The explosive ambitions of Kate the Chemist

Read the full story in the New York Times.

At the lecture halls of the University of Texas or on TV, Kate Biberdorf is working to catalyze more people into careers in science.

Methane Reduction Potential in the EU Between 2020 and 2030

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Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a twenty year cycle, and accounts for nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. Methane emissions reduction has a critical role to play in climate mitigation actions between now and 2040. The importance of methane emissions mitigation is put forward by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Global Methane Pledge, the Global Methane Assessment by UNEP and CCAC, and the latest Global Methane Tracker Report from the IEA, all of which have come out over the last two years. The Global Methane Assessment notes that, according to scenarios analysed by the IPCC, “global methane emissions must be reduced by between 40–45% by 2030 to achieve least costpathways that limit global warming to 1.5˚C this century”, and that it is possible and cost-effective to realise this reduction. This target goes beyond the 30% methane reduction that is included in the Global Methane Pledge.

The European Commission has implemented policies that help to mitigate methane emissions in the EU’s waste sector, but there are still considerable methane emissions in this sector, as well as in the energy sector and in livestock agriculture. This raises the question whether current policy efforts in the EU are sufficient in order to realise 45% methane emissions reduction by 2030. Changing Markets Foundation has asked CE Delft to estimate the potential methane emissions reduction in Europe between 2020 and 2030 by means of a literature study and own calculations, which helps to answer this question. It is worth nothing that the 30 and 45% reduction targets are global but that, for the sake of this study, these targets are applied to the EU emissions. We investigate what additional policy efforts are needed to realise these targets in the EU.

The UN just declared a universal human right to a healthy, sustainable environment – here’s where resolutions like this can lead

A young protester in India makes a statement about dangerous levels of air pollution. Prakash Singh/AFP via Getty Images

by Joel E. Correia, University of Florida

Climate change is already affecting much of the world’s population, with startlingly high temperatures from the Arctic to Australia. Air pollution from wildfires, vehicles and industries threatens human health. Bees and pollinators are dying in unprecedented numbers that may force changes in crop production and food availability.

What do these have in common? They represent the new frontier in human rights.

The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on July 28, 2022, to declare the ability to live in “a clean, healthy and sustainable environment” a universal human right. It also called on countries, companies and international organizations to scale up efforts to turn that into reality.

The declaration is not legally binding – countries can vote to support a declaration of rights while not actually supporting those rights in practice. The language is also vague, leaving to interpretation just what a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is.

Still, it’s more than moral posturing. Resolutions like this have a history of laying the foundation for effective treaties and national laws.

Viewed from above, a person paddles a wide canoe down a river lined with plastic and other trash.
The Buriganga River in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is strewn with trash and contaminated by industries and waste. It’s one of several heavily polluted rivers around the world. Munir Uz Zaman/AFP via Getty Images

I am a geographer who focuses on environmental justice, and much of my research investigates relationships between development-driven environmental change, natural resource use and human rights. Here are some examples of how similar resolutions have opened doors to stronger actions.

How the concept of human rights expanded

In 1948, in the aftermath of World War II, the newly formed United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in response to the atrocities of the Holocaust. The declaration wasn’t legally binding, but it established a baseline of rights intended to ensure the conditions for basic human dignity.

That first set of rights included the right to life, religious expression, freedom from slavery and a standard of living adequate for health and well-being.

Since then, the scope of human rights has been expanded, including several agreements that are legally binding on the countries that ratified them. The U.N. conventions against torture (1984) and racial discrimination (1965) and on the rights of children (1989) and persons with disabilities (2006) are just a few examples. Today, the International Bill of Human Rights also includes binding agreements on economic, cultural, civil and political rights.

Eleanor Roosevelt and others read from the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Today’s triple planetary crisis

The world has changed dramatically since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written, perhaps most notably with regard to the scale of environmental crises people worldwide face.

Some experts argue that the “triple planetary crisis” of human-driven climate change, widespread biodiversity loss and unmitigated pollution now threaten to surpass the planetary boundaries necessary to live safely on Earth.

These threats can undermine the right to life, dignity and health, as can air pollution, contaminated water and pollution from plastics and chemicals. That is why advocates argued for the U.N. to declare a right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

Three girls in white school uniforms walk down a smoggy street holding kerchiefs over their noses.
Smog has gotten so bad in Delhi at times that the government has closed elementary schools. Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images

The U.N. has been discussing the environment as a global concern for over 50 years, and several international treaties over that time have addressed specific environmental concerns, including binding agreements on protecting biodiversity and closing the ozone hole. The 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit global warming is a direct and legally binding outcome of the long struggles that follow initial declarations.

The resolution on the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment was approved without dissent, though eight countries abstained: Belarus, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Syria.

The human right to water

Voluntary human rights declarations can also be instrumental in changing state policy and providing people with new political tools to demand better conditions.

The human right to water is one of the strongest examples of how U.N. resolutions have been used to shape state policy. The resolution, adopted in 2010, recognizes that access to adequate quantities of clean drinking water and sanitation are necessary to realize all other rights. Diarrheal disease, largely from unsafe drinking water, kills half a million children under age 5 every year.

A boy crouches next to a puddle where a woman is filling plastic water bottles with a hose.
A woman in Sudan fills a water bottle for a child during the 2017 drought. Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty Images

Human rights advocates used the resolution to help pressure the Mexican government to reform its constitution and adopt a human right to water in 2012. While the concept still faces challenges, the idea of a right to water is also credited with transforming water access in marginalized communities in Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Egypt and other countries.

The rights of Indigenous peoples

The 2007 U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is another example. It recognizes the specific histories of marginalization, violence and exploitation that many Indigenous peoples around the world have endured and contemporary human rights violations.

The resolution outlines rights for Indigenous peoples but stops short of recognizing their sovereignty, something many critique as limiting the scope of self-determination. Within these limits, however, several countries have incorporated some of its recommendations. In 2009, Bolivia integrated it into its constitution.

People walk down a highway carrying banners demanding the state return their ancestral lands.
Enxet and Sanapaná Indigenous peoples of Paraguay protest in 2015 to demand land restitution and protection of their human rights. Joel E. Correia

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples discusses a right to free, prior and informed consent about development and industrial projects that would affect Indigenous people. That has been a powerful tool for Indigenous peoples to demand due process through the legal system.

In Canada, Paraguay and Kenya, Indigenous peoples have used the resolution to help win important legal victories before human rights courts with rulings that have led to land restitution and other legal gains.

Tools for change

U.N. declarations of human rights are aspirational norms that seek to ensure a more just and equitable world. Even though declarations like this one are not legally binding, they can be vital tools people can use to pressure governments and private companies to protect or improve human well-being.

Change can take time, but I believe this latest declaration of human rights will support climate and environmental justice across the world.

Joel E. Correia, Assistant Professor of Latin American Studies, University of Florida

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Bees could be key to reducing fluctuations in food supplies and steadying prices, study suggests

Read the full story at Food Navigator.

While the benefits of pollinators to crop yield are well known, their effect on crop stability was poorly understood until now. Supporting and enhancing pollinators could help stabilise the production of important crops like oilseeds and fruit, reducing the sort of uncertainty that causes food price spikes, new research has shown.

IT Efficiency: The Critical Core of Digital Sustainability

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A digital sustainability strategy should incorporate both the facilities and IT operations, even for colocation operators. This report covers strategies, software tools and metrics that can help drive up IT efficiency.

What Rotterdam teaches about the power of green roofs

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

From May 26 to June 26, the Dutch city of Rotterdam is showcasing the potential of rooftops. The Rotterdam Rooftop Walk connects rooftops through air bridges, offering a vision of the future of cities.

Soil Carbon Moonshot: Grounding Carbon Storage in Science

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The Soil Carbon Moonshot spells out a major transformation for the agriculture sector that has so far gone unarticulated and underfunded at the federal level: A farmer-driven research agenda steered by a powerful coalition of policymakers, farmers and ranchers, and innovators to catalyze agricultural climate solutions at scale. Together, recommendations in this report seek to advance the next generation of agricultural climate solutions and support farmers in making the best operational decisions for their land, bottom lines, and the climate.

Gone for thousands of years, wild bison return to the UK

Read the full story at e360.

Wild bison, absent from the United Kingdom for thousands of years, are being reintroduced to a forest near Canterbury, England to help restore the woods to their natural state.

The Wilder Blean project, a partnership of Wildwood Trust and Kent Wildlife Trust, is returning bison to the West Blean and Thornden Woods, a forest dominated by just a few species, namely pines from commercial tree plantations dating back to the 1970s. The bison will knock down trees and trample over shrubs, creating space for new plants to take hold. A greater diversity of flora will attract new insects, birds, and reptiles, and will also help the woods store more carbon, conservationists say.

Hazel Technologies tackles food waste: ‘We have more solutions for more problems than anybody else’

Read the full story at Food Navigator USA.

In the battle against food waste, most industry players are only addressing part of the problem, claims Aidan Mouat, CEO and co-founder of Chicago-based Hazel Technologies, who says through the company’s proprietary shelf-life extension technology, it is addressing overlooked areas of the broader picture of food waste.

How to save an ancient, giant tree from a wildfire

Read the full story in the New York Times.

California’s giant sequoias have faced particularly fierce wildfires since 2015, the result of climate change and a lack of frequent fire over the prior century, according to the National Park Service. The imminent threat — which has now reached some of the state’s most exalted trees — has prompted scientists and firefighters to take exceptional steps to save them.