Climate change could trigger ‘mega-disasters’

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 07 June 2010

Weather-related catastrophes brought about by climate change are increasing, the top UN humanitarian official said Sunday as he warned of the possibility of “mega-disasters”.

John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, said one of the biggest challenges facing the aid community was the problems stemming from changing weather patterns.

“When it comes to meteorological disasters, weather-related disasters, then there is a trend upwards connected with climate change,” Holmes, who is in Australia for high-level talks on humanitarian aid, told AFP.

“The trend is there in terms of floods, and cyclones, and droughts.”

Holmes, who is the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, said it had been a tough year due to January’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, which killed more than 250,000 people.

He said while earthquakes, such as the 7.0-magnitude quake which levelled the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, were random, weather-related natural disasters were increasing in number and scale.

“It’s partly the very obvious things like the number of cyclones and the intensity of the cyclones, and the amount of flooding,” he said.

“But is also in slightly more invisible ways — in Africa with drought spreading, desertification spreading.”

Holmes said officials were particularly concerned about places where a combination of factors — such as large populations, or likelihood of earthquake, or susceptibility to rising sea levels — made them more vulnerable.

“One of things we worry about is mega cities could produce, at some point, a mega disaster,” he said. Continue reading

Global temperatures unaffected by volcanic ash

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 21 April 2010

The volcanic ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano is not expected to have an impact on global temperatures.

Photo by Sverrir Thor under Ceative Commons licence 2.0

The volcano, located under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier has produced a 10-kilometre high plume of ash and rock that extends across most of northern Europe. While the particles may have an effect on local temperatures in the short-term, experts don’t believe it will have the same impact as the Pinatubo eruption two decades earlier that resulted in a 10% reduction in sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface, and a 0.4°C drop in global average temperatures.

Dr Blair Trewin of the National Climate Centre in Melbourne says, in its current form the ash cloud is unlikely to have the same impact on global temperatures. “For a volcano to have a significant global cooling effect it has to get its ash up into the stratosphere,” he says. “If it doesn’t, the ash will get rained out fairly quickly.”

Despite spewing an estimated 150,000 tons of carbon pollution a day into the atmosphere, the volcano may actually result in a net reduction of carbon pollution because of all the flights the volcano is grounding in Europe. Those flights would have a bigger carbon footprint than the volcano.

Dr Jeff Masters, Director of Meteorology at Weather Underground says the eruption isn’t expected to have a significant impact on weather patterns in the northern hemisphere. “However, the ash could bring spectacular sunsets to Europe over the next week, and to North America by sometime next week, as the jet stream wraps the ash cloud eastwards across the northern hemisphere.”

e-waste: a threat to human health

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems
02 February 2010

Researchers have found that improper disposal of electronic waste “e-waste” will affect the quality of ground water in the next 10-20 years making it difficult for the future generations to obtain clear water supply. It will also cause a long-lasting damage to the environment that could lead to the emergence of new diseases and change in weather patterns.

Electronic gadgets are made up of some of the most lethal toxins such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, nickel, copper and mercury. If disposed improperly, they pose threat to human health and the environment. Human exposure to chemicals from e-waste could damage the brain and nervous system, cause genetic damage and birth defects, according to health experts.

The UN Environmental Program (UNEP) estimates that the world produces 20-50 million tons of e-waste every year. Rather than being safely recycled, e-waste is routinely exported by developed countries to developing ones including China, India, Kenya, Ghana and Sudan among others.

According to Zero Waste Organization SA, around 99% of the computer components can be recycled including ferrous and nonferrous metal, glass and plastic, but that is rarely done.

E-waste is the most speedily growing waste problem in the world. The risk to human and environmental health requires both developed and developing countries to come up with rapid and workable solutions to clean up the massive e-waste mess so to avoid a future disaster.

Extracts from article at Suite101
Related article: SA lacks dedicated e-waste legislation