Breakthrough Energy Ventures declared its 5-part investment strategy last week and since then there has been online chatter indicating many industry giants gathering around the process. The initiative was launched in 2015 at the Paris climate conference and started making buzz again after the One Planet Summit which took place in Paris, France on 12th December this year headed by the French president Emmanuel Macron (read more:“France, Macron and the 18 Scientists” )

  The group's commitment statement indicates that the main concern with the implementation of clean energy solutions across the world is the time taken for the technology transfer. It states, “Unfortunately, these energy transitions can take hundreds of years, and we don't have hundreds of years to transition to clean energy. Climate change is already harming hundreds of millions of people. The world must speed up the cycle of innovation”. To speed up the cycle of innovation there should be significant resources allocations. We see nowadays that most of the developing countries opt to go for hydro energy solutions to increase the renewable quota than committing to solar, wind and hybrid solutions. Such countries who jump into projects without proper assessments has been facing numerous problems with their projects and balancing the energy mix. Therefore, timely intervention from an initiative like this is useful. But we need to stress that the interventions should align with community needs rather than blind technology transfer. Listed under the areas of focus in their recent updates are

Grid-scale storage

Liquid fuel

Micro-/mini-grids

Alternative building materials

Geothermal

They state these focus areas are determined based on the megatrends shaping the world in next 50 years. It is quite interesting the attention given to Geothermal (we will explore this in a later article) .Furthermore, this coalition also commits to build technologies that change the way the people live, eat, work, travel and to introduce mechanisms to mitigate the devastating impacts of climate change. Therefore, their scope is likely to go beyond clean energy and hopefully account for the civil conflicts, human movements, and population growth among other global issues.

  Let's also look at who are included in this coalition. So far commonly known entities like Microsoft, Virgin, General Electric, and University of California are included and individuals like Jeff Bezos (The richest person in the world), Mukesh Ambani, Michael Bloomberg, Jack Ma, Retan Tata and Mark Zuckerberg are listed. So far in total the list includes 17 entities and 31 individuals. Under another sub-topic they list the “Mission Innovation countries” highlighting the commitments of USD 31 billion to support the development of new and enhanced low-emissions technologies. These countries are listed here. The newsroom linked to their website mostly highlights news on Bill Gates commitments to the venture and we hope to see more updates on the work they do and specifics on the projects soon.

  Just couple of weeks ago  the famous tusker in Sri Lanka, “Dala Puuttuwa of Galigamuwa “ was killed and it created a massive public discussion regarding the human–elephant conflicts of Sri Lanka. Finally, investigators found that the intention of killing the mammoth being was sell the tusks and elephant pearls of it. There is a controversy that  even a Buddhist monk is also connected with this killing and it reveals up to which extent this barbarian phenomenon has been spreading in the country. The human elephant conflict here is not new one, even centuries ago it was in this land according to historical records like Robert Knox. According to data gathered by the Elephant Conservation Unit of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), around 2,844 elephants were killed by farmers and 1,138 people were killed by elephants between the years from 1991 to 2010, while a total of 3,103 homes in Sri Lanka were destroyed by elephants (2004 to 2007)

  Sri Lanka has10-20% percent of the Asian elephant population; the density is higher than any other member state in this region. A land area of nearly five square kilometers is needed to support an elephant to make sure the natural balance that exists between the elephant and the dry zone habitats is not disturbed. According to this data, to current population of 3,500 elephants requires around 17,500 square kilometers   or 27%  of the total land area while the protected areas in Sri Lanka covers only 12.5%  of the land area (or 8,200 km2). This indicates that nature parks and reserves are not able to ensure the sustainable prevalence of these beings and sustainable solutions are much needed and to reach the prevailing solutions and the political willingness is the most necessary factor.

The lack of sufficient land area for existence of elephants is the foremost reason for human elephant conflicts. Droughts, floods and other climate change related incidents have been intensifying the conflicts in Sri Lanka while Sri Lanka has been ranked as one of the highest risk countries for climate change in 2018, according to global climate risk index. Therefore, there needs to be steps beyond understanding the issue. We will further discuss this in the second part of this article chain.

There was a special conference on climate change which took place in Paris last week which caught the eyes of many. The Science magazine in its article indicated this as the “French President Emmanuel Macron’s effort to lure disgruntled foreign climate scientists to France—especially from the United States”. The event which was also called the One Planet Summit , was held on 12th December. 

 Justifying this statement by the Science magazine to a certain extent, France later announced that Macron’s “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative has recruited its first class of 18 scientists. Of the new recruits, 13, including a few French nationals, now “work in the United States”, whereas others are based outside US. These selections were made out of nearly 1800 applications which were mostly from United States. The first set of winners were offered grants whereas the next set of winners will be announced in spring 2018. Reportedly there were 57 proposals turned in to the French National Research Agency and therefore, we shall expect at least two stages of grant offers.

One of the scientists, Prof. Camille Parmesan, who was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was quite positive towards the concept. Many believe that this is another answer to the American presidency which opted to leave the Climate Agreement this year closer to the UNFCCC COP 23. We hope this could be a substantial commitment than the hype created over Syria deciding to join the climate deal in November despite the ongoing civil conflict. This is mainly because we were not convinced of the possible real motives behind Syria joining the climate deal.    

Further outcomes of the event can be viewed here :Outcome Summary

The recent escalation in the activity level of Mount Agung was yet again an instant of human vulnerability in the face of natural calamities. However, volcanology remains one of foremost areas of studies that stays on top of close observation of earth’s geothermal activities and hence is able to closely predict possibilities of disasters related to this area.

The escalating activity within the Mount Agung; an 2995m stratovolcano on the North-Eastern side of the island of Bali, Indonesia, with emissions of a great amount of ash and lahar flows caused scientists to predict that an eruption was at hand. There was historic data about the volcano’s past activity to predict what is to be expected. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated according to BBC and a “red warning” issued to airlines about volcanic ash in the skies.

However, people were ordered to return to their homes and the airport opened to business after there was a relative subsiding in the volcanic activity. Although there was no eruption, this was an instance where many steps were taken to mitigate and manage a disaster. A significant amount of sulfur and ash has already been released to the atmosphere according to NASA observations and this naturally implies future weather and climatic impacts.

 

Further readings : Each Volcano Has Unique Warning Signs That Eruption Is Imminent 

   A couple of weeks ago we introduced and discussed the issue of the rapid degradation of the air quality in South Asia. Today we are going to discuss the matter again after the recent controversial incident during the India vs Sri Lanka test Cricket game. Looking at a snapshot of the air quality indices across Asia shows a range of air quality levels and significant pollution over China, India and Pakistan. We discussed the issue of smog in India and Pakistan in a previous article. (South Asia : Smogged)

   The recent incident occurred when the Sri Lankan national cricket team took the field in New Delhi during the five-day game. Sri Lankans were unfamiliar to the prevailing conditions and therefore, seemed highly uncomfortable when exposed to the air. The usual recommendations during this kind of poor air quality is to reduce outdoor exertion, take breaks and plan outdoor activities in the morning. Furthermore, this comes with a warning that respiratory problems like coughing, wheezing is highly possible for older adults, children and people with heart diseases under these circumstances. The incident in New Delhi caused significant chatter over the social media and some comments created a debate over the impact of the air quality on players we witnessed. At the end it was quite evident that air quality level was extremely degraded and could have created extreme discomfort for a person who was not familiar with the conditions.

  Air quality of the Dharmashala where the most recent game was held had a moderate quality which was not harmful.   Therefore, let's analyze the locations where the next 5 game will be played. According to the schedules given in the ESPN cricinfo portal Cricinfo India vs Sri Lanka. The game date,  cities and the AQI of P.M. 2.5 levels observed today (13/12/2017) are as follows.

Game date

City

AQI of P.M. 2.5 as at (13/12/2017)

13/12/2017

 Mohali

215

17/12/2017

 Visakhapatnam

172

20/12/2017

 Cuttak 

147

22/12/2017

 Indore

88

24/12/2017

 Mumbai

164

  Fine particles - PM2.5 are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller particles, and can only be seen with an electron microscope. Fine particles of this kind are produced from all types of combustion (Vehicle and industrial combustion, stubble burning...). AQI color bar guide is also given here to get a better understanding of the figures indicated above, EPA AQI Color bars.

   The color bar system does change in cases from country to country. What we have indicated here related to our data source, AQICN which is in accordece with the EPA color bar above. To add another reference point, New Delhi city center is at AQI P.M. 2.5 average value of 270 today. These figures might change as we go towards the final game on 24th which is in another 12 days’ time. However, the changes may not cause a drastic drop looking at previous years records. The issue of the air quality will evidently have an impact on the sporting events to the future. However, the most disastrous impact is on health of the general population across the region.

The third Science Technology and Innovation (STI)  forum will be held at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 5,6 June 2018. The STI forum next year will discuss SDGs 6,7,11,12 and 15. This also aligns with the SDGs taken into evaluation in the UN calendar events like ECOSOC youth forum and the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in the coming year. Last year, the SDGs considered were  1, 2, 3, 5, 9  and 14. The evaluation of the SDGs this year will build up on that and follow a similar process.

 STI forum, also known as the Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for SDGs is an important event of the UN calendar and is a part of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) mandated by the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. As requested by the General Assembly resolution 70/1 on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the President of ECOSOC convenes the meetings of the STI forum once a year to discuss science, technology and innovation cooperation around thematic areas for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  It intends to, "provide a venue for facilitating interaction, matchmaking and the establishment of networks between relevant stakeholders and multi-stakeholder partnerships in order to identify and examine technology needs and gaps, including with regard to scientific cooperation, innovation and capacity-building, and also in order to help facilitate development, transfer and dissemination of relevant technologies for the sustainable development goals." It also acts as a gateway to gather information on existing STI initiatives, mechanisms and programs.

 The planning meetings for the 2018 forum was held in Republic of South Korea from 29th November to 1st December 2017. United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth has already sent across the recommendations and its positions to the planning phase to ensure the inputs from the youth are taken into account in setting up this annual gathering of the stakeholders from science, technology and innovation community.

“Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change; ” states the climate agenda article 2 paragraph 2, which came into being in 2015. A lot of discussion on the agreement builts around the target temperature figures.

Furthermore, a report titled “Global Warming of 1.5 °C: an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty” was tabled this year. There are many concerning terms in that IPCC report title. To start with, IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

To further evaluate these temperature terms we will do a series of articles starting with this one. The 2 ॰C and 1.5 ॰C temperature figures have been floating around in the conversations during last couple of years and it's time to look into the scientific relations behind the matter and interpret some of the statements above. There is a large number of debates on whether CO2 is driving the climate change and the atmospheric temperature increase. Then there is the discussion if this mechanism is actually vice versa and the temperatures are driving the CO2 increase. There are climatologists that present a range of arguments in this broad spectrum of views. Our responsibility as the SciencePolicy Circle is to bring into attention all these discussions because one thing we surely see is that climate shifts are happening fast and they are becoming severe each year.

 Global temperature variations and incidents behind climate shifts we see today are in fact huge thermal sciences problems. The heat transfer mechanisms involved are important to look at and understand. Understanding of the problem starts with identifying the contributing heat sources. Sun is the ‘star’ heat source and there are minor contributions from stellar radiation 9indirect radiation) and geothermal sources on earth. One concern we have is predicting sun's output into the future. Current understanding is based on 8 centuries worth statistical data.  Therefore,  the output of the sun to the future is an extrapolation. We cannot however be certain that this figure would not drastically change in a short term since there are certain tipping point the universe may have more knowledge on than the human mind. Wherever we are in this argument the earth needs a whole lot of saving from the climate in this century. With that we pause this story to be continued in next article. “Thermal Sciences of Climate Shifts : Part 2”  

When we look at some of the important areas where we can work towards the empowerment of women, education stands as top priority. If international conferences on empowerment of women are anything to go by, education is by far the most critical of aspects to be examined. While we take Nigeria as our primary example, the truth is in fact widespread internationally. Of the children not attending school, girls seem to be in higher numbers than boys. This naturally translates to a higher number of women being illiterate, compared to men. Providing girls with basic education is a simple assurance of giving them greater personal power and independence. They will be able to make better choices for themselves than depend on those around them for the same. This ability must not be a luxury for them but rather a necessity.

Going by just the fact that we will have happy and healthy women with such a move should be motivation enough for us to promote women’s education. If we look at the bigger picture, an educated woman may also contribute to society in several ways with her skills and confidence. Her efficiency as a parent, worker and a citizen of her country are greatly improved. Educated women are likely to postpone marriage to an age when they are well prepared mentally and materially as well. There are numerous studies that show how each additional year of schooling brings down fertility rates by a significant percentage. In our country alone, infant mortality rates among primary level schooled mothers are half of what they when compared to illiterate mothers.

Studies also show how women get more productive at work and thus command a better pay scale. International studies show that every additional year of schooling increases a woman’s earning capacity by 15%. For a man, this figure stands at only 11%. There is a lot that can be done to improve on the quality of education as well as the avenues and opportunities for a woman. Here is what we as a nation can do:

1. Get more parents involved: A family and community will need to work together to understand the importance of female education and provide them opportunities for the same.

2. Support girls and women in crisis: Millions of girls are subjected to abuse, child labor, sex trafficking, child marriage, and other offenses. Your gift will go where it’s needed most, protecting girls and women by equipping skilled, local staff to offer training, education, counseling, medical care, small business loans, and other programs that reach women and girls as well as boys — helping to end cycles of gender-based violence.

3. Schools in the vicinity: Parents worry about child safety. Having schools close by and having female instructors will be of great help. The One Foundation works towards empowering the girl children by promoting education among the under-privileged. This is done through donations as well as collaborations with schools that may need help.

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