The Beacon

Days 3-5 at COP16

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb, center, sits on a panel at COP16.

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb is at the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun.

Last week I decided to take a break from the negotiations and attend a workshop by Google where they released their new technology platform Google Earth Engine.

This is a very exciting development that could be incredibly useful to scientists, NGOs and the general community in monitoring and measuring changes in earth systems. This platform will have reams and reams of satellite imagery data than can then be analyzed with various tools, including statistical and modeling programs. Computations will be done in the “cloud” so that work that would have previously taken many hours to days or even years can be done over very short time periods.

Google has been working with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon – the Surui – to monitor deforestation and forest destruction. They are also able to monitor the amount of carbon that is being sequestered by their trees. The Surui have been taught to use Android phones that they can take into the forest and take video and photos of changes in the plots as well as monitor the carbon flux. This enables them to keep records of what is happening in their forest.

This is a very exciting development from Google – one that I can’t wait to be expanded to the oceans (hopefully to come shortly).

In negotiations news - the US, supported by Mexico, the EU and Bangladesh has suggested that enhancing observer participation would be a good thing for the UNFCCC process. This would certainly be a good development -- more transparency in the system and more access by NGOs would better allow for the voice of civil society to be heard in the negotiations.

In other good news, Brazil announced that it has reduced Amazonian deforestation by over 76 percent. This, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, has prevented some 870 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released to the atmosphere annually.

Unfortunately, with the good news comes the bad. We have seen Saudi Arabia, with others, try to push for carbon capture and storage (CCS) to be included in the clean development mechanism (CDM). Technology that has not been proven to work should not be included in such a mechanism.

Also, a UNEP report was released highlighting the Gigaton Gap – the gap between the amount pledged in the Copenhagen Accord and the emission reductions actually needed to prevent temperature increases of over 2oC. This gap stands at about 5 to 9 gigatonnes, depending upon the level of adherence to the Accord pledges. This huge gap highlights how important stronger targets are, as the current targets will not get us close to a safe climate.

On Friday, we released our new report Ocean Acidification: The Untold Stories. This report highlights the varied marine life and ecosystems that may be at risk due to increasing acidity of the oceans.

Copies of the report have been flying of the shelves at our exhibit here at COP 16, so hopefully it will go a long way in raising awareness and prompt people to action.

I gave a press conference at the Moon Palace with Scripps and PML where we spoke about the implications of ocean acidification and I announced the release of our new report. You can watch video of the press conference here.

Many people have approached our exhibit and expressed their surprise and concern about ocean acidification and have wondered why it is not featured more prevalently in the UNFCCC process. I hope that these people (and all of you!) will raise their voices and join us in calling for more recognition and speedy action to reduce emissions so that the worst impacts of rising ocean acidity are avoided.

 


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