Saturday, August 27, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
Currently, only about 4 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s arable land is irrigated; the rest is rain-fed, meaning it is susceptible to droughts and floods. Yet, irrigated land can have yields that are up to five times those of rain-fed areas. It must be the case that the costs of irrigation—capital, recurrent, administrative, political—are sufficiently high to outweigh these benefits. But if you take into account the possibility of more frequent floods and droughts, which would make irrigated land relatively more attractive, does the benefit-cost calculation change?
The short answer is yes. In a calculation for the Zambezi basin, Aziz Bouzaher and I estimate that the costs of tripling the irrigated area are about equal to the benefits—if you ignore the effects of climate change. It is not surprising therefore that there has not been much investment in irrigation. But when you include as benefits of irrigation the avoided damage from increasingly frequent droughts (using fairly conservative assumptions), the overall benefits are double the costs. Recognizing that the effects of climate change will increasingly affect rain-fed agriculture may tip the scales in favor of more irrigation in Africa, and lead to higher yields for African farmers.
More information on the costs and benefits of irrigation in the Zambezi River Basin (PDF)
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
This week, though, sure feels like the tipping point on public opinion on climate, and so I'm going to stick a fork in it right here, folks. Climate opinion just tipped. Why do I say that? In the last week:
Australia, with huge coal reserves -- but rapidly passing the Arctic as ground zero for climate impacts with epic fires, droughts, floods, hurricanes, and dust storms -- passed a carbon credit law, with a tax coming up next.
Canada rolled out regulations that will likely phase out coal by mid-century.
Michael Mann's "hockey stick" research was once and for all vindicated.
Prominant Republicans like Jon Hunstman and Chris Christie agree that climate science is real, and there's even presssure within the GOP to not become the anti-science party. In fact, when Rick Perry denied climate science, he wasn't just censured by some Republicans, he was instantly and vigoriously debunked by the Washington Post.
The press is finally doing its job by calling deniers like Rick Perry out on their climate claims.
Last and most important, prominant intellectuals, scholars, and youth (the people who always make up revolutions and are regularly jailed in less freedom-friendly countries) were arrested and imprisoned for peaceful protest in our nation's capital, and kept overnight on the eve of the national dedication of a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr.
It is a gift. What more could an activist ask for than for all these things to happen at once -- to wind up in jail, just like Dr. King in Birmingham, and to have it all happen on the eve of a national dedication to this great man who would certainly have seen our cause as his own: about poverty, and intergenerational justice, and equality. Dr. King tragically and prophetically said that he might not get there with us, but that he had seen the promised land. More >>>
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Yet as environmental stresses mount, we can expect to see a growing number of environmental refugees. Rising seas and increasingly devastating storms grab headlines, but expanding deserts, falling water tables, and toxic waste and radiation are also forcing people from their homes.
Advancing deserts are now on the move almost everywhere. The Sahara desert, for example, is expanding in every direction. As it advances northward, it is squeezing the populations of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria against the Mediterranean coast. The Sahelian region of Africa—the vast swath of savannah that separates the southern Sahara desert from the tropical rainforests of central Africa—is shrinking as the desert moves southward. As the desert invades Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, from the north, farmers and herders are forced southward, squeezed into a shrinking area of productive land. A 2006 U.N. conference on desertification in Tunisia projected that by 2020 up to 60 million people could migrate from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and Europe.
In Iran, villages abandoned because of spreading deserts or a lack of water number in the thousands. In Brazil, some 250,000 square miles of land are affected by desertification, much of it concentrated in the country’s northeast. In Mexico, many of the migrants who leave rural communities in arid and semiarid regions of the country each year are doing so because of desertification. Some of these environmental refugees end up in Mexican cities, others cross the northern border into the United States. U.S. analysts estimate that Mexico is forced to abandon 400 square miles of farmland to desertification each year.
In China, desert expansion has accelerated in each successive decade since 1950. Desert scholar Wang Tao reports that over the last half-century or so some 24,000 villages in northern and western China have been abandoned either entirely or partly because of desert expansion. More >>>
Scheduled from December 12 to 14 this year, the symposium bears the theme of “First International Symposium on Impact and Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in Small Island Developing States.”
Organizers of the event, the State University of Zanzibar, said the symposium is aimed to raise national and international awareness on threats of climate change to small island states, which are leading tourist attraction destinations in the world, including the island of Zanzibar.
Climate change scientists had earlier raised their concern over climate changes in Zanzibar and threats to rising water levels of the Indian Ocean, and predicted dangers ahead, among them, a possible sinking of some islands which make the Zanzibar archipelago.
Experts further warned of a possibility to see key beaches of Zanzibar and a big part of this island totally sinking in the Indian Ocean within the coming 100 years.
According to the State University of Zanzibar, key speakers will be drawn from other island states including Samoa and Japan. Other speakers confirmed to attend will come from Tanzania and South Africa. More >>>
Sunday, August 21, 2011
The proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will take us in the wrong direction, making global warming worse and bringing additional dangers of oil spills to America’s heartland. The United States is the main market for the bitumen that is strip-mined and drilled from under Canada’s Boreal forest. Despite Canadian claims that they’ll sell tar sands to China if we don’t take it, not only are there no major pipelines to the Canadian coasts, but opposition to these pipeline proposals is fierce. Instead of providing energy security, the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will give oil companies a Gulf Coast deepwater port for export and raise gas prices in the Midwest. After a summer of droughts and heat waves, we need to be working harder than ever to reduce our demand for oil. With fuel efficiency standards and cleaner ways to move people around, America can be a leader in clean energy rather than giving into our oil addiction. That is the path of true energy security. More >>>
Friday, August 19, 2011
Dabelko was joined by Christian Webersik, associate professor at the University of Agder, Norway, and Dennis Taenzler, senior project manager at adelphi, to discuss how responses to climate change may lead to new conflict. As we think about adopting biofuels, solar and nuclear energy options, and geoengineering, “we have to do it with our eyes open,” Dabelko said.
The Ripple Effects of Climate Change
We are “both the victims and agents” of climate change, Webersik said. We are affected by it, but we are also responding to it, through adaptation and mitigation efforts, geoengineering proposals, and emissions avoidance. “These strategies themselves have ripple-on effects,” he said. For example, the fuel-food crisis in 2008, in which higher demand for biofuels led to more competition over arable land and increases in food prices, contributed to riots and political instability in some places. More >>>
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Yet the Arctic sea ice is changing dramatically, and its presence shouldn’t be taken for granted, even over the course of our lifetimes. According to new research from MIT, the most recent global climate report fails to capture trends in Arctic sea-ice thinning and drift, and in some cases substantially underestimates these trends. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007, forecasts an ice-free Arctic summer by the year 2100, among other predictions. But Pierre Rampal, a postdoc in the Department of Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), and colleagues say it may happen several decades earlier. More >>>
Thursday, August 11, 2011
International Permaculture Conference and Convergence, IPC10, will be held in Jordan across September 2011
The next International Permaculture Conference and Convergence, IPC10, will be held in Jordan across September 2011. The theme is "Plan Jordan ~ Water".
The 1-day IPC10 Conference (open to all) and 4-day IPC10 Convergence (open to Permaculture Design Certificate graduates only) will be held in Jordan (Amman and Wadi Rum, respectively) and will be coordinated by Nadia 'Abu Yahia' Lawton. Prior to the start of the Conference and subsequent Convergence, a two-week International Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course will be taught by a team of respected permaculture educators and pratitioners, and all three events will be followed by tours and permaculture site visits.
The theme of IPC10 is highly appropriate given the United Nations have just launched their Decades for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification. We have the solutions!
You are cordially invited to support this valuable initiative with your presence and involvement! We welcome submissions for appropriate articles to appear below! More >>>
Location: Cayman Islands
2 August 2011: The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) announced the launch of the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR11), titled "Revealing Risk, Redefining Development."
The report was launched in Auckland, New Zealand, at the Third Session of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management, co-convened by UN/ISDR and the Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC) of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
In his opening remarks to the Third Session, Russell Howorth, Director, SOPAC, said a key outcome anticipated from the meeting is the adoption of a “Roadmap” to develop an integrated regional strategy for disaster risk management and climate change, for endorsement in 2015. Currently the Pacific region is guided by the Pacific Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Disaster Management Framework for Action, and the Pacific Islands Framework for Action on Climate Change. Both of these regional policies expire in 2015, paving the way for an integrated approach from 2015 onwards.
Howorth further noted that several Pacific Island Countries, including the Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Niue, Tuvalu, Fiji and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), already are moving forward with the integration of national strategies on DRR and climate change. More >>>
Location: Cayman Islands
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
It's ironic. In resource- and fossil fuel-rich Alaska, Tanana residents are paying more than seven times the national rate for their electricity and are shipping in diesel fuel to heat their buildings and water.
Probably the name Tanana (pronounced TAN-uh-naw) doesn't ring a bell. No wonder: It's not just rural, it's remote. Accessible only by air and river (which is how the diesel arrives), this central Alaskan city is about an hour's flight from Fairbanks and two miles below where the Tanana and Yukon Rivers meet.
A Subsistence Lifestyle
Tanana is helping put woody biomass on the Alaskan map. By harvesting local wood for energy, the city is becoming more efficient and self-sufficient. The plan is to reap wider benefits by sharing their experience with other rural communities. (Image: Alaska Community Database Community Information Summaries)
About 80 percent of Tananans are Native American, 18 percent Caucasian, and there's a smattering of Latinos and others.
"Subsistence is the primary way of life," city manager Bear Ketzler says. "Be it hauling water or getting your own firewood or harvesting berry products and moose and fish and things like this."
Utilizing local natural resources is key in a place where staples like milk (at about $10/gallon) and fresh vegetables (tomatoes fetch about $7-8 each, a head of lettuce about $6-7) are luxuries.
Dogs probably outnumber people there, says Ketzler, as they are integral to the economy, whether for trapping, breeding or that big Alaskan business: dog-racing.
Tanana, incorporated as a city in 1961 and as a "first class city" in 1980, is co-governed by a city council and a Native council. The median household income is about $30,000 per year with most of the jobs coming from the local government (Tanana school teachers are among the highest paid) and to a lesser extent construction.
Smokehouses are common. There's a school, a senior center, a firehouse, a tribal building, and city offices. There's one B&B, one general store, and 38 traffic lights (in the process of being updated with LEDs). More >>>
Location: Cayman Islands
Sunday, August 7, 2011
existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.
—Milton Friedman (economist)
Many analysts who focus on the problems of population growth, resource depletion, and climate change foresee gradually tightening constraints on world economic activity. In most cases the prognosis they offer is for worsening environmental problems, more expensive energy and materials, and slowing economic growth.
However, their analyses often fail to factor in the impacts to and from a financial system built on the expectation of further growth—a system that could come unhinged in a non-linear, catastrophic fashion as growth ends. Financial and monetary systems can crash suddenly and completely. This almost happened in September 2008 as the result of a combination of a decline in the housing market, reliance on overly complex and in many cases fraudulent financial instruments, and skyrocketing energy prices. Another sovereign debt crisis in Europe could bring the world to a similar precipice. Indeed, there is a line-up of actors waiting to take center stage in the years ahead, each capable of bringing the curtain down on the global banking system or one of the world’s major currencies. Each derives its destructive potency from its ability to strangle growth, thus setting off chain reactions of default, bankruptcy, and currency failure. More >>>
Location: Cayman Islands
Thursday, August 4, 2011
We do not go out sailing when the weather forecast promises a great storm. We accept it when a doctor tells us to take medicine to prevent hypertension.
We do not drink the water if there is sign saying that it is contaminated. We are constantly accepting different potential risks and manoeuvring to limit them.
But when it comes to climate change, our willingness to accept it as a potential great risk is missing - and so is our motivation to respond to it with our normal risk-behaviour.
97 percent of the climate scientists believe global warming is happening, that humans are largely responsible and that we need to take action now. From their perspective there is a mountain of evidence on the reality of climate change; the nearest thing to an open-and-shut case that scientist can produce. They are constantly trying to convince us -- the public -- of this fact.
But still the concern shared by almost every scientist is not concurrent with the general public opinion. 44 percent of Americans still believe that global warming is primarily caused by planetary trends, according to a poll from Rasmussen Reports conducted in April. And 36 percent do not believe climate change is a serious problem.
Thus we are currently witnessing an enormous reality gap between science and the public -- with very different perceptions of the risks posed by climate change.
If scientists could solve climate change on their own, the lacking public support wouldn't be a problem. But they can't. Without the endorsement from the general public, the fight against climate change does not stand much of a chance. More >>>
Location: Cayman Islands
Yesterday Nancy Linborg, an official with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told a Congressional committee that more than 29,000 children under the age of 5 had died over the past three months in Somalia, thanks to the famine. If conditions worsen—and there's little reason to expected that they won't—upwards to 800,000 children may die of hunger and other causes.
The violent political situation on the ground has multiplied the effect of the famine, preventing UN and other aid groups from helping the starving. But the drought itself is crippling—rainfall over the Horn of Africa, which includes Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya in East Africa, between February and July 2011 has been 2 to 8 inches below normal, as this map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows: More >>>
Location: Cayman Islands
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
The debate took place on 27 July 2011, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. In his opening address, Joseph Deiss, UNGA President, recalled that, in July 2010, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the human right to water and sanitation, which he said was an important first step towards the explicit acknowledgment of that resource as a human right.
Egypt said States must take all necessary measures to extend human rights, including the right to clean water and sanitation. He added that Egypt’s efforts were challenged by funding, climate change, population growth and other factors, and indicated that his Government had adopted an integrated national plan to address these challenges. Senegal stressed the need to address climate change and drought in order to achieve the right to water, calling for increased assistance.
Cuba called for enhanced cooperation in the face of climate change, calling for the creation of mechanisms that are not dependant on the international financial institutions.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines expressed support for the UNGA resolution by which the Assembly had recognized the right to water and sanitation as a human right. He underlined that his country's achievements in terms of ensuring the realization of that right, considering its limited resources, illustrate the importance of political will. He emphasized the urgency of “looming threats” to achieving the right to water, namely climate change and desertification. He added that his country often resorts to transporting water by ship and said sea-level rise would have a disastrous effect. He concluded by calling for mainstreaming the issue in the global agenda.
Maldives explained that her country's main source of water is shallow groundwater, underscoring its extreme vulnerability to water scarcity. She called for considering the legally binding right to water in the context of sea-level rise, climate change, and other critical phenomena. More >>>
Location: Cayman Islands