United Nations Calls for Stronger Policies to Address Worldwide Drought
More consolidated efforts to combat the threat of climate change and counter its ripple effects on global food security are needed amid an intensifying global drought and increasing temperatures worldwide, the United Nations (UN) declared Aug. 21.
“Climate change is projected to increase the frequency, intensity and duration of droughts, with impacts on many sectors, in particular food, water and energy,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a press release. “We need to move away from a piecemeal, crisis-driven approach and develop integrated risk-based national drought policies,” he added.
According to the news release, the WMO and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), along with other UN agencies, are intensifying efforts to establish a more coordinated and proactive strategy for managing drought risk to fill existing policy vacuums in countries around the world. As a result, a High Level Meeting on National Drought Policy has been scheduled from March 11-15, 2013.
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva on Aug. 21, Dr. Mannava Sivakumar, Director of the WMO Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch, underlined the severity and reach of the current drought and its potential impact on global food prices.
He noted that one quarter of the U.S. was experiencing exceptional drought while the entire country was facing its longest 12 month period in a drought since 1895. Dr. Sivakumar also emphasized that the effects of the drought on the U.S.’s soybean and corn harvests was having “a major impact on food prices.”
Meanwhile, pointing to the situation in India, he told reporters that the Asian country was similarly experiencing very serious droughts with countrywide rainfall 17 percent below normal. In Punjab, India’s breadbasket, rainfall was 70 percent below normal.
According to the WMO, severe drought also developed in parts of East Africa in late 2010 and continued through most of 2011 with the most severely affected areas encompassing the semi-arid regions of eastern and northern Kenya, western Somalia and southern border areas of Ethiopia.
“The 2010 drought-induced famine in the Greater Horn of Africa, the ongoing crisis in the Sahel region and the extensive drought in the USA show that developing and developed countries alike are vulnerable,” said Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the UNCCD. “Effective long-term solutions to mitigate the effects of drought, and address desertification and land degradation urgently need to be mainstreamed in national development plans and policies,” he added.
In 2009, international climate experts gathered at the International Workshop on Drought and Extreme Temperatures in Beijing released their climate projections for the 21st century, forecasting an increase in the frequency of severe droughts in the continental U.S. and Mexico, the Mediterranean Basin, parts of northern China, across southern Africa and Australia and in parts of South America.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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