Tag Archives: Pollution

September 16th World Ozone Day

Today is the World Ozone day, on 19th December 1994 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 16 September the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, commemorating the date, in 1987, on which the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed. This commemoration around the world offers an opportunity to focus attention and action at the global, regional and national levels on the protection of the ozone layer. All Member States are invited to devote this special day to promotion, at the national level, of concrete activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the Montreal Protocol and its Amendment.

If you grew up in the 80’s and 90’s you might have heard about the hole in the Ozone layer. Which incidentally is not actually a hole, but an area in the ozone layer where ozone has been severely depleted; thereby allowing sun rays to pass through without much absorption or reflection. Each year for the past few decades during the Southern Hemisphere spring, chemical reactions involving chlorine and bromine cause ozone in the southern polar region to be destroyed rapidly and severely. The world reacted to this pretty much united by removing chloro-flouro carbons or CFC’s from spray cans, refrigerants etc. And the hole in the Ozone layer has been shrinking since 2006. By the end of 2009, the Montreal Protocol had resulted in the elimination of over 98 per cent of historical levels of ozone-depleting substances.

You can keep track of it on the NASA Website here.

Ozone Hole on the 12th of September 2010

Picture Courtesy NASA

The 2009 UN Climate Change Conference was held in Copenhagen on 16th September 2009 with the slogan “power Green Growth, Protect the Planet”. Countries agreed to work towards a common, long-term goal to limit global temperature rise to below 2° Celsius.

Climate Change and Actions to slow the Human impact

Climate change and global warming are divisive issues for many people still who remain skeptics in spite of what is happening around them. In some cases the belief is religious while in others it makes it easier to explain away our own reckless behaviors by putting it all on nature. Either way the reality is that there are visible changes happening all over the world from receding glaciers to mistimed monsoons, droughts etc… to stronger hurricane seasons.

Climate change is recognized as a major environmental problem facing our planet. Evidence is building that impacts are being felt in the form of melting icecaps in the polar areas and increased variability of temperature, rainfall and storms in virtually all regions.

Developed countries committed to establish and implement targets for greenhouse gas emissions, and a number of developing countries, including major emerging economies, agreed to implement nationally appropriate mitigation actions and to communicate their efforts every two years.

Countries also agreed on the importance of acting to Reduce emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), and to provide support for the most vulnerable to cope with climate change.

To support these priorities, countries pledged up to $30 billion a year for developing countries between 2010 and 2012, to be disbursed through a Copenhagen Green Climate Fund.

Countries also backed the goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020.

Environmental facts from the UNEP

  • Forests cover 30 percent of the planet’s total land area. The total forested area in 2005 was just under 4 billion hectares, at least one third less than before the dawn of agriculture, some 10,000 years ago.
  • The ten most forest-rich countries, which account for two-thirds of the total forested area, are the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States, China, Australia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Peru and India.
  • Six million hectares of primary forest are lost every year due to deforestation and modification through selective logging and other human interventions. More than one-third of all forests are primary forests, defined as forests where there are no clearly visible indications of human activity and where ecological processes are not significantly disturbed.
  • Primary forests shelter diverse animal and plant species, and culturally diverse indigenous people, with deep connections to their habitat.
  • Only 20 per cent of the world’s forests remain in large intact areas. These forests consist of tropical rain forests, mangrove, coastal and swamp forests. Monsoon and deciduous forests flourish in the drier and more mountainous regions.
  • Trees quite literally form the foundations of many natural systems. They help to conserve soil and water, control avalanches, prevent desertification, protect coastal areas and stabilize sand dunes.
  • Forests are the most important repositories of terrestrial biological biodiversity, housing up to 90 per cent of known terrestrial species.
  • Forest animals have a vital role in forest ecology such as pollination, seed dispersal and germination.
  • Trees absorb carbon dioxide and are vital carbon sinks.
  • It is estimated that the world’s forests store 283 Gigatonnes of carbon in their biomass alone, and that carbon stored in forest biomass, deadwood, litter and soil together is roughly 50 per cent more than the carbon in the atmosphere.
  • Carbon in forest biomass decreased in Africa, Asia and South America in the period 1990–2005. For the world as a whole, carbon stocks in forest biomass decreased annually by 1.1 Gigatonne of carbon (equivalent to 4 billion 25kg sacks of charcoal).
  • The loss of natural forests around the world contributes more to global emissions each year than the transport sector.
  • World population currently stands at 6.5 billion people. It is projected to grow to 9 billion by 2042.  The expansion of agricultural and industrial needs, population growth, poverty, landlessness and consumer demand are the major driving forces behind deforestation.
  • Most deforestation is due to conversion of forests to agricultural land. Global removals of wood for timber and fuel amounted to 3.1 billion cubic metres in 2005.
  • Worldwide, deforestation continues at an alarming rate, about 13 million hectares per year, an area the size of Greece or Nicaragua.
  • Africa and South America have the largest net loss of forests. In Africa it is estimated that nearly half of the forest loss was due to removal of wood fuel.
  • Forests in Europe are expanding. Asia, which had a net loss in the 1990s, reported a net gain of forests in the past five years, primarily due to large-scale forestation in China.
  • Eighty per cent of the world’s forests are publicly owned, but private ownership is on the rise, especially in North and Central America and in Oceania.
  • About 11 per cent of the world’s forests are designated for the conservation of biological diversity. These areas are mainly, but not exclusively, in protected areas.
  • Around 10 million people are employed in conventional forest management and conservation. Formal employment in forestry declined by about 10 per cent from 1990 to 2000.

The theme for the celebration is “Ozone layer protection: governance and compliance at their best”.  Governments world over are encouraged to create programs or events to raise public awareness of the importance of protecting the ozone layer for present and future generations. These can include workshops, press conferences, competitions in schools, and university lectures by experts. The list of programs as conducted by different countries will be listed on the UNEP website.

Check out how countries world over are celebrating the World Ozone Day HERE

Sources for details – UNEP website

This is the symbolic representation of a ton of CO2 from the Copenhagen summit of 2009.

Check out Seal the Deal – website of the 2009 December UN Climate change meeting in Copenhagen

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Growing Steadily…

Reading an article on Planet Green reminded me of a line from message in a bottle by the Police “100 million castaways looking for a home” it is kind of how the garbage patch on the Pacific looks right now… If only we could send all of it back to the sources wonder how many of us would get a parcel from the Oceans!! When any trash gets into the rain gutter flows into the waterways ending up in the seas, or what every vacationer on the beach thinks is ok to leave behind on the beach, it all finds its way into our oceans.

Source of Photograph by  Fabi Fliervoet Creative Commons  Attribution

As the article in Planet Green says “People create, consume, and carelessly toss plastics and the litter ends up in the water ways. As the plastic reaches the shoreline, currents carry it out into the ocean and a convergence of currents swirl the plastics into one general area.”

In the Oceans plastic bags are confused by turtles and fish as jelly fish or other food and get consumed, there have been many instances where sea life has been found with plastic inside their gut causing their death. The non-biodegradable trash in the Oceans is very much like the stuff in the landfills: in the land fill it stays for 10’s of hundreds of years with out moving unless it is moved whereas in the Oceans it stays for relatively the same amount of time but moving around with the Ocean currents.

The Effect on the marine environment is unmistakable, we have all heard about the Great Pacific patch of garbage which is actually the size of Texas and growing!, but it is not really the only one. There are 5 such patches all across the world check the picture below to see where they are.

The Picture above courtesy Wikipedia.com

The Garbage in the Oceans is not something we can remove over night. Discovery News reports – According to Stiv Wilson of the 5Gyres project it is estimated he estimates that there are 315 billion pounds of plastic in the ocean right now.

The point of the calculations is this: cleaning up the plastics in the ocean ain’t gonna happen. Well-intentioned programs designed to take the fight to the high seas, like Project Kaisei and the Environmental Cleanup Coalition, for example, are exercises in futility.

“I’m not trying to call them out,” Wilson told Discovery News. “What I really fear is a barge full of plastic coming in under the Golden Gate bridge, the media taking pictures and people thinking ‘oh good, we’ve solved that problem.'”

A real cleanup would be astronomically expensive, both in terms of dollars and equipment.

Found these two cartoons below by Jim Toomey

Sherman’s Lagoon Cartoon By Jim Tooney

Also Check out this TED Talk by Capt. Charles Moore on the seas of plastic

An amazing video on the trash in the Ocean called” Plastic is FOREVER” by Philippe Costeau can be found here do check it out

Sherman’s Lagoon residents has a list of organizations which are helping to keep the Ocean healthy and you can find them HERE

You can read the article on Planet Green here

and DO CHECK OUT THE 5 GYRES PROJECT HERE

Using less or no plastic at all is the only solution really, but until we find a viable alternative to plastic the least we can do is to reduce the trash which goes where it should not.. Live Green!

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (Scientists in the Field Series)

Deep Horizon Oil Spill the Largest to Hit the US

Live Video Link from Deep Horizon Oil Spill courtesy BP

Top Kill has Failed, we are short of boom and the Atlantic Hurricane season is around the corner! Oil is still in the Ocean some hitting the shore the rest waiting its turn… President Obama has promised more people on the ground on the water front to help with the humongous clean-up. BP supposedly trucked in extra hands to show the visiting President and his officials that they were doing everything right!

Deep Horizon Oil Spill is now officially the largest Oil spill in US history. It is much larger than Exxon-Valdez Spill and the real magnitude won’t be known until the leak is plugged. Right now the Geological survey has put the leak somewhere between 12,000 to 20,000 barrels a day! More than 3 times what they thought earlier.

Scientists have discovered a 22mile long plume of oil on the Ocean floor which is nearing an underwater canyon whose currents fuel the food chain in Gulf waters off Florida and could potentially wash the tiny plants and animals that feed larger organisms in a stew of toxic chemicals there by affecting the entire food chain in the gulf. The plume was detected just beneath the surface down to about 3,300 feet and there is a chance it will spread all the way to the Florida Keys if it does not rise up. Some scientists think if it rises up it might get broken down by sunlight.

BP has moved to plan B?? oh no must be plan W or X or something…BP now is planning to put in a lid in place to hope and stop the leak which has not stopped inspite of 3 continuous days of pumping 30,000barrels of heavy mud into it. The idea now is to cut off the pipes at the top of the blow-out prevented and allowing a container to be connected up to it that will catch the oil and allow it to rise up a pipe to the surface. Like all of these efforts, this has not yet been done before in 5,000 feet of water. Don’t know whether cutting the pipe will let more oil pour out…

Well let’s wait as we have for the past 7 weeks and hope may be tomorrow will come bearing better news 5000 feet under the sea from Deep Horizon… meanwhile if you are anywhere near the South east head down and help with what ever you can…

In the midst of all this One thing that struck me is nature is (As always) so amazing! The way it has kept oil is so much away from anything it can destroy and pollute… packaged under such high pressures so deep underneath…

Some interesting headlines I saw today :

From the NYTimes : Despite Moratorium Drilling projects Move ahead!
From the CS Monitor : Why the Gulf Oil Spill Demands New Regulations?

More tomorrow…

Deep Horizon a Quick Update

President Obama came out today and admitted some mistakes where made and the best thing I heard in his press conference was the extension of moratorium on new offshore drilling for another 6 months! Just want it to be made permanent. He also mentioned that there were still issues with the MMS (Minerals Management Service) which needed to be rectified. He also said there probably were not enough booms (wondering what that is? it is something that will help keep oil contained, those orange/yellow colored long connected tubes floating in the water near the beaches of Louisiana in the oil spill pictures are booms. Read more about it here) the President also mentioned (surprise! Surprise! That BP was not forthcoming about the extent of the debacle!)

Well I hope after all this time they will work out a way to stem the flow and clean up the environment before the next talks about Drill Baby Drill ring out…

Found this interesting video on CBS check it out… it is amazing what BP did know and what it did not do (not after the rig sank but before that…)


Courtesy CBS News

On BP’s part they have stated there are no updates positive or negative at this hour. You can still see the plume looking pretty strong (basically no idea whether the top kill is working or not!) Check out the video here 

More updates tomorrow… hopefully they will be positive.

The 10 Leading Nations Ruining the World Environment

Well if I was asked to name the top 10 nations ruining the world, my list would be wrong. I was reading about a study done by University of Adelaide’s Environmental Institute in Australia in collaboration with the National University of Singapore and the Princeton University. It listed the top 10 countries who were crating the most environmental impact. The study found that the total wealth of a country was the most important driver of environmental impact. There is a general theory that when nations get richer the use of better technology reduces impact on environment, which is refuted here. The study evaluates the relative environmental Impact of countries using 7 indicators of environmental degradation:

  • Natural Forest Loss
  • Habitat Conversion
  • Marine Captures
  • Fertilizer use
  • Water Pollution
  • Carbon Emissions
  • Species Threat

Existing rankings also took into account human health and economic data, where as this study focuses solely on Environmental impact. Other country specific variables were also excluded e.g. Illegal fishing, some patterns of Greenhouse gas emission, sea grass loss, coral habitat loss, bush meat harvest etc… The study has listed 2 rankings a “proportional” environmental impact ranking – environmental impact measured against total resource availability (human population size, gross national income and governance quality) and an “absolute” environmental impact ranking measuring total environmental degradation at a global scale. These are the top ten worst offending countries for absolute environmental impact, those that are just doing the most damage, regardless of per capita calculations.

  1. Brazil – In the 7 categories Brazil ranked in the top 10 of all but Marine Capture. 1st place for natural forest loss, 3rd place for natural habitat conversion, 3rd place for fertilizer use, 4th place for threatened species, 4th place for CO2 emissions, and 8th place for water pollution.
  2. USA – One would think with the resources and smarts the country has it would be ranked better than a number 2, but no. Except for natural Habitat Conversion where it ranked a very respectable 211, the rest of the list reads like this – Ringing in at 1st place for fertilizer use, The USA also ranks in 1st place for CO2 emissions, 2nd place for water pollution, 3rd place for marine captures, and 9th place for threatened species.
  3. China – It has the 1st place in water pollution (20 million people without access to clean water), 1st place for marine capture. Add to that 2nd place for CO2 emissions and 6th place for threatened species, and we can see how China takes the bronze for most environmental impact.
  4. Indonesia – Indonesia ranks 2nd in natural forest loss, which probably has some to so with their taking 3rd place for threatened species. Indonesia is ranked 3rd for CO2 emissions, 6th for marine capture, 6th for fertilizer use, and 7th for water pollution.
  5. Japan – Japan ranks 4th for marine capture, 5th for both natural habitat conversion and water pollution, and 6th for CO2 emissions.
  6. Mexico – 5th for both natural habitat conversion and water pollution, and 6th for CO2 emissions.
  7. India – India is 2nd place for environmental impact due to fertilizer use. India comes in 8th for another three areas: threatened species, marine capture and CO2 emissions.
  8. Russia – Russia in 4th place for worst water pollution. Russia ranks 5th in worst CO2 emissions–air quality is almost as poor as water quality, with over 200 cities often exceeding Russian pollution limits. The country ranks 7th for marine capture.
  9. Australia – About 11.5 percent of the total land area of Australia is protected, which leaves a lot left over for unbridled usage, which is how the country ranks 7th worst in habitat conversion. It also ranks 9th for fertilizer use, and 10th for natural forest loss.
  10. Peru – Peru ranks 2nd for marine capture and 7th for threatened species.

If you live in any of these nations Wake up think about how you can make a change today.

For more details follow these links  here Or here

Deep Horizon Oil Spill Where How and When Will It End?

Image Courtesy nytimes.com

It has been 24 days since the fateful day when the rig exploded and 12 men lost their lives. The Oil has been spewing out into the ocean and spreading along with the waves to the shores and beyond…

Each day there are seemingly new revelations as to how much oil is being spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. The scientists from different universities working aboard the research vessel Pelican, which sailed from Cocodrie, La., on May 3 and have been gathering extensive samples and information about the disaster in the gulf.

The scientists have discovered humongous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. One of them as large as 10miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick! It means what we see above water in pictures is just literally like the tip of the iceberg! There is much more oil in the deep water in the Gulf of Mexico. The fallout environmentally would be devastating as the plumes could deplete Oxygen in the water there by destroying sea life in the water.

They calculate that the oil gushing out from the well is much more than the earlier reported 5000barrels a day from the satellite imagery. They put it approximately between 25,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day! more than 5 times the previous estimates, and BP has said “no” to the scientists request to access to the rig to make accurate measurements using more advanced devices.

On its part BP has been trying without much positive outcome to intercept and control the spillage. Right now they are continuing their efforts to insert a tube, meant to intercept the flow of oil, into the broken drill pipe using robotic submarines. It did not work today and they had to bring it back above water. The problem arose before any attempt was made to insert the tube, which is fitted with rubber diaphragms to block water from entering the drill pipe.

BP has some more short term options at hand which all will take time and the permanent solution is either to block it with a cap, or pump and seal the pipe with mud and cement – “Junk Shot”. The permanent solution is to drill 2 relief wells which is already underway but would take until August to complete, that’s another 60-90 days more.

Vulnerable animals and birds are at risk from the oil spill and they all need help. If you are interested in heading down there to help do link up with some of the organizations already working there. Sometimes not knowing what to do and trying to help might be more harmful.

Links of helpful organizations :

You can search here to find how you can help.

Follow this link to check on the Oil spill spreading. It is a cool interactive map! Here