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Articles by Category for ‘Climate Change’

Will Increased Food Production Devour Tropical Forest Lands?

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Will Increased Food Production Devour Tropical Forest Lands?
See: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/will_increased_food_production_devour_tropical_forest_lands/2755/

As global population soars, efforts to boost food production will inevitably be focused on the world’s tropical regions. Can this agricultural transformation be achieved without destroying the remaining tropical forests of Africa, South America, and Asia?

I once stumbled out of a jungle in the Congo Basin and startled two Bantu farmers – both women – tending a small field. I spoke no Bantu and they no French, and so we just stared at each other, a little warily, until one of their toddlers wailed and we all shared a laugh.

For the Bantu, farming has changed little in 3,000 years. The women still work small farming plots made by slashing and burning the rainforest.

They plant crops like yams and bananas, while their men hunt or talk village politics. It’s a precarious existence, but the slash-and-burn farmers can eke out a living if their numbers are low enough and game abounds in the nearby forest.

Increasingly, though, this picture is changing. The Bantu are multiplying quickly, as are many other peoples across Africa. The United Nations’ mid-range population projections for the continent are staggering, with the number of Africans expected to nearly quadruple from 1.1 billion today to 4.2 billion in 2100. Feeding that populace will be an enormous challenge, requiring, among other things, a gigantic boom in agriculture.

See: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/will_increased_food_production_devour_tropical_forest_lands/2755/

Climate Change: The Least We Can Do

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Climate Change: The Least We Can Do
See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-walker/climate-change-the-least_b_5107476.html?utm_hp_ref=green

As the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report makes clear, we are long past the point of avoiding climate change. The best we can do now is to avoid the worst effects. The situation is more dire than previously projected and the consequences of inaction more starkly drawn than ever before:

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased….Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent (high confidence)…. Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

In a perfect world, the IPCC’s report would summon forth our best efforts at mitigating climate change and its effects. We would be doing whatever is necessary and prudent to avoid a human and environmental catastrophe. By now, however, it is evident that governments — and the people they represent — are shrinking from the challenge. Hope for concerted global action on any kind of meaningful scale has largely evaporated.

Instead of asking what is the most that can be done to mitigate climate change and alleviate its consequences, perhaps we should be asking, “What is the least that can be done?”

See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-walker/climate-change-the-least_b_5107476.html?utm_hp_ref=green

Four Steps to Better Link Climate Adaptation and Reproductive Health Strategies

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Four Steps to Better Link Climate Adaptation and Reproductive Health Strategies
See: http://www.newsecuritybeat.org/2014/03/kathleen-mogelgaard-steps-linking-climate-adaptation-reproductive-health-strategies-2/#.U0Po5vldW8w

LINK TO PODCAST: http://ecsp-wwc.podomatic.com/entry/2014-03-27T14_53_31-07_00

Climate change vulnerability is closely tied to population dynamics, says Kathleen Mogelgaard in this week’s podcast. “We know that population size, composition and spatial distribution around the world is constantly changing, and that these changes do have implications for climate change exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity – the three elements of vulnerability.”

And yet, despite this knowledge, alternative population scenarios are rarely considered in climate assessments. “We do know that things like fertility and population growth can be responsive to policy and programmatic interventions,” she says, and more than 233 million women worldwide currently lack access to family planning but want to delay or prevent pregnancy. Addressing that unmet need could make a major difference in the growth rates of many regions of the world, reducing climate vulnerability along the way.

Mogelgaard outlines four ways the links between climate change adaptation and reproductive health strategies need to be strengthened: in adaptation planning frameworks, tools and training, program design, and the evidence base for these connections.

The creation of National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPAs) was a major initiative by the UN Framework on Convention on Climate Change to create climate adaptation plans for the most vulnerable countries. Most of the plans, in fact, identified rapid population growth as something that exacerbates vulnerability. But when it came to the implementation phase, only a “handful of the NAPAs recognized that family planning and reproductive health services could be part of an adaptation strategy,” Mogelgaard says; fewer still made them a priority, and none were funded.

See: http://www.newsecuritybeat.org/2014/03/kathleen-mogelgaard-steps-linking-climate-adaptation-reproductive-health-strategies-2/#.U0Po5vldW8w

NY Times: Old Forecast of Famine May Yet Come True

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Old Forecast of Famine May Yet Come True

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/02/business/energy-environment/a-200-year-old-forecast-for-food-scarcity-may-yet-come-true.html?_r=1

Might Thomas Malthus be vindicated in the end?

Two centuries ago — only 10 years after a hungry, angry populace had ushered in the French Revolution — the dour Englishman predicted that exponential population growth would condemn humanity to the edge of subsistence.

“The power of population is so superior to the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race,” he wrote with alarm.

This was, we now know, wrong. The gloomy forecast was soon buried under an avalanche of progress that spread from England around the world. Between 1820 and the year 2000 the world’s population grew sixfold. Economic output multiplied by more than 50.

Nonetheless, Malthus’s prediction was based on an eminently sensible premise: that the earth’s carrying capacity has a limit. On Monday, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provided a sharp-edged warning about how fast we are approaching this constraint.

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/02/business/energy-environment/a-200-year-old-forecast-for-food-scarcity-may-yet-come-true.html?_r=1

Food security, economy to be hit by climate change, leaked IPCC draft report shows

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Food security, economy to be hit by climate change, leaked IPCC draft report shows

See:  http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/food-security-economy-to-be-hit-by-climate-change-leaked-ipcc-draft-report-shows-20140318-34zpm.html

Global warming will displace millions of people, trigger falling crop yields, stoke conflict and cost trillions of dollars in lost economic output, a United Nations report will warn.

A draft of the report to be finalised later this month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and obtained by The Independent in Britain, says “hundreds of millions of people” will be forced to move because of coastal flooding and land loss as sea levels rise.

Food security will increasingly be threatened, with median crop yields to drop by as much as 2 per cent per decade for the rest of the century. Demand, though, is on course to rise 14 per cent per decade until 2050, the Independent cited the IPCC draft as saying.

Poverty and economic shocks from climate change will have a significant impact on migration, increasing the risks of violence from protests and from civil or international conflicts, according the draft version of the report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability states.

Among the projections likely to attract scrutiny from reviewers when the final report of the IPCC’s Working Group II is settled on in Japan later this month is the draft’s estimate that annual global gross domestic product will drop by 0.2-2 per cent if temperatures rise 2.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Global mean temperatures have already risen about 0.9 degrees, with at least a 2-degree rise increasingly likely as carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and land clearing continue to rise, scientists say.

See:  http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/food-security-economy-to-be-hit-by-climate-change-leaked-ipcc-draft-report-shows-20140318-34zpm.html

Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?

Friday, March 21st, 2014
Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?
Natural and social scientists develop new model of how ‘perfect storm’ of crises could unravel global system 
A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of ‘collapse’ are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.” Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.”

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary ‘Human And Nature DYnamical’ (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

Revisiting the Environmental and Socioeconomic Effects of Population Growth

Friday, March 21st, 2014
Revisiting the Environmental and Socioeconomic Effects of Population Growth: a Fundamental but Fading Issue in Modern Scientific, Public, and Political Circles
Reversing ongoing declines in human welfare and biodiversity is at the core of human development. Although numerous institutions and avenues are in place to reverse such trends, there seems to be limited consideration of population growth as an ultimate driver. I review recent studies showing how the issue of population growth has been downplayed and trivialized among scientific fields, which may in part account for the reduced public interest in the issue and in turn the limited will for policy action. Different sources of evidence suggest that population growth could fundamentally affect society, nature, and the climate. Although tackling the issue of overpopulation will suffer from major impediments including scientific motivation, public scientific illiteracy, religion, and media attention, ongoing neglect of this issue will increase not only the extent of anthropogenic stressors but also the struggle associated with strategies to reverse biodiversity loss and improve human welfare.


Two of the greatest concerns of our generation are to improve human welfare (Kollodge 2011) and to prevent the ongoing loss of biodiversity (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity 2006, Hails 2008).

Satire — Report: Good Thing World Has Unlimited Quantity Of Oil

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Report: Good Thing World Has Unlimited Quantity Of Oil
See: http://www.theonion.com/articles/report-good-thing-world-has-unlimited-quantity-of,35422/?ref=auto

WASHINGTON-According to a report published Monday by the Department of Energy, given current consumption habits and the dramatic projected increases in demand from developing countries, it is extremely fortunate that the planet has an inexhaustible supply of crude oil.

“Oil is the lifeblood of the world’s economies and global transportation networks, so the fact that our reserves are limitless, even in the face of exponential population growth, is exceptionally fortuitous in terms of maintaining our way of life and increasing our standard of living indefinitely,” the report read in part, while also noting how favorable it is that the world’s oil is spread evenly across the globe, thus eliminating any competition among nations who might otherwise squabble or even skirmish over the valuable yet thankfully infinite natural resource.

“Skyrocketing prices, geopolitical crises, and costly, arduous transitions to potentially unviable alternative fuels are luckily issues that neither we nor any subsequent generations will ever have to experience thanks to the bottomless supplies of fossil fuels that exist beneath our feet.”

The report also marveled at how fortunate it is that such an abundant energy source is so safe and easy to extract, transport, and burn that we need not give such practices a second thought whatsoever.

Ocean acidification bill advances in legislature

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Ocean acidification bill advances in legislature

See: http://www.boothbayregister.com/article/ocean-acidification-bill-advances-legislature/29575

A proposal to address how changing ocean chemistry can damage Maine’s coast, shellfish industry and jobs won unanimous support from the Marine Resources Committee on Monday.

LD 1602, a measure sponsored by Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, would establish a commission to look at the effects of ocean acidification and its potential effects on commercial shellfish harvested along the Maine coast.

“Maine’s history and way of life are tied to our coast,” said Devin, a marine biologist. “If the health of our ocean waters is at risk, so are thousands of jobs, the seafood and tourist industries and the seafood we eat.”

The commission would be tasked with recommending policies and steps to respond to the adverse effects of ocean acidification on commercially important shellfish fisheries and Maine’s shellfish aquaculture industry.

“Ocean acidification is a reality we ignore at our peril,” said Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Somerville, the Senate chairman of the committee. “By studying how ocean acidification is impacting and will impact our coastal and marine resources, we will be able to identify strategies to reduce the negative effects of ocean acidification.”

Ocean acidification results from the increased absorption of carbon dioxide emissions. It causes the formation of carbonic acid, which dissolves the shells of shellfish.

“I am happy to see recognition of ocean acidification as an issue that needs further study and potential action,” said Rep. Walter Kumiega, D-Deer Isle, House chairman of the committee.

See: http://www.boothbayregister.com/article/ocean-acidification-bill-advances-legislature/29575

Acidic water blamed for West Coast scallop die-off

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Acidic water blamed for West Coast scallop die-off

Nanaimo-based Island Scallops has shut down its processing plant and laid off a third of its workforce

See: http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Acidic+water+blamed+West+Coast+scallop+caused/9550861/story.html

Ten million scallops that have died in the waters near Qualicum Beach due to rising ocean acidity are the latest victims in a series of marine die-offs that have plagued the West Coast for a decade.

Human-caused carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere are being absorbed by the ocean and may have pushed local waters through a “tipping point” of acidity beyond which shellfish cannot survive, according to Chris Harley, a marine ecologist at the University of B.C.

Rising ocean acidity is a global phenomenon, made worse by higher natural acidity in local waters, Harley said.

“I’ve seen pH measured down to about 7.2, so this is very much within the realm of possibility, though unfortunate and extreme,” he said. “We are in a hot spot in the Pacific Northwest.”

The lower the pH, the higher the acidity. Local waters are typically a much-less-acidic 8.2.

High acidity interferes with the ability of baby scallops to form a protective shell, forcing them to expend more energy and making them more vulnerable to predators and infection.

See: http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Acidic+water+blamed+West+Coast+scallop+caused/9550861/story.html