Sciences – Daily News Egypt https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Sat, 19 Oct 2019 10:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 Years of fear: Egypt’s choices after GERD  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/10/18/years-of-fear-egypts-choices-after-gerd/ Fri, 18 Oct 2019 12:30:37 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=711306 Science holds answers for Egypt’s water poverty 

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In the tenth century, Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah – the sixth Fatimid caliph of Egypt – witnessed a significant problem as a water shortage crisis emerged in the country due to a severe decline in the River Nile’s levels at the time.

The Nile has a significance value for the Egyptians as it was the secret of the country’s ancient civilisation. To address the water shortage at the time, the Fatimid caliph thought about damming the river, and assigned the famous Arab mathematician and physicist Al-Hassan Ibn Al-Haytham to work on it. Proved to be an engineering challenge,  Ibn Al-Haytham has feigned illness to avoid the caliph’s wrath and punishment.

Over hundreds of years since this plan, Egypt’s rulers built numerous small dams and bridges until the establishment of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s. 

The Nile is Egypt’s lifeblood, as the country depends on its share to secure the Nile River Basin’s most populated country’s needs of water, by about 97%. This amount of water equals only 660 cubic metres (cm) per person, one of the world’s lowest annual per capita water share. 

But as population is expected to double in the next 50 years, Egypt is projected to have a critical countrywide fresh water and food shortages by 2025, according to a study conducted by the Geological Society of America (GSA). 

In the upcoming 30 years, Egypt’s population is estimated to reach 150 million which will lead to a decrease in the per capita share of water to be 350 cm/year. 

Now, Egypt is under pressure of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), but it still has some few choices to cope with the crisis, owing to science for bringing up most of these solutions. 

Years of fear 

Nowadays, Egypt is not fearing the floods of the river, but the mass hydraulic constructions by upstream countries such as the GERD which is 60% complete, and will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam on the Nile.

Negotiations between the three main concerned countries over the GERD; Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, had reached a deadlock, particularly between Egypt and Ethiopia. 

Egypt receives about 70% of its water flow from the Blue Nile and Atbara River, both sourced in the Ethiopian plateau, then merge as the main Nile in the northern Sudan. 

Operation and filling period of the GERD are the main problematic issues between the concerned parties to reach solutions to amid the Ethiopian insistence on storage within a period of three years while Egypt requests a 7-year filing period.

Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation blamed Ethiopia for the failure of negotiations, saying that Addis Ababa surprised the attendees of the trilateral technical meeting in Khartoum early this month, with a new proposal against all the previous agreements regarding the filing and operating rules of the GERD.

Addis Ababa argues that the GERD is essential for its societal and economic development because two-thirds of the country has been suffering from electricity shortage for too long.

According to the Ministry of Irrigation, the Ethiopian proposal excluded any guarantees for an annual discharge from the GERD, and dealing with future droughts and protracted droughts. 

Ethiopia also refused to discuss the rules of operating the dam, and insisted on limiting the negotiations of the filling phase and the rules of operation only during the filling phase. The Ethiopian stance contradicts the fifth article of the Declaration of Principles Agreement signed on 23 March 2015. It also violates the international legislations regarding constructing and managing dams over common rivers.  

Diplomatic efforts 

Professor of International Law Ayman Salama, told Daily News Egypt that the 2015 agreement stressed that only peaceful diplomatic means could be used to settle any dispute on applying the agreement between the three countries. He noted that the agreement did not mention the possibility of international arbitration among the three countries.

Salama added that if there is a good intention from the all parties, Egypt could request Ethiopia’s acceptance to go for the international arbitration, then the international arbitration committee will give the decision. 

Regarding Egypt’s further proposal to invite the World Bank (WB) to the negotiations, Salama said that Egypt did not inform the bank before applying the proposal to the Ethiopian side, and he believes that the bank itself would not accept mediation.  

In light of the failure of the negotiations, Egypt called for applying the Article 10 of the declaration of principles.

According to the Article 10, “If the parties [three countries] are unable to resolve the dispute through consultation or negotiation, they may jointly request for conciliation, mediation or refer the matter for the consideration of the Heads of State/Heads of Government.”

In response to the Egyptian call, the Sudanese Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Yasser Abbas, rejected involving any fourth party into the negotiations, affirming his country’s trust in the current committee to reach a solution for the issue. 

Meanwhile, the United States issued a statement seconding the three countries in their negotiations to reach a cooperative, sustainable, and mutually beneficial agreement on filling and operating the GERD. 

Recycling drainage water

One of Egypt’s expected solutions for the water crisis is recycling the drainage water. Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Aty, said recently that the country is to invest in expanding its use of treated drainage water to be able to cope with the water shortage and other water-related disruptions.

“In Egypt, 10% of agricultural water is recycled drainage water, and that success could be matched in other countries where there is large-scale surface irrigation,” a recent joint report of the WB  and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

According to the report, Egypt set up a successful example that reusing the drainage water as unusual source of water could be effective and cheap.

The report pointed out Egypt’s approach of decentralising the responsibility of water management to local areas, for example, at Salheia city in the East Delta where a local groundwater association established a common management system and invested in a piped network, and now manages the aquifer sustainably. 

It highlighted the importance of achieving better understanding to the dynamics of water management, to ensure that water does not add to fragility, but rather promotes stability, and contributes to resilience in the region. 

The report also called for redoubling efforts towards sustainable and efficient management of water resources, reliable and affordable delivery of water services to all, and protection from water-related catastrophes.

Desalination

Depending on the country’s ground water reservoir as well as desalinating the seawater could also be an additional solution to meet the domestic demand for water. A new study pointed out that the domestic water sector is one of the largest water users in Egypt, which consumes more than 16% of the total renewable water resources. 

Egypt is urgently required to have its plan to face the increase in the current consumption of domestic water from around 9.2bn cm in 2016 to about 15bn cm of water by 2040 from alternatives to the Nile waters, according to findings of the study that was published in the American Journal of Engineering Research (AJER).

According to the study, domestic water in Egypt is diverted from two main sources. The first source is surface water (SW) which supplies about 88.99% and the second one is groundwater, which supplies about 10.77% of total demands, and about 0.24% from sea water desalination. The major factor that affects the amount of diverted water for domestic use is the efficiency of the delivery networks. 

Osama Sallam, the author of the study and researcher at the Egyptian National Water Research Centre told DNE, “the groundwater and seawater desalination are together promising sources for meeting the future water needs of Egypt. By 2040, Egypt will need additional 5bn cm to meet the domestic use of water to reach the needed amount 15bn cm.” 

Sallam illustrated that the Egyptian groundwater reservoir is fresh and has a low level of salinity, thus allows meeting the future demand of domestic water, and is also cheaper than seawater desalination. 

He further added that the process of seawater desalination is very expensive and the cost of desalinating one cubic meter of water costs $1,000 in addition to $1 for other costs of operating and maintenance. 

The researcher explained that this process is the promising source of water for coastal governorates particularly when Egypt rely on cheaper sources for energy, that will help in decreasing the cost of desalination.    

Drought-tolerant crops 

One of the important Egyptian experiences in cultivating drought-tolerant crops was by Said Soliman, a professor of genetics at the Faculty of Agriculture, Zagazig University. He was working for a long time in progressing new species of rice that resist drought and use less amount of water.

Speaking to DNE, Soliman said that he has developed a new species of rice, named “Oraby” after the iconic army leader Ahmed Oraby. This species of engineered rice takes about 120 days to grow, compared to 145 days for normal rice. He added that Oraby rice could be cultivated twice in the year.  

Oraby rice could be cultivated in all kinds of land, as it was successfully cultivated in Toshka project, Aswan governorate, in both sandy and clay soils.

According to Soliman, it is possible to cultivate 2m feddan of the engineered rice with the same amount of water which is allocated to irrigate 1m feddan of normal rice. Oraby rice will achieve increase in productivity by 2m tonnes of rice, meaning 1 tonne per feddan.

Water from desert

Most of Egypt’s land is desert, about 97 % of the country’s area. Actually, Egypt is just a desert with a very tiny line of water which crosses its land from south to north, the River Nile. However, the desert could hold a solution, and could also be a source of water.

For arid countries like Egypt, scientists at University of California, Berkeley, have developed a device that produces water from dry desert air, using sunlight only. 

The method depends on developing a molecular powder, a metal–organic framework (MOF), that is highly porous and acts like a sponge to absorb water. 

According to the study which was published by Science Advances journal, the powder saturated with water during moist and cool night after it was packed in a frame at a plexiglass box. 

After that it releases water as sunlight heats it during the day, and then the resulted water condenses on the side of the box which was kept open at night and closed in the day. The process takes 24 hours (a normal day), and could be also an additional solution for the water crisis in arid countries.

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Science meets journalism in a two-day conference at Goethe Institute https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/10/13/science-meets-journalism-in-a-two-day-conference-at-goethe-institute/ Sun, 13 Oct 2019 13:17:52 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=710773 Arab audience is consuming science articles at high rates

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Under the theme of “Science Meets Journalism- Multidisciplinary Perspectives,” the Goethe Institute and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) hosted a conference about science journalism on Saturday.

The two-day event is part of the project “Scientific Storytelling” which the Goethe Institute has organised since 2007 in cooperation with the DAAD, with support of the German Federal Foreign Office.

Dozens of science journalists, scientists, and science lovers have gathered to address the challenges that science journalism is facing, including the relation between scientific research and journalism, fake news, and how media shapes and impact people’s common knowledge about scientific topics.

Prominent Egyptian Novelist and science Journalist Mohamed El-Makhzangy was the keynote speaker in the conference opening. He emphasised the significance of science journalism in simplifying the scientific knowledge for the laymen, and how it is important for science journalists to understand and digest the scientific topics before delivering it to an audience.

During the event, Fatma Soliman, representative of the DAAD highlighted the efforts of her organisation in supporting scientific research and helping scientists promote their research, achievements, and delivery to the public in a simple way.

Soliman added that DAAD sends five journalists per year to Germany to learn about the  science communication community there.

Hanan Badr, media and communication scholar at Cairo University and at Freie Universität in Berlin, stressed the need for more conferences to explain the way science touches our lives and changes the way which public audience looks at scientists.

One of the main speakers at the conference, Ehab El-Refaee, assistant professor of neurology at Cairo University, told Daily News Egypt (DNE) that scientists and journalists are not communicating in the best way.

He believes that one of the major misunderstandings is the conflict of interest and the mix between journalism and advertisement.

Ahmed Balah, senior editor of Nature journal stressed to DNE that science journalists should avoid conflict of interest between promotion and real scientific reporting. He also highlighted that science journalists should fact check their work and learn the basics of using scientific technology.

Balah is of the view that specialising in a certain area in science journalism is important. It allows the journalist to focus on their topic of interest and garners them credibility as an expert in their chosen field.

Bothina Osama, MENA regional co-ordinator at SciDev.Net said in her speech that topics such as water issues and health are attracting Arab audiences more than any other topic. She also believes that Arab audience is consuming science through scientific articles at higher rates.

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Unmanageable groundwater pumping threatens 20% of dryland rivers https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/10/11/unmanageable-groundwater-pumping-threatens-20-of-dryland-rivers/ Fri, 11 Oct 2019 19:50:26 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=710636 By 2050, half of groundwater pumping areas will not be able to maintain ecosystem integrity

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A recent study conducted by a research team led by the University of Freiburg, Germany warned that groundwater reserves are suffering a significant decline because of the continued withdrawal of water in a way that threatens the world’s ecosystem.

By 2050, more than half of the areas which rely on groundwater pumping will not be able to maintain the ecosystem integrity, according to a study published by Nature science journal.

The study Environmental Flow Limits to Global Groundwater Pumping, noted that 20% of catchment areas in which groundwater is pumped suffer a decrease in river flows, particularly in the driest regions, such as Mexico, the Ganges and Indus basins. This depletion of groundwater can reduce the amount of water discharged into rivers, lakes, wetlands, and other ecosystems. 

“Our calculations show that almost 20% of the regions where groundwater is pumped suffer from a reduction of river flow making it too low to maintain healthy aquatic ecosystems. We expect that by 2050, more than half of the regions with groundwater abstractions will not be able to maintain healthy ecosystems anymore,” says Inge de Graaf, chair of Environmental Hydrological Systems, University of Freiburg, and one of the study’s authors. 

She told Daily News Egypt that the most striking result of the study is that only a slight drop of groundwater level will already cause this critical decline in river flows. This shows that riverine freshwater ecosystems are extremely sensitive to water decline. Also, it will often take decades for groundwater pumping to lead to a noticeable reduction of groundwater influx. 

Groundwater pumping can thus be considered a ticking time bomb with ecological effects becoming visible only years later.

 

A large part of this study was about the development of a global-scale hydrological model and groundwater model. This model was needed to perform the analysis and has not existed yet. “The development of this model was a large part of my PhD research, which I did at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands,” said de Graaf. 

 

The researcher explained that she used this new global-scale hydrological model to investigate how strongly freshwater ecosystems have been, and will be, affected by groundwater pumping. With the model, she is able to calculate the flow of groundwater to rivers all over the world and to study how a reduction of this groundwater flow, when groundwater is pumped, impacts river flow.

 

“Such a global model is not something you can run on your home computer, but a super computer was used for running the model and analysing the data. The inputs of the model are all global-scale data. For example, data of precipitation and temperature, data on the thickness of the aquifers (the layers of sediment or rock where the groundwater is found/stored), permeability of aquifers, and data on water demand, irrigated area, etc. Some of these data were developed within our research group, others came from other researchers,” the researcher noted. 

 

What makes this study really important is that it is the first global-scale modelling study that can simulate the impact of groundwater abstractions on streams. 

The model we used also estimates storages and fluxes in the unsaturated zone and estimates river discharge. This means it also estimates how much rainwater flows overland, infiltrates through the soil, and flows to the river, before it gets to the groundwater. It’s the complete terrestrial water cycle researchers can estimate.

In this study, researchers pointed out that only small changes in groundwater level are needed to convert a stream well-supported by groundwater to a stream not supported by groundwater. While this is clear and well known for local studies, seeing the consequences globally is rather shocking. 

De Graaf and her team hope to raise global awareness of a slowly evolving crisis, showing through their study that it often takes decades for groundwater pumping to lead to a noticeable reduction of groundwater influx (the ticking time bomb).

Findings of the paper show us regions where we have problems already, and regions where we will experience problems in the future if we keep pumping groundwater like we do now. A reduction of groundwater pumping will be the only way to prevent the negative impacts, while at the same time, global food security should be maintained. Groundwater should be used in a more sustainable way. It is important to develop more efficient irrigation techniques worldwide and crops that use less freshwater or can live in salty water.

Although the global model can be used as an indication where the problematic regions are or will develop in the future, more accurate local models should be developed to extend our knowledge for these problem regions, for example, test the effect of sustainable water management, according to the researcher. 

De Graaf added that these more accurate models will only be developed for regions where problems already exist and not for regions that have not been at risk yet. She believes that this way, the results of the global model can point researchers to new regions where sustainable water management needs to be developed before problems come up.

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Environment Ministry launches new electronic waste collection system https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/10/11/environment-ministry-launches-new-electronic-waste-collection-system/ Fri, 11 Oct 2019 19:43:21 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=710633 First phase of an ambitious project to implement the system in seven governorates

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The Egyptian Ministry of Environment launched in September a new electronic system for monitoring waste in some districts of Cairo Governorate. This comes as the first phase of an ambitious project to implement the system in seven governorates.

Preliminary testing of the system will take place in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Qena, Assiut, Gharbia, and Kafr El Sheikh, before its implementation in other governorates.

 

According to the ministry, the new system was first tested in Maadi, and the application of the new electronic system will be conducted through the Waste Management Regulatory Authority in cooperation with the private company Environ Adapt, which works in waste management, and is the system developer.

 

The application schedule for the different districts and governorates will be decided by the Ministry of Environment based on the test results.

 

The system is implemented through two mobile applications, the first is “Environ Operations,” which is currently used by the concerned governmental agencies and service providers. It is supported by the company that is contracted to collect the garbage.

  

The second application is “Dawar” mobile app, used by citizens to report the locations of garbage accumulations by taking a phone image of the waste in the street and sending it through the app to the concerned authorities to remove them.

Mustafa Khairat, CEO of Environ Adapt, explains to Daily News Egypt that the system is based on four axis, the first is the hotlines and direct telephone complaints of the concerned government agencies (Governorates and the Ministry of Environment), and the second axes is based on the use of the application “Environ Operations”.

 

The concerned governmental agencies, represented by the Waste Management Regulatory Authority at the Ministry of Environment and Governorates, use the application in monitoring, controlling, and communicating with the service provider of garbage collection companies that also use the same application.

 

He added that his company has trained representatives of the concerned governmental agencies and service providers to use the system, which has more than 30 thousand users, and is expected to increase significantly.

 

“After this phase of achieving 80% good communication between regulators and the service provider, we move to the third theme, the Dawar application, which citizens use to report waste places by taking a mobile  picture and sending it through the application to the service provider in the region,” Khairat explained.

 

He added that the application accurately determines the geographical position of the waste via GPS, as well as the service provider concerned to receive images in each region to deal with the waste in this position. These images reach the regulatory authorities to monitor the extent of commitment of the service provider.

After that, the citizen receives a photo from the service provider confirming the removal of waste. 

The application is also provided with a homepage offering users information about the green economy, sustainability, and environmental initiatives in their area. 

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Nobel Prize in Medicine 2019 goes to three researchers for revealing cells’ adaptation to oxygen  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/10/08/nobel-prize-in-medicine-2019-goes-to-three-researchers-for-revealing-cells-adaptation-to-oxygen/ Mon, 07 Oct 2019 22:19:24 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=710250 Their works paved the way for promising new strategies to fight anaemia and cancer 

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The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet announced on Monday that the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2019 goes jointly to William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe, and Gregg L. Semenza for their discoveries on how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.

This year’s Nobel laureates have identified molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes in response to varying levels of oxygen, which has long been unknown. 

Depending on the three prominent researchers’ work, the mechanism for one of life’s most essential adaptive processes is now revealed, establishing the basis for our understanding of how oxygen levels affect cellular metabolism and physiological function. 

In its statement, the Nobel Prize Assembly said that the discoveries of the three researchers have paved the way for promising new strategies to fight anaemia, cancer, and many other diseases.

Kaelin is a professor at Harvard Medical School. He is also a 2016 recipient of the Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, the 2016 ASCO Science of Oncology Award, and the 2016 AACR Princess Takamatsu Award. His work focuses on tumour suppressor proteins.

Ratcliffe works as a professor at the Francis Crick Institute, and head of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Oxford.

Semenza is a professor of paediatrics, radiation oncology, and molecular radiation sciences, biological chemistry, medicine, and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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“How dare you?!” Greta Thunberg Attacks World Leaders at UN Climate Summit  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/25/how-dare-you-greta-thunberg-attacks-world-leaders-at-un-climate-summit/ Wed, 25 Sep 2019 09:04:49 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=709045 Trump unexpectedly attends 15 minutes of summit 

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Seated alongside United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres and two other young climate activists, Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg criticised world leaders for not taking action regarding climate change. 

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” Thunberg told world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit which was held on Monday at the UN Headquarters. 

“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth – how dare you?!,” said Thunberg accusing world leaders of ignoring the scientific warnings behind the climate crisis. 

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean.” Thunberg said.

Two weeks ago, Thunberg travelled for two weeks on a solar-powered sailboat to reach the United States for the summit. She led millions of young people in a climate strike on Friday in New York.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that “nature is angry – and we fool ourselves if we think we can fool nature because nature always strikes back – and around the world, nature is striking back with fury.” 

“The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win. The climate crisis is caused by us – and the solutions must come from us,” he added.

The secretary general demanded ending fossil fuel subsidies, saying “there is a cost to everything. But the biggest cost is doing nothing. The biggest cost is subsidising a dying fossil fuel industry, building more and more coal power plants and denying what is plain as day, that we are in a deep climate hole and to get out we must first stop digging.”

“The best science, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tells us that any temperature rise above 1.5 degrees will lead to major and irreversible damage to the ecosystems that support us,” said Guterres. 

He added that science tells us that on our current path, we face at least 3-degrees Celsius of global heating by the end of the century. “This is not a climate talk summit. We have had enough talk. This is not a climate negotiation summit. You don’t negotiate with nature. This is a climate action summit,” he stressed.

 

Guterres further explained that the reason that governments are gathered in the summit is to show that they are serious about enhancing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. 

“Cities and businesses are here showing what leadership looks like, investing in a green future. Financial actors are here to scale-up action and deploy resources in fundamentally new and meaningful ways. Coalitions are here with partnerships and initiatives to move us closer to a resilient, carbon-neutral world by 2050,” he said. 

In a message to the summit, Pope Francis told the attendees that: “While the situation is not good and the planet is suffering, the window of opportunity is still open despite everything. Let us not let it close. Let us open it with our determination.”

In his speech, French President Emmanuel Macron called on world leaders to include climate change in their trade and finance policies. He said that countries should not import goods that increase carbon pollution nor fund polluting plants in other countries.

Macron asked other nations to increase their pledges to the Green Climate Fund, in order to help poorer countries that are facing climate crises.

He commented on the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement saying: “We are now at $7bn. The target is $10bn to make up for the US’s withdrawal.”

“We’ve seen the emotion this morning We cannot let our youth spend every Friday demonstrating for the climate and simply answer, everything is fine, we are doing everything right. We are still far from the account.” he said. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the need for countries to work together and follow the advice of science about climate change which she accused humans doubly for causing it.

In her speech before the summit Merkel said: “There are people who are active, and who demonstrate, and put pressure on us, but there are also doubters, and it is the duty of every government to bring everyone along. Germany is facing up to this task with our measures agreed last Friday.” 

About 75 countries are enhancing their NDCs under the Paris Climate Agreement. The UN estimates that the world would need to increase its efforts between three- and five-fold to contain climate change to the levels dictated by science – a 1.5°C rise at most – and avoid escalating climate damage already taking place around the world.

During the summit, the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, announced the “Climate Ambition Alliance,” which Chile hopes to build in the lead-up to COP25 in Santiago. The Alliance brings together nations upscaling action by 2020, as well as those working toward achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. 

A number of 59 nations have signalled their intention to submit an enhanced climate action plan, and an additional nine nations have started an internal process to boost ambition and have this reflected in their national plans. In terms of the 2050 group, 66 governments are joined by 10 regions, 102 cities, 93 businesses and 12 investors – all committed to net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. 

US President Donald Trump made an unexpected visit to the summit and stayed for about 15 minutes during the speeches of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Meanwhile, the UN Special Envoy for Climate Action Michael Bloomberg, announced his support for UN Secretary General António Guterres’ initiative to stop the development of new coal-fired power plants after 2020.

“Ending coal use would be an enormous step forward in the fight against climate change and a huge victory for public health. We’re making progress – including in the US – where our foundation and the Sierra Club have teamed up to close more than half of all coal plants, and in Europe, where we’ve helped close some of the continent’s most polluting coal plants and encouraged more countries to commit to phasing out coal completely,” said Bloomberg. 

He added: “we have to move faster, and we have a lot of work ahead of us – but there’s nothing we can’t achieve if all sectors of society work together. The Secretary-General has been a forceful advocate for ending coal use, and our foundation is glad to be working together with him and his team to reach that goal.”

Bloomberg called on private sector actors – particularly utility companies – to leverage their positions in their industries to lead a move away from coal. 

According to a recent analysis by Bloomberg Intelligence of 64 of the largest utilities around the world, it revealed that while utilities worldwide are responding to investor and regulatory concerns over climate change by setting goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, they will fall short of the cuts needed to keep warming in line with the Paris Agreement.

 

“Utilities have a key role to play in shifting the economy away from fossil fuels and have incentives to take action, because their customers want cheaper, cleaner energy,” said Bloomberg. 

He added that “better data helps show which utilities are leading the way, which helps to attract more investment in clean power and drives costs down further and faster.”


This story was published as part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story, cofounded by The Nation and Columbia Journalism Review.

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‘United in Science’ report urges world leaders to save the planet https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/24/united-in-science-report-urges-world-leaders-to-save-the-planet/ Tue, 24 Sep 2019 06:00:37 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=708874 Report comes along with UN Climate Action Summit, includes data on state of climate

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New York  – The world’s leading climate science organisations issued a landmark report on Sunday, warning that the planet is witnessing a critical moment due to climate change and the increase of the average global temperature in the past five years. 

According to the report, named “United in Science”, the period from 2015 to 2019 is on track to be the warmest of any equivalent period on record. It is currently estimated to be 1.1C above pre-industrial (1850–1900) times.

The report which coincides with the United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit, highlighted the major socio-economic and environmental impacts of this increase in heat.

Warming could occur through the widespread and long-lasting heatwaves, record-breaking fires, and other devastating events, such as tropical cyclones, floods, and drought.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report 2019, the global greenhouse gas emissions are not estimated to peak by 2030, let alone by 2020, if current climate policies and ambition levels of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are maintained. The NDCs are the UN’s intended reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Preliminary findings from the report indicate that greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise in 2018.

The current NDCs are estimated to lower global emissions in 2030 by up to 6 GtCO2e, if current policies are followed. This ambition needs to be roughly tripled to align with the 2C limit and must increase to around fivefold to align with the 1.5C limit.

United in Science

The United in Science report includes details on the state of the climate and presents trends in the emissions and atmospheric concentrations of the main greenhouse gases. 

It highlights the urgency of fundamental socio-economic transformation in key sectors, such as land use and energy, in order to avert dangerous global temperature increase with potentially irreversible impacts. It also examines tools to support both mitigation and adaptation.

The Science Advisory Group to the UN Climate Action Summit is co-chaired by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas and Leena Srivastava, former vice chancellor of TERI School of Advanced Studies.

The Science Advisory Group announced, “The report provides a unified assessment of the state of our Earth system under the increasing influence of anthropogenic climate change, of humanity’s response thus far, and of the far-reaching changes that science projects for our global climate in the future.” 

According to the group, the scientific data and findings presented in the report represent the latest authoritative information on these topics. It also highlights the urgent need for the development of concrete actions that halt the worst effects of climate change.

Greenhouse Gas Concentrations

 

Findings of the report urge the world to take action since the levels of the main long-lived greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, reached new highs.

In 2018, global CO2 concentration was 407.8 parts per million (ppm), 2.2 ppm higher than 2017. Preliminary data from a subset of greenhouse gas monitoring sites for 2019 indicate that CO2 concentrations are on track to reach or even exceed 410 ppm by the end of 2019.

Additionally, the growth rate of CO2 averaged over three consecutive decades increased from 1.42 ppm/year, to 1.86 ppm/year, and to 2.06 ppm/year.

 

The last time Earth’s atmosphere contained 400 ppm CO2 was about three to five million years ago. At that time, global surface temperatures were 2-3C warmer than today, ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica melted, parts of East Antarctica ice retreated, all causing global sea level rise of 10-20m.

 

Carbon Budget

 

Carbon dioxide emissions grew 2% and reached a record high of 37bn tonnes in 2018. There is still no sign of a peak in global emissions, even though they are growing slower than the global economy.

 

The report pointed out that the current economic and energy trends suggest that emissions will be at least as high in 2019 as in 2018. It also expects that the global GDP will grow at 3.2% in 2019, and if the global economy decarbonised at the same rate as in the last 10 years, it would still lead to an increase in global emissions.

 

Regarding the notable increase in renewable fuels over the past decade, the report says that the global energy system is still dominated by fossil fuel sources. 

Despite this extraordinary increase in renewable fuels use worldwide, it is not sufficient since the annual increase in global energy use is greater. This could give the fossil fuel use greater chances to grow, which the report calls to be halted immediately.

The report renews the calls that net-zero emissions needed to stabilise the climate require both an acceleration in use of non-carbon energy sources and a rapid decline in the global share of fossil fuels in the energy mix. 

 

It further stresses the necessity of reducing deforestation and expanding natural CO2 sinks, such as vegetation and oceans, particularly those in forests and soils that can be improved by better management and habitat restoration.

Natural CO2 sinks remove about half of all emissions from human activities. Unfortunately, if the level of increase in CO2 emissions continued in the same level, these natural sinks will not be able to contain the emissions from human activities.   

In 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urged the international community in a report, to take rapid steps to counter climate change and its expected impacts. 

The report stated that by 2006–2015, human activity warmed the world by 0.87C compared to pre-industrial times. It also urged that if the current warming rate continues, the world would reach human–induced global warming of 1.5C around 2040.

The report which took three years to be prepared, addressed the impacts of global warming of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.

According to the report, the way to limit global warming to 1.5C is projected to involve the annual average investment needs in the energy system of around $2.4trn between 2016 and 2035, representing about 2.5% of the world’s GDP.  

Water is coming

During the period from 1979 to 2018, the arctic summer sea-ice extent has declined at a rate of approximately 12% per decade. The four lowest values of winter sea-ice extent occurred between 2015 and 2019.

The United in Science report noted that the amount of ice lost annually from the Antarctic ice sheet increased at least six-fold between 1979 and 2017. Glacier mass loss for 2015-2019 is the highest for any five-year period on record.

 

“The observed rate of global mean sea-level rise accelerated from 3.04mm per year during the period 1997-2006 to approximately 4mm per year during the period 2007-2016,” the report states.  

The report refers this increase to the increased rate of ocean warming and melting of the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets. There has been an overall increase of 26% in ocean acidity since the beginning of the industrial era.

Egypt is a typical example of a developing country which is highly vulnerable to the phenomenon, facing numerous threats to its economic, social, and environmental sustainability, according to a study by the World Resources Institute. 

This puts Egypt under the pressure of taking its measures to combat climate change and take part in the international efforts to limit temperature rise by 2100 to less than 1.5C in accordance with the Paris Agreement. 

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The US Navy has a water problem https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/22/the-us-navy-has-a-water-problem/ Sun, 22 Sep 2019 18:15:39 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=708720 The Second Fleet was reactivated to patrol the Arctic

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The United States Navy has a big problem, one quite peculiar for such a huge seagoing organization: too much water. The problem isn’t the water itself; the Navy knows how to handle water. The problem is that global warming is putting too much water in the wrong places.

One of those places is Naval Station Norfolk, a vast complex in southeastern Virginia whose 80,000 active-duty personnel make it the largest naval base on earth by population. The ships and aircraft stationed at Naval Station Norfolk have historically patrolled the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. But in May of 2018, as part of the Trump administration’s new National Defense Strategy “to deter Russia and China,” the Navy announced that it would be expanding operations in the Arctic Ocean. Rising global temperatures were melting polar ice and opening sea lanes in the Arctic, enabling access to sizable deposits of natural resources, including oil. To counter anticipated Russian and Chinese claims on those resources, the Navy has reactivated its Second Fleet, which had been deactivated eight years ago by the Obama administration; it’s based at Naval Station Norfolk.

Norfolk’s ever-increasing vulnerability to flooding and what sea-level rise means long-term for the Navy concerns some high-ranking former naval officers, including the Navy’s former top oceanographer and a former expeditionary strike group commander based in Norfolk. Already, key access roads to the low-lying Naval Station Norfolk are occasionally submerged during high tides. By 2037, access roads will be underwater during high tides for 50 days of the year, according to scientific studies by First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research group. In short, the very melting Arctic that the Second Fleet will patrol will increasingly engulf the fleet’s home base.

“Norfolk is a sea-level hot spot,” says Radm. (ret.) David W. Titley, who was the Navy’s chief oceanographer and initiated its Task Force on Climate Change in 2009. “So if I were to go into a secret room with the Navy brass I’d say, ‘Okay, no BS. We’re probably going to have a 3 to 4 degree Celsius temperature rise this century, and unless we find a way to take the CO2 out of the air in scale, that means we’re [eventually] looking at 15-20 feet of sea-level rise.’… What does the Navy do if Norfolk goes underwater?” Titley is now a professor of meteorology at Penn State, where he is the director of the school’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk.

“It’s certainly ironic,” says Radm. (ret.) Ann Phillips, former commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Two in Norfolk, who is now the special assistant to the governor of Virginia for coastal adaptation and protection. She adds, “Coastal Virginia is very vulnerable to sea-level rise.” A resident of Norfolk herself, Phillips said there are times when her own street floods, and so for her, as such flooding increases in frequency, the question becomes, what choices does she make to best prepare her family and property? Similarly, she says, the Navy and the US government will have to decide, “What are the costs and benefits of preparing for floods and higher sea levels, and what is the best use of federal funds related to environmental resilience?”

Such talk is unwelcome, of course, in a White House where the president insists that climate change is “a Chinese hoax.” “It’s as if we had a president who didn’t think China existed,” says Representative Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington state who chairs the House Armed Services Committee. “This president does not live in a fact-based universe.”

Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, also dismisses climate science. In 2010, when Pompeo first won election to Congress, the single largest contributors to his campaign were Charles and David Koch, the oil industry barons who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect government officials who favour limited taxes and regulations on corporations, especially corporations in the fossil fuel industry. Pompeo is also a self-described evangelical Christian who believes in the “Rapture,” the prophecy that Jesus Christ will soon return to Earth and true Christians will be instantly transported to heaven and unbelievers to hell—so why worry about climate change?

In May, Pompeo led the US delegation in a meeting of the Arctic Council, an international organization composed of eight nations with borders on the Arctic along with indigenous peoples who reside there. The United States blocked any mention of climate change in the joint declaration issued at the end of that meeting. But Pompeo did extol the Arctic as a region of “opportunity and abundance” of natural resources where the United States is “fortifying America’s security and diplomatic presence,” saying, “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade.”

Indeed, seven months before the Arctic Council meeting, the United States dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and other warships to the Arctic, the first time the Navy had sent an aircraft carrier above the Arctic Circle since the end of the Cold War. Richard Spencer, the secretary of the Navy, later announced that additional patrols in the Arctic were planned for 2019. “We have to learn what it’s like to operate in that environment” where bitter temperatures and rough seas stress equipment and personnel, Spencer said at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, in January 2019. Longer-term, the Navy envisions building a new base for Arctic operations, perhaps on the Bering Sea in Alaska. “It’s an area we have to focus on, most definitely,” said Spencer.

Meanwhile, though, the Second Fleet will patrol the Arctic from Naval Station Norfolk. And as with all coastal regions on this rapidly warming planet, sea-level rise in Norfolk is just getting started.

The reestablished Second Fleet’s home is by no means the only Navy facility at risk in the Norfolk region or around the world. Norfolk and its sister city, Newport News, straddle the opening through which the James River flows into the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a low-lying region traversed by streams, rivers, and swamps—the closest edge of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge lies eight miles southwest of Norfolk—that houses a cluster of maritime facilities, some privately owned but most belonging to the Navy, including the Craney Island US Naval Supply Center, the Naval Medical Center, and the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

The Navy’s oldest such facility, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard attracted attention earlier this month when Trump’s insistence on building a US–Mexico border wall halted work on a critical safety upgrade at the shipyard, which processes nuclear waste from Navy submarines, among other tasks. To fund the border wall, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper diverted $3.6 billion that Congress had authorized for construction projects at 127 military facilities in the United States and overseas, an apparent violation of Congress’s constitutional authority over federal spending.

The Trump administration gives no sign of funding similar protections for naval facilities in Norfolk, all of which are threatened by sea-level rise. “A detailed study in 2014 by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center identified about 1.5 feet of sea-level rise as a ‘tipping point’ for [Naval Station Norfolk] that would dramatically increase the risk of serious damage to infrastructure,” InsideClimate News has reported. “But there is no plan to address this level of rising, which scientists expect within a few decades.” (Flooding by seawater is far more destructive than fresh-water flooding because of salt-caused corrosion and electrical shorts.)

Phillips says, “The Navy places less value on infrastructure. They value ships, aircraft, weapons. I was one of those people—as a commanding officer, I worried about being able to sail into port and connect up to the electricity, Internet, water and sewer, and that’s all we needed.” She adds, “Part of it too is the near-term operational needs of the service. Navy leaders are going to be focused on near-term readiness” rather than the challenges posed by climate change.

There are only a few roads that can transport personnel and equipment to and from Naval Station Norfolk, which occupies a spit of tabletop-flat land that is surrounded by water on three sides. Calculations by the First Street Foundation project that those roads will increasingly be inundated by rising sea levels in the years ahead.

A 2017 study by First Street Foundation of flooding projections for Norfolk and Norfolk Naval Station paints a grim picture for the future. The intersection of West Bay Avenue and Granby Street, a four-lane access road to the naval station, currently faces significant flooding just from high tides in the Chesapeake Bay six days a year. By 2029, that rate of tidal flooding is projected to more than double—to 14 days a year. Meanwhile, at the intersection of Hampton Boulevard, another major access route, and 49th Street near the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, tidal flooding is expected 31 days this year, but 174 days a decade hence. Things are even worse slightly south at Hampton Boulevard and Lexan Avenue, where tidal flooding this year will happen 188 days this year and 276 days in 2029. Worse yet, First Street projects that in 10 years, if Norfolk and Hampton Roads are hit with a Category 4 Hurricane (as was threatened by Hurricane Dorian this month), almost the entire city, including Naval Station Norfolk, would be under at least three feet of water from the tidal surge.

Because the climate threat to Naval Station Norfolk, though extreme, is by no means unique, Congress has demanded that the Pentagon evaluate how threatened all US military bases are by sea-level rise, hurricanes, and other climate impacts. The Pentagon, however, has slow-walked its response. Representative Jim Langevin, head of the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on emerging threats, and chairman Smith co-authored a letter this spring to then-Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan calling for a detailed report on the climate risks to military bases and the costs of protecting or relocating them. When the Pentagon’s response was long on rhetoric but short on specifics, Langevin fired back, telling Federal News Network, “Like a student rushing to finish a term paper, the Dept. of Defense made a desperate attempt to address the concerns I raised about their climate report before the Secretary testified. When it comes to our national security, however, there are no ‘A’s for effort.’ The Department’s methodology remains opaque. The revised report continues to leave off overseas bases, and it fails to include massive military installations…. Most importantly, it continues to lack any assessment of the funds Congress will need to appropriate to mitigate the ever-increasing risks to our service members.”

Meanwhile, projections of future sea-level rise are growing increasingly dire. In August, a peer-reviewed study in Nature Geoscience tracking the alarming effects of human-caused climate change on the West Antarctic ice sheet confirmed that it continues to melt at an alarming rate. Complete melting of that ice sheet would raise global sea levels by roughly 10 feet—more than enough to submerge not only Naval Station Norfolk but also large parts of many of the world’s coastal cities, including Washington, New York, Miami, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro.

Harold Wanless, emeritus professor of the geology department at the University of Miami and an expert on ice melt and sea-level rise, warns that the historical record suggests that ice melting and sea-level rise will not proceed linearly but in pulses. The earth is entering such a pulse now, Wanless believes, so it may not be decades before Norfolk and its naval installations experience larger, more frequent, and more debilitating flooding. Those impacts could occur much sooner, Wanless cautions, perhaps as soon as the 2020s. Under such a scenario, protecting low-lying regions such as Norfolk could become practically and financially impossible; managed retreat may be the only real option. “Places like Norfolk need to recognize this fact,” says Wanless, “or we’ll just have local, state, and federal governments pouring money into the ocean.”

The world will get a better sense of how fast and how far sea levels will rise on September 25, when scientists with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their latest report. The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate will discuss, among other subjects, what is happening to the planet’s glacial and polar ice—the cryosphere, in scientific jargon—and what that portends for sea-level rise. A leaked early draft of the report, obtained by Agence France-Presse, warned that hundreds of millions of coastal residents around the world could be displaced by rising seas unless drastic action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And even if emissions are slashed, the draft declared, the inertia of the climate system means that many coastal regions and island nations will experience “extreme sea-level events”—that is, storm surges and flooding—every year by 2050.

That leaked draft is not the last word on the sea-level rise; the IPCC press office warns that its findings may change during negotiations among governments and scientists September 21 to 23 to finalize the official text. But the history of climate science is clear: For decades, scientists have generally underestimated how bad things could get, and how soon. For the US Navy, the better course may be to forget about basing its Second Fleet in Norfolk in order to patrol the melting Arctic. What US national security actually requires is doing everything possible to reverse or slow the climate crisis.

This story originally appeared in The Nation. It is republished here as part of Daily News Egypt’s partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

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From streets to halls of UN: youth demand climate action  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/22/from-streets-to-halls-of-un-youth-demand-climate-action/ Sun, 22 Sep 2019 10:21:42 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=708663 Summit kicks off at UN headquarters with participation of hundreds of youth

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New York – The UN Youth Climate Summit kicked off on Saturday at the United Nations headquarters with the participation of hundreds of youth from all over the world. The summit comes a few hours following mass protests in New York and worldwide calling for immediate climate action.

Young leaders who are driving climate action came to the UN ahead of the 74th General Assembly to showcase their solutions, and to meaningfully engage with decision-makers on the defining issue of our time, climate change.

Bringing together young activists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and change-makers who are committed to combating climate change, the summit is part of a weekend of events leading up to the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit scheduled for 23 September.

During his opening speech of the summit, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the efforts exerted by youth and young leaders all over the world to address the climate issue. 

“Hold my generation accountable. Keep mobilising. Keep going, Keep pushing,” said Guterres, adding that “one of the problems of world leaders is they talk too much and listen too little.” 

The 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg participated in the opening session and delivered a brief speech thanking the young leaders worldwide, postponing her full speech to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 74) in order to give chance for more youth to speak. 

Among the participants in the summit is the Egyptian environmental activist Norhan Ahmed who is a teaching assistant of environmental science at Alexandria University. She told Daily News Egypt that she is was invited by the UNESCO to partake in the summit representing the Egyptian youth.

“We need to engage youth much more in the climate crisis because youth have more to do,” she said.

“Change minds, don’t change the climate. Change the environmental crisis,” said Ahmed, who believes that the climate crisis has two sides to be considered. The first is scientific and the other side is the role of decision makers. 

“Government has authority to take actions, and scientists are able to provide solutions. What we need to is to work together,” Ahmed added. She noted that the environmental awareness is not high among youth in Egypt, so we need to spread awareness through traditional and social media. 

Amelia from Fiji, a student of marine science and a climate activist, told DNE that she is participating in the summit to help in raising international awareness about climate change and climate justice. 

“We need to adopt policies that do not harm the environment. The role of youth is really important in this regard,” she added. “If we are sitting in the table, we actually have a voice,” she said. 

Liyana from Malaysia, a PhD researcher on ocean resources and environmental changes, told DNE that voice of the Global South, including her country, is not heard enough although this region is highly impacted by the climate change. She called for world leaders to take immediate action to address the climate crisis. 

DNE also talked to another participant, Mutia from Indonesia, who has a NGO working on raising the environmental awareness and spread renewable energy solutions. 

“I came here to force the world leaders to take action on climate change NOW. Indonesia for example is burning because of climate change, and I think the world leaders cannot ignore such impacts anymore,” Mutia told DNE. 

She noted that climate change is related to politics, so decision makers are the ones who should take action in addressing this crisis. 

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Daily News Egypt joins Covering Climate Now Initiative https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/18/daily-news-egypt-joins-covering-climate-now-initiative/ Wed, 18 Sep 2019 10:50:32 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=708338 Initiative includes more than 250 news outlets with combined audience of nearly half a billion

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As climate change poses a major threat to life on Earth and is becoming one of the biggest issues the planet must face, Daily News Egypt joined the Covering Climate Now initiative.

It’s a global journalistic collaboration of more than 250 news outlets with a combined audience of nearly half a billion. Launched by Columbia Journalism Review and the Nation, in partnership with the Guardian, the initiative aims to strengthen coverage on the climate issue.

Covering Climate Now comes ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit which will be held on 23 September in New York, as well as the Global Climate Strike which will be held simultaneously.

Covering Climate Now partners have pledged to increase the volume and visibility of their climate coverage as its first large-scale collaboration in the partnership. 

The partnership includes TV networks such as CBS News and Al Jazeera; newspapers such as El País and Toronto Star; digital players such as BuzzFeed, HuffPost, Vox; wire services such as Getty Images and Bloomberg; and magazines such as Nature, and Scientific American.

DNE is the first Egyptian independent daily newspaper published in English to join the initiative. It is giving climate issues a priority in its daily coverage as it is the issue of the century. For this, we joined the partnership along with other leading international magazines and newspapers. 

The UN action summit is considered the most important meeting for climate change since the Paris Climate Agreement which was signed in 2015. Between 60 and 100 countries are expected to partake in the summit with plans to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals.

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Geographers challenge existing theories on river systems  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/18/geographers-challenge-existing-theories-on-river-systems/ Wed, 18 Sep 2019 10:49:34 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=708287 Bristol’s researchers identify climate signature in rivers globally 

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After decades of working to detect the impact of climate on the formation of rivers, a new study, led by scientists from the University of Bristol in England, discovered a clear climatic signature on rivers globally which challenge existing theories.

According to the new research published on Monday in the journal Nature, while river’s long profiles tend to be concave up in humid regions, they become progressively straighter in drier regions.

The big conclusion of the study is that the researchers have detected a signature of climate in rivers all over the globe. This signature is a distinct change in the shape of the river’s long profile as climatic regions change from humid to semi-arid, to arid to hyper-arid parts of the world. 

“The river’s long profile is the path you make if you walk from a river’s source to its mouth, that descends in elevation. In some rivers, this path will descend steeply out of the uplands, and then flatten out in the lowlands,” Katerina Michaelides, from Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences, who led the research team, told Daily News Egypt. 

According to Michaelides this results in a long profile that has a concave shape, similar to the shape of the inside of a bowl as you trace it from the inside rim to the bottom. In contrast, a straight long profile descends evenly in elevation, like a ramp, along the path as you walk from the source to the mouth.

“We found that these changes in long profile shapes are related to the climate through the ways in which river flow is produced during rainfall,” she added. “Basically, if you think of the types of rivers you have in Egypt, North Africa, and the Middle East in general where the climate ranges from semi-arid to hyper-arid, these are typically dry for most of the year and only flow when it rains a lot (which may only be 3-4 times per year),” she explained.

The long profiles of these kinds of rivers tend to be straight (ramp-like). In contrast, rivers in humid regions like the United Kingdom, where there is water flowing in them all the time, tend to be concave (bowl-like). And there is a spectrum of changes in between. Over long timescales (tens of thousands to millions of years) the river flow and sediment movement it produces, determines the shape of the river’s long profile.

 

Methodology of the study

In order to examine the links between climate and river’s form, researchers first produced a new global database of river long profiles, generated from data originally collected by NASA’s space shuttle radar topography mission (SRTM).

Specialist software developed by co-author Stuart Grieve at the Queen Mary University London was used to extract long profiles into a database which includes over 330,000 rivers across the globe. The researchers then classified each river into two different climate categories and analysed how the profile shape changes across climate zones (without controlling for any other factors), and found systematic changes in long profile shape as you move from humid to arid zones regardless of all other complicating factors present in the dataset. 

Finally, after they detected clear and systematic differences in long profiles with the climate, the team used simple numerical modelling to demonstrate that the key mechanism controlling these differences is the way in which the climate is expressed in the river flow over long periods of time. They represented the range of river flows you find in different climate regions and found that regardless of all other factors involved, river flow always had the dominant effect on the final profile shape. 

 

Exciting conclusions  

The research’s lead author Shiuan-An Chen, from the University of Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences, said, “The long profile is formed gradually over tens of thousands to millions of years, so it tells a bigger story about the climate history of the region. We would expect climate to affect the river’s long profile because it controls how much water flows into rivers and the associated force of water to move sediments along the riverbed,” according to the University of Bristol’s press release. 

Moreover, Michaelides told DNE, “Our results are exciting and important because scientists have been trying for decades to find a clear imprint of climate in the landscape. It has been challenging to achieve this because there are many other factors mixed in – things like tectonic activity, rock type, human activities – making it hard to untangle a clear signal. Up until now scientists have lacked a large, systematic dataset of rivers that spans the range of climate zones on the Earth, enabling full exploration of the links between climate and river form. Our study not only demonstrates a climate signature in the Earth’s rivers, it also provides to the scientific community, a new and freely available global database of river long profiles.” 

While the actual study only took two years to complete, the theories and ideas behind it have been brewing for around 10 years, according to Michaelides. She explained, “I have been working on dryland rivers since my undergraduate years and throughout my PhD – so I had a very different view of what rivers look like compared to my co-author, Michael Singer, who worked in large, humid rivers.” 

The team began comparing and researching humid and dryland rivers and anecdotally, kept observing the same differences based on a small number of places. Three years ago, the researchers decided to embark on a global analysis to see if these differences held up more broadly.

 

“Initially, Shiuan-An conducted a manual analysis of river profiles based on Google Earth, but soon after we collaborated with Dr Stuart Grieve who had developed a specialist software enabling us to extract global river long profiles from NASA’s SRTM data. This was the game changer that allowed us to undertake a new and global study on the links between climate and river form,” Michaelides said. 

Michaelides believes that this study is just the start, saying that she and her team have many ideas of different avenues of further research to pursue, including looking at other river basin characteristics and their relationship to climate. “The climate signature likely affects many other river characteristics beyond the long profile. Researchers can use our database to investigate many other aspects of river basin form – such as the effects of tectonics or human activities,” Michaelides concluded.  

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Environment Ministry allocates $5m for companies to reduce ozone- depleting substances https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/15/environment-ministry-allocates-5m-for-companies-to-reduce-ozone-depleting-substances/ Sun, 15 Sep 2019 19:43:25 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=708065 Funds target refrigeration, air conditioning companies 

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The Minister of Environment, Yasmine Fouad, said on Sunday that Egypt was able to get rid of about 99% of the ozone-depleting substances, which helped reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, in light of Egypt’s commitment to the Montreal Protocol. 

She added that $5m were allocated to support companies to reduce the use of ozone-depleting substances.

During her ministry’s celebration of the World Ozone Day, Fouad noted that the ministry is supporting eight national companies to reduce the use of ozone-depleting substances and reach national industries in accordance with international standards such as the model of an Egyptian air conditioner. 

The minister of environment praised the efforts of the ozone unit of its ministry, which is the first national unit at both the African and Arab levels, and its role in fulfilling Egypt’s obligations in international conventions, including the Montreal Protocol.

She further added that the ministry has received about $3.5m in funding from the UNDP and about $1.5m from the UN Industrial Development Programme to support refrigeration and air conditioning companies and to enable them to adjust their conditions and use materials which contribute toward the preservation of the environment.

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Amid water tensions… Cairo hosts six-party meeting on GERD  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/14/amid-water-tensions-cairo-hosts-six-party-meeting-on-gerd/ Sat, 14 Sep 2019 17:14:56 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=707961 Recently, Egypt expressed dissatisfaction with long-term negotiations with Ethiopia 

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Cairo will host on Sunday a six-party meeting for the negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The meeting will gather ministers of water and foreign affairs ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, as part of a new round to discuss the construction of the GERD, its filling, and operating rules.

The filling and operating period of the GERD is the main problematic issue between the parties whose dialogue will revolve around reaching solutions to the issue, amid the Ethiopian insistence on storage within a period of three years while Egypt requests a seven-year filing period.

The meeting was scheduled to be held in August, to reach an agreement on the rules of filling and operation of the GERD, but it was rescheduled after Egypt’s request for it to be held mid-September. 

On Thursday, Egypt’s Deputy Foreign Minister for African Affairs, Hamdy Loza called on European ambassadors accredited to Cairo to brief them on the latest negotiations on the GERD with Ethiopia.

During the meeting, Loza expressed Egypt’s dissatisfaction with the long-term negotiations. He pointed out that Egypt has presented to the Ethiopian side a fair presentation of the rules of filling and operating of the dam. 

According to Loza, the Egyptian proposal ensures achieving Ethiopia’s objectives in generating electricity from the GERD while preserving Egypt’s water interests, based on the previous discussions between the two countries and the commitments of the Declaration of Principles Agreement signed on 23 March 2015 in Khartoum.

Two weeks ago, Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Mohamed Abdel Aty said that Egypt has handed over the Egyptian vision regarding the filling of the reservoir of the GERD and its operation during flood and drought times, to Ethiopia and Sudan. 

The Egyptian vision stressed the importance of considering the flood situation in a cooperative framework and to achieve the objectives of Ethiopia to generate energy without harming Egyptian water interests.

During a workshop organised last week in Cairo by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the minister said “we hope to agree on the rules of filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which already took a long time.” 

He further stressed the importance of reaching a consensus in the interest of the Nile basin countries in order to achieve the goal of development in Ethiopia and not to bring serious harm to Egypt.

Construction of the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa (GERD) started in April 2011.  However, Egypt has expressed concerns that the construction of the GERD could negatively affect its historic Nile water share of 55bn cubic metres, which it has had access to since the historic 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan.

Egypt receives about 70% of its water flow from the Blue Nile and Atbara river, both sourced in the Ethiopian plateau, then merge as the main Nile in the northern Sudan. 

The Nile flow currently barely supplies 97% of Egypt’s present water needs with only 660 cubic metres per person, one of the world’s lowest annual per capita water shares. With a population expected to double in the next 50 years, Egypt is projected to have critical countrywide fresh water and food shortages by 2025, according to a study conducted by the Geological Society of America (GSA). 

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Researchers identify how a mammal’s brain drives behaviour  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/13/researchers-identify-how-a-mammals-brain-drives-behaviour/ Fri, 13 Sep 2019 07:20:51 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=707838 All information body sends to brain gets sent through spike trains

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Researchers at Finnish research centres have linked mammalian behaviour to its underlying neural code. In a recent paper published in the Neuron journal, researchers examined how mammals’ brains interpret signals from the eyes at low light levels.

The new study sheds light on a route to solve the two broad goals of neuroscience. The first goal is to read nerve signals and interpret what they mean to our brains. The second is to work out how our brain process these signals and decides what to do with them, to predict how we behave based on what we see.

All the information the body sends to the brain – like what we can see, hear, smell and feel – gets sent through nerves as electrical impulses called spike trains.

The rulebook for how the brain decodes spike trains is unknown. Figuring it out is made harder by the fact that the nervous system often carries the same message in many different ways. When the different versions of the same message reach the brain, it interprets all these signals together to decide how to behave. Professor Petri Ala-Laurila and his teams at Aalto University and the University of Helsinki have now been able to link behaviour in a mouse to specific spike-trains originating in its eyes.

The mice had been trained to swim towards an extremely faint light in a pitch-dark maze, and the team measured how effective the mice were at finding it. Darkness had to be used because it critically reduces the number of relevant spike trains to the two most sensitive spike trains to dim light: one called the ON channel and one called the OFF channel. By creating a scenario where there are a limited number of spike trains getting sent for a specific input, the team was able to isolate which individual spike train-controlled behaviour.

It is very difficult to carry out precise science experiments in complete darkness, so the team developed a unique repertoire of state-of-the-art techniques. They had to design ways to measure electrical signals originating from single photons through the neural tissue of the eye – the retina – and linked these signals to mouse behaviour in the maze. One of the breakthroughs is that the team can track mice in the dark using night-vision cameras and their deep-learning based software so accurately that they are able to predict with unprecedented resolution where photons land on each mouse’s retinas.

The light the mouse was trying to find was made dimmer each time, to the point that in the last few attempts only a few photons at a time were entering the mouse’s eyes.

The team compared two groups of mice. The first group of mice that did the task were ordinary laboratory mice. The second group had been genetically modified so that their most sensitive ON channel needs 10-fold more light to send a spike train than the most sensitive OFF channel. These modified mice turned out to be 10-fold worse at seeing the light than their unmodified cousins. Therefore, the researchers were able to prove their important discovery: individual spike trains going through the ON channel were responsible for the mouse seeing the light.

This result is the first time anyone has linked visual behaviour with this resolution to precise spike-codes coming from the retina. “This is like trying to translate a language,” Ala-Laurila explains. “Previously we were using a phrasebook: we knew what whole sentences meant but not the meaning of individual words. Now that we can link precise codes consisting of individual nerve impulses to behaviour, we are getting closer to understanding individual ‘words’.”

The result is highly relevant to researchers working on vision, but also broadly relevant to all neuroscientists working on perception, because of a surprising aspect of the result that overturned previously held beliefs in neurology. For 70 years, researchers have been using information theory to model how the brain handles different signals. 

One of the assumptions was that if the brain has to choose between two competing codes, it will rely on the signal that contains more information. In the case of the ON and OFF channels in vision in the genetically modified mice, the ON channel – which the team showed was key in controlling behaviour – contained less information. 

The ON channel increases the amount of nerve impulses it sends to the brain when it detects photons, whereas the OFF channel decreases its impulse rate. The research showed that behaviour relies only on messages that are encoded in increased impulse rate rather than decreased impulse rate. 

“This discovery is really exciting for all of neuroscience because it’s experimental proof of the brain prioritising information encoded in spikes rather than in the absence of spikes” says Lina Smeds, the PhD student at University of Helsinki who is first author of the paper.

The next steps for the Finnish groups are to measure if the same principles apply to more neural circuits and behavioural paradigms and to see if they also follow the same rules Ala-Laurila compares the discovery to that of the Rosetta Stone in terms of its applicability. 

“When the Rosetta Stone was discovered, it didn’t mean we could immediately understand ancient Egyptian language, but it gave researchers a tool that they used over the next two decades to finally translate Hieroglyphics. Likewise, this discovery does not mean we can immediately predict behaviour from sensory nerve signals, but it will mean we can now start to study what individual signals mean to the brain” Ala-Laurila concluded.

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Egypt’s land is 95% desert, country depends by 95% on Nile waters, says Abdel Aty https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/13/egypts-land-is-95-desert-country-depends-by-95-on-nile-waters-says-abdel-aty/ Fri, 13 Sep 2019 07:00:16 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=707823 Ethiopia soon to complete construction of largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, GERD

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Egypt is a desert, as 95% of the land in the country is desert and depends on the Nile river’s waters by 95%, said the Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Mohamed Abdel Aty. 

During the opening session of the regional workshop on supporting the implementation of the nationally determined contributions on climate change in the agriculture and water sectors, Abdel Aty added that Egypt’s arid environment makes water resources in the country sensitive to any projects or works that are not coordinated.

The workshop was organised on Sunday by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). 

He added that the lack of Egypt’s share of Nile water by 2% leads to degrading about 200,000 feddan, which may contribute to the increase of illegal migration.

The Nile flow now barely supplies 97% of Egypt’s present water needs with only 660 cubic metres per person, one of the world’s lowest annual per capita water shares. With a population expected to double in the next 50 years, Egypt is projected to have critical countrywide fresh water and food shortages by 2025, according to a study conducted by the Geological Society of America (GSA). 

“We hope to agree on the rules of filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which already took a long time,” Abdel Aty said, adding that reaching a consensus in the interest of all Nile basin countries in order to achieve the goal of development in Ethiopia and not to cause serious harm to Egypt.

Egypt receives about 70% of its water flow from the Blue Nile and Atbara river, both sourced in the Ethiopian plateau, then merge as the main Nile in northern Sudan. 

Ethiopia is shortly to complete construction of the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, its GERD. The large reservoir behind the dam is to be filled over a three to five-year or longer period, during which it is expected that the amount of Nile flow to the Sudan and Egypt and its delta will be substantially reduced. The dam, formerly known as the Millennium Dam, is under construction in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia, on the Blue Nile River. 

Construction of the Dam started in April 2011. However, Egypt has expressed concerns that the construction of the Renaissance Dam could negatively affect its historic Nile water share of 55bn sqm, which it has had access to since the historic 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan.

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Amazon fires linked to recent expansion of deforestation: experts https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/06/amazon-fires-linked-to-recent-expansion-of-deforestation-experts/ Fri, 06 Sep 2019 11:00:38 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=707227 Carbon dioxide released in August is the highest in a month since 2003: Copernicus

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The Amazon rainforests in South America are being hit by a wave of wildfires that have sparked global anxiety about the dangers the blue planet may experience from the spread of such fires in its densest tropical forest, known as the Earth’s lungs.

Asked about the increase in fires in the Amazon jungle, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro accused environmental groups of igniting some of these fires to embarrass his administration.

Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles blamed climate change for setting the Amazon fires on hold.

But researchers from Brazil and the UK, contacted by Daily News Egypt, said there is a piece of evidence that the growing fires are linked to the recent expansion of deforestation.

Unprecedented fire rate

The fires are regular in the Amazon region throughout the year, but what attracted international attention this time – and although it began in the annual fire season in August each year – is the unprecedented fire rate.

On 20 August, the Brazilian Space Agency published data indicating that the country has experienced 84,957 fires this year, so far, an increase of 75% over the number of fires detected in the same period last year. About 40,000 fires were in the Amazon rainforest alone. The largest number of active fires in Brazil’s history was recorded in 2010 due to drought and the El Nino phenomenon, recording 127,147 fires.

The European Union’s Copernicus climate change service says the carbon dioxide released in August is the highest in a month since 2003. The fires also triggered high levels of carbon monoxide and caused heavy smoke to cover major Brazilian cities, such as Sao Paulo, which is hundreds of kilometres away from the fire centre.

The Amazon rainforest covers the drainage basin of the Amazon river and its tributaries in northern South America on an area of ​​6m square kilometres, six times the size of Egypt. The Amazon forests comprise of about 40% of Brazil’s total area and are bordered by the Giana Heights to the north, the Andes to the west, the Central Brazilian Plateau to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.

The Amazon rainforest is the richest and most diverse ecosystem in the world, containing millions of species of insects, plants, birds, animals, flora, and other life forms, many of which are still not fully discovered. Nearly 400,000 indigenous South American tribes, the Amazon forests, are also home.

“The fire season in the Amazon has just begun and the fires will continue to flare up to December. There is also a long dry season forecast, so this could indicate more fires than in previous years (throughout the entire dry season),” Carly Reddington, a researcher in the Institute of Climate and Atmosphere at the University of Leeds, spoke to DNE’s science editor. 

Human fingerprints are apparent in the current fires, Reddington said, but she insists that the direct cause of the Amazon fires this year cannot be ascertained.

Moreover, Erika Berenguer, a senior research associate at the Ecosystems Lab at Oxford University, told DNE, “Fire is used as the endpoint of the deforestation process in the Amazon and as deforestation increases, so do fires. In the Amazon, to deforest an area, first, the forest is brought down by a tractor, then it is left to dry under the sun for a few weeks in the dry season. Once it becomes dry enough, it is set on fire, so the downed vegetation is turned to ashes and the area can be used for planting.”

Berenguer, who is also a visiting research associate at Lancaster University, added, “Since May this year we have seen a severe increase in deforestation in the region, according to data from the Brazilian Space Agency, so it is not a surprise that now we are seeing an increase in fires – the forests that were chopped down in the previous months are being set alight to give way to agriculture.”

Deliberate destruction

Paolo Mutino, an ecologist at the Amazon Institute for Environmental Research in Brazil (IPAM), said in an interview with Scientific American that most of the fires this year are not wildfires, but the result of increased waves of desertification and deforestation, especially as people use fire to clean up areas that have been deforested illegally. “Therefore, the current drought cannot be blamed for the high number of fires in the region. The drought is not severe this year compared to the last four years,” Mutino added.

Humberto Barbosa, a Brazilian researcher at the University of Arizona and a co-author of this year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on drought, categorically denies that the drought season has a key role to play in increasing fires in the Amazon this year. He said in media statements that the region has been hit by more severe droughts in previous years, however, the number of fires and the intensity were less than this year.

“The fact that fires are concentrated in newly deforested areas in a period of mild drought is indicative of the deliberate nature of fires, especially for clearing deforested areas,” he said.

“There has been speculation in the media and elsewhere that smallholder farmers felt more comfortable to start the fires because the government led by President Bolsonaro made no efforts to prevent this. However, as far as I know, you cannot comment on the possible political causes of an increase in burning, but what we do know is that almost all the fires in the Amazon have been ignited by humans,” Reddington noted.

The amount of forest area burned by these fires has not yet been estimated to compare with the effects of previous years’ fires, meaning that the size of the fires varies greatly and there may be many smaller fires this year.

It indicates that the burned area will be estimated using satellite data by scientists at the end of the dry season. A good indicator for estimating the intensity and magnitude of fires is how much carbon dioxide is released by fire, which Copernicus is currently monitoring.

Although Article 250 of the Brazilian Penal Code considers the practice of burning forests a crime that can be punishable by 3-6 years imprisonment and a fine, the Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) in Brazil notes government leniency in applying these sanctions. In 2019, fines were also reduced by 38%.

According to the Institute, ignoring the application of penalties for environmental offences has placed the protected areas under law, such as indigenous lands and protected areas targeted by fires, at great risk.

Long-term impacts

In addition to the environmental effects of fires, researchers are also concerned about health and climatic effects. One of the fires in the state of Rondônia caused a plume of smoke billowing thousands of kilometres to Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city.

Impacts from deforestation or fire include affecting biodiversity by loss of natural habitats, reduced opportunities for carbon storage, lower rainfall, and increased drought. Rains in the Amazon depend on water released by deep-rooted trees, according to Redington.

A large number of gases are released into the atmosphere from the fire, and these can have long-term climatic effects from long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, as well as short-term climate and weather effects such as particles. Gases that react with sunlight or short-lived greenhouse gases, such as methane.

Toxic molecules and gases from combustion can also have adverse effects on human health when we inhale these molecules and gases in our lungs.

Mutino stressed that deforestation and burning will reduce the number of trees evaporating. In other words, a decrease in the amount of water released by the forest into the atmosphere, which will affect the region’s rain system and its negative impact on agriculture in Brazil.

Berenguer told DNE that greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation are a larger contributor to climate change, so by chopping down and then burning the Amazon we are actually accelerating climate change. 

“It is vital to keep the forest standing if the world is to achieve our target of an increase of only 1.5C in temperature, as per the Paris Agreement. In addition, the Amazon houses an enormous amount of biodiversity – for example, there are 16,000 tree species in the region, with new species being discovered every year – just the Amazon has more tree species than the whole of Europe. By deforesting it we are putting these species in danger of extinction,” she said. 

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Atef Moatamed: a geographer with a sense of adventurer https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/08/30/atef-moatamed-a-geographer-with-a-sense-of-adventure/ Fri, 30 Aug 2019 12:00:29 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=706564 Some provincial universities in Russia are less efficient, primarily aim to make profit

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Atef Moatamed is a professor of physical geography at Cairo University and founder/director of the House of Geography for geographic studies. Despite being specialised in geomorphology, his research into political geography has seen him received a national award for his book about his sightings in Russia. He was Egypt’s cultural advisor in Russia from 2014 to 2016. Moatamed also translated several important writings, and supervised 20 masters and PhD theses.  

Daily News Egypt met with Moatamed to learn more about his journey with geography and his experience in Russia. The interview is below, lightly edited for clarity:

  

Was it always your intention to study physical geography? If not, what made you do? 

After graduation, geographers have to choose between physical geography and humanistic geography.

Preliminary research was conducted on the relationship of human interventions to pollution in the northern lakes. At the introductory stage, I found that humanistic geography is not easy as some would imagine.

The monopoly of some professors of geographic disciplines made the picture that if you are not studying the urban geography you are not humanistic geographer, and if you are not studying geomorphology you are not doing physical geography.

One of my difficulties was obtaining data. The statements are either top secret or the specialist refuses to disclose them.

I found physical geography easier for me and I did my masters in physical geography about an area, called the Arab’s Bay, west Alexandria. This area was not well studied before.

After getting my masters degree, I received a scholarship from post-Soviet Russia in geography. At that time, I received many warnings about the situation in Russia because it was a turbulent period (5 years after the breakdown of the Soviet Union). Prof Sobhi Abdel Hakim advised me to travel, saying: You will find geomorphology everywhere, but Russia will be only found in Russia.

I chose the topic for my PhD thesis on the geomorphology of Halayib and Shalateen. I started my research at Cairo University and continued at Saint Petersburg State University, after the approval of my supervisor at the Faculty of Geography there. Halayib was a very nice place with friendly people and rich geography.

After my travel, it became clear to me that all the warnings I heard before my trip was correct, as most of the teachers emigrated and the labs were in poor condition. I took three years to complete my doctorate.

 

You started off studying physical geography at university, what made you interested in geopolitics?

 

The exposure! To be exposed to something like an important event. I was in Russia in a very critical period following the breakdown of the Soviet Union, in addition to the second Chechen war from 1997 to 2001. By then, the aftermath of the war in Chechnya had moved to the heart of Russian cities. From time to time, there were bombings, arrests, or clashes. Also, I was an eyewitness to the newly formed state in Russia. Because of my stay in Russia, I woke up to a sense of geopolitics. 

On the other hand, I paid a very high price as I was exposed to xenophobia because of my colour. At that time, all coloured people were not welcome. There is no contradiction between the two majors [geomorphology and geopolitics]. Nevertheless, physical geography is the base for all geopolitical ideas, and the political geographers need to understand the physical geography very well. 

You travel a lot, how important are “trips” for a geographer?

 

Anyone with a passion for a place can do some of what the geographer is doing, even if he has not been geographically educated. Stages based on data collection, classification, and analysis, if they are limited to reading and researching books and statistics, it could contribute to creating a researcher with insights and perspectives, but not necessarily 100% accurate because his work lacks photographs, maps, and findings of fieldwork. Like many studies of Gamal Hamdan whose work was mainly based on theoretical writing without actually knowing the reality of terrain in the ground.

Trips can benefit you and your work. Imagine a teacher who tells his students about the places he actually visited. However, there is a difference between visits and trips. A visit needs someone who acts as tourist and just does the watching, while the trip is based on adventure as you spent time and money. In geography, the one could not be recognised as a real geographer, if he has not travelled.       

 

Is geography a science?

Geographers used to ask this question: what is geography? It is a puzzling question for all people. We can say that the branches adopted by geographies, such as physical geography, geomorphology, hydrology, and geography of soil, are science. Anything subject to the scientific method, such as data collection, analysis, testing, findings, theories, and results, is science.

It happens that sometimes the means of expressing the results that geographers use gives the wrong impression that geography is not science, meaning that whenever a geographer is drowned in the description and speaking in a language that tends to literature, it is normal for people to receive geographic knowledge as a kind of trip literature.

 

We must also distinguish between geography by people who are not scientists, and geography by geographers. I believe that the future of geography and its importance is in making geographic knowledge a companion and a tool for all human beings. One of the manifestations of the importance of geography is that the European colonialism (in the era of geographical discoveries) succeeded in its colonial tasks by depending on gunpowder and maps. 

Geography is closer to the cultural composition of the common man, while it is science in the scientific community. However, the excessive use of the word geography on each direction of research, such as the geography of elections or medical geography, negatively affects geography. There should be an umbrella for these research trends, the umbrella of geography.

  

Does Egypt need all those geography graduates? And how can we improve geographic education?

Strangely enough, Egypt needs a hundred times as many graduates from geography departments. For example, Egypt needs a large number of graduates of geography departments to work in teaching geography in schools, and in geographic information systems, maps, and surveys. 

It seems that there is congestion in the numbers of graduates because the labour market is not able to absorb the numbers, but the truth is there is no labour market. The situation should be as follows: open a labour market and then demand graduates, but the reality is the opposite; many graduates and no labour market. But Egypt needs a hundred times of the current number of geographers.

As for the development of geographical education, there is a very big problem that many professors are unsuitable to teach and the best for them may be to devote themselves to research.

Attention must be paid to the teaching of geography in the early stages of education. There is a problem in education curriculum besides the limited trips for students and poor tools of geographical education. We can say that 80% of the problems in geography education in Egypt are at schools, and the rest emerges in the university.

Another very important problem is that one form of geographic education is to expand the teaching of geographic work tools, such as GIS and surveying. Geography departments are graduating specialists in drawing and space tools that any non-geographic graduate can learn through an intensive course. Some students believe that by joining the geography department, they can work as a space engineer, which is not true. 

We hope that the state establishes a geographic institute, which includes an elite group of scientists and researchers dedicated to scientific research, totalling 100 scientists conducting field studies, preparing the national atlas and national maps, conducting national researches and studies, holding the national geographic conference, and exploring Egypt, as Egypt is not explored yet by geographers.

 

You are the founder of the House of Geography, can you tell us about the forum and the idea behind it?  

The name of the forum was inspired by the name of the Italian Geographical Society called “House of Geography”. It aimed to provide geographers with data, as well as to provide a cultural component of geography to non-specialists. The forum is a non-profit and self-financing entity. It is good that some professors gave us their books and papers for publication on our website. The forum offers presentations for books and provides research and studies in geography and geographical heritage. 

You served as Egypt’s cultural advisor to Russia, can you tell us about this experience?

I worked as cultural advisor of the embassy of Egypt in Russia from 2014 to 2016. It was possible to extend my work there, but I preferred to return to academic and research work. I was an eyewitness to the development of cultural relations between Egypt and Russia. I tried to make contacts between several universities in both sides, such as the agreement between Tanta University and Astrakhan University, Cairo University and Moscow University, and other agreements among Egyptian and Russian universities.

The aim of these agreements is to facilitate the exchange of students and researchers between universities in both countries. During my career, I tried to change stereotypes about Egypt among Russian students and worked on several exhibitions to introduce Egypt’s history and culture to children.

  

Recently, thousands of Egyptian students are heading to Russian universities, what do you think attracts them to study in Russia?

Russia, like other European countries and America, has opened its universities to foreign students as a primary source of funding for these universities. There are many differenced between universities of Russia, America, and Europe in terms of expenses, but not admission. 

During my time as a cultural advisor, I have prepared a list of the best universities in Russia, such as Moscow University, St. Petersburg State University, Kazan University, and Tomsk University. The problem is that some provincial universities in Russia are less efficient, aim primarily to make profit, and spread Russian language and culture among foreigners.

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“Lungs of Earth” on fire, Brazilian President mobilises army to help contain crisis https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/08/24/lungs-of-earth-on-fire-brazilian-president-mobilises-army-to-help-contain-crisis/ Sat, 24 Aug 2019 20:36:25 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=705982 More than 75,000 fires were recorded across the Brazilian part of Amazon forest 

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced on Friday night that he would send armed forces to fight the fires in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest which drew the world’s attention in the past week, saying “the protection of the forest is our duty.”

Bolsonaro’s statements came just a few hours before the beginning of the G7 meetings in France. The G7 leaders have threatened to tear up a trade deal with South America over the Amazon fire.

After the release of documents that show that the Brazilian president is willing to hinder the conservation efforts in the Amazon rainforests to build bridges, motorway, and hydroelectric plants in the jungle, many bodies and environmental activists accused him of burning the jungles. 

Defending himself, Bolsonaro accused non-governmental organisations of setting the jungles on fire in order to embarrass his government. 

“We are aware of that and will act to combat deforestation and criminal activities that put people at risk in the Amazon…We are a government of zero tolerance for crime, and in the environmental field it will not be different,” he said in a presidential decree.

Amazon rainforests is the world’s largest rainforest, which covers more than 2.1m sqkm. It is referred to as the “lungs of Earth”. The forest produces between 6-20% of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.

More than half of the world’s estimated 10m species of plants, animals, and insects live in the tropical rainforests in the Amazon Basin.

According to the Brazilian space agency (INPE), more than 75,000 fires were recorded across the Brazilian part of the Amazon forest. The new data showed an increase of 84% compared to last year. 

The Amazon fire ignited an international row between Brazil in a side and France and Ireland on the other side. Both countries threatened to oppose the European Union (EU) trade deal with a regional South American bloc.

“Our house is burning, literally. The Amazon rainforest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.  

German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said that the trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur, the economic and political bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, “cannot be justified without guarantees that the rainforest will be protected.”

The US President Donald Trump said that he had spoken with the Brazilian president. He tweeted: “Our future Trade prospects are very exciting and our relationship is strong, perhaps stronger than ever before.” 

Trump added: “I told him [Bolsonaro] if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!”

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New study links neuropsychiatric disorders to pollution https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/08/21/new-study-links-neuropsychiatric-disorders-to-pollution/ Wed, 21 Aug 2019 21:14:31 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=705714 Poor air quality is associated with higher rates of bipolar disorder, major depression 

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Researchers are increasingly studying the effects of environmental insults on psychiatric and neurological conditions, motivated by emerging evidence from environmental events like the record-breaking smog that has choked New Delhi two years ago. 

In a new study published recently in the PLOS Biology journal, an international group of researchers from the US and Denmark used large data sets to suggest a possible link between exposure to environmental pollution and an increase in the prevalence of psychiatric disorders.

The team found that poor air quality was associated with higher rates of bipolar disorder and major depression in both US and Danish populations. The trend appeared even stronger in Denmark, where exposure to polluted air during the first ten years of a person’s life also predicted a more than two-fold increase in schizophrenia and personality disorders.

Computational biologist Atif Khan, the study’s first author, said the study shows that living in polluted areas, especially early in life, is predictive of mental disorders in both the US and Denmark. He added that “the physical environment – in particular air quality – warrants more research to better understand how our environment is contributing to neurological and psychiatric disorders.”

Although mental illnesses like schizophrenia develop due to a complex interplay of genetic predispositions and life experiences or exposures, genetics alone do not account entirely for variations in mental health and disease. Researchers have long suspected that genetic, neurochemical, and environmental factors interact at different levels to affect the onset, severity, and progression of these illnesses.

Growing evidence is beginning to provide insight into how components of air pollution can be toxic to the brain. Recent studies on rodents suggest that environmental agents like ambient small particulate matter (fine dust) travel to the brain through the nose and lungs, while animals exposed to pollution have also shown signs of cognitive impairment and depression-like behavioural symptoms. 

Andrey Rzhetsky, the lead author of the new study, said, “We hypothesised that pollutants might affect our brains through neuroinflammatory pathways that have also been shown to cause depression-like signs in animal studies.”

To quantify air pollution exposure among individuals in the US, the University of Chicago team relied on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s measurements of 87 air quality measurements. For individuals in Denmark, they used a national pollution register that tracked a smaller number of pollutants with much higher spatial resolution.

The researchers then examined two population data sets, the first being a US health insurance claims database that included 11 years of claims for 151 million individuals. The second dataset consisted of all 1.4 million individuals born in Denmark from 1979 through 2002 who were alive and residing in Denmark at their tenth birthday. 

Because Danes are assigned unique identification numbers that can link information from various national registries, the researchers were able to estimate exposure to air pollution at the individual level during the first 10 years of their life. In the US study, exposure measurements were limited to the county level. “We strived to provide validation of association results in independent large datasets,” said Rzhetsky.

Rzhetsky also cautioned that the significant associations between air pollution and psychiatric disorders discovered in the study do not necessarily mean causation, and said that further research is needed to assess whether any neuroinflammatory impacts of air pollution share common pathways with other stress-induced conditions.

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Aswan High Dam ready for new flood in 2019/20 water year: Irrigation Ministry https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/08/21/aswan-high-dam-ready-for-new-flood-in-2019-20-water-year-irrigation-ministry/ Wed, 21 Aug 2019 21:05:00 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=705682 Nile flow provides 97% of Egypt’s water needs

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Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Mohamed Abdel-Aty, led a meeting of the Permanent Regulatory Committee of the Nile Flow and the ministry’s executive bodies on Tuesday to discuss preparations for the flood season. 

A report by the committee stressed that the Aswan High Dam is ready to receive the new flood of 2019/20 water year. The water year begins in August as the water levels start to rise due to a flood from the Abyssinian plateau, passing through Khartoum before reaching the Nasser Lake. 

Egypt took all necessary measures and completed maintenance works of the dam in preparation for the flood, the ministry’s spokesperson Mohamed Sebaei said.

 

During the meeting, Eman El Sayed, head of the ministry’s planning sector, said the flood forecasting centre has been following rain forecast maps of the Nile River’s headwaters since the beginning of August. She added that the rainfall situation on the Blue Nile Basin is still around the average so far.

Ahmed Bahaa, head of the ministry’s Nile sector, said rains on northern Sudan is not an indicator of the river flow, noting that the current flows are still less than those of the same period last year, and it is too early to predict the volume of the new flood and it is better to wait until the end of September for a more clear vision.

Egypt is depending on the annual Nile flow (55.5bn cubic meters) to secure about 97% of its present water needs with only 660 cubic metres per capita, one of the world’s lowest annual per capita water shares. Meanwhile, Ethiopia continues constructing its Grand Renaissance Dam, which is believed to threaten Egypt’s water security.

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Ministry of Environment has a plan for “black clouds season” https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/08/17/ministry-of-environment-has-a-plan-for-black-clouds-season/ Sat, 17 Aug 2019 17:45:31 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=705219 Plan includes coordination with Ministry of Agriculture to collect and recycle rice straw

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Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad reviewed on Friday, her ministry’s plan to combat the black cloud and the preparations for the Rice harvest season and its impacts on the quality of air.

Egypt faces a cloud of smog every year dubbed “black clouds” following the rice harvesting, in summer months. The black cloud is a result of burning huge amounts of rice straw in the cultivated land in the Nile Delta.

During a meeting with the ministry’s officials, Fouad discussed procedures for combating severe air pollution periods. These procedures include coordination between governorates to stop activities that contaminate the environment, inspect industrial buildings, and prevent waste burning.

The plan also includes coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture to collect and recycle rice straw, as well as guiding farmers on how to benefit from rice straw.

During a meeting with the heads of the ministry’s sectors, Fouad stressed the importance of implementing the agricultural waste recycling system, to exploit the maximum available benefit from it through innovative tools and solutions.

The ministry is working on setting rules to enable youth and private sector to engage in the environmental sector, raising the environmental awareness, providing job opportunities, and providing funds for environmental investment, in addition to pointing out to stories of success in the environmental work. 

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New study shows shark populations declined due to industrial fishing https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/08/07/new-study-shows-shark-populations-declined-due-to-industrial-fishing/ Wed, 07 Aug 2019 07:30:00 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=704683 Marine predators are significantly smaller and much rarer in areas closer to people

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A team of researchers, led by international conservation charity Zoological Society of London (ZSL), has discovered that sharks are much rarer in habitats close to large human populations and fish markets, where sharks are caught and killed intensively for their meat and fins.

The study, published today in the journal PLOS Biology, shows that the average body size and number of sharks and other marine predators – vital to maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems – fell significantly in proximity to cities with more than 10,000 populations and associated with fishing fleets.

The minimum distance from people and fishing which would protect sharks from being affected was 1,250 kilometres. This is far further than previous studies have suggested and probably reflects the increased distances fishing boats can now travel. As a result, sharks were only observed at 12% of sites monitored.

Interestingly, researchers also found that sea surface temperature had a strong influence on predators’ average body size, with a marked decrease at more than 28°C. While this is consistent with normal biogeographic patterns – it is known that many smaller species live in tropical waters, for example – it could become a problem as global temperatures continue to rise.

Lead author Tom Letessier, of ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, said: “Human activity is now the biggest influence on sharks’ distribution, overtaking every other ecological factor. Just 13% of the world’s oceans can be considered ‘wilderness’ but sharks and other predators are much more common and significantly larger at distances greater than 1,250 kilometres away from people. This suggests that large marine predators are generally unable to thrive near to people and is another clear example of the impact of human overexploitation on our seas.”

To collect their data, the team analysed video footage taken at 1,041 sites across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, selected to test the biggest possible range of conditions and habitats. Sites varied in proximity to fish markets and human populations, with some close to cities and others up to 1,500 kilometres away. Sharks – and other free-swimming predators – were studied using cameras attached to bait-filled canisters. In total the team recorded 23,200 animals representing 109 species. These included 841 individual sharks from 19 different species.

“From monitoring the coral reefs that surround British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) to protecting the last breeding grounds of Critically Endangered angel sharks, ZSL is committed to preserving the oceans’ habitats and the wildlife they sustain,” the study said, adding that, “Just one year away from the UN’s Aichi Biodiversity targets end date, there remain considerable shortcomings in the current placement of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Letessier added: “Our study also found that shallower water habitats, of depths less than 500 metres, were vital for marine predator diversity. We, therefore, need to identify sites that are both shallow and remote and prioritise them for conservation. However, there are still numerous shallow hotspots in the vicinity of human markets that are not appropriately protected, and this must change. Existing large, no-take MPAs need to be better enforced and extended to focus on the last refuges where these extraordinary animals remain abundant.”

According to the World Wide Fund, Sharks, the majestic top predators that are so essential to the natural order of marine ecosystems now face their most severe threat from overfishing. Many species are threatened with extinction, with some families of rays such as sawfishes in peril.

“Large marine predators – and sharks in particular – play a unique and irreplaceable role in the ocean ecosystem. They control populations of prey species, keep those populations healthy by removing sick or injured animals, and transport nutrients between loosely connected habitats over vast distances,” Letessier concluded.

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“Shagrha” campaigners aim to plant 1 million fruit trees by 2030 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/08/07/shagarha-campaigners-aim-to-plant-1-million-fruit-trees-by-2030/ Wed, 07 Aug 2019 07:00:02 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=704681 Al-Deeb dreams of seeing everyone eating from the fruit trees and combat hunger

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In April 2016, Petroleum engineer Omar El-Deeb started his initiative “Shagrha” (Make it Green), the idea came into his mind, when he saw people eating fruits from trees close to his house in Al-Obour City East of Cairo. 

Al-Deeb says that the area around his house was barren, but now it has more than 200 fruit trees, as part of an initiative to encourage people to plant fruit-bearing trees.

Al-Deeb dreams of seeing everyone eating from the fruit trees and combat hunger, so his campaign focused on planting lemon, raspberry, pomegranate, and peach trees. While making the produced fruits accessible to everyone, “anyone can pick up what he wants,” he said.

The team of “Shagrha” campaigners initially cleaned the area, got rid of the accumulated trash, sowed the seeds and planted seedling trees.

The campaign managed to plant more than 50,000 fruit trees since its start. They were planted in 11 governorates across Egypt, additionally, the campaign also tackled urban agriculture, by planting around 3,000 roofs and balconies. Participation was not exclusively Egyptian, people in Yemen, Tunisia and Jordan also took part in the campaign.

Al-Deeb told Daily News Egypt that the main goals of his campaign are to spread the culture of planting fruit trees in streets and public places instead of ornamental trees, spreading the idea of roof and balcony planting, and facing the impacts of climate change. 

On the economic side, a single seedling or seed cost less than one dollar, but it pays off for decades. Accordingly, members of the initiative hope that the increased availability of free fruits will ultimately lower prices.

At least for the time being, the initiative offers access to fruit even for people who can not buy it from stores.

Shagrha has a team of 15 to 20 members. Currently, they do not receive any financial support, but Omar says that the Egyptian Ministry of Environment encourages them, but their work still volunteering-dependant. 

“The entire world is striving to combat climate change, and in Egypt there too many people who believe in the campaign’s objectives and the necessity of combating climate change,” El-Deeb said. 

He added that his campaign is a leading initiative in combating climate change and raising awareness about the topic in Egypt. 

The campaign had successful events with the European Union Delegation in Egypt, as well as several Egyptian private universities and schools.

Omar and his colleagues aim to plant 100,000 fruit trees by 2020, and 1 million fruit trees by 2030. In his opinion, this is possible and is a rational target lies within arm’s reach.

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Minister of Environment discusses funding climate projects by GCF https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/08/01/minister-of-environment-discusses-funding-climate-projects-by-gcf/ Wed, 31 Jul 2019 22:55:06 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=704131 Fouad renewed support for making Sharm El-Sheikh a green city 

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The Minister of Environment, Yasmine Fouad, discussed on Wednesday with Yannick Glemarec the executive director of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the mechanisms of funding a number of priority projects in Egypt and African countries.

The meeting reviewed obstacles which African countries are facing in order to get financing from the fund. Discussions also stressed the need to consider the views of developing countries in the preparation of the strategic plan of the fund.

Fouad stressed that the integrated coordination of the three international environmental conventions on climate change, desertification and biodiversity, is imperative to achieve the goals of sustainable development. 

The GCF was established to support low-emissions and climate-resilient development in developing countries. It is part of the financial mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and serves the Paris Agreement. 

On Tuesday, the minister of environment, reviewed the ministry’s plan for developing the protected areas, especially the Blue Hole area in south Sinai. In a meeting with the Governor of south Sinai, Khaled Fouda, the minister discussed the plan of developing the region because of its touristic importance. 

The plan includes the management of marine activities in two regions in terms of map distribution of marine activities and capacity of the two areas of visitors, and the inventory and legalisation of the existing cafeterias in the region.

Fouad renewed her ministry’s support for making Sharm El-Sheikh a green city in a project funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to set a model of the sustainable city. The UNDP will also find international funds for Egypt. 

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Scientists forecast where volcano would erupt https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/07/31/scientists-forecast-where-volcano-would-erupt/ Wed, 31 Jul 2019 12:40:49 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=704087 New method to forecast vents tested on one of Earth's highest-risk volcanoes

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Every time we see an eruption of a volcano on TV or the internet, we notice that the magma shoots right out of its top. However, it is not so uncommon that the magma erupts from the volcano’s flank rather than its summit. After leaving the underground magma chamber, the magma forces its way sideways by fracturing rocks, sometimes for tens of kilometres. 

Then, when it breaches the Earth’s surface, it forms one or more vents from which it spills out, sometimes explosively. This, for example, occurred at Bardarbunga in Iceland in August 2014, and Kilauea in Hawaii in August 2018.

It is a big challenge for volcanologists to guess where magma is heading and where it will breach the surface. A lot of effort is spent on this task as it could help minimise the risk for villages and cities endangered by eruptions. Now, Eleonora Rivalta and her team from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, together with colleagues from the Roma Tre University and the Vesuvius Observatory of the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia in Naples have devised a new method to generate vent location forecasts. The study is published in the Science Advances journal.

“Previous methods were based on the statistics of the locations of past eruptions. Our method combines physics and statistics: we calculate the paths of least resistance for ascending magma and tune the model based on statistics,” says Rivalta, the first author of the paper. 

The researchers successfully tested the new approach with data from the Campi Flegrei caldera in Italy, one of the Earth’s highest-risk volcanoes, and it often looks like a lawn covered in molehills. 

Vents opened at the flank of a volcano are often used by just one eruption. All volcanoes may produce such one-time vents, but some do more than others. Their flanks are punctured by tens of vents whose alignment marks the locations where subsurface magma pathways have intersected the Earth’s surface.

At calderas, that is large cauldron-like hollow that forms shortly after the emptying of a magma chamber in a volcanic eruption, vents may also open inside and on its rim. That is because they lack a summit to focus eruptions. “Calderas often look like a lawn covered in molehills”, said Rivalta.

Most vents at calderas have only been used once. The resulting scattered, sometimes seemingly random spatial vent distribution threatens wide areas, presenting a challenge to volcanologists who draw forecast maps for the location of future eruptions. Such maps are also necessary for accurate forecasts of lava and pyroclastic flows or the expansion of ash plumes.

Vent forecast maps have so far been mainly based on the spatial distribution of past vents: “Volcanologists often assume that the volcano will behave like it did in the past”, Rivalta noted, adding that the problem is that often only a few tens of vents are visible on the volcano surface as major eruptive episodes tend to cover or obliterate past eruptive patterns. Hence, as mathematically sophisticated as the procedure can be, sparse data leads to coarse maps with large uncertainties. Moreover, the dynamics of a volcano may change with time, so that vent locations will shift.”

That is why Rivalta, a trained physicist, together with a team of geologists and statisticians, used volcano physics to improve the forecasts. “We employ the most up-to-date physical understanding of how magma fractures rock to move underground and combine it with a statistical procedure and knowledge of the volcano structure and history. We tune the parameters of the physical model until they match previous eruptive patterns. Then, we have a working model and can use it to forecast future eruption locations”, Rivalta said.

The new approach was applied in southern Italy to the Campi Flegrei, a caldera close to Naples, which has a population of nearly one million. In the more than 10 kilometres wide caldera, about 80 vents have fed explosive eruptions in the last 15,000 years. The approach performs well in retrospective tests, that correctly forecast the location of vents that were not used to tune the model, the researchers report.

“The most difficult part was to formulate the method in a way that works for all volcanoes and not just one – to generalise it”, Rivalta explained. “We will now perform more tests. If our method works well on other volcanoes too, it may help planning land usage in volcanic areas and forecasting the location of future eruptions with a higher certainty than previously possible,” the author noted.

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Egypt’s water share to decline by 5bn m3: Ministry of Irrigation https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/07/31/egypts-water-share-to-decline-by-5bn-m3-ministry-of-irrigation/ Wed, 31 Jul 2019 12:33:09 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=704084 Ministry of Irrigation declared state of emergency over water situation 

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The ministry of water resources and irrigation announced recently that the flood of the river Nile will decline by the end of the current water year, decreasing Egypt’s share of water by about 5bn cubic metres (m3) of water. The ministry declared a state of emergency over the water situation. 

Egypt is depending on the Nile flow (55.5bn m3) to provide about 97% of its present water needs with only 660 m3 per person, one of the world’s lowest annual per capita water shares. Meanwhile, Ethiopia is going ahead in constructing the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is believed to threaten Egypt’s water security. 

The ministry said that the Nile Forecast Center (NFC) has reviewed, analysed, and evaluated the flood situation over the years through mathematical models, extrapolating the results and extracting predictions of Nile flooding as a major water resource in Egypt. 

Spokesperson of the ministry of irrigation, Mohammed Sebaey, told Daily News Egypt that the NFC estimated the expected amount of rainfall in the upstream countries of the Nile river basin and found a decline in the amount of rainfall in the upstream countries where Egypt gets its water. 

Sebaey said that the Supreme Committee of the Nile Water Flow has set a number of measures as part of the national strategy for water to cope with these changes. He added that these measures include decreasing the amount of water used in agriculture by decreasing the area of some crops which consume high amounts of water such as rice and sugarcane. 

In the upcoming 30 years, Egypt’s population is estimated to reach 150 million, which will lead to a decrease in the per capita share of water to be 350 m3/year. 

 

During the ceremony of the World Water Day in March, The Minister of Irrigation and Water Resource Mohammed Abdel Aty said that Egypt is on the brink of a water crisis. He called on the people to “concern” themselves about the Egypt’s water security.

He added that this “concern” will “push us to work on solutions for the crisis” in order to avoid a crisis similar to what had recently happened in South Africa. South Africa faced a serious water crisis and it was about to reach the “day zero” of water.

 

The minister clarified that climate change will negatively affect Egypt’s underground water stock in the Nile Delta. He noted that the country is working on desalination projects to cope with the crisis, stating that “Egypt will become the biggest country in reusing water globally”, clarifying that the budget of Egypt’s water projects reached $50bn.

  

Moreover, the minister said that the strategy of his ministry is based on four objects: first, enhancing the quality of water; second, decreasing using water and enhancing the process of use; then developing the water resources; and finally, providing a suitable environment for integral water management.  

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Climate change threatens adaptation capability of 17 animal species https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/07/24/climate-change-threatens-adaptation-capability-of-17-animal-species/ Wed, 24 Jul 2019 19:50:50 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=703406 We should switch to green energy, reduce air flights, meat consumption, says new study

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Animal species are trying to adapt to warming temperatures by advancing their laying dates. Such “phenologic” responses in an animal’s life cycle, including breeding and migration, are adaptable to different climatic conditions, meaning that they have fitness benefits, for example, achieving the highest breeding output.

However, a new study suggests that climate is changing to the point where it is difficult for some animal species to be able to adjust quickly enough to match the rate of change.

The study was published on Tuesday in the Nature Communications journal and prepared by researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin, Germany.

To assess the animal species’ response to climate change, researchers used more than 10,000 scientific summaries and 71 studies covering 17 species in 13 countries, especially birds.

Although some species offer seasonal life cycles in response to high temperatures, these adaptive changes may not occur at a rate that ensures long-term survival of some species. The study shows that some species can adapt to climate change by changing their life cycle, but only if there is enough genetic variation or flexibility in their behaviour and evolution.

Populations of European roe deer, song sparrow, common murre, and Eurasian magpie were among those at risk.

Climate change has meant that species’ historical phenology is mismatched to the current climate. Species can potentially respond by altering their phenology, but only if there is sufficient genetic variation or plasticity in their behaviour and development.

Viktoriia Radchuk, from the IZW and first author of the paper, told Daily News Egypt that the study shows that bird species respond to warming temperatures by advancing their laying dates. Such earlier phenological responses are adaptive, meaning they are associated with fitness benefits, for example higher reproductive output. 

However, these adaptive responses are not sufficient to ensure long-term species’ persistence. So, even though species adapt to climate change, the pace of such responses is not fast enough to guarantee population viability.

 

“We conducted a systematic literature review and identified more than 10,000 abstracts satisfying our search criteria. Next, we skimmed these abstracts to identify the studies that report all the data necessary to assess whether the species’ responses to climate change are adaptive,” she said.  

Radchuk added that she and her team then either extracted the needed data directly from the publications or contacted the authors of the original studies and asked them to share the data with us. This data was then analysed by a meta-analysis type of statistical analysis that allows for making inferences across the studies on different species and different locations.

 

The researcher noted that their findings are important because they have demonstrated that phenological responses (for example, the responses related to the timing of biological events, for example egg laying) of birds to climate change are, on average, adaptive. Previous studies demonstrated that, across many taxa, phenology is shifting to earlier dates in response to climate change, but we did not know whether such phenological shifts are adaptive, whether they correspond to fitness benefits. 

“Here we could show that for many species such earlier phenological responses associated with climate change correspond to fitness benefits, and thus, are adaptive. However, the significance of our findings lay in the fact that, although species show adaptive responses, they are not fast enough to ensure population persistence on the long term. So, despite phenological responses being adaptive, the populations of the majority of study species are at risk,” Radchuk explained. 

 

The first ideas of the paper started forming during the workshop “Species adaptations to global change – a comprehensive risk assessment” in Potsdam (7-8 December 2014), which was led by the study’s co-author Kirsten Thonicke, according to Radchuk. 

“That winter, I also started with the literature search and abstract skimming. The analyses and writing up were finished at the end of 2017. Then it took us some rejections and a few rounds of revisions until the paper was finally accepted in May 2019. So, all together it took around four and a half years from the initiation of this study until its acceptance,” said Radchuk. 

 

Explaining the way in which animals can respond sufficiently to climate change, the author said, “By tracking perfectly the shifting optimum phenotype, which is caused by changing climate. However, our study shows that this tracking is imperfect, so that the phenotypic changes are not happening as fast as would be needed to track the shifting optimum phenotype.”

Regarding the most affected species, the study focused on the species for which the researchers found the publications reporting all the data necessary to assess whether the responses were adaptive. The literature search demonstrated that such data are predominantly available for birds, therefore our conclusions are based on bird species and only a mammal species. 

The researcher’s dataset included 17 species and this is not a large enough sample to cover species with different life history traits, therefore we could not assess whether there are particular traits that are associated with species being more at risk. Also, the majority of the studies are coming from the northern hemisphere, so we do not know whether these conclusions would hold for the species from southern hemisphere. 

Importantly, the researchers show that for majority of the studied species the actual lag behind the optimum phenotype exceeds the critical lag, indicating substantial extinction risk. “What is worrisome is that our study species are mainly common ones, so that the conclusions for rare species will likely be even more pessimistic,” noted Radchuk.

In order to save the species, we should aim to halt, if not reduce, the rate of climate change, according to the researcher. She explained that there are different ways to achieve this task, and these ways depend on whether we are talking about what a single individual can do or about the country-level or international efforts. Among the things that each of us can do are switching to green energy to warm our houses and for travelling, reducing air flights to a minimum, and decreasing our meat consumption.

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Ministers of environment, local development, discuss new waste management system https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/07/23/ministers-of-environment-local-development-discuss-new-waste-management-system/ Tue, 23 Jul 2019 18:22:59 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=703344 Fouad stressed importance of supporting youth initiatives 

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The Minister of Environment, Yasmine Fouad, discussed on Tuesday the issue of waste management with the Minister of Local Development, Mahmoud Shaarawi. 

During the meeting, the two ministers agreed to continue coordination between the two ministries in implementing the new waste management system, especially with regard to the role of the ministry of local development in implementing the necessary infrastructure in the governorates.

Fuad explained that the two sides agreed on the implementation of projects in communities most affected by climate change, which will provide new employment opportunities for young people, support recycling and waste management and raise awareness of children and young people of good practices for the preservation of the environment.

For his part, the minister of local development stressed the importance of educating civil society about the new waste system and its different phases and presenting the success stories of different youth in the waste recycling field.

He pointed out that the implementation of this new system depends on the concerted efforts between the state and citizens and civil society organisations.

The minister stressed the need to support all community initiatives in this field, including the “board of directors of the street” Initiative, and “your voice” Initiative and “together we’ll grow” Initiative, stressing the importance of the positive role of citizens in the application of the new cleanliness system to ensure their success and sustainability.

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Planting 1bn hectares of forest could help save the Earth https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/07/17/planting-1bn-hectares-of-forest-could-help-save-the-earth/ Wed, 17 Jul 2019 11:52:14 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=702928 Recent study says planting billions of trees is best, cheapest way to stop climate change 

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Many scientists and global scientific bodies, notably the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), expect temperatures to rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5 °C) above pre-industrial levels by 2030 if current global carbon emission trends continue.

But a recent study suggests trees can help curb climate destructiveness by planting nearly 1bn hectares of forest (0.9bn). According to a recent study published by Science Advances, this number of trees could remove two-thirds of human-caused carbon emissions into the Earth’s atmosphere since the 19th century. These new forests can store 205bn tonnes of carbon of the total of carbon emissions which are about 300 gigatonnes.

According to a study prepared by researchers from the National Centre for Oceanography in the UK, published by the Environmental Research Letters journal last July, in the absence of access to pre-industrial temperatures, floods caused by sea-level rise can cost humanity $14tn annually by 2100.

Spatial analysis

Planting billions of trees around the world is the best and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, especially since these trees can be planted without encroachment on crop land or urban areas, according to the study which is prepared by researchers from the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH Zurich).

The study also suggests that there is greater potential for planting trees in agricultural and urban areas, giving city trees a key role in reducing the impacts of climate change. Researchers warn that increasing global warming could cut the area available for forest restoration by one-fifth by 2050.

“The study is the first of its kind to link the direct measurements of the number of trees with environmental characteristics to provide globally clear quantitative estimates of the expected tree cover,” said Thomas Crowther, from ETH Zurich and co-author of the study.

 

Using global data on soil and climate from satellite images, especially those provided by the open-access Google Earth software, researchers analysed tree cover in protected forest areas that were not significantly affected by human activity, from the Arctic tundra to tropical rainforests.

The research team analysed nearly 80,000 high-resolution satellite imagery and climate models to determine the number of trees suitable for each ecosystem by studying the properties of soil and climate.

Map of restoration

“The potential for tree planting can be done effectively throughout the world, as the potential exists literally everywhere in the world. The most fortunate areas for carbon capture are the tropics, where forests cover much of the region,” said Crowther. 

At the beginning of 2011, 48 countries joined the Bonn Challenge, which was launched in the German city of Bonn with the aim of planting 350m hectares of forest by 2030 and restoring 150m hectares of degraded land by 2020. But the research team found that more than 43% of these countries have committed to recovering less than half of the area suitable for forest planting, while only 10% have pledged to reclaim much more land suitable for forest growth.

According to the study, there are six major sites that make up only half of the proposed sites for planting forests in varying proportions depending on the size of each country and its climatic conditions and soil quality.

 

One of the world’s most suitable countries to apply this study is Russia where 151m hectares of trees can be planted, followed by the United States (103m), Canada (78.4m), Australia (58m), Brazil (49.7m), and China (40.2m).

The study warns that some of the current climate models have overshadowed a positive impact of climate change, claiming the increase of the global cover of trees. While there may be an increase in the area of ​​Arctic forests in coastal areas such as Siberia, the average tree cover is only 30-40%.

According to the current study, this is a very small gain when compared to losses in tree cover that will be caused by dense tropical forests, which usually have a tree cover density of 90-100%.

Alternative strategies

The researchers estimate that under current climatic conditions, the Earth’s soil could support 4.4bn hectares of tree cover, an increase of 1.6bn hectares trees from the current 2.8bn hectares of trees (within 5.5bn hectares of forest, covering the land).

According to the study, of the 1.6bn hectares, just 0.9bn hectares (bigger than the US) could remove two-thirds of the anthropogenic pollutants that have been emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere since the 19th century.

Forest farming will not only remove carbon, but it can also provide a host of additional benefits, including support for biodiversity, improved water quality, and reduced erosion processes which lead to coastal erosion due to the invasion of seawater.

Crowther pointed out that the cultivation of agricultural crops within the proposed forest area was not included in the calculations of the study.

The researcher expected the cost of growing a single tree to reach around $0.30, which means that the cost of the proposal could be as high as $300bn, a figure Crowther does not consider significant.

The study suggests that the planting of so many trees proposed in the study will take decades to grow new forests, so other solutions must be pursued to combat climate change and protect existing trees.

Joeri Rogelj, professor at the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, said: “It is necessary to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero,” and that there are many ways to achieve this goal.

One of the most important of these is introducing cleaner alternatives, such as renewable energy, to replace the traditional energy pojects that causes emissions, such as coal-fired power plants, according to Rogelj, or combining them in so-called negative emission technologies.

Long term

Robin Chazdon, an environmental scientist at the University of Connecticut, said that the study is scientifically sound, but it shows only the extreme biological potential of tree growth in forests around the world. Forests do not necessarily grow in all places where this is biologically possible. There are many social and economic things to consider. Chazdon did not take part in the study.

“Forest restoration is one of the important solutions to mitigating the effects of climate change, reducing the risk of extinction of many species and reducing the water deficit,” added Chazdon, noting that “appropriate trees need to grow in the right place and in the right way, putting the local people into consideration”.

The researcher believes that the restoration of forests takes a long time, and it is not a quick solution to address climate change.

Pedro Brancalion, a professor of forest science at the University of São Paulo and a researcher who is not involved in the study, agrees with the opinion of Chazdon about the time required for forest restoration.

“The methodology used in the study is entirely new, but simple, and it gives a valuable contribution to understanding the current and potential distribution of trees on the ground,” Brancalion told Daily News Egypt.

The restoration of forests is essentially a human activity, not only related to natural and vital characteristics, but also to social and economic characteristics. Thus, “The study is very important to simulate the cover of trees and the impacts of climate change, but social and economic factors should be addressed in order to provide a realistic perspective for forest restoration,” he stressed.

In early July, Brancalion and Chazdon, together with others, also published a study in Science Advances that tropical forests in particular need to intensify recovery efforts. Tropical forests worldwide lose about 158,000 square metres per year, reaching their highest levels in 2016, by 259,260 square metres, according to the study.

As per a study published by the Nature Sustainability journal in February, China and India are world pioneers in greening the earth, where they absorb one-third of new forests, cropland, and other plant species monitored worldwide since 2000. According to the study, China alone holds a quarter of the world’s green area, although it contains only 6.3% of the world’s land area. The study found that 42% of China’s green areas come from forest expansion while 32% comes from farmland. In India, 82% of green areas come from new agricultural land.

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Lack of crop diversity, dependence on pollinators could threaten food security https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/07/10/lack-of-crop-diversity-dependence-on-pollinators-could-threaten-food-security/ Wed, 10 Jul 2019 11:00:43 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=702361 Researchers used annual data from FAO from 1961 to 2016

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A multinational team of researchers has identified countries where agriculture’s increasing dependence on pollination, coupled with a lack of crop diversity, may threaten food security and economic stability. 

The study, which was published recently in the Global Change Biology journal, is the first global assessment of the relationship between trends in crop diversity and agricultural dependence on pollinators.

Using annual data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) from 1961 to 2016, the study showed that the global area cultivated in crops that require pollination by bees and other insects expanded by 137%, while crop diversity increased by just 20.5%. 

This imbalance is a problem, according to the researchers, because agriculture dominated by just one or two types of crops only provides nutrition for pollinators during a limited window when crops are blooming. Maintaining agricultural diversity by cultivating a variety of crops that bloom at different times provides a more stable source of food and habitat for pollinators.

“This work should sound an alarm for policymakers who need to think about how they are going to protect and foster pollinator populations that can support the growing need for the services they provide to crops that require pollination,” said David Inouye, professor emeritus of biology at the University of Maryland and a co-author of the research paper.

Globally, a large portion of the total agricultural expansion and increase in pollinator dependence between 1961 and 2016 resulted from increases in large-scale farming of soybean, canola, and palm crops for oil. 

The researchers expressed concern over the increase in these crops because it indicates a rapid expansion of industrial farming, which is associated with environmentally damaging practices such as large monocultures and pesticide use which threaten pollinators and can undermine productivity.

Particularly vulnerable to potential agricultural instability are Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia, where expansion of pollinator-dependent soybean farms has driven deforestation and replaced rich biodiversity that supports healthy populations of pollinators with large-scale single-crop agriculture (monoculture). Malaysia and Indonesia face a similar scenario from the expansion of oil palm farming.

“Farmers are growing more crops that require pollination, such as fruits, nuts, and oil seeds, because there’s an increasing demand for them and they have a higher market value,” Inouye said, adding that “this study points out that these current trends are not great for pollinators, and countries that diversify their agricultural crops are going to benefit more than those that expand with only a limited subset of crops.”

Although the study found that countries replacing forests and diverse, heterogeneous agricultural landscapes with extensive pollinator-dependent monoculture are most vulnerable, other countries also face risks from growing dependence on pollinators.

In Europe, farmland is contracting as development replaces agriculture, but pollinator-dependent crops are replacing non-pollinator-dependent crops such as rice and wheat (which are wind pollinated). According to the study, increasing need for pollination services without parallel increases in diversity puts agricultural stability at risk in places like Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Austria, Denmark, and Finland.

In the United States, agricultural diversity has not kept pace with expansion of industrial-scale soybean farming.

“This work shows that you really need to look at this issue country by country and region by region to see what’s happening because there are different underlying risks,” Inouye said. 

The bottom line is that if you’re increasing pollinator crops, you also need to diversify crops and implement pollinator-friendly management, he added.

Inouye said the researchers are hoping this work will spur policymakers and resource managers to re-evaluate current trends and practices to introduce more pollinator-friendly management such as reducing insecticide use, planting edge rows and flower strips to provide nest sites and food for pollinators, and restoring semi-natural and natural areas adjacent to crops.

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