ANOTHER PLANET?

china air pollutionOutdoor air pollution has grown 8% globally in the past five years, with billions of people around the world now exposed to dangerous air, according to new data from more than 3,000 cities compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO). While all regions are affected, fast-growing cities in the Middle East, south-east Asia and the western Pacific are the most impacted with many showing pollution levels at five to 10 times above WHO recommended levels.  New mayor of London has called air pollution ‘our biggest environmental challenge’ and plans to bring the increased ultra low emission zone into force early, unveiling plans to substantially increase the size of London’s clean air charging zone to tackle the capital’s illegal air pollution levels

Two of the world’s most widely used insecticides, imidacloprid (made by Bayer) and thiamethoxam (Syngenta) cause significant harm to bumblebee colonies, a new study has found, but a third had no effect. The study shows the distinct effects of each type of neonicotinoid pesticide, from cuts in live bees and eggs to changed sex ratios and numbers of queens. Clothianidin (Bayer) had no effect other than increasing the number of queens produced. Previously, the different types of neonicotinoids have often been treated as interchangeable. Neonicotinoids and other pesticides have been implicated in the worldwide decline in pollinators, which are vital for many food crops, although disease and loss of habitat are also important factors. There is strong evidence that neonicotinoids harm individual bees . The EU imposed a moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops in 2013. And a second report  has found that despite farmers pleas to use the bee killing chemicals – UK crop yields have actually INCREASED since the ban. Government figures show that oilseed rape harvest increased by 6.9% in 2015 – undermining the National Farmers Union arguments that farmers were struggling without the pesticides.

Zombie-Bee_2More than a quarter of American honeybee colonies were wiped out over the winter, with deadly infestations of mites and harmful land management practices heaping mounting pressure upon the crucial pollinators and the businesses that keep them. Preliminary figures commissioned by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that 28% of bee colonies in the United States were lost over the 2015-16 winter. More than half of surveyed beekeepers said they suffered unsustainable losses during the winter.

Solar Impulse has completed the Pacific Crossing! Bertrand Piccard pierced through the night sky, gently kissing the runway with a smooth landing at Moffett Airfield, California. The transition from the gentle wonders of the sky to the shared elation of landing was quick. He descended from the cockpit where he had been sitting for the past 62 hours and greeted his solar brother, André Borschberg. He had been waiting for Bertrand at Moffett Airfield since Friday afternoon, making final preparations on the ground before his arrival.

JB LOGOJulies Bicycle have an interesting article and opinion online about the ‘Brexit’ and how that will impact on the UK asking – what might it mean for the environment and how might that affect the arts and creative sector? And the answer?  Well you can read the article here, but here’s an extract:

We at Julie’s Bicycle are deeply concerned about the impact a ‘Leave’ vote could have from an environmental perspective.

Leaving the EU at this crucial climate change juncture could seriously destabilise the UK’s policy response and, with the prospect of at least several years of uncertainty, undermine the much-needed rapid investment in renewable energy and infrastructure that a successful low carbon transition requires. It would also jeopardise the UK’s leadership in global climate policy negotiations by isolating the country just when unprecedented international cooperation is needed.
Leaving the EU would risk the past 40 years of environmental protection legislation in the UK and the resulting benefits for habitats, wildlife, and human health and well-being. Some of these already compromised protections could be lost more or less overnight, whilst others could be weakened or rolled back entirely by UK parliament over the coming years – a risk we are particularly concerned about under the guise of ‘cutting red tape’. Some of this so-called ‘red tape’ has been instrumental at setting standards for air and water quality, stemming the loss of habitats and species, and ensuring we do not erode our vital natural heritage that is inseparable from our cultural heritage.

african-elephant2Tusks from more than 6,000 illegally killed elephants have been burned in Kenya, the biggest ever destruction of an ivory stockpile and the most striking symbol yet of the plight of one of nature’s last great beasts. The ceremonial burning in Nairobi national park at noon was attended by Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta and heads of state including Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, high-ranking United Nations and US officials, and charities. A wide network of conservation groups around the world have sent messages applauding the work.

The Guardian reports that  VW and Shell have been accused of trying to block Europe’s push for electric cars and more efficient cars, by saying biofuels should be at heart of efforts to green the industry instead. The EU is planning two new fuel efficiency targets for 2025 and 2030 to help meet promises made at the Paris climate summit last December. But executives from the two industrial giants launched a study on Wednesday night proposing greater use of biofuels, CO2 car labelling, and the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) instead. In reality, such a package would involve the end of meaningful new regulatory action on car emissions for more than a decade, EU sources say. But Shell insisted it is not trying to block an EU push for electric cars.

gbrThe hot water temperature that drove the devastating bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef this year was made 175 times more likely by human-caused climate change, and could be normal in just 18 years, according to preliminary findings by leading climate and coral reef scientists. Great Barrier Reef tourism operators refuse media and politicians access to bleached reefs . The scientists said they took the unusual step of releasing the work prior to peer-review, because the methods used to reach the findings are now accepted in the climate science community and the alarming results needed to be released as quickly as possible. “We are confident in the results because these kind of attribution studies are well established but what we found demands urgent action if we are to preserve the reef,” said Andrew King, a lead author of the study from the University of Melbourne. More here.

Plans to build more coal-fired power plants in Asia would be a “disaster for the planet” and overwhelm the deal forged at Paris to fight climate change, the president of the World Bank said on Thursday. In an unusually stark warning, the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, noted that countries in south and south-east Asia were on track to build hundreds more coal-fired power plants in the next 20 years – despite promises made at Paris to cut greenhouse gas emissions and pivot to a clean energy future. In the US, coal use is in sharp decline – and the country’s biggest companies are in bankruptcy. But there is still strong demand for coal in south Asia and east Asia, where tens of millions still have no access to electricity.

The leak of the text of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) might mark the beginning of the end for the hated EU-US trade deal, and a key moment in the Brexit debate. The (unelected) negotiators have kept the talks going until now by means of a fanatical level of secrecy, with threats of criminal prosecution for anyone divulging the treaty’s contents.  The texts include highly controversial subjects such as EU food safety standards, already known to be at risk from TTIP, as well as details of specific threats such as the US plan to end Europe’s ban on genetically modified foods. The documents show that US corporations will be granted unprecedented powers over any new public health or safety regulations to be introduced in future. If any European government does dare to bring in laws to raise social or environmental standards, TTIP will grant US investors the right to sue for loss of profits in their own corporate court system that is unavailable to domestic firms, governments or anyone else. More here on the Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/ttip-leaks-shocking-what-are-they-eu-us-deal-a7010121.html

Fracking has triggered earthquakes from Ohio to Oklahoma, and fouled rivers in Pennsylvania to North Dakota – and now the Obama administration is being sued by environmental groups to crack down on the industry. A coalition of environmental groups has now issued legal action against the USA’s  Environmental Protection Agency to demand a strong uniform standard for the transportation, storage and disposal of frack waste. Since 1998, when the modern era of fracking began in Texas, the industry has generated hundreds of billions of gallons of frack waste – packed with toxic chemicals such as benzene and naturally occurring substances underground such as radium and arsenic – and there are almost no rules governing the process, environmental groups said. “Updated rules for oil and gas wastes are almost 30 years overdue,” said Adam Kron, senior attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project.

Wind turbine near Kendal by Ben Challis

Wind turbine near Kendal by Ben Challis

The idea that renewable energy can power the UK is an “appalling delusion”, according to the final interview given by former chief scientific adviser, the late Professor Sir David MacKay. The sensible energy and climate change plan for the UK, MacKay said, was for the country to focus on nuclear power and carbon capture storage technology, which traps the carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. In that scenario, the amount of wind and solar the UK needed would be almost zero, he said. However, solar could be a very important power source in other countries, he said, where sunny summers coincided with a big demand for electricity for air conditioning. Prof MacKay also said electric cars are going to be a “massive hit” but said he was “very disappointed” by the lack of progress on CCS, after the government cancelled a pioneering £1bn programme at the last minute.  The attractions of Britain for investors in renewable energy projects are at an all-time low, an authoritative new report has found. The UK routinely topped the annual league table for attractiveness to clean energy companies, run by consultancy Ernst & Young (EY), in the mid-2000s. For the first time, however, it has slid to 13th in the global rankings.

The world is hurtling towards an era when global concentrations of carbon dioxide never again dip below the 400 parts per million (ppm) milestone, as two important measuring stations sit on the point of no return. The news comes as one important atmospheric measuring station at Cape Grim in Australia is poised on the verge of 400ppm for the first time. Sitting in a region with stable CO2 concentrations, once that happens, it will never get a reading below 400ppm. More from the Guardian here.

Boom By Bike Initiative

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ANOTHER PLANET?

COP21_participants_-_30_Nov_2015_(23430273715)World leaders from 175 countries signed the historic Paris climate accord Friday, using Earth Day as a backdrop for the ceremonial inking of a long-fought deal that aims to slow the rise of harmful greenhouse gases. “We are in a race against time.” U.N. secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the gathering at the United Nations headquarters in New York. “The era of consumption without consequences is over.” “The poor and most vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create,” Ban added. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signed the document while holding his young granddaughter. She was one of 197 children at the event to represent the parties that adopted the agreement, Ban said.

OilThe oil industry’s knowledge of dangerous climate change stretches back to the 1960s, with newly unearthed documents showing that it was warned of “serious worldwide environmental changes” more than 45 years ago. The Stanford Research Institute presented a report to the American Petroleum Institute (API) in 1968 that warned the release of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels could carry an array of harmful consequences for the planet. The emergence of this stark advice follows a series of revelations that the fossil fuel industry was aware of climate change for decades, only to publicly deny its scientific basis. “Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000 and these could bring about climatic change,” the 1968 Stanford report, found and republished by the Center for International Environmental Law, states. “If the Earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans and an increase in photosynthesis. http://www.ciel.org/

The Guardian reports that  The EU abandoned or weakened key proposals for new environmental protections after receiving a letter from a top BP executive which warned of an exodus of the oil industry from Europe if the proposals went ahead. In the 10-page letter, the company predicted in 2013 that a mass industry flight would result if laws to regulate tar sands, cut power plant pollution and accelerate the uptake of renewable energy were passed, because of the extra costs and red tape they allegedly entailed. The measures “threaten to drive energy-intensive industries, such as refining and petrochemicals, to relocate outside the EU with a correspondingly detrimental impact on security of supply, jobs [and] growth,” said the letter, which was obtained by the Guardian under access to documents laws.

The sun provided British homes and businesses with more power than coal-fired power stations for 24 hours two weekends ago. While solar power has previously beaten coal for electricity generation over a few hours in the UK, that Saturday was the first time this happened for a full day. Analysts said the symbolic milestone showed how dramatic coal’s decline had been due to carbon taxes, as solar had “exploded” across the UK in recent years. National Grid data gathered by climate analysts Carbon Brief showed that 29 gigawatt hours (GWh) of power was generated on Saturday by solar, or 4% of national demand that day, versus 21GWh from coal-fired power stations. MORE HERE.

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest privately owned coal producer, has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US following a collapse in commodity prices. The move was blamed by financial analysts partly on a mistimed and debt-fuelled expansion into Australia, but others saw it as a sign that the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel was threatened by tightening environmental regulation.

gbrFor the first time, Australians can see on a map how rising sea levels will affect their house just by typing their address into a website. And they’ll soon be able to get an estimate of how much climate change will affect their property prices and insurance premiums, too. the website Coastal Risk Australia takes Google Maps and combines it with detailed tide and elevation data, as well as future sea level rise projections, allowing users to see whether their house or suburb will be inundated. Coinciding with that is the launch of a beta version of Climate Valuation, a website that gives users an estimate of how much climate change will impact their property value and insurance premiums over the life of their mortgage. http://coastalrisk.com.au/.

The UK government has been accused of including a large loophole in its legal definition of fracking which could enable companies to bypass safety regulations, according to a leading geologist. In rules that came into force on 6 April, fracking is defined by the amount of high-pressure fluid used to fracture shale rocks and release gas or oil. However, the only well fracked in the UK so far, which caused small earthquakes near Blackpool in 2011, would not qualify as fracking under the definition.Furthermore, according to Prof Stuart Haszeldine at the University of Edinburgh, analysis of more than 17,000 gas wells fracked in the US from 2000-10 shows 43% would not be defined as fracking under UK rules. More than 4,500 US wells were fracked to release oil in that time but 89% would not be covered by the UK definition. The safety regulations in the new rules, such as independent inspection of the integrity of the well and sealing it after use, only apply if the drilling activity is defined as fracking.

Scotts Miracle-Gro, a major global pesticide company, just announced it will end the use of 3 dangerous bee-killing chemicals by 2017, while phasing out neonics in eight of its garden products by 2021. It is the first major pesticide company to do this, and proof that our years of dedicated campaigning is paying off.  OneMiracle-Gro’s biggest competitors, Bayer, has not been so responsive. With its annual shareholder meeting weeks away, campaigners are going to take their message right to Bayer in Germany to make sure it follows suit and protects the bees. You can donate to SumofUs’s campaign here.

RoundUpThe European Commission is planning to relicense a controversial weedkiller that the World Health Organisation believes probably causes cancer in people, despite opposition from several countries and the European Parliament. In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer – WHO’s cancer agency – said that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide made by agriculture company Monsanto and used widely with GM crops around the world, was classified as probably carcinogenic to humans. It also said there was “limited evidence” that glyphosate was carcinogenic in humans for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the time Monsanto said it could not understand the decision and that the scientific data did not support the conclusion.

Waitrose has come under fire for continuing to use a weedkiller on farmland despite banning it from its stores. The grocer delighted anti-pesticide campaigners last month after deciding to remove glyphosate-based weedkillers, including Roundup, from its shelves. At the time, Waitrose told customers the decision was part of its ‘commitment to protecting the bee population’.  However The Times  revealed that the supermarket is continuing to use glyphosate to kill weeds on its retail estate and at Leckford, its showcase farm in Hampshire.

Betty, a mature ash tree in Norfolk, is offering hope that ash dieback disease will not be as destructive as first feared after scientists identified her “strong tolerance” to the disease. Researchers from a government-backed consortium of universities and research centres have developed three genetic markers to enable them to predict whether a tree is likely to be tolerant to the disease, raising the possibility of using selective breeding to develop strains of disease-resistant trees.

tigerThe number of tigers in the wild has risen for the first time in more than a century, with some 3,890 counted in the latest global census, according to wildlife conservation groups. The tally marks a turnaround from the last worldwide estimate in 2010, when the number of tigers in the wild hit an all-time low of about 3,200, according to the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum.

Leaving the EU would threaten the UK’s air and water quality, biodiversity and the countryside, a committee of MPs has warned. The UK has benefited from an EU-wide environmental cleanup in the past four decades, and giving up membership would lead to a damaging policy vacuum and an end to influence over green regulations, the commons environmental audit select committee has said in a report. Britain was once “the dirty man of Europe”, pouring out toxic pollutants that caused acid rain, industrial pollution, poor air quality, contaminated land and sewage-filled beaches. After taking on EU membership, successive governments had to mend their ways in line with rules on the environment developed over decades.

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EARTH DAY

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ANOTHE PLANET?

Hamburg_RathausThe German city of Hamburg has announced a ban on the purchase and use of coffee pods in all government-run buildings and institutions across the city. “Capsule-coffee is expensive and the pods don’t have a good ecological balance sheet,” said Jan Dube, media spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment and Energy. “They have lots of packaging compared to the small amount of coffee and we just decided we don’t want to buy those products anymore with public money.” Hamburg  has also banned a number of other environmentally polluting hazards including plastic water bottles, disposable cutlery, paint containing biocides, and chlorinated cleaning products. Hamburg also plans to increase the number of electric vehicles in the city’s fleet. Though other cities in Germany have taken progressive measures when it comes to the environment, Hamburg is the first to go this far. The new environmental guidelines, passed in January and published in the form of a 150-page text, are the result of years of work. “We prepared these guidelines and the details for several years within the administration,” said Dube. “The main aim was to use this purchasing power of the city administration — of more than 250 million euros per year — to give better chances to ecologically friendly products and not to environmentally harmful products.” As Senator for the Environment Jens Kerstan explained in a press release, “From now on, mandatory environmental criteria such as raw material consumption, durability, and transport distances will play an even more important role in purchasing decisions. It sends out an important signal to business and private individuals, encouraging them likewise to take greater account of the consequences of their purchasing decisions and to pay attention to each product’s history.” The UK Government?  Wants to sell of school playing fields, allow the poison of fracking and wants to kill bees. Great.

A post-mortem was conducted on 13 beached sperm whales, found ashore near the town of Toenning in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, showed their stomachs were full of plastic This included a 13-metre-long (43-foot-long) fisherman’s net and a 70-centimetre (28-inch) piece of plastic from a car. But the sperm whales probably didn’t die by being poisoned by plastic, however. Scientists thought it was likely they perished from heart failure due to starvation “These findings show us the results of our plastic orientated society,” Schleswig-Holstein environment Minister Robert Habeck told the Daily Mail – animals starving with full stomachs – full of our discarded waste.

The World Bank has made a “fundamental shift” in its role of alleviating global poverty, by refocusing its financing efforts towards tackling climate change, the group said on Thursday. The world’s biggest provider of public finance to developing countries said it would spend 28% of its investments directly on climate change projects, and that all of its future spending would take account of global warming. At last year’s landmark conference on climate change in Paris, the World Bank and its fellow development banks were made the linchpins of providing financial assistance to the poor world, to enable countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the effects of global warming. More here.

gbrLast week, marine biologists dropped some horribly depressing news: the Great Barrier Reef is dying. The world’s largest reef is in the midst of a widespread coral bleaching event, and scientists aren’t sure whether it will fully recover. Over the past few days, Terry Hughes of James Cook University has led aerial surveys of more than 500 reefs from Cairns to Papa New Guinea, including the most pristine sections of the Great Barrier Reef. Everywhere Hughes traveled, he was met with a nightmarish scene—the ghostly white remains of a once vibrant ecosystem. All told, Hughes estimates that 95 percent of the northern Great Barrier Reef is “severely bleached,” marking the worst such event on record. More on Gizmodo here.

The Guardian reports that climate change could cut the value of the world’s financial assets by $2.5tn (£1.7tn), according to the first estimate from economic modelling. In the worst case scenarios, often used by regulators to check the financial health of companies and economies, the losses could soar to $24tn, or 17% of the world’s assets, and wreck the global economy. The research also showed the financial sense in taking action to keep climate change under the 2C danger limit agreed by the world’s nations. In this scenario, the value of financial assets would fall by $315bn less, even when the costs of cutting emissions are included.

sumatranThe first critically endangered Sumatran rhino to be found in an area of Borneo for 40 years has died, wildlife experts said. The species had been thought to be extinct in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, until a few years ago when surveying found evidence through camera traps and footprints of 15 Sumatran rhinos in the area. Last month conservationists hailed the first physical contact with a Sumatran rhino for decades when a four- or five-year-old female was safely captured in Kutai Barat, with plans to move her to a protected forest around 90 miles away. But now wildlife charity WWF has said it is saddened by news the animal had died.

tigerAnd tigers are “functionally extinct” in Cambodia, conservationists conceded for the first time on Wednesday, as they launched a bold action plan to reintroduce the big cats to the kingdom’s forests. Cambodia’s dry forests used to be home to scores of Indochinese tigers but the WWF said intensive poaching of both tigers and their prey had devastated the numbers of the big cats. The last tiger was seen on camera trap in the eastern Mondulkiri province in 2007, it said. “Today, there are no longer any breeding populations of tigers left in Cambodia, and they are therefore considered functionally extinct,” the conservation group said in a statement.

nuclearScrapping plans for new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset and building huge amounts of renewable power instead would save the UK tens of billions of pounds, according to an analysis that compares likely future costs. The Intergenerational Foundation thinktank calculated that Britain would pay up to £40bn less for renewable alternatives that would generate the equivalent power to Hinkley over the plant’s planned lifetime. A final investment decision by EDF on the nuclear power plant’s expansion is expected in May. The deal involves the government committing £92.50 per megawatt hour over 35 years for its electricity output, more than twice the current wholesale price. But a report published by the thinktank “The Toxic Time Capsule – why nuclear energy is an intergenerational issue” which campaigns on fairness between generations, found that onshore windfarms would cost £31.2bn less than Hinkley, and solar photovoltaic power £39.9bn less over 35 years to build and run. The estimate is based on both the value of subsidies paid by the taxpayer for the electricity and the cost of building the infrastructure. http://www.if.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Toxic-Time-Capsule_Final_28-Mar.pdf

A Greener Festival Training – London SOLD OUT – Manchester last few spaces available now!

AGF_logo_transparent copyFollowing the launch of the A Greener Festival training, the first 1 day course to be held in London has now SOLD OUT. A handful of spaces are available for the course held in Manchester this month.

A Greener Festival has developed the course “Introduction to Environmental Assessment of Festivals and Events” drawing upon the last 10 years of experience in assessing festivals around the world, as well as associate expertise in the areas such as waste management, power, transport, land use, communication and behaviour.

Designed to train auditors to complete assessments at festivals and events on behalf of the Greener Festival Awards, the training course, launched at the Green Events & Innovations Conference in March is also relevant for those wishing to work in event sustainability, or those seeking to improve their own events environmental management.

There are still a limited number of places available on the 1 day course delivered in Manchester at the MMU, Friday 29th April. To find out more and to reserve a space on this course contact claire@agreenerfestival.com

DSC_6010Event details

Course fee:

£175

Course topics covered:

Environmental Systems & the Big Picture
Legal Framework for Festivals and Environment
Local Impacts & Risks of Events
Sustainable Procurements
Transport and Travel
Event Power
Solid Waste & Recycling
Water Usage, Waste Water & Sewage
Assessment Form Familiarisation & Post Event Reports

FRIDAY 29TH APRIL, MANCHESTER

Manchester Metropolitan University,
All Saints Campus,
Oxford Rd,
Manchester
M15 6BH

BS 1.23 10am – 5pm

Why Big Data Matters for the Climate

By Beth Lillian

big-data-climate-change1One of the most significant advantages of the modern Information Age is our ability to gather, process and analyze data with a level of speed and precision that would have been unheard of just a decade prior.  Almost everything we do online and within the increasingly vast “Internet of Things” ecosystem leaves behind a digital footprint that can then be used to trace purchasing history, media consumption and other activities.

Using “Big Data” in this way has had a remarkably powerful impact on the private sector and within the realm of politics. Marketing research teams are able to construct highly detail profiles of consumers they wish to target – and political candidates are able to do the same, albeit with the intent of attracting and persuade specific chunks of the electorate.

As the worldwide revolution in data unfolds further, it’s pertinent to examine the way these new methodologies are evolving to change the way we think about our relationship to the planet and the issue of climate change. The United Nations has already recognized the utility in employing data to develop solutions to address the complex challenges presented by warmer temperatures, rising seas, and more extreme weather patterns.

bigdatascreenshotBy collecting vast amounts of data regarding our natural surroundings and then looking at it closely, scientists can gain a better understanding as to just how our actions impact the environment. Scarce resources can also be more effectively managed by taking a comprehensive view of supply and demand and adjusting output accordingly. Extensive swathes of climate data help us construct more accurate climate models than ever before, enabling more accurate predictions of future events and faster, more effective action plans. Of course, any computer model is only as good as the input that’s fed into it, so the ability to gather mountains of accurate information is crucial to the success of these projects.

The Global Ecological Land Units map is a project being jointly undertaken by the U.S. Geological Survey and ESRI, a software firm that tries to solve big problems. They aim to map ecosystems across the entire world in unprecedentedly fine detail by taking into account local vegetation, geology, topography, precipitation and other features. As opposed to similar efforts in the past, this one will be based on actual data as opposed to the opinions of experts. This map will hopefully allow researchers to better understand the impact of climate change on specific areas of the world and help authorities better conserve the environmental resources located within their jurisdictions. Because the relevant info will be displayed in an interactive map, the workings of Mother Nature will become more easily comprehensible to people with only a lay understanding of science – like elected officials.

On a smaller scale, Opower is trying to get individual people to conserve energy. Many pay lip service to sustainability, but it’s hard to remain focused on such an intangible goal without some spurring along. After collecting information about energy use in specific neighborhoods, Opower sends its clients reports that let them know how they’re performing vis-à-vis their neighbors in terms of saving energy. This system harnesses our natural competitive instincts in order to get us to act responsibly by comparing ourselves against our nearby peers.

There are plenty of other attempts to apply big data to pressing ecological issues. Some are being made under the auspices of public organizations while others are being directed by private groups. They have in common a commitment to the philosophy of using all the data we have available to make the best possible decisions regarding the future of our planet.

Beyond allowing for the study and analysis of ecological happenings, data also plays an increasingly crucial role shaping public perceptions about global warming and climate action. “Addressable” advertising, which allows corporate entities as well as political campaigns to beam ad spots directly to specific viewers, has the capacity to direct public sentiment on a myriad of important issues. This year, pay cable companies DirecTV and Dish Network partnered to give presidential candidates access to their vast cache of customer information, thereby altering the way specific voters are engaged in the environmental debate. The Cruz campaign, for instance, has become well-known for its messages carefully tailored with information gained through “sentiment” data mining.

When confronting the serious issues tied to global warming and climate change, we ought not to remain wedded to the past. The development of new technology, such as inexpensive solar panels and time-shifting batteries, is making a big positive impact on our ability to cleanly satisfy our energy demands. The proper use of “Big Data” is another cutting-edge advancement that we can mobilize towards the benefit of the entire planet.