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By Moustafa Hassab-Allah
Moustafa is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Moustafa below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

I dream of seeing my generation changing the world, I envision them as change makers rather than conformers. Climate change is not just a hot month in the summer, it is more catastrophic than we can imagine, probably because nature did not provide its final kick. Tsunamis, floods, iceberg meltdown are just cautionary events for what is bigger.

We – young people – should not wait for the disaster to happen then fight it, instead we can better avoid it. As some countries may declare a war on terrorism, Youth can also fight for a greater cause against the threat of climate change. Each young man and woman has the will and the power to change the environment around them , interest groups and organized target campaigns became classic.

Today is the time for online technology and social media to produce a great impact. Today has never been a better time for global collaboration against climate change; I noticed Canadian & Australian youth coalition against climate change. I believe that now it is time for world youth to put hands together and communicate globally against this serious challenge. Students can reach both elders and children, helping them to realize their responsibility towards the future of this planet. We can teach the elders about how to combat floods in case of emergency; this can be done virtually across the world. Through electronic media, we can launch radio and YouTube, channels, who knows what is next, through this, we can nurture our younger brothers and sisters to grow in a green society, the one who cares about the environment and has a belief that negative human activity harms our planet and will eventually harm organisms living on it.

My name is Moustafa Hassab-Allah. I go to Cairo University in Egypt (Engineering). I believe that we – Students- are able to fulfill a promise of clean sustainable energy. We are the biggest and the most impactful group of people around the globe. This is our time to change the world.

The recent floods in Pakistan (watch videos here) caused an initial wave of 1500 deaths, but that number may quickly begin to mount as rain continues to inundate parts of Pakistan and displaced and stranded Pakistanis face shortages in food and clean water. United Nations officials say that approximately 6 million Pakistanis, mostly children, are at risk for water-born diseases that could be potentially lethal.1 This humanitarian disaster clearly shows the linkages between environmental issues, governmental instability, development, and health.

NY times image

Catastrophic weather patterns leading to unprecedented heat waves, storms, and floods are becoming more and more common as global warming takes its toll, causing events like smaller floods here in the US, fires and heat waves in Russia, flooding and mudslides a few months ago in Brazil, and now this deluge of flooding in Pakistan. Governments that are not stable enough or are not held accountable to their people fail to provide the kind of response needed in such instances. Pakistanis were infuriated by the fact that their President Asif Ali Zardari continued his trip to England even as floods devastated his country, and see his response to the disaster as slow and inadequate2 (reminiscent, perhaps, of President Bush’s delayed response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005).

Both international and domestic aid to the citizens of Pakistan has been slow to arrive and has been insufficient and inconsistent, leaving people to fight over food and water. The lack of developed systems in Pakistan – sturdy buildings, roads and bridges, as well as evacuation routes, transportation, and rescue capabilities – has made aid difficult to deliver and has made it nearly impossible for many Pakistanis to reach safety. Lastly, the impending health disaster demonstrates more than ever the need to prioritize the integration of health systems into other forms of development, in order to provide clean water, safe food, and the medicines necessary to combat disease when these basic needs are not readily avaible in such situations. In order to address the issues posing increasing challenges to our planet, like emergency response, it is necessary to understand and act on the linkages between sectors and develop comprehensive solutions. Read the rest of this entry »

Last week I had the opportunity to attend two events on adapting to climate change.  I was initially excited to attend, as the speakers were excellent and I had  done research on adaption to climate change in the past.  My research had been on the necessity of adapting to the effects of climate change like building sturdier houses to withstand flooding, or making changes to water storage methods to prepare better for droughts.

These events brought up a completely different aspect of adaption to climate change.  Rather than discussing how people will have to adapt to climate change, the information presented focused on the ‘benefits’ of climate change — namely, that certain latitudes (the ones the United States, Europe and most developed countries happen to be in) will actually benefit from the warming of the globe.  With an increase in warmth, agriculture can flourish more in the lower latitudes, while areas in the higher latitudes around the equator will not benefit from the warmer weather.

Another point made by these climate experts was that there is no concern for water scarcity, because climate change will actually bring more precipitation.  Just how that precipitation would occur was not mentioned, nor was how people would be able to collect precipitation that came down in the form of blizzards, hurricanes, and tsunamis.

My final point of contention with these events is that both were supposed to be about adapting to climate change in developing countries. Yet developing countries were brought up only a handful of times during both events.  At the first event, a seminar at the Elliot School on George Washington University’s campus, developing countries were only referred to as ‘poor people’ and only mentioned to point out that poor people wouldn’t be able to adapt well, and that there wasn’t much hope for them.

At the second event, a mini-conference put together by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, developing countries were brought up as examples of potential markets for genetically engineered seeds and new agricultural technologies.  Forget my feelings toward genetically modified food/seeds/ and the switch to ‘modern agriculture,’ the plan for developing countries to adapt to climate change involves opening them up as new markets for technology? Sounds too familiar.

I give the speaker and presenters at these two events credit for their science — the data for what they were looking at is legitimate.  The problem was in what they left out of their models and business plans: the people who will be affected.  We can’t forget that there is a human face to climate change — and that it is fellow human beings that will be affected.  Hearing leading policy makers in the efforts for climate change talk about people in developing countries as if they were disposable was really discouraging, and quite frankly, I was outraged.  The key to adapting to climate change isn’t to ignore problems or try to ‘invent our way out’ of them,  but to change our lifestyles to counteract what climate change we can no longer change, and prevent any future climate change.

For more information on adapting to climate change, check out the CSIS website on climate change.

Cool article from Reuters…  Go consumer power!  How many of y’all are buying organic, free-range turkey this year?

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Despite the worst U.S. recession in decades, sales of organic and sustainable products have continued to grow, experts say, with shoppers willing to spend a few more dollars in a bid to become more green.

U.S. supermarket sales of environmentally sustainable or “ethical” products — from energy-efficient light bulbs to organic produce — will rise about 8.7 percent in 2009 to nearly $38 billion, according to a recent study by Packaged Facts, a market research provider.

President Barack Obama‘s commitment to tackle climate change, a string of scandals over tainted food and effective marketing of sustainable products have helped convince more Americans, whose environmental credentials lag behind Europeans, to buy green.

Read the rest of this entry »

With 50 days left before the COP-15 international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, we’ll need a serious shift in climate (figuratively speaking) for any significant shift in climate (literally speaking) to happen after the close of negotiations on December 18th.

Developed and developing nations remain at an impasse over two major points of negotiation–who will incur the brunt of the costs to help developing countries adapt to climate change, and who will take the lead and stop pouring green house gases into the atmosphere. So, what are young people across the country doing to shift the climate state-by-state as our leaders remain stagnant and unproductive? Power Shift.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s no secret that people in the Global South are those most vulnerable to global warming. They face more day-to-day exposure to its impacts, and their governments generally lack the economic and technological capacity to deal with dramatic changes in climate patterns. Rising sea levels are just the tip of the melting iceberg.

Climate change is causing more frequent and prolonged droughts, more severe storms, and the rapid spread of tropical diseases, threatening the homes, farms, and livelihoods of the world’s poorest citizens. Oxfam has estimated that somewhere around 375 million people will be affected by humanitarian disasters related to climate change by 2015—a 50% rise over past years—and the UN Development Program has projected that adaptation efforts to deal with this crisis will require investments of $86 billion per year. Without pairing adaptation strategies with mitigation efforts, we cannot hope to improve global living standards, combat poverty and disease, or halt conflicts over resources.

As a lifelong environmentalist, I’m overjoyed to see Congress taking historic (albeit small) steps to grow green industry and lower greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. As a global citizen and social justice advocate, however, I’m disappointed to see so little attention devoted to dealing with climate change where it’s causing hardship already: the developing world.

EAC rally 6/26The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) bill squeaked through the House late last month and will move to the Senate sometime in the coming months. The current bill establishes an International Climate Change Adaptation Program within the US Agency for International Development and offers up an initial 1% of emission allowances to international adaptation initiatives, rising to 4% by 2027. While these allowances will help developing countries prepare for and address the consequences of global warming—some of the first federal dollars dedicated to this cause—this is not a fair pledge from the world’s largest contributor to global warming. The developing world needs more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Since 2003 nearly two trillion tons of ice have melted in the world’s coldest regions, causing sea levels to rise 50 percent faster than 15 years ago.  The causation has been blamed on the Global Climate Change. Crete As countries scramble to develop solutions for man’s contribution to house gases, there are some effective and less expensive remedies.  The Greeks were pioneers in philosophy, art, and most importantly science.  Having an understanding that dark colors absorb heat and light colors reflect it, the Greeks painted their buildings throughout the Mediterranean in white.  Just look at all the pictures of Crete.  Doing so drastically reduced the temperatures in the cities and helped keep the buildings cool.

More recently, a study done by the Heat Island Group further reinforces this notion.   Painting roofs white in warm climates could decrease air conditioning by 20%, thereby demanding less energy, and releasing less CO2 into the atmosphere.   In fact, the study suggests that if the 100 most populous cities were to paint their roofs in reflective colors and use concrete instead of asphalt, the amount of heat reflected from the Earth would be enough to offset decades of Global Warming.  The understanding of this concept has been known for some time.  In 2005 California passed legislation that required flat commercial roofs to have reflected paint.  A new law enacted in July 2009 extends it to slope residential and commercial.  Other states along the Sunbelt should follow suit as a means to compact our climate change immediately.  Those in the cooler areas have another method to use: Green Roofs.

Green Roofs are roofs that are covered by vegetation and act as a means to insulate the building by reducing the cost of heating and cooling the structure.  The vegetation contains shallow roots that won’t exceed the modulars they were planted in.  These non-permanent fixtures increase the longevity of the roofs while serving as a filter for air pollution and the collection of storm water.  Private companies such as GreenGrid Roofs have successfully constructed green roofs throughout major cities across the country including numerous governmental buildings, thereby turning concrete jungles into the picture below.

Green_City

The crisis with our global climate is not an issue that must be left for bureaucratic nations to handle along.  It is one that we as humans who continuously contribute to the problem must also steer.  Painting our roofs white and placing vegetation on flattops may seem inconsequential, but so is recycling a tin can and riding a bike.  The actions are small, but their effects in numbers can change the world.

Greeting AIDers and readers!

I hope everyone had a pleasant holiday!

While we are braving the colder temperatures in the Northern hemisphere the other half of the world is in the middle of summer.  This means the wet season for many tropical nations.  The wet season is a natural and necessary time period for the many Africans who follow an agricultural way of life.

However lately countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique have been inundated with more water than they can handle. The BBC reported on Monday that in Mozambique alone approximately 100,000 people were forced to relocate and the food shortages that followed affected over 250,000 people.  The New York Times reported earlier today that the most destitute of African countries, Zimbabwe, ruled by the corrupt and greedy Robert Mugabe, has suffered further damages to struggling economy by heavy losses in livestock and farms.

The flooding of tropical Africa is not an unheard of event.  Throughout history there have been cases of unexpected excessive rains.  Then, just as now there were flood victims, depressions to the local economy, and overall regional instability.  However in recent years tragic weather events such as flooding have been occurring at a higher rate.  In 2000- 2001 in particular the region suffered severe flooding coupled with rampant cyclones.

Following the 2000 flooding Mike Hulme reflected on the African plight.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2000/mar/15/mozambique.guardiansocietysupplement

The facts are that temperatures have been rising around the world.  With it we have seen an increase of violent weather; Katrina as an example of how Americans are directly affected by this.  There are those who will protest that a rise in temperatures cannot be directly held responsible for these events.

Global warming is occurring, although the causes of it are disputed depending on who you talk to.  Some say that the earth is bound to go through warm and cold spells.  History shows us that we have always waved back and forth.  This, however, is not likely the whole story.  The human impact on this earth is not invisible.

While we sit on the fence undecided as to whether or not global warming is responsible for an increase in these types of natural disasters, already impoverished people are being displaced.  Countries that already were unable to feed their populations now face even more shortages.  Impoverished countries with few rescue resources and money scramble to help their population.  Mozambique, for example, has one helicopter at its disposal.  Yet every time, after the floods, the people return to attempt to rebuild. 

The wet season is not over yet and we can expect to see more tragedies coming from tropical Africa.

“This place is our home.  We don’t know anywhere else” Domingos Manuel, Struggle to Aid Mozambique Flood Victims BBC News 1/14/2008

One of the greatest victims of humanity’s rush to progress has been our environment.  From local watersheds to global warming our impact on this earth has not always been a good one.   However, with expensive costs to clean pollution or update to more earth-friendly machinery, and little or no direct money to be made from conservation efforts, there is little wonder that industrialization in general has taken a heavy toll on our planet and until recently there have been very few incentives for businesses to clean up their act and conserve.

Today people all over the world are coming to understand humanity’s impact on our world, and business analysts are no exception. Environmental damage does not harm just the cute panda bears and Amazon rain forests, the challenges we look to face in the future hurt humanity in general. As sea level rises due to melting ice caps, companies and  factories located in the low laying north-east will be forced to relocate, if they can. Companies that utilize rivers to transport goods will have to deal with drying up as global warming continues, and of course the ever present threat of increased hurricanes benefits nobody. As a result, there is hope. Companies do have a self-preserving interest in improving their policies to manage the environment.

After reading Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” I felt a very good point had  been made.  We have done a lot of harm, but through pressure and awareness, we are starting to at least try to turn  things around. Our cars run more cleanly, paper products often sport that “recycled” label, and this is largely thanks to that self-interested business policy of doing what it takes to make the most profit. Environmentally friendly consumers push for more regulated products using their purchasing power, and some businesses are looking into the long term future and understand that in order to continue making money they will need to sustain their resources. However, when reading the August 20th issue of ICIS Chemical Business magazine Weather Changes to Impact Chemical Production I was reminded of the fact that a business’s commitment to the environment was a balancing act. Many companies understand that their business will be hurt by oncoming weather changes, but according to this article, as we have already damaged the environment so much, companies must look to adaptation in the new environment. “’Even if we stopped all greenhouse gas emissions today, we’d still see over the next 100 years an increase in the temperatures of the atmosphere and oceans,’ warns Bernd Eggen, ‘That’s why it’s important to look at migration issues –reducing greenhouse gasses- and adaptation issues – preparing for extreme weather events and rises in sea level.’”  If one day it costs a company less to build higher levees than to cut down on emissions to lessen global warming and thereby decrease storms, the company will opt for the levies. Once a company had prepared for the worst of climate change, they may lose their incentive to continue with prevention, regardless of the people they displace or the cancers they are indirectly responsible for. Where would the profit be in that after all?

We as consumers, advocates, humans, however, need to make sure we never get lax on our pressure on business and government to reduce emissions and sustain our resources, because they will take short cuts if they can. Because business is focused on profit, and only environment indirectly, if it becomes clear that money can be better made in other ways, they will change their policies unless we take a stand. We only have one earth.

Recently, I’ve been posting about the importance of reducing our impact on the global environment. Rather than simply talking abstractly about such ideas, I thought it might be helpful to share some recommendations for modern-day citizens from the experts. Following is a list of my favorite helpful suggestions from the Alliance to Save Energy, the US Department of Energy, and Sustainable Energy Ireland.

When it comes to the environment, I hail from the dark side of the force. So trust me, if a ‘leave all the lights on’ ‘take 30-minute showers’ ‘blast the air conditioning’ girl can come around, anyone can do it! I think the trick is to start with small steps. Decide to adopt the technique that seems most approachable and stick with it! You can integrate the others later. Remember, every little bit helps. (And, you might save a bit on your energy/heating/water bills!)

In addition to the obvious (ie. recycle, turn off every electronic item when it’s not in use, etc.) the following recommendations are pretty useful:

— Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle. Always use the economy button when possible.
— Take short, 5-minute showers instead of baths. A typical shower uses only one fifth of the energy of a full bath. Does five minutes sound painfully short? Go for ten minutes, and then whittle your way down.
— Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes. Switch to cold water washing of laundry whenever possible.
— Activate “sleep” features on computers and office equipment that power down when not in use for a while. Turning your computer off at night instead of leaving it on will save on average 25% of its annual energy bill.  Remember, you should turn off your computer whenever you are not going to use it for more than an hour.
— Use “task” lighting rather than whole room lighting when a small amount of light is required.
— Drive sensibly. Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gasoline.
— Use compact fluorescent light bulbs.
— In summer, keep window coverings closed on the south, east, and west windows. Use fans whenever possible instead of AC, and ventilate at night this way when practical.
— Switch on electric blankets no more than half an hour before you go to bed and switch off just before you get into bed. Even better, try throwing an extra comforter on the bed and skipping the electric blanket altogether!

Feel free to add your other favorite suggestions as comments. I’d love to hear your tips, as I am definitely an environmental work in progress. 🙂

Cheers!

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