UN Environment and Google announced today a global partnership that promises to change the way we see our planet. Combining environmental science, big data and unprecedented accessibility, this joint effort aims to expand what the world knows about the impacts of human activity on global ecosystems.
When completed, the platform will leverage Google’s cloud computing and earth observation public catalogs and for the first time enable governments, NGO’s and the public to track specific environment-related development targets with a user-friendly Google front-end.
“We will only be able to solve the biggest environmental challenges of our time if we get the data right,” Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said. “UN Environment is excited to be partnering with Google, to make sure we have the most sophisticated online tools to track progress, identify priority areas for our action, and bring us one step closer to a sustainable world.”
Too often, when a country seeks to implement real-time environmental action, they find their efforts halted by gaps in critical data needed to direct those actions safely and effectively. Through this partnership, and Google Earth Engine’s analysis and visualization tools, the world can finally begin to fill those gaps, enabling decision makers to better invest in environmental services.
“This partnership announcement builds on a common shared vision between our organizations,” said Rebecca Moore, Director, Google Earth, Earth Engine & Earth Outreach. “We are excited to enable all countries with equal access to the latest technology and information in support of global climate action and sustainable development.”
Long term, the partnership hopes to establish a platform for open-source data and analysis of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As an entry point to development, the partnership launches today with an initial focus on fresh-water ecosystems including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.
These areas account for 0.01% of the world’s water but provide habitat for almost 10% of the world’s known species and evidence suggests a rapid loss freshwater biodiversity.
Google will periodically produce geospatial maps and data on water-related ecosystems by employing massive parallel cloud computing technology. Satellite imagery and statistics will be generated to assess the extent of change occurring to waterbodies, and made freely accessible to ensure nations have the opportunity to track changes, prevent and reverse ecosystem loss.
Other areas of collaboration include advocacy and capacity building activities as well as the development of partnerships with organizations like the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Space Agency (ESA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The partnership was launched during the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in at UN Headquarters in New York, where world leaders are gathering to review of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – a set of clear, measurable goals for global development – as well as best practices and progress towards implementation.
The European Green Deal: Our new growth strategy
Do we, humans, want to continue living well and safely on this planet? Humanity faces an existential threat – the whole world is beginning to see. Forests burn from America to Australia. Deserts are advancing across Africa and Asia. Rising sea levels threaten our European cities as well as Pacific islands. Mankind has seen such phenomena before, but never at this speed.
Science tells us that we can still stop this epidemic, but we are running out of time. The new European Commission is wasting no time. Today, less than two weeks into our mandate, we present our roadmap for a European Green Deal.
Our goal is to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, slowing down global warming and mitigating its effects. This is a task for our generation and the next, but change must begin right now – and we know we can do it.
The European Green Deal that we present today is Europe’s new growth
strategy. It will cut emissions while also creating jobs and improving our
quality of life.
It is the green thread that will run through all our policies – from transport to taxation, from food to farming, from industry to infrastructure. With our Green Deal we want to invest in clean energy and extend emission trading, but we will also boost the circular economy and preserve Europe’s biodiversity.
The European Green Deal is not just a necessity: it will be a driver of new economic opportunities. Many European firms are already going green. They are cutting their carbon footprint and discovering the clean technologies. They understand that there are planetary boundaries: European companies of all sizes understand that everyone has to take care of our common home. They also know that if they discover the sustainable solutions of tomorrow, this will give them first mover advantage.
What businesses and change-makers need from us is easy access to financing. To pull this off, we will deliver a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan. It will support one trillion euros of investment over the next decade. We will work hand in hand with the European Investment Bank, Europe’s climate bank.
Next March, we will propose the first-ever European Climate Law to chart the way ahead and make it irreversible: investors, innovators and entrepreneurs need clear rules to plan their long-term investments.
While we will promote transformation in how we produce and consume, live and work, we must also protect and accompany those who risk being hit harder by such change. This transition must work for all or it will not work at all. I will propose to set up a Just Transition Fund – and I want it to mobilise, together with the leverage of the European Investment Bank and private money, one hundred billion euros in investment over the next seven years. We will make sure that we help those European regions who will have to take a bigger step, so that we leave no one behind.
Across Europe, people young and old are not only asking for climate action. They are already changing their lifestyle: think of the commuters who take the bike or public transport, parents who choose reusable diapers, companies that renounce single-use plastics and bring sustainable alternatives to the market. Many of us are part of this European and global movement for climate.
Nine European citizens out of ten ask for decisive climate action. Our children rely on us. Europeans want their Union to act at home and lead abroad. In these very days, the whole world has gathered in Madrid for the United Nations’ conference on climate, to discuss collective action against global warming.
The European Green Deal is Europe’s response to our people’s call. It is a deal by Europe, for Europe and a contribution for a better world. Every European can be part of the change.
This article by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen was published on the occasion of presentation of the European Green Deal.
Earth in Extremis While Trump Plays Ostrich
Authors: Dr. Arshad M. Khan and Meena Miriam Yust
Storms are savaging East Africa where rainfall in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania is now over 300 mm (about a foot) higher than the 30-year mean tallied since 1981. The subsequent flooding and landslides have affected 2.8 million people displacing many and reportedly killing 300 according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Thousands of miles away at the other end of the Indian ocean, there is extreme dry heat across Australia with an 80 percent chance of exceeding the median maximum temperature for the October-February summer period. It has led to an early start to the bushfire season as about 140 are already raging in New South Wales. Among the worst is a vast and so far uncontrollable fire about 40 miles outside Sydney, with evacuation warnings along its perimeter.
The cause of such extreme weather at the two ends of the Indian Ocean is described by weather scientists as the dipole effect — a sea surface temperature difference between the Arabian Sea western end and the south of Indonesia eastern end. A positive dipole means warmer ocean temperatures in the west end and cooler in the east. A negative dipole is the opposite; and a neutral dipole, means even temperatures and normal weather in the adjacent land areas.
This year’s warmer Indian Ocean temperatures in the western section have led to more storms and cooler, much wetter weather in East Africa, while cool waters pooling off Indonesia mean dry weather, causing extreme heat in Australia. At a 2C temperature difference, this positive dipole is one of the strongest Indian Ocean dipoles on record. Such a rare event occurring once in about 17 years in the past is now expected once in 6 years. Why? The culprit is climate change.
It projects a future of more frequent, more extreme weather unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and begin to eliminate the record high CO2 levels already in the atmosphere.
The rest of the world is not immune from extreme weather events. In a historic flood not too long ago this year, Venice’s iconic St. Mark’s square lay hip-deep in water threatening the frescoes in the church itself. And in the US, coastal flooding on the east coast has been featured by the New York Times (As Sea Levels Rise, So Do Ghost Forests, October 8, 2019). The ‘ghost forests’ refer to trees in coastal areas dying off due to frequent incursions of saltwater; it kills them from the roots up.
An excellent estimate of coastal flooding on the East and Gulf coasts, Encroaching Tides, was prepared by the Union of Concerned Scientists a five years ago. Sober reading, the report’s prognosis of coastal inundation and sea level rise over the next three decades is of concern to communities from Maine to Texas. Adaptation to new norms, protective sea walls, economic consequences, the responsibilities of Municipalities, States and the Federal Government, and a retreat from heavily impacted areas are the conclusions. Is anybody listening?
The US is also not immune from fires. California’s Kincade fire lasting two weeks through November 6 this year burnt almost 78,000 acres. The largest 2019 wildfire in the state, it was the largest ever for Sonoma county — evacuation orders and warnings covered almost everyone living in it. For the first eleven months of 2019 there have been 46,706 wildfires compared to 47,853 for all of 2018. Blame the downslope Santa Ana winds for fanning them.
If such is the state of our earth in extremis, COP25 the UN Climate Change Conference, is endeavoring to mitigate the major cause: climate change. It concludes in Madrid, Spain this week (Dec 13) having been displaced from Chile due to riots by an unhappy populace. And celebrity climate activist Greta Thunberg was obliged to hitch a yacht ride back across the Atlantic arriving just in time to demonstrate. Everything helps.
COP25’s ambitious aim is to up the ante from the 2C temperature rise limit of the Paris agreement, adopted by COP24 last year in Poland, to only 1.5C. A laudable aim perhaps, yet the worst polluters since the industrial revolution are comfortably ensconced, enjoying their wealth, without bearing a heavier burden — in the case of the US very little as Donald Trump has withdrawn from the Paris agreement. Indeed a vexing state of affairs for the world when major players shirk their responsibilities.
Authors’ Note: This article first appeared on Commondreams.org
Thanksgiving Also Means Giving Thanks for Our Planet
It is Thanksgiving holiday in the US. The Europeans do not celebrate Thanksgiving and the European Parliament has held an election. It has chosen former German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen as the new President of the European Commission. Hailing from a political family of conservatives — her father narrowly lost a party leadership election to Franz Josef Strauss — she is the first woman to hold the EU’s top executive job.
Conservative or not, there is unanimity in the EU about climate change, and how the EU has to lead the transition to a healthier planet by planning the necessary upgrading of its social market economy.
If the Europeans are increasingly aware of the environmental challenges ahead, the UN Environment Programme has just issued its flagship Emissions Gap Report. As one might surmise, the ‘gap’ refers to the difference between what the world is doing to tackle climate change and what it needs to do to limit temperature increase to 1.5C. Our present ambitions of structural change from a fossil fuel economy is forecast in the report to lead to a catastrophic 3.2C rise.
Present California fires and coastal flooding of the eastern seaboard from the Carolinas down to Florida are just the top of the iceberg as are the European floods in Spain, Italy and France — and the temperature rise so far is a single degree Celsius.
The window to act is closing rapidly. As the UN report clarifies in stark terms, emissions will have to peak by 2020 to limit global warming to 1.5C without affecting economic growth. It turns out that of the 43 developed and emerging economies, all with the sole exception of Turkey will have peaked their emissions by 2020. Be 2030, 57 countries will have peaked. That is the good news.
By far the greatest emitters are China, the US, and then India and the EU. Together they account for 56 percent of greenhouse gasses emitted over the last decade. These therefore bear a heavy responsibility.
The bad news is that while these and other emitters have pledged to follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement — except for the US because Trump withdrew from it — it is not enough. According to the UN report, their efforts will still result in a 3.2C rise by century’s end to devastating effect.
It is logical then that efforts have to be intensified, and countries need to be more ambitious in their goals. A focus on innovation and domestic policies to encourage non-fossil fuel power generation would be clearly to their advantage. For example, energy produced from solar panels has soared from 50 Gigawatts in 2010 to 400 GW in 2015 with an expectation of 450+ GW by 2020.
The strong message of the report is for all sectors and their principals — national, state and local governments, mayors, corporations, their executives, civil society and civic leaders — to come together and act in concert if they are to avert a problem affecting our common home before it is too late. It is one way of giving thanks for what we have. The last five years have already been the warmest on record, the future can be expected to be worse if we do not act.
The hi-tech war between China and the United States
The new directive of the Central Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC), issued on December 8, 2019, ordered...
ADB’s Transport Investments in Pacific Projected at Over $1 Billion for 2017–2020
The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) transport investments in the Pacific, comprised of 15 projects, is expected to reach over $1...
Hong Kong: No more China’s disheartened capitalism, please
Hong Kong’s unrest started in June 2019. It was triggered by the plans to allow extradition to mainland China. Critics...
The growing power of tourism
International tourist arrivals grew by a further 4% between January and September of 2019, the latest issue of the UNWTO...
More Companies and Government Ambition Required to Meet the “Net Zero” Challenge
Four years after the Paris Climate Agreement, tangible action from governments is falling short of trajectories needed to restrict global...
You, 16-year-old with the sad eyes
I think of you all the time, with love, with respect, with admiration. Why am I so sad? I lost...
Corporate Tax Havens
We’ve all heard the term in the media, or tossed around by savvy financial planners or accountants. But what are...
Middle East3 days ago
Turkey’s presence in Syria
Economy3 days ago
Banking on action: How ADB achieved 2020 climate finance milestone one year ahead of time
Middle East2 days ago
Iran, CPEC and regional connectivity
Europe2 days ago
Crossroads or a dead end: Do Germany and Europe face a triumph of indecision?
Middle East2 days ago
Algerian people shouted: No to corruption and mismanagement
South Asia3 days ago
The Torn Red Carpet: Welcome to Nepal in 2020
Energy2 days ago
Diverse notions of Energy Security in a Multi-polar World
Newsdesk2 days ago
Bangladesh Needs Climate Smart Investments for Higher Agricultural Growth