Eco Links For April, 2014

What a lot of travels and what everyone here calls the 連休 (renkyuu, consecutive days off) or "Golden Week" but here are some links that I think are important.

Andrew DeWit has a great take on Obama's visit and how a US-Japan Green Alliance may be the key to the future. Heavy on military information but why not? The Pentagon apparently is way ahead of whoever-is-in-charge here in Japan when it comes to visions for defense that will not depend on oil.

Japan Focus: Could a US-Japan “Green Alliance” Transform the Climate-Energy Equation?

There was no emphasis on US-Japan military cooperation on climate change, even though the US military itself has for years identified climate change as the mother of all threats, including fully 8 detailed references to “climate change” and its consequences in its March 4, 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR 2014). Indeed, the American green military-industrial complex is openly calling for NATO to focus even more on climate change and greening, and not get unduly distracted by the Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan. As for the assurance of fracked gas that Abe got, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus recently dismissed relying on it rather than renewables and efficiency as “prohibitively expensive.”
But Japanese energy politics and Team Abe’s preferences apparently led to ignoring these pertinent items, as well as the fact that there is already a “Green Alliance” between the US and Japan. The Joint Statement’s inattention to this alliance, as well as the way it is being mismanaged, indicates that the framework desperately needs top-level attention, particularly on military collaboration. Expanding and escalating US-Japan green collaboration would surely do more to foster both countries’ energy and military security than any other move. Considering the geopolitical stakes in East Asia, it is bizarre that years of US military green leadership and open collaboration with just about every other partner except the Japanese Self Defence Forces goes without comment in the relations between the two nations and in the press.

Eco, or not, if you want to get a glimpse of what some Japanese experts are thinking about issues like natural gas (LNG) do check out the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan and their new April pdf report about the "framework" beyond 2020, with all kinds of points related to the Kyoto Protocol and future issues with regards to China and these parts of the wood....

Meanwhile, well, the Mainichi pointed out: Small-scale renewable energy producer disappointed with new gov't energy policy:

The plan "has no high (renewable energy) targets, and doesn't contain any measures to support small and medium energy producers. Only the big producers with megasolar stations will survive," said 75-year-old Yoichi Yamakawa, president of Tama Energy LLC, a solar energy firm based in Tokyo's Tama district with small arrays atop universities and other buildings.

Speaking of energy, The Yomiuri (which has just about the worst website with virtually no old stories available even after just a week or two) noted that a Hamaoka N-plant area evacuation would take full day

SHIZUOKA—The Shizuoka prefectural government has said that in the event of a severe accident at the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in the prefecture it would take at least 22 hours to evacuate the about 860,000 people who live within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant.
The prefectural government released results of estimates based on severe accident scenarios at the plant in Omaezaki in the prefecture on Monday. It is feared that radioactive materials could escape from the plant in the event of a massive Nankai Trough earthquake.
The authorities have said they intend to use the results when drawing up their wide-area evacuation plan for evacuation of residents in a 30-kilometer radius of the plant to eight surrounding prefectures, including Kanagawa and Nagano prefectures. 
The prefecture calculated the time it would take to evacuate the about 860,000 residents living in the 11 municipalities within 30 kilometers of the plant using about 280,000 vehicles.

I have blogged about Hamaoka many times in the past.

One problem not mentioned by the Yomiuri is that the main railroads (Shinkansen, Tokaido Line) go through this area.

This image from the Asahi does make the connection.

A nuclear disaster like the one in Fukushima would thus cut Japan in half, with no expressway or train communications possible between Tokyo and Osaka. Of course, we all hope and pray that will not happen, right?

Meanwhile, if you are unsure what to think about the many ways how you get your energy, one of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint (which means you care about your impact on climate change) is eating less (or no) meat. Plus feeling a lot better... as you will help stop the madness that is factory farming.

April was an amazing month for news about the adverse effects of meat, be it chicken, pork or beef.

Let's start with Fredrik Hedenus, in the New York Times: To Avoid Global Warming, Stop Eating Meat and Cheese

To avoid dangerous climate change and limit global warming to below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above the level of preindustrial times – a target endorsed by the international community and the United States – global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 80 to 90 percent by the second half of this century. But even eliminating all carbon dioxide emissions from the energy and transportation sectors may not be enough to reach that target because greenhouse gases from food and agriculture, mainly nitrous oxide from agricultural soils and methane from livestock, will be too large.

RTCC: Halving meat consumption offers 'significant' climate benefits

World meat consumption is growing in line with rising income and population in emerging and developing countries.
But livestock production also has a large carbon footprint, accounting for 50 to 70% of direct agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, according to Friday’s report, “Strategies for Mitigating Climate Change in Agriculture”.
Reducing meat consumptions receives little research attention, perhaps unsurprisingly given the political difficulty of prescribing people’s diets.
Friday’s report suggested that, in addition, advocacy and civil society groups were focused on improving food security, meaning that the issue of changing diets slipped through the cracks.
“Reducing demand of meat by a relatively small amount would have a significant absolute impact on greenhouse gas emissions, human health and the environment associated with livestock production,” found the report, published on Friday by the research groups Climate Focus and California Environmental Associates.
The report used an illustrative “healthy diet” of 90 grams of protein per day.
Data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation shows that of 174 countries, only 47 nations had diets which exceeded this level of protein intake in the years 2005-2007.
But diets in emerging economies are changing rapidly, meaning that most countries would exceed the threshold in coming decades, if they do not already.
Global adoption of such a diet would cut greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 2.15 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually in 2030, the report estimated. Present fossil fuel CO2 emissions are 35 billion tonnes annually.
- See more at:
Halving meat consumption offers ‘significant’ climate benefits - See more at:
ABC The Drum: Meat the hidden culprit of climate change

Most of us agree that action needs to be taken to address climate change, but when it comes to moving to a meat-free diet to drastically reduce emissions, suddenly we're not so keen, writes Ruby Hamad.
The cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, "It is easier to change a man's religion than his diet." It is also, apparently, easier to change the entire world's energy production.
Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report, "Mitigation of Climate Change", citing fossil fuels as the biggest source of emissions, with coal, oil, and natural gas the major culprits.
However, the panel also implicates animal agriculture, noting that "changes in diet and reductions of losses in the food supply chain, have a significant, but uncertain, potential to reduce GHG emissions from food production."
Seventy per cent of agricultural emissions come directly from livestock - and about 37 per cent of total worldwide methane emissions - and it is clear that moving away from animal products is not just potentially significant but downright necessary.
The IPCC findings come hot on the heels of another study, "The importance of reduced meat and dairy consumption for meeting stringent climate change targets", published in the April edition of Climate Change.
The study's lead author argues that targeting the fossil fuel industry alone is insufficient because "the agricultural emissions ... may be too high. Thus we have to take action in both sectors."

The Nation: Let This Earth Day Be The Last

National Journal: It May Take a Global Vegetarian Movement to Combat Climate Change

If we really want to cut down on global greenhouse emissions, we're going to have to do something about cow farts*.
That's the conclusion of a study published today in the journal Climatic Change. If we have any shot of reaching the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's global-warming mitigation goals, the world is going to have to start eating a lot less meat.
Thirty-seven percent of all human-caused methane emissions come from the worldwide agricultural industry. Compared with CO2, methane is 21 times more effective at trapping heat in the earth's atmosphere, according to the United Nations. While transportation and electricity account for more than half of emissions in the United States, the EPA reports that agriculture comprises 8 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions. And while relatively small, that's a significant contribution that can't be ignored—especially considering how progress in halting emissions from transportation has so far been minimal.

"In order to have any chance to reach a 2 degree target, fossil-fuel use has to be reduced drastically," Fredrik Hedenus, the study's lead author, wrote in an email. "However, what we show is that may not be sufficient, as the agricultural emissions ... may be too high. Thus we have to take action in both sectors." Transportation and energy are the biggest sources of greenhouse gases, but researchers say a global shift in people's diets is also necessary to contain climate change."We therefore conclude that dietary changes are crucial for meeting the 2 degree C target with high probability."

So, how much less meat do we have to eat?

"It all depends how much we can and want to do in the energy sector," Hedenus explains. "If we do a lot there it may be sufficient with a 25 percent lower meat and dairy consumption than predicted in 2070. If we do less, somewhere around 75 percent less may be reasonable."

If 25 percent to 75 percent less meat consumption worldwide sounds like an absurd long shot, it is. Global meat demand only continues to rise, as fueled by China and the developing world. Meat consumption in the United States has actually declined in recent years, explains Emily Adams, a researcher with the Earth Policy Institute. "Meat consumption peaked in the United States as a nation in 2007 and since then it has fallen 4 percent," Adams says. "That's not a 75 percent reduction like they are talking about, but that's coming without government fiat or absolutely insane food prices."

But while meat consumption in the United States has fallen, that's a small drop compared with the rising demand in China.

(Earth Policy Institute)

But I think in spite of all the cheaply produced TV programs that endlessly promote meat eating, most Japanese still eat relatively little of the stuff. So, be that as it may, "we" in the so-called developed countries must set an example.

The huge meat consumption per capita in the US and Europe (and the total increase in China) is not sustainable.

Graphs from ChartsBin.

Having said that, here in Japan, as in all industrialized countries, local meat mostly comes from small operations that are not sustainable.

Case in point in April:

Bird flu virus detected in Kumamoto, 112,000 chickens to be culled

KUMAMOTO (Kyodo) -- Two chickens tested positive Sunday for a highly pathogenic avian influenza at a farm in Kumamoto Prefecture where 1,100 chickens have died, setting off the culling through Monday of some 112,000 birds, the local and central governments said.
The H5 virus was detected in the two birds during genetic testing of six chickens that tested positive in a simple test for bird flu, the prefectural government said.
The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization will examine samples from the testing in detail, the local government said.
In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged relevant ministers to promptly take thorough disease control measures, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who conveyed the leader's message at an impromptu meeting.
"As the initial response is key, we would like to closely coordinate with related ministries and Kumamoto Prefecture and take firm steps," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters.
The prefectural government said it has asked chicken farms within a radius of 3 kilometers of the farm in the town of Taragi and another farm under the same management in the nearby village of Sagara to refrain from moving their combined 43,000 birds plus eggs.
It also asked other farms within 10 km from the two farms not to take their 398,000 birds out of the zone.
The tally of dead chickens at the Taragi farm came to 1,100 as of 7 a.m., up from the 270 initially reported for Friday and Saturday, according to the farm ministry.
"We will go all out to deal with the incident promptly and unfailingly," Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima said at a local task force meeting convened earlier in the day, adding his government will mobilize some 1,000 personnel.
The last bird flu outbreak in Japan was in March 2011 in the city of Chiba, east of Tokyo, according to the farm ministry.
Japan saw a massive outbreak of bird flu between the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011, spreading from Shimane to other prefectures including Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Oita, all adjacent to Kumamoto, and Chiba.
Cases of suspected infection of birds with the H5N8 flu have been reported this year in South Korea, while about 100 people have died from the H7N9 strain of avian flu in China since the virus emerged in the country in March last year.

At stake here are trade related issues, including being able to declare your country or region as disease-free, thus being able to export animals and meat (and make money), according to rules by OIE.

The official recognition of disease status of Member Countries is of great significance for international trade and constitutes one of the most important legal links between the OIE and World Trade Organization (WTO), in the framework of the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), which entered into force in 1995. In 1998, the official agreement between WTO and the OIE further confirmed the OIE’s mandate to recognise disease-and pest-free areas based on the SPS Agreement.

A country may either lose or enhance its commercial attractiveness in the eyes of potential or existing importing partners, depending on official recognition of its disease status. By acquiring and maintaining its official status, a country also demonstrates transparency and helps to promote animal health and public health worldwide, thereby gaining the trust of its partners and of the international community.

Granting, suspension and recovery of official disease status are handled in an objective and transparent manner, governed by the Standard Operating Procedures.

If you are eating meat, you are part of the cabal that is supporting trade agreements like the World Trade Organization, with the rules that made this happen, and the even more severe chapters in the (so far kept secret) Trans Pacific Partnership "agreement" that - fortunately, and thanks to a lot of protests here in Japan - was not agreed upon in the month of April, 2014.

Cull means "to kill" so what this means is, well, kill to trade.

Top image from video by EbruNews: Obama Visit Tokyo Amidst Protests


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