IPCC Chair Urges Action by the Media

The chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the news media are not sufficiently addressing the severity of climate change at a meeting of U.S. environmental journalists earlier this week.R.K. Pachauri, head of the 2,500-member IPCC, said that unless policies are enacted soon to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, the global perils from shifting weather patterns and sea level rise will become worse in the coming years.

To communicate the dangers of climate change, Pachauri urged the annual gathering of the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) to help translate the most recent IPCC assessment to a local scale and report on how climate change will affect local communities.”In the last year and a half, there has been a massive explosion of awareness; however, the media has not reported enough about the emergency and depth of action,” said Pachauri, who has led the United Nations panel since 2002.

The fact that only half of Americans polled consider human activity to be the main cause of climate change is often blamed on media coverage. But news reports of climate change have steadily increased in recent years, especially since government reports, a major Supreme Court hearing, and the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” brought attention to the climate crisis in 2006.Pachauri suggested that major news agencies now rely too much on high-level science reports or large climate-related events for their stories, rather than examples of climate change’s ongoing effects. “We need to go beyond the cyclical coverage of climate change and emphasize the day-to-day relevance,” he said.

SEJ President Timothy Wheeler said news stories often reflect what public opinion polls suggest are priority topics. According to a January 2008 Pew Research Center study, U.S. voters listed global warming toward the bottom of their current policy concerns. “When the economy is the way it is, a war is going on, these are the things that grab the headlines and network news,” Wheeler said.

Several journalists at the conference voiced concerns that the financial instability of many U.S. newspapers may further limit the quantity and quality of environmental reporting. Many news organizations cut their reporting staff and the size of their publications this year due to dwindling profits during the Internet Age.In response, nearly a quarter of newspaper editors said they dedicate fewer reporting resources to science topics than three years ago, according to a July 2008 Pew Research Center survey of editors from the largest U.S. newspapers. Only 10 percent of editors surveyed consider science and technology reporting as “very essential” to the quality of their news product.

Yet the trend for environmental coverage, which would include local pollution stories in addition to global ecological problems, is less clear. The survey said 17 percent of editors decreased their environmental reporting resources, while 22 percent said these resources increased in the past three years.”Editors are cutting international, even national news, and they’re playing up more local and lifestyle stories,” said Wheeler, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun. “But the environment is still an important local story.”

Also speaking at the conference, journalist Jeff Goodell said the news media need to improve their coverage of the risk that coal-fired power plants pose for climate change, even if emissions are eventually captured.”[Carbon-capture and sequestration], as a journalist this is something we’ve done a very bad job of covering,” said Goodell, author of Big Coal. “There are a lot of questions about CCS and whether this is going to work. It’s something everyone in this room should look at in detail.”

Also related to media coverage of climate change, researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that only 0.5 percent of climate change articles mention the role that livestock and meat production play in warming the planet, according to a study set to be published in Public Health Nutrition. Food production in general was mentioned in 2.4 percent of the climate change stories published in U.S. newspapers studied between September 2005 and January 2008.The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has stated that livestock production releases more greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation sector, mainly due to the clearing of land and the release of methane, a gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.


Greening the Home – Public Speaker Panel

Date: October 23
Time: 7:00-9:00pm
Location: Beban Park Lounge, 2300 Bowen Road, Nanaimo
Cost: Free!

New emissions reduction targets
Energy costs rising
Financial crisis threatening real estate values
It’s time to Green your Home!

Simon Fraser University’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT) hosts a speaker panel event on Greening the Home. Working with both the Regional District and City of Nanaimo, under its “Defining the Sustainable City” series, the event invites homeowners to meet with leaders in sustainable development, green real estate investment, and home energy efficiency. Speakers and topics include:

Joe Van Belleghem, Managing Partner, Dockside Green
– the vision for sustainable development
Chris Corps, Principal, Asset Strategics
– good news on investments in green buildings
Helen Goodland, Executive Director, Light House Sustainable Building Centre
– practical tips on improving home energy efficiency

To register, please call the City of Nanaimo Community Planning Office at 250-755-4483.


International Climate Impacts and Responses, and Imagine BC Dialogue

All day free public event November 20, 2008 from 9:30am-4:30pm at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue (580 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC)



15-minute presentations from each panelist, followed by moderated panel dialogue (Joanna Ashworth, Director, Dialogue Programs, SFU to moderate).

International panelists:

Dr. Wendy Craik, Chief Executive, Murray-Darling Basin Commission, Australia
Dr. Anand Patwardhan, Professor, Shaileh J. Mehta School of Management, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
Dr. Allan Lavell, Coordinator, FLACSO (Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales), San Jose, Costa Rica
Dr. Hassan Virji, Director, International START Secretariat, Washington DC (Tanzania)
Arctic speaker – still confirming

Summary: Dr. Gordon McBean, Policy Chair, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction; ACT policy author – on threats facing Canada and BC; effective planning at the federal, provincial and municipal levels; and the recommendations ACT will be releasing.

12:30-1:45pm: Lunch in the ICBC Concourse with keynote speaker

2:00-4:30pm: Presentations and dialogue with public and international experts on climate impacts and futures for BC, to be moderated by Joanna also, and opened with remarks from Cathy Daminato, VP Advancement, SFU

Speakers (10 minutes each):

Graham Whitmarsh, Head, BC’s Climate Action Secretariat (BC govt planning)
BC First Nations Speaker (tbc) (BC First Nations experiences)
Stewart Cohen, Adaptation and Impacts Research Division, Environment Canada; School of Forestry, UBC OR William Rees, Professor, SCARP, UBC (tbc) (future BC scenarios)

Key BC voices also to be invited as audience subject matter experts for this dialogue discussion.

Summary: Dr. Richard Lipsey, ACT co-founder and Professor Emeritus, Department of Economics, SFU


Adapting Infrastructure to Climate Change: Free Public Dialogue

Date: Thursday, October 16, 2008
Time: 3:00 to 5:00 pm
Location: SFU Surrey, Room 5280

Come and hear from a panel of expert speakers on climate impacts to buildings and other crucial infrastructure, and local planning responses. Speakers and topics include:

Dr. Gordon McBean, Policy Chair, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction – climate change and emergency preparedness

Ewa Ciuk, ICLEI Canada – pilot study on sea-level rise for Delta

Efrosini Drimoussis, CH2M Hill Canada Ltd. – Engineers Canada infrastructure climate change vulnerability study (tbc)

Kip Gaudry, Director of Community Planning & Development, Corporation of Delta – responses to the ICLEI study


Extreme Events: Adapting Infrastructure to Climate Change; Business Lucheon and Speakers Panel

What: Extreme Events: Adapting Infrastructure to Climate Change
Business Luncheon and Speaker Panel

Date: Thursday, October 16, 2008
11:30 am to 2:00 pm
Compass Point Inn, Surrey (9850 King George Highway)
To register:
Email info@businessinsurrey.com, attention Heather Scragg.


In partnership with the Surrey Board of Trade, ACT presents a business luncheon and public panel discussion for leaders in the development, construction, financing and real estate sectors. From 11:30 am to 2:00 pm, a four-person expert panel will discuss threats to infrastructure posed by climate change, current standards, and possible responses.

This conference presents a crucial discussion opportunity for leaders in the development community. The ultimate goal is to create models for infrastructure and development that take sustainability and adaptation measures into account, while acknowledging the needs of the business community.

Members of the public and of the Surrey Board of Trade, senior industry leaders, local development and real estate decision-makers are invited to attend.

Graham Whitmarsh, Head of BC’s Climate Action Secretariat
Dr. Gordon McBean,
Policy Chair, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction
Aubrey Kelly, VP Construction and Development, Weststone Properties
Chris Corps, Principal, Asset Strategics and real estate investment expert


Leading International Experts to Visit ACT

November 18th to the 21st will see ACT playing host to 4 international experts in the field of climate change for meetings, a public dialogue, and classroom visits at Simon Fraser University.

The visiting experts includ:

Their expertise includes meteorology, natural resource management, engineering, international policy and economic geography. To learn more about these distinguished guests, please see their biographies below, and please keep checking back for information about the upcoming public dialogue.

Speaker Biographies:

Dr. Wendy Craik, Chief Executive, Murray-Darling Basin Commission (Australia)
Dr Wendy Craik took up her position as Chief Executive of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission (MDBC) on 26 August 2004.

Prior to this Wendy was President of the National Competition Council, Chair of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and Chair of the National Rural Advisory Council. Other former positions include Chief Executive Officer of Earth Sanctuaries Ltd, a publicly listed company specializing in conservation and eco tourism, Executive Director of the National Farmers Federation, Australia’s peak farm lobby group, and Executive Officer of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, responsible for the conservation and management of the Great Barrier Reef. She has also worked as a consultant for AcilTasman Consulting.

Wendy is a member of the Board of the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, and of the Minter Ellison National Government Advisory Board. She has been a member of a variety of other Boards and advisory councils.

Wendy has extensive experience in organizational and natural resource management. She completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) from the Australian National University, a PhD in Zoology at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, and has a Graduate Diploma of Management from the then Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education.

Wendy was awarded Executive Woman of the Year for the Rural Sector in 1998, and Telstra Ansett Australia Private Sector Business Woman of the Year for the ACT in 1999. She was awarded a Federation medal in 2003.

Dr. Allan Lavell, Coordinator, FLACSO (Costa Rica)
Professor Allan Lavell, a British citizen and resident of Costa Rica, is Coordinator to FLACSO for the Program Social Studies, Risks and Disasters (LA RED), and Central America and Caribbean Coordinator for the Latin American Network for Social Studies and Disasters.

A PhD in Economic Geography from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences, Professor Lavell is a Principal Researcher and Coordinator of ENSO and Risk Patterns in Latin America (IAI-LA RED) involving 8 countries.

Professor Lavell is a former Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Program of Social Studies in Disasters at the General Secretariat of FLACSO in Costa Rica (1992-2005); Director Central-American Research Program, CSUCA in San Jose, Costa Rica (1986-1991); Associated Professor at the Demographic and Urban Studies Center, Colégio de Mexico in México and Associated professor and researcher at the Environmental Studies Center (CEMA) of the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, Atzcapotzalco, México

Author of 92 academic publications Professor Lavell’s main works are on risks and natural disasters.

Dr. Anand Patwardhan, Professor, Shailesh J Mehta School of Management at IIT-Bombay (India)
Professor Anand Patwardhan has recently returned to the Shailesh J Mehta School of Management at the IIT-Bombay after serving as the Executive Director at the Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), an autonomous organization in the Department of Science & Technology of India. He also holds an adjunct faculty position at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA.

Professor Patwardhan has a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from IIT-Bombay (1987), a MS in Civil Engineering (Environmental Science) (1991) from Carnegie Mellon University and a PhD in Engineering and Public Policy (1993), also from Carnegie Mellon University. He was a Marine Policy and Ocean Management Fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution from 1994-1995. His research interests are in the broad areas of technology policy; and his work has been in two broad domains: environment & climate change and information & communication technology.

Professor Patwardhan has been actively involved with international scientific assessments in the climate change area, as a lead author for the third and fourth assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. He is a member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). He has worked extensively with industry and government, as a consultant, and as a mentor and advisor for a number of new economy ventures.

Dr. Hassan Virji, Director, International START Secretariat, Washington (Tanzania)
Hassan Virji has served as the Executive Secretary of the U.S. Interagency Subcommittee on Global Change Research while based at the U.S. National Science Foundation; as the Deputy Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme based at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm; and as the Associate Program Director for the Climate Dynamics Program of the U.S. National Science Foundation. He has also held academic and research positions at the University of Nairobi and the University of Wisconsin. Hassan obtained his Ph.D. in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin.


Declining Shrimp Stocks Threaten Greenland

Dwindling shrimp stocks off Greenland’s coast have local fishermen and authorities fretting that one of the island’s main sources of income, coined “pink gold”, could soon vanish. “We must sound the alarm bells because it would be a catastrophe for the island’s economy if the shrimp were to disappear,” Helle Siegstad, a biologist who heads up the research department at Greenland’s Institute of Natural Resources (INR) said.

Although Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, has been attempting to diversify its economy to include more income from tourism and mining, fishing still accounts for nearly 90 percent of all its exports, and shrimp make up more than 50 percent of those sales, according to the local statistics agency. “It would have serious consequences for Greenland’s economy if the stocks disappear, since we have virtually nothing to replace them,” Siegstad said.

In Ilulissat, in the west of the icy island, fishermen say they are having a harder time filling their shrimp nets and are being forced farther and farther from the coast to find the valuable crustaceans. “We weren’t able to fill our quota last year,” one fisherman lamented. Royal Greenland, the world’s leading provider of cold-water shrimp, confirmed that its shrimp boats were reporting shrinking stocks, while Greenland’s main employer’s association said fishermen were complaining of soaring fuel costs as they were forced to stay out longer to catch the same amount of shrimp.

But while everyone seems to be in agreement that there are fewer shrimp, with INR figures showing a drop from 150,536 tonnes caught in 2005 to 139,500 tonnes last year, it is unclear what is causing the decline. “We really don’t know why the shrimps are becoming rarer,” Siegstad said, venturing however to speculate that “it could be due to a combination of global warming and the fact that predators such as cod are moving back into Greenland waters.”

“We’ve noticed in recent decades that when the cod stocks shrink, the shrimp stocks grow, and vice-versa,” she added, pointing out that the shrimp biomass off the island had been shrinking since 2003.

While Siegstad rejects that overfishing is to blame for the dwindling access to the tasty crustaceans, she and most of her colleagues have in vain recommended that the local government dramatically slash quotas.”It is necessary that the quota of 150,000 tonnes of shrimp a year be cut by at least 30 percent and brought down to 110,000 tonnes” this year, and that it be cut further next year, she said. If that does not happen the most pessimistic projections say “stocks could plunge to 40,000 tonnes within four to five years,” she said.

Local finance minister Aleqa Hammond meanwhile said she was leaning towards the theory that climate change was to blame for the gradual disappearance of Greenland’s pink gold. “The Greenlandic economy is based on a single source of revenue: fishing, which is changing due to climate change,” she said. “Warming of two degrees Celsius has a huge impact,” she pointed out, insisting the higher temperatures “explain why the shrimp are emigrating farther north.”

Some Greenlanders are hoping the replenishing cod stocks could help the money flowing in even as the shrimp disappear, but Siegstad warned it would take a long time for cod stocks to reach the sky-high levels of the 1960s. “There is not enough cod to cover the possible losses from shrimp, and there will not be for five to 10 years,” she said. “And if we aren’t careful, if we do not give it time to build up its stocks, we will make the cod disappear,” she said, blasting a government decision to set an annual catch quota of 15,000 tonnes of cod instead of banning all fishing of the species. The challenge, she said, was “to make sure desperate fishermen faced with declining shrimp stocks do not destroy the re-establishment of the cod stocks.”


Researchers Warn of More Floods for Scotland

Flooding around Scotland’s coasts is set to increase because of sea level rises of up to 32cm by 2080, an influential new study has found. The report, Coastal Flooding in Scotland: A Scoping Study, commissioned for the Scottish Government and prepared by scientists at Dundee University, warned action was needed to manage the looming problem.

The study highlighted that almost 25,000 properties across Scotland are currently at risk of coastal flooding on average once in 200 years. The Falkirk local authority area has the highest exposure to such flooding, with just over 6,000 properties at risk. The report estimates that by the 2080s sea levels will be about 20cm higher in the Clyde estuary, 28cm higher in Moray and Aberdeenshire and 32cm higher in the Northern Isles.

The report further found that in response to recent sea level rise, the height of storm surges are increasing in height by up to 2.2mm a year. Dr Tom Bell, the report’s author, said, “We are pretty confident that the sea level will increase in most areas around the Scottish coast. It is fair to say that where the sea level is going up it’s going to exacerbate the hazard.” He added that low-lying areas with inlets or river estuaries were most at risk.

The researchers studied more than 300 coastal floods since 1849 and discovered the Solway Firth, Moray Firth, Aberdeenshire and Firth of Clyde had suffered the most. They also found that storms driven in from the Atlantic Ocean during periods of strong westerly winds were the main cause of coastal flooding.

Andrea Johnstonova, freshwater policy officer at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland, said it was necessary to seek natural, long-term solutions such as “managed coastal realignment”, where some areas are left to be taken over by the sea. She said there was currently a lack of innovative projects to address the increased threat of coastal flooding and sea level rise, and called for it to be the focus of the new Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Bill, which is due to be put before the Scottish Parliament next week. “Climate change and sea level rise is going to increase the risk of coastal flooding in future, putting additional pressure on existing coastal defences and threatening coastal habitats and wildlife,” she said. Dr Ball agreed that coastal realignment could be worth considering in some cases, and said it would probably not have to involve the abandonment of any homes.


Global Search for Climate-Resistant Crops Begins

A global search has begun for food crops with traits that are able to withstand changes to the climate.The project, co-ordinated by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, is searching national seed banks for “climate proof” varieties, including maize and rice. The team will screen seeds for natural resistance to extreme events, such as floods, droughts or temperature swings. They hope the strains will help protect food production from the impacts of climate change. The $ 1.5 million scheme will provide grants for projects that will screen developing nations’ seed collections.

The trust says a lack of readily available and accurate material severely hinders plant breeders’ efforts to identify material that can be used to develop crop varieties that will cope with future conditions. “Our crops must produce more food, on the same amount of land, with less water, and more expensive energy,” explained the trust’s executive director, Cary Fowler, “There is no possible scenario in which we can continue to grow food we require without crop diversity.”

The gene hunt is the latest stage in the organization’s ongoing process of conserving the diversity of the world’s food crops. Over the past few years, it has convened a series of meetings that brought together leading experts for each of the main food crops, such as wheat, rice, lentils and maize. Each meeting was set the task of identifying the best conservation strategy for each of the crops. “The experts have, among other things, helped us identify which are the most important seed collections in terms of genetic diversity,” Fowler said. “This has provided us with the scientific foundation for almost everything else we do.” The information has helped the trust, which is also responsible for the “Doomsday seed vault” in the Arctic, pinpoint the exact characteristics needed to ensure that crops have the best chance of thriving in the future. Mr Fowler said one example was whether a plant displayed a good degree of heat resistance during its flowering period. This was a time when a plant would be experiencing increased stress, he said, yet very little data had been gathered on this part of the organisms’ lifecycles.

Over the next 12-24 months, the project’s researchers hope to build up a comprehensive profile of the various “climate-proof” traits and in which crops they are found. “Then it is a matter of getting these varieties containing those valuable traits into breeding programmes,” Mr Fowler explained. He added that all the data would be made available to everyone – both public and private organisations – in an online database. “Plant breeders will be able to go online and type their search criteria, then up pops the details of the samples that match the breeders’ requirements, such as drought tolerance or heat resistance.”

Developing crops that will be able to produce higher yields and cope with climate change is one avenue that is also being explored by the biotechnology sector. Campaigners in favour of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) hope that developments in this area will lessen public opposition to GM food. When asked whether he was concerned that the information gathered by the trust could be used to produce commercial GM crops, Fowler said: “We don’t have a horse in that race. “Agriculture is facing a lot of challenges, and diversity holds a lot of the keys to meeting those challenges. I wish I had a crystal ball good enough to see what agriculture is going to need 100 years or 500 years from now, but I don’t. All I would say is that the people involved in fighting the pro-GMO or anti-GMO battle don’t have that crystal ball either – the best we can do is conserve all the options.”


New Report Targets Management Adaptations for Ecosystems and Resources

A new report, Preliminary Review of Adaptation Options for Climate-Sensitive Ecosystems and Resources, is a contribution to the US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) and was developed by the Global Change Research Program in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development. It is one of 21 synthesis and assessment products commissioned by the CCSP. The report seeks to provide the best-available science to date on management adaptations for ecosystems and resources. Key findings of the report include:

· The success of adaptation strategies may depend on recognition of potential barriers to implementation and creation of opportunities for partnerships and leveraging.

· The United States’ adaptive capacity can be increased through expanded collaborations among ecosystem managers.

· The United States’ adaptive capacity can be increased through creative re-examination of program goals and authorities.

· Establishing current baselines, identifying thresholds, and monitoring for changes will be essential elements of any adaptation approach.

· Beyond “managing for resilience,” the United States’ capability to adapt will ultimately depend on our ability to be flexible in setting priorities and “managing for change.”


New Report Gives Cities Tools to Increase Resilience

Climate Resilient Cities; 2008 Primer, published jointly by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, provides a tool for municipal governments in the East Asia Region to plan for climate change impacts and associated natural disasters through sound urban planning aimed at reducing vulnerabilities. The main focus of the tool is to identify vulnerable and at-risk-areas.


Dutch Planning Adaptation Measures

A government commission recently presented its recommendations for how the Netherlands must strengthen its water defenses to combat global warming’s potentially devastating effects. The plan by the Delta Commission is expected to be the central reference point for policymakers for decades to come — especially for dealing with anticipated rising seas and the threat of flooding.Two-thirds of the country’s 16 million people already live below sea level. The Netherlands’ political history and even its name, which means the “lowlands,” have been shaped by its location at the delta created by the Rhine and other major European rivers.

The Netherlands has already budgeted euro1 billion (US$1.4 billion) annually for urgent water defense projects over the next 20 years, in addition to the euro500 million (US$720 million) spent annually to maintain existing sea and river dikes.

The worst flood in living memory was a 1953 disaster in which a storm surge drove water along the Dutch coast more than 13 feet (4 meters) above normal levels, breaching defenses and killing more than 1,800 people. The first Delta Commission created after that deluge undertook a massive 40-year building project that made the country’s water defenses among the strongest in the world.

The new commission was created last September, after the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina spurred a new round of reflection and preparations. Those included drawing up worst-case scenario plans for evacuations — a politically unthinkable task just a few years ago.

Dutch policymakers are now preparing for a rise in sea level of around 80 centimeters (30 inches) in the coming century regardless of the ongoing scientific debate on global warming. Strategies introduced in the last decade include pumping sand into strategic offshore locations where North Sea currents sweep them into place, bulking up dunes; re-establishing minor waterways and canals to accommodate sudden water influxes; and designating intentional flooding zones for emergencies. Some long-term ideas previously proposed include altering the course of the Rhine or creating “breaker islands” off the country’s North Sea coast to defend against storm surges.


Lovelock Warns Against Putting Too Much Faith in Engineering Solutions to Climate Change

Engineering solutions to modify the Earth’s environment and climate may be necessary if humanity is to adapt to global warming, a group of influential scientists announced today. Technological fixes such as encouraging cloud formation and increasing the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans have the potential to limit climate change, according to papers published in a special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

The experts, however, also give warning that there is no guarantee that such ingenious schemes will work, and that so-called geo-engineering needs to be assessed properly to ensure that it does not cause more problems than it solves.

Professor James Lovelock, the environmental scientist who developed the Gaia hypothesis of the Earth as a self-regulating organism, likened geo-engineering to 19th-century medicine — a tool that might sometimes work, but was generally too primitive to stave off disaster.

“Whether or not we use … geo-engineering, the planet is likely, massively and cruelly, to cull us, in the same merciless way we have eliminated so many species by changing their environment into one where survival is difficult,” he said. “Before we start geo-engineering, we have to raise the following question: are we sufficiently talented to take on what might become the onerous permanent task of keeping the Earth in homeostasis [balance]?”

He raised the example of introducing aerosols into the stratosphere to induce a cooling effect. While this might have positive effects, it would not address ocean acidification, a separate problem caused by rising carbon emissions, which would then require another engineering solution. “We have to consider seriously that as with 19th-century medicine, the best option is often kind words and painkillers but otherwise do nothing and let Nature take its course,” Professor Lovelock said.


Experts Warn that the West Coast of Africa will be Submerged by 2099

Swathes of West Africa’s coastline extending from the orange dunes in Mauritania to the dense tropical forests in Cameroon will be underwater by the end of the century as a direct consequence of climate change, environmental experts warn.“The coastline will be completely changed by the end of this century because the sea level is rising along the coast at around two centimetres every year,” said Stefan Cramer, Nigeria director of Heinrich Boll Stiftung, a German environmental NGO.

Even where urban areas appear unscathed, sea level rise will still challenge towns and cities by threatening the underground water supplies from which millions of people across the region draw their water.

The effects of sea-level rise will be most “dramatic” in Nigeria’s economic capital Lagos which is just five metres above sea level, with some parts of the city lying below sea-level, Cramer said.The flooding is likely be most severe in Lagos because of its position at the southern end of the Gulf of Guinea where stronger tropical storms from the South Atlantic create storm surges up to three metres high, Cramer said. He estimates that most of the 15 million inhabitants of Lagos will be displaced and Nigeria’s southern Delta region where oil installations are located will also be swamped.

Other major urban centres in West Africa which experts have identified as at risk of flooding are Banjul in The Gambia, Bissau in Guinea Bissau, and Nouakchott in Mauritania. All three capitals are at or close to sea level.

Environmentalists blame the gradual melting of the 3,000 metre-thick Greenland ice cap in the Arctic as being responsible for the coastal erosion along the Coast of Guinea. “It is all due to climate change – the greenhouse gas emissions result in global warming and subsequent melting of the Greenland ice cap,” Cramer said.Compounding the situation in West Africa, in August 2007 a tropical storm 5,000 kilometres off the coast caused a shift in the strong currents that run near the Nigerian coast and destroyed a protective sand bar.

Environmental experts have different solutions to the problem.

“I think the best way out for the moment is devising simpler and more cost effective solutions such as how to preserve towns and villages under threat and preventing sea water intrusion”, the director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Yvo de Boer said.

“The sensible option is moving to higher ground which is a tough option especially for Nigeria as it means giving up its economic centres in Lagos and its oil installations in the Delta”, Cramer said.

But Awudi at Friends of the Earth described relocation as an “unthinkable option” due to its economic, social and cultural implications. “Every solution to a problem must focus on the major cause of that problem and in this case greenhouse gas emissions by industrialised countries which are responsible for sea-level rise must be effectively tackled.”


Mali Works to Protect Communities and Elephant Populations in the Face of Climate Change

Implementers of an international project to help endangered elephants in Mali want to prove that by doing so, they can also help local communities adapt to climate change in the Sahel. The Malian government lists elephants in Gourma in the country’s far desert north as highly endangered. A drought in the 1970’s killed most of the country’s elephants leading the population to dwindle from several thousand down to 350.

Often seen near Lake Banzena, about 400 kilometres south of Gao, these elephants have the largest migration route of any known elephant group according to the World Bank-funded Gourma Biodiversity Conservation Project (PCVBGE), with an estimated home range of 30,000 square kilometres.

But conservationists say that climate change is leading to increased tensions as elephants and the local population vie for access to water.

“The drought in the Sahel in the 1970’s created a shortage of watering holes,” says Namory Traore, a director at Mali’s National Centre for Nature Conservation.As climate change affects more people in this desert country, Lake Banzena has become one of the last remaining water sources for both animals and people. The nearby Lake Gossi, about 150 kilometres south of Gao, has begun to dry out, and there are fears that the region can no longer support even this smaller elephant population.

Many inhabitants of Gourma have turned to agriculture as desertification is making pastoral life increasingly difficult. Now, thirsty elephants are beginning to raid their newly-cultivated fields.”Sometimes the elephants even break into our reserves and chase people to get the fruits, because they don’t have enough water,” says Alou Tambura, a herder in Haire, about 150 kilometres from Lake Banzena.

The World Bank-funded biodiversity project is designed to protect both animals and humans in drought-prone regions. Its main focus is to facilitate elephants’ passage through inhabited areas.The elephants migrate counter-clockwise, covering a 450 kilometre circular route across northern Mali. After spending the dry season at Lake Banzena, they then head south to Burkina Faso.

The normally arid Gourma has some of the best pasture in the region during the rainy season, typically from June to October. Pastoralists come from as far away as Mopti, Mali and Burkina Faso to feed their animals in lean times, which is also when elephants arrive.”The problem we have is the lack of water. We have excellent pasture, but there is often not enough water for elephants and humans to share,” says herder Tambura.

But the elephants are actually helping herders find water, according to conservationist Traore. “The best water sources are hidden in the forest, and the elephants open it up by trampling down the bush and exposing the grass to light. They break off small branches, which goats cannot reach. Often you’ll see a herder with his goats following the elephants through the forest.”

Traore says elephants have become an integral part of the planting season.”Many herders and farmers take the arrival of the elephants as the start of the rainy season. They won’t plant until they see them, because the elephants won’t move until they’re sure they can find water.”

The PCVBGE project says local communities have an economic incentive to save the elephants.”We are developing a tourist industry here based on wildlife in a way similar to safari,” says Binama Sissoko, director of PCVBGE. “Guides who come from Bamako have little sympathy or understanding for life in the north, so we are training local guides and building tourist camps so that northerners can profit from, and fight to save, their natural resources.”

Mali’s Ministry of Environment has reported climate change threatening giraffes, lions, cheetahs, dwarf hippos and 15 bird species throughout the country. Organisers are looking at the elephant project as a test to see whether local communities can also benefit from saving an endangered species in areas with shrinking cultivable land and water supplies.

Herder Tambura says elephants are no longer a threat to him, and have, instead, helped him find water for his animals. “With more education, awareness and water wells, elephants and people can live together.”


Report Urges the Protection of Biodiversity to Increase Food Security

A new report produced by Greenpeace suggests that a review of recent scientific literature underlines that the most effective strategy to adapt agriculture to climate change is to increase biodiversity. Food Security and Climate Change: The Answer is Biodiversity, goes on to state that a mix of different crops and varieties in one field is a proven and highly reliable farming method to increase resilience to erratic weather changes. The report further notes that the best way to increase stress tolerance in single varieties are modern breeding technologies that do not entail genetic engineering, such as marker assisted selection.

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