Jamaica’s Climatescope Rank, Sea Turtles in Barbados and the First Solar-Powered Road: Environment News, December 26, 2016


Happy Christmas Eve! I’ve picked out some more environmental news for you to ponder over the holiday season. Please click on the links for more information! 

Jamaica and the Caribbean:

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Jamaica’s rapid rise in the ClimatescopeJamaica has jumped 15 places in Climatescope 2016 to 24th. What is Climatescope? It is an assessment of clean energy market conditions and opportunities in 58 emerging nations in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. The conclusion this year is that the center of the clean energy movement has shifted from North to South, spurred partly by the dramatic drop in the cost of solar energy. Here is Jamaica’s performance compared to Trinidad & Tobago  (the website allows you to do all kinds of comparisons). Jamaica’s greatly improved performance appears to be due to a jump in financing and investments in clean energy. Who came out on top? Take a look at the rankings and see! Look at the Latin America/Caribbean Region results – interesting, with Chile way out on top. Climatescope is supported by UKAid, USAID and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Dramatic decline in Puerto Rico’s shorebirds: The region’s shorebirds are under pressure; and at the salt flats at Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge, in southeastern Puerto Rico numbers have dropped significantly. Virtually all the 30 species that winter there declined more than 70 percent between 1985-1992 and 2013-2014, two periods studied. This is terribly worrying and scientists have not identified the key factors behind this. Read more here

The semipalmated sandpiper is a shorebird that visits the Caribbean during the winter. (Photo: Bill Thompson/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
The semipalmated sandpiper is a shorebird that visits the Caribbean during the winter. (Photo: Bill Thompson/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Support the Barbados Sea Turtle Project (University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus), founded in 1984, which aims to restore local marine turtle populations to levels at which they can fulfil their ecological roles while still providing opportunities for sustainable use by the people of Barbados, and to support similar efforts in other countries of the Caribbean. Check out their Facebook page for more information and how to donate. P.S. The Project features in the final episode of the highly acclaimed documentary series Planet Earth II. Watch a video clip from the film here.

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The Nature Conservancy in the Caribbean announced the completion of its $8 million private philanthropy commitment toward the creation of the $42 million Caribbean Biodiversity Fund, an endowment supporting the protection and management of 21 million acres of coastal and marine areas. In a press release dated December 19, The Nature Conservancy called the Caribbean Challenge Initiative “an unprecedented collaboration for a sustainable Caribbean.”

Dan Chung, CEO and CIO of Fred Alger Management and the Chair of the Conservancy’s New York Board of Trustees, created the “Chung Challenge for the Caribbean,” urging donors to match his gift - which will give a boost to the protection of coral reefs in the Caribbean.
Dan Chung, CEO and CIO of Fred Alger Management and Chair of the Nature Conservancy’s New York Board of Trustees, created the “Chung Challenge for the Caribbean,” urging donors to match his gift.

Eleven governments (Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, the Grenadines, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas) signed on to the Initiative, committing to protect 20% of key coastal and marine habitats by 2020.

Grenada taking the lead in marine conservation: Coral nurseries and biorock technology are among the methods being used in Grenada to restore and protect marine life. The small island is heavily dependent on tourism (including scuba diving); it welcomed nearly half a million visitors last year (a 12.7% increase over 2014).

 

Elsewhere in the World:

A test phase will evaluate whether the solar panel road can provide enough energy to power street lighting. Photograph: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA
A test phase will evaluate whether the solar panel road can provide enough energy to power street lighting. Photograph: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

The world’s first solar-powered road: A one kilometer stretch of road powered with solar panels in the village of Tourouvre-au-Perche, Normandy in France opened recently, at a cost of five million Euros. It will be tested for two years by over 2,000 vehicles, in the hopes that it will provide the village with street lighting. Will it be cost-effective? That remains to be seen.

A polar bear swims in an area where there would normally be ice in Svalbard. Photograph: Nick Cobbing/Greenpeace
A polar bear swims in an area where there would normally be ice in Svalbard. Photograph: Nick Cobbing/Greenpeace

The warming Arctic: The Arctic is warming up quite alarmingly, with record heat last month – about 33º above normal. As a result, of course, ice is melting at a record rate, due to the warm temperatures, warm ocean and winds. It is now creating extreme weather in North America, Europe and Asia, according to climate scientists, one of whom says “We are in uncharted territory.” Moreover, the livelihoods of indigenous peoples are at risk and at least Alaskan 31 villages and towns are threatened by rising sea levels and coastal erosion; at least 12 settlements have relocated. For more information on political, environmental and security issues affecting the Arctic region, take a look at this website.

Emperor penguins inhabit the Ross Sea off Antarctica. In one of the biggest environmental achievements of 2016, an international commission protected a vast expanse of the sea. PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL NICKLEN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
Emperor penguins inhabit the Ross Sea off Antarctica. In one of the biggest environmental achievements of 2016, an international commission protected a vast expanse of the sea.
Photo: Paul Nicklen, National Geographic Creative

Good news in 2016: Although the future looks bleak, as Donald J. Trump and his band of climate change deniers come into power next month in the United States, the National Geographic has pointed to some environmental success stories. It’s good to have something to cheer about. Renewable energy had a record year of growth, overtaking fossil fuels for the first time; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has funded a huge project to remove dams in the United States, vastly improving the health of several large rivers; and we must not forget President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Midway Atoll in the Pacific, where he announced that the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument created by President George W. Bush would be quadrupled in size. Also… The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), consisting of 25 countries, has created the Earth’s single largest protected area. Some things to cheer about!

Pollution levels in northern China on December 19, 2016.
Pollution levels in northern China on December 19, 2016.

Smog disaster forces many Chinese to flee, air traffic disrupted: Northern China saw its worst air pollution of 2016 this week, affecting some 460 million citizens – many of whom tried to flee to less polluted areas. 23 cities were on an air pollution “red alert,” with some 200 million experiencing “hazardous” levels of pollution, caused by emissions from factories, coal power and industrial plants. Heavy smog disrupted air traffic in China this week, also, with many flights canceled and delayed and some airports closing. Zoucheng city in Shandong ordered coal-fired power plants to close or cut capacity until the smog crisis ends.

Deforestation along roads in the Brazilian Amazon. (Google Earth)
Deforestation along roads in the Brazilian Amazon. (Google Earth)

Study says increased road-building is impacting the environment: A new study published in Science magazine notes that a huge increase in road-building is severely impacting ecosystems around the world. The study mapped roads and surrounding landscapes but of course did not capture all of them, so the findings would be an under-estimation of the problem. The researchers used a global crowd sourcing platform called OpenStreetMap, on which thousands of volunteers to map Earth’s roads. Many of the roads create opportunities for illegal deforestation, settlements, more bush fires, mining, hunting and exploitation of surrounding areas, and break up wildlife habitats into smaller fragments. In the Brazilian Amazon 95% of deforestation occurred within a five-kilometer radius of roads. How are all our new roads impacting the Jamaican environment?


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