Friday, 23 April 2010

Fragile things

While reading online news about the recent volcanic eruption under the Eyjafjallajoekull glacier in Iceland, I found this article
(http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/apr/16/flight-ban-shortages-uk-supermarkets). The critical sentence which really stood out for me was this

The UK imports about 90% of its fruit and 60% of its vegetables.

This is actually quite shocking! Our food supply is that vulnerable to the impacts of peak oil and climate change. That we depend so much on imports to feed ourselves, and the environmental cost of all the food miles.

Connected to this issue of food security, a report by Engineering the Future Alliance, reported here by the BBC
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8628832.stm, examined the unsustainable importation of "embedded water" (this is the water used to produce the product, for example about 1,500 litres of water to produce 1kg of sugar) into the UK. Given our general high level of consumption, this has a huge effect on water security in developing nations. An interactive map, showing predicted areas of water stress as global population and temperatures rise is available here
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7821082.stm.

Already many nations are using their groundwater at an unsustainable rate, often for agriculture, often growing crops for export.

It is short-sighted to continue to drain their water and expect the produce to continue to appear on our supermarket shelves, As these nations come under the predicted stresses, will they be willing or even able to supply the food we depend on?

This situation highlights how unsustainable and how dependent on imports our food supply is and its vulnerability, As the oncoming crisis unfolds, the impact on all our lives will be huge.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Copenhagen's legacy of mistrust

There has been some discord at the 3 day UN climate talks at Bonn. Representatives of the poorer nations, such as Claudia Salerno, chief of Venezuela's delegation, and Tosi Mpanu Mpanu of the Democratic Republic of Congo speaking for the Africa Group, have been openly critical of the Copenhagen Accord. Tosi Mpanu Mpanu referred to the "draft Danish text" in his statement saying:

"The Africa Group believes that if we are to avoid a repetition of Copenhagen and repair this damaged process, then we must learn from Copenhagen."

And one of the lessons to learn, he continued, was that breaking away from formal inclusive negotiations and instead focusing on "a secret text put together by a selected few fundamentally broke the trust that is necessary for any partnership that aspires to be successful and enduring".
(source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8611811.stm)

Meanwhile the US has supported the accord, and in its written statement to the UN climate convention (UNFCCC) states, said that

"…it will be difficult to find consensus around alternative proposals that depart from the accord understandings." (source: BBC)

This seems to have been taken (perhaps rightly) as a way of saying that the US will not go further than the Accord. The problem is that the Accord is unlikely to achieve the necessary reductions in emissions in time to prevent a catastrophic rise in global mean temperature. It does not inspire trust in the minds of those from poorer nations, which are likely to be the first to be hit hard by the effects of climate change.

A legacy of mistrust has been engendered over the years by richer nations concerned for their economic position, culminating at Copenhagen with the production of the "draft Danish text." Under these circumstances, it is difficult to see how genuine agreement can be reached in time.

According to the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/apr/09/us-climate-aid) the US is denying climate change assistance aid to nations opposing the Copenhagen Accord. The Washington Post (http://views.washingtonpost.com/climate-change/post-carbon/2010/04/bolivia_ecuador_denied_climate_funds.html) reports that the US is denying aid to Ecuador and Bolivia for this reason.

This practice is so familiar but still so unacceptable and only serves to stoke growing mistrust and anger.