Countries are progressing too slowly on green growth, says OECD

Countries are progressing too slowly on green growth, says OECD.
No country is performing well on all green growth dimensions and most of the countries studied are yet to fully disconnect economic growth from fossil fuel use Most countries show progress on just one or two fronts and little on the others Less than one in three OECD countries meet WHO air quality guidelines for fine particulate matter and pollution levels are high and rising in China and India.
Denmark, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Italy and the Slovak Republic have made the most progress on green growth since 2000 Many countries have become more efficient in using natural resources and the services provided by the environment, generating more economic output per unit of carbon emitted and of energy or raw materials consumed.
Yet progress is too slow, and if emissions embodied in international trade are included, advances in environmental productivity are more modest, a new OECD report shows.
Green Growth Indicators 2017 uses a range of indicators covering everything from land use to CO2 productivity and innovation to show where 46 countries rank on balancing economic growth with environmental pressures over 1990 to 2015.
The report shows that no country is performing well on all green growth dimensions and most of the countries studied are yet to fully disconnect economic growth from fossil fuel use and pollutant emissions.
Switzerland and Sweden showed the highest level of carbon productivity, while the Slovak Republic, Latvia and Poland all reduced CO2 emissions as GDP rose.
Buildings cover 30% more land now than in 1990.
Globally, an area the size of the UK has been converted to buildings since 1990.
About 90% of green technologies originate in OECD countries, but the contributions of China and India are rising fast.

In Africa’s drylands, opportunities to cut vulnerability to drought and famine are within reach

The report Confronting Drought in Africa’s Drylands: Opportunities for Enhancing Resilience aims to advance measures to reduce the vulnerability and enhance the resilience of populations living in dryland areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.
First, our research revealed that better management of livestock, agriculture and natural resources could help enhance people’s resilience in the face of challenges.
For example, in 2010 only 30 percent of pastoralist and agro-pastoralist households in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa possessed enough livestock assets to stay out of poverty in the face of recurrent droughts.
Productivity-enhancing interventions could protect livestock-keeping households and increase the area’s number of resilient households by 50 percent.
Secondly, improved crop production technologies, soil fertility management and adding trees to farms can also deliver resilience benefits by boosting agricultural productivity and increasing drought and heat tolerance of crops.
Trees can also improve households’ food and livelihood security by providing food when crops and animal-source foods become unavailable, and providing assets that can be cut and sold in times of need.
Irrigation can also provide an important buffer against droughts, particularly in the less arid parts of the drylands.
We estimate that the cost of well-targeted, location-specific technical interventions would amount to US$ 0.4 million to 1.3 billion per year.
Even under a best case scenario for the spread of these resilience-enhancing interventions, a significant share of the population living in drylands will remain vulnerable to shocks for the foreseeable future.
For this reason, on the occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification, it is important to remember that enduring solutions will require comprehensive approaches that attack the problem on a number of fronts.

Soybean nitrogen breakthrough could help feed the world

Washington State University biologist Mechthild Tegeder has developed a way to dramatically increase the yield and quality of soybeans.
Her greenhouse-grown soybean plants fix twice as much nitrogen from the atmosphere as their natural counterparts, grow larger and produce up to 36 percent more seeds.
Tegeder designed a novel way to increase the flow of nitrogen, an essential nutrient, from specialized bacteria in soybean root nodules to the seed-producing organs.
The additional transport proteins sped up the overall export of nitrogen from the root nodules.
Large amounts of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer are applied around the world to ensure high plant productivity.
One major benefit of growing legumes such as chickpeas, common beans, peas and soybeans is that they not only can use atmospheric nitrogen for their own growth but also leave residual nitrogen in the soil for subsequent crops.
Hence, increasing nitrogen fixation could improve overall plant productivity for farmers who grow legumes in both industrial and developing countries while diminishing or eliminating the need for nitrogen fertilizers.
"Our research also has the potential to be transferred to other crop plants that don’t fix nitrogen from the atmosphere but would benefit from being able to uptake nitrogen more efficiently from the soil."
"Soybean nitrogen breakthrough could help feed the world: Greenhouse-grown soybean plants produce up to 36 percent more seeds."
"Soybean nitrogen breakthrough could help feed the world: Greenhouse-grown soybean plants produce up to 36 percent more seeds."

The EPA is good for our health

The EPA is good for our health.
When the first Earth Day was celebrated April 22, 1970, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio was a poster child for the problems the environment faced.
If ever there was a “dead” river, the Cuyahoga was it.
The EPA was established in December 1970 and following that a wide range of environmental regulations were passed by Congress, including the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (commonly called the Clean Water Act).
While people can debate how much illness has been prevented, even with regulation the health impact of current pollution is staggering.
A Cornell University 2007 study noted that about 3 million tons of toxic chemicals are released into the environment that have been shown to cause cancer, birth defects and have other health impacts.
Industries claim these regulations force them to close factories and move to countries with less stringent environmental standards.
Trying to sort out the truth is difficult because many studies funded by industry or environmental groups emphasize the costs or benefits to their advantage.
Prior to the environmental regulations put in place over the last 45 years, the health and environmental burdens of pollution were paid by individuals whose health was impacted and by the government as a whole when trying to provide essentials like clean drinking water.
Environmental regulations since 1970 basically held industries responsible for the cost of their actions.

US grasslands affected more by atmospheric dryness than precipitation

A new study showing dryness of the atmosphere affects U.S. grassland productivity more than rainfall could have important implications for predicting how plants will respond to warming climate conditions.
Published online March 6 in the journal Nature Geoscience, the study conducted by scientists at Stanford University and Columbia University looked at 33 years of climate and vegetation satellite data to determine how plants regulate water and carbon dioxide under dry conditions.
The study’s large-scale methods to understand plant behavior could be used to improve predictive models of how environments will respond to droughts, which are expected to intensify in the 21st century.
"Just looking at changes in precipitation isn’t going to tell you the whole story," said lead author Alexandra Konings, an assistant professor of Earth System Science in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth).
When its stomata are open, a plant can take up CO2 from the atmosphere to make energy but risks losing water in dry conditions.
The strategy different plants use — whether to risk drying out in order to keep taking up carbon, or to close up and stop growing — affects their productivity.
Variability in drought response Using statistical analysis, the researchers separated out the effect of the plants’ behavior from the impacts of regional conditions, such as differences in precipitation or temperature.
Understanding how plant stomata respond to changes in the atmosphere is especially important in U.S. grasslands, which are a predominant source of carbon uptake, or storage of carbon from the atmosphere.
Behavioral differences Analysis shows grasslands that respond to drought by keeping their stomata open (anisohydric behavior) are more sensitive to dryness of the atmosphere than those that close their stomata and stop growth to save water (isohydric behavior).
While previous methods for understanding drought response entailed on-the-ground measurements, the new metric enables researchers to measure these patterns across the globe.

P&G raises 1.2 million days of clean water for needy communities

P&G raises 1.2 million days of clean water for needy communities.
P&G raises 1.2 million days of clean water for needy communities 19 April 2017 – As part of the global P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water Programme, Procter & Gamble, in partnership with Massmart, set a goal to raise 500 000 days of clean water to address challenges with access to clean drinking water in South Africa.
For every P&G product sold through Massmart stores and wholesalers, which include Game, Makro, Masscash, Rhino Cash & Carry, and Cambridge, between 15 February and 14 March this year, P&G committed to donate one day’s worth of clean drinking water to a family who needs it.
“South Africa’s water issues do not only revolve around the drought,” explains Mabaso.
Since 2004, the P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water Programme (CSDW) has donated nearly 12 billion litres of clean water to needy communities around the world.
Access to clean water is a global crisis.
UNICEF (2014) estimates that 663 million people lack access to improved drinking water; 319 million of these individuals are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water Programme has provided six billion litres of clean drinking water to 39 African countries in the past 12 years through the P&G Purifier of Water packets.
In fact, the World Health Organisation has estimated that every $1 invested in clean water, sanitation and hygiene generates $4 in increased productivity, which enables sustainable and equitable economic growth.
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Simultaneous water, nitrogen use can enhance sustainability

Researchers from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid have studied diverse techniques to enhance the water- and nitrogen-use efficiency in cropping systems.
The results of the study carried out by two researchers from the Research Group on Agricultural Systems at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid show that management practices oriented towards reducing nitrogen losses and maintaining farm productivity should rely on optimizing nitrogen and water inputs at the same time.
These two elements have a fundamental effect on food sovereignty of many regions and on the reduction of the gap between the potential food and the actual food produced in the world.
Thus, the practices that seek to improve both efficiencies simultaneously are more successful than those that aim to optimize each element separately.
This study carried out by Miguel Quemada and José Luis Gabriel, researchers from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, has assessed seven practices to improve both elements at the same time in cropping systems.
Firstly, when there is crop water deficit the use of nitrogen has to be adjusted to the actual demand of the stressed crop since the plant will grow only as far as the most limiting factor allows it (water in this case), thus the rest of nitrogen remains on the soil ready to disappear from the system.
Thirdly, researchers suggest the use of fertigation that consists in the application of dissolved nutrients into irrigation water, this technique has a great potential to adapt the punctual demand of water and nitrogen per plant.
Soil mulching is the fourth technique suggested in this study.
Besides, soil mulching can favor the conditions to achieve a higher mineralization of soil nitrogen and it can also increase water infiltration reducing the loss of both water and nitrogen caused by soil erosion.
Finally, the seventh practice studied is the monitoring of water and nitrogen availability by using remote and proximity sensors.