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.

“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”  

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.

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.

Sustainable Mekong Research Network (SUMERNET) Learning Forum was concluded this week in Bangkok with the participation of over 100 participants. The forum was aimed to gather researchers, boundary partners (policy influencers and policy makers), advisories and mentors who were involved in SUMERNET projects for sharing knowledge and lessons learnt from SUMERNET Phase 3 (2014-2017) and to discuss about policy-research interaction for its next phase “SUMERNET 4 All”. SUMERNET is a regional research network promoting scientific policy relevant research to influence policy decisions in the region which was initiated in 2005, at a time when its need was paramount. The region is undergoing rapid transformation, which in turn has increased the stress on natural resources and biodiversity questioning the sustainability of the region in the long run. Moreover, poverty and gender and social inequality prevailing in the region is standing in its way to achieve SDGs.


 SUMERNET has provided a platform for the researchers and boundary partners to work collaboratively, supporting them with resources and providing opportunities for capacity building to help deliver credible research to overcome these challenges and achieve sustainable development.The forum provided a platform for policy actors and researchers to discuss and debate on the needs for robust scientific research to influence policy and practices which will reduce water insecurities for ALL in the Mekong Region. The discussions were mainly under three research themes: 1) Water access, rights and allocation in times of scarcity 2) Governance and management of flood disaster risk, and 3) transboundary interactions with water systems.

Recently several South Asian cities were under heavy smog. Several reports from Lahore and New Delhi claimed  how severe the situation really was. The situation has been occurring for the last few years and has been growing severe each year. This year it made news again due to the related health concerns and several road accidents. The satellite imagery released by NASA indicate an inverted V shaped smog cloud over India and Pakistan.

This becomes a health hazard in many forms. Firstly, it is extremely harmful for the respiratory systems. The long term effects on children are yet to be determined since this occurrence has a history of few years yet fast growing in terms of concentrations.There has been on average more than 100,000 smog related deaths in both India and Pakistan last couple of years.  The recommendations from doctors have been to leave the cities. But this is not a viable solution. There are many active groups who are working on creating awareness. Rather than long term solutions most of the discussions seem to be on the preventive measures. This has sparked criticism within youth because they feel there is inadequate commitment from the people as well as the governments to reduce the emission levels.

To get a quantitative measure of this situation we looked at couple of reports, A U.S. embassy measure of tiny Particulate Matter (PM) of 2.5 showed a reading of 608 at 10 in the morning when the safe limit is 50 in New Delhi. In Lahore, this amount has been  1077 mg/m^3 during another measurement. PM or Particulate Matter 2.5 is a measure of coarse particles which are the lower limit of the coarseness range but yet inhalable and harmful in larger concentrations like this. A Lahori residen talked to us about alarmingly poor visibility which slowed down economic activity significantly in the city during the last week.

We observe that a large contribution of emissions comes from biomass burning and stubble burning. Biomass burning starts as the cold weather approaches and stubble burning takes place in farms to clear out the fields before cultivation.  Both These activities occur closer to winter and therefore there is significant accumulation of  emissions. The landlocked geography of both cities Delhi and Lahore magnifies the impact where the sea breeze is not present to flush out the contaminants. Therefore, there needs to be significant strides towards concrete policies related to crop/biomass burning activity in the region in coming years. In the short term, more responsible measures should be reintroduced to mitigate loss of life.

Climate change is real and impacts of climate change will be severe, pervasive and irreversible. As a result of the Climate Change, migration can be one of the main challenges that the entire world will face in the near future.  Many families including women and children are suffering due to environmental disasters some possibly induced by climate change. As reported by UNHCR, it is estimated that one person in every second has been displaced by a disaster and nearly 2.5 million people are displaced by climate or weather change related catastrophes since 2008. It is important to understand the seriousness of this issue and prepare and take necessary action to face climate change while addressing the issue of migration due to climate change. The term climate refugee or environmental refugee is a controversial in international system and its a very political phrase too.

There is no internationally accepted definition for ‘climate refugee’ under international law. People who are migrating due to environmental reasons do not fall into a specific legal category under the existing international legal framework. The people who are identified as ‘climate refugees’ or ‘environmental refugees’ have no legal protection under 1951 Refugee Convention and asylum law. The principle of international environmental law, establishes that all States are responsible for addressing global environmental destruction, yet not equally responsible for addressing environmental protection.  As a result, ensuring protection for affected people by climate change is challenging and it is hard even for the State to accommodate the legal protection for those people under the traditional international legal framework (IOM outlook on environment, migration, and climate change, 2014).

Due to absences of a legal definitions for climate refugees or environmental refugees, International Organization for Migration (IOM) has presented a working definition for ‘environmental migrant’ in order to create a specific legal status for this particular group. It was presented to the IOM membership at 94th Council Session, the definition is “environmental migrants are persons or groups of persons who, for reasons of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect their lives or living conditions, are obliged to have to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move either within their territory or abroad” (World Migration 2008, 493). However, this article aims to provide an overview of climate change and existing regal protection for climate refugee in next section, as it is very important to understand the issue of climate change and its severe impact on migration in a holistic manner in order address the both short term and long term issues of Climate refugees.

When the term carbon tax appears on a country's budget for the first time, sometimes people get confused because they are usually already burdened with many forms of taxation. This might be the case with Sri Lanka this week. There were several statements on the social media asking “What is this carbon tax?” after the budget presentation 2018.

The story of carbon tax is related to the greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions across the world which is driving the global warming potential. Many of the GHGs are carbon based (CO2, CO, CFCs and Methane) and therefore, the discussion is centered around the term “Carbon”. The physical effect of CO2 and the other GHGs in the atmosphere can be measured as a change in the Earth-atmosphere system's energy balance. Carbon taxes are one of the policies available to governments to influence reductions GHG emissions.

Currently many conversations around the implementation of the climate agenda highlight that putting a price on carbon is essential for the success in the international response to climate change. Therefore, many interested parties are in the lookout for the new initiatives related to carbon pricing.  During a panel discussion at COP 21 in Paris in 2015, it was mentioned, “China has seven pilot emissions trading systems, and has announced its intention to launch a national system in 2017” and the recent news states this has been pushed to December 2017. A World Bank Group report "Carbon Pricing Watch 2016" provides further information about key developments and prospects of existing and emerging carbon initiatives.  

Link : https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/24288

If you refer the UNFCCC website, it also shows examples of how the carbon taxes are applied in few cases.

Link : http://unfccc.int/secretariat/momentum_for_change/items/9931.php

The above image also explains how the tax procedures contribute from various locations across the world. The world is looking at large polluters to take strong measures in taxation to influence the reductions of emissions. However, in Sri Lanka's case the taxation applies to fossil fuel based vehicles and Sri Lanka also plans to phase out fossil fuel based vehicles by 2040. It is important to  note that current emissions from heavy vehicles are not yet properly regulated in Sri Lanka.

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