The UK's Channel 4 investigates unlocking Bolivia's lithium wealth:

This broadcast highlights the pros and cons for developing Bolivia's salt flats. No doubt the rapid increase in demand for lithium presents a massive opportunity for South America’s poorest country. The potential risks, however, provide a sobering reminder to those keen to jump on the salt wagon.

As we come up with new ideas to mitigate the threats posed by climate change and resource scarcity, the focus should be on us to reduce our dependency, in this case on cars, instead of seeking new ways to maintain it.

Electric cars may be cleaner both in terms of carbon emissions and pollutants but there is not enough lithium to go around. It also seems an inefficient use of space and electricity for urban areas to have hundreds of battery charging stations for individual users when there could be far fewer if the use of public transport was dramatically increased.

The Bolivian pilot scheme seeking to develop the lithium reserves should consider it a strategic priority to create partnerships with those companies – national or international – to develop the use of this resource for public transport not individual cars makers.
Published in Renewable Energy
Monday, 20 October 2008 11:55

Andes face glacial meltdown

This article was first posted on the Guardian's Comment is free Glaciers in Peru are melting so quickly that by 2015 almost all of them may have disappeared. This is not just a problem for Peru but for the whole Andean Community of Nations, including Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador. These countries generate around 73% of their electricity from hydro energy. Ironically, this renewable source of energy risks disappearing because of melting glaciers caused by climate change. The report, Climate change knows no borders, provides a chilling reminder of the catastrophic impacts of climate change on the Andean region. The evidence predicting the rapid loss of glaciers and a fiercer, more frequent El Niño effect, where ocean temperatures rise along the coasts of Ecuador and Peru, causing droughts and floods, reveals an uncertain and potentially destructive future for the region. The El Niño of 1997/8 had a devastating impact, leaving thousands dead or homeless, crops ruined, roads and bridges left smashed. The bill ran into billions of dollars. If this wasn't enough, climate change could lead to further losses of up to $30 billion a year by 2025 in the Andean region while the effect of melting glaciers could place 40 million people at risk of losing their water supply. It seems ironic that the highest number of the Kyoto Protocol's clean development mechanism projects in the Andean Community relate to the resource facing the greatest threat – water. The climatic stresses causing the loss of glaciers, and in turn jeopardising what many regard as a key constituent of rural development through electrification, may result in a vicious cycle. The loss of this vital resource, combined with high prices and scant political enthusiasm for other renewable options – geothermal, wind and solar – may result in countries resorting to an increase in the use of fossil fuels. Considering the region's minor contribution to the world's greenhouse gas emissions this would be extremely counter-productive. It might also run the risk of undermining what has so far been a progressive stance on climate change at the international policy level. In 1993, Ecuador became the first developing country to ratify the climate convention. Although scientific evidence and past experience of extreme weather conditions have provided grounds for a strong rhetorical stand on climate change at the international level, Andean governments have been reluctant to integrate climate change strategies into the fabric of development policy. Peru did not establish a ministry for the environment until May 2008, exposing a pattern played out regionally of weak state institutions, unequal access to natural resources, a lack of political will, non-existent funding, insufficient information and deficient infrastructure. The challenge of integrating development and climate change agendas is, therefore, critical. The Andean Community is skating on thin ice as the longevity of one of its most important sources of renewable energy is thrown into doubt. The question remains whether or not the world will act, and if the ice will remain thick enough to support Andean sustainable development for the future.
Published in Adaptation
Page 3 of 3