Australia: A Climate Crisis

The world, as we know, is getting warmer and warmer. Weather across the globe is changing significantly, and it’s all down to climate change. From increasing sea levels, the melting of polar ice caps and not forgetting constant reports on hurricanes and heatwaves, the world is going through a climate crisis, and there isn’t long left to attempt to reverse the changes that have been made to our environment.

 

Evan following the huge European heatwave recently, and mass historical data showing that there’s ‘no doubt left’ regarding global warming, one place, in particular, is expected to be hit harder than any other.

That place is Australia.

Australia’s Climate

Due to Australia being located within the southern hemispheres, the seasons are opposite of North America and Europe and feature an abundance of diversity. This includes everything from golden sandy beaches and tropical rainforests to a rich coral reef, filled with diverse marine life, huge, sparse deserts and equally as vast grazing lands.

As you may know, the majority of the population in Australia is confined to the edges of the country, with most people living within the cities and larger towns.

While Australia is warm, and known to be an extremely hot country, 2018 was the third-warmest since records began, with the mean temperature sitting and 1.14°C above average.

While this may not seem much considering the already warm nature of Australia, it’s quite an alarming statistic. Alongside this, the warmth was persistent throughout the year with many of the months recording temperatures within each month’s top ten.

Rainfall was also down, standing at 11% below the average when compared to 1961 – 1990. You can find the rest of the stats here.

Continuing issue

These shocking figures have continued into 2019.

During May, Sydney, Darwin, Melbourne and Brisbane were all facing water restrictions. This was due to dams only being 50% full, or lower, as a result of higher temperatures and low rainfall.

The statistics for Sydney are considerably alarming. As the lowest dam percentage since 1940, the 11 dams were at a combined capacity of 55%, which itself was down by 18% in the year from May 2018.

Measured through high tech devices, similar to ones available from RS Components, Sydney went on to receive its first water restrictions in more than a decade as drought gripped New South Wales.

Meanwhile, high temperatures and low rainfall are expected to continue according to The Bureau of Meteorology.

The future

As you can guess from the warnings issued to the population of the world as a whole, climate change is only going to get worse unless something is done, and this applies greatly to Australia.

Back in 2015, it was reported that by 2090 it was predicted that the temperatures would rise by up to 5.1 degrees Celsius in Australia alone. As you can see, this is already happening, with significant rises just three to four years after the comprehensive report was put together.

Alongside this, sea level rises were also expected to increase significantly too. This was projected to be between 26 – 55 cm under low emission scenarios, whereas high emissions scenarios could see rises between 45 – 86 cm. This was estimated based on relative data between 1986 and 2005. If scenarios were worse, then sea level rises could be between one and three metres after 2100.

With the majority of the population living in built-up areas on the edge of the country, which is where much of its tourism comes from too, things could get worse for Australia in more ways than first imagined. With a climate crisis dangling above us, the time to act on it is now to prevent these scenarios from happening or worse, happening quicker than first thought.

Waste Management Outlook for Nigeria

waste-nigeriaNigeria, the most populous country in Africa with population exceeding 182 million people, is grappling with waste management issues. The country generates around 43.2 million tonnes of waste annually. By 2025 with a population of 233.5 million, Nigeria will be generating an estimated 72.46 million tonnes of waste annually at a projected rate of 0.85 kg of waste/capita/day. This means that Nigeria annual waste generation will almost equal its crude oil production which currently stands at approximately 89.63 million tonnes per year.

Also, at an estimated annual waste generation figure of 72.46 million tonnes, Nigeria will be generating about one-fourth of the total waste that will be produced in the whole of Africa. This is scary and if proper attention is not paid to this enormous challenge, Nigeria might become the “Waste Capital of Africa”.

Waste is a Resource for Nigeria

Nonetheless, this challenge can be turned into a blessing because waste is a resource in disguise. If its potential is properly tapped, waste management can create employment, enable power generation, create a waste-based economy and contribute to economic diversification which Nigeria. There is no doubt that this is achievable because we have examples of countries already utilizing their waste judiciously.

Some good examples of sustainable waste management systems that can be implemented in Nigeria includes (1) Shanghai (China) which turn 50% of the waste generated into power generation electrifying 100,000 homes; (2) Incheon (South Korea) where its Sudokwon landfill receives about 20,000 tons of waste daily which is converted into electric power, has a water recycling and desalination facility, and has created more than 200 jobs; (3) Los Angeles (USA) which produces electric power enough for 70,000 homes in its Puente Hills landfill; (4) Germany whose sophisticated waste processing systems through recycling, composting, and energy generation has already saved the country 20% of the cost of metals and 3% of the cost of energy imports; (5) Austria, though a small country, is doing big things in waste management especially through recycling; (6) Sweden, whose recycling is so revolutionary that the country had to import waste; and (7) Flanders, Belgium which possesses the best waste diversion rate in Europe with 75% of their waste being reused, recycled or composted. An interesting fact is that per capita waste generation rate in Flanders is more than twice that of Nigeria at 1.5 kg/day.

Waste Management Outlook for Nigeria

Below are some of the major things the government need to do to judiciously utilize the free and abundant resource available in the form of trash in Nigeria:

Firstly, attention needs to be paid to building the human resource potential of the country to build the required capacity in conceptualizing fit-for-purpose innovative solution to be deployed in tackling and solving the waste challenge.

While knowledge exchange/transfer through international public private partnership is a possible way in providing waste management solution, it is not sustainable for the country especially because there is already an unemployment problem in Nigeria. Hence, funding the training of interested and passionate individuals and entrepreneurs in waste management is a better way of tackling the waste crisis in Nigeria.

Olusosun is the largest dumpsite in Nigeria

The Federal Government through the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF) and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) of the Ministry of Communication currently sponsor students to study oil and gas as well as information technology related subjects in foreign countries in the hope of boosting manpower in both sectors of the economy. The same approach should be used in the waste management sector and this can be handled through the Federal Ministry of Environment.

Interestingly, waste generation is almost at par with crude oil production in Nigeria. Therefore, equal attention should be paid to waste-to-wealth sector. Needless to say, this is important as there is no university in Nigeria currently offering waste management as a stand-alone course either at undergraduate or postgraduate level.

Secondly, there is an urgent need for a strong National Waste Management Strategy to checkmate the different types of waste that enters the country’s waste stream as well as the quantity of waste being produced. To develop an effective national waste strategy, a study should be carried out to understand the country’s current stream of waste, generation pattern, and existing management approach. This should be championed by the Federal Ministry of Environment in conjunction with State and Local Government waste management authorities.

Once this is done, each State of the Federation will now integrate their own individual State Waste Management Plan into that of the Federal Government to achieve a holistic waste management development in Nigeria. By so doing, the government would also contribute to climate change mitigation because the methane produced when waste degrades is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas known to many and contributor to global warming).

Finally, the government needs to support existing waste management initiatives either through tax-holiday on major equipment that need to be imported for their work and/or on their operation for a certain period of time. Also, if workable, the government can float a grant for innovative ideas and provide liberal subsidies in waste management to jumpstart the growth of the sector.

Lastly, the Government of Nigeria can raise a delegation of experts, entrepreneurs, industry professionals, academia, and youngsters to visit countries with sound waste management strategy for knowledge sharing, capacity-building, technology transfer and first-hand experience.

Note: The unedited version of the article can be found at this link

Use of Big Data in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals

Big data is everywhere, and all sorts of businesses, non-profits, governments and other groups use it to improve their understanding of certain topics and improve their practices. Big data is quite a buzzword, but its definition is relatively straightforward — it refers to any data that is high-volume, gets collected frequently or covers a wide variety of topics.

This kind of data when organized and analyzed adequately can be quite valuable. Marketing teams use it to learn more about their customer base, healthcare professionals can use it to calculate someone’s chance of contracting a given disease, and cities can use it to optimize traffic flow, and it can also help in saving wildlife.

Big data also has the potential to help significantly improve the quality of life for much of the world’s population. The United Nations, governments, not-for-profits and other groups are using big data to help achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals or SDGs — a set of 17 targets related to protecting the natural environment, reducing inequality, improving health outcomes and other things that will make life better around the world.

How Can We Use Big Data to Achieve SDGs?

There are many ways in which we could use data to improve our understanding of our progress towards the SDGs, determine how best to meet those targets and ensure accountability. The United Nations has set up a task team to explore how to use big data to help achieve the SDGs. A survey by the task team found that big data projects most frequently focused on the “no poverty” goal and that mobile phone data was the most common data source.

Pulse Lab Jakarta, a joint effort between the United Nations and the government of Indonesia, is working on various big data projects related to the SDGs. One of their projects is the Vulnerability Analysis Monitoring Platform for Impact of Regional Events (VAMPIRE) platform, which analyzes satellite imagery and creates maps that incorporate anomalies related to climate and rainfall to help track slow-onset climate changes.

Another project, the Manitoba Bioeconomy Atlas, comes from the International Institute for Sustainable Development and involves that creation of a web-based spatial inventory of biomass sources. Biomass producers can use the data to optimally locate biomass refineries, and biomass consumers can use it to source biomass and calculate costs.

There are many other potential uses for big data related to the SDGs. Mobile phone data, for instance, could be used to track the movement of populations, such as refugees, to improve preparations. Data analysis could help predict changes in food prices. The possibilities are virtually endless.

What Are the Challenges and Risks?

The opportunities related to big data are plentiful, but there are also numerous challenges and risks. Collecting, storing and analyzing large amounts of data is in itself challenging. It requires advanced technology and infrastructure, which can be expensive. This limits the access of less developed countries to this technology. In the survey by the UN’s bid data task team, the team received much higher response rates from high-income countries than lower-income ones.

Privacy is another significant concern. It’s essential that those processing respect the rights of those they collect data from. The fact that much data is collected passively can complicate this. Even removing sensitive information from data sets may not always be enough to guarantee privacy, since people could be identified by combining information from multiple data sets. Those handling personal data need to take steps to protect subjects’ privacy.

The UN, through several of its groups, has issued recommendations and guidelines for the use of big data related to SDGs. Among the goals of these guidelines is ensuring privacy and increasing access to data worldwide. The private and public sectors, as well as countries and organizations from around the world, will have to work together to accomplish the UN’s SDGs and to ensure that we can take full advantage of the benefits big data can provide related to achieving them.

Obstacles in Implementation of Waste-to-Energy

The biggest obstacle to the implementation of Waste-to-Energy (or WTE) lies not in the technology itself but in the acceptance of citizens. Citizens who are environmentally minded but lack awareness of the current status of waste-to-energy bring up concerns of environmental justice and organize around this. They view WTE as ‘dumping’ of pollutants on lower strata of society and their emotional critique rooted in the hope for environmental justice tends to move democracy.

An advocate of public understanding of science, Shawn Lawrence Otto regrets that the facts are not able to hold the same sway. Some US liberal groups such as the Center for American Progress are beginning to realize that the times and science have changed. It will take more consensus on the science and the go ahead from environmental groups before the conversation moves forward, seemingly improbable but not without precedent.

Spittelau Waste-to-Energy Plant

The Spittelau waste-to-energy plant is an example of opposition coming together in consensus over WTE. It was built in Vienna in 1971 with the purpose of addressing district heating and waste management issues. Much later awareness of the risks of dioxins emitted by such plants grew and the people’s faith in the technology was called into question. It also became a political issue whereby opposition parties challenged the mayor on the suitability of the plant. The economic interests of landfill owners also lay in the shutting down of the WTE facility. The alternative was to retrofit the same plant with advanced technology that would remove the dioxins through Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR).

Through public discussions it appeared that the majority of the people were against the plant altogether though thorough studies by informed researchers showed that the science backs WTE. The mayor, Helmut Zilk eventually consulted Green Party members on how to make this technology better perceived in the eyes of the people, and asked the famous Austrian artist Freidensreich Hundertwasser, who was a green party member to design the look of the plant. Freidensreich Hundertwasser after carefully studying the subject wrote a letter of support, stating his belief as to why WTE was needed and accepted Mayor Helmut Zilk’s request. Later public opinion polls showed that there were a majority of people who were either in favor of or not opinionated about the plant, with only 3% in outright opposition of the plant.

Polarized Discussion

Waste-to-Energy or recycling has kept public discourse from questioning whether there may not be intermediate or case specific solutions. This polarization serves to move the conversation nowhere. For now it can be agreed that landfills are devastating in their contribution to Climate Change and must be done away with. The choice then, of treatment processes for municipal solid waste are plentiful. If after recovery of recyclable materials there remains a sizeable waste stream the option of waste-to-energy can be explored.

Primary Considerations

  • Environmental implications (i.e. CO2 emissions vis-à-vis the next best fuel source) given the composition of the local waste stream. If the waste stream consists of a high percentage of recyclables the more sustainable waste strategy would be to ramp up recycling efforts rather than to adopt WTE,
  • Likely composition and variation of the waste stream and the feasibility of the technology to handle such a waste stream,
  • Financial considerations with regards to the revenue stream from the WTE facility and its long term viability,
  • Efforts at making citizens aware of the high standards achieved by this technology in order to secure their approval.

Note: This excerpt is being published with the permission of our collaborative partner Be Waste Wise. The original excerpt and its video recording can be found at this link

Green Financing as a Tool for Sustainable Development

Climate change and environmental damage due to human activity is now an accepted fact. Thankfully, investors and financial organizations are finally recognizing the importance of changing our ways and investing in sustainable technologies. This type of green financing is allowing them to recognize the environmental and financial benefits of these new technologies.

Green SMEs

Today we’ll cover how green financing can be used to encourage sustainable development on the company and individual scale.

What is Green Financing?

Green financing at its most basic is the use of public money, private loans, and micro-lending to support sustainability. The goal of green financing is to encourage change in favor of environmentally friendly actions.

It can be everything from large scale investment into tools to fight climate change all the way down to small personal online loans next day for consumers. This allows everyone to do their part to help promote sustainability.

Most green loans are tied to specific metrics. They can cover everything from large companies to the type of washing machine you purchase.

How Green Financing Works

Like any financial product there’s a huge range of green financing options. One of the most prominent examples is sustainability-focused venture capital firms.

These VC firms search for early-stage startups with a focus on the environment. They combine their financial goals together with their vision of what the planet should be.

By far the largest subset of their focus is on reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and fighting emissions. On the individual scale there’s lots of focus on lowering your carbon footprint.

Lots of loans are specifically put in place for people to buy green friendly products.

What Qualifies as Sustainable Projects

There are tons of early to middle stage startups with a sustainability focus. These are all key examples of large scale green financing.

Many of the projects are receiving the most funding focus on clean power and the use of renewables. Think electric vehicles, charging stations, battery enhancements, solar and wind energy, etc.

Another major sector is advancements in water purification, desalination, and ocean cleanup. These also include interesting projects like advanced agriculture and reducing the overall reliance on irrigation.

For individuals most green financing is related to their home or vehicle. There are lots of online loans same day available for things like energy efficient appliances or vehicles. These often combine with tax credits as a way to encourage people to reduce their overall energy consumption habits.

One of the biggest uses of green financing by individuals is to buy an electric or hybrid car. This reduces the often high price of these advanced vehicles and makes it more attractive to drive one.

Another big one is to finance green renovations to your home. If you want to improve your home’s insulation or add on a solar power system there’s ample funding available. These often combine with tax breaks and utility buyback programs to make it an even more attractive option.

Turnaround Time for Financing Decisions

With venture capital the around time for high-quality opportunities is often very rapid. If you have a great model for your business and can show a clear return potential they’ll often respond within just a few days.

For green financing other factors come into play. Most green venture capital funds have very specific requirements on what they’re looking for. Do your research before contacting them and make sure you represent what they’re looking for.

How much you should reasonably expect to receive depends on how far along in the process you are. Seed stage companies generally receive less than $1 million. Series A and Series B can receive more but still much less than more mature companies with proven revenue and a customer base.

For personal green loans the turnaround is often much faster. Many companies offer instant or at least same day approval for well qualified borrowers. This gives you the freedom to begin making your plans immediately after receiving funds.

Make Changes Today

The clock is running down on our ability to head off the effects of climate change. Green financing is one of the best ways to make changes in the world and your life. It funds the technology that may save humanity and allows individuals to make changes to their home and car to reduce their own carbon footprint.

Why We Need to Take Climate Change Seriously

Climate change involves and impacts every system within the planet, from ecosystems to fresh water distribution. It’s infinitely complex. But while many causes are still unknown, we do know that the earth’s temperature is rising and that human activity is contributing to the temperature spike noted since with the Industrial Revolution.

While common climate change culprits include increased use of fossil fuels and rising levels of CO2, other causes are lesser known. For example, methane gas from biodegradable waste is a major greenhouse gas. Scientists now say biodegradable waste in dumpsites is contributing more methane to the atmosphere than they thought. Identifying contributors like this helps us make smart choices when it comes to things like waste management.

With that in mind, here are some other causes and implications of climate change that make it something we should take seriously.

Overpopulation is a Bigger Cause Than You Think

It’s been found that human overpopulation and climate change are scientifically linked. As the influential political economist Robert Malthus noted, “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” In other words, it’s much easier to make new humans than it is to support them. The increase in population brings more demand for natural resources, more land dedicated to farming, more deforestation, and elevated carbon emissions. Population growth and climate change are a perfect feedback loop.

But the implications of maintaining this system are disastrous for the planet and human civilizations. The demand for natural resources to support 7.5 billion people already exceeds what the planet can provide. Experts estimate that humans currently use the equivalent of 1.7 earths worth of resources. That means it takes 18 months for the planet to regenerate 12 months worth of resources. This situation is untenable.

And the challenges to population control are staggering. Most industrialized nations like the U.S. balk at the idea of implementing population controls. But allowing numbers to grow will only meet an inevitable confrontation with fewer resources. Without addressing overpopulation, climate change will continue. And with it, we will see an increase in migration, war, displacement, crime, poverty, disease, and shorter life expectancy.

Climate Warming is Changing Our Oceans

Oceans are big regulators of the planet’s temperature. They absorb and trap heat from the atmosphere — acting like a giant sponge that protects the planet from overheating. The oceans’ layers heat at different rates, with the top layer being the warmest. But over the last 50 years, climate change has increased the temperature of our oceans by 0.3°F. And the ocean’s top layer is now warming at a rate of .2°F per decade.

But what happens when our oceans get too warm? Well, quite a bit. For one, warming oceans increase the rate of melting glaciers and ice sheets. The runoff contributes to rising sea levels, which is already making the consistent flooding of coastal cities and towns a new normal for residents. Less habitable coastal land will bring massive property losses and increased migration by displaced people.

Warming oceans also threaten critical ecosystems like coral reefs, which provide habitats for millions of the world’s aquatic life. The Great Barrier Reef of Australia is already seeing massive “bleaching” effects from warming oceans. And experts predict coral reefs may become all but extinct by 2050 if current trends continue.

Another climate change threat to our planet’s oceans is from increased “acidification” — the rise in acidity from dissolved carbon dioxide. Like heat, oceans also absorb CO2 from our atmosphere and produce half of the oxygen we breathe. Since the Industrial Revolution, increased CO2 emissions have raised the levels of ocean acidification by 30%. Higher acid levels affect calcified shellfish like clams, oysters, and corals by eating away at their protective layers. Any threat to these aquatic species could destroy the entire ecosystem — a system that supplies 15% of the protein intake for 4.3 billion people.

Climate Change is Affecting Your Health

Climate change brings an increase in the severity and frequency of climate events. More flooding, stronger hurricanes, longer heat waves, and rising pollution are a few consequences of a warming planet. These heightened weather phenomena also raise the risks to public health in the following ways:

Less freshwater supplies

A warmer climate means melting glaciers. The roughly 150,000 glaciers around the world store about three-quarters of our freshwater supply. As more glaciers near the earth’s poles retreat, their abundance of fresh water runs into the oceans, becoming undrinkable salt water.

Less freshwater will lead to contaminated water supplies and waterborne diseases like cholera and dysentery (already responsible for 3.4 million deaths each year). Rising sea levels will cause sewage backups and water contamination for coastal cities, exacerbating the situation.

A rise in disease-carrying insects

While warming climates will devastate some species like polar bears, it will be a boon for others like mosquitoes, ticks, and crop pests. Stagnant water and growing populations of insects will spread more mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria and the Zika virus. And more insects means hardier diseases that mutate to become resistant to treatment.

More drowning deaths

Larger and more frequent flooding events will lead to higher losses of life via drowning. Floods are the leading cause of death among all weather-related disasters that happen in the U.S. Drowning while driving is a big problem, specifically for flash floods. People desperate to make it home or to safety too often take the chance to cross flooded areas in their cars. But it only takes 18 inches of water to lift a vehicle, roll it over, and trap the victims inside. Flash floods will be a hallmark of climate change, as sudden and violent downpours will inundate populated areas near river valleys and coastlines.

There are many things you can do to help combat and adapt to climate change. Take part in recycling campaigns, use public transportation, turn off your electronics when you’re not using them, and eat less meat. But one of the most effective things you can do is share what you know. Find reputable information and spread the word to your family, friends, and anyone who will listen.

How Artificial Intelligence is Saving Our Planet

It takes a high level of data analysis to predict the effects of climate change and the implications of our actions to stop and adapt to it. Often, scientists have terabytes of data, but not the computing power to make sense of climate issues like hurricanes. But this level of analysis is possible with artificial intelligence (AI). In fact, AI may be the best weapon we have to combat and adapt to the effects of climate change. That’s because it can analyze large chunks of data from past events and make accurate predictions about future ones.

Today, AI is helping to monitor and predict everything from glacier retreat to commercial waste management. As innovations in “deep learning” march on, AI’s prescience will help inform scientists about climate impacts and policymakers on the most prudent steps for adaptation. Here are some critical ways AI is helping to preserve our planet.

Smarter Home Energy Use

AI is helping save the planet by assisting homeowners through energy-efficient smart homes. The Internet of Things and today’s “smart devices” let homeowners control their energy use and lower their monthly bills. Smart thermostats can adjust temperature settings for specific rooms in a house. Smart water sprinklers can change water usage based on weather forecasts. And smart security systems can cut down on false alarms calls — so fewer gas-guzzling trips by first responders. The automation, connection, and prediction power built into these smart devices allow homeowners to lower their carbon footprint.

But smart energy use is not just about conservation — it’s also about the best time to use energy. Peak energy hours like evenings are higher-demand, higher-cost times. Smart devices can automate energy use for low-demand hours. Plus, off-peak times like mid-day are when alternative energy sources like solar and wind contribute the most. Therefore, smart technology promotes renewable energy.

Soil Conservation

Soil degradation is a problem often overlooked in the media. But it has serious consequences for humanity’s ability to adapt to and survive climate change. It takes a millennium to generate only three centimeters of topsoil, and soil degradation is happening at a much faster rate. Chemicals, deforestation, erosion, and global warming are major contributors to soil degradation. And if the current rate of degradation continues, the planet’s farmable land could disappear within 60 years, according to United Nations officials.

But farmers and scientists are using AI to help conserve the soil by marshaling complex algorithms along with robots and drones to detect erosion and monitor soil health. For example, one company has developed an agricultural app to help farmers identify nutrient deficiencies within their soil. And farmers are using machine learning to predict the best times to plant, irrigate, and harvest crops based on weather changes. Accurate predictions mean less need for pesticides and fertilizers, which degrade the soil.

Exploring and Protecting Oceans

Scientists watch and test the health of oceans because they’re the best indicators of Earth’s health. Microplastics, increased CO2 levels, and ocean acidification are changing the surface of the planet. The key to protecting oceans is exploring and monitoring them for changes. Climate scientists and oceanographers are using AI technology to drive autonomous marine vehicles to the deepest depths. And some companies are developing autonomous garbage collection systems that would help remove plastics and floating debris.

Another emerging technology — blockchain — is helping to track fishing and identify illegal behavior. Blockchain is the same technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The technology acts as a transparent ledger for transactions. Blockchain is a decentralized system, which means it operates autonomously and isn’t subject to misuse and abuse. Trust is critical to international treaties that regulate fishing quotas and manage overfishing. Blockchain technology can record each fish (e.g., tuna) with a scannable code uploaded to the ledger. Therefore, retailers, customers, and regulators can confirm that fish are legally caught.

Air Pollution Detection

AI is becoming an invaluable tool for tracking our air quality and identifying sources of pollution. During accidental emissions, city air quality officials need to identify and respond quickly. Some European cities are using leak sensors and AI to help create emission maps, predict mortality rates, and estimate financial costs of emergency responses. These data points give decision makers a more accurate view of the air pollution along with more targeted remediation.

In addition to monitoring air pollution, AI is also cutting tailpipe emissions. AI manages self-driving cars to make getting from point A-to-B more efficient. Self-driving automobiles can cut oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2% to 4% annually. AI and global positioning systems operating driverless tractor-trailer rigs will make deliveries non-stop, faster, and less costly to the planet. Complex algorithms, sensors, and traffic lights are directing traffic flow in some cities. These systems are currently reducing travel time by 25%, braking by 30%, and idling time by 40%.

Evaluating the Efficacy of Action

AI is bringing powerful ways to monitor and predict threats to our environment. Synthetic thinking adds value for scientists, officials, and policymakers by giving them deeper looks into current environmental situations. Perhaps, more than anything, AI’s biggest potential lies in figuring out where solutions hit the mark and where they miss. It’s counterproductive to invest resources and time into bad solutions. But that’s highly likely, given the complexity of climate change and adaptation.

Where do we invest? Which coastline needs saving the most? What communities are at a higher risk? With dwindling resources and bigger dangers, we will face some hard decisions in the future about where to deploy our efforts. At some point, those decisions will mean life or death. We will need quick thinking and accurate data. Evaluating our options and predicting their implications is where AI will bring the most value.

Energy Access to Refugees

refugee-camp-energyThere is a strong link between the serious humanitarian situation of refugees and lack of access to sustainable energy resources. According to a 2015 UNCHR report, there are more than 65.3 million displaced people around the world, the highest level of human displacement ever documented. Access to clean and affordable energy is a prerequisite for sustainable development of mankind, and refugees are no exception. Needless to say, almost all refugee camps are plagued by fuel poverty and urgent measure are required to make camps livable.

Usually the tragedy of displaced people doesn’t end at the refugee camp, rather it is a continuous exercise where securing clean, affordable and sustainable energy is a major concern. Although humanitarian agencies are providing food like grains, rice and wheat; yet food must be cooked before serving. Severe lack of modern cook stoves and access to clean fuel is a daily struggle for displaced people around the world. This article will shed some light on the current situation of energy access challenges being faced by displaced people in refugee camps.

Why Energy Access Matters?

Energy is the lifeline of our modern society and an enabler for economic development and advancement. Without safe and reliable access to energy, it is really difficult to meet basic human needs. Energy access is a challenge that touches every aspect of the lives of refugees and negatively impacts health, limits educational and economic opportunities, degrades the environment and promotes gender discrimination issues. Lack of energy access in refugee camps areas leads to energy poverty and worsen humanitarian conditions for vulnerable communities and groups.

Energy Access for Cooking

Refugee camps receive food aid from humanitarian agencies yet this food needs to be cooked before consumption. Thus, displaced people especially women and children take the responsibility of collecting firewood, biomass from areas around the camp. However, this expose women and minors to threats like sexual harassments, danger, death and children miss their opportunity for education. Moreover, depleting woods resources cause environmental degradation and spread deforestation which contributes to climate change. Moreover, cooking with wood affects the health of displaced people.

Access to efficient and modern cook stove is a primary solution to prevent health risks, save time and money, reduce human labour and combat climate change. However, humanitarian agencies and host countries can aid camp refugees in providing clean fuel for cooking because displaced people usually live below poverty level and often host countries can’t afford connecting the camp to the main grid. So, the issue of energy access is a challenge that requires immediate and practical solutions. A transition to sustainable energy is an advantage that will help displaced people, host countries and the environment.

Energy Access for Lighting

Lighting is considered as a major concern among refugees in their temporary homes or camps. In the camps life almost stops completely after sunset which delays activities, work and studying only during day time hours. Talking about two vulnerable groups in the refugees’ camps “women and children” for example, children’s right of education is reduced as they have fewer time to study and do homework. For women and girls, not having light means that they are subject to sexual violence and kidnapped especially when they go to public restrooms or collect fire woods away from their accommodations.

Rationale For Sustainable Solutions

Temporary solutions won’t yield results for displaced people as their reallocation, often described as “temporary”, often exceeds 20 years. Sustainable energy access for refugees is the answer to alleviate their dire humanitarian situation. It will have huge positive impacts on displaced people’s lives and well-being, preserve the environment and support host communities in saving fuel costs.  Also, humanitarian agencies should work away a way from business as usual approach in providing aid, to be more innovative and work for practical sustainable solutions when tackling energy access challenge for refugee camps.

UN SDG 7 – Energy Access

The new UN SDG7 aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. SDG 7 is a powerful tool to ensure that displaced people are not left behind when it comes to energy access rights. SDG7 implies on four dimensions: affordability, reliability, sustainability and modernity. They support and complete the aim of SDG7 to bring energy and lightening to empower all human around the world. All the four dimensions of the SDG7 are the day to day challenges facing displaced people. The lack of modern fuels and heavy reliance on primitive sources, such as wood and animal dung leads to indoor air pollution.

Energy access touches every aspect of life in refugee camps

Energy access touches every aspect of life in refugee camps

For millions of people worldwide, life in refugee camps is a stark reality. Affordability is of concern for displaced people as most people flee their home countries with minimum possessions and belongings so they rely on host countries and international humanitarian agencies on providing subsidized fuel for cooking and lightening. In some places, host countries are itself on a natural resources stress to provide electricity for people and refugees are left behind with no energy access resources. However, affordability is of no use if the energy provision is not reliable (means energy supply is intermittent).

Parting Shot

Displaced people need a steady supply of energy for their sustenance and economic development. As for the sustainability provision, energy should produce a consistent stream of power to satisfy basic needs of the displaced people. The sustained power stream should be greater than the resulted waste and pollution which means that upgrading the primitive fuel sources used inside the camp area to the one of modern energy sources like solar energy, wind power, biogas and other off-grid technologies.

For more insights please read this article Renewable Energy in Refugee Camps 

Peeping into the Future of Waste

Waste management is an important tool for curbing climate change and for keeping our environment clean and healthy. Methane generated from biodegradable wastes is a powerful greenhouse gas, and when it’s not captured and used as a fuel it contributes to rapid warming of the atmosphere. Estimates suggest that biodegradable waste in dump sites and uncapped landfill sites are contributing far more methane to the atmosphere than previously thought. What’s more, urban food waste is predicted to increase by 44% from 2005 to 2025, and with no proper management in place, will significantly add to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Worryingly, 38 of the world’s 50 largest dumps are close to the sea, contributing to marine and coastal pollution. The accumulation of plastics in the marine food chain is causing global concern. While we don’t yet know how to clean the oceans, stemming the flow of waste into marine environments would be a step in the right direction.

Wasted health

40% of the world’s waste ends up in open dumps. These aren’t even what you’d call “landfill”. They don’t have any impervious lining to prevent noxious leachate from entering the surrounding environment, nor are they capped to prevent the spread of disease. In fact, in India, the Philippines and Indonesia, the health risk from open dumping of waste is greater than the risk of malaria[i].

3.5 billion people in the world lack access to proper waste management. That figure is expected to grow to 5 billion by 2050. Respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal diseases and occupational health risks add to the misery experienced by the 50,000+ people living from open dumps.

Waste is any material that is no longer wanted for its original purpose. The owner doesn’t have a need for it, and so discards it. Even valuable items can and do end up as waste purely because someone has thrown them away. The recent (and rather brilliant) BBC programme Hugh’s War on Waste shone the spotlight on attitudes towards disposable fashion. A look through the bins of a typical street uncovered a startling amount of clothing that had been thrown away, despite it still being in perfectly good condition. This highlights a simple fact: there is plenty of value in waste.

  • Estimates suggest there are 40 million people globally who are making their living from waste – half of these are working informally.
  • During the last recession in the UK, the waste management sector was one of the only industries to keep growing, resulting in it being termed the “Green Star of the Economy”.
  • Showing people how to turn a waste stream into something valuable isn’t rocket science. There are lots of examples of informal, community-based, grassroots recycling and upcycling projects that generate wealth for the poorest in society.
  • Internet is allowing simple waste processing techniques to be replicated all over the world, and helping make that information accessible is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my career.

Business skills

“Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day. Show a man how to fish and he can eat for the rest of his life.” Teaching people how to make valuable products from waste is important. But just as important, is passing on the business skills to be able to identify a market, factor in costs, check out the competition, market their products and run a successful business.

Development work in the waste arena needs to address both sides of the coin, and in doing so will enable people to start up their own businesses, in their own communities, and generate wealth organically. That’s far more valuable than delivering aid in a ready-made package (which incidentally rarely works – there’s a great TED Talk on this topic by Ernesto Sirolli, called “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen”).

Why closing dumps isn’t a silver bullet

The proliferation of megacities, particularly in developing countries, is causing a health crisis. Decent waste management is an indicator of good governance – that is, if a council or government can collect taxes and provide a waste management service, then it most likely isn’t (very) corrupt. However, in many places where corruption or other forms of bad or weak governance prevail, top-down solutions are notoriously difficult to implement.

Often, when the world’s attention turns to an open dump, the government responds by closing it and the journalists go home. This is what happened with Smokey Mountain dumpsite in the Philippines (and many others around the world). All that happens is another open dump emerges nearby, and the scavengers move to the new site.

The problem is that if there is no alternative solution in place, people will discard of their waste in the only ways available – dumping it or burning it; and the poor will follow the waste.

Replacing an open dump with a government-controlled waste management system isn’t a silver bullet either. The losers, again, are the hundreds, and sometimes thousands of men, women and children who live from scavenging from the dump. It may seem horrific to many of us, but the truth is that if you take that opportunity to earn a paltry living away from the poorest in society, they will starve. Solutions need to be inclusive.

Power to the people

To close dump sites, you need to have a workable alternative solution in place. You need to have regular waste collection taking place, and you need somewhere to take it. Building materials recovery facilities alongside existing open dumps is one idea. Informal waste pickers who are currently working in dangerous conditions on the dumpsite can gain employment (or better still, form a cooperative) sorting recyclable materials and reducing the amount of real “waste” that needs to be disposed of.

For example, Wecyclers in Lagos, Nigeria employs people to cycle around collecting recyclable materials from households. In return for their source-separated waste, the householder receives a small reward.

In Bangalore, IGotGarbage has harnessed the power of phone apps to enable people who were previously waste pickers to be called directly to a house to collect the waste materials. Solutions like this work because they continue to provide livelihoods for people, while taking waste off the streets.

The need for appropriate technology

There will always be something left though: the stuff that really has little value other than the energy embodied in it. In industrialised countries, energy-from-waste incinerators have become popular. Seen as a clean alternative to landfill, these facilities burn the waste, release the energy, and convert it into heat, electricity and ash. Some of that ash (from the air pollution control system) still needs to be disposed of in specially-prepared hazardous waste landfill sites. The remainder, being fairly benign, can be used to make concrete building blocks.

However, incinerators are fairly technology-heavy, rendering them unsuitable for many developing country contexts.

A problem that we’ve witnessed is that waste management companies from industrialised nations try to wholesale their technology in developing countries. The technology is usually unaffordable, and even if the capital can be raised to procure a facility, as soon as something breaks down the whole solution can fall apart.

There is a need for information about simple waste processing technologies to become more open-sourced. Smart future-thinking businesses could capitalise on selling blueprints rather than entire prefabricated facilities. Most of the time it’s far cheaper to fabricate something locally, and also means that when something breaks it can be fixed.

The continuing need for landfill

The fact is that in most cases, a standard, lined landfill site with landfill gas capture is still the most appropriate answer for non-recyclable waste. Add to that a well-organised, low-cost waste collection service with source separation of recyclable materials and biodegradable waste, and you have a relatively affordable solution that is better for the climate, better for health, better for the local economy, and contributes to a more sustainable future.

Landfill may seem very unfashionable to those of us who work in the recycling sector, but nevertheless it will remain a necessity both in developed and developing countries for the foreseeable future.

Joining forces and stepping stones

The success of the Sustainable Development Goals and potential Climate Change Agreement depend on developed and developing countries working together. Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU climate commissioner, said the Climate Coalition alliance showed that developed and developing countries could work together with a common interest. “These negotiations are not about them and us. They are about all of us, developed and developing countries, finding common ground and solutions together. We urge other countries to join us. Together we can do it.”

Necessity is the mother of invention, and we are facing a waste crisis of unprecedented proportion. The potential for waste management in reducing GHG emissions has never been more pertinent. Waste and development practitioners, academics and entrepreneurs around the world are working together more and more to help bring about the change we want to see, which will benefit the billions of people suffering from poor waste management, and the rest of us who share a warming planet – and share the burden of climate change and poverty.

By sharing knowledge through platforms such as beWasteWise and ISWA, and through initiatives like WasteAidWASTE and Wiego, we can start making a dent in this very large problem.

No silver bullets, but lots of small stepping stones in the right direction.

Note: The original and unabridged version of the article can be found at this link. Please visit http://zlcomms.co.uk/ for more information about the author.

How Modern Technology is Transforming Urban Development

Australia is famous the whole world over for its incredible scenery and stunning countryside, from the arid yet beautiful outback to the shimmering sands of the Gold Coast, but the country is also home to some of the world’s favourite cities. Australia’s population is growing, and so urban development and planning is becoming ever more important. The way we plan, design and build our urban centres has changed rapidly over the last decades thanks to evolving needs, environmental concerns and rapidly advancing technology.

It is this combination that is helping Australian towns and cities lead the way when it comes to urban generation and regeneration.

More Accurate Surveying

Thorough surveying is the key to successful development, and it was once a laborious and time-consuming process, and therefore by necessity, an expensive one too. One modern invention has transformed this task completely, as the most forward thinking planners now utilise unmanned aerial surveying techniques.

Using the latest high-powered drones, planners and developers can now get a much more accurate and holistic picture of the land that they plan to build on. The highly detailed maps produced from the air allow clients to make more informed decisions quicker than they would otherwise have been able to, thus helping to ensure that projects come in on time and on budget.

Greener Developments

Many Australians are becoming increasingly concerned about the effect that mankind is having upon the environment, and the effects of climate change can be seen across this nation and beyond. That’s why surveyors and designers have to be very careful when planning urban developments, as it’s imperative that expanding urban centres don’t adversely impact upon our ecology or the incredible animal life that also calls Australia its home.

Today’s leading urban surveying companies put green issues at the heart of the work, using the latest computer modelling techniques to thoroughly assess the impact of an urban development upon the environment surrounding it; in this way, it’s possible to maintain the equilibrium between the need to develop new urban spaces and the need to protect our ecosystems.

Bringing Greater Benefits to Urban Dwellers

There are many factors to be considered when planning an urban development, as well as the green concerns mentioned above. It’s essential for planners to be able to make accurate assessments of what benefits their development will bring to the people who live within it and upon its neighbourhood, and this involves careful study of a wide range of metrics and projections.

The highly detailed maps produced from the air allow clients to make more informed decisions quicker

Whilst this remains a specialist and highly important job, the appearance of specialist computer programmes now allow planners to make an economic and demographic assessment that’s more accurate than ever before.

Expert urban planners know how essential it is to use all of the technological innovations now available to them, from unmanned aerial surveying, to high tech demographic assessment tools and greener planning software. This is why new urban developments bring benefits for residents and businesses, and for the economy as a whole, while still protecting the rural areas and environment that make Australia the envy of the world.