Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Monday, August 19, 2013
The Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change (PACC) Project has launched a comprehensive practical guide to mainstreaming climate change adaptation in the Pacific. A key output of the project, the guide represents a significant step forward in incorporating climate risks into development planning and practice in the region.
"Climate change actually threatens all aspects of development," says PACC Project Manager, Taito Nakalevu. "That's why we need to take it into account for all policy development, as well as projects on the ground. This mainstreaming guide shows people how to do that."
The guide follows standard project and policy cycles and shows how climate change risks can be incorporated at each step in the process. For example, when analysing a situation ahead of designing a project, climate projections can be included to understand how the future climate might impact the project. Vulnerability assessments can be carried out in light of possible changes in climate, and activities can be oriented towards reducing these vulnerabilities.
The guide includes case studies from the region, many of them drawn from the PACC project itself. PACC has pilot projects in 14 Pacific island countries, demonstrating best practice in three key climate-sensitive areas: food production and food security, coastal zone management, and water resources management.
"The aim is to have climate risks included as a matter of course in all decision making at all levels," explains Taito. "The PACC Project is addressing this from the bottom up, through the demonstration projects, and also from the top down through efforts to mainstream at the highest policy levels. It's a new approach, and we are pleased with the results so far."
The mainstreaming guide is aimed at country practitioners, regional governments and organisations, and development partners. The PACC team hopes to collect experiences and lessons learned over the next few years and use these to review and revise the guide over time.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Hong Kong (CNN) -- For countries in Northeast Asia, this summer is becoming too hot to bear.
|Dead fish lie in a dried-up pond in Jiujiang, China, on Friday, August 9.|
A Japanese city has experienced the highest temperature ever recorded in the country.
The South Korean government is clamping down on the use of air-conditioning in an attempt to stave off power shortages.
And Shanghai has been sweltering under a record-setting run of baking hot days.
The searing temperatures have brought a spike in heat-related deaths, as well as harming crops and livestock.
A new record
In Japan, of the 52 deaths from heatstroke nationwide between late May and early August, nearly one third of them occurred last week, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.
On Monday, the temperature reached 41 Celsius in Shimanto in southern Japan, setting a new national record, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency.
The agency issued a heat alert covering 37 of Japan's 47 prefectures on Tuesday, warning that the high temperatures are expected to continue for about a week in western, central and southern parts of the country.
Looming energy crisis
The hot weather has come at a bad time for South Korea, putting a severe strain on the country's struggling power grid. The energy supply was already suffering from technical problems, including the shutdown of some nuclear reactors.
Officials have warned of an imminent energy crisis.
To try to prevent shortages, authorities on Monday ordered sweltering workers in government offices to turn off the air-conditioning and avoid using elevators.
The order came two days after the city of Gimhae clocked a temperature of 39.2 Celsius, the highest in South Korea in more than a decade.
Weeks of heat
Parts of China, meanwhile, have been dealing with unusually high temperatures for weeks.
After sweating through its hottest July in at least 140 years, Shanghai last week experienced four consecutive days during which the thermometer went above 40 degrees Celsius, state media reported. That's the first time the sprawling city of 23 million inhabitants has had a run of temperatures that high, according to the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau.
China's National Meteorological Center on Tuesday issued its second-highest heat alert for central and southern parts of the country -- the 20th day in a row that it's issued an alert of that level, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
But the agency also offered some hope of a reprieve for heat-weary citizens.
It predicted that "the intensity of the heat and the regions it affects will gradually dwindle over the next three days," Xinhua reported.
CNN's Junko Ogura and journalist Saori Ibuki in Tokyo; and journalist Soo Bin Park in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report. More
Friday, August 2, 2013
If the trend continues at its current rapid pace, it will place significant stress on terrestrial ecosystems around the world, and many species will need to make behavioral, evolutionary or geographic adaptations to survive.
Although some of the changes the planet will experience in the next few decades are already "baked into the system," how different the climate looks at the end of the 21st century will depend largely on how humans respond.
The findings come from a review of climate research by Noah Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of environmental Earth system science, and Chris Field, a professor of biology and of environmental Earth system science and the director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution. The work is part of a special report on climate change in the current issue of Science.
Diffenbaugh and Field, both senior fellows at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, conducted the targeted but broad review of scientific literature on aspects of climate change that can affect ecosystems, and investigated how recent observations and projections for the next century compare to past events in Earth's history.
For instance, the planet experienced a 5 degree Celsius hike in temperature 20,000 years ago, as Earth emerged from the last ice age. This is a change comparable to the high-end of the projections for warming over the 20th and 21st centuries.
The geologic record shows that, 20,000 years ago, as the ice sheet that covered much of North America receded northward, plants and animals recolonized areas that had been under ice. As the climate continued to warm, those plants and animals moved northward, to cooler climes.
"We know from past changes that ecosystems have responded to a few degrees of global temperature change over thousands of years," said Diffenbaugh. "But the unprecedented trajectory that we're on now is forcing that change to occur over decades. That's orders of magnitude faster, and we're already seeing that some species are challenged by that rate of change."
Some of the strongest evidence for how the global climate system responds to high levels of carbon dioxide comes from paleoclimate studies. Fifty-five million years ago, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was elevated to a level comparable to today. The Arctic Ocean did not have ice in the summer, and nearby land was warm enough to support alligators and palm trees.
"There are two key differences for ecosystems in the coming decades compared with the geologic past," Diffenbaugh said. "One is the rapid pace of modern climate change. The other is that today there are multiple human stressors that were not present 55 million years ago, such as urbanization and air and water pollution."
Diffenbaugh and Field also reviewed results from two-dozen climate models to describe possible climate outcomes from present day to the end of the century. In general, extreme weather events, such as heat waves and heavy rainfall, are expected to become more severe and more frequent.
For example, the researchers note that, with continued emissions of greenhouse gases at the high end of the scenarios, annual temperatures over North America, Europe and East Asia will increase 2-4 degrees C by 2046-2065. With that amount of warming, the hottest summer of the last 20 years is expected to occur every other year, or even more frequently.
By the end of the century, should the current emissions of greenhouse gases remain unchecked, temperatures over the northern hemisphere will tip 5-6 degrees C warmer than today's averages. In this case, the hottest summer of the last 20 years becomes the new annual norm.
"It's not easy to intuit the exact impact from annual temperatures warming by 6 C," Diffenbaugh said. "But this would present a novel climate for most land areas. Given the impacts those kinds of seasons currently have on terrestrial forests, agriculture and human health, we'll likely see substantial stress from severely hot conditions."
The scientists also projected the velocity of climate change, defined as the distance per year that species of plants and animals would need to migrate to live in annual temperatures similar to current conditions. Around the world, including much of the United States, species face needing to move toward the poles or higher in the mountains by at least one kilometer per year. Many parts of the world face much larger changes.
The human element
Some climate changes will be unavoidable, because humans have already emitted greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and the atmosphere and oceans have already been heated.
"There is already some inertia in place," Diffenbaugh said. "If every new power plant or factory in the world produced zero emissions, we'd still see impact from the existing infrastructure, and from gases already released."
The more dramatic changes that could occur by the end of the century, however, are not written in stone. There are many human variables at play that could slow the pace and magnitude of change -- or accelerate it.
Consider the 2.5 billion people who lack access to modern energy resources. This energy poverty means they lack fundamental benefits for illumination, cooking and transportation, and they're more susceptible to extreme weather disasters. Increased energy access will improve their quality of life -- and in some cases their chances of survival -- but will increase global energy consumption and possibly hasten warming. More
Thursday, August 1, 2013
SIALKOT, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - “We kept quivering with fear the whole night and could not sleep even a wink,” recalled Salma Zehra, a mother of five teenage children. The family trembled to think that the roof of their mud house could cave in at any time, as the rain lashed down in a huge thunderstorm.
|Mehtabpur, District Sialkot, Pakistan|
By early morning on July 22, the house in Mehtabpur village in northeast Pakistan’s Sialkot district was waist-deep in water. The torrential downpour had left Zehra’s two buffaloes dead, the 45-year-old said in a shaky voice.
Another bout of heavy rain followed later that night. The Dek tributary of the Chenab River in Sialkot, 192 km (122 miles) from Islamabad, burst its banks, submerging more than 72 villages in the district.
Besides Sialkot, other districts in Punjab province have also suffered massive damage to crops across 1,000 hectares of land, as well as to properties. According to the district disaster management authorities of Sialkot, Gujranwala and Narowal, an estimated 400 villages have been flooded.
Officials have declined to give final figures for the losses, but say dozens have died and thousands of people remain stranded in the affected parts of the three districts. Some are starting to return home, but many houses have collapsed and must be rebuilt, they report.
Sialkot District Coordination Officer Iftikhar Ali Sahu told Thomson Reuters Foundation thousands of people had been trapped on the roofs of their houses during the worst of the flooding. “Mortality among cattle is high - the number of dead animals continued to rise as the floodwaters began to recede on July 26,” he added.
The situation in adjoining districts is just as bad. In Narowal alone, around 2,000 people were marooned on their rooftops in some seven villages a week ago.
Less than 30 percent of the floodwater has yet to recede, according to Mujahid Sherdil, director-general of the Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority.
Machines have been brought in to help drain water out of the flood-affected areas, and he hopes the task will be accomplished in the next two to three days, he told Thomson Reuters Foundation from Lahore.
Sherdil said the torrential rainfall had caused breaches of irrigation canals, streams and natural dams, and the floods had washed away crops, livestock, roads, bridges, buildings and even entire villages.
Farmers say surviving cattle in flood-hit areas are now at risk.
“Besides paddy, maize and vegetable crops, fodder fields are also underwater. This has created an acute shortage of fodder, and it is barely possible to save our cattle from the looming threat of hunger and disease,” said Zehra’s husband, Ghulam Abbas.
The above-normal monsoon rains in Punjab’s northeastern districts have taken weather experts by surprise.
“Last month, we predicted that this year monsoon rains across the country would remain normal with no possibility of flooding. But unexpected heavy rains in the northeastern districts are startling for us,” said Ghulam Rasul, a senior weather scientist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) in Islamabad. “This shows how monsoon rains have become erratic and unpredictable in timing, volume and intensity.”
Sherdil, head of the Punjab disaster management agency, said the heavy rains and flooding had caught them unprepared.
“We were closely following the weekly and monthly forecasts of PMD that never predicted heavy rains of unprecedented significance for July in northeastern parts, which have been nearly 40 percent above normal for the month,” he said.
It has been difficult to get aid into the affected areas due to damaged and flooded roads and bridges, he said. “Nevertheless, we left no stone unturned to get the emergency relief items including food, medicines, to the flood victims on boats – although (they arrived) a bit late,” he added.
In June 2012, scientists argued in the Nature Climate Change journal that global warming would make understanding changes in the South Asian monsoon more difficult.
They said the impacts of short- and long-term monsoon shifts would affect the lives of over a billion people in the region, who rely on rainfall for agriculture, hydropower generation, economic growth and basic human needs.
Understanding how the South Asian monsoon will alter due to climate change is necessary to cope with the effects, reduce the risk of disasters and safeguard people’s livelihoods, they underlined.
“Addressing the uncertainties in projected changes of the monsoon variability in coming years will remain a daunting challenge for climate scientists,” said Arshad Abbasi, a water and energy expert at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad.
Arshad Khan, the executive director of the Global Change Impact Study Centre (GCISC), the research arm of Pakistan’s Federal Climate Change Division, said the country is in the grip of unpredictable weather patterns.
Intense monsoon rains will be a common phenomenon, particularly on the country’s southern plains which lack water reservoirs and are highly vulnerable to floods, he warned.
And a spurt in the speed of glacial melt, due to rising global temperatures and above-normal monsoon rains, is likely to cause rivers to overflow and burst their banks across the country, he added.
Officials at the Climate Change Division, which operates under the oversight of the prime minister, said efforts are underway to tackle the vagaries of climate change across different sectors of the economy, particularly agriculture and water.
“Consultations are being made with national and provincial disaster management authorities, and officials of federal and provincial environment, agriculture, irrigation departments to implement national climate change policy to mitigate the impacts of changing weather patterns and erratic monsoon rains,” said a senior official, who coordinates policy at federal and provincial levels.
The Climate Change Division is developing climate adaptation plans for the agriculture, water and irrigation sectors, which will be implemented in Pakistan’s four provinces in collaboration with international NGOs and provincial government offices.
It is also working on programmes to ensure that climate change is considered in other sectors such as health and education, to make them more climate-resilient.
Abbasi of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute said the best ways to avert the growing threat of floods in Pakistan include efficient watershed management, reforestation in northern mountain areas and the revival of riverine forests.
Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are Islamabad-based journalists specialising in climate change and development issues. More