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Showing posts from April, 2019

Towards monitoring sustainable use of biomass in Ethiopia and Kenya

Over 80 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa’s rely on biomass for cooking and heating. Much of it, however, is harvested and used unsustainability due to the lack of access to clean, affordable alternatives and the use of inefficient applications (for combustion). Inconsistency in monitoring and evaluating national bioenergy programmes make it difficult to track the contribution of biomass use to national sustainable development objectives. Gaps in the expertise of national researchers and policymakers, the decentralized nature of biomass and the lack of financial resources for data collection and analysis generate additional barriers. “While awareness exists concerning bioenergy sustainability and some multi-stakeholder engagement, a clear and established means of measuring the sustainability of bioenergy is yet to be achieved across Africa. A robust understanding among stakeholders of the multiple benefits of sustainable bioenergy is lacking,” said Richard Munang, Climate Change …

The inspiring thing that happened when a Japanese village went almost waste-free

Growth prospects: Akira Sakano hopes her green approach will spread across Japan Image: REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski The village of Kamikatsu sits among verdant rice fields and mountainous forest on the Western Japanese island of Shikoku. With less than 1,700 residents, it’s the smallest village on the island, but for the last few years, has been garnering headlines around the world. For decades, the village had given little thought to processing its waste, either burning it in an open incinerator or burying it in the ground. A failed new incinerator project, however, forced the village to rethink its strategy and a lofty ambition was born - to become a zero-waste town by 2020. Today, more than 80% of the village’s waste is kept out of incinerators and landfill, but the transformation wasn’t easy or quick. Lifestyle shift Kamikatsu’s journey towards zero waste started more than two decades ago. The town had recently built, at great expense, a new incinerator to take care of its waste. Bu…

Air pollution and climate change: two sides of the same coin

Erupting volcanoes, earthquakes, dust storms and meteorites smashing into the Earth’s crust are natural phenomena that can cause climate change and air pollution: dinosaurs may have met their end after a giant meteorite kicked up so much dust that it blocked out the sun for decades, reducing photosynthesis and preventing the growth of plants. Adding to these potential threats, we have also been contributing to air pollution and global warming through our resource-intensive lifestyles. We’re producing and consuming more than ever before, and we’re generating more greenhouse gases as a result, as well as air pollutants in the form of chemicals and particulate matter, including “black carbon”. Switching to renewable sources of energy is an important part of the solution to both climate change and air pollution. Photo Credit: hpgruesen/Wikimedia Commons Although they may seem to be two very different issues, climate change and air pollution are closely interlinked, so by reducing air polluti…

Malaria vaccine pilot launched in Malawi

Country first of three in Africa to roll out landmark vaccine العربية中文FrançaisРусский WHO welcomes the Government of Malawi’s launch of the world’s first malaria vaccine today in a landmark pilot programme. The country is the first of three in Africa in which the vaccine, known as RTS,S, will be made available to children up to 2 years of age; Ghana and Kenya will introduce the vaccine in the coming weeks. Malaria remains one of the world’s leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes. Most of these deaths are in Africa, where more than 250 000 children die from the disease every year. Children under 5 are at greatest risk of its life-threatening complications. Worldwide, malaria kills 435 000 people a year, most of them children. “We have seen tremendous gains from bed nets and other measures to control malaria in the last 15 years, but progress has stalled and even reversed in some areas. We need new solutions to get the malaria response back on track, and this…

Better sewage treatment critical for human health and ecosystems

The volume of sewage in the world is set to rise in line with population growth. Furthermore, the growth in global wealth means our wastewater, including sewage, contains increasing amounts of dangerous chemicals, toxic substances and the debris associated with modern consumer lifestyles. Sewage contains plastic particles, microbial pollutants and traces of medications that can threaten water and food security, and human health. The problem is particularly acute in densely populated areas which lack treatment facilities. Take the Ganga (Ganges) river in India. It supports a population of some 500 million people, roughly equal to the population of the United States, Russia and Canada combined, and provides water for cooking, bathing, irrigating crops and sustaining livelihoods. For many people it also has great spiritual and cultural value. A January 2018 study published in Water Research, entitled Population density controls on microbial pollution across the Ganga catchment finds that: Fa…

This new HIV therapy could save millions of lives

livesKick And kill HIV is a sneaky virus. It can hide in the immune cells of people taking daily antiretroviral therapy (ART) drugs, waiting until they stop the therapy to come back with a vengeance. This forces them to continue ART — and continue dealing with its many side effects — for their entire lives. But now, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh have developed an HIV immunotherapy that not only kicks the virus out of hiding, but also kills it permanently — the first step, they say, to an HIV vaccine. “It’s like the Swiss Army knife of immunotherapies,” researcher Robbie Mailliard said in a press release. Image: Lancet Double duty In a study published Tuesday in the journal EBioMedicine, the Pitt team details how it engineered an immunotherapy called MDC1 to target both HIV and Cytomegalovirus (CMV), a virus that infects 95 percent of people with HIV. “The immune system spends a lot of time keeping CMV in check; in some people, 1 one out of every 5 T cells are specific …

climate change is 'our greatest threat in thousands of years'

British broadcaster and environmentalist David Attenborough on Monday urged world leaders, meeting in Poland to agree ways to limit global warming, to get on and tackle "our greatest threat in thousands of years". Known for countless nature films, Attenborough has gained prominence recently with his "Blue Planet II" series, which highlighted the devastating effect of pollution on the oceans. "Leaders of the world, you must lead," said the naturalist, given a "People's seat" at the two-week U.N. climate conference in the Polish coal city of Katowice alongside two dozen heads of state and government. "The continuation of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend, is in your hands," he said. The world is currently on course to overshoot by far the limits for global warming agreed in the landmark 2015 Paris accord on climate change, which were intended to prevent more extreme weather, rising sea levels and the loss …

5 ways cities can use emerging technologies to fight climate change

Even if the world adheres to the commitments set out by the Paris Agreement, winter temperatures in the Arctic are still expected to rise by 3-5°C by 2050, a UN Environment report concludes. The consequent thaw of permafrost will threaten four million people and around 70% of today’s Arctic infrastructure, leading to rising sea levels, among other severe consequences. The report emphasizes the need for drastic measures to reduce emissions.
Cities, local governments and the private sector must work together to leverage emerging technologies to mitigate the effects of climate change. Big data, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, mixed reality and 3D printing are already being used to develop solutions that will be vital in alleviating the worst consequences of global warming.
1. Big data Big data describes the collection and processing of a large amount of data into useful and insightful information. Managers consistently use big data to help make decisions and achieve operationa…