Sunday, January 27, 2013

2013: A new plan to save the planet

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Posted: 11 January 2013

In 2012, 700,000 of us took the issue of fossil fuel subsidies and thrust it into the political mainstream at the Rio Earth Summit and the Doha climate talks. While these meetings didn’t deliver any bold commitments, they did get almost every country to agree that paying polluters nearly one trillion dollars a year is crazy!


Now let's grow our call in 2013 and take it directly to key summits and meetings as they happen.Together we can stop these mad polluter payments and put some meat on the bones of the weak agreements leaders have already made. If we demand they act now on their word and divert this huge sum into renewable energy, experts say we could actually save our planet!

It's a simple no-brainer that most of our leaders have already agreed to. Let's hold their feet to the fire, and push the world's governments to turn these polluting subsidies green. Sign the petition on the right and forward this to everyone -- a massive campaign now can force them from talk to action. More

 

Nicholas Stern: 'I got it wrong on climate change – it's far, far worse'

Lord Stern, author of the government-commissioned review on climate change that became the reference work for politicians and green campaigners, now says he underestimated the risks, and should have been more "blunt" about the threat posed to the economy by rising temperatures.

In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Stern, who is now a crossbench peer, said: "Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then."

The Stern review, published in 2006, pointed to a 75% chance that global temperatures would rise by between two and three degrees above the long-term average; he now believes we are "on track for something like four ". Had he known the way the situation would evolve, he says, "I think I would have been a bit more blunt. I would have been much more strong about the risks of a four- or five-degree rise."

He said some countries, including China, had now started to grasp the seriousness of the risks, but governments should now act forcefully to shift their economies towards less energy-intensive, more environmentally sustainable technologies.

"This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential."

Stern said he backed the UK's Climate Change Act, which commits the government to ambitious carbon reduction targets. But he called for increased investment in greening the economy, saying: "It's a very exciting growth story."

David Cameron made much of his environmental credentials before the 2010 election, travelling to the Arctic to highlight his commitment to tackling global warming. But the coalition's commitment to green policies has recently been questioned, amid scepticism among Tory backbenchers about the benefits of wind power, and the chancellor's enthusiasm for exploiting Britain's shale gas reserves.

Stern's comments came as Jim Yong Kim, the new president of the World Bank, also at Davos, gave a grave warning about the risk of conflicts over natural resources should the forecast of a four-degree global increase above the historical average prove accurate.

"There will be water and food fights everywhere," Kim said as he pledged to make tackling climate change a priority of his five-year term.

Kim said action was needed to create a carbon market, eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies and "green" the world's 100 megacities, which are responsible for 60 to 70% of global emissions.

He added that the 2012 droughts in the US, which pushed up the price of wheat and maize, had led to the world's poor eating less. For the first time, the bank president said, extreme weather had been attributed to man-made climate change. "People are starting to connect the dots. If they start to forget, I am there to remind them. More

 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Global food security a central topic at Davos 2013

Global leaders who gathered at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos Wednesday called for “step up to scale up” efforts for strengthening the world’s food security by improving sustainable food production.

Working through the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture initiative, more than 250 organizations are collaborating to improve sustainable food production and opportunities for farmers in 11 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to a news release posted at forum’s website (www.weforum.org). Together these activities will directly impact over 12 million smallholder farmers in the next three to five years, according to the news release.

“We have created new partnerships and new opportunities for smallholder farmers through our work with the New Vision for Agriculture initiative,” said Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam. The initiative helped to form and support a public-private task force engaging 30 organizations to focus investment and innovation on five crops prioritized by Vietnam’s national agriculture plan. The group is implementing projects to train, finance and engage smallholder farmers to increase sustainable production and farmer incomes.

A new report launched this week in Davos, titled Achieving the New Vision for Agriculture: New Models for Action, assesses progress to date and recommends action steps to advance progress in the 11 countries. Strengthening environmental sustainability, expanding access to finance, broadening stakeholder engagement and investing in local capacity-building are among its key recommendations.

“The New Vision for Agriculture has provided a way for stakeholders to align efforts to achieve sustainable agricultural growth,” said Michael Mack, Chief Executive Officer of Syngenta. “As a result, our company has developed significant new investments and partnerships in coordination with country leaders.”

The World Economic Forum and its constituents are hosting 12 sessions related to food security, nutrition and agriculture during Davos. “We are committed to engaging all stakeholders to create a stronger global food system,” said Sarita Nayyar, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum. “Engaging the private sector is an important part of that effort, to bring investment, innovation and efficiency into partnership efforts.”

Eight African countries are working with New Vision for Agriculture partners through Grow Africa, a partnership jointly convened by the African Union, NEPAD and the World Economic Forum. In Davos, African and global leaders will discuss implementation of more than US$ 3 billion in private-sector investment commitments in 2012. More

 

 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Global Economy’s Dangerous Myopia – Are We Ignoring Future Crises?: Joseph Stiglitz

As global leaders continue to deal with their economies’ immediate problems, long-term issues such as global warming, inequality and poverty are being compromised – with potentially dangerous ramifications. Although today’s crises undoubtedly warrant immediate action, we should be asking whether we are responding in ways that will exacerbate our long-term problems.

NEW YORK – In the shadow of the euro crisis and America’s fiscal cliff, it is easy to ignore the global economy’s long-term problems. But, while we focus on immediate concerns, they continue to fester, and we overlook them at our peril.

The most serious is global warming. While the global economy’s weak performance has led to a corresponding slowdown in the increase in carbon emissions, it amounts to only a short respite.

And we are far behind the curve: Because we have been so slow to respond to climate change, achieving the targeted limit of a two-degree (centigrade) rise in global temperature, will require sharp reductions in emissions in the future.

Some suggest that, given the economic slowdown, we should put global warming on the backburner. On the contrary, retrofitting the global economy for climate change would help to restore aggregate demand and growth.

At the same time, the pace of technological progress and globalization necessitates rapid structural changes in both developed and developing countries alike. Such changes can be traumatic, and markets often do not handle them well.

Just as the Great Depression arose in part from the difficulties in moving from a rural, agrarian economy to an urban, manufacturing one, so today’s problems arise partly from the need to move from manufacturing to services. New firms must be created, and modern financial markets are better at speculation and exploitation than they are at providing funds for new enterprises, especially small and medium-size companies.

Moreover, making the transition requires investments in human capital that individuals often cannot afford. Among the services that people want are health and education, two sectors in which government naturally plays an important role (owing to inherent market imperfections in these sectors and concerns about equity). More

 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fear of 'catastrophic' sea-level rise as ice sheets melt faster than predicted

Glaciologists fear they may have seriously underestimated the potential for melting ice sheets to contribute to catastrophic sea-level rises in coming decades which could see increases of a metre or more by 2100.

The ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica contain about 99.5 per cent of the Earth's glacier ice and could raise sea levels by 65 metres if they melted completely – although experts think this is highly unlikely in the foreseeable future. However, a survey of the world's top 26 glaciologists found most believe melting of the ice sheets could be more rapid and severe than previously estimated. They believe that melting of the ice sheets alone this century would be likely to raise the average global sea level by 29cm, the poll found, but there is a five per cent chance of it increasing even further by a catastrophic 84cm.

This would take the total sea-level increase to well over a metre if other factors such as the thermal expansion of oceans and runoff from mountain glaciers are taken into account.

"Our analysis shows the biggest uncertainty when it comes to sea levels is the contribution from the ice sheets," said Professor Jonathan Bamber of Bristol University, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"It shows glaciologists believe there is a one-in-20 chance of sea levels rising by a metre or more by 2100, and a metre rise in sea level is really very serious.

"The impacts of sea-level rise of this magnitude are potentially severe, implying a conceivable risk of the forced displacement of up to 187 million people within this century."

Rising sea levels are one of the greatest uncertainties of climate change. A warmer world causes oceans to expand thermally but also leads to faster melting of mountain glaciers and some regions of the polar ice sheets. More

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Climate Inaction Is a Clear Failure of Democracy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 4 2013 (IPS) - Around the world, 2012 was the year of extreme weather, when we unequivocally learned that the fossil fuel energy that powers our societies is destroying them. Accepting this reality is the biggest challenge of the brand new year.

Re-engineering our societies and lifestyles to prosper on green alternatives is the penultimate challenge of this decade.

There is no more important task for all of us to engage in because climate change affects everything from food to water availability.

A number of scientific analyses have demonstrated we already have the technology to re-engineer our society to thrive on green alternative energy. The newest of these was published Wednesday in the prestigious journal Nature. It plainly states that politics is the real barrier, not technology nor cost. (It is far cheaper to act than not.)

Keeping global warming to less than two degrees C is mainly dependent on “when countries will begin to take serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, according to the study “Probabilistic cost estimates for climate change mitigation”.

Climate change has already pushed global temperatures up 0.8 degrees C, with significant consequences. No climate scientist thinks two degrees C will be “safe”. Many countries, especially least-developed countries and small island states, want the global target to be less than 1.5C of heating. Even then large portions of the Arctic and Antarctic will continue to melt raising sea levels, albeit at a slower rate.

Delay in making the shift to non-fossil fuel energy sources will be very costly. Waiting until 2020 to curb global emissions will cost twice as much compared with peaking emissions by 2015, the Nature analysis shows. More

 

 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012 was UK's second wettest year on record thanks to climate change

The past 12 months were the second wettest on record in the UK, according to data released by the Met Office.

The total rainfall for the UK during 2012 was 1,330.7mm (52.4in), just 6.6mm short of the record set in 2000.

Most areas were affected by the extreme weather, with thousands of homes flooded and farmers struggling to grow crops in the saturated soil.

The latest data comes as analysis says the frequency of extreme rainfall in the UK may be increasing.

BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin said statistics showed that days of particularly heavy rainfall had become more common since 1960.

The study into extreme rain was based on statistics from the National Climate Information Centre, the UK's official climate record.

The Met Office said this was the wettest year on record for England, the third wettest for Wales, the 17th wettest on record for Scotland and the 40th wettest for Northern Ireland.

The records date back to 1910.



The Met Office added that four of the top five wettest years had occurred since 2000.

"The trend towards more extreme rainfall events is one we are seeing around the world, in countries such as India and China, and now potentially here in the UK," said Met Office chief scientist Prof Julia Slingo.

"Much more research is needed to understand more about the causes and potential implications."

Most areas in the UK experienced flooding during 2012, affecting thousands of homes and businesses.

In the run-up to Christmas, South-West England was particularly badly affected, with a number of railway lines remaining closed over the entire festive period.

The Environment Agency said almost 8,000 properties in England and Wales were flooded during 2012 and it sent more than 200,000 warnings to households and businesses.

However, it added that flood defences had protected more than 200,000 properties in at-risk areas. More

 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Global warming affects Latin American, Caribbean economies

Losses could reach US$100 billion per year, according to the IDB.


BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Melting glaciers in the Andes.

Coral bleaching in the Caribbean Sea.

Extreme rains in Colombia and in the basin of the Grijalva and Usumacinta rivers, shared by Guatemala and Mexico.

They are all evidence of the impact climate change is having on Latin America and the Caribbean.

A group of researchers from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), sought to quantify the economic impact caused by climate change in the region.

The final report, titled “The Climate and Development Challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean: Options for Climate Resilient Low Carbon Development,” shows that a temperature increase of 2°C relative to the levels seen prior to the industrial revolution could have an annual economic impact of about US$100 billion by 2050.

The study shows the biggest losses will come from the decline in agricultural exports, rising sea levels, reduced hydropower production in Brazil, coral bleaching and the loss of biomass in the Amazon rainforest.

The multibillion-dollar figure does not include the loss of biodiversity in the region, which covers six of the most diverse countries in the world in terms of flora and fauna: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Mexico.

Melting glaciers

Meanwhile, glaciers melting in the Andes could affect the water supply reaching cities and agricultural operations, among other impacts.

In Chile, 70% of the water supplied to the population comes from glaciers, according to a study by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

“The tropical glaciers of the Andes are melting at a speed that may compromise glaciers located less than 5,000 meters (16,404 feet) above sea level in the next 20 years,” says Walter Vergara, the head of the Climate Change and Sustainability Division at the IDB and leader of the study. “Over the last two decades, approximately 25% of these remaining glaciers have disappeared.”

The resulting rise in sea levels could threaten mangroves, compromising the birthplace of a variety of species in countries such as Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia.

In addition, the phenomenon would damage roads, ports and housing, according to the IDB.

The United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT) has calculated that Latin America and the Caribbean are home to 27% of the 3,351 cities located less than 10 meters (32.8 feet) above sea level.

In the Caribbean region alone, a one-meter rise in sea level would cost US$68.2 billion by 2080 – equivalent to 8.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) for the period – due to the costs of rebuilding infrastructure, relocation and the loss of territory, according to the report titled “Turn Down the Heat,” published by the World Bank in November.

Climate change is expected to provoke changes in soil characteristics and precipitation levels, affecting the cultivation of wheat and oilseeds, such as soybeans, Vergara says.

				The melting glaciers in the Andes may affect the supply of water reaching cities and agriculture. (Andina/AFP)

The melting glaciers in the Andes may affect the supply of water reaching cities and agriculture. (Andina/AFP)

Annual losses in the region’s agricultural exports are expected to reach between US$32 billion to US$54 billion by 2050, according to the IDB.

Vergara said the impact on the Amazon region is the most important consequence of climate changes in South America.

Known in the international scientific community as the Amazon dieback, the loss of Amazon biomass as a result of climate change could result in a reduction of water for agriculture.

“If the Amazon dieback happens, and there is evidence that it is already happening, the quantity of the water that the forest injects into the atmosphere would be impacted, which could affect agriculture in southern Brazil, northern Argentina and Uruguay,” Vergara says. “The impact on the Amazon basin will have local, regional and global consequences.”

Vulnerability of the region

Climate change will cause a significant impact on the region because its consequences are in addition to other effects from human activities.

“Deforestation, pollution and urban expansion also represent a major threat to the quality of life in Latin America,” says Rodney Martínez, the director of the International Research Center on El Niño (CIIFEN), which is located in Ecuador.

Vulnerability to these impacts does not depend solely on geographical factors.

“The major challenges that make the region so vulnerable are related to governance, social and economic factors, such as poverty levels and the region’s dependence on natural resources,” Martínez says.

The World Bank reports that 149 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean live on less than US$4 per day.

“Poverty and inequality, which are persistent problems in the region despite its economic growth, may be aggravated by the impacts from climate change,” says Mayte Gonzalez, a consultant for the Regional Gateway for Technology Transfer and Climate Change Action in Latin America and the Caribbean (REGATTA), located in Panama. More