Population Matters

Human impacts of rising oceans will extend well beyond coast

Human impacts of rising oceans will extend well beyond coast

Identifying the human impact of rising sea levels is far more complex than just looking at coastal cities on a map.

Rather, estimates that are based on current, static population data can greatly misrepresent the true extent — and the pronounced variability — of the human toll of climate change, say University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers.

“Not all places and not all people in those places will be impacted equally,” says Katherine Curtis, an assistant professor of community and environmental sociology at UW-Madison.

In a new online report, which will publish in an upcoming issue of the peer-reviewed journal Population and Environment, Curtis and her colleague Annemarie Schneider examine the impacts of rising oceans as one element of how a changing climate will affect humans. “We’re linking economic and social vulnerability with environmental vulnerability to better understand which areas and their populations are most vulnerable,” Curtis says.

They used existing climate projections and maps to identify areas at risk of inundation from rising sea levels and storm surges, such as the one that breached New Orleans levees after Hurricane Katrina, then coupled those vulnerability assessments with projections for future populations.

It’s a deceptively challenging process, the authors say. “Time scales for climate models and time scales for human demography are completely different,” explains Schneider, part of the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at UW-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. “Future climate scenarios typically span 50 to 100 years or more. That’s unreasonable for demographic projections, which are often conducted on the order of decades.”

The current study works to better align population and climate data in both space and time, allowing the researchers to describe social and demographic dimensions of environmental vulnerability.

More: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-05/uow-hio052711.php

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German environment ministers agree to shut down 7 nuclear reactors

The environment ministers of Germany’s 16 states agreed Friday that the country’s seven oldest nuclear reactors should be shut down permanently.

These reactors have all been suspended as part of a three-month nuclear ‘moratorium’ imposed by Chancellor Angela Merkel following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan on March 11.

Merkel’s government is due to make a final decision on the future of Germany’s nuclear programme on June 6.

More: http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/europe/news/article_1641889.php/German-environment-ministers-agree-to-shut-down-7-nuclear-reactors

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New car labels to show impact on environment

A comprehensive update to government-mandated fuel economy labels means that for the first time, cars and light trucks will be ranked on their environmental friendliness.

The new emissions ratings, based on a sliding scale of 1 through 10, with 10 being the best, will be required on all new vehicles starting with the 2013 model year.

Each car will get one rating for greenhouse gases and another for smog.

The greenhouse gas rating is based on carbon dioxide emitted per mile, while the smog rating will include measures for chemicals like nitrogen oxide, organic gases and formaldehyde.

More: http://www.freep.com/article/20110526/BUSINESS01/105260477/New-car-labels-show-impact-environment

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New UN population report reveals planet changing in more ways than one

The United Nations Population Division just released a new report on projections for world population growth, with somewhat surprising findings. It said that the global population — rather than stabilizing as experts previously thought — will most likely grow to over 9 billion in less than 40 years, and continue to grow to just over 10 billion by 2100. Even the UN’s “low” projections for world population growth have been revised upwards based on the new data.

One reason for the new projections is that fertility rates aren’t declining in some developing countries as experts had forecasted. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, fertility rates remain high and population could more than triple from 1 billion to 3.6 billion in our children’s lifetimes. This is probably the result of several things, including the fact that foreign aid for family planning services has not kept up with demand, in part due to widespread social, religious and political pressures, and in part to shortsighted cuts in assistance. The most recent US Congressional budget recently cut 5 percent from international family planning, representing nearly 30 percent below its 1995 peak in inflation-adjusted dollars. The number of women of reproductive age grew by several hundred million during that time. In addition, fertility rates have increased in some industrialized nations, including in the United States and Britain.

We are expected to reach the significant “7 billion global population milestone” this fall. While this unwieldy number and the new UN projections for growth may not seem to have a real connection to our everyday lives, there are significant links, with women and girls, family planning and reproductive health, and environmental sustainability.

More: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2011/05/25/population-report-signals-changing-planet-more-ways

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Harvard study of population genetics reveals shared ancestries

More than just a tool for predicting health, modern genetics is upending long-held assumptions about who we are. A new study by Harvard researchers casts new light on the intermingling and migration of European, Middle Eastern and African populations since ancient times.

In a paper titled “The History of African Gene Flow into Southern Europeans, Levantines and Jews,” published in PLoS Genetics, HMS Associate Professor of Genetics David Reich and his colleagues investigated the proportion of sub-Saharan African ancestry present in various populations in West Eurasia, defined as the geographic area spanning modern Europe and the Middle East. While previous studies have established that such shared ancestry exists, they have not indicated to what degree or how far back the mixing of populations can be traced.

Analyzing publicly available genetic data from 40 populations comprising North Africans, Middle Easterners and Central Asians were doctoral student Priya Moorjani and Alkes Price, an assistant professor in the Program in Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology within the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

More: http://www.speroforum.com/site/article.asp?idCategory=33&idsub=121&id=54432&t=Harvard+study+of+population+genetics+reveals+shared+ancestries

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Men narrow women’s population advantage

Women are continuing to outlive men, but men are gaining on them in numbers thanks to medical improvements.

New 2010 census figures show men are narrowing the female population advantage, primarily in the 65-plus age group.

Over the past decade, the number of men in the U.S. increased by 9.9 percent, faster than the 9.5 percent growth rate for women. As a result, women outnumbered men by just 5.18 million. In 2000, there were 5.3 million more women than men.

More: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/05/26/ap/government/main20066368.shtml

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Environment MEPs back shift to 30 percent emissions cuts

The wind energy sector and green groups have welcomed a vote by environment committee MEPs in favour of increasing the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reductions by up to 30 percent by 2020. MEPs sitting on parliament’s environment committee yesterday backed a resolution stating that, before the end of the year, the EU should pledge to cut its GHG emissions by 30 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels. This paves the way for a plenary vote in parliament scheduled for 23 June.

The committee agreed that the resolution, put forward by Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout, should predominantly be reached by domestic action, such as through increased use of renewables and energy efficiency, rather than purchasing offsets.

As with the existing 20 percent reduction commitment, there should be some scope to include offsets, but the EU should undertake to achieve 25 percent GHG reductions on its own territory, it stated.

Commenting on the result, Eickhout said parliament’s position has been shifting in favour of the changeover.

“There is now broad support for a 30 per cent reduction target and a growing realisation that ambitious climate policies are in Europe’s own economic interest,” he said.

More: http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2073693/environment-meps-shift-cent-emissions-cuts

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Liberia looks to save its rainforests by barcoding trees

Nearly two-thirds of West Africa’s remaining rainforests are in the small but troubled nation of Liberia. That is a small miracle. A decade ago, Liberia’s forests were being stripped bare by warlords to fund a vicious 14-year civil war that left 150,000 dead. In 2003, the United Nations belatedly imposed an embargo on Liberian “logs of war.” Revenues crashed and, coincidentally or not, the war swiftly came to an end.

Now the elected government of Harvard-trained President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has signed a deal with the European Union to place timber sales on a permanently legal footing. The deal, agreed to this month, makes use of a unique national timber-tracking system that requires every legally harvestable tree and every cut log to carry a barcode that will enable it to be tracked from its origin to its final destination.

But will it tame the illegal loggers? Can Liberia, a poverty-stricken country that relies heavily on the sale of its natural resources, police even such a seemingly foolproof system? If so, could Liberia, as environment groups such as Conservation International suggest, be on the verge of creating a green economic model for the rest of the continent? Or will putting the country’s natural resources back on sale plunge Liberia back into conflict?

The European Union is Liberia’s largest market for timber. Starting in early 2013, the EU will require all companies importing timber to demonstrate that it has been legally harvested. The deal with Liberia will allow the new timber concession holders put in place by Sirleaf to comply with these new regulations.

More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/24/rainforest-liberia-logging

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Europe’s largest annual environment conference explores spectrum of resource efficiency

Opening today, Green Week 2011 launches a call for citizens to “use less and live better,” the EC press service announced.

During the conference’s four days, over 3,500 participants will look for ways to use our planet’s resources more sustainably. This year’s Green Week gathers participants from a wide variety of backgrounds, including EU institutions, business and industry, non-governmental organisations, public authorities, the scientific community, academia and the media. Some 30 events are scheduled to take place outside Brussels, including events to come in Slovenia (25-27 May, 2 June) and Poland (11 June). The conference is webstreamed in its entirety.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “Resource efficiency isn’t just about constraints and scarcity — it’s a vast array of opportunities for growth and jobs with less waste, a cleaner environment, and better, more sustainable choices for consumers. The scope of this year’s Green Week is a clear demonstration of the reach of environment policy — it really is fundamental to the way we choose to live our lives.”

More: http://www.focus-fen.net/index.php?id=n250493

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Ugandan government launches new population policy plan

The government has launched a new population policy action plan that will guide it in addressing challenges of a fast-growing population. The action plan will largely implement what has been outlined in the population policy which was put in place in 2008.

The policy calls for more investment in the growing population, addresses issues of appropriate planning for a rapidly growing population, investing in family planning for child spacing and identifying critical concerns that must be tackled to ensure a quality population, among them poverty, illiteracy, disease and unemployment.

Demographers say Uganda’s population growth rate, currently estimated at 3.2 per cent, is the third fastest growing in the world after Yemen and Niger.

More: http://allafrica.com/stories/201105240066.html

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