Costa Rica to Eliminate Fossil Fuels by 2021

In recent years, there have been multiple known alternatives to using fossil fuels, and some countries have already began using them and lobbying for them. I dare say it’s now a matter of legislation and execution in various institutions so that they may all follow suit in this turn to renewable power. For instance, solar energy powers schools in Denmark, villages for the homeless in the Netherlands, and the entirety of Diu in India. Meanwhile, wind energy is to run millions of homes in the UK, some states in America, and about 70% of Australia.

And now, Costa Rica announced a pledge to become the first entirely decarbonized country in the world by 2021.

Carlos Alvarado, [Costa Rica’s new president and] a 38-year-old former journalist, made the announcement to a crowd of thousands during his inauguration on Wednesday.

“Decarbonization is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first,” Mr. Alvarado said. “We have the titanic and beautiful task of abolishing the use of fossil fuels in our economy to make way for the use of clean and renewable energies.”

The president even seems to live consistently to his words, arriving at the ceremony aboard a hydrogen-fuelled vehicle. In addition to decarbonization, the country has previously declared plans to entirely eliminate single-use plastics by the same year. That’s right — Costa Rica wants to lead a lot of environmental endeavors by 2021.

But what’s so special about the target date?

“When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate … that we’ve removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation,” [Mr. Alvarado] promised during a victory speech.

Right. By that time, Costa Rica will have celebrated its 200th year of independence. I suppose it’s part of the same push and momentum that they were able to gain a record in 2017 for producing more than 99% of the country’s electricity using only renewable sources.

Perhaps acknowledging that the history of the people is also the history of their land, Costa Rica wants to celebrate the anniversary of their independence with a healthier, greener, and cleaner environment.

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Shipping Industry Joins Fight Against Climate Change

All of us can participate, in our little ways, in the great battle against climate change. As I have written before, we need to take the task upon ourselves now more than ever. And while there are actions we can do just around our home, we also definitely need bigger stakeholders in the battle. As a momentous feat this 2018, the shipping industry is finally joining the fight.

For the first time, brokered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and effective over 170 member states, global shipping companies have agreed to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The agreement will require a revolution among ships, which are overwhelmingly fuelled by heavy oils at present. In future, they will have to not only be more energy-efficient, but also make use of cleaner energy, in the form of batteries supplying electricity, solar and wind electricity generation, and perhaps even a return to sail in some cases, or more controversially to nuclear power, as some warships already use.

As of the moment, shipping contributes only 2% of the world’s total carbon emissions, but this is no reason to be complacent, considering the ever-increasing need for transport due to globalization, as well as the ships’ use of carbon-heavy fuels like diesel.

John Maggs, president of the Clean Shipping Coalition and senior policy adviser at the campaigning group Seas at Risk, said: “We have an important agreement and this level of ambition will ultimately require a sector-wide shift to new fuels and propulsion technologies. But what happens next is crucial. The IMO must move swiftly to introduce measures that will cut emissions deeply and quickly in the short term – without these, the goals of the Paris agreement will remain out of reach.”

According to campaigners, to really carry out their goal and meet the objectives of the 2015 Paris agreement, shipping companies need to cut 70% of shipping emissions by 2050. However, that the shipping industry agreed to halve their current usage is already tremendous news.

The entire shipping industry is built on and relies on oceans, so let’s hope shipping companies finally start doing what’s best to protect them.

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Mali Brigade Is Protecting African Elephants

People like Lt. Col Faye Cuevas, a war-veteran-turned-conservationist, are exactly what wildlife warriors need. Africa, teeming with poachers and bearing the brunt of climate change, was especially up for change. To make up for Africa’s lack of resources, a Canadian team put up a brigade in Mali to protect its dwindling elephant population.

The brigade combines rangers and army forces, a necessary pairing for protecting wildlife in this hostile territory, regularly crisscrossed by offshoots of Al Qaeda and bandits.

Since launching the brigade in February, there have been no run-ins with poachers. Mali, normally plagued by other traffickers and petty bandits, has come a long way.

“The work,” Sergeant Sangare [of the brigade] said, “it is love.”

The brigade, led by the Wild Foundation and International Conservation Fund of Canada, is the first foreign helping hand Mali has received in some time. With locals expressing their dire need for basic necessities, the groups have also stepped in as community lifelines. It seems to me this act of selflessness is rarer than any ivory on the market.

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New Zealand To Test Humanitarian Emigre Visas

While environmental groups are tackling climate change on a grander scale, startups are handling smaller projects. Though it’s clear that innovations like Off Grid Box and SkyCool are making an impact, change can’t come quickly enough. To assist Pacific islanders displaced by natural disasters, New Zealand hopes to distribute refugee visas.

“There might be a new, an experimental humanitarian visa category for people from the Pacific who are displaced by rising seas stemming from climate change,” [said] James Shaw, New Zealand’s climate change minister… “and it is a piece of work that we intend to do in partnership with the Pacific Islands.”

The country is recovering from the repercussions of denying sanctuary to two deposed Tuvalu families. It seems the 1951 refuge convention, which defines a refugee as someone at risk of persecution, is making room for climate change as a legitimate oppressor.

“The lives and livelihoods of many of our Pacific neighbors are already being threatened and we need to start preparing for the inevitable influx of climate refugees,”

In the coming years, New Zealand will also up its refuge quota to 5,000 per annum. Looks like a storm of change has come.

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Plastic Bottle Air Conditioner Is Electricity-Free

It seems we’ve been underestimating the power of plastic. After the material was repurposed into makeshift lamps in the Philippines, it’s proving there is little it can’t do. Grey Dhaka in Bangladesh is taking plastic to new limits with a plastic bottle air conditioner that is completely electricity-free.

Repurposed plastic bottles are cut in half and mounted on a board or a grid in accordance with the window size with the bottlenecks facing the inside of the house. The board is then installed on the window… Hot air enters the open end of the bottle and is compressed at the neck of the bottle, turning the air cooler before it is released inside the house.

The device, called the Eco-Cooler, can reduce indoor temperatures by up to 5 degrees Celsius. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think regular-running electric air conditioners may now be facing a promising contender.

Today, more than 25,000 households have an Eco-Cooler in their homes. It has been installed in places such as Nilphamari, Daulatdia, Paturia, Modonhati and Khaleya.

Inventor Ashis Paul claims his daughter’s physics tutor inspired the Eco-Cooler. If simple DIY projects can combat climate change at no cost, maybe kids should reconsider paying attention in class.

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Australia Pledges $500M to Protect Great Barrier Reef

Australia has been making waves in the environmental newsfeed this past year with some fantastic headlines: its energy sector powered 70% of the country’s homes using only renewable sources, a huge permaculture farm fed dozens and dozens of families with only organic produce, and even without human help, a supposedly extinct species of insectivore suddenly showed up. But this Sunday, Australia made just about its biggest wave yet.

Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull pledged more than 500 million Australian dollars for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef — the greatest single investment that this reef or any other coral ecosystem in the world has ever received.

[T]he Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a national non-profit . . . will use the money to counter water pollution, combat coral-eating starfish, increase public awareness, boost reef monitoring, and improve the environmental impact of surrounding businesses . . . The funds will also be used to expand reef restoration efforts, including trialling new techniques that can breed corals resistant to high temperatures and light stress.

For a while now, the Great Barrier Reef, which hosts about 400 types of coral and 1,500 species of fish, is known to be in great danger. Its damage — including coral bleaching and ocean acidification — can be traced to climate change as a consequence of burning fossil fuels, harmful coastal development, and continuous fishing despite the already-present negative effects. A 2016 study even said that more than 90% of the reef has already been affected by coral bleaching.

However, Australia’s environment and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, is confident that “the right plan and the right investment” will help secure what he describes as a “remarkably resistant” reef . . . “The more we understand about the reef, the better we can protect it . . . Millions of dollars will go into science and to better data management and to be able to test the impacts on the reef.”

Of course, we must inevitably mull over the damage humans have caused the beautiful coral ecosystem in the past decades, but it seems to have been resilient in maintaining itself and in forgiving us. Perhaps the millions of dollars pledged to its protection can finally help us start to make up for the damage and deserve its forgiveness. I honestly can’t help but hope it’s better late than never for us and the Great Barrier Reef.

 

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Endangered Giant Turtles Are Escaping Extinction

Some animals, such as wild tigers in Kazakhstan, are making a comeback thanks to environmental groups. However, others, like the humble sea turtle, are escaping extinction all on their own.

Massive efforts to save the egg-laying turtles by changing fishing nets and creating protected and darkened beaches are working, said . . . Antonios Mazaris, an ecology professor at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.

“There’s a positive sign at the end of the story,” Mazaris said. “We should be more optimistic about our efforts in society.”

Before, endangered giant turtles had a difficult time with their survival due to hunting, fishing, habitat destruction, and pollution, among other things. In fact, only one of seven sea turtle species isn’t endangered. Mazaris recently found that of 299 sets of turtle populations, 95 increased. That’s serious cause for some… shell-ebration.

“Sea turtles are bellwethers. They’re flagships that we use to tell the story of what’s going on in the oceans… And that’s why people should care about turtles.”

Thanks to new fishing practices and allocated nesting hubs, the population of previously endangered giant turtles now increase by 10 – 15% annually. The Ridley sea turtle species had formerly seen a drop of roughly 38,000, and this initial devastation of turtle populations may have been our own doing. However, our awareness and action are also partially to thank now.

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Satellites Capture Massive Penguin Colony

Penguins are adorable, and that isn’t ever up for debate. Even political bodies such as the Chilean government would agree. Ultimately, they did snub a billion-dollar mining project to save the flightless birds. However, populations are on the rocky side — or so we thought. Cruising over the Antarctic Peninsula, NASA satellites captured a 1.5 million fleet of penguins.

“The sheer size of what we were looking at took our breath away,” [said] co-author Heather Lynch, Ph.D… “We thought, ‘Wow! If what we’re seeing is true, these are going to be some of the largest Adélie penguin colonies in the world, and it’s going to be well worth our while sending in an expedition to count them properly.”

Drones captured roughly 751,527 pairs of Adélie penguins, which isn’t even the most NASA has ever tallied. It’s only the third or fourth. In the last 60 years, sea ice levels and concentrations caused population drops. Apparently, the feisty fledglings are adapting.

“The size of these colonies makes them regionally important and makes the case for expanding the proposed Weddell Sea Marine Protected Area to include the Danger Islands,” [said] co-author Michael Polito, Ph.D.

What’s that I hear? A lot of happy feet stomping on cool ice up in Antarctica!

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Peru National Park To Protect Untouched Forests

To salvage the remnants of Mother Nature, activist groups, along with government agencies, are erecting new national parks. So far, protected areas in Chile have emerged, with Peru scrambling to assemble Yaguas National Park. The area remains one of the most intact forests on the planet.

More than 1,000 people… live along a 125-mile stretch of the Yaguas and Putumayo rivers. To them, this place is “sachamama,” a Quechua word roughly meaning “mother jungle,” the sacred heart of the area that produces the flora and fauna on which the groups depend.

Realizing the current impact of climate change, Peru is teaming up with South American countries such as Ecuador and Colombia. Together, the environmental superpowers are contending to fulfill the Paris climate agreement.

“For now, Yaguas is safe, but in the 20 years I’ve been working in the Amazon, I’ve learned the hard way that today’s remoteness is tomorrow’s access,” said Gregory Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science.

In the end, it’s we who lose when we neglect the planet. After all, the Earth won’t combust–it’ll just pick us off.

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Antarctica To Build Giant Wildlife Protection Reserve

Across the globe, busts against wildlife smugglers have been more copious than nature can handle. Though species such as the crest-tailed mulgara have made epic and unexpected comebacks, it isn’t the case for most. Hoping to kill two birds with one stone, Greenpeace is shutting down climate change and poaching with a wildlife reserve in Antarctica.

Will McCallum, of Greenpeace’s new Protect the Antarctic campaign, said: “The next few years are absolutely essential for the future of our oceans and we are in desperate need for governments to come together and do what is best for these amazing ecosystems.”

As city dwellers, we often remain oblivious to the consequences of melting ice caps and hits to the food chain. Nonetheless, there is much value in keeping our polar wonderland’s seals, penguins, and whales afloat.

“This will bring huge benefits in protecting this amazing ecosystem, in preserving the biodiversity and ecosystem functions of the ocean and in the wider fight against climate change.”

The reserve will cover 1.8m square kilometers of the Weddell Sea and Antarctic Peninsula. Not only will the eventual rise in fish populations excite seafood lovers — the world may not go down sinking after all.

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