Saturday, March 31, 2012

Carbon ‘like Titanic’ sinking on EU permit glut

Ewa Krukowska in Bloomberg: The plunge in European Union carbon permits is putting prices on course for their longest-ever decline and shows no sign of ending as member states wrangle over curbing a glut in the market.

EU allowances for December fell 5.2 percent this year, extending a streak of quarterly losses stretching back to March 2011. Prices may drop a further 50 percent and lawmakers will probably fail to cut supply in the world’s largest emissions market through a so-called set-aside process, according to UBS AG. For First Climate AG, an asset manager that advises the European Investment Bank’s carbon funds, emissions are unlikely to recover in the next quarter.

“Unless EU governments come up with a surprise decision to strongly support the set-aside or ambitious mid-term emission- reduction targets, I don’t see prices moving up much over the coming months,” Tuomas Rautanen, head of regulatory affairs and consulting at First Climate in Zurich, said by e-mail.

A surplus of permits and the inability of European nations to agree how to tackle the glut in the $120 billion market sent prices to an all-time low this year. Verified emissions data due on April 2 may show 2011 discharges from more than 12,000 factories and power plants in the region’s trading system fell short of the number of issued-and-sold permits for a third year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance...

US public skeptical of climate coverage

Andrew Restuccia in the Hill: The public is skeptical of the news media’s coverage of climate change, according to a new poll. Just 24 percent of those polled in a March Gallup survey say they believe the press is accurately portraying climate science.

Forty-two percent say the news media is exaggerating the seriousness of climate change, down slightly from the 2010 high of 48 percent. About 31 percent say the press is underestimating the effects of global warming. That’s up from 25 percent in 2010.

Far more Republicans than Democrats — 67 percent versus 20 — say media coverage of climate change is exaggerated.

The vast majority of the world’s scientists say the climate is changing in large part due to human activity like the burning of fossil fuels. They warn that the planet could face dire consequences if nations don’t take drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions....

The Know Nothing flag, from 1850, another era when willfull ignorance became a major political force in the United States.

Science under fire from 'merchants of doubt': US historian

Jerome Cartillier in Yahoo News via AFP: Scientists are facing an uphill battle to warn the public about pressing issues due to dissenters in their ranks who intentionally sow uncertainty, says a US historian.

These naysayers -- some of whom are paid by interest groups -- have helped undermine action on vital problems despite evidence of the need to respond, said Naomi Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies at the University of California at San Diego.

They sap convictions by endlessly questioning data, dismissing experimental innovation, stressing uncertainties and clamouring for more research, she said. Over the last half-century, they have helped weaken legislative action or brake political momentum on tobacco, acid rain, protection of the ozone layer and climate change.

"This strategy is so clever and effective," Oreskes said in an interview this week in Paris to promote a French translation of "Merchants of Doubt," a book she co-authored with California Institute of Technology historian Erik Conway.

"It takes something which is an essential part of science -- healthy skepticism, curiosity -- and turns it against itself and makes it corrosive." Oreskes's book traces the starting point of professional science skeptics to when big tobacco companies were facing the first clear evidence that smoking caused cancer....

Overfishing, deforestation and climate change cause declines in Caribbean coral reefs

Science Codex: The decline of Caribbean coral reefs has been linked to the recent effects of human-induced climate change. However, new research led by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests an even earlier cause. The bad news – humans are still to blame. The good news – relatively simple policy changes can hinder further coral reef decline.

Employing a novel excavation technique to reconstruct the timeline of historical change in coral reefs located on the Caribbean side of Panama, a team of scientists led by Scripps alumna Katie Cramer and current Scripps Professor of Oceanography and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) Emeritus Staff Scientist Jeremy Jackson has determined that damage to coral reefs from land clearing and overfishing pre-dates damage caused by anthropogenic climate change by at least decades.

"This study is the first to quantitatively show that the cumulative effects of deforestation and possibly overfishing were degrading Caribbean coral and molluscan communities long before climate change impacts began to really devastate reefs," said lead author Cramer, currently based at the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network at the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Coral reefs have suffered alarmingly since the 1980s due to coral bleaching and coral disease, thought to stem from the warming of the oceans due to anthropogenic, or human-induced, climate change. However, until recently, the impact of prior human activities on Caribbean coral reefs had not been studied with experimental techniques.

Historical records and qualitative surveys provide hints that declines in corals in some parts of the Caribbean occurred as far back as the early 1900s after coastal lands began to be cleared to make way for plantations. However, the current study is the first to quantify the changes that reef corals and mollusks have undergone as a result of long-term stress caused by the deposition of silt, nutrients, and pollution onto coral reefs from land clearing and the depletion of reef fish that prevent algae from overtaking reefs...

Fish and coral, shot by Maniacduhockey, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Friday, March 30, 2012

Study of Patagonian glacier's rise and fall adds to understanding of global climate change

Alpha Galileo via the University of Ghent: Glaciers play a vital role in Earth’s climate system, and it’s critical to understand what contributes to their fluctuation.

Increased global temperatures are frequently viewed as the cause of glacial melt, but a new study of Patagonia’s Gualas Glacier highlights the role of precipitation in the glacier’s fluctuation. The study, conducted by Sébastien Bertrand of Renard Centre of Marine Geology, Ghent University (Belgium) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and his colleagues, reconstructs a 5,400 year-record of the region’s glacial environment and climate, comparing past temperature and rainfall data with sediment records of glacier fluctuations and the historical observations of early Spanish explorers.

The study, “Precipitation as the main driver of Neoglacial fluctuations of Gualas Glacier, Northern Patagonian Icefield,” was published March 15 in the Open Access journal Climate of the Past.

As glaciers fluctuate, retreating or adding mass, they dramatically affect the water cycle -- locking up fresh water as they amass, causing the sea level to rise as they thaw and retreat.

“Improving our understanding of the impact of climate changes on glacier variability is one of the most pressing aspects of present-day climate research,” says Bertrand, a postdoctoral fellow in WHOI’s Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry department and the Renard Centre of Marine Geology, University of Ghent.

The focus of the work is Gualas Glacier, a 32-kilometer long shifting mountain of ice with an area of 119.2 square kilometers that sits above Golfo Elefantes. It is part of the Northern Patagonian Icefield (NPI), a series of 70 glaciers fed by precipitation that originates in the Pacific Ocean and falls in the rain belt west of the Andes, reaching levels of up to ten meters a year. The majority of the western NPI glaciers have retreated over the last 150 years.

“These glaciers are retreating as a response to global climate change, but not only because of increasing temperature, which is generally cited as the cause of worldwide glacier retreat,” said Bertrand. “The fast retreat of Gualas, and other western NPI glaciers, during the last century, seems to be driven by a decrease in winter precipitation -- snow -- rather than by an increase in temperature.”...

Amalia Glacier, South Patagonia, Chile, shot by Gus1234wiki, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Managing risk in a warming world

Deborah Zabarenko in Reuters: One of the most interesting facets of a new United Nations climate change report is what's not in it: much mention of curbing the greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in Earth's atmosphere and in turn can spur some natural disasters. "It is a change," said Christopher Field, a top editor of the 600-page document released on Wednesday. "This report does focus on managing the risks of extreme disasters rather than changing those risks. Changing the risks is the mitigation agenda."

The mitigation agenda was central to a 2007 report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose key finding was that, with 90 percent probability, climate change is occurring and human activities contribute to it.

The latest report from the IPCC focuses instead on how to make people and their assets - homes, farms, stores, office buildings, infrastructure - more resilient to the intense droughts, floods and storms projected for the coming decades.

"We were asked by the governments (of the world) to focus primarily on the time frame that's relevant for disaster risk reduction, which is mostly the time frame of one to a few decades," Field said in a telephone interview. "That's a time frame where most of the climate change that will occur is already baked into the system and where even aggressive climate policies in the short term are not going to have their full effects," said Field, who is director of the Carnegie Institution's department of global ecology....

Beyond GDP: experts preview 'inclusive wealth' indicator to reflect sustainability

Environmental Research Web via Planet Under Pressure: Brazil and India pay a high price for rapid economic growth, according to experts speaking at a major international meeting in London, Planet Under Pressure. Between 1990 and 2008, the wealth of these two countries as measured by GDP per capita rose 34% and 120% respectively. But a myopic focus on economic capital is flawed, scientists and economists at the conference argue. Natural capital, the sum of a country's assets, from forests to fossil fuels and minerals, declined 46% in Brazil and 31% in India, according to a new "Inclusive Wealth Indicator" designed to augment GDP as a measure of economic progress.

When measures of natural, human and manufactured capital are considered together to obtain a more comprehensive value, Brazil's "Inclusive Wealth" rose just 3% and India's rose 9% over that time.

"The work on Brazil and India illustrates why Gross Domestic Product is inadequate and misleading as an index of economic progress from a long-term perspective," says Professor Anantha Duraiappah, Executive Director of the United Nations University's International Human Dimensions Programme (UNU-IHDP).

"A country could completely exhaust all its natural resources while posting positive GDP growth. We need an indicator that estimates the wealth of nations – natural, human and manufactured and ideally even the social and ecological constituents of human well-being."

The first Inclusive Wealth Report, to debut in full at a joint UNU-IHDP and United Nations Environment Programme event at June's UN "Rio+20" summit in Brazil, will describe the "inclusive wealth" of 20 nations: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, Norway, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, USA, United Kingdom and Venezuela. The 20 nations featured in the report represent 72% of world GDP and 56% of global population....

The Tower of Babel, from a 1539 Russian manuscript of Cosmas Indicopleustes

Developing countries 'need a say in geoengineering debates'

Mićo Tatalović in Decisions on whether and how to use massive technical solutions known as 'geoengineering' to mitigate or reverse climate change must involve developing countries, a session on geoengineering governance at the Planet Under Pressure conference agreed yesterday (28 March).

Geoengineering proposals have included reflecting sunlight away from the Earth by spraying ocean water into clouds or loading the stratosphere with sulphate aerosols, bioengineering crops to be paler and more reflective of sunlight, managing solar radiation and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Although geoengineering research groups are emerging in Africa, China and India, the controversial discipline is dominated by a small number of organisations in North America and Europe, the meeting heard.

"It's very important that people with knowledge and understanding of science and the climate change challenges faced by developing countries are involved in setting the agenda for research," Jason Blackstock, a visiting geoengineering expert at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, told SciDev.Net. The issues faced by vulnerable populations "should be front and centre in the conversation about the technologies and the governance structures that are going to evolve," he said....

White roofs of the rural Brač island architecture, village Škrip, Croatia. K. Korlević. Painting roofs white to reflect sunlight is one geoengineering technique

Sri Lankan conservationists battle national park highway

Nicholas Milton in the Guardian (UK): As Sri Lankans prepare to celebrate the Sinhala or Buddhist New Year in April, conservationists will be quietly praying that a proposed major road through Wilpattu national park will finally be ruled illegal. Controversially funded by the Chinese government, the road has been the centre of a case sitting with the Sri Lankan supreme court for nearly two years. During that time it has become a legal cause celebre for those who believe the island's postwar tourist boom, which has seen it recently marketed as an eco-tourism destination, is now threatening its unique wildlife.

Wilpattu, on the west coast of the island, was a rebel stronghold during the long 26-year civil war against the Tamil Tigers. Today it is better known as Sri Lanka's largest park and home to leopards, Asian elephants and sloth bears. Development is prohibited in national parks but after peace was declared in May 2009, the government began work on a road right through Wilpattu, known as the New Mannar Road.

A 30-metre-wide swath was cut through the undergrowth, room enough for six lanes of traffic and a helipad was created to bring in workers. Over 22 miles had been cleared when on 5 May 2010 Environmental Foundation Limited filed a group legal action on behalf of Sri Lanka's four biggest environment groups in the supreme court to stop the construction. However, EFL believe there has still not been a verdict because the government is desperately trying to find a way around its own conservation laws...

Kudiramalai in Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka, shot by Freelk, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Swiss Re’s natural catastrophes tally for 2011 reaches $116 billion in insured losses and record economic losses of $370 billion

From Swiss Re, a press release announcing the natural catastrophe issue of sigma. This is an annual tabulation of disaster losses, with great effort put into keeping the data consistent:
  • Last year saw the highest economic losses in history, at USD 370 billion
  • The insurance industry weathered 2011 soundly despite experiencing the second-largest insured losses ever, at USD 116 billion
  • 2011 also brought the highest insured earthquake losses, at USD 49 billion
  • Flooding in Thailand resulted in the highest insured losses ever for a single flood event, at USD 12 billion
Swiss Re’s latest sigma study reveals unprecedented economic losses of USD 370 billion from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2011. Despite immense insured losses of USD 116 billion (a 142% increase over the previous year) arising from record earthquake and flood losses, the insurance industry weathered the year well and played a key role in risk management and post-disaster recovery financing.

In 2011, total economic losses to society due to disasters (both insured and uninsured) reached an estimated USD 370 billion, compared to USD 226 billion in 2010. The earthquake in Japan, the largest known in terms of magnitude to have ever hit the country, accounted for 57% of 2011’s economic losses. Altogether, natural catastrophe insured losses came to around USD 110 billion, while losses from man-made disasters were around USD 6 billion, making 2011 the second-highest catastrophe loss year ever for the insurance industry.

Kurt Karl, Swiss Re’s Chief Economist, says: “Last year saw extraordinary and devastating catastrophic events. The earthquakes in Japan, New Zealand, and Turkey, as well as the floods in Australia and Thailand, were unprecedented and brought not only massive destruction but also the loss of thousands of people’s lives. Yet two-thirds of the staggering USD 370 billion in economic damage will be shouldered by corporations, governments, relief organisations, and ultimately individuals, pointing to the still widespread lack of insurance protection worldwide.”

...The floods in Australia, the country’s worst natural disaster ever in terms of losses, triggered insured claims of over USD 2 billion. However, at USD 12 billion, insured claims from the flood in Thailand are the highest ever recorded for a river water flood event. “Flood losses can be just as tremendous as earthquake and storm losses. The flooding in Thailand is a painful reminder that, given the high risk of flooding in many countries, other parts of the globe could be prone to similar or even bigger losses,” says Jens Mehlhorn, Head of Flood Perils at Swiss Re and co-author of the study.

In addition to earthquakes and floods, an unparalleled tornado season in the US caused insured catastrophe losses of over USD 25 billion. “Despite the exceptional tornadoes and Hurricane Irene, a relatively moderate hurricane season kept overall insured losses in the US lower than the record year of 2005, the year in which hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita contributed the lion’s share of that year's total global claims of USD 123 billion,” adds Bevere....

Scientists warn of climate-change onslaught

Seth Borenstein in the Chicago Sun-Times: Global warming is leading to such severe storms, droughts and heat waves that nations should prepare for an unprecedented onslaught of deadly and costly weather disasters, an international panel of climate scientists said in a new report issued Wednesday.

The greatest threat from extreme weather is to highly populated, poor regions of the world, the report warns, but no corner of the globe — from Mumbai to Miami — is immune. The document by a Nobel Prize-winning panel of climate scientists forecasts stronger tropical cyclones and more frequent heat waves, deluges and droughts.

The 594-page report blames the scale of recent and future disasters on a combination of man-made climate change, population shifts and poverty.

In the past, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, founded in 1988 by the United Nations, has focused on the slow inexorable rise of temperatures and oceans as part of global warming. This report by the panel is the first to look at the less common but far more noticeable extreme weather changes, which lately have been costing on average about $80 billion a year in damage.

“We mostly experience weather and climate through the extreme,” said one of the report’s top editors, Chris Field, an ecologist with the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “That’s where we have the losses. That’s where we have the insurance payments. That’s where things have the potential to fall apart.

“There are lots of places that are already marginal for one reason or another,” Field said. But it’s not just poor areas: “There is disaster risk almost everywhere.”...

Mumbai's skyline, shot by Aam422

Cultural inertia is slowing effective action to address climate change

Terra Daily via SPX: Resistance at individual and societal levels must be recognized and treated before real action can be taken to effectively address threats facing the planet from human-caused contributions to climate change.

That's the message to this week's Planet Under Pressure Conference by a group of speakers led by Kari Marie Norgaard, professor of sociology and environmental studies at the University of Oregon. In a news briefing Monday, Norgaard discussed her paper and issues her group will address in a conference session on Wednesday.

Scientists from multiple disciplines from around the world are at the conference to assess where they stand before the June 4-6 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro - also known as "Rio+20" since it is occurring 20 years after 1992's Rio Earth Summit that drew officials from 172 governments.

"We find a profound misfit between dire scientific predictions of ongoing and future climate changes and scientific assessments of needed emissions reductions on the one hand, and weak political, social or policy response on the other," Norgaard said....

Daumier's 1834 caricature of Louis Philippe, Le passé, le présent, l'Avenir

China to flood nature reserve with latest Yangtze dam

Lucy Hornby in Reuters: China's Three Gorges Corp. on Thursday marked the beginning of construction for a dam that will flood the last free-flowing portion of the middle reaches of the Yangtze, the country's longest river.

The 30 billion yuan ($4.75 billion) Xiaonanhai dam is decried by environmentalists because it will flood a nature reserve designed to protect about 40 species of river fish.

Completion of the dam would turn the middle section of the Yangtze into a series of reservoirs, leaving "no space for fish", said environmentalist Ma Jun, who has been active for over two years in trying to prevent the dam.

"This is the last one, the last section in 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) along the Yangtze that was left for endangered or local fish species. This would be their last habitat," Ma told Reuters...

The downstream side of the Three Gorges Dam, shot by Christoph Filnkößl, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Climate change squeezing Malawi’s maize production

Charles Mkula in New Times Africa: Despite Malawi registering surplus maize yields in recent years, food production in the southern African nation has been on the decline, a climate change study has indicated. Malawi has in the past six years basked in the glory of maize surpluses that came about partly because of the implementation of the world acclaimed Farm Input Subsidy Programme and favourable rains falling on the heels of serious droughts between 1978 and 2005 growing seasons that resulted in crop failures and low yields.

According to an IMF report, the droughts were evidence of famine that was triggered mainly by failure of the rain-bearing systems during the critical planting season. Rainfall distribution in Malawi has become more unpredictable to the extent that it has reduced crop production, Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development hydrologist Henrie Manford Njoloma has disclosed in his research study of over 60 years of rainfall data in the sub Saharan country. “Rainfall distribution is no longer uniform and predictable as it used to be in the past,” he says noting that maize, the country’s staple diet has been drastically affected by the erratic rainfall patterns.

Njoloma notes that the reliance on rain to produce maize for the national consumption has become Malawi’s great challenge with the main producers of the staple diet being smallholder farmers whose land holding size averages 0.3 ha. Malawi’s food production is mainly from rain-fed agriculture with maize produced by about 97% of all farming house-holds. “When rains fail there is less maize production therefore creating economic problems in the national economy despite maize not being categorized as an economic crop,” he points out....

Photograph by 3268zauber, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

With wildfire season approaching, Wyden demands outside review of Forest Service aerial tanker fleet

Charles Pope in the Oregonian: Angered by what he sees as the Forest Service's indifference and alarmed by the potential for catastrophic wildfires this year, Sen. Ron Wyden formally asked Tuesday for an outside review of the government's plan for modernizing its aging fleet of aircraft for fighting fires.

The Oregon Democrat said he decided to ask for the General Accountability Office study after being convinced the Forest Service and Interior Department were not moving fast enough to develop a plan for replacing the fleet. The aerial tankers, which are crucial in fighting big fires, average 50 years old. The government contracts with two private operators for the planes.

"I'm trying to convey a sense of urgency," Wyden said Tuesday in an interview. "This summer I'm concerned about a perfect storm. We haven't had the snow. We've got ... a fleet that's practically aviation dinosaurs and diminished number" of planes.

The state of the fleet is well known and has been in decline for years. The number of tankers available for service, for example, has declined from 44 in 2002 to 14 as of last August. With a diminished snowpack in Oregon and in much of the West as well as the effects of climate change and over-grown forests, Wyden says the potential for huge fires across the region is real.

"Aircraft are important tools that assist the firefighters in controlling wildland fires and help to protect the public, property, and resources," says the letter, which was also signed by senators Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska...

An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) Eight Five dumps water from a 420-gallon extinguishing trough October 23, 2007, onto of one of the many areas in San Diego County, California, suffering from an ongoing wildfire. The trough is used to dump water to help fend off the fires that have already forced more than 250,000 people from their homes.

Birds adjusting slowly to climate change

Mary Esch in the San Jose Mercury News: A new study based on the National Audubon Society's North American Christmas Bird Count finds birds have taken decades to adjust their ranges northward in response to warming winters.

Frank La Sorte, a post-doctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, was lead author of the study published online this month by the Journal of Animal Ecology. He said animals adjust to rising minimum winter temperatures by shifting their ranges northward. Since birds are highly mobile and migrate north and south with the changing seasons, they're better able to shift their ranges than less-mobile, non-migrating species, like amphibians.

But the study of 59 bird species found it's not all that easy or quick. And some birds are better equipped to follow the changing climate than others. Take black vultures. While the minimum winter temperature increased from 1975 to 2009, it took black vultures 35 years to catch up with the trend. Over that time, they have spread northward as far as Massachusetts, where winters now are similar to Baltimore's in 1975.

On the other hand, the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker hasn't moved at all. La Sorte said that could be because they have such specialized habitat needs, found only in the sandy longleaf pine forests of 11 southern states. "It might be good to go in and look at how well they're coping" with the rising temperature, La Sorte said Tuesday in an interview. "It depends on their physiological tolerance, and changes in the prey base."

La Sorte said species that don't track climate changes may wind up in habitats that don't suit them well...

A red-cockaded woodpecker at Camp Lejeune, shot by Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker, United States Marine Corps

Zimbabwe's weather stations need modernizing

Jeff Gogo in the Herald (Zimbabwe): National climate and weather systems are changing, fast; faster than Zimbabwe can cope. Targets for combating damage from climate change catastrophes are sorely inadequate. Climate finance for mitigation and adaptation is weak due to a national financial crisis, yet the need is greater for rapid action.

Whereas an efficient and well- resourced weather and climate services system is important in designing relevant policy responses to rising climate risks, the local meteorology unit is not, and needs more capacity for it to adequately and efficiently fulfil this role.

...Speaking to The Herald Business, as Zimbabwe celebrated the World Meteorological Day on March 23, MSD director Dr Amos Makarau said meteorology in the country was "facing several challenges, which include aged equipment and shortage of personnel".

The situation was serious. Equipment used at some stations is believed to be 100 years old or more. The earliest weather stations in Zimbabwe were set up at Harare and Bulawayo very early in the 20th century. However, corrective measures were now being taken....

Philippine legislator warns of threats from rise in sea level to communities

Samar News in Pasay City (Philippines): Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano urged the government to address the absent or lack of preparation for climate change related calamities in areas where increases in sea levels pose immediate threats to communities.

He said tropical cyclones and flashfloods that killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Mindanao and the Visayas last year and previous calamities caused like typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng should serve as crucial lessons for the government to learn from.

Senator Cayetano was alarmed by the recent study of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that identifies the Philippines as the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. The country ranks 5th globally in terms of the number of people to be affected by sea level rise.

The ADB report titled “Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific” acknowledged that sea level rise is already seriously threatening communities with coastal flooding with most of them found in Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Cayetano said as an archipelagic country, a large number of population live in coastal areas and most of them are poor families living in shanties. “Efforts must be made to identify areas that are at serious risks on account of rise in sea level so adequate planning and preparations can be made,” he said....

A beach in Pasay City during Cyclone Nesat, 2011, shot by Amckern, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Drought reaches parts of Yorkshire – and river levels still falling

The Guardian (UK): More areas of the country are now in drought following another dry month which has hit rivers and groundwater supplies, the Environment Agency has said. Swaths of east and south Yorkshire from Chesterfield up to Scarborough are officially suffering from drought, with areas around Sheffield, Doncaster, Hull and Driffield affected.

The areas join the south-esst and eastern England in drought, most of which has been affected since earlier this year, although parts of East Anglia have been suffering drought conditions since last summer.

This month, seven water companies across east and southern England announced hosepipe bans would come into force before Easter in a bid to conserve water supplies in the face of two unusually dry winters. But while the rivers Don, Rother, Hull and Derwent are at low or very low levels for the time of year, the Environment Agency said public water supplies were unlikely to be affected in the region...

The bridge where the River Derwent passes under the A38 can just be seen in the centre of the picture. Shot by Nikki Mahadevan, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Arctic sea ice may have passed crucial tipping point

Fred Pearce in New Scientist: The disappearance of Arctic sea ice has crossed a "tipping point" that could soon make ice-free summers a regular feature across most of the Arctic Ocean, says a British climate scientist who is setting up an early warning system for dangerous climate tipping points.

Tim Lenton at the University of Exeter has carried out a day-by-day assessment of Arctic ice-cover data collected since satellite observation began in 1979. He presented his hotly anticipated findings for the first time at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London on Monday.

Up until 2007, sea ice systematically fluctuated between extensive cover in winter and lower cover in summer. But since then, says Lenton, the difference between winter and summer ice cover has been a million square kilometres greater than it was before, as a result of unprecedented summer melting. This real-world data is in contrast to what models predict should have happened.

Despite fears of runaway sea-ice loss after summer cover hit an all-time low in 2007 .... – opening the Northwest Passage for the first time in living memory – modelling studies based on our best understanding of ice dynamics indicated the ice cover should fully recover each winter. "They suggest that even if the ice declined a large amount in one year, it should bounce back," said Walt Meier of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

Instead, Lenton's research shows a permanent alteration. If data from the last five years is anything to go by, the Arctic sea ice has not recovered from the 2007 extreme low. "The system has passed a tipping point," he told New Scientist....

Record Arctic sea ice loss in 2007

Ten Asian cities leading the way in climate-proofing

T. V. Padma in Ten cities in South and South-East Asia will be the first in the world to use indicators to assess how resilient they are to climate change, a speaker at the Planet Under Pressure conference has told SciDev.Net. The indicators are the work of the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN), set up in 2008 as a response to projections that the number of people living in cities will increase from today's 50 per cent of the world population to 70 per cent by 2050.

Asian cities will account for the majority of this increase (60 per cent), and nearly half of future urban growth is expected in smaller cities and towns, mostly those with fewer than half a million people now. Stephen Tyler, a senior research associate at the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition, Canada, told the conference yesterday (26 March) that rapidly growing Asian cities stand at a crossroads in how they respond to the impacts of climate change.

He said they could either emerge as "refuges of climate resilience", offering prospects for new jobs and economic growth, or could face even higher levels of poverty.

ACCCRN, which runs until 2014, and is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, is helping three cities each from India and Vietnam, and two each from Indonesia and Thailand, to identify their risks, and the indicators will help assess their strategies to cope with climate change impacts.

Key aspects of resilient urban systems include climate-sensitive land use and urban planning; drainage, flood and solid waste management; resilient housing and transport systems; urban water management; and flexible livelihoods for those affected by climate change....

Nguyen Trai Street, in Can Tho, Vietnam, shot by Dragfyre, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

More ecology, less economy for Rio+20

Fabiola Ortiz in IPS via Tierramérica: Hundreds of non-governmental organisations and social movements from around the world hope to counter the failure of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which they consider inevitable, with the success of the alternative People’s Summit.

Both events will take place in June in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian city that served as the venue, two decades ago, for the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development. ... Rio+20 is expected to draw around 50,000 people to the city to take part in preparatory meetings and parallel activities during much of June, in addition to some 120 heads of state and government who will meet for the actual summit on Jun. 20-22.

The People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice in Defence of the Commons will be held Jun. 15-23 in Aterro do Flamengo park, near downtown Rio de Janeiro, as an alternative event independent of the official conference, and is expected to draw roughly 10,000 participants.

Representatives of some 20 social, trade union, youth, women’s, indigenous, peasant and Afro-descendant organisations met in Rio during the fourth week of March to coordinate actions, fine-tune their critique of the official Rio+20 agenda, and finish up preparations for the large-scale mobilisation in June.

One of the challenges is the inclusion of the rights of native peoples in the concept of sustainable development, said activist Sander Otten, a member of the technical committee of the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organisations (CAOI), which brings together groups from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

...Otten acknowledged that some progress has been made in the area of indigenous rights in the last 20 years. However, in the majority of cases, the governments of the Andean countries are promoting the further expansion of extractive activities like mining and oil drilling, as well as large-scale industrial monoculture plantations, he stressed....

A woman and baby in Bolivia, shot by Guy Xhonneux, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Global warming close to becoming irreversible

Nina Chestney in Reuters: The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday. Scientific estimates differ but the world's temperature looks set to rise by six degrees Celsius by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to rise uncontrollably.

As emissions grow, scientists say the world is close to reaching thresholds beyond which the effects on the global climate will be irreversible, such as the melting of polar ice sheets and loss of rainforests. "This is the critical decade. If we don't get the curves turned around this decade we will cross those lines," said Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University's climate change institute, speaking at a conference in London.

Despite this sense of urgency, a new global climate treaty forcing the world's biggest polluters, such as the United States and China, to curb emissions will only be agreed on by 2015 - to enter into force in 2020. "We are on the cusp of some big changes," said Steffen. "We can ... cap temperature rise at two degrees, or cross the threshold beyond which the system shifts to a much hotter state."...

Graph showing the development of average temperatures from 1880 till 2009 for each hemisphere separately. From NASA/Goddard Institute of Space Studies

Kenya farmers use science + traditional forecasting to survive climate change

Christian Aid: Kenyan farmers are combining information from climate scientists with traditional weather forecasting methods in an experiment which could help thousands of families adapt to climate change, a major conference will hear this week.

‘Combining traditional knowledge with science-based forecasts will help farmers make better decisions about which crops to plant where, as well as when to plant and harvest them,’ said Richard Ewbank, Climate Adviser at Christian Aid.

‘Those decisions change people’s lives - getting them right leads to good harvests and families having plenty to eat and sell. Getting them wrong can lead to hunger, poverty and suffering. This is the reality for millions of people across Africa.’

Climate change is expected to make it harder than ever for farmers to know what each growing season will bring, by making the weather more erratic and extreme. The idea behind the Sustainable Agricultural Livelihoods Innovation Project in eastern Kenya, funded by Christian Aid and the Humanitarian Futures Project of King’s College, London, is that combining science-based seasonal forecasts with more traditional methods will be more successful than either approach alone.

Participating farmers have been coping with weather patterns consistent with the expected effects of climate change such as higher temperatures, more intense rainfall, stronger winds and longer dry periods...

A farm rake in Kenya, shot by 2DU Kenya67, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Monday, March 26, 2012

A review of 'The Island President'

Dustin Chang in In early February this year, Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected (in 2008) president of the republic of Maldives, a tiny nation consists of 1,200 islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, was forced to resign in a military coup by the loyalists to Maumood Abdul Gayoom, the former president. This bizarre and tragic turn of event needs the world's attention because Nasheed's victory over Gayoom, an autocrat who ruthlessly ruled the country for 30 years, precedes the Egypt Revolt and the Arab Spring. The Island President's release couldn't have come at any more opportune time than now.

Filmmaker Jon Shenk (Lost Boys of Sudan, The Rape of Europa) documents with unprecedented access, Nasheed's first year in the office as the beacon in the fight against the global warming. For him and the 400,000 Maldivians, the climate issue has direct consequences. The Maldives, considered as the lowest lying nation in the world (mere 1.5 meters above sea level on average), could be under water before 2050 if the carbon emission to the atmosphere keeps up its current pace.

Nasheed, a political activist who was jailed, tortured and exiled before becoming the first democratically elected president, proves to be an unusually shrewd and sophisticated politician who grasped that only way he could stand up to the catastrophic issues of climate change facing his country would be to take his case to the world stage through the power of media. He declares his nation the first country to go carbon neutral within a decade. He holds a symbolic parliament meeting under water with international TV crew in tow. In a good way, with his boundless charm and charisma, Nasheed makes Shenk and his crew his mouthpiece for the cause in exchange for unfettered access to his administration and beyond...

A photo from the Maldives, shot by Nevit Dilmen, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Getting disaster risk reduction funding right

Margareta Wahlstrom in Global Humanitarian Assistance: We all know that donors’ hearts are in the right place when it comes to disaster risk reduction (DRR), but the big question is how many of them can see their way through the fog of need to invest in long-term initiatives which save lives and precious assets while reducing the need for short-term humanitarian assistance?

Aid lore is littered with tales such as that of the Mozambique Government which sought a few million dollars some twenty years ago to invest in flood management, to no avail. A few years later the same donors were responding to the humanitarian needs of flood victims with over a $100 million.

Any thought that was given to DRR in Haiti before the January 2010 earthquake was focused on the ever-present Atlantic hurricane season. As the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) observed earlier this year “the focus of preparedness in Haiti was overwhelmingly on seasonal climatic events. Rare, but catastrophic events were not contemplated. The poorest countries are the least able and willing to invest in risk reduction, including in preparedness. Considering the urgency of everyday needs faced by these countries, the onus for risk reduction and disaster preparedness should be more on the international community”.

I saw myself last week in Haiti that much still needs to be done in terms of embedding disaster risk reduction in the recovery phase but there is certainly a greater awareness of the issues when it comes to reconstruction of health facilities and schools which tumbled into rubble during the earthquake.

These are just some of the reasons why UNISDR extends a wholehearted welcome to the new report from Development Initiatives – Disaster Risk Reduction: Spending Where It Should Count – which takes on the considerable challenge of shedding light on how much donors actually do invest in disaster risk reduction....

US Embassy photo of the aftermath of 2010's Tropical Storm Agatha in Guatemala

Conference hopes to turn the tide on Earth's decline

Aisling Irwin in Thousands of international researchers from a host of disciplines gather in London, United Kingdom, today for what they say is an unprecedented attempt to refocus their work on solving planetary crises.

More than 2,500 researchers, ranging from earth scientists to psychologists, will join policymakers and representatives from the private sector at the Planet Under Pressure conference (26–29 March) to assess problems ranging from the collapse of fisheries to land grabs — and to pool their expertise to find ways forward.

The organisers say the meeting demonstrates a change in attitude among scientists, who are moving away from documenting what is happening to Earth towards providing and assessing solutions to pressing environmental and social problems. "It's the right conference at the right time," said Sybil Seitzinger, executive director of the Sweden-based International Geosphere–Biosphere Programme (IGBP).

..."Scientists are blaming themselves for focusing on knowledge and assuming that others would act on it," said Ghassem Asrar, director of WCRP. "And as such, we have this impasse between decision makers and scientists." The conference is expected to produce an outcome statement from scientists promising to focus on finding solutions to Earth's problems.

"The whole of the research agenda for sustainability science for the next several years will be recast and the funding reorganised to take account of the discussions at this conference," Sander van der Leeuw, dean of Arizona State University's School of Sustainability, said in a statement...

Another water battle looming

Athar Parvaiz in Chinadialogue's The Third Pole: The never-ending war over water resources between India and Pakistan has taken a new twist. Pakistan has registered its resentment against the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for a decision to grant carbon credits to India for a controversial 45-megawatt power project on the Indus River.

This is the latest in a series of disputes between the two countries over hydro-projects on the Indus. Pakistan has already objected to construction work at several other sites – including the Baglihar dam, the Wullar Barrage and the Kishanganga project – under the provisions of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, which provides a mechanism for the two south Asian neighbours to settle trans-boundary water disputes.

With India securing international carbon credits for the Nimoo-Bazgo project in Ladakh, in the country’s north-west, Pakistan again sees its interests under threat. It accuses India of going ahead with the construction of the power project without the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) clearance from Pakistan, and claims the project will dramatically decrease downstream river flow into Pakistan.

India has managed to get approval for carbon credits amounting to US$482,000 (3 million yuan) from the UNFCCC, over a period of seven years, for the Nimoo-Bazgo and Chutak hydropower projects. Both schemes are in Ladakh province, in the Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir. While Pakistan said it had no problem with the construction of the Chutak power project, it raised strong objections to the Nimoo-Bazgo scheme....

An Indus River valley in Ladakh, shot by author unknown, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Rising tides threaten coastal Tanzanian towns

Kizito Makoye in AlertNet: Surging Indian Ocean tides have forced hundreds of people in northeast Tanzania's Pangani District to abandon their homes, as higher seas increasingly threaten settlements along East Africa's coastline.

Several towns and villages are suffering flooding and intrusions of salt water, which are damaging property and tainting clean water supplies. Scientists and government officials attribute the problem partly to climate change, but crumbling sea defences are also to blame.

The increasing disaster threat has led government officials to urge residents to move to higher ground, and to promise to repair seawalls. But the country's key tourism industry remains at risk as rising seas and worsening storm surges erode beaches and coastal infrastructure, experts say.

In Pangani Diustrict's Buyuni village, which lies just a stone's throw from the shore, over a dozen families have abandoned their homes after they were flooded by the sea and sought refuge with friends and relatives in safer areas, according to village chairman Saleh Ali....Waves have left watermarks on the walls of most of the village's brick houses, a clear indication of the threat their occupants face.

The government has blamed the effects of climate change for the rising level of the Indian Ocean, which is disrupting life in many coastal settlements - from Pemba Tanga Bagamoyo to the country's largest city, Dar es Salaam....

The harbor in Dar es Salaam, shot by Gustavgraves, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Researchers show that early exposure to germs is a good thing

A press release from Brigham and Children's Hospital: Previous human studies have suggested that early life exposure to microbes (i.e., germs) is an important determinant of adulthood sensitivity to allergic and autoimmune diseases such as hay fever, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. This concept of exposing people to germs at an early age (i.e., childhood) to build immunity is known as the hygiene hypothesis.

Medical professionals have suggested that the hygiene hypothesis explains the global increase of allergic and autoimmune diseases in urban settings. It has also been suggested that the hypothesis explains the changes that have occurred in society and environmental exposures, such as giving antibiotics early in life. However, neither biologic support nor a mechanistic basis for the hypothesis has been directly demonstrated. Until now.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have conducted a study that provides evidence supporting the hygiene hypothesis, as well as a potential mechanism by which it might occur. ... The researchers studied the immune system of mice lacking bacteria or any other microbes ("germ-free mice") and compared them to mice living in a normal environment with microbes. They found that germ-free mice had exaggerated inflammation of the lungs and colon resembling asthma and colitis, respectively....

Most importantly, the researchers discovered that exposing the germ-free mice to microbes during their first weeks of life, but not when exposed later in adult life, led to a normalized immune system and prevention of diseases. Moreover, the protection provided by early-life exposure to microbes was long-lasting, as predicted by the hygiene hypothesis...

Playing in the muck, on a mudflat in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, around 1914

As climate changes, Louisiana seeks to lift a highway

Juliet Eilperin in the Boston Globe, via the Washington Post: Here on the side of Louisiana’s Highway 1, next to Raymond’s Bait Shop, a spindly pole with Global Positioning System equipment and a cellphone stuck on top charts the water’s gradual encroachment on dry land. In 1991, this stretch of road through the marshlands of southern Louisiana was 3.9 feet above sea level, but the instrument - which measures the ground’s position in relation to sea level - shows the land has lost more than a foot against the sea. It sank 2 inches in the past 16 months alone.

That’s a problem because Highway 1, unprotected by levees, connects critical oil and gas resources in booming Port Fourchon to the rest of the nation. Ten miles of the highway is now standing 22 feet above sea level on cement piles. But another 7 miles is not, and if less than half a mile of this highway succumbs to the 14-foot storm surges expected in the future, the highway will need to be shut down, cutting off the port.

Residents and business leaders are demanding that the federal government help pay to rebuild and elevate the additional section of Highway 1. Federal officials have provided scientific and technical expertise but will not contribute funding unless the state pledges to complete the road. Louisiana says it does not have the money. The dilemma facing this important lowland road is one shared by communities across the country as climate change begins to transform the nation’s landscape.

...Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who started measuring tides in Louisiana in the mid-1800s, have analyzed the numbers for Highway 1, and they do not bode well. At today’s rate of sea-level rise the road would be under water roughly 22 days of the year by 2030...

Highway sign for Louisana's Highway 1, shot by NOAA

Ancient civilizations reveal ways to manage fisheries for sustainability

A press release from Wiley Publishing: In the search for sustainability of the ocean’s fisheries, solutions can be found in a surprising place: the ancient past. In a study to be published March 23 in the journal Fish and Fisheries, a team of marine scientists reconstructed fisheries yields over seven centuries of human habitation in Hawaii and the Florida Keys, the largest coral reef ecosystems in the United States, and evaluated the management strategies associated with periods of sustainability. The results surprised them.

“Before European contact, Native Hawaiians were catching fish at rates that far exceed what reefs currently provide society,” said John “Jack” N. Kittinger, co-author and an early career fellow at the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University. “These results show us that fisheries can be both highly productive and sustainable, if they're managed effectively.” In contrast, historical fisheries in Florida were characterized by boom and bust, with serial depletions of highly valuable species for export markets. Today many species that were the target of 19th and early 20th century fisheries in Florida - including green turtles, sawfish, conch and groupers - have severely reduced populations or are in danger of extinction.

“Seven hundred years of history clearly demonstrate that management matters,” said Loren McClenachan, co-author and assistant professor of Environmental Studies at Colby College. "Ancient Hawaiian societies used sophisticated tools similar to innovative conservation strategies used today, like marine protected areas and restrictions on harvest of vulnerable species like sharks.” The difference, the authors explained, was in the way fisheries governance systems were structured. Regulations were developed locally with the buy-in of community members, but they were also effectively enforced with methods that now would be considered draconian. “Today, no management system comes close to achieving this balance, and as a result, resource depletion and collapse is common,” said McClenachan...

Corn insecticide linked to great die-off of beneficial honeybees

Seed Daily: New research has linked springtime die-offs of honeybees critical for pollinating food crops - part of the mysterious malady called colony collapse disorder - with technology for planting corn coated with insecticides. The study, published in ACS' journal Environmental Science and Technology, appears on the eve of spring planting seasons in some parts of Europe where farmers use the technology and widespread deaths of honeybees have occurred in the past.

In the study, Andrea Tapparo and colleagues explain that seeds coated with so-called neonicotinoid insecticides went into wide use in Europe in the late 1990s. The insecticides are among the most widely used in the world, popular because they kill insects by paralyzing nerves but have lower toxicity for other animals. Almost immediately, beekeepers observed large die-offs of bees that seemed to coincide with mid-March to May corn planting. Scientists thought this might be due to particles of insecticide made airborne by the pneumatic drilling machines used for planting.

These machines forcefully suck seeds in and expel a burst of air containing high concentrations of particles of the insecticide coating. In an effort to make the pneumatic drilling method safer, the scientists tested different types of insecticide coatings and seeding methods. They found, however, that all of the variations in seed coatings and planting methods killed honeybees that flew through the emission cloud of the seeding machine....

A bee, shot by sridhar babu58, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

A Philippine flood control project

The Sun Star (Philippines): President Benigno Aquino III and his economic team recently approved a project that aims to address the flooding problem in the low-lying municipalities in Pampanga delta especially during the rainy season.

Spearheaded by the Departments of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Education (DepEd), the project involves the elevation of 26 schools and reconstruction of 232 school rooms in 47 flood-affected elementary schools, benefitting around 35,057 pupils. To be constructed as well are 11 deep well pumps in schools without potable water source and establishment of flood control measures in the area’s rivers.

South Korea, through its Economic Development Cooperation Fund, will spend P3.9 billion or 83.77 percent of the P4.66 billion project titled Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) Measures in Low-Lying Areas of Pampanga Bay. The Philippine government, on the other hand, will shell out P755.53 million for the project which has yet to disclose timetable.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Cayetano Paderanga said this project aims to reduce the flood level from 1.42 to 2.99 meters and the number of flood-affected areas from 40,150 hectares to 23,780 hectares in the low-lying areas of Pampanga Bay...

Landslide in Barangay San Juan Banyo which is in the Arayat National Park. The mud buried alive 12 villagers, eight of them children, at the height of then tropical storm Ketsana on Saturday, September 26 2009. Shot by Susan Corpuz , Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Saturday, March 24, 2012

New tool developed to assess global freshwater stress

A news release from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory: A new method to make better use of vast amounts of data related to global geography, population and climate may help determine the relative importance of population increases vs. climate change.

While several recent studies suggest that much of the world is likely to experience freshwater shortages as the population increases and temperatures rise, determining the relative impact of each has been difficult. An Oak Ridge National Laboratory paper published in Computers & Geosciences outlines a process that might help.

"Our work establishes a new method to couple geographic information system data with global climate outputs and statistical analysis," said ORNL's Esther Parish, lead author. Using this technique, researchers can now conduct assessments that will provide information critical to policymakers and stakeholders.

"Our tool provides a simple method to integrate disparate climate and population data sources and develop preliminary per capita water availability projections at a global scale," said Parish, a member of the Department of Energy laboratory's Environmental Sciences Division.

...The researchers noted that while this paper outlines a proof of concept that lends some preliminary insight to the relative importance of climate change vs. population, output from multiple climate models must be incorporated in future research. "By investigating multiple models, we may be able to quantify -- or at least qualify -- uncertainty in how different climate change scenarios could affect water availability," Parish said. "Given that population growth is likely to be an even bigger factor in water availability than climate change, it will also be critical to reassess areas of concern with regional- or state-level population growth scenarios."...

Girls carrying water, shot by John Barrie, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

China provides emergency aid to victims of cyclone Giovanna in Madagascar

People's Daily via Xinhua: China on Tuesday provided emergency assistance to victims of cyclone Giovanna in rural town of Tanjombato, south of capital Antananarivo, through its embassy in Madagascar and Chinese associations in the island country. A total of 361 people from 72 families in this rural community benefited the donation, including white rice, oil and bean, blankets, buckets and school kits for students.

These associations include among others the Friends Club of China, the Association of Chinese companies in Madagascar and the Associations of Chinese vendors, who work closely with the Office of the Economic and Commercial under the Chinese Embassy in Madagascar and the Chinese Embassy itself.

In his speech, the Tanjombato mayor Rakotondrabe Maurice thanked China for its generous cooperation with poor countries as Madagascar and its solidarity following the passage of cyclone Giovanna in Tanjombato.

...Wang Hongwei, president of the association of Chinese companies in Madagascar, said the Chinese Embassy in the country attaches great importance to this operation because the two countries have maintained a close relationship and deep friendship. He said Chinese companies thrive in Madagascar and the island country is like their second homeland. The Sino-Malagasy relationship has been maintained for a long time and continues from generation to generation, Mr. Wang added...

A February 18, 2012, satellite view of Cyclone Giovanna, from NASA

A new tool for climate adaptation policymaking

Focus Information Agency: European Climate Adaptation Platform (CLIMATE-ADAPT), an interactive web-based tool on adaptation to climate change, goes online today at the European Environment Agency (EEA) in Copenhagen. Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, joined Ida Auken, Denmark's Minister for the Environment, and the EEA's Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade for the launch, a press release of the EC informs.

The European Climate Adaptation Platform is a publicly accessible, web-based platform (, designed to support policy-makers at EU, national, regional and local levels in the development of climate change adaptation measures and policies. Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause.

CLIMATE-ADAPT has been developed with the support of the European scientific and policy making community, and will help users to access, disseminate and integrate information on:
  • Expected climate change in Europe
  • The vulnerability of regions, countries and sectors now and in the future
  • Information on national, regional and transnational adaptation activities and strategies
  • Case studies of adaptation and potential future adaptation options
  • Online tools that support adaptation planning
  • Adaptation-related research projects, guideline documents, reports information sources, links, news & events....
Headquarters of the European Environment Agency, shot by Loozrboy, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

New research on adaptation to climate change in the US and Australia Coastal regions should take steps now to prepare for storm surges, fires, sea level rise, and other disruptions associated with global climate change and extreme weather events, according to new research by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
Resilient Coastal City Regions: Planning for Climate Change in the United States and Australia, edited by Edward J. Blakely, honorary professor at the U.S. Studies Centre, University of Sydney, and former recovery czar in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and Armando Carbonell, senior fellow at the Lincoln Institute and chairman of the Department of Planning and Urban Form, includes nine case studies and models for adaptation response, with a focus on the impacts of changes in climate on human welfare and the integrity of ecosystems.

The focus is on coastal regions in the United States and Australia, but the aim of the volume is to suggest adaptation and mitigation initiatives applicable throughout the world. A recent story in the New York Times surveyed how some 3.7 million Americans along the coastline are threatened by sea level rise.

"We are humbly aware that this is only an initial response to a challenge with a magnitude of potential impacts never before experienced in human history, a challenge that will test our ability to work together at every scale," said Carbonell.

The case studies for adaptation responses are from New York City, the Southeastern Atlantic Coast States, New Orleans, Los Angeles–San Diego, and San Francisco in the U.S.; and in Australia from Melbourne, Sydney, South East Queensland, and Perth. Initiatives range from reconfiguring ecosystems and banning development in the wake of devastating fires in Melbourne; to creating one super-agency to manage water supplies in Los Angeles and San Diego; to the concept of "strategic retreat" of infrastructure, housing, and other assets vulnerable to storm surge and flooding in New York and Connecticut....

The North Cove at Battery Park City in Manhattan, shot by Gryffindor, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

2011 as 11th confirmed warmest on record

World Meteorological Organization: The World Meteorological Organization’s Annual Statement on the Status of the Global Climate said that 2011 was the 11th warmest since records began in 1850. It confirmed preliminary findings that 2011 was the warmest year on record with a La Niña, which has a cooling influence. Globally-averaged temperatures in 2011 were estimated to be 0.40° Centigrade above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14°C.

Precipitation extremes, many of them associated with one of the strongest La Niña events of the last 60 years, had major impacts on the world. Significant flooding occurred on all continents, whilst major droughts affected parts of east Africa and North America. Arctic sea ice extent fell to near record-low levels. Global tropical cyclone activity was below average, but the United States had one of its most destructive tornado seasons on record.

The annual statement for 2011 was released for World Meteorological Day 23 March. In addition, WMO also announced preliminary findings of the soon to be released Decadal Global Climate Summary, showing that climate change accelerated in 2001-2010, which was the warmest decade ever recorded in all continents of the globe.

The rate of increase since 1971 has been “remarkable” according to the preliminary assessment. Atmospheric and oceanic phenomena such as La Niña events had a temporary cooling influence in some years but did not halt the overriding warming trend.

The “dramatic and continuing sea ice decline in the Arctic” was one of the most prominent features of the changing state of the climate during the decade, according to the preliminary findings. Global average precipitation was the second highest since 1901 and flooding was reported as the most frequent extreme event, it said....