February 27, 2014
by Brendan Guy
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Small Island Nations Embrace Partnerships for their Future

Brendan Guy, Global Fellow, Global Strategy & Advocacy Program, New York City

Small islands countries like Jamaica and Seychelles are known for their beautiful beaches and idyllic charm, but they are also increasingly regarded as innovative leaders in the fight against climate change and to secure sustainability. As some of the most vulnerable countries to global risks like rising seas, many small islands are taking matters into their own hands by forging action-oriented partnerships to safeguard their shores.

This past Monday marked the global launch of the international year of Small Island Developing States. SIDS, as they are known to the international community, are the first group of countries to have a specific year designated by the United Nations. And though the 52 SIDS around the world are commemorating this momentous occasion, they are also busy building the platform to make 2014 a year of tangible actions and lasting partnerships.

Many small island nations, while coveted as tourism destinations, find their survival threatened by climate change and rising sea levels. The President of Nauru, an island country in the South Pacific, reminded attendees of the launch event that the international year of SIDS is celebrated with the somber knowledge that “unless action is taken soon, some islands will not make it to the end of the century.”

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Fortunately, island countries are pioneering an innovative model for the transformative actions needed to ensure their sustainability. At an international conference to be held this September in Samoa, island countries have determined that vague global agreements won’t be enough to secure their future – concrete commitments to action at all levels of society will be necessary.

The Samoa conference will host partnership dialogues and announce new and scaled up partnerships and initiatives as part of its primary objective, rather than as a sideshow. Conference organizers have created a Partnership Platform to encourage all stakeholders to announce partnerships, suggest ideas for needed partnerships, and visualize and track their progress.

Small islands have long been leading by example rather than talking endlessly about the problems. Caribbean island nations, assisted in partnership with Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room, are swapping dirty diesel fuel for renewable energy sources. The Indian Ocean island of Seychelles has pioneered a partnership with The Nature Conservancy where part of the nation’s foreign debt is forgiven in exchange for local investments in environmental conservation and adaptation. The Global Islands Partnership (GLISPA) provides a platform for all islands regardless of political status to catalyze commitments to biodiversity conservation and advance sustainable livelihoods. Many of these commitments to action by small island nations and their partners are aggregated and monitored on NRDC’s Cloud of Commitments website.

The world can learn from small island leadership. Out of necessity, small islands are pioneering collaborative solutions and taking decisive actions on some of the world’s most pressing problems. The international year of SIDS and Samoa conference mutually reinforce the strong leadership of small island nations and the imperative to work with all stakeholders to leave a lasting legacy of sustainability. And others might take heed of their bold leadership, for in the words of the UN Secretary-General, “planet earth is our shared island.”

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February 24, 2014
by Robert Friedman
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Getting Young People to the Table To Create a More Just Future

Robert Friedman, Youth Engagement Coordinator, New York City
Ailing infrastructure, rising sea levels, a changing climate. Sounds pretty bleak, right? We spend so much time thinking of the future as being full of doom and gloom that it&… Continue reading

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December 27, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Modular natural dam design protects communities from rising sea levels (Video)

Integrating architecture and ecology, this proposal for a modular natural dam design could help defend coastal communities from climate change-induced natural disasters. Continue reading

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September 26, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Future sea level rises should not restrict new island formation in the Maldives

The continued accumulation of sand within the iconic ring-shaped reefs inside Maldivian atolls could provide a foundation for future island development new research suggests. Islands like the Maldives are considered likely to be the first to feel the e… Continue reading

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September 17, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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French islands under threat from rising sea levels

By the year 2100, global warming will have caused sea levels to rise by 1 to 3 meters. This will strongly affect islands, their flora, fauna and inhabitants. Scientists have studied the impact of rising sea levels on 1,269 French islands throughout the… Continue reading

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August 1, 2013
by Anjali Jaiswal
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Preparing for Climate Extremes: Lessons from India’s Devastating Floods and Extreme Heat

Anjali Jaiswal, Senior Attorney, San Francisco

Over 5,748 people are still missing in the epic floods that devastated mountain states in Northern India over a month ago as the country continues to writhe from this terrible tragedy.  The monsoon raged across India with intense speed causing flash flooding in Himalayan towns and religious pilgrimage sites, washing away homes and lives, hitting Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh the hardest.  An Indian Express Photo Series of flooded Uttarakhand documents the wreckage across the state. As the missing and victims are still being accounted for, the discussion continues as to whether and how much climate change and lack of disaster planning contributed to this tragedy. 

Just before the massive floods, the Indian plains experienced a sweltering heat season, with a heat wave scorching 1.3 billion Indians with 115˚F (46˚C) temperatures.  A recent Time Magazine photo series featured people trying to find ways to cool off, from watering holes to municipal water tanks. The high temperatures even propelled a national-level recommendation that heat be declared a natural calamity for the first time in India.  Since the onset of the heat season, CSE reports that deadly heat waves have killed hundreds and affected thousands of vulnerable populations across India.

The alarming scale and impact of these natural disasters are an eye opener.  The lives lost and massive destruction are a sober wake-up call that disaster planning, preparedness and early warning systems are vital to saving lives. A major report, Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, finds that India will be threatened by a more erratic monsoon season, extreme floods, rising sea levels and very high temperatures due to climate change.  It underscores the urgent need for officials from national to local levels to plan, prepare and warn ahead of devastating floods, heat waves, and other extreme weather events.

While it is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the action needed by government leaders across India and the world to build resilient cities to combat the lethal effects of climate change, the launch of the Heat Action Plan in the city of Ahmedabad is key example of an off-the-shelf solution that can save lives when disaster hits. The action plan, as featured by Reuters and called the “first comprehensive early warning system and preparedness plan for extreme heat events in India,” includes issuing warning alerts, activating emergency resources, and coordinating action between city stakeholders during heat events.

In this heat season, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), along with its partners, has been leading the charge against extreme heat with three important pilot activities:

1) Installing electronic temperature displays to alert communities around the city. The signboard warns residents by displaying the current temperature and allows citizens to prepare for the heat ahead. The display pictured is the first in the city of Ahmedabad, and one of the first in India.

2) Launching more active community outreach and awareness campaigns, including billboards/hoardings around the city with instructions on how to “Save Yourself from Heat.” Thousands of pamphlets are being distributed to schoolchildren and urban health centers with heat-illness prevention tips. Those tips are also set to broadcast on a radio campaign, featured on a Radio Mirchi program.

3) Increasing interagency coordination to more effectively prepare for and respond to extreme heat events. The AMC, with the help of its partners, has developed an innovative early warning system to coordinate actions before and during heat waves. In partnership with Georgia Tech, daily emails provide upcoming forecasts for Ahmedabad and allow the city to increase heat preparedness. Another AMC focus is collaboration between city hospitals and key stakeholders to provide warning and resources during emergencies.

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Photo by Dr. ABhiyant, IIPH

The AMC with its partners, the Indian Institute of Public Health, Public Health Foundation of India, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and NRDC will be evaluating the initial launch and incorporating lessons learned into disaster preparedness including monsoons.

Around the rest of India, the Times of India reported that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has recommended declaring heat waves as natural calamities. This proposal would be the first time heat is recognized as a natural disaster in India and may encourage other cities to develop action plans. The recommendation would also offer compensation to heat victims under the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF).

The catastrophic floods have served as even a greater call to action. The India Climate Justice Collective, in an open letter in the Economic and Political Weekly, is urging the Indian Government to take action. The group asserts that an urgent prior warning could have ensured that pilgrims did not move forward and that locals reduced their exposure to risk ahead of the recent floods that ravished the country. To mitigate the deadly impact of these natural disasters, the Collective urges the central government to incorporate a disaster prediction and warning mechanism into existing climate change action plans. The letter also urges the government to closely examine and reformulate planning and construction in the Himalayas and to move forward with “a low carbon pathway of development that has equity, decent employment, and sustainability at its core.”

Disaster planning and preparation, like the heat action plan implemented in Ahmedabad, can help save lives when the next tragic natural disaster hits. We hope government officials across the world take this wake-up call to heart and continue making disaster planning a key part of climate change action moving forward.

(Co-authored by Lauren Sanchez, NRDC Moran Fellow)

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July 17, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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The best defense against catastrophic storms: Mother Nature, researchers say

Researchers say that natural habitats such as dunes and reefs are the best protection against storms and rising sea levels along the U.S. coastline. Continue reading

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July 4, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Limiting global warming is not enough

So far, international climate targets have been restricted to limiting the increase in temperature. But if we are to stop the rising sea levels, ocean acidification and the loss of production from agriculture, CO2 emissions will have to fall even more … Continue reading

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July 3, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Artist Chad Wright portrays The American Dream washing into the sea

Chad Wright’s series of crumbling sand castles is a moody and dark statement about the struggles of American suburbia and rising sea levels. Continue reading

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June 27, 2013
by Grace Gill
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India Green News: World Bank reports global warming to worsen Indian monsoons, severe flooding in Uttarakhand , U.S. – India clean energy ties strengthened with Kerry’s visit

Grace Gill, Program Assistant, CMI/India/Climate Center, New York
June 21 – 26, 2013
India Green News is a selection of news highlights about environmental and energy issues in India
Climate Change
‘Global warming might change rai… Continue reading

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May 14, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Sea levels could rise 27 inches by 2100 because of melting ice

If it’s hard to stop rising water from causing massive damage during a temporary storm surge in a single location, think of how hard it would be to prevent rising sea levels from wreaking havoc all around the world at the same time. Continue reading

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April 29, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Climate change will raise the sea level in the Gulf of Finland

The Finnish Meteorological Institute has updated its estimates concerning the impact of rising sea levels on the Finnish coast. Post-glacial rebound and changes in the Earth’s gravity field protect the Finnish coast against rising sea levels, especially in the Gulf of Bothnia. In the Gulf of Finland, the sea level is starting to rise. Continue reading

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April 14, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Cutting specific pollutants would slow sea level rise, research indicates

With coastal areas bracing for rising sea levels, new research indicates that cutting emissions of certain pollutants can greatly slow down sea level rise. Reductions in the four pollutants that cycle comparatively quickly through the atmosphere could … Continue reading

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November 9, 2012
by Rocky Kistner
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In the Gulf’s Rising Tide, Hurricane Sandy Strikes a Familiar Chord

Rocky Kistner, Communications Associate, Washington, DC
Down in the Louisiana bayou, people have first-hand knowledge of the kind of suffering a maelstrom like Superstorm Sandy brings. After the titanic tempest slammed in… Continue reading

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July 9, 2012
by Kaid Benfield
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Relax, Outer Banks: NC state legislature outlaws sea level rise

Kaid Benfield, Director, Sustainable Communities, Washington, DC
 
Sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up.  It’s really embarrassing for me to write this, but the legislature of my native North Carolina has … Continue reading

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June 20, 2012
by Carolina Herrera
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"What are you going to do about the crying mountains?"- In Rio+20 Latin America must take action on climate change

Carolina Herrera, Latin America Advocate, Washington DC
The final Rio+20 negotiated text is out and it’s underwhelming to say the least, but there’s still time for world leaders to act and inspire us and themselves. The urge… Continue reading

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April 13, 2012
by Carolina Herrera
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At the Summit of the Americas leaders must start looking toward the Earth Summit

Carolina Herrera, Latin America Advocate, Washington DC
Thirty-two of the Western Hemisphere’s leaders are gathered in the seaside city of Cartagena, Colombia for the Sixth Summit of the Americas during which they’ll participate i… Continue reading

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April 5, 2012
by Michelle Mehta
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California: Leading the Fight Against Climate Change

Michelle Mehta, Attorney, Water Program, Santa Monica, CA
As the most populated and one of the most diverse states in the U.S., there is a lot at risk in California from climate change.  From the snowcapped peaks in the Sierra Neva… Continue reading

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April 2, 2012
by Jake Schmidt
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How would you confront the threat of climate change? Former President of the Maldives tells the story of a vulnerable country (with hints for all of us)

Jake Schmidt, International Climate Policy Director, Washington, DC
If you are the leader of a small island state – like the Maldives – and every day you are faced with the threats posed by global warming what would you do? … Continue reading

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September 16, 2010
by Heather Allen
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Senate advances 2011 budget including fast-start climate finance

This summer the Senate Appropriations Committee released budget recommendations for 2011 which include over 1.2 billion to combat the impacts of global warming pollution and shift to a clean energy future.  The funding will provide critical invest… Continue reading

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