Monday, June 29, 2015

On The Legal Front: Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions (CSAS)

The only way to win the carbon war soon enough to avert unacceptable casualties of young people and other life on the planet is to carry out the battle on several fronts simultaneously.

Dr. James Hansen

(That’s the reason for the expansive name of our organization, Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions (CSAS), and also the reason that we support disparate organizations, including Citizens Climate Lobby, Our Children’s Trust, 350.org…).

We sometimes ask if we are using our time right, spending too much time on the legal front?[1] After all, the end game begins only when we achieve an across-the-board transparent (thank you, Pope Francis, for recognizing that!) carbon fee. Focus on a carbon fee is high priority because of the danger that Paris agreements may amount to little more than national “goals” and, what’s worse, more effete ineffectual “cap-and-trade” shenanigans. A focus on science is also needed, as there is still no widespread recognition of the urgency of emission reductions, and better understanding of the science is required to achieve a good strategy to restore energy balance.

The legal approach complements recognition of the moral dimensions of climate change. Can you imagine civil rights advancing without help of the courts? Yet courts will not likely move, and they did not move in the case of civil rights, until the public recognizes the moral dimension and begins to demand action. So it is also essential to get the public more widely involved.

When a judge issues a ruling it has certain gravity. It seems that courts retain more respect with the public than legislatures do. So it is wonderful to report two important legal victories this week. Both are due to remarkably capable, determined individuals, who simply will not give up.

First, the Dutch case. The Netherlands, which will cease to exist within a century or so if the world stays on its present carbon path, is an appropriate place for the first European case in which citizens attempt to hold a state responsible for its inaction in the face of clear danger. The Dutch district court in the Hague ruled for the plaintiff, Urgenda, an environmental organization. The court ordered the Dutch government to reduce emissions 25% by 2020, a stiff order. The hero behind the scenes was lawyer, legal scholar, and author Roger Cox, who has relentlessly pursued this action for the past several years on behalf of young people and future generations.

In Seattle, the King County Superior Court Judge ordered the State to reconsider the petition of eight youth, who brought their case with the help of Our Children’s Trust, requesting that the state reduce emissions consistent with dictates of the best available science. The latter was provided in testimony to the court by Pushker Kharecha, Deputy Director of CSAS, based on our paper in PLOS One, which was not disputed by Washington State, and which calls for a reduction of emissions by 6% per year. The relentless behind-the-scenes champions in this case are Julia Olson (director of Our Children’s Trust) and legal scholar Mary Woods.

Government lawyers, in the Netherlands and Washington State, scurried off after the verdicts to prepare appeals. If they win their appeals, it will not deter the youth or their supporters, who must be relentless in advancing the essential legal front. More on other legal plans soon. More

[1] At present I am involved in 11 legal cases. It could be more – it hurts to turn down requests, but there is only so much time. It would be fewer cases, if I didn’t have the help of a brilliant young lawyer, Dan Galpern.

 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Parched Caribbean faces widespread drought, water shortages

The worst drought in five years is creeping across the Caribbean, prompting officials around the region to brace for a bone dry summer.

From Puerto Rico to Cuba to the eastern Caribbean island of St. Lucia, crops are withering, reservoirs are drying up and cattle are dying while forecasters worry that the situation could only grow worse in the coming months.

Thanks to El Nino, a warming of the tropical Pacific that affects global weather, and a quieter-than-normal hurricane season that began in June, forecasters expect a shorter wet season. That means less rain to help refill Puerto Rico's thirsty Carraizo and La Plata reservoirs as well as the La Plata river in the central island community of Naranjito. A tropical disturbance that hit the U.S. territory on Monday did not fill up those reservoirs as officials had anticipated.

Puerto Rico is among the Caribbean islands worst-hit by the , with more than 1.5 million people affected by the drought so far, according to the U.S. National Drought Mitigation Center.

Tens of thousands of people receive water only every third day under strict rationing recently imposed by the island government. Puerto Rico last week also activated National Guard troops to help distribute water and approved a resolution to impose fines on people and businesses for improper water use.

The Caribbean's last severe drought was in 2010. The current one could grow worse if the hurricane season ending in November produces scant rainfall and the region enters the dry season with parched reservoirs, said Cedric Van Meerbeeck, a climatologist with the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology.

"We might have serious water shortages ... for irrigation of crops, firefighting, domestic consumption or consumption by the hotel sector," he said.

The Caribbean isn't the only area in the Western Hemisphere dealing with extreme water shortages. Brazil has been struggling with its own severe drought that has drained reservoirs serving the metropolis of Sao Paulo.

In the Caribbean, the farm sector has lost more than $1 million in crops as well as tens of thousands of dollars in livestock, said Norman Gibson, scientific officer at the Trinidad-based Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute.

On St. Lucia, which has been especially hard hit, farmers say crops including coconuts, cashews and oranges are withering.

"The outlook is very, very bad," said Anthony Herman, who oversees a local farm cooperative. "The trees are dying, the plants are dying ... It's stripping the very life of rivers."

Officials in Cuba say 75 percent of the island is enduring a drought that has killed cattle and destroyed thousands of hectares (acres) of crops including plantains, citrus, rice and beans. Recent heavy rains in some areas have alleviated the problem some, but all 200 government-run reservoirs are far below capacity.

In the nearby Dominican Republic, water shortages have been reported in hundreds of communities, said Martin Melendez, a civil engineer and hydrology expert who has worked as a government consultant. "We were 30 days away from the entire water system collapsing," he said.

The tourism sector has also been affected.

Most large hotels in Puerto Rico have big water tanks and some recycle wastewater to irrigate green areas, but many have curtailed water use, said Frank Comito, CEO of the Florida-based Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association.

Other hotels have cut back on sprinkler time by up to 50 percent, said Carlos Martinez of Puerto Rico's Association of Hotels. "Everybody here is worried," he said. "They are selling water tanks like hot cakes ... and begging God for rain."

Guests at Puerto Rico's El Canario by the Lagoon hotel get a note with their room keys asking them to keep their showers short amid the water shortage. "We need your cooperation to avoid waste," says the message distributed at the front desk of the hotel in the popular Condado district.

At the Casa del Vega guesthouse in St. Lucia, tourists sometimes find the in their rooms turned off for the day, preventing them from taking a shower. "Even though we have a drought guests are not sympathetic to that," hotel manager Merlyn Compton said. More


 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Thursday called for a radical transformation of politics, economics and individual lifestyles to confront environmental degradation and climate change, as his much-awaited papal encyclical blended a biting critique of consumerism and irresponsible development with a plea for swift and unified global action.

The vision that Francis outlined in the 184-page encyclical is sweeping in ambition and scope: He described a relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment, which he blamed on apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology, and political shortsightedness. The most vulnerable victims are the world’s poorest people, he declared, who are being dislocated and disregarded.

"Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods," he wrote. "It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day."

The first pope from the developing world, Francis, an Argentine, used the encyclical — titled "Laudato Si’," or "Praise Be to You" — to highlight the crisis posed by climate change. He placed most of the blame on fossil fuels and human activity while warning of an "unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequence for all of us" if swift action is not taken. Developed, industrialized countries were mostly responsible, he said, and were obligated to help poorer nations confront the crisis.

"Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods," he wrote. "It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day." More

 

 

 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

To fight desertification, let's manage our land better

Every year, we lose 24 billion tons of fertile soil to erosion and 12 million hectares of land to desertification and drought. This threatens the lives and livelihoods of 1.5 billion people now.

In the future, desertification could displace up to 135 million people by 2045. Land degradation could also reduce global food production by up to 12% and push world food prices up by 30%. In Egypt, Ghana, Central African Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Paraguay, land degradation could cause an annual GDP loss of up to 7%.

Pressure on land resources is expected to increase as populations grow, socio-economic development happens and the climate changes. A growing population will demand more food, which means that unsuitable or especially biodiverse land will be claimed for farming and be more vulnerable to degradation. Increased fertilizer and pesticide use related to agriculture will increase nutrient loading in soils, causing eutrophication and declines in fertility over time. Climate change will also aggravate land degradation—especially in drylands, which occupy 40% of global land area, and are inhabited by some 2 billion people. Urban areas, which are located in the world’s highly fertile areas, could grow to account for more than 5% of global land by mid-century.

Unless we manage our land better, every person will rely on just .11 hectares of land for their food; down from .45 hectares in 1960.

So how do we manage land better?

It will all come down to what we do with our soil, which is the most significant natural capital for ensuring food, water, and energy security while adapting and building resilience to climate change and shocks. The soil’s nutrient cycling provides the largest contribution (51%) of the total value (USD33 trillion) of all ‘ecosystem services’ provided each year. But soil’s important function is often forgotten as the missing link in our pursuit of sustainable development.

We must invest in applicable solutions that are transformative, and can be scaled up. Climate-smart agriculture is an alternative approach to managing land sustainably whilst increasing agricultural productivity. It includes land management options that sequester carbon and enhance resilience to climate change. Proven climate-smart practices such as agroforestry, integrated soil fertility management, conservation agriculture, and improved irrigation can ensure that land is used optimally, restored and managed in a manner that maximizes ecological, economic and social benefits.

But climate-smart agriculture requires conducive policy frameworks, increased investment, and judicious policy management. Rural poverty is often a product of policies that discriminate against small landholders, forcing them off the land, creating sub-optimal land use outcomes, and long term degradation. Secure land rights are necessary for climate-smart agriculture, providing incentives for local communities to manage land more sustainably. In Rwanda, for instance, land tenure reform rapidly doubled investment in soil conservation, with even larger increases for plots managed by female farmers.

Second, there is need for increased national investment in climate smart agriculture. For technologies such as conservation agriculture that require substantial up-front investment in machinery and other inputs, schemes such as those involving payment for ecosystem services may be more effective in promoting CSA technology adoption. For technologies such as agroforestry systems, innovative finance mechanisms that help farmers bridge the period between when trees are planted, mature and generate income can be decisive.

Third, in some cases, direct public investment in landscape restoration and rehabilitation can bring about sizeable livelihood benefits and create better conditions for attracting further investments by farmers and communities. The China Loess Plateau is a well-documented success story of landscape restoration. Similar experiences are happening in Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Senegal.

Fourth, a number of improved land management technologies are knowledge-intensive, and promoting their adoption will require training. Conservation agriculture for instance entails sophisticated combinations of no-tillage, residue management, use of cover crops, and other activities and practices that many farmers have limited experience with. The knowledge base of local land management practices can also be improved through targeted capacity development programs.

Many demand-side interventions can strategically break the adoption barriers associated with climate-smart practices. These include: providing farmers with improved weather forecasting, weather-indexed crop insurance, and measures to reduce production variability such as drought-tolerant crops, deep-rooted crops, and irrigation. These should be combined with supply-side measures such as lowering trade barriers to increase national and regional market size, improving road and rail infrastructure to lower transport costs, and improving market information systems to increase farmers’ access to markets.

Lastly, public support is as crucial as the amount of support to fully realize the productivity, adaptation, and mitigation benefits in agriculture. Public support that focuses on research, investments in improved land management, and land tenure rather than on input support is generally more effective, benefits more farmers, and is more sustainable in the long run.

Actions to reduce the negative impacts of land degradation and desertification must indeed go hand in hand with interventions that eradicate poverty and address inequality. Without them, we will not end poverty and boost shared prosperity. More

 

To fight desertification, let's manage our land better

Every year, we lose 24 billion tons of fertile soil to erosion and 12 million hectares of land to desertification and drought. This threatens the lives and livelihoods of 1.5 billion people now.

In the future, desertification could displace up to 135 million people by 2045. Land degradation could also reduce global food production by up to 12% and push world food prices up by 30%. In Egypt, Ghana, Central African Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Paraguay, land degradation could cause an annual GDP loss of up to 7%.

Pressure on land resources is expected to increase as populations grow, socio-economic development happens and the climate changes. A growing population will demand more food, which means that unsuitable or especially biodiverse land will be claimed for farming and be more vulnerable to degradation. Increased fertilizer and pesticide use related to agriculture will increase nutrient loading in soils, causing eutrophication and declines in fertility over time. Climate change will also aggravate land degradation—especially in drylands, which occupy 40% of global land area, and are inhabited by some 2 billion people. Urban areas, which are located in the world’s highly fertile areas, could grow to account for more than 5% of global land by mid-century.

Unless we manage our land better, every person will rely on just .11 hectares of land for their food; down from .45 hectares in 1960.

So how do we manage land better?

It will all come down to what we do with our soil, which is the most significant natural capital for ensuring food, water, and energy security while adapting and building resilience to climate change and shocks. The soil’s nutrient cycling provides the largest contribution (51%) of the total value (USD33 trillion) of all ‘ecosystem services’ provided each year. But soil’s important function is often forgotten as the missing link in our pursuit of sustainable development.

We must invest in applicable solutions that are transformative, and can be scaled up. Climate-smart agriculture is an alternative approach to managing land sustainably whilst increasing agricultural productivity. It includes land management options that sequester carbon and enhance resilience to climate change. Proven climate-smart practices such as agroforestry, integrated soil fertility management, conservation agriculture, and improved irrigation can ensure that land is used optimally, restored and managed in a manner that maximizes ecological, economic and social benefits.

But climate-smart agriculture requires conducive policy frameworks, increased investment, and judicious policy management. Rural poverty is often a product of policies that discriminate against small landholders, forcing them off the land, creating sub-optimal land use outcomes, and long term degradation. Secure land rights are necessary for climate-smart agriculture, providing incentives for local communities to manage land more sustainably. In Rwanda, for instance, land tenure reform rapidly doubled investment in soil conservation, with even larger increases for plots managed by female farmers.

Second, there is need for increased national investment in climate smart agriculture. For technologies such as conservation agriculture that require substantial up-front investment in machinery and other inputs, schemes such as those involving payment for ecosystem services may be more effective in promoting CSA technology adoption. For technologies such as agroforestry systems, innovative finance mechanisms that help farmers bridge the period between when trees are planted, mature and generate income can be decisive.

Third, in some cases, direct public investment in landscape restoration and rehabilitation can bring about sizeable livelihood benefits and create better conditions for attracting further investments by farmers and communities. The China Loess Plateau is a well-documented success story of landscape restoration. Similar experiences are happening in Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Senegal.

Fourth, a number of improved land management technologies are knowledge-intensive, and promoting their adoption will require training. Conservation agriculture for instance entails sophisticated combinations of no-tillage, residue management, use of cover crops, and other activities and practices that many farmers have limited experience with. The knowledge base of local land management practices can also be improved through targeted capacity development programs.

Many demand-side interventions can strategically break the adoption barriers associated with climate-smart practices. These include: providing farmers with improved weather forecasting, weather-indexed crop insurance, and measures to reduce production variability such as drought-tolerant crops, deep-rooted crops, and irrigation. These should be combined with supply-side measures such as lowering trade barriers to increase national and regional market size, improving road and rail infrastructure to lower transport costs, and improving market information systems to increase farmers’ access to markets.

Lastly, public support is as crucial as the amount of support to fully realize the productivity, adaptation, and mitigation benefits in agriculture. Public support that focuses on research, investments in improved land management, and land tenure rather than on input support is generally more effective, benefits more farmers, and is more sustainable in the long run.

Actions to reduce the negative impacts of land degradation and desertification must indeed go hand in hand with interventions that eradicate poverty and address inequality. Without them, we will not end poverty and boost shared prosperity. More

 

World Day to Combat Desertification (June 17, 2015)

Environment – Climate – World Day to Combat Desertification (June 17, 2015)

On World Day to Combat Desertification, dedicated this year to the theme “Attainment of food security for all through sustainable food systems,” France reaffirms its commitment to sustainable land management.

The challenge is twofold: feeding humanity while preserving the environment. France allocates €200 million per year to concrete projects to combat desertification and land degradation, mainly through the French Development Agency. The International Civil Society Forum, “Désertif'Action 2015,” recently brought together in Montpelier 300 participants from 60 countries.

Combating desertification will help to improve capacity to absorb carbon, adapt to climate change and stabilize populations in areas that remain habitable. It’s key to the success of COP21 and the reason behind the “4 pour 1000” (4 per thousand) initiative backed by France, which combines the restoration of degraded land, food production and the fight against climate disruption and is aimed at increasing soil organic matter levels by 4 parts per thousand per year.


Climate - European Climate Diplomacy Day (June 17, 2015)


On the occasion of the second edition of European Climate Diplomacy Day, Laurent Fabius will receive, at the Quai d’Orsay, more than 50 European ambassadors and diplomats, who will travel there from the Champs Élysées by bicycle. By doing so, they will demonstrate their commitment to ensuring the success of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference and their support for Laurent Fabius, COP21 President.

In almost 60 countries on five continents, French diplomats will participate together with their British, German and EU colleagues in events aimed at raising awareness among the general public and policymakers.

Televised interviews, round tables, exhibitions, screenings, training workshops for journalists, the awarding of climate scholarships and even stage plays will facilitate exchanges with the public and highlight the practical measures already undertaken to reduce carbon emissions.


Excerpts from the daily press briefing by Romain Nadal, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and international Development' spokesman (Paris, june 17th 2015)


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