225t h
issue, May 21, 2013
WATER: Experts Urge Water...
U.N.-backed report ranks businesses by impact on environment: Cattle ranching in South America ranks second worst.
A controversial dam under construction on an Amazon River tributary in Brazil may deliver less
electricity than promised i...
A suite of disquieting global phenomena have given rise to the "Anthropocene," a term coined for a new geologic epoch char...
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Newsletter 225


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Newsletter 225

  1. 1. SOUTH AMERICA ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND HEALTH NEWSLETTER 225t h issue, May 21, 2013 WATER: Experts Urge Water's Inclusion in Development Goals By Richa Malhotra As the world faces growing water security challenges, experts are calling for better monitoring of the availability, quality and use of water, and its inclusion in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals as a key issue in the post-2015 development agenda. Human activities, such as building dams and agricultural irrigation, they say, have fundamentally altered the global water system, threatening ecosystems and a steady supply of fresh water. But a lack of scientific data and monitoring mean there is still no effective global governance of this key resource. The Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015, focus narrowly on drinking water and sanitation for human health, but ignore global water quantity and quality standards for personal use, agriculture and healthy ecosystems, argue scientists from the Global Water System Project (GWSP). Experts will meet this week (21–24 May) in Bonn, Germany, to bring together global efforts on water research to help set scientific foundations for a common vision for the sustainable use and international governance of water. The conference, Water in the Anthropocene, is organised by the international research initiative, GWSP. It will showcase research conducted on the global water system over the past decade and recommend priorities for decision-makers in the areas of earth system science and management of water. "It will summarise past scientific achievements and proceed to conceptualise future research, which includes direct partnerships with policy and decision-makers," János Bogárdi, senior advisor to GWSP, tells SciDev.Net. The findings will feed into the 2013 Budapest Water Summit in Hungary in October, where "a multi- stakeholder crowd will discuss how water-related goals can be formulated and made an integral part of the Sustainable Development Goals", Bogárdi says. Read more: water-s-inclusion-in-development-goals.html The information contained herein was gathered from news sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of our constituent posts. Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related events of USG interest are welcome to do so. For questions or comments, please contact us at * Free translation prepared by REO staff.  Water: Experts Urge Water’s Inclusion in Development Goals.  Environment: Coal and Cattle Lead Business Damage to Nature-Study.  Conservation: Chilean Antarctic Institute Leads a Regional Project on Whale Catalogue.  Energy: Fewer Trees in the Amazon, Less Hydropower from Dams.  Climate Change: Longest- Ever Everest Ice Core to Study Climate Change.  Science: Shifts in Global Water Systems, Markers on a New Geological Epoch: The Anthropocene.  Glaciers: World’s Largest Tropical Glacier Shrinks.  June 3-7, 2013 REO to attend the Science Corner Workshop in Chile  June 5, 2013 World Environment Day  June 24-27, 2013 REO to address at the LA Forum on Climate Change Adaptation in Brazil  June 28-29, 2013 Peru Green Build 2013 Expo & International Congress, Lima, Peru  July 10-12, 2013 Eolica, Buenos Aires, Argentina Next events: In this issue: Photo by @Doug88888 (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.
  2. 2. U.N.-backed report ranks businesses by impact on environment: Cattle ranching in South America ranks second worst. Coal-fired power generation in Asia and cattle ranching in South America are the most damaging businesses for nature with hidden costs that exceed the value of their production, a U.N.-backed report said on Monday. Global output of basic goods from cement to wheat caused damage totalling $7.3 trillion a year if pollution, water, greenhouse gases and waste were priced to reflect long-term impacts, it said in a guide for businesses and investors. The study, by a business coalition for The Economics of Ecosystems and Bodiversity (TEEB), said there were wide uncertainties in the prices. The coalition's backers include the United Nations, World Bank, businesses and conservation groups. "The numbers in this report underline the urgency but also the opportunities for all economies in transitioning to a green economy," Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environ- ment Programme, said in a statement. Coal-fired power generation in Asia, led by China, had estimated revenues of $443 billion a year but caused $452 billion in damage to nature, largely because greenhouse gases caused climate change and pollution harmed people's health. Cattle ranching in South America, especially in cleared parts of the Amazon forest, ranked second with damage estimated at $353 billion, largely because of stress on water supplies and deforestation that far exceeded revenues of $16.6 billion. Coal-fired power in North America was third in the ranking on damage to "natural capital", ahead of wheat and rice farming in Southern Asia, it said. "We are trying to focus the minds of busineses and investors onto natural capital" to encourage better practices, Dorothy Maxwell, director of the TEEB for Business Coalition, told Reuters. "We are not asking anyone to close down." Read more at: idUSL5N0CZ31G20130415 Scientists from Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panamá, Chile and Antarctica are collecting data to generate the largest cata- logue on humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) living in the southeast Pacific Ocean. According to preliminary results, there is a total of 4,480 humpback whales identified, ranging from Antarctica up to Costa Rica. In Peru, this initiative is supported by ecotourism. Whale watching tours start in July and last until October. Researchers photo- graph the inner part of the tail, which is distinctive for each whale, functioning like a fingerprint for humans. They also note the time, location, behavior and group, when taking the photographs. This study is important to understand whale interaction, know more about sex, size of population, and connectivity. Peru forms the southern limit of the reproduction area of humpback whales. Whales are in Peruvian water between July and Octo- ber. During their stay, they court and reproduce. It is possible to see whale deliveries, as well. After winter, they migrate south. Peruvian experts have determined that the North of Peru is a natural sanctuary for cetaceans. A positive aspect to highlight is participation of local fisher- men, who have found in ecotourism and whale watching a new employment opportunity. The mission is to use tourism as a conservation tool. In 1946, Peru subscribed to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. This norm was ratified in 1976 and prohibits the hunting of whales for commercial purposes. elaboracion-catalogo-ballenas-jorobadas ENVIRONMENT: Coal and Cattle Lead Business Damage to Nature-Study CONSERVATION: Chilean Antarctic Institute Leads a Regional Project on Whale Catalogue* Photo by Valerio Pillar (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License. Photo by (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.
  3. 3. A controversial dam under construction on an Amazon River tributary in Brazil may deliver less electricity than promised if trees in the wider rainforest continue to be cut down, according to a study published online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The 11,233-megawatt Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River will be the world’s third largest hydro- power facility by generating capacity when it is completed in 2015. Because plans for a large reservoir were scrapped to mollify indigenous and environmental groups, the facility’s power output will fluctuate with seasonal river flows. In an average year Belo Monte, now a “run of the river” dam with a smaller reservoir, will generate just 40 percent of its installed capacity. But if Brazil does not rein in deforestation in the Amazon basin, Belo Monte’s power potential may fall well short of expectations, says Claudia Stickler, the study’s lead author and a scientist at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute. The study is one of the first to assess the effects of regional deforestation on hydropower potential. Under a “business-as-usual” scenario of 40 percent loss of forest cover in the Amazon by 2050, Belo Monte would generate nearly 40 percent less electricity than its developer anticipates, the study claims. That is on top of the expected reductions in average an- nual generation due to the dam’s redesign. The Amazon has lost about 17 percent of its forest cover already, according to study co- author Michael Coe of the Woods Hole Research Center. “We recommend that forest policy be considered in connection with energy policy,” Stickler told Circle of Blue. “There should be integrated thinking about land use and energy.” Read more at: Beijing: Scientists have obtained the longest ice core ever from the Mount Everest, measuring 142 metres, along with two other samples to aid in the study of climate change and provide new insight into global warming. During the expedition that lasted more than a month, scientists drilled the ice cores at a mountain pass near the East Rongbuk gla- cier, which covers the north collar of Everest, said Kang Shichang, an expedition leader. An ice core is a core sample from the accumulation of snow and ice over many years that have recrystallised and have trapped air bubbles. The longest ice core obtained measures 142 metres, the longest one ever obtained from the mountain, said Kang, also a research fellow at the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau Institute, state-run news agency Xinhua reported. The ice cores will be used to study climate and environmental change, Kang said. Scientists have previously obtained ice cores at the same location in the late 1990s and early 2000s, respectively. "The new cores will provide more detailed information regarding climate and environmental changes, providing new insight into global warming," Kang said. The expedition also found a recent escalation in the melting of the East Rong- buk glacier, with some ice towers on the edge of the glacier disappearing and some new ice crevasses developing further in comparison to what scientists saw in the region in the 1990s, according to Kang. "This indicates that climate and environmental changes have had an obvious impact on Mount Everest," Kang said. Read full article at: -usando-rayos-laser ENERGY: Fewer Trees in the Amazon, Less Hydropower from Dams By Brett Walton A prayer pole placed in front of Everest mountain. Photo by McKay Savage (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License. Sunset on the Xingu River. Photo by International Rivers (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License. CLIMATE CHANGE: Longest-Ever Everest Ice Core to Study Climate Change
  4. 4. A suite of disquieting global phenomena have given rise to the "Anthropocene," a term coined for a new geologic epoch characterized by humanity's growing dominance of the Earth's environment and a planetary transformation as profound as the last epoch-defining event -- the retreat of the glaciers 11,500 years ago. And in Bonn, Germany May 21-24, world experts will focus on how to mitigate key factors contributing to extreme damage to the global water system being caused while adapting to the new reality. "The list of human activities and their impact on the water systems of Planet Earth is long and important," Anik Bhaduri, Executive Officer of the Global Water System Project (GWSP). "We have altered the Earth's climatology and chemistry, its snow cover, permafrost, sea and glacial ice extent and ocean volume—all fun- damental elements of the hydrological cycle. We have accelerated major processes like erosion, applied massive quantities of nitrogen that leaks from soil to ground and surface waters and, sometimes, literally siphoned all water from rivers, emptying them for human uses before they reach the ocean. We have diverted vast amounts of freshwater to harness fossil energy, dammed major waterways, and de- stroyed aquatic ecosystems." Among many examples of humanity's oversized imprint on the world, cited in a paper by James Syvitski, Chair of the International Geo- sphere-Biosphere Programme and three fellow experts (in full:, and in a new "Water in the Anthropocene" video to debut in Bonn May 21 (available at and  Humanity uses an area the size of South America to grow its crops and an area the size of Africa for raising livestock  Due to groundwater and hydrocarbon pumping in low lying coastal areas, two-thirds of major river deltas are sinking, some of them at a rate four times faster on average than global sea level is rising  More rock and sediment is now moved by human activities such as shoreline in-filling, damming and mining than by the natural erosive forces of ice, wind and water combined  Many river floods today have links to human activities, including the Indus flood of 2010 (which killed 2,000 people), and the Bangkok flood of 2011 (815 deaths)  On average, humanity has built one large dam every day for the last 130 years. Tens of thousands of large dams now distort natural river flows to which ecosystems and aquatic life adapted over millennia  Drainage of wetlands destroys their capacity to ease floods—a free service of nature expensive to replace evaporation from poorly-managed irriga- tion renders many of the world's rivers dry -- no water, no life. And so, little by little, tens of thousands of species edge closer to extinction every day. Read full article at: Earth is fast becoming a planet where tropical glaciers will be myths. Here are a couple of recently released satellite images from 1988 and 2010 showing the shrinkage of the world’s biggest tropical glacier, the Quelccaya Ice Cap in Peru. High mountain tropical glaciers have long been the alarm bells of global warming, but this ice cap, with its many glacial arms, is especially important since its ice contains an archive of data about El Niño and La Niña episodes for the past 1,800 years. The receding glaciers have also exposed frozen plants that were locked beneath the glacier for thousands of years — giving clues to the age of the glacier advances through the last several millenniums. To see the images, click on Melting Glaciers Cause One-Third of Sea-Level Rise and Mount Everest’s Ice Is Melting. This gif images com- piled from: NASA’s Earth Observatory “Quelccaya is now smaller than it was 6,000 years ago,” said pioneer tropical glacier re- searcher Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University. “Moreover, the plant ages confirm that the advance of the Quelccaya Ice Cap about 6,000 years ago was much slower— about 300 meters over 1,600 years—than its current rate of retreat of about 300 meters in 25 years.” Will it disappear entirely? That’s entirely up to humans, who are causing the global warm- ing that is melting the ice cap. Read full article at: shrinks-130520.htm SCIENCE: Shifts in Global Water Systems, Markers of a New Geological Epoch: The Anthropocene Photo by xiquinhosilva (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License. Photo by thisparticularGreg (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License. CONSERVATION: World's Largest Tropical Glacier Shrinks By Larry O’Hanlon