At a time when UN talks are underway to develop a new universally-recognized international climate change agreement, the world is bracing for new wave of global warming from man-derived greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. Despite international action to curb emissions, global temperatures still have a fifty percent chance of rising above 2 °C by the end of the century. Climate change is indeed inevitable because of solar changes, but anthropologists factors, which include past and present carbon emissions, changes in land use, and aerosols, play a substantial role as well. In its latest report, the International Energy Agency said the past year marks the first time that it has seen a decoupling of energy use and economic growth since being created as the energy watchdog for developed countries in the 1970s.
Pledges already put forward for the Paris meeting with participation of 196 nations in late December 2015, including those from the U.S., European Union and China, could help hold temperature below a 2.6 degrees Celsius increase. That’s significantly less of an overshoot than the 3.6-degree long-term gain in the IEA’s main scenario, issued in November. The United Nations is trying to maintain the increase in temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. Scientific evidence shows that for the world to have a good chance of staying within the 2C limit, beyond which climate change is likely to become catastrophic and irreversible, global emissions need to peak by 2020. Inaction in relation to climate change may lead to the fact that by the end of this century, the temperature of the planet will increase by six degrees, experts say. The flora and fauna of Azerbaijan may also suffer as a result of climate change. Gulmali Suleymanov, the head of the Climate Change and Ozone Center at the Ecology and Natural Resources Ministry, agrees that the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of the greenhouse effect that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space. “According to studies, in case the air temperature raises 2 degrees Celsius, it is the same in every corner of the world, including Azerbaijan,” Suleymanov told AzerNews. “However, this figure may reach 7 degrees Celsius in the North. In general climate changes mainly affect the northern part of the world threatening the island countries, as well as coastal countries on oceans.” Melting polar ice, and the thermal expansion of sea water, can cause rising sea levels and the flooding of low-lying lands. Suleymanov believes that may result in desertification and warming in a number of regions in Azerbaijan, located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. He noted that increased global warming may hamper growth in certain food crops in some regions. He reminded citizens that to prevent the negative effects of the climate change, Azerbaijan joined other nations in ratifying the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1995 and the Kyoto Protocol in 2000. “The first National Communication within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was prepared in 1998-2000. The second one covers 2000-2010. The document provides a national situational analysis, quantifies greenhouse gas emissions, posits a number of future climate scenarios, assesses the vulnerability of various economic sectors and ecosystems, and calls for various adaptation measures,” he said. He added that the third National Communication is under development and will soon be presented. The third document covers the period from 2006 to 2012, and all state agencies were engaged in drafting the document.
The country’s main environmental problems are wastewater pollution including cross-boundary pollution, the emission of harmful substances and greenhouse gases from industrial plants and vehicles, improper disposal of solid household and industrial wastes including hazardous wastes, the depletion of biodiversity, and a decline in forest resources and fauna, according to the second national communication.
There are two main policy responses to climate change: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation addresses the root causes, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while adaptation seeks to lower the risks posed by climatic change. The government now works on assessing the risks and opportunities from climate change and ensuring the country has the capacity to adapt, as it is better to be prepared to rather than to try to cut emissions.“Greenhouse gas emissions amount to little over 50 million tons of CO2 in Azerbaijan. This is 0.1 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by volume. The expansion of GHG pollution happens globally. So it will be more effective to adapt to changes,” Suleymanov believes. Suleymanov said the Global Environment Facility, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank, and others are funding a number of pilot projects in the country in this regard. These projects mainly cover afforestation, the prevention of desertification, and the degradation of pastures.
At least two to three projects are realized every year, he added. Assessment of vulnerability and defining vulnerable zones stands at the core of the adaptation process, according to Suleymanov. “The Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences and other relative agencies work on this. For example, the hydrometeorology department of the ecology ministry has recently installed systems preliminary informing about floods. Such systems were also installed at the Emergency Situations Ministry. In a nutshell, Azerbaijan works hard to prevent natural disasters resulting from climate change.” Due to a decline in industrial activities since 1990, the level of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere has reduced in Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, the level of pollution equaling 71.1 million tons of CO2 in 1990, declined to 50.6 million tons of CO2 as of 2008. Recently, Ecology Minister Huseyn Bagirov said Azerbaijan had committed itself to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 35 percent until 2030. The measures to prevent ecological disasters are part of the Development Concept “Azerbaijan 2020: Outlook for the Future”, which was approved in 2012. The concept envisions the necessary measures to protect biodiversity, neutralize the negative impact of the fuel-energy complex on the environment, eliminate pollution in the Caspian Sea and its basin, restore green areas, and effectively protect existing resources. Ecology expert Ilgar Muradov believes that although climate change mainly affects developed countries, for developing countries, this brings the challenge of, first, how to address the emerging need for adaptation in the face of existing imperatives. Secondly, if these countries maintain current development pathways, they will account for a significant proportion of global greenhouse as emissions by 2050. He believes it is necessary to take measures to support scientific research in environmental protection and create the necessary infrastructure to support climate change prevention and adaptation.“A special attention should be paid to public awareness measures with a view to develop international cooperation on the protection of the environment in the country and foster a culture of environmental protection,” he stated. Muradov also stressed the importance of diversifying the economy. That first of all envisages transitioning from energy oriented to the eco-based economy.
Azerbaijan is interested in expanding cooperation with the World Bank in various environmental projects.This preceding statement was issued by Economy and Industry Minister Shahin Mustafayev at a meeting with a delegation headed by World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus Henry Kerali, the Ministry reported on June 2. The minister noted that the environmental projects include monitoring the ecological state of the lakes in Baku and especially the cleaning of Boyukshor Lake. The restoration of Boyukshor, the largest lake in Absheron, is underway and expected to be completed by 2020. Mustafayev also noted the possibility of cooperation with the World Bank in industrial parks in Balakhani, Sumgayit, Mingachevir and the industrial area in Neftchala. The meeting discussed the current situation in the relations between Azerbaijan and the World Bank and the prospects of cooperation.
The minister noted the importance of projects implemented in cooperation with international financial institutions.
Mustafayev stressed the versatility of cooperation with the World Bank, and noted the continuation of work on economic diversification, development of non-oil sector, and the improvement of the business environment. The minister said that to date, the World Bank has allocated loans totaling $ 3.6 billion for the implementation of 51 projects in Azerbaijan, of which 35 projects have been completed while 16 projects are ongoing. Azerbaijan has been a WB member since 1992. He said that in the three years of Kerali’s work as the Regional Director for the South Caucasus, relations with the World Bank have expanded further. Six projects worth $600 million have been financed. Kerali, in turn, noted that the World Bank attaches great importance to cooperation with Azerbaijan. He expressed confidence that the World Bank will continue to provide financial and technical support to projects in the country.
Azerbaijan and Georgia will sign an agreement to improve the ecological state of the Kura River, said Matanat Avazova, deputy director of the National Monitoring Department on Environment of the Ecology and Natural Resources Ministry. Azerbaijan has done extensive work to improve the ecological state of the river Kura on the international level, she stressed. The deputy director said Azerbaijan has been discussing the issue with Georgia for about two years and talks on the issue have already come to an end. These negotiations are conducted through diplomatic channels and between the respective Foreign Ministries, she added. After their completion, Avazova said, the two countries will sign a corresponding agreement and each side will have to fulfill commitments to improve the quality of water in the Kura River. “I think that after the signing of the agreement, contamination of the Kura River can be prevented,” said Avazova.
Azerbaijan has joined the “Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes” of the Council of Europe 10 years ago, she said, and this structure prepares reports on water quality assessment every four years. The deputy director stressed that international reports note severe pollution in the upper stream of the Kura and Araz rivers. The largest river in Transcaucasia – the Kura – is of great importance for Azerbaijan’s economy. The river originates in Turkey to go through Georgia and Azerbaijan into the Caspian Sea. The Kura River is significant for Azerbaijan, which suffers water shortages throughout the year, when compared with the two another Southern Caucasus countries. The pollution of its waters is a disaster for the country. Today, the amount of biogenic substances in the river and its tributaries exceeds the established norm by several times as a result of the discharge of untreated water and industrial waste into the river from the territory of Georgia and Armenia.
Monitoring conducted by the Azerbaijan Ecology and Natural Resources Ministry studies the pollution of the Kura and Araz trans-boundary rivers and its tributaries from Armenia, the ministry reported on August 4. The recent report shows that waters of the Kura River are contaminated with phenol. The content of cooper and oxygen is within the normal limits for these rivers.
The fossil-fuels crowd seems to have a thing for China and India. It feels like at least in the U.S., at least half the discussions of clean energy and climate change you see on television end with the anti-renewable voice saying, “Well what about China and India? It doesn’t matter what we do if they keep polluting.”
The world’s first largest economy, China, is stepping up its commitment to renewable energy and working to peak its carbon emissions by 2030.
The rest tends to go to script as, almost without fail, a satisfied smirk the size of Texas then creeps into view as our fossil-fuels friend then leans back in his or her chair. Job done. Mission accomplished. Time to head home and light up a victory-lap Cuban.
But here’s the thing. When we think about the biggest reasons for hope that humanity is finally getting its act together to protect this precious planet of ours from climate change, what comes to mind isn’t the Gigafactory that Tesla CEO Elon Musk is building to revolutionize electric vehicles and energy storage. Or how Costa Rica is committed to going carbon-neutral by 2021. Or the fact that Norway is dropping coal investments from its sovereign wealth fund.
It’s China and India.
The world’s first and third-largest economies in 2015 (measured by purchasing power parity) are both stepping up their commitment to renewable energy and China in particular is also working to peak its carbon emissions by 2030—and aiming to do so sooner. Maybe the most exciting part of all is the fact that this choice isn’t driven by any kind of misguided idealism. It’s a clear-eyed business decision made by leaders looking at the realities of fossil fuels and what they mean for the health of millions of citizens and their respective economies – and recognizing that clean energy is the smart long-term bet.
Admittedly, China’s further along this path than India and both have some ways to go before their power plants are no longer belching dirty coal soot and carbon pollution by the metric ton. But when nations of this size and aspiration begin shifting to new models of development increasingly powered by renewables and seeing it pay off as their economies keep growing, it sends a clear signal to other emerging countries that clean energy can work.
After highlighting some of the countries with a track record of embracing renewables and flourishing today we’re looking at how recent converts to the clean-energy cause are showing over and over that the way to economic success in the twenty-first century is powered by smart technologies like wind and solar. So the next time someone says, “Well what about China and India,” you can say, “Well let me tell you about China and India. And Brazil and Mexico too …”
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room right up front: China’s powered much of its remarkable growth in the twentieth and twenty-first century with fossil fuels. So much so that it’s poised to catch up with the US on the list of all-time historical carbon polluters before too long (which does beg the question, does the fossil fuel crowd in China try to end debate with the question, “Well what about the Americans?”).
That said, in recent years, China has become a renewable-energy juggernaut, moving full-steam ahead and showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Without the space to single out everything happening in a nation of about 1.4 billion, a few headlines really stand out:
Last year, China led the world in investments in renewable energy, upping its stake in the sector to $89.5 billion.
China also led the world in building new generating capacity from renewable sources like solar, wind, and hydropower.
China keeps setting increasingly ambitious goals for solar year after year and is working to more than triple its solar capacity to 100 GW by 2020.
To put a finer point on it, China set a new record for new wind power capacity in a single year in 2014 and aims to nearly double its already significant capacity to 200 GW by 2020.
Thanks in part to such initiatives, the nation pledged to use non-fossil fuel sources to supply 20 percent of its energy use by 2030 in its recent commitments for the UN climate talks in Paris. In the same set of commitments, China also increased its goal to reduce the country’s carbon intensity by 60—65 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
We’ve made this point before, but China is choosing to do all of this—and a whole lot more—as the world’s largest economy. With the lives and well-being of nearly 1.4 billion people on the line. And if that’s not proof that clean-energy can work on a massive scale—and that’s before counting all the health and other benefits of addressing climate change in the near term—then nothing could be.
India hasn’t always made the right kind of headlines when it comes to climate change, thanks to the serious amounts of coal powering its economy—and air pollution choking its cities. But what many critics overlook is how the nation is also making some very ambitious commitments to renewable energy. Two things India has going for it are abundant natural resources (read: “lots and lots of sun and wind”) and a strong entrepreneurial culture with a habit of seizing big growth markets. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made solar an integral part of the government’s efforts to end energy poverty and bring electricity to every Indian household, including the 300 million people currently living without it. Some clear indicators of this progress include:
Renewables made up about 14 percent of India’s installed energy capacity in 2013 and the nation is looking to quintuple—quintuple—this number to 175 GW by 2022.
As part of this effort, the government recently raised its targets for growing solar by a factor of five, raising its targets from 20 GW by 2022 to 100 GW in the same year.
The country is also the world’s fifth-largest market for wind power, with a cumulative capacity of nearly 22.5 GW installed at the end of last year.
Investors are taking note, pouring $7.9 billion into clean energy projects in 2014. For 2015, this number is projected to surpass $10 billion, a sign of real confidence in the sector’s promise.
To propel these efforts, the Indian government has also introduced a range of forward-looking policies that mandate reductions in energy use from large industries and encourage state electricity providers to use renewables, among other measures. And while there’s no way around the fact that the nation clearly has a long ways to go, the fact that real progress is happening in a nation of India’s size and footprint is a real reason for hope.
The clean-energy turnaround stories happening in China and India aren’t the only ones pointing to an ongoing shift in global attitudes. Though its noisy neighbors to the north tend to hog the spotlight when it comes to climate news, Mexico has quietly been building the second-largest clean energy market in Latin Americawhile making strong commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Along the way, it’s also been reforming its electricity sector to pave the way for significantly greater use of renewables in the years ahead.
What does this all mean in practice? Well, one research firm ranked Mexico second in Latin America for solar installations in 2014 and forecasted that the sector would grow by 84 percent through 2018. The country has also set ambitious goals to grow domestic wind power from just over 2,500 MW of capacity last year to 15,000 MW by 2022. Which is not a small undertaking.
Of course, if you want to get a real picture of what’s happening, follow the money (we’ve heard that’s a smart idea). And in Mexico, the money is moving into clean energy, with investors first putting $2.2 billion into renewables in 2013 and then adding $1.3 billion more in just the first six months of 2014. Fueled by this support, developers are busy working on a range of clean energy projects in areas from biofuels to geothermal to small hydropower to solar to wind.
From the second-largest clean energy market in Latin America to the largest: Brazil. While many countries in the region have looked to fossil fuels or foreign resources to power their economies, Brazil has a long history of working for self-sufficiency and using its own natural resources. The result is that the nation has been able to supply over 80 percent of its electricity needs with renewables, with the bulk coming from hydropower.
Admittedly, large-scale hydropower is not without its own issues and so the good news is thatother sectors like wind and solar are starting to really pick up in Brazil. Already, the nation was one of the top 10 globally for clean energy investment in 2013. Plus, wind, to pick just one sector, could reach 12 percent of the nation’s generation capacity by 2023 if Brazil meets its current goals. And with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff recently pledging that the country will generate 20 percent of its energy with non-hydropower renewables by 2030, there’s every reason to expect it will.
Perhaps most importantly, while Brazil was creating a low-carbon economy, it was also living through a decade of extraordinary growth and social progress from 2003—2013 in which over 26 million people emerged from poverty and the country made major strides in reducing inequality.
Reasons For Hope
The bottom line is that we’re seeing countries in every part of the world and all along the economic spectrum increasingly turn to clean energy and thriving as a result. So while the recent headlines on what’s happening in Greenland and Antarctica make for some sobering reading, places like China and India and Mexico and Brazil are proving that we can make smart decisions on how we power our lives without plunging our economies into chaos, like the fossil fuel crowd would have you believe. And that’s a reason for hope worth sharing.
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The Environmental Protection Agency says it is going forward with a new federal rule to protect small streams, tributaries and wetlands, despite a court ruling that blocked the measure in 13 central and Western states. The EPA says the rule, which took effect Friday in more than three dozen states, will safeguard drinking water for millions of Americans.
Opponents pledged to continue to fight the rule, emboldened by a federal court decision Thursday that blocked it from Alaska to Arkansas. “We see this (rule) as very hurtful to farmers and ranchers and we’re going to do everything to stop it politically,” said Don Parrish of the American Farm Bureau Federation, one of several farm and business groups that have filed suit against the regulation.
Lawsuits to block the regulation are pending across the country, and the Republican-controlled Congress has moved to thwart it. The House has ignored a White House veto threat and passed a bill to block it, and a Senate committee has passed a measure that would force the EPA to withdraw and rewrite it.
This June 11, 2015, photo shows a dry water ditch next to a corn field in Cordova, Md. Alex Brandon / Associated Press
Four senators who oppose the regulation said that while well-intentioned, the water rule imposes excessive burdens on small farmers and ranchers. The senators — two Democrats and two Republicans — said in an opinion column Friday that the EPA has “created considerable and potentially costly confusion for many American businesses and communities who are just trying to do their jobs well.” The column, written by Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., shows opposition to the rule comes from both parties.
The EPA counters that the rule merely clarifies which smaller waterways fall under federal protection after two Supreme Court rulings left the reach of the Clean Water Act uncertain. Those decisions in 2001 and 2006 left 60 percent of the nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands without clear federal protection, according to EPA, causing confusion for landowners and government officials.
The new rule would force a permitting process only if a business or landowner took steps that would pollute or destroy the affected waters — those with a “direct and significant” connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected. That could include tributaries that show evidence of flowing water, for example.
In practice, the rule means that developers can no longer pave over wetlands and oil companies can no longer dump pollution into streams unhindered, restoring Clean Water Act protections to more than half the nation’s streams, supporters say. But opponents call the rule an example of federal overreach and fear a steady uptick in federal regulation of nearly every stream and ditch on rural lands.
The federal ruling Thursday was in North Dakota, where officials from that state and 12 others argued the new guidelines are overly broad and infringe on their sovereignty. The EPA said after the ruling that it would not implement the new rules in those 13 states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Several other lawsuits from other states and farm and business groups remain.
The World Bank Group, businesses groups, and investors have called on governments and corporations to support carbon pricing to cut green house gas (GHG) emissions and reduce the worsening impacts of climate change. The group has been organizing a statement on carbon pricing and has consulted partner countries, governments, and business associations including the World Economic Forum, UN Global Compact, the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group (CLG), CDP, the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). More than 250 companies have also joined the statement with the private sector becoming increasingly vocal in its support for carbon pricing. Google, Walmart, and Shell, are among the corporations that have already implemented “shadow price” on GHG emissions to avoid risks and develop opportunities that can increase energy and resource efficiency, reduce emissions, and deliver a competitive edge. The energy giant GDF Suez joined the statement and sees carbon pricing as a cost-effective way of addressing climate change while letting businesses choose how they lower their emissions. The company’s statement in support of the initiative said: “We at GDF Suez support carbon pricing because we believe there is a need to address risks linked to climate change, and we support action to address emissions reductions cost effectively. We are in favor of market-based approaches and emissions trading which allow business the flexibility to reduce when and where it makes the most business sense.” Software company Microsoft, which already uses shadow carbon pricing, has described similar benefits from its internal carbon fee model. In a recent report Microsoft said: “We’ve found over time that the more we can integrate sustainability goals across the business, the better position we are in to respond to changing economic, social and environmental conditions. Our carbon fee model supports a culture of innovation and efficiency.” Organisations are pledging their support by sending authorized emails to the World Bank Group with the names of confirmed supporters being added to the groups website and related communications. Supporters will be featured at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in New York in September and are welcome to send quotes describing their efforts to advance and implement carbon pricing. Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group vice president and special envoy for climate change, addressed delegates at an environmental conference in Pori, Finland last month to promote the groups stance and cited Australia’s scrapping of their carbon tax as a dangerous move. Australia scrapped its flagship climate change policy, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott citing high energy costs. The decision means the Australia has no official plan in place to achieve its target of cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 5-25 per cent on 2005 levels by 2020. Kyte said: “The question I would ask if I was Australian was would I want to be in the Pacific when every one of my trading partners is on track to have an emissions trading scheme or an economy that prices carbon in within the next 2-3 years?” Countries are currently negotiating the text for a legally binding global climate change agreement, due to be signed at the UNFCCC COP21 summit in Paris in December 2015.
The Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States opened in Apia, Samoa on Monday, and the talks will focus on getting countries to pledge their support for small islands at risk from the effects of climate change. Heads of states, business leaders and civil society representatives are attending the event from 1-4 September.The theme for the conference is “the sustainable development of small island developing States through genuine and durable partnerships” and it is expected to adopt a declaration called “Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action”, also known as the “Samoa Pathway”. The conference is promoting national partnerships that can help overcome the environmental and economic challenges facing small island states and seeks to raise the global awareness of the issues they are facing. Environmental degradation and access to energy will be particularly high on the agenda for this years summit. At the opening of the conference, Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, urged the international community to address the issues facing small island developing states (SIDS). Ban said: “The diverse coalition of small island nations we call SIDS lives on the front lines of climate change and sustainable development. They are also the vanguard in pioneering solutions that the entire world needs. The slogan for this conference is Island Voices, Global Choices. Let us heed those voices. Island issues affect us all. I see small island developing states as a magnifying glass. When we look through [their] lens, we see the vulnerabilities we all face. And by addressing the issues facing small island developing state we are developing the tools we need to promote sustainable development across the entire world.” Teilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, The Prime Minister of Samoa, said: “We understand the concerns of industrialized countries about economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions, but if we don’t act now it will be too late for many of our small islands that are already being inundated by rising sea levels. The international community has to understand that in an increasingly interrelated world, critical problems recognise no borders and ride roughshod over sovereignty.” According to the secretariat, the conference will seek to achieve the following objectives: 2014 is the International Year of Small Island Developing States and priorities of the conference include assessing the progress of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Program of Action for Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States; and identifying priorities for the sustainable development of SIDS to be considered in the elaboration of the post-2015 UN development agenda. UN statistics suggest there are 40 SIDS worldwide with a total population of nearly 65 million and a total gross domestic product of close to US$600 billion. The conference is held every ten years, with the previous two held in 1994 in Barbados and in 2005 in Mauritius.
The deadly Ebola epidemic in West Africa has been partly caused by deforestation and climate change according to new evidence from experts. Researchers say the logging, road construction and effects of climate change have brought animals infected with the disease in closer contact with humans. Jonathan Epstein, a veterinary epidemiologist at EcoHealth Alliance, said: “Expansion of human impact can really trigger outbreaks. Deforestation, building roads, expanding farms into areas that used to be dense forest — all those things increase the opportunity for wild animals to get into contact with livestock and humans.” The latest outbreak was first reported in February in remote towns in Guinea and has since spread throughout the country and into Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. Around 1,200 people have died from the disease during the current epidemic, according to the World Health Human contact with bats is now more likely than ever in West Africa, thanks to unrestricted development into the animals’ habitats and deforestation. Some bat populations have inactive reservoirs of the Ebola virus disease that when transmitted to humans present the deadly symptoms known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever; a process known as zoonosis. As population centers and infrastructure expands, researchers this type of human-animal contact will be on the rise. A study conducted by African and U.S. researchers in 2012 found that human activity immediately preceded the previous Ebola outbreak in 1994 when gold miners in Gabon ate an infected gorilla. Deforestation is rife in West Africa with only 4 percent of Sierra Leone’s original forest cover having been wiped out since the 1920s, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In Liberia, agricultural development has absorbed up about 20 per cent of the country’s dense forests since 1979, according to a government report. In Guinea around 20 per cent of forested areas have been lost since 1990, according to United Nations data. The loss of habitat has resulted in significantly increased concentrations of wild animal populations in the remaining forest, bringing previously untouched reservoirs of Ebola into closer proximity with humans. With billions being invested in West Africa to exploit mineral deposits, transport links and infrastructure has been developed in once remote villages which has increased peoples contact with the virus and has made it harder to contain. There is also now evidence that climate change can increase the likelihood of Ebola epidemics by causing periods of extreme drought and heavy rain; research has linked Ebola epidemics with intense periods of heavy rain coming after periods of aridity. Experts say that the development of public health infrastructure in the region is vital to prevent outbreaks.