and how impactful the project is would count.
Moving beyond spreading general awareness, the SEC aims to engage at least 10 companies under the scheme this year.
It has more than 100 long-term, registered volunteers and hopes that this initiative will expand their number.
‘It’s a chicken-and-egg situation,’ Ms Loh said. ‘Volunteers will sign up when they see that there are projects that require their support.’
At next year’s Earth Day celebrations, volunteers can look forward to being presented with awards under a new recognition programme announced yesterday.
Environmental journalism awards will also be given to media professionals from both traditional and new media.
Schools to mark April 22 as eco-friendly day for youth
Lim Yi Han in Straits Times (22 April 2011):
CLASS, attention please. Schools will be observing an environment day every April 22 in a bid by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to encourage youth to be pro-nature.
Launched on Wednesday, the Youth For The Environment Day will be included in the National Education calendar for all primary and secondary schools, junior colleges and the Institute of Technical Education.
April 22 also marks Earth Day which is celebrated in many countries.
The NEA believes that schools are a good start to getting young people committed to caring for the environment.
Schools are encouraged to mark the April 22 event by organising environment-related activities, such as visiting incineration plants to get an insight into waste management.
Mr Andrew Tan, chief executive officer of NEA, said he believes there is a growing awareness among young people here not to take their surroundings for granted.
Youth For The Environment Day is intended to give them their own platform to celebrate and nurture ‘this culture of environmental ownership’.
At the event’s launch, which was attended by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, NEA also handed out the EcoFriend awards to 11 individuals, of whom six are young people.
The awards, launched in 2007, recognise outstanding environment champions.
One recipient is Mr Chua Ang Hong, 21, a first-year student at Nanyang Technological University’s Nanyang Business School.
Last year, he organised an anti-littering campaign in Aljunied GRC where he is vice-chairman of the Ci Yuan Community Centre Youth Executive Committee.
The six-month campaign included house visits that saw his team reach out to 12,000 residents to educate them about the danger of killer litter.
Mr Chua, who is also business manager in Earthlink NTU, the school’s environmental club, said: ‘All of us have a part to play in conserving the environment because we are also taking resources from it.’
To find out more about the Youth For The Environment Day, visit www.yed.sg
No Blip but Blimp on the Radar: Sustainability Good for Aerospace Business
For Lockheed Martin going green is good for the environment and good for business. In its 2010 Corporate Energy, Environment, Safety and Health Report released online, the aerospace company details how energy, water and waste to landfill reduction programs are helping to meet its sustainability targets and improve operational efficiencies, with energy savings programs with potential carbon reduction of up to 161,000 metric tons and associated possible operating cost reductions over the next two years. It also said it is lowering annualized operating costs from using fewer natural resources.
Lockheed Martin reports (17 April 2011)
For Lockheed Martin going green is good for the environment and good for business. In its 2010 Corporate Energy, Environment, Safety and Health Report released online, Lockheed Martin details how energy, water and waste to landfill reduction programs are helping the company meet its sustainability targets and improve operational efficiencies.
The company said its energy savings program has identified 150 projects with potential carbon reduction of up to 161,000 metric tons and associated possible operating cost reductions over the next two years. It also said it is lowering annualized operating costs from using fewer natural resources.
“We are embedding sustainability practices into our DNA,” said David Constable, PhD., vice president of Energy, Environment, Safety and Health for Lockheed Martin. “As we become more energy efficient, use fewer resources and apply sustainability solutions in the design and management of all our operations, we reduce overhead costs, deliver greater benefits to our customers and improve the environment in the 545 communities worldwide where we have operations.”
For example, Lockheed Martin launched a “green information technology” program, which has consolidated 4,000 data servers since 2008, resulting in a savings of 26 million kWh of electricity consumption and $2.6 million in annual costs.
In 2008, Lockheed Martin set the goal of reducing by 25 percent in its water, waste-to-landfill and greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2012, based on 2007 baseline performance. The company said it has achieved one of these goals and is on track to meet the others.
Other key achievements noted in the report include:
Decreased waste to landfill by 1.1 million pounds from 2009 to 2010, and by 26 percent since 2007 primarily by expanding recycle programs and working with vendors to eliminate excess packaging;
Reduced water usage by 136 million gallons from 2009 to 2010, and by 22 percent since 2007, through such initiatives as upgrading to low flow plumbing fixtures, making improvements to cooling towers and installing landscaping that requires less water;
Cut carbon emissions by 95,000 metric ton CO2 equivalents from 2009 to 2010, and by 15 percent since 2007 through a combination of energy efficiency initiatives and the purchase of renewable wind and solar energy and renewable energy credits;
Expanded its greening the supply chain program, working with 51 Indirect and IT suppliers. A program with Staples has achieved financial benefits and led to saving nearly 9,000 trees by using more recycled content in 2010. Working with Dell, Lockheed Martin eliminated extra packaging by insisting that computers be shipped in multipacks or recycled containers;
Named as an environmental leader for its GHG emission reduction efforts among S&P 500 Industrial companies by the Carbon Disclosure Project and achieved U.S. Building Green Council LEED® certification for 21 company facilities with 19 additional sites working to achieve various LEED® certifications; and
Reduced recordable workplace injuries by an absolute 49 percent from 2003 to 2010 and established new 25-Foot Safety Control Zone program to heighten employees’ safety awareness in their immediate work area.
The report is available online and includes an interactive tool that allows individuals to view sustainability metrics by topic and location. www.lockheedmartin.com/sustainable
Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 126,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation’s 2010 sales from continuing operations were $45.8 billion.
Build In Sustainability With or Without a Carbon Price
The Association of Building Sustainability Assessors (ABSA) applauds the Australian government for committing to helping householders manage the impact of a carbon price; but in doing so, encourages them to ensure that at least some of the compensation paid to householders under the proposed carbon price is directed towards permanently improving home energy efficiency, so that change is ‘hardwired’. “The case for improving building sustainability exists with or without a carbon price,” Michael Plunkett, ABSA’s Chairman said.
Carbon compensation must hardwire change
ABSA Reports (15 April 2011):
The Association of Building Sustainability Assessors (ABSA) applauds the government for committing to helping householders manage the impact of a carbon price; but in doing so, encourages them to ensure that at least some of the compensation paid to householders under the proposed carbon price is directed towards permanently improving home energy efficiency, so that change is ‘hardwired’.
“The case for improving building sustainability exists with or without a carbon price,” Michael Plunkett, ABSA’s Chairman said.
“We have over eight million existing dwellings across Australia and if compensation is to be paid to householders, as the Federal Government has consistently indicated, we believe that some of those funds must be earmarked to hardwire change in the home.
“The first step in constituting change is the most important. ABSA believes that each householder needs to understand what the best solutions are for them to improve energy efficiency in and around the home. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach. A detailed assessment by a qualified assessor ensures that households can identify proven ways to lower their carbon emissions and save a considerable amount on their quarterly utility bills,” Mr Plunkett said.
“It is only when an assessment has been undertaken that the best methods for improvement can be identified – we strongly believe that you can’t manage what you haven’t measured.
“Without first understanding then targeting the specific needs of individual households, compensation dollars may not be well spent by Government.
“Compensation to those householders who are most affected, but are least able to pay, should take precedence. Handing out money as a simple offset against cost increases does nothing to secure long term change, and won’t help us to substantially reduce emissions from existing housing stock,” he said.
“There is a big job that must be done in Australia – that of creating lasting and meaningful change in homes across the country. Change that is hardwired into the fabric of the home,” Mr Plunkett said.
The Multi-Party Climate Change Committee (MPCCC) in its ‘Principles to guide development of a carbon price mechanism’ indicates, “assistance should be provided to those households and communities most needing help to adjust to a carbon price, while striving to maintain incentives to change behaviour and reduce pollution.” (http://climatechange.gov.au/government/initiatives/multi-party-committee/meetings/third-meeting/communique.aspx#attachmenta )
“ABSA believes that householder compensation should be targeted and well thought through and the best way to do this it to link payments to a range of recommendations made as a result of assessment of an existing home by a qualified assessor. In improving the existing building stock in this way we should not forget the other essential component to ensure a less energy and water intensive future in our built environment, that is to continue to improve standards for new homes”, Mr Plunkett said.
“Directing carbon compensation in these ways will help hardwire change in the household and will ensure that carbon compensation is money well spent,” he said.
About ABSA: The Association of Building Sustainability Assessors (ABSA) is a not-for-profit national membership organisation representing over 1,800 building and design professionals who specialise in assessing the environmental impact of buildings. ABSA’s vision is to improve sustainability through the design and use of buildings. For more information about ABSA visit
Getting a Taste for Salt and Seawater in the Energy Menu
When the mighty Amazon finally meets the sea, millions of gallons of fresh water mingle with the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean. It could be the start for a new form of simple battery that uses the difference in saltiness between fresh water and seawater to produce electricity, say researchers at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, capable of producing as much as 13% of the world’s energy. Meanwhile, the Southern Hemisphere’s first commercial-scale wave power unit has begun producing energy as part of a trial project, says Carnegie Wave Energy.
In New Scientist (21 April 2011):
When the mighty Amazon finally meets the sea at Belem in Brazil, millions of gallons of fresh water mingle with the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s the end of an epic journey across South America – but it could be the start for a new form of simple battery that uses the difference in saltiness between fresh water and seawater to produce electricity.
Researchers at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, say these sorts of meeting points could be used to produce as much as 13 per cent of the world’s energy if electricity from all of the world’s rivers were harvested in this way.
It’s quite a claim, but not an entirely new idea. Scientists have long known you can produce electricity using the difference in saltiness of water. Other methods of using difference in salinity to create electricity have usually relied upon membranes which the ions pass through. But these are costly as well as fragile and are unsuitable for large-scale energy production.
The battery itself, known as a “mixing entropy battery” is relatively simple, and consists of two electrodes – one which contains positive sodium ions, one that has negative chlorine ions – which are immersed in fresh river water.
The battery slowly charges as the river water, which is low in salinity, and a small electrical charge pull the ions from the electrodes, increasing the voltage between the two.
The fresh water is then drained and replaced with seawater. The seawater is full of ions, which rush back to the electrodes, and produce electricity that can be drawn off from the battery. The saltwater is then drained and replaced with river water again, and the process starts over.
In tests the team managed to achieve 74 per cent efficiency in converting the potential energy in the battery to electrical current. During tests they found that 2.2 kilojoules of free energy could be harvested from every litre of fresh water.
Nice idea – but good luck telling environmental groups you’re planning on building giant power plants at some of the worlds most picturesque estuaries, however efficient.
Sydney Morning Herald (21 April 2011):
The Southern Hemisphere’s first commercial-scale wave power unit has begun producing energy as part of a trial project.
Carnegie Wave Energy said its CETO 3 unit on Garden Island, south of Perth, had begun producing hydraulic power and was performing to expectations.
Managing director Michael Ottaviano said the trial would be followed by a grid-connected, two-to-five-megawatt demonstration project.
The system is made up of submerged buoys tethered to pump units anchored to the ocean floor at about 25 metres depth. The buoys move with the motion of the waves, driving the pumps, which in turn pressurise water that is delivered to shore via a pipeline to drive hydroelectric turbines, producing zero-emission electricity.
Waves in excess of one metre are needed to produce reliable energy, which makes the southern and western coasts of Australia ideal, according to Mr. Ottaviano. Most of the southern half of Australia receives two-metre swells for at least 90 per cent of the year.
Mr. Ottaviano said the purpose of the trial project was to demonstrate Carnegie’s pumping technology, not the power off-take technology, which was ”off the shelf”.
Power from the trial project was not being used, he said. The company was instead focused on collecting performance data.
”We’ll have a full idea of this unit’s performance in a matter of weeks,” he said.
Power from the forthcoming grid demonstration project could be sold to state electricity retailer Synergy or the Department of Defense for use on Garden Island, which is Australia’s largest naval base, he said.
Carnegie has signed a memorandum of understanding with both parties.
”We’ve also been short-listed by WaterCorp to sell them power for the new desalination plant being built south of Perth down at Bunbury,” Mr. Ottaviano said.