3 Things to be Excited about on Earth Day

The Earth. Credit: NOAA/NASA GOES Project
The Earth. Credit: NOAA/NASA GOES Project

Today, April 22nd, is Earth Day. Since 1970, on Earth Day events are held around the world to show support for environmental protection.

Instead of focusing on the threats of climate change on international development or politics, let’s celebrate some efforts that are taking place around the world to mitigate global warming.

Low carbon farming for sustainable agriculture

Did you know that rice farming releases greenhouse gases more potent than carbon? Research shows that the cultivation of rice, a leading crop that feeds as a main food source around 2.5 billion people, becomes less climate friendly as the world’s atmosphere continues to change. With the challenge of feeding 10 billion people by 2050 comes an increase in the global demand for rise and, with that, a subsequent rise in methane emissions.

Thankfully, there are ways to curb methane emissions from rice farming, which might amount to 20% of all methane emissions. The study suggested using non-synthetic fertilizers, draining fields, planting more heat-tolerant rice and adjusting when rice is sown.

Farmers in India are already successfully implementing low carbon farming practices. The country is considered responsible for nearly a third of the estimated global emissions by Nature.

An article from The World Resources Institute explains how reducing flooding in rice paddies is a very effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, potentially up to 50%. Many farmers in the Chinese province of Sichuan are avoiding complete flooding by planting rice instead in a raised bed and flooding only the furrow.

Big data for climate change

Big data has become a buzzword. Put simply, it is a very large set of structured and unstructured data too big or complex to be analyzed or processed with traditional methods, and it can have a huge impact on sustainability.

The UN Global Pulse, an initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General on big data, is currently hosting a competition to incentivize the use of big data to address climate issues. The Data for Climate Action 2015 prompts Scientists, technologists and citizens from around the world to share projects that use big data to address the effects of climate change. Private sector companies are encouraged to share relevant anonymized datasets ‘directly related to company operations, supply chain or consumer behavior’ to be analyzed.

Highlights from the 2014 edition are Global Forest Watch, a dynamic forest monitoring system, and a climate-smart, site-specific agriculture project—a decision-making support system for farmers in Colombia.

Geothermal energy for food security

Geothermal energy literally means heat that comes from the Earth. Geothermal power plants use hot water or steam to power an electric generator. It is clean, renewable and available everywhere. Geothermal energy is utilized around the world in different ways, namely for heating buildings, drying crops and producing electricity. Almost 70% of the countries that use this type of energy are considered developing or transitional countries.

The future looks good for this type of energy, with wells now drilled more efficiently and cheaply, however upfront costs are significant. The demand for geothermal energy is forecasted to rise by 65% in the developing world by 2020, two times as much as in the developed world and its potential to lift people out of poverty should be highlighted.

A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) claims that geothermal energy can be used for cost efficient, sustainable food production and processing in developing countries. FAO explains that “drying foods, pasteurizing milk and sterilizing produce are particularly viable options for developing countries, prolonging shelf lives of nutritious foods like fish and vegetables and making them available year-round, including in times of drought.”

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