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May 14 2013


Worldwide Efforts to Combat Drought, Desertification to Take Shape in Namibia This Year

Efforts to tacle accelerating drought and desertification take shape this year an Namibia  Land degradation – more specifically drought and desertification – have become increasingly pressing problems for a growing number of countries around the world, threatening efforts to alleviate poverty, improve basic health and sanitation and address socioeconomic inequality, as well as spur agricultural and sustainable economic development.

The only multilateral, international agreement linking development and environment to sustainable land management (SLM), high-level representatives from 195 nations will be gathering in Windhoek, Namibia from September 16-27 for the 11th bi-annual Conference of Parties (COP) to review implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Meeting for the first time in southern Africa, UNCCD delegates will review implementation of the convention to date and plan for the ensuing two years of programs and actions.

One of the greatest challenges to sustainable development

Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were singled out as the greatest challenges to sustainable development at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Unfortunately, desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) have accelerated during the 20th and 21st centuries to date, posing fundamental problems and challenges for drylands populations, nations and regions in particular.

Severe land degradation is estimated to be affecting 168 countries around the world, according to a first-of-its-kind cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of the global effects of desertification released during the UNCCD Conference and Committee Meeting held this past April in Bonn, Germany. That’s up sharply from 110 as of a previous analysis of data submitted by UNCCD parties in the mid-1990s.

The resulting losses, in lives, human potential, biodiversity and ecosystems health and integrity are alarming. Resulting in the devastation of an area three times that of Switzerland every year, UNCCD analysts estimate that the annual costs of combating land degradation have reached $490 billion…and that’s only expected to increase.

Home to some 2 billion people, approximately 40 percent of the Earth’s land area is considered drylands. Due to a combination of human activities and natural forces – climate change now prominent among them – 10-20 percent are already considered degraded. The total land area affected by desertification is estimated to range between 6 million and 12 million square kilometers, putting the livelihoods and lives of a billion inhabitants at risk.

In the report, “The Economics of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought: Methodologies and Analysis for Decision-Making,”  UNCCD estimates the costs of land degradation to be between 3-5 percent of global agricultural Gross Domestic Production. Furthermore,  “the cost of siltation of water reservoirs is estimated at USD18.5 billion per year, and salinity in global agriculture at about USD12 billion per year.”

Combatting Desertification via Sustainable Land Management

Continual research, development and rapid implementation of sustainable land management practices are the keys to meeting the challenges DLDD poses, according to the UNCCD. Unfortunately, progress in this regard has been slow and halting. Commodities, other products and ecosystem services afforded by land and ecosystems being affected by DLD are not being valued accordingly, nor are government and private sector institutional frameworks geared towards addressing the issue comprehensively or effectively, experts assert.

Posing a fundamental threat to agricultural and broad, sustainable socioeconomic development, crafting and implementing sustainable land management policies cuts across all facets of a society and challenges long, and often strongly held attitudes, values and institutional frameworks. That makes the process of addressing DLDD awkward, cumbersome and difficult, posing varied, substantial and difficult-to-resolve trade-offs and conflicts of interest.

In the midst of carrying out a ten-year strategy to address DLDD and foster development and implementation of sustainable land management policies and practices, the UNCCD is marshaling the resources of member nations in an effort to combat DLDD through sustainable land management. Part and parcel of this global initiative, UNCCD is identifying, helping develop, implement and sharing effective policies and best practices.

“SLM and ecosystem restoration are the key to enhancing the resilience of systems that are vulnerable to DLDD,” the UNCCD CBA report authors state. “Effective policies need to be based on a good understanding of the challenges faced on the ground.

“Generally speaking, policies that have successfully addressed a transition to more sustainable land-use practices have used participatory approaches, responded to local perceptions and priorities, enjoyed adequate government and civil society backing, and promoted technical packages with low risk and strong economic incentives.”

Furthermore, they go on, “Addressing weak governance and policy-induced distortions that operate through markets to promote  land-degrading activities are arguably amongst the most efficient means of tackling land degradation in developing countries.

“Lastly, given a rising global demand for commodities built on an unsustainable price signal (e.g. wheat price speculations) that converts natural capital for free to provide food, fiber, fodder and fuel, finance must become more accountable for its impact on nature, creating opportunities for change.”

Image credit: iJuliAn, courtesy flickr

The post Worldwide Efforts to Combat Drought, Desertification to Take Shape in Namibia This Year appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 13 2012


Stressed Aquifers Around the Globe

Beyond the depletion of aquifers in California's Central Valley or the Upper Ganges of India and Pakistan, a new study shows severe stresses in Iran, western Mexico and Saudi Arabia.
Sponsored post

August 09 2012


Dust Bowl 2012: Hottest July on Record in U.S.

July 2012 was the hottest July on record. Much of the nation suffers from extreme drought

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that last month was, on average, the hottest July on record for the contiguous United States, beating the previous record set in the dust bowl of 1936. The past 12 months have been the hottest ever recorded in the US, with more than 27,000 heat records broken so far this year, more than the 26,674 for all of 2011, even with the Texas-sized drought that sizzled throughout the state last summer. Last year also saw Oklahoma setting the record for the all-time hottest average summer temperature for any state ever recorded. But that was last year.

This year, drought has extended through 63 percent of the Lower 48, according to the US Drought Monitor, with a peak (so far) on July 24 when nearly 64 percent of the contiguous states were under drought conditions, the highest ever in the Drought Monitor’s 13-year history. The areas of the country suffering “extreme to exceptional” drought conditions more than doubled, rising from 10 percent in June to 22 percent in July.

According to NOAA, the average July temperature in the contiguous United States stood at 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.3 degrees above the 20th century average and the warmest July since record keeping began in 1895. The previous hottest July was in 1936 when the average temperature was 77.4 degrees F.

In 2011, the ratio of record daily high temperatures outnumbered record daily lows by about 3-to-1. This year, that ratio has turned even more lopsided with a ratio of record daily highs to lows of 10-to-1.

As summer progresses, it may seem like the worst is over, and hopefully that is so. But in the final four months of 2010 8,636 record daily highs were tied or set. In the same period last year (Sept.-Dec.) 5,800 records were matched or beaten.

Image credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Another Jolt to Global Food Prices

A global food price index jumped 6 percent in July, with the drought afflicting grain crops in the United States the leading factor.

August 06 2012


On Our Radar: Oklahoma's Wildfires

Some people who were evacuated are allowed to return home, but the blazes continue in pockets in the northeastern part of the state.

August 02 2012


Big Drought Makes for a Small 'Dead Zone'

Because of a lack of rain in the Midwest, far less fertilizer was flushed into rivers and far less nitrates reached the Gulf of Mexico, slowing the process that depletes oxygen there.

July 23 2012


July 19 2012


For the Sweltering, Little Relief in Sight

NOAA issued its monthly climate report for June and a three-month outlook.

May 09 2012


April 24 2012


Drying Up: How Should China Deal with Growing Threat of Water Scarcity & Drought?

China grapples with water scarcity With its massive population, China’s focused on massive infrastructure projects to address what remain growing problems of water scarcity and drought. In the spirit of a grand scheme that dates back to early medieval Chinese times, China’s government is now looking to build the South-North Transfer, a vast new water pipeline that would transport massive amounts from the country comparatively water-rich south to its more water-starved north, according to a ClimateWire report (subscription required).

Pressed by population growth, climate change and rapid industrialization, China’s now facing a water crisis, one that feats of large-scale engineering alone will not solve, according to “Drying Up,” a new Asian Development Bank report.

The incidence of frequent and severe droughts is on the rise in China, yet it is China’s increasing demand for water, over-extraction of water and its inefficient use that pose the greatest threats to sustainable management. “Over extraction and inefficient use of water resource is creating water shortages in cities and putting large populations at risk when a drought occurs, the ADB notes in a press release.

“The country’s traditional approach of building more infrastructure is not enough to fill the widening gap between water supply and demand,” said Qingfeng Zhang, ADB’s Lead Water Resources Specialist and one of the authors of the report. “An integrated water resources management approach is needed to bring balance and prepare safety net supplies for droughts.”

The Chinese government has been trying to reduce Chinese society’s water use, but doing so is proving very difficult. Local governments are not taking advantage of opportunities to mitigate the impacts of these extreme weather events. Meanwhile, the rapidly industrializing country is experiencing “increasingly frequent and intense droughts.”

“Between 2001 and 2006, over 400 cities in the PRC suffered perennial water shortages and 11 suffered severe water shortages,” the report authors point out. “The 2011 drought which affected the Yangtze River left 3.5 million people with minimal drinking water. The 2009 drought affected 60 million people and compromised 6.5 million hectares of land. Between 2004 and 2007, droughts cost the PRC an estimated $8 billion of annual direct economic losses.”

Mitigating the Effects of Drought, Shortages: Disaster Preparedness, Demand Management, Efficient Use

Drawing on experience inside China, in “Drying Up” the ADB water resources team proposes a three-pronged approach for reducing the impacts of drought in China.

  • Strengthen its disaster preparedness, including risk monitoring and early warning systems, to reduce response time and costs incurred by losses, damages and rebuilding.
  • Manage demand through water savings, building better capture and storage facilities, re-evaluating tariffs, and boosting water efficiencies in agriculture, industry, and cities.
  • Take an integrated approach to water management at the municipal level based on water allocation schemes and monitoring that ensure nature, people, and the economy have secure supplies.

The authors draw on the experience of Guiyang residents in the southwestern Guizhou province to illustrate the social, economic and ecological benefits such an approach offers. A severe drought affected the city in 2010, leaving people without drinking water. Some 170,000 needed rations of grain to survive.

The municipality would have had 20% more water during the drought had Guiyang government officials taken the step of requiring the use of water-saving fixtures in residential and commercial buildings, imposing higher industrial water efficiency standards and reducing system leakage.

“Demand management alongside a system that monitors flows and water allocation can propel the country to greater resilience,” according to the report. “This would significantly close the supply-demand gap, which cannot be done by infrastructure alone.”

*Graphic courtesy: ADB – Water for All

April 19 2012


A Rough Patch for Western Waterfowl

An unusually dry few months resulted in thousands of bird deaths, and some worry that the problem could recur unless the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is accorded more water rights.

January 30 2012


January 19 2012


Two More Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters

Severe weather last July in in the Rockies and Tropical Storm Lee in August and September caused more than $1 billion in damages, bringing the total number of such events in 2011 to 14, NOAA says.

December 20 2011


US Needs to Be Better Prepared for Extreme Weather, Ecological Changes Resulting from Climate Change

Ecological changes in the 21st Century

Climate change will cause changes in plant communities across nearly half the Earth’s land surface by 2100, driving conversion of nearly 40 percent of land-based ecosystems from one major ecological community type – forest, grassland or tundra – toward another, according to a new computer study conducted by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The study’s results may put what’s been a record year for US weather-related disasters in a much broader perspective. While it’s impossible to draw a causal link between any one weather event and global warming or climate change, climate change is probably increasing the intensity of some disasters, such as the Texas drought, according to experts from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Addressing attendees at a briefing on Capitol Hill, AAAS’s representatives said that regardless of cause, the frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters is increasing, which is causing greater financial losses than ever. They cautioned that governments and societies need to be better prepared, according to an Insurance News Net report.

Mounting Financial Costs of Climate Change

It’s not useful to debate whether or not climate change exacerbated by humans caused or causes any particular weather event Jay Gulledge, a senior scientist at the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), told Insurance News Net, adding that statistical trends are consistent with scientists’ expectations of climate change.

Texas state climatologist and Texas A&M professor of atmospheric science John Nielsen-Gammon noted that La Niña was the triggering event for this year’s drought in Texas, which is expected to last through next summer. He added that climate change likely intensified the drought by adding about 1 degree Fahrenheit to annual average temperatures in the state. Drought as severe as this year’s could be more likely as a result of ongoing climate change, he added, although more research is needed to confirm that.

Ultimately, increasingly severe and frequent weather events pose a serious risk management problem for public officials and society, and we need to be better prepared, Gulledge said. “This is a risk problem, and we have to manage it as a risk problem,” he said at the 2 December briefing, which was entitled, Drowning and Drought: Extreme Weather Impacts on Our Economy and Society.

JPL-Caltech Climate Change Study

The parts of Earth not covered by land or desert are projected to undergo a 3o percent change in plant cover at minimum, and that means humans as well as plants and animals will need to adapt and in many cases relocate.

JPL and Cal Tech researchers, who investigated how plant life on Earth is likely to react over the next three centuries in response to rising levels of greenhouse gases, published their findings in the journal Climatic Change.

The results show rising emissions will increase ecological stress and change in Earth’s biosphere, with growing numbers of plant and animal species competing for survival. Species turnover will be significant, as some species invade areas occupied by others, according to the researchers’ report.

Besides altering plant communities, “the study predicts that climate change will disrupt the ecological balance between interdependent and often endangered plant and animal species, reduce biodiversity and adversely affect Earth’s water, energy, carbon and other element cycles,” according to JPL’s news release.

“For more than 25 years, scientists have warned of the dangers of human-induced climate change,” said Jon Bergengren, a scientist who led the study while a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech. “Our study introduces a new view of climate change, exploring the ecological implications of a few degrees of global warming. While warnings of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and other environmental changes are illustrative and important, ultimately, it’s the ecological consequences that matter most.”

Image Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

December 16 2011


December 02 2011


On Our Radar: China Hints at Emissions Timetable

In a first, a senior expert with a Chinese government think tank says that Beijing is likely to agree to a quantified target to limit its greenhouse gas emissions after 2020.

November 18 2011


November 15 2011


November 09 2011


On Our Radar: 'Viciously More Expensive' Energy

Energy prices will become "viciously more expensive" and more polluting if governments do not promote renewable energy and nuclear power in the next two decades, the International Energy Agency warns.
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