Friday, October 31, 2008
Many thanks to James Harrison for this public domain image from the London Underground.
The world is seeing "an increase" in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, according to the report. This year, there were devastating snowstorms in
…The world's insurance industry is paid nearly 8% of global gross domestic product to manage risks, said Karl Mallon, director of Climate Risk Pty Ltd. and co-author of the report. "There is already evidence documented in this report of insurers withdrawing cover from high-risk areas, at a time when businesses and homeowners will increasingly need general insurance to deal with mounting climate-change impacts."
…The withdrawal will constitute "a race to bottom for the industry and society," said Mallon. In fact, the insurance industry is facing two storms: the financial turmoil and increasing "vulnerability" to climate-change risks, noted Mallon.
Also, Guy Carpenter's World Catastrophe Reinsurance Market Report for 2008 said debate over climate change has "far-reaching implications" for insurance industry. For instance, Guy Carpenter quoted a study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that sea levels are rising by 1.8 mm per year.
"Even if there were prefect causation and definitive statistics on relevant insurance losses, there would be minute changes on a year-on-year basis in insured losses," said the Guy Carpenter report….Train wreck at Montparnasse Station, Paris, 1895
"The fact is that the agriculture sector and food security could be severely affected," said Ad Spijkers, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative in
Since then the country has attained a certain level of sufficiency, said Spijkers, but population was a bigger problem than food production, inasmuch as food production was basically keeping pace with population growth.
…An intercropping technology developed jointly by the Bangladesh Sericulture Research and Training Institute, and the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, recommends the cultivation of rice, wheat, garlic, mustard, chickpeas and mung beans in mulberry fields. The cropping pattern calls for growing rice in the monsoon season, with wheat, mustard, garlic and chickpeas in winter, and mung bean in the pre-kharif season – the summer crop grown ahead of the monsoon season.
Farmers have also been encouraged to diversify into growing mulberry, which is grown mainly to rear silk worms and does well in drought conditions. Sericulture, or silk production, is a labour-intensive industry that can provide a source of income to both male and female members of the household.
Another adaptation strategy is the excavation of miniponds, filled with water harvested during the rains, to rear fast-growing fish varieties as an alternative source of income…..The Ganges River Delta, NASA
As guardians of library collections for future generations, librarians have a responsibility to diminish this impact, as well as an opportunity to do more. Facing up to the challenges of global warming is a chance to lay the groundwork now for the security of their collections and make a decisive contribution to the long-range future of libraries.
Taking action to protect library collections is not only an idealistic professional goal but also a very practical one. Disaster preparation measures and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through energy conservation can save money, time, and resources.
There is already an urgent need for libraries to engage in preventative actions, even before concerns related to a deteriorating environment are added to the challenge.
…The undeniable threats libraries face from climate change are coupled with specific needs unique to a library environment. Ranging from catastrophic natural disasters to ongoing pressures to maintain a suitable collections storage environment, librarians must learn about and understand the coming impact of global warming on their collections.
…Air quality and pollution can affect library materials. From black soot commonly found in urban and industrial areas to gaseous and particulate pollutants such as ozone, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), microscopic toxins are dangerously easy to overlook.
…Another hazard, water, may be one of the most insidious and relentless sources of trouble for preservation librarians. No stranger to water disasters, the preservation community was galvanized and solidified in reaction to the 1966 flooding of the
The Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology at ETH
The mathematicians developed their model using three possible future climate scenarios. "We took the most moderate one, avoiding extremely optimistic or pessimistic scenarios," explains PhD student Guillaume Jouvet. With a temperature increase of 3.6 degrees Celsius and a decrease in rainfall of 6% over a century, the glacier's "equilibrium line", or the transition from the snowfall accumulation zone to the melting zone (currently situated at an altitude of around 3000 meters), rose significantly. According to this same scenario, the simulation anticipates a loss of 50% of the volume by 2060 and forecasts the complete disapearance of the Rhône glacier around 2100.
"It is the first time that the evolution of a glacier has been numerically simulated over such a long period of time, taking into account very complex data," notes EPFL mathematician Marco Picasso. Even though measurements have been taken for quite some time, the sophisticated numerical techniques that were needed to analyze them have only been developed very recently…..The Rhone Glacier, shot by Celesta, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Thursday, October 30, 2008
A group of scientists have, for the first time, combined the outcomes of proposals by the G8 countries and the UK Government’s Stern Review with the latest knowledge of climate change feedbacks relating to the carbon cycle (the way carbon moves between the oceans, atmosphere and land). Their findings show that short-term cuts alone will not solve the problem and that policy makers need to plan for hundreds of years into the future….Smokestacks shot by Uwe Hermann, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License
Methane levels in the atmosphere have more than doubled since pre-industrial times. Until recently, the leveling off of methane levels had suggested that the rate of its emission from the Earth's surface was approximately balanced by the rate of its destruction in the atmosphere.
However, since early 2007 the balance has been upset, according to a paper on the new findings being published this week in Geophysical Review Letters. This imbalance has resulted in several million metric tons of additional methane in the atmosphere, the authors reported.
Methane is produced by wetlands, rice paddies, cattle, and the gas and coal industries, and is destroyed by reaction with the hydroxyl free radical (OH), often referred to as the atmosphere's "cleanser". One surprising feature of this recent growth is that it occurred almost simultaneously at all measurement locations across the globe….Methane wafts up from this terraced rice field in Yunnan Province, China, shot by Jialiang Gao, www.peace-on-earth.org, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
During the past few months, a group of UC Davis faculty has worked with
…The UC Davis report, soon to be released by the CEC, is neither a handbook, nor a set of predictions, but instead considers planning issues at both the farm and landscape levels. Several types of methods were used to assemble information relevant to
…It should be noted, however, that these projections have not adequately considered the potential for adaptation, and are based on current practices and varieties. Support for investments in technology, plant breeding, and cropping system research will be necessary to ensure yield reliability, and greater agricultural sustainability.
…This awareness of climate change bodes well for agricultural preservation in
"We are doing this because we're backed into a corner. We've all been preaching to clean the bay up, with no results," said Captain Larry Simns president of the Maryland Watermen's Association. "We're at a crucial point here. Unless we do something now we're going to lose the bay completely."
Scientists have determined that this year the bay suffered the fourth worst dead zone since 1985. Dead zones happen when nutrients from sewage treatment plants, agricultural runoff and other sources enter the bay and stimulate blooms of algae. When these algae die they sink to the bottom and decompose, removing oxygen from the water.
Dead zones have left too little oxygen in the bay over 10 months of the year, and in July, 40 percent of the bay's mainstem was affected. Lack of oxygen kills fish and blue crabs or drives them from their preferred habitat.
The study, published today in Nature Geoscience, is the first to find the fingerprints of manmade global warming on the Antarctic, where a shortage of data makes it hard to be sure. Last year's report, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said human influence could be detected on every continent, except
In the new study, Nathan Gillett, then working at the Climatic Research Unit at the
They say only the models that included human influences – such as emissions of carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – were able to reproduce the observed temperature trends.
Gillett said: "The main message is that for the first time we are able to directly attribute warming in both the Arctic and
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
“There is about two and a half times more carbon in the soil than there is in the atmosphere, and the concern right now is that a lot of that carbon is going to end up in the atmosphere,” said lead author Mark Bradford, assistant professor in the UGA Odum School of Ecology. “What our finding suggests is that a positive feedback between warming and a loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere is likely to occur but will be less than currently predicted.”
Bradford and his team, which included researchers from the University of New Hampshire, the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Duke University and Colorado State University, found evidence to support both hypotheses and revealed a third, previously unaccounted for explanation: The abundance of soil microbes decreased under warm conditions.
“It is often said that in a handful of dirt, there are somewhere around 10,000 species and millions of individual bacteria and fungi,” said study co-author Matthew Wallenstein, a research scientist at
… “Although our results suggest that the impact of soil microbes on global warming will be less than is currently predicted,” Bradford said, “even a small change in atmospheric carbon is going to alter the way our world works and how our ecosystems function.”Metaphorical photo alert! Rust and dirt on a baking plate, shot by Roger McLassus, Wikimedia Commons (where it was a candidate for picture of the year in 2006), under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
The report will also say the existing EC system is dividing communities because eligibility for assistance is given according to arbitrary lines on a map indicating which areas are drought-declared. The release of the report follows news in The Australian yesterday that the National Farmers Federation had scrapped its long-term support for the EC system.
In its submission to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into drought assistance, the NFF called for adaptation grants for successful farmers and HECS-style loans to help others build their businesses to the point where they can afford to invest in adaptation. The NFF also called for time-limited income support for struggling producers while they considered whether to apply for exit grants to leave the land.
The Productivity Commission's report is the last of three reports commissioned by the Rudd Government when it took office late last year. A Bureau of Meteorology report released earlier this year warned of more frequent droughts because of climate change, while an expert panel investigating the social effects of drought last week called for an end to no-strings assistance…..Parched fields outside Benambra, Australia, shot by Fir0002 , Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
"In case there is an increase in sea level, there will be a displaced population of more or less 400 million people," he told reporters. It's a jaw-droppingly big figure. But how accurate are such warnings, and how useful are they?
….Worryingly, no one seems to have a definitive answer to these questions. According to a report from the U.N. news service IRIN, nowhere is the debate more heated than in
…As highlighted in the latest issue of Forced Migration Review (FMR) - which focuses on climate change and displacement - humanitarian and development workers are under pressure to respond to the consequences of global warming without really knowing what they're up against. The U.N. deputy high commissioner for refugees, Craig L Johnstone, describes the status quo in stark terms - arguing that we've hit an "analytical stone wall" and are in "desperate need of a better understanding of the size and the characteristics of this issue".
…The article argues that getting a better handle on climate-related migration will require an effort to develop "objective and empirically-based detailed numerical scenarios". And to produce these, we need more advanced computer models, better base-line data and and increased capacity of institutions and governments to track the movement of forced migrants within and across national boundaries, Brown says….
From 1950, Korean refugee carrying her belongings in a jug on her head, while fleeing from Pohang, South Korea. Photo by US Navy
The discouraging assessment comes as
Once a continuous river of grass flowing from Lake Okeechobee to
Recognizing that the ecosystem would eventually collapse if historic water flows were not restored, the federal government and the state of
Efforts to restore natural water flow to
The average temperature of Earth's surface in
“To advance further towards its development objective,
The sea level will rise faster than ever, it also warned. In
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
• Efficiency First – the development of innovative energy-efficiency technologies has brought about a consumerist, low-carbon world…..
• Under the Service Transformation scenario, the high price of carbon in 2020 meant that businesses changed their models to sell services rather than products, with
• Redefining progress, on the other hand, sees the establishment of more sustainable living and a “wellbeing economy”, with countries prioritizing economic and social resilience over economic growth, and governments regulating the economy tightly. …
• As a result of the Environmental War Economy, economies in 2050 are forcibly re-focused on climate change issues as if they were fighting a war against it. Greenhouse-gas emissions began to decline in 2030 but the cost to individual liberty has been huge, and governments have strong powers to regulate and “rationalize” business…..
• Under the Protectionist World scenario, countries wage war over scarce resources like water, and globalization no longer exists. There was a climate agreement in 2010 but factions developed after accusations of cheating and secret, undeclared power stations. As a result, the world has fractured into protectionist blocs….The "redefining progress" illlustration from the website for Forum for the Future
Over the past 150 years, some of the plants in Thoreau's woods have shifted their flowering time by as much as three weeks as spring temperatures have risen, the researchers say, while others have been less flexible. Many plant families that have proven unable to adjust their flowering time have experienced sharp declines or even elimination from the local landscape -- the fate of nearly two-thirds of the plants Thoreau found in the 1850s around Walden Pond in
"It had been thought that climate change would result in uniform shifts across plant species, but our work shows that plant species do not respond to climate change uniformly or randomly," says Charles C. Davis, assistant professor of organismic and evolutionary biology in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "Some plants around
Some 27 percent of all species Thoreau recorded in the mid-19th century are now locally extinct, and another 36 percent are so sparse that extinction may be imminent. Plant families that have been especially hard-hit by global warming have included lilies, orchids, buttercups, violets, roses, dogwoods, and mints. Many of the gainers have been weedier mustards and knotweeds, along with various non-native species…..
My fear is that we are going to allow a financial crisis to turn into a ecological catastrophe. With an election looming, I am concerned that the Indonesian government will be tempted to offer short-term fixes at the long-term expense of the country's fragile ecosystems. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is going to face his biggest test. He's long espoused the importance of environmental protection and famously placed
….Indonesia's stunning natural environment and rich resources however, are facing sustained challenges both from natural phenomena and human activity. Mounting population pressure together with inadequate environmental management is a challenge for
…The country's administrative and regulatory framework cannot yet meet the demands of sustainable development in spite of a long history of support for policy and capacity development both from within the government and with international donor support. Indonesia's ministries concerned with environment and natural resources management have benefited from good national level leadership, and also from an active network of civil society organizations throughout the country that are focused on environmental issues, with significant advocacy experience. But improving
The workshop, co-hosted by Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the
…"Sustainable forest management in sub-Mekong river countries will help increase the absorption of carbon dioxide and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Deputy Minister Nhi. He said workshop participants hoped to agree on policies that would speed up the implementation of the REDD programme, considered vital to help
Some earthworms eat fallen leaves and other plant material - the litter of the forest floor - while others eat roots or soil organic matter. This begins a decomposition process in which organic materials pass through the animals' digestive tracts and back into the soil.
The research team found that forests with greater numbers of invasive earthworms tend to have litter and soil organic matter enriched in the plant material lignin, which is typically harder for bacteria to decompose, said Purdue biogeochemist Timothy Filley. Sites with low numbers of these earthworms accumulate plant carbon in forms more easily degraded by bacteria.
Overall, the amount of carbon in the litter and duff layer, which is the surface mat of decaying organic matter and roots, decreases because of earthworm activity. However, the change in carbon chemistry may make it harder for soil organisms to decompose the carbon remains. After earthworms feed on forest litter, they take the carbon down into the soil and mix it in, potentially leading to a buildup of carbon in the soil…
Monday, October 27, 2008
"But there's another group of experts," says Helmer. "These are people who've been living in the same place for 20 or 30 years or longer. They observe what's going on with the weather. They don't know about greenhouse gases and might just call it funny weather but they see the rain patterns changing and it's worrying them.
"We found it was very difficult to make people aware of the risk of HIV and Aids in
Helmer was speaking at the 7th Red Cross Red Crescent Pan African Conference in Sandton this week, which thrashed out the pressure that accelerating climate change, HIV and Aids and other infectious diseases were placing on African communities as well as the urgent need for funds to tackle this.
….Her centre has invested heavily in "innovative" climactic early warning technology to better prepare for disasters. But it's also about helping the poorest to adapt to future weather changes. "Our main responsibility is to prepare people to be less vulnerable. We say there are a zillion options to adapt to climate change.
…Climate change, says Helmer, has robbed Africans of traditional knowledge systems to predict the weather. "That asset is no longer reliable and it's one of the few the poor have," she laments…..
Composite satellite image of South Africa in November 2002, NASA
The Corporation has added a major
So why has Lloyd’s introduced a new RDS so close to home? “We identified several different factors that are converging to create one worrying dynamic,” explains Paul Nunn, Head of Exposure Management at Lloyd’s. “The most obvious development is climate change, and the scientific consensus that global warming will lead to more extreme rainfall events,” Mr Nunn says.
But at the same time as the exposure and the peril is growing, there is uncertainty around how much longer
J. M. W. Turner, "Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway" (1844), National Gallery,
Over the last few years, the Kenyan government, NGOs and industry have pushed the production of bio-diesel -- which is environmentally sustainable because it emits fewer toxic air pollutants and greenhouse gasses than petroleum-based fuels -- and many small-scale farmers have placed their hopes into oil seeds [like jatropha] as a new avenue to earn money. Initially, biofuel projects seemed to be a success, with farmers more than doubling their usual income.
…However, the farmers’ luck ran out in April when biofuel prices suddenly plummeted from an average of $10 per kilo to less than $0.5 per kilo. Biofuel research companies, producers and NGOs supporting the production of environmentally friendly diesel had created an artificially high demand for the seeds, which resulted a high pricing structure that could not be maintained in an open market in the long-term.
In addition, the development of regulatory policy frameworks and local infrastructure needed to manufacture bio-diesel took longer than expected. As a result,
…John Kioli, director of Nairobi-based NGO Green Africa Foundation, agrees that more money needs to be invested into small-scale biofuel production to turn around the downward trend in pricing. "For profitable and sustainable markets to be realised, local communities need their own processing plants that absorb locally available seeds. The guiding principle should be to use local raw material for local production and for local consumption," he explained….
Shown here, the top of a Jatropha plant as part of a hedge near Falan, Mali. The source of this image is www.jatropha.org (though I found it on Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License). The photo is by R. K. Henning Permission: The photos may be downloaded and published only with the citation of the name of the photographer and the website of its origin: www.Jatropha.org.
"Climate change, population growth and the rapid pace of urban and economic development in some Arab countries are multiplying ecological risks in the region," the experts said in the study. The "inadequate exploitation of natural resources is sapping economic development and efforts to reduce poverty" in the Arab world, according to the study, presented to the first annual conference of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development.
The experts estimate "the annual cost of economic degradation in Arab countries reaches an average of five percent of their GDP."….Bahrain National Museum, shot by Soman, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License
“Our results indicate that conservation is preferable to restoration,” said Walter Dodds of
Dodds and colleagues from the Arizona Department of Water Resources,
“Overall, natural ecosystems had a higher value," Dodds said. "For instance, people will pay more to go to an old-growth forest than to one that's just been logged."….Photo from brochure Seattle and the Orient. "A Washington Fir 9 Feet in Diameter"
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Some glaciers already have melted away, including the first Sierra glacier discovered in
Lyell Glacier is the largest remaining glacier in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, National Park Service image
"The ideas for how to change our climate keep getting pumped out. They get lots of column inches," says Boyd. "My concern is that we will reach a tipping point, people will ask what are we doing about it, and none of the schemes will have been tested." Boyd proposes that an international body such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prioritise the schemes according to possible risks involved, how quickly they could be got of the ground, their cost, and how efficiently they would change the climate.
Climate scientist Martin Manning of the University of Victoria in Wellington agrees that a systematic ranking is needed, in part because there is little communication between research communities working on different approaches….Any assessment should be broadened to include other techniques besides geo-engineering, such as using plants for sequestration, says Manning, who worked for the IPCC during the last assessment.
Some schemes could quickly be dismissed, but testing even one of the feasible schemes will still be a herculean task. "We have only started to realise how complicated and interconnected Earth systems are, and scale up will be difficult," Boyd says….Altai shaman with gong, from a Russian postcard before the Soviet revolution (between 1911 and 1914)
"Within Saemangeum, (we) recorded a decline of 137,000 shorebirds, and declines in 19 of the most numerous species, from 2006 to 2008," according to the study by conservation groups Birds Korea and Australasian Wader Studies Group that will be released at an international Ramsar convention on wetlands this week in South Korea.
"The worry from the scientists is that it is essential to understand and monitor this change globally and it's not clear at this stage whether we're going to have the essential measurements to do that," said Paul Monks, an atmospheric chemist at the
Kopernikus is the world's most ambitious environmental monitoring project. Led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and funded by European member states to the tune of more than €1 billion, it features satellites and a network of ground stations to monitor the effects of climate change, such as deforestation and coastal erosion. It has the specific purpose of providing accurate data for policymakers around the world.
The first of the five satellites, packed with scientific instruments, Sentinel 1, is due to be sent into orbit in 2011. "It's essential that we recognize that the Earth is changing and that we put an Earth-management plan in place. Kopernikus is that global view of a changing environment," said Monks.
…"There is going to be a huge need for data on deforestation, water runoff, flooding, sea-level rise, coastal erosion, large-scale fires," said Mary Taylor, climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth. "Satellite data can be extremely helpful in gathering lots of good, precise data about where exactly changes are happening on the Earth's surface."Satellite animation by MG****, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Momtaj Begum, holding her baby daughter, is among hundreds of women queuing for a pitcher of drinking water at a desalinisation plant in Tafalbaria, a remote village in the Bagerhat district in south-west
The tidal surge whipped up by Cyclone Sidr in November 2007 has contaminated the pond with salt and dirt. The nearby
Residents of coastal areas have put up with saline surface water for years, but it is getting worse. Researchers have discovered saline water further inland than in the past, as far as 130 km. This is partly because global temperature rises are causing sea levels to rise, occasionally flooding low-lying areas.
….International donors have advised the government in
…Earlier this year, the head of the present caretaker government of
Saturday, October 25, 2008
…The note on 'Financing for Climate Change' added: "The issue of climate change has far-reaching implications for both development and finance. The question of sharing of costs of mitigation and adaptation between the developed and the developing world requires an open and honest discussion (at the meet)".
The source of today's climatic and environmental degradation are principally the more advanced, industrial countries, and the situation has assumed alarming proportions mainly because there was no accord among such countries on the extent or nature of the problem.
The right to develop and improve the well-being of populations in the South cannot be denied, and, while everything should be done that their development is "clean", there is no question that their contribution to pollution would increase over time, the South Centre Input into the reparatory process leading to the
It also could prompt new approaches to forestry. Possibilities include replanting logged areas with trees that are tolerant of higher temperatures, thinning drought-stressed forests and deploying pesticides to ward off insects. But in many cases, landowners have few options to protect their trees once insects and diseases take hold, tree experts said.
One serious problem is emerging in
The pest already is blamed for killing more than 10,000 oaks in the county. Some backcountry residents fear the worst is yet to come unless the drought is broken by years of heavy rain, but that's unlikely to happen. Climate models show the Southwest becoming increasingly warm and dry over the next century, conditions that leave the
Butterfield Stage Station, Oak Grove (San Diego County, California) (cropped). The oak in this picture is in danger
Hatfield, the lead scientist and director of the USDA/ARS National Soil Tilth Lab in
Hatfield cited the example of livestock -- which, like humans, have an optimum range of temperatures at which they are most comfortable. With cattle, for instance, if the air temperature is far enough above the animals' comfort range, their appetite is reduced. In turn, their rate of weight gain is reduced. Milk production and conception rates can also be affected…..
…Crop production also will be affected, he said. "This increasing impact of climate change will tax our ability to efficiently produce crops," Hatfield said. "Every plant species has a point at which it quits growing."
…Global climate change will have an impact on weed and insect populations and will prompt changes in planting dates, he said.Johannes Hubertus Leonardus de Haas painted this young bull a long time ago