Friday, November 24, 2017

7th International Conference on Environmental Future

The Foundation for Environmental Conversation

Humans and Island Environments’ 6 – 20 April 2018 | Honolulu, Hawai’i

Updates: Abstract submission is now open and a dedicated conference website is now online:

Organized by the Foundation for Environmental Conservation (FEC), East-West Center, and University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, the 7th International Conference on Environmental Future (7ICEF) seeks to advance the global and multi-disciplinary conversation around environmental futures with a specific focus in 2018 on ‘Humans and Island Environments’. The conference will be held from the 16 – 20 April 2018 in Honolulu, Hawai’i, at the East-West Center’s Imin International Conference Center.

The 7ICEF aims to provide a forum for discussion and debate on the current and future issues surrounding island environments, bringing together islanders, researchers, managers, and NGOs from a broad array of disciplines and fields. The underlying questions are: how have islands aided our understanding of human-environment interactions? What are the latest directions in island biological and cultural conservation? Where should island conservation efforts be focused? and, What conservation lessons do islands have for the rest of the world?

In advance of the conference, a review article for each of 18 conference themes will be published in the journal Environmental Conservation. As papers are published they will be listed here. These papers will be presented at the conference together with other related talks, and there will be dedicated time in each themed session for discussions, and question and answers. The final day of the conference will involve workshop sessions and a webcast panel discussion bringing together some of the unifying themes and messages.

Information on the themes and speakers is available here.

For general queries regarding the conference please email

Registration for the 7th International Conference on Environmental Future: Humans and Island Environments is being handled by the East-West Center.

Registration fees include access to all Conference sessions, conference materials, site visits and receptions.

Registration is now open!


Should a healthy environment be a human right? These Norwegians think so

Greenpeace and the environmental group Youth and Nature are suing the Norwegian Government for granting Arctic oil drilling licenses.

Their argument is based on an article in the Norwegian constitution protecting the right to an environment that’s healthy and that long-term consideration be given to digging up natural resources.

Greenpeace Norway head Truls Gulowsen told Hack it all comes down to climate change and oil licenses.

"We had challenged the Norwegian state for handing out new licenses for drilling in the arctic in spite of the fact that they have signed the Paris Agreement," he said on his way to court.

"They acknowledge climate change is a problem, and they know that the world has already found more carbon, fossil carbon, than we can ever afford to burn."

He said Norway's constitution gives future generations the right to a healthy environment.

"[That] puts duties on the state to guarantee and safeguard those rights."

Brendan Sydes, lawyer and CEO of Environmental Justice Australia, says the strategy used by Greenpeace goes to a country’s legal foundation, instead of working with a country's environmental regulations.

How Climate Change Will Mess With Water ‘Recharge’ in Western USA

This map shows the surface area of major aquifers in the continental U.S. and Hawaii. The biggest, Ogallala in the High Plains (green), covers nearly 175,000 square miles. Photo credit: Katie Peek

As the climate warms, the dry southern regions of the Western United States will have less groundwater recharge while the northern regions will have more, researchers report.

“Our study asked what will be the effect of climate change on groundwater recharge in the Western US in the near future, 2021-2050, and the far future, 2070-2100,” says first author Rewati Niraula, who worked on the research as part of his doctoral work in the University of Arizona hydrology and atmospheric sciences department.

The new study covers the entire US West, from the High Plains states to the Pacific coast, and provides the first detailed look at how groundwater recharge may change as the climate changes, says senior author Thomas Meixner, professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona.

“For the southern region of the Western US there will be a reduction in groundwater recharge, and in the northern region of the Western US we will have an increase,” says Niraula, now a senior research associate at the Texas Institute of Applied Environmental Research at Tarleton State University.

Groundwater is an important source of freshwater, particularly in the West, and is often used to make up for the lack of surface water during droughts, the authors note. In many areas of the West, groundwater pumping currently exceeds the amount of groundwater recharge.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Not if the Seas Rise, but When and How High

Once you’ve read an excellent book about climate change, which Jeff Goodell’s “The Water Will Come” most certainly is, you can never unremember the facts. Elected officials may be busy arguing about whether global warming is real. But most scientists are having other arguments entirely — about whether danger is imminent or a few decades off; about whether our prospects are dire or merely grim.
“Sea-level rise is one of the central facts of our time, as real as gravity,” Goodell writes. “It will reshape our world in ways most of us can only dimly imagine.”
Goodell has little trouble imagining it. He opens “The Water Will Come” with a fictional hurricane whipping through Miami in 2037. It sweeps the Art Deco buildings of South Beach off their foundations, disgorges millions of gallons of raw sewage into Biscayne Bay and eats the last of the city’s beaches. Thousands scramble for bottled water dropped by the National Guard. Zika and dengue fever start to bloom (so much moisture, so many mosquitoes). Out rush the retirees and glamour pusses; in rush the lawyers and slumlords. Within decades, the place is swallowed whole by the ocean. What was once a vibrant city is now a scuba-diving destination for intrepid historians and disaster tourists.
The whole scenario seems indecently feasible by the book’s end.
After this year’s calamitous flooding in Houston and the Caribbean, “The Water Will Come” is depressingly well-timed, though I’m guessing all good books about this subject will be from now on. Political time now lags behind geological time: If we don’t take dramatic steps to prepare for the rising seas, hundreds of millions could be displaced from their homes by the end of the century, and the infrastructure fringing the coast, valued in the trillions of dollars, could be lost.
Unfortunately, human beings are uniquely ill-suited to prepare for disasters they cannot sense or see. “We have evolved to defend ourselves from a guy with a knife or an animal with big teeth,” Goodell writes, “but we are not wired to make decisions about barely perceptible threats that gradually accelerate over time.”
So we stick our heads in the sand. Until the sand disappears, anyway.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The world’s first “negative emissions” plant has opened in Iceland—turning carbon dioxide into stone

There’s a colorless, odorless, and largely benign gas that humanity just can’t get enough of. We produce 40 trillion kg of carbon dioxide each year, and we’re on track to cross a crucial emissions threshold that will cause global temperature rise to pass the dangerous 2°C limit set by the Paris climate agreement.
But, in hushed tones, climate scientists are already talking about a technology that could pull us back from the brink. It’s called direct-air capture, and it consists of machines that work like a tree does, sucking carbon dioxide (CO2) out from the air, but on steroids—capturing thousands of times more carbon in the same amount of time, and, hopefully, ensuring we don’t suffer climate catastrophe.
There are at least two reasons that, to date, conversations about direct air capture have been muted. First, climate scientists have hoped global carbon emissions would come under control, and we wouldn’t need direct air capture. But most experts believe that ship has sailed. That brings up the second issue: to date, all estimates suggest direct air capture would be exorbitantly expensive to deploy.
For the past decade, a group of entrepreneurs—partly funded by billionaires like Bill Gates of Microsoft, Edgar Bronfman Jr. of Warner Music, and the late Gary Comer of Land’s End—have been working to prove those estimates wrong. Three companies—Switzerland’s Climeworks, Canada’s Carbon Engineering, and the US’s Global Thermostat—are building machines that, at reasonable costs, can capture CO2 directly from the air. (A fourth company, Kilimanjaro Energy, closed shop due to a lack of funding.)
Over the past year, I’ve been tracking the broader field of carbon capture and storage, which aims to capture emissions from sources such as power plants and chemical factories. Experts in the field look at these direct-air-capture entrepreneurs as the rebellious kids in the class. Instead of going after the low-hanging fruit, one expert told me, these companies are taking moonshots—and setting themselves up for failure.


Lake Catalina Is On The Verge Of Releasing Up To 9 Billion Gallons Of Water

Lake Catalina Is On The Verge Of Releasing Up To 9 Billion Gallons Of Water

Scientists recently revealed the catastrophic history of Lake Catalina, which appears primed once again to outburst billions of gallons of freshwater. Through satellite images, researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark pieced together four massive outburst floods over the past 50 years.

The satellite photos show the outbursts of fresh water took place between 1966 and 2012 when ice that dammed Lake Catalina in Greenland failed. The outbursts of water are estimated to have been between 6.7 and 9 billion gallons of water released in one instance. Now, it appears the lake is primed for another catastrophic release of water in the next couple years.

The next outburst is certainly building and may happen as soon as 2018-19 - Aslak Grinsted, head of the research team.

The Lake Catalina is situated on Renland, a long and narrow island in Scoresbysund Fjord in East Greenland. What is equally as surprising as the amount of water released, is that the events were previously unknown by the scientific community and locals living in the area.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Ex-Minister Wayne Panton raises alarm on Environment

CNS): Wayne Panton said he was “disappointed” that Cayman now has an environment minister who appears to be “against the environment rather than for it”, as he raised the alarm about watering down the National Conservation Law. The former Cabinet member, who lost his seat in the May election by just a handful of votes, told CNS he had never seen such an “about-face in politics”. Just a few years ago the historic law had the unanimous backing of members, but now the example of truly “pro-Caymanian legislation” was facing an unwarranted backlash based on “fake facts”.

The former environment minister, one of the first politicians appointed to the post who was knowledgeable about conservation issues and became a true champion for the environment, said he was enormously disappointed with the recent turn of events. He said there has been a complete distortion by politicians of the legislation, which had been through significant consultation and enjoyed wide public support.

Panton said that the Legislative Assembly had voted unanimously for the law, which for the first time put the environment on a par with other considerations, such as social and economic, when it came to development but, he stressed, did not elevate it over them. He said it paved the way for conservation to be given equal weight to other factors and was designed to help balance competing interests and to ensure that the natural resources, which are fundamental to “what makes us Caymanian”, are not ignored in future planning decisions.

“But suddenly, people who voted in favour seem completely intent on repealing it or substantially watering it down,” he said, noting that the arguments to justify this rejection of the law were illogical and based on misinterpretation of the powers of the National Conservation Council and a misunderstanding of the law.