People's Stories Environment

The global inequality of climate change
by Christian Aid, IPCC, Oxfam, agencies
Aug. 2019
As scientists of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meet in Geneva this week to publish their Special Report on Climate Change and Land, a new report by the development charity Christian Aid shows that climate change is having a disproportionate impact on the food systems of the country’s least responsible for causing the climate crisis.
The IPCC is expected to show how climate change will affect global food supply, spiking prices and reducing nutrition. It is also likely to recommend that countries will need to drastically cut emissions if global food security is to be protected.
Christian Aid’s new report Hunger Strike: The Climate & Food Vulnerability Index shows that the top 10 most food insecure countries all generate less than half a tonne of CO2 per person and just 0.08% of global carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, the countries that have been blocking the adoption of recent IPCC science reports at UN meetings: Russia (12.2 tonnes), the USA (15.7) and Saudi Arabia (19.4) all have huge per capita carbon footprints.
Topping the Index is Burundi, which, perversely, also happens be the country with the lowest CO2 per capita emissions, a tiny 0.027 tonnes. This is so low it is often rounded to zero.
This means that the average Russian generates the same CO2 as 454 Burundians, an American 581, an Australian 609 and a Saudi 719. In the UK an average Briton generates the same CO2 as 212 Burundians.
Philip Galgallo, Christian Aid’s Country Director for Burundi, said: “Burundi is a living testament to the injustice of the climate crisis. Despite producing almost no carbon emissions, we find ourselves on the front line of climate change, suffering from higher temperatures, lower crop yields and increasingly unreliable rains.
“In a just world our problems would be something we could address ourselves. But because we haven’t caused this climate breakdown, we alone cannot solve it. We need richer, more polluting, countries to cut their emissions rapidly if we’re going to hold back the ravages of climate change and reverse its affects. Because of the global nature of climate change this is an opportunity for the world to act together in solidarity and fairness.
“We have great potential for clean energy but we need funding and support to unlock it. We have renewable resources of wind and solar with which we can power our development but we don’t have the finances or technology to harness them.
“It is vital that developed country governments heed the warnings of the UN scientists and cut their emissions urgently. The lives of millions of the poorest people demand that they do.”
Report author Dr Katherine Kramer, Christian Aid’s Global Climate Lead, said although personal actions were important to drive down emissions, it was action from Governments and big business that needed to happen the most.
“This report outlines in stark details the global inequality of climate change and how it is the most vulnerable that are contributing least to the problem and suffering the most.
“That is why we need to see rapid and radical emissions reductions in richer, high emitting countries, ending the fossil-fuelled era forever. Additionally, these countries need to provide financial support and new technology to help poorer countries to develop cleanly and become resilient to existing and future climate impacts.”
Dr Doreen Stabinsky, Professor of Global Environmental Politics at the College of the Atlantic in Maine, said: “Climate change poses enormous threats to our ability to feed ourselves. The poorest and most vulnerable are currently suffering the most from the impacts on food production and already many across the world are migrating from their homes in order to be able to feed their families.
“These are warning signals that all of us ignore at our peril, for agriculture ultimately is one of the most threatened of our economic sectors and most fundamental for the healthy functioning of our societies and our communities. Both the Christian Aid report and the upcoming IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land begin to make clear how serious a threat this is, and how urgently we need to act.”
Only last month a study in Lancet Planetary Health showed that over the next 30 years, climate change combined with increasing carbon dioxide could significantly reduce the availability of critical nutrients like protein, iron, and zinc.
One of the authors of that study, Dr Samuel Myers, Principal Research Scientist at Harvard University’s Department of Environmental Health, said:
“Our research shows that rising concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are reducing the nutritional quality of the food we eat and that the most vulnerable people to these impacts are those least responsible for rising global CO2 concentrations. From this, and other, research, what is quite clear is that climate change is not only a global health crisis, it is a moral crisis.”
* Access the climate and food vulnerability index:
Aug. 2019
Climate crisis reducing land’s ability to sustain humanity, says IPCC - ecosystems never before under such threat and restoration is urgent. (Guardian News)
The climate crisis is damaging the ability of the land to sustain humanity, with cascading risks becoming increasingly severe as global temperatures rise, according to a landmark UN report compiled by some of the world’s top scientists.
Global heating is increasing droughts, soil erosion and wildfires while diminishing crop yields in the tropics and thawing permafrost near the poles, says the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Further heating will lead to unprecedented climate conditions at lower latitudes, with potential growth in hunger, migration and conflict and increased damage to the great northern forests.
The report, approved by the world’s governments, makes clear that humanity faces a stark choice between a vicious or virtuous circle. Continued destruction of forests and huge emissions from cattle and other intensive farming practices will intensify the climate crisis, making the impacts on land still worse.
However, action now to allow soils and forests to regenerate and store carbon, and to cut meat consumption by people and food waste, could play a big role in tackling the climate crisis, the report says.
Such moves would also improve human health, reduce poverty and tackle the huge losses of wildlife across the globe, the IPCC says.
Burning of fossil fuels should end to avoid “irreversible loss in land ecosystem services required for food, health and habitable settlements”, the report says.
“This is a perfect storm,” said Dave Reay, a professor at the University of Edinburgh who was an expert reviewer for the IPCC report. “Limited land, an expanding human population, and all wrapped in a suffocating blanket of climate emergency. Earth has never felt smaller, its natural ecosystems never under such direct threat.”
Professor Jim Skea, from the IPPC, said the land was already struggling and climate change was adding to its burdens. Almost three-quarters of ice-free land was now directly affected by human activity, the report says.
Poor land use is also behind a quarter of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions – the destruction of forests, huge cattle herds and overuse of chemical fertilisers being key factors.
Emissions relating to fertilisers have risen ninefold since the early 1960s. Rising temperatures are causing deserts to spread, particularly in Asia and Africa impacting over 500 million people the report says.
One stark conclusion in the IPCC report is that soil, upon which humanity is entirely dependent, is being lost more than 100 times faster than it is being formed in ploughed areas; and lost up to 20 times faster even on fields that are not tilled.
* IPCC report on Climate Change and Land:
Aug. 2019
Australia must listen to its Pacific neighbours on climate crisis, says Raijeli Nicole - regional director of Oxfam in the Pacific. (ABC News)
In the Pacific, the climate crisis is a matter of survival for our most vulnerable nations.
While Pacific peoples are resourceful and resilient, we depend on the cooperation of our neighbours — Australia and New Zealand.
Pacific governments, civil society organisations and local communities are working with great determination to meet this defining challenge of our times. We have made bold national commitments, played a leading role in international negotiations, and are working to build the resilience of our communities in a rapidly changing world.
Right now, Australia''s rising pollution and burgeoning fossil fuel exports are undermining our future.
In Tuvalu, where Pacific Island Forum leaders will meet this week, the human toll and grave injustice of the climate crisis is clear for all to see. Nowhere does the land rise more than a few metres above sea level. At some points, the main island is barely 20 metres wide. Sometimes, waves wash right over the island from the ocean to the lagoon, destroying houses and crops and contaminating scarce water supplies.
It is not only people''s homes, food and water that are at stake. Put simply, Tuvalu''s very existence is threatened by the climate crisis.
People fear a loss of culture, of ancestral connection to their land and ocean, and even their very sovereignty should they be forced from their homes and land. Most do not see migration as an option in the face of the climate crisis.
Rather, we must do everything possible to drive down global climate pollution, adapt to the changes that can no longer be avoided, and uphold people''s right to remain where they are.
Here in the Pacific, the Australian Government''s recklessness in the face of the climate crisis — in full knowledge of its implications for our people — is hard to fathom.
Last year, Australia joined all members of the Pacific Islands Forum in endorsing the Boe Declaration on Regional Security. The declaration reaffirms climate change as the single biggest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the people of the Pacific and members'' commitment to the Paris Agreement.
But Australia''s actions tell a different story. In the year following that historic declaration, Australia''s emissions have continued to climb and the Government has approved the opening up of the Galilee coal basin. It has stated it will not make further contributions to the Green Climate Fund — a critical source of support to vulnerable communities — and has refused thus far to heed the UN Secretary-General''s call for all countries to strengthen their commitments to the Paris Agreement before 2020.
It intends to further compromise its already-very-modest contribution by using "carry-over" from the Kyoto period to meet its 2030 target — a move ruled out by almost every other country and which undermines the spirit of cooperation and ambition on which the agreement depends.
Make no mistake — such actions are harming Australia''s friendships with the region, just as they are risking all of our futures.
In October last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change laid out, in alarming terms, the consequences of failing to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and the scale and pace of action necessary to achieve this goal.
Global climate pollution must be roughly halved over the next decade and reach zero before mid-century. The Pacific, despite contributing almost nothing to global climate pollution and with few resources to respond to this crisis, is doing its part. Our message has been simple: if we can do it, so can you.
As Prime Minister Scott Morrison heads to Tuvalu, we urge the Australian Government, and all Australians, to listen to those on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
This year''s Pacific Islands Forum Leaders'' Meeting marks the start of a crucial 18-month window that will culminate at the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in 2020.
It comes ahead of September''s United Nations Climate Summit, where all countries are expected to renew and strengthen their commitments to the Paris Agreement. Decisions taken over this period will profoundly affect the lives and prospects of communities worldwide, and in particular the peoples of the Pacific, far into the future.
For Australia to continue down its current path risks global heating in excess of 3 degrees and undermining all the progress of tackling climate change and poverty in recent decades.
This week''s meeting also comes at a time when great powers, from China to the United Kingdom, are stepping up their engagement with the Pacific.
For any country to be a trusted member of the Pacific family, and with that retain the ability to help shape the region''s future, they must respond to the number one priority of Pacific Island countries— climate change.
* Pacific Islands Development Forum: Nadi Bay Declaration on the Climate Change Crisis in the Pacific:

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Globally, it was the hottest June on record
by ReliefWeb, NOAA, Inside Climate News, agencies
Aug. 2019
July 2019 was hottest month on record for the planet. (NOAA)
Much of the planet sweltered in unprecedented heat in July, as temperatures soared to new heights in the hottest month ever recorded. The record warmth also shrank Arctic and Antarctic sea ice to historic lows.
The average global temperature in July was 1.71 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 60.4 degrees, making it the hottest July in the 140-year record, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. The previous hottest month on record was July 2016.
Nine of the 10 hottest Julys have occurred since 2005—with the last five years ranking as the five hottest. Last month was also the 43rd consecutive July and 415th consecutive month with above-average global temperatures.
The period from January through July produced a global temperature that was 1.71 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 56.9 degrees, tying with 2017 as the second-hottest year to date on record.
It was the hottest year to date for parts of North and South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the southern half of Africa, portions of the western Pacific Ocean, western Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.
Record-low sea ice: Average Arctic sea ice set a record low for July, running 19.8% below average – surpassing the previous historic low of July 2012.
Average Antarctic sea-ice coverage was 4.3% below the 1981-2010 average, making it the smallest for July in the 41-year record.
July 2019
Globally, it was the hottest June on record. (Inside Climate News, agencies)
The extreme heat wave that gripped Europe in late June and sent temperatures soaring to 114 degrees Fahrenheit was made at least five times more likely by global warming, scientists with the World Weather Attribution group said Tuesday.
It was a quick and unambiguous finding, a judgment that in past times would have been harder to declare without heavy hedging.
The week of heat threatened vulnerable older people, damaged roads and railroad tracks and forced a rescheduling of national school exams in France. The Swiss meteorological service called it one of the most intense heat waves in that country''s history and said the heat had a clear climate change signal.
"The normally hottest part of the summer is yet to come," World Weather Attribution''s Geert Jan van Oldenborgh warned.
The World Weather Attribution scientists zoomed in on France while the heat wave was still being felt to assess the impact of global warming.
Using climate models and historical temperature records, they compared heat waves with and without the effects of human-caused greenhouse gases. They calculated that global warming had made the extreme June heat event at least five times more likely—and said the probability was likely even higher.
"Without considering climate model results, the observed temperature record suggests that a heat wave like the one in June is now at least 10 times more likely than in 1901, and possibly 100 times or more, and that maximum heat wave temperatures are about 4 degrees Celsius [about 7°F] warmer now than in 1901," said co-author Robert Vautard, a climate researcher at the Laborataire des Sciences du Climat in France.
"Every heat wave occurring in Europe today is made more likely and more intense by human-induced climate change," the scientists wrote in the latest study. "How much more depends very strongly on the event definition: location, season, intensity and duration."
Worryingly, they said, extreme heat waves are happening more frequently than projected by climate models, which could be a deadly trend.
As the heat wave spread across western and central Europe this past week, temperatures spiked to between 10°F and 18°F above normal in France, Germany, northern Spain, northern Italy, Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic. Scores of cities and towns set monthly and all-time highs.
Europe as a whole saw its hottest June on record, a full 1.8°F (1°C) above its previous high set in 1999. Copernicus, the European climate service, announced that the entire Earth had just experienced its warmest June on record, topping the reading from June 2016 that followed a warming El Niño.
The heat wave lingered in Europe for days, with hot nights that didn''t allow buildings or humans a chance to cool down. Heat wave deaths often outnumber deaths from all other natural disasters annually, but they don''t get as much public attention because they typically don''t appear in the statistics until after the event.
People will have to rethink how they live as heat waves intensify, said Friederike Otto, acting director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford and a co-author of the study.
"All over Europe, we need to build much better," she said. "We need well-insulated buildings that keep cool in summer and warm in winter. Without that, we will suffer in heat waves, but importantly also not reach net zero carbon emissions."
Extreme heat, especially when prolonged over days or weeks, can also stress crops, disrupt pollination and trigger flooding, as was reported along the Inn River in Austria in early June, when record warmth at high elevations quickly melted the winter''s accumulated snow.
The attribution study''s findings about the heat wave are in line with other recent studies, including major reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the National Climate Assessment, said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Of all global warming''s dangerous impacts, scientists are most certain that the build-up of greenhouse gases will continue to send temperatures soaring to unprecedented spikes more often.
In a 2017 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Swain and other scientists found human fingerprints on 80 percent of all heat waves in areas with reliable temperature records. In a few decades, every summer will see temperatures hotter than today''s, he said.
Researchers studying the causes of the heat waves are eyeing changes in the jet stream and other ocean atmospheric patterns, but "just the temperature rise of global warming is enough to drive unprecedented heat waves," Swain said.
"If you have the same exact weather patterns and you add 1 to 2 degrees Celsius warming on top of that, you''re going to increase the likelihood of unprecedented heat waves," he said. "Everything will be unprecedented. Summer is like a whole new season of heat for much of the world.
"That is scary, because you can imagine a whole summer that is hotter than the extremes right now. We are locked into a large amount of additional warming even in an optimistic emissions scenario," he said. "What we do in the next few years matters."
The June heat wave also set the stage for a massive, fast-moving wildfire in Spain, said University of Reading (UK) climate researcher Hannah Cloke, who is working on ways to improve warnings for people about extreme events by combining data from wildfires, including smoke impacts, with heat stress data.
"This is actually really getting quite scary," she said. "It''s a human problem, not a scientific problem.. We are deep into the red and there''s not really a way back from that." Like last year, heat waves have been occurring across the Northern Hemisphere this summer.
Early in June, a heat wave in Greenland caused widespread melting across the surface of the ice sheet. Alaska is also setting high temperature records, sea ice around its coast is melting faster than normal, and wildfires have burned nearly half a million acres already this year.
Some of those fires are above the Arctic Circle, along with many more in Siberia. There was an "unprecedented" level of wildfire activity in the Arctic during June, said Mark Parrington, a senior scientist with Copernicus ECMWF.
India and Pakistan also sweltered in a deadly heat wave in early June that contributed to the depleting of a major municipal water reservoir in Chennai, a city of about 10 million people.
An Indian government think-tank Niti Aayog warned last year Chennai was one of 21 cities that it thought could run out of ground water by 2020. India received 24 percent less rainfall than the 50-year average in the week ending on June 26, data from the India Meteorological Department showed, with scant rains over central and western regions of the country. In 2018 drought destroyed crops, ravaged livestock and exhausted reservoirs, leaving some cities with little water.
Across Asia, 3.4 billion people could be living in "water stressed areas" by 2050, according to a 2016 Asia Development Bank (ADB) report.
And on the U.S. West Coast, San Francisco hit 100°F in June for the first time on record.
June 2019
New research predicts extremes of weather will hit food production across Africa, cites The Observer
Global heating could bring many more bouts of severe drought as well as increased flooding to Africa than previously forecast, scientists have warned.
New research says the continent will experience many extreme outbreaks of intense rainfall over the next 80 years. These could trigger devastating floods, storms and disruption of farming. In addition, these events are likely to be interspersed with more crippling droughts during the growing season and these could also damage crop and food production.
“Essentially we have found that both ends of Africa’s weather extremes will get more severe,” said Elizabeth Kendon of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre in Exeter. “The wet extreme will get worse, but also the appearance of dry spells during the growing season will also get more severe.”
This meteorological double whammy is blamed on the burning of fossil fuels, which is increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and causing it to heat up. Last month levels of carbon dioxide reached 415 parts per million, their highest level since Homo sapiens first appeared on Earth – and scientists warn that they are likely to continue on this upward curve for several decades. Global temperatures will be raised dangerously as a result.
The new meteorology study – carried out by scientists at the Met Office in collaboration with researchers at the Institute of Climate and Atmospheric Science at Leeds University – reports on the likely impact on Africa of these temperature rises and indicates that western and central areas will suffer the worst impacts of weather disruptions. Many countries in these regions – including Niger, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo – are expected to experience substantial growth in population over that time and will be particularly vulnerable to severe floods.
At the other end of the precipitation spectrum, the study revealed there would be an increase in occasions when severe drought would occur for up to 10 days in the midst of the most critical part of a region’s growing season. The result could cause severe disruption to crop production.
“We have been able to model – in much finer detail than was previously possible – the manner in which rainfall patterns will change over Africa,” said Kendon. In the past it was thought intense rainfalls would occur in a region every 30 years. The new study indicates this is more likely to happen every three or four years.
An example of such flooding occurred two weeks ago when it was reported that eight people had died south of Kampala in Uganda after torrential rain hit the region. Similarly, at least 15 people were reported to have died during floods in Kenya last year. Thousands lost their homes.
“Our research suggests that extreme bouts of rainfall are likely to be seven or eight times more frequent than they are today,” said Kendon.
The new research, which is published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, is based on forecasts of rainfall in Africa that were achieved by analysing weather patterns in great detail.
“Africa is one of the parts of the planet that is going to be most vulnerable to climate change,” said Kendon. “Our study of rainfall patterns shows there are going to be some very severe problems to face food security and dealing with droughts.”


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