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EUROGEO News: Stories from Europe from 2014

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News Stories from Europe in 2014

In 2014, EUROGEO (the European Association of Geographers) completed 35 years of operation. This is the latest of a series of blog posts celebrating this anniversary by looking back at 2014 from the posts in the monthly newsletter of the association. In this blog, posts from European news, research and policy is reviewed.

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2014 was the year of EU elections and a controversy over passports. Elections for the European Parliament took place in the summer and the geographical distribution and voting outcomes were shown in the map of Europe’s voting patterns and the results of the European Parliament elections 20142014 EU election maps

At the start of the year it was revealed that the Maltese government was offering EU passports for sale.  In this revelation, Malta planned to sell 1,800 passports for €650,000 each, before closing down this programme. Eventually, the Maltese Government was forced to give way in the face of strong European Union criticism, agreeing to require one year of residency for foreigners buying Maltese passports.

The year was one of European citizen empowerment as EU citizens forced a water debate onto agenda. This was achieved through the European citizens’ initiative whichWater citizens Initiative graphic allows millions of EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies, by calling on the European Commission to make a legislative proposal.

Increasing citizen engagement was featured as the Green paper on Citizen Science for Europe was released Towards a society of empowered citizens & enhanced research.

The development of EU geo-clusters for energy was in the news, as they were said to play a key role in fostering innovation for energy efficient buildings. The energy campaign is being backed across Europe when it was announced that one thousand European cities were backing 2030 energy efficiency target.

A business cluster is a geographic concentration of interconnected businesses, suppliers, and associated institutions in a particular field. The term was introduced by Michael Porter in The Competitive Advantage of Nations (1990).  The “Geo-clusters” are virtual trans-national areas where strong similarities are found (i.e. climate, culture and behaviour, construction typologies, economy, energy price and policies and gross domestic product).

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia sparked issues about the selection of of the venue (Why the site of the Olympics is not in the Alps?) and raised suggestions that the Alps will never again be able to host the Winter Olympic Games (Ten arguments against the Olympics in the Alps). EU Environmental Action graphic

In terms of policy making, the Environmental Union considers climate change, where Europe still aspires to global leadership.

The European Parliament voted for stronger climate targets and there was hope that EU climate and energy policy would be better integrated as a result of the policy recommendations from the project “climate policy integration into EU energy policy”.

The EU pledged further work on climate ‘resilience’ and to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, while the European Parliament called on the EU to ‘enforce environmental law more rigorously’.

European expansion was on the agenda as Montenegro’s future place in Europe and Ukrainians must beware of what joining Europe could actually mean were considered. Varosha - divided Cyprus image

Europe still remains internally divided for instance on the island of Cyprus, where hope was growing for the seaside town of Varosha, the tourist resort abandoned in 1974.

The resource 38 Maps that explain Europe illustrates the dramatic changes that have taken place across the continent and the transformations which are still ongoing.

The list of European stories from the EUROGEO e-newsletter is available at http://www.eurogeography.eu/eurogeo-newsletter/news-2014-europe.html

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EUROGEO News: 50 Climate Change Stories from 2014

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50 Climate Change News Stories from 2014

In 2014, EUROGEO (the European Association of Geographers) completed 35 years of operation. This is the latest of a series of blog posts celebrating this anniversary by looking back at 2014 from the posts in the monthly newsletter of the association. In this blog, news from the world of Climate Change research and policy is considered.  Subscribe to the EUROGEO newsletter

Do you believe in climate change or are you a sceptic? What influences our opinions? An interesting New Zealand study found geography was important as people living near the coast are more likely to believe in climate change.

The ongoing anti-science campaign continued to suggest research confirming our planet is warming is a hoax. The Blog Yes, the planet is still getting warmer and pretending it isn’t can be expensive dealt with latest claims in the light of recent research publications. Climate For Culture image

In Europe one emphasis of the Horizon 2020 programme has been to consider “What’s causing climate change?“.  The impacts of climate change are assessed in the Climate for Culture Project in terms of cultural and heritage assets in Europe. Some nations like Denmark have indicated tougher actions are necessary for tougher 2030 climate and clean energy goals.

Leading scientists continue to confirm the climate challenges we need to meet, for instance High Climate Sensitivity reported on a study by climate scientist James Hansen. His findings were i) the Earth’s was likely to warm by more than 3–4°C as a result of CO2 levels increasing to 550 ppm; action is vital as CO2 levels continue to increase and iii) burning all fossil fuels would make most of the planet uninhabitable by humans, thus calling into question strategies that emphasize adaptation to climate change.

It is increasingly clear that solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change are needed as economic perspectives  force a rethink of policies around the world. This message was at the centre of the peer-reviewed findings of research into climate change economic modelling were published. In Climate change will ‘cost world far more than estimated, the financial damage caused by global warming will be considerably greater than current models predict. Clinate Economics Lord Stern image

There were developments in grassroots solutions to climate change as Indonesian indigenous groups fight climate change with GPS. The Seed of Knowledge publication provided 24 lessons learned from 17 countries on grassroots solutions to the impacts of climate change Grassroots climate change solutions. The potential of crowdsourcing is central to the Climate CoLab initiative at the Center for Collective Intelligence, MIT featured in How Millions of People Can Help Solve Climate Change.  As warnings of global climate change grew, the Guardian provided 10 tips on how to prepare for an apocalyptic future in Climate change: a survivors’ guide.

The debate whether geo-engineering can provide answers to climate change issues was raised in Climate Science: can geo-engineering save the world? Basically, the controversial question discussed is whether people can artificially control the Earth’s climate allowing us to manage temperature and avoid negative impacts of climate change? This is very controversial approach as theory.

At the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 20) in Lima, the UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change initiative  celebrated winning climate solution projects, including new climate finance in Latin America, climate-friendly homes in Africa, and automated flood detection systems in the Himalayan foothills in potentially innovative and transformative solutions to address climate changeCOP 2- meeting photo

The best climate change resource featured during 2014 was the Lancelot Web application which allows users to Explore Climate Data interactive map Lancelot was designed and produced by the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC) to provide a highly interactive visualization of climate data on maps for many different audiences. It allows the user to select indicators and explore both historical and future projections of climate data.

2014 was a year of meetings, momentum movements, summits and conferences, where politicians, scientists and non-profits have interacted. Equality was a key message at the U.N. Climate Summit in September as Global Leaders Highlight Actions Needed to Achieve Climate Justice.

The work of critical geographers started to raising awareness of the security implications of climate change in ‘Governing from Above: Vertical geopolitics of climate change’. Vertical geopolitics image

Finally it is worth considering what has actually been achieved. In Mapping climate communication, Joanna Boehnert has attempted to visually connect the role of different organisations over two decades of climate communication, where agencies involved are classified either according to their tendency to deny or to acknowledge climate change or else they are involved in the production of climate science itself.

At the end of the day, How to rebuild trust at UN climate change talks? suggests at the Paris climate summit in 2015, countries will need to do more than just say what they are doing. To achieve a successful outcome, countries should be held accountable for doing what they say.

The list of Climate Change stories is available at http://eurogeography.eu/eurogeo-newsletter/news-2014-climate.html

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EUROGEO News: 50 Environmental Stories from 2014

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50 Environment News Stories from 2014

In 2014, EUROGEO (the European Association of Geographers) completed 35 years of operation. This is the latest of a series of blog posts celebrating this anniversary by looking back at 2014 from the monthly newsletter of the association. This blog explores some of the environmental geography stories. Subscribe to the EUROGEO newsletter

A number of  articles in 2014 related to the adoption of environmental policy and subsequent decision making  - at the local, national or even international scales. Lobbying involves giving views and information to decision-makers in order to influence them toward the action you want.Citizen Empowerment image

The article Whose role is it to lobby? considered the delicate position of scientists in advocating particular policies. To whom should ‘scientific’ messages be addressed and what the appropriate level to deal with  concerns?

The scale of environmental issues and role of transnational organisations was highlighted in Connect green revolution science to the UN and World Urban forum - Finding a place for cities in the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals”.

The positive nature of decision making was featured in EU to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030Global leaders tackle growing strain on natural resources and the 6 Lessons Brazilian Cities Learned from Greenhouse Gas Inventories. But the restrictive nature of political actions in preventing the publication of scientific results came to light in Scientist silencing in Canada continues for federally-funded research, as responsible, ethical approaches are called for. UN Sustainable development image

The relationships between citizen participation, empowerment and environmental issues were raised as new geo-media tools were developed in Europe (Help tackle European marine litter problem by collecting data with the EEA app) and in China (Chinese environmental group develops app to shame air polluting factories). Perhaps these provide models for the future of engagement in the processes of democratic participation in a broad range of environmental issues.

Stories dealt with the complexity of specific environmental problems, for instance the future production  of fossil fuels where Germany plans to bulldoze towns for brown coal and Poland hosts both the UN climate change conference AND an international coal summit, where research confirms Black carbon is worse for global warming than previously thought.Energy production Poland image

Important messages were given about the potential of the oceans (Seas and oceans can provide solutions to ‘societal challenges’) and environmental impacts of plastic (Choking the Oceans With Plastic). Analysis of the problems and likely future perspectives are alarming (What are the sources and impacts of marine litter?) as more than a trillion bits of plastic may be released into the ocean over the next 10 years. It is clear that educating about our oceans has never been so important (How our oceans are creeping back into geography classrooms).

Environmental pollution in Chinese cities featured strongly in several news items especially in Urbanization and catastrophic levels of pollution, Beijing is so smoggy China now televises sunrises on giant TV screens and China faces $176bn bill to clean up air pollution. The question about whether the impact of policy can reduce pollution was raised in Can China’s Air Pollution Action Plan Slow Down New Coal Power Development?. Does development have to go hand in hand with increased pollution?

Reporting on the environment is increasingly related to technological advances that lead to socially acceptable innovative paths towards sustainability. Monitoring and measuring impact was described in Mapping Calgary’s Wasted Heat and in mitigation as Brazil uses satellite imagery to reduce illegal deforestationSatellite imagery

Several articles considered environmental innovation in developing new products, efficiencies or process design, focusing  on the technological aspects, for instance in India (building solar canals to produce energy while slowing water loss), the Sahel region (learning to reap benefits of shade) and the River Severn, UK (Balanced Technology Approach to Energy).

Live data and real-time science was featured in Air pollution around the world mapped by city and Lifemapper shows where Earths organisms live today and might go tomorrow.

An awareness of the environmental consequences of potential social, economic, and technological changes was a regular feature in 2014, especially in making an effort to anticipate future environmental issues and plan strategically to avoid problems, rather than responding to them after the fact.Antarctic science image

Forward-looking perspectives, considering future actions and planning for an uncertain environmental future included environmental legacy (Brazil has world’s weirdest carbon footprint but the future is uncertain), energy debates (The future offshore is wind), rainforest (Can oil save the Ecuador rainforest?), climate (Scientists and aid experts plan for a warmer future) and Antarctica (Six Priorities for Antarctic science).

All 50 selected Environmental Geography stories are  available at http://eurogeography.eu/eurogeo-newsletter/news-2014-environment.html

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