UNEP on environmental impacts of fossil fuels

UNEP on environmental impacts of fossil fuels

Volume 9/Number 7/July 1978 and Pollution Prevention. The Government opted for a set of anti-pollution standards which were cheaper, but less effecti...

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Volume 9/Number 7/July 1978

and Pollution Prevention. The Government opted for a set of anti-pollution standards which were cheaper, but less effective than those advocated by such nations as the United States, Sweden, Norway and Greece. The Amoco Cadiz disaster has highlighted the acute safety problems associated with ships flying flags of convenience. ACOPS believes that an earnest campaign must be waged against all sub-standard vessels, regardless of the flag they fly. Furthermore, many sub-standard ships were on charter to oil companies of considerable repute when accidents occurred. Oil companies justify such chartering on the grounds of economic necessity, but they must be held as answerable for the accidents as are the flag States which allow such carriers to operate. International measures concerning this responsibility are overdue, says the report. ACOPS believes that many flaws in Britain's maritime policy could be avoided if the Government accepted the concept of sea-use planning, whereby the maritime issues would be coordinated under a specially designated senior Cabinet Minister. The Committee also commended development of bilateral and regional co-operation on oil pollution, particularly among the North Sea countries and at the European Community level. It also urged the Government to step up its research into mechanical devices for clean-up, as Britain still mainly relies on dispersants. ACOPS was in agreement with most of the provisions in the environmental section of the negotiating text which was discussed at the spring 1978 session of the 3rd United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. However, it said that the Amoco Cadiz disaster clearly pinpointed lacunae which currently exist within the laws of salvage. The Committee also expressed its hope that the June International Conference on Training and Certification of Seafarers would go a long way towards minimising human error as the most frequent source of ship accidents.

U N E P on Environmental Impacts of Fossil Fuels The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently convened a meeting in Warsaw on the environmental impact of extraction, transportation and utilization of fossil fuels. Fifty experts from various developed and developing countries participated. This study is the first in a series U N E P is undertaking, and will be followed by studies on nuclear energy and on renewable sources of energy (hydroelectric, solar, wind, wave, tidal, sea-temperature differentials, vegetation). Among the major issues that emerged from the review on fossil fuels are: (1) human health effects of atmospheric emissions, especially sulphur dioxide; (2) effects of sulphur dioxide on vegetation and bodies of freshwater; (3) potential effect on climate from atmospheric carbon dioxide arising from fossil fuel

combustion; and (4) long-term ecological effects of oil spills in the sea. The best estimate of surface air temperature increase for a doubling of the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is 1.9°C, but this could vary from 1.5 to 3.0°C depending on cloudiness and other factors used in the model. By the year 2000, it is predicted that there will be about a 17~0 increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the 1976 concentration of 332 ppm. There are basically 4 pools of carbon on the planet: atmosphere, 70 × 10~0 tonnes carbon as carbon dioxide; worldwide biota, 80×10~0 tonnes; organic matter of the soil (humus and peat), 100-300× 1010 tonnes; and oceans, 4000× 10~0 tonnes. All these pools have an interchange of carbon, but the rate of exchange between the atmosphere and the oceans as a whole is considered to be low. The most rapid exchange occurs between the atmosphere and the upper 100 m mixed layer of the sea, where there is a reservoir of 60 x 101° tonnes of inorganic carbon. Currently, there is an annual injection into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels amounting to 0 . 5 x 1 0 ~° tonnes of carbon, which leads to an annual atmospheric increase of 0.23 x 10 x° tonnes of carbon. This leaves 0.27 x 10 ~° tonnes of fussil-fuel carbon to be removed by some combination of terrestrial and oceanic processes. The net effect of oceanic processes in buffering the input of fossil-fuel carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has not yet been established.

Arabian Gulf Action Plan The coastline of the Arabian G u l f - one of the most oilpollution prone areas in the world - is to be protected by an Action Plan backed by a $6m trust fund. First steps to be taken include assessing and monitoring the extent of oil pollution as well as the effects of coastal engineering and mining. The disposal of municipal wastes into the Gulf's waters will also be scrutinized. Sixty per cent of the world's oil shipments pass through the Gulf and because of the resulting high risk of a major oil spill from a collision or grounding, the Action Plan also contains contingency plans to set up a marine emergency centre in Bahrain. The trust fund financing the Action Plan has been backed by eight of the richest oil-producing states including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Kuwait.

International Talks on Atlantic Salmon More than 250 delegates are expected to attend an International Symposium in Edinburgh this September on threats to the survival of the Atlantic salmon. The survival of this species is being jeopardized by increased pollution, illegal netting and the disregard by 171