Carbon Dioxide

Climate Change Adaptation – Swallowing Our Own Medicine ?!?

 2013-01-07:   The Dawn of a New Year …

Colour image of a Japanese Print: 'Sunrise on New Year's Day at Susaki', dating from the mid-1830's, by the artist Hiroshige. Click to enlarge.

Colour image of a Japanese Print: ‘Sunrise on New Year’s Day at Susaki’, dating from the mid-1830’s, by the artist Hiroshige. Click to enlarge.

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High Noon for a Festering Planetary Issue … Our Little Planet …

Based on ‘real’ measurements around the world during 2011, the state of Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) in the Atmosphere is steadily becoming worse … and, following the latest shindig in Doha (UNFCCC – COP 18), the prospect of an effective global agreement on Climate Change Mitigation entering into legal force, anytime soon, is even more remote than ever !

UN WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.8 – 19 November 2012

Colour image of Figure 1, from the U.N. World Meteorological Organization's Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.8 (2012-11-19), showing ... Atmospheric Radiative Forcing, relative to 1750, of Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases (LLGHG's), and the 2011 Update of the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI). Click to enlarge.

Colour image of Figure 1, from the U.N. World Meteorological Organization’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.8 (2012-11-19), showing … Atmospheric Radiative Forcing, relative to 1750, of Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases (LLGHG’s), and the 2011 Update of the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI). Click to enlarge.

WMO GHG Bulletin No.8 – Executive Summary:

The latest analysis of observations from the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme shows that the globally averaged mole fractions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) reached new highs in 2011, with CO2 at 390.9±0.1 parts per million, CH4 at 1813±2 parts per billion, and N2O at 324.2±0.1 parts per billion.  These values constitute 140%, 259% and 120% of pre-industrial (before 1750) levels, respectively.  The atmospheric increase of CO2 from 2010 to 2011 is similar to the average growth rate over the past 10 years.  However, for N2O the increase from 2010 to 2011 is greater than both the one observed from 2009 to 2010 and the average growth rate over the past 10 years.  Atmospheric CH4 continued to increase at a similar rate as observed over the last 3 years.  The NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index shows that from 1990 to 2011 radiative forcing by Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases (LLGHG’s) increased by 30%, with CO2 accounting for about 80% of this increase.

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Climate Change Adaptation

Encompasses urgent and immediate actions at local, national, regional and international levels … to reduce the vulnerability and strengthen the resilience of the Human Environment, including ecological and social systems, institutions and economic sectors … to present and future adverse effects of climate change, including variability and extremes, and the impacts of response measure implementation … in order to minimize the local threats to life, human health, livelihoods, food security, assets, amenities, ecosystems and sustainable development.

Climate Change Adaptation is also the most important driving force for Sustainable Human & Social Development.

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A few weeks ago, The World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, based in Washington D.C.) … an Institution which is not at all shy about dishing out harsh medicine to the Developing World … published a report on Climate Change Adaptation in the Middle East and North Africa/ Arab Region.

What I immediately wondered was … how would we, in the Developed World, like a taste of this same medicine … our own medicine … and would we swallow ?!?

The European Commission has still not produced an E.U. Climate Change Adaptation Strategy or Plan.

In Ireland … our National Climate Change Strategy (2007-2012) has just lapsed, with no replacement in sight … and, confirming a lack of both political leadership and institutional capacity … any mention of the word ‘Adaptation’ creates either panic or apathy … depending on the individual, and his/her responsibilities.

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So … as appropriate, just substitute your own country wherever there is a reference to ‘Arab Region’ or ‘Arab Countries’ in the text below … and see how you feel …

World Bank (IBRD) Report 73482 – 1 December 2012

World Bank Report 73482 (2012): 'Adaptation to a Changing Climate in Arab Countries - A Case for Adaptation Governance & Leadership in Building Climate Resilience'.

Adaptation to a Changing Climate in Arab Countries – A Case for Adaptation Governance & Leadership in Building Climate Resilience

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Selected Extracts from World Bank MENA Report’s OVERVIEW:

Climate change is happening now in the Arab Countries.  The year 2010 was the warmest since the late 1800’s, when this data began to be collected, with 19 countries setting new national temperature highs.  Five of these were Arab Countries, including Kuwait, which set a record high of 52.6 °C in 2010, only to be followed by 53.5 °C in 2011.  Extreme climate events are widely reported in local media, and a 2009 Arab Region Survey showed that over 90% of the people sampled agree that climate change is occurring and is largely due to human activities; 84% believe it is a serious challenge for their countries; and respondents were evenly split on whether their governments were acting appropriately to address climate change issues.  The sample came mostly from the better-educated population, but it shows that there is a firm base and desire for action regarding climate change across the Arab Region.

Colour image showing a Map of the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) / Arab Region. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing a Map of the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) / Arab Region. Click to enlarge.

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Arab Countries can take action to reduce their vulnerability to climate change.  For example, this report proposes an Adaptation Pyramid Framework that assists stakeholders in Arab Countries in integrating climate risks and opportunities into development activities.  It is based on an adaptive management approach, but it also highlights the importance of leadership, without which adaptation efforts are unlikely to achieve the necessary commitment to be successful.  The Framework begins by assessing climate risks and opportunities and identifying options within the context of other development planning.  The next step is to identify and prioritize adaptation options within the context of national, regional, and local priorities.  Finally, adaptation responses will be implemented and outcomes monitored over time.  It is important to take into account the long-term consequences of these decisions, because short-term responses may not be efficient or could lead to maladaptive outcomes.  Other important measures for Arab Region policy makers to implement are discussed below …

Colour image showing the World Bank's Climate Change Adaptation Pyramid - a Framework for Action on Adaptation - which assists stakeholders in integrating climate risks and opportunities into development activities. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the World Bank’s Climate Change Adaptation Pyramid – a Framework for Action on Adaptation – which assists stakeholders in integrating climate risks and opportunities into development activities. Click to enlarge.

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  1. Facilitate the development of publicly accessible and reliable information related to climate change.  Access to quality weather and climate data is essential for policy-making.  Without reliable data on temperature and precipitation levels, it is difficult to assess the current climate and make reliable weather forecasts and climate predictions.  For example, information on river flows, groundwater levels, and water quality and salinity is critical for assessing current and future water availability.  However, climate stations across most of the Arab Region are very limited compared to most other parts of the world and what data exists is often not digitized or publicly available.  Conflict in parts of the region disrupts both the collection and sharing of data.  Information on food production and the main food supply chains (such as changes in agricultural yields and production for important crops, forage, and livestock) needs to be linked with weather and water data to better monitor and understand the effects of a changing climate.  In addition, socio-economic data (including household and census data) and other economic data related to the labour market and production should be collected and made available. 
  2. Build climate resilience through social protection and other measures.  Resilience is determined by factors such as an individual’s age, gender, and health status, or a household’s asset base and degree of integration with the market economy.  Underinvestment in social safety nets – public services such as water supply and wastewater treatment, and housing and infrastructure – make people more vulnerable to a changing climate.  Further, there should be measures in place to ensure equitable access to health care and a quality education.  Such social protection measures include insurance schemes, pensions, access to credit, cash transfer programs, relocation programs, and other forms of social assistance.  These investments and instruments facilitate economic and social inclusion, which creates co-benefits between adaptation and development goals. 
  3. Develop a supportive policy and institutional framework for adaptation.  Basic conditions for effective development, such as the rule of law, transparency and accountability, participatory decision-making structures, and reliable public service delivery that meets international quality standards are conducive to effective development and adaptation action.  In addition, climate change adaptation requires new or revised climate-smart policies and structures at all levels.

Sound adaptation planning, strong governmental/non-governmental co-operation, and plentiful financial resources are all important for building resilience to climate change.  Developing national adaptation strategies are important for prioritizing adaptation activities that respond to urgent and immediate needs, and for setting forth guiding principals in the effort to cope with climate change.  National governments have a key role in developing these strategies and as a result play an important role in promoting collaboration and co-operation.  This co-operation should include the government, civil society, the private sector, and international institutions.  Within governments, inter-ministerial co-ordination is especially critical, because adaptation responses often require activities involving multiple ministries and sectors.  Finally, to do any of the activities above it is important to secure the necessary financial resources.  There are many sources for adaptation funding, but first the Arab Countries will need to build their capacity to analyze their financial needs and generate and manage these resources.

By nature, adaptation to climate change is a dynamic process, and so is the governance of adaptation.  Political change, including those changes originating from the Arab Spring, can provide an opportunity to increase civil society participation in adaptation governance and a move toward a more inclusive approach to addressing climate change issues and building climate resilience.

This report is about climate change, its impacts on people, the systems upon which we depend, and how we might adapt to climate change.  It highlights a number of issues and areas that are being affected by climate change.  One important message of this report is that climate change should be taken into account in all activities – however, this report cannot provide solutions or options for all issues.  For example, the transboundary water issues are already being addressed by international task forces; this report can deal only with how climate change might affect their decisions.  Anticipation of climate change can be the stimulus for improving interventions and accelerating action, which has been seen in countries such as Australia, where water laws and management were extensively changed in response to a prolonged drought and the anticipation of further climate change issues.

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Landfill Fires & Contaminated Water Supplies – Join Some Dots ?

2011-02-23:  With the blanket media coverage of the upcoming Irish General Election, which will be held on Friday next, 25 February 2011 … the following 2 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Press Releases concerning the ongoing Kerdiffstown Landfill Fire Incident in County Kildare … which were issued in quick succession on Friday afternoon last, 18 February 2011 … may not have received adequate public attention …

1.  Friday 18th February 2011: Statement on Behalf of Co-Ordinating Group

Re:  Kerdiffstown Fire

Date released: Feb 18 2011, 3:12 PM

Active firefighting has been wound down as brigades undertake a phased withdrawal from the Kerdiffstown landfill site near Naas.  The fire, which flared up on 18 January 2011, was unprecedented in Ireland and it proved very challenging.  Initial assessments indicate that, by comparison with international experience, the time taken to suppress the fire was relatively short – given its nature and the environment in which it took place.  Fire brigades will maintain a precautionary watch on the site until the middle of next week.  The site remains a very dangerous area and people should not enter it for any reason.  The Environmental Protection Agency has increased security in the interests of public safety and to prevent further trespass in the area.

And …

2.  EPA to Develop Remediation Plan for Kerdiffstown Landfill, Naas, County Kildare.

Date released: Feb 18 2011, 3:26 PM

The EPA, HSE, Kildare County Council, Defence Forces and Gardaí have, for the past 27 days, been co-ordinating actions to deal with the fire and other environmental issues at Kerdiffstown Landfill, near Naas.  In particular, the EPA has been working closely with Kildare Fire Service, providing expert advice in fighting the serious fire at the Kerdiffstown landfill site, contracting in providers of cold gas injection equipment and providing air monitoring and analysis.  The EPA is exercising its powers under Section 56 of the Waste Management Act to secure the site and to start the longer-term process of remediation of the whole site.  Already the EPA has begun the following preliminary works:

  • removing stockpiles of fire-risk waste ;
  • providing 24-hour security personnel at the site for the long-term ;
  • establishing an on-site office ;
  • increased on-site monitoring and inspection ;
  • dealing with immediate Health & Safety issues on the site ;
  • removing landfill leachate.

As the plan for the remediation progresses, the EPA will be meeting with the local community on a regular basis in order to hear their views and update them on the remediation project.  Remediation works will be phased and the EPA will prioritise work that alleviates odour from the site in the short to medium term.  Funding for the short-term emergency works to date has been provided by the Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government.  Further funding for the remediation will be released on a phased basis.  The EPA has taken enforcement action against those involved in the operation of the Kerdiffstown site, including three High Court cases.  High Court orders are in place preventing the deposit of any further waste onto the Kerdiffstown site.  The EPA will use its powers under the Waste Management Acts to seek recovery of all costs expended by the State during the remediation project.  The EPA is also seeking orders against directors of the companies who formerly operated the site in order to recover these costs.  A criminal investigation file relating to the previous operations at the site has been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

A lot of words have been used in these press releases … but the amount of actual information which has been communicated to the public is Sweet FA !   And … please note well … there is no statement that the Landfill Fire has been extinguished.

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PROTECTION OF FIREFIGHTERS & KERDIFFSTOWN LOCAL COMMUNITY

We consider that it is very important for Firefighters and Members of the Kerdiffstown Local Community, i.e. anybody who lives within 2 Km of the Landfill Site, to have sufficient information about Landfill Fires … in order to ask some pertinent questions about this fire incident.

I hate to say this … but, languishing on an important page of the FireOx International WebSite for many years … http://www.sustainable-design.ie/fire/proenv.htm … unloved (?!?) … has been this 2002 United States Report

U.S. Fire Administration – Federal Emergency Management Agency

May 2002 / FA-225

LANDFILL FIRES – Their Magnitude, Characteristics, and Mitigation

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (583 kb)

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As you read the document … pinch yourself hard, and try to remember that the Regulatory Control over Landfill Sites in Ireland has been LITE-LITE-LITE !!!   … That there has been much illegal dumping all over the country !!   … AND … That some Local Authorities have even forgotten where old, inactive Landfill Sites are located … a case I myself encountered in Clontarf, within the functional area of what was then known as Dublin Corporation !

Black and white drawing ... Figure 1 in the 2002 U.S. FEMA Landfill Fires Report above ... showing the components of a Regulated Landfill Site, courtesy of the California Waste Management Board. How many Landfill Sites in Ireland, or in Europe for that matter, have all ... or any ... of the components illustrated above ? Click to enlarge.

Black and white drawing ... Figure 1 in the 2002 U.S. FEMA Landfill Fires Report above ... showing the components of a Regulated Landfill Site, courtesy of the California Waste Management Board. How many Landfill Sites in Ireland, or in Europe for that matter, have all ... or any ... of the components illustrated above ? Click to enlarge.

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LANDFILL EMISSIONS – CLIMATE CHANGE & FIRE SAFETY ISSUES !

Extract from the 2002 U.S. Report … Page 8 …

Landfill emissions are the result of the decomposition of organic materials in the landfill (including yard waste, household waste, food waste, and paper).  Because of the nature of the construction of landfills, this decomposition is anaerobic and results in the production of large quantities of Methane (which is highly flammable) and Carbon Dioxide.  In fact, landfills are the largest source of methane emissions in the United States, accounting for 35% of methane emissions in 1999.  MSW (municipal solid waste) landfills generate about 93% of U.S. landfill emissions; industrial landfills account for the remaining emissions.  Methane emissions from landfills are affected by site-specific factors such as waste composition, available moisture, and landfill size.  Approximately 28% of the methane generated in landfills in 1999 was recovered.  The remainder of landfill-generated methane was dispersed in the air.

Approximately 50% of gas emitted from landfills is methane; carbon dioxide accounts for about 45 percent, and the remainder is composed of nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and other gases.  Both Methane and Carbon Dioxide are Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) that pose environmental problems.  Of the two gases, methane is far more potent than carbon dioxide.

[Media reports have also stated that Carbon Dioxide was used during attempts to suppress the Kerdiffstown Landfill Fire in County Kildare !?!]

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HEALTH EFFECTS OF LANDFILL FIRES !

Extract from the 2002 U.S. Report … Pages 14 & 15 …

In addition to the burn and explosion hazards posed by landfill fires, smoke and other by-products of landfill fires also present a health risk to firefighters and others exposed to them.  Smoke from landfill fires generally contains Particulate Matter (the products of incomplete combustion of the fuel source), which can aggravate pre-existing pulmonary conditions or cause respiratory distress.  As with all fires, those in landfills produce toxic smoke and gases.  The danger and level of toxicity of these gases depend on the length of exposure one has to them and on the type of material that is burning.

Underground fires can result in CO (Carbon Monoxide) levels in excess of 50,000 ppm (parts per million) – the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit for CO is 50 ppm.  OSHA standards prohibit worker exposure to more than 50 parts of the gas per million parts of air averaged during an 8-hour time period.  Carbon Monoxide is harmful when breathed because it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain, and other vital organs of oxygen, which can cause permanent damage or death.

Another serious concern in landfill fires is the emission of Dioxins.  Accidental fires at landfills and the uncontrolled burning of residential waste are considered the largest sources of dioxin emissions in the United States.  The term ‘dioxins’ refers to a group of chemical compounds with similar chemical and biological characteristics that are released into the air during the combustion process.  Dioxins are also naturally occurring and are present throughout the environment.  However, exposure to high levels of dioxins has been linked to cancer, liver damage, skin rashes, and reproductive and developmental disorders.

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ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF LANDFILL FIRES !

Extract from the 2002 U.S. Report … Pages 16 & 17 …

The smoke and run-off from landfill fires can be dangerous to those living in the area and to the environment.  It is important that air and water quality issues be addressed early in a fire suppression operation to prevent contamination as much as possible.  As mentioned earlier, water used to suppress a landfill fire can overwhelm a facility’s leachate collection system, if one exists (older facilities may have been constructed prior to regulations requiring leachate collection systems).

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FIRE & LANDFILL CONTENTS !

Extract from the 2002 U.S. Report … Page 17 …

Fires occurring in landfills where hazardous wastes are buried can be particularly difficult.  In past years, illegal dumping of hazardous and toxic materials in landfills and other dumping sites was relatively common.  When a fire occurs and rescue workers have wrong or misleading information about the buried contents (e.g., illegal or unknown toxic or radioactive wastes), the fire suppression operation can be extremely dangerous.

Although not a landfill fire, the Wade Dump Fire in February 1978 clearly illustrates the dangers posed by fires involving unknown hazardous materials.  Firefighters responded to a suspected tyre fire at an abandoned rubber shredding plant on the Delaware River outside of Philadelphia.  They were unaware that the property’s owner and namesake, Melvin Wade, had transformed the plant into one of the most toxic hazardous waste dumpsites in U.S. history.  By the night of the fire, more than 3 million gallons of cyanide, benzene, toluene, and other chemicals were stored on the site – plus thousands of junk tyres.  The burning chemicals produced multi-coloured smoke and noxious fumes, which alerted firefighters to the unusual nature of the fire they were fighting.  Intensified by chemicals and other fuels, the fire raged for hours.  Drums of chemicals exploded, injuring firefighters and even damaging fire trucks.  As the night progressed, firefighters and other emergency workers noticed that the chemicals were dissolving their protective gear and making it difficult for them to breathe; more than 40 firefighters were sent to a nearby hospital for treatment.  Over the past 20 or more years, dozens of those who were present at the Wade Dump fire have become ill, and many have died from cancers and other diseases.  Melvin Wade and others responsible for creating the toxic site were found criminally responsible for their actions.

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JOINING SOME DOTS – CONTAMINATED PUBLIC WATER SUPPLIES IN IRELAND

On Thursday, 17 February 2011 … the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the following report … with an accompanying, ‘spinned’ press release …

Environmental Protection Agency – Ireland

2011-02-17

The Provision & Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland – A Report for the Years 2008-2009

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (2.77 Mb)

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Once again … pinch yourself hard, and try to remember that the Regulatory Control over Public Water Supplies in Ireland has been LITE-LITE-LITE !!!   Our Public Water Supplies are not in good shape … to say the least.  However, the management and control of the country’s landfill sites – legal, illegal and no longer known – IS a relevant and related issue to the contamination of our public water supplies … not the only issue.

Now, I don’t know about you … but I certainly am not happy about either the accuracy, or the reliability, of the recent EPA Report on Ireland’s Public Water Supplies !

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