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Climate Change News

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Climate-smart agriculture boosts yields, mitigates extreme weather impact and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. A study in Central America, Africa, and Asia points to profitable opportunities for farmers and the environment.

CREDIT: INTERNAIONAL CENTER FOR TROPICAL AGRICULTURE / GEORGINA SMITH

Cacao farmers in Nicaragua lose their crop, the main ingredient for chocolate, to fungal blight and degrading soils. Yields drop in Vietnam's rice paddies because of higher temperatures and increased salinity. Bean and maize growers in Uganda see their plants die during severe dry spells during what should be the rainy season. The two-punch combination of climate change and poor agricultural land management can be countered with simple measures that keep farms productive and profitable. Implementation of this climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices can increase yields, benefit the environment and increase farmer income, according to a new cost-benefit analysis by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) published November 19 in PLOS ONE.

Read more: Simple steps to climate-proof farms have big potential upside for tropical farmers

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As plans for the planned Thepha coal-fired power plant move forward, women’s groups are joining academics, local community members, and environmental and civil society groups in Pattani Bay, southern Thailand, to oppose the plant’s construction. The group is concerned by the threat that the planned plant poses to the bay’s marine resources, which many community members depend on.

Picture: Pongsit Nopmaneepaisan

Read more: Women Lead Community Response To Coal Plant Development As Fishing Community Faces Massive...

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A coal-fired power plant in Kosovo. Credit: World Bank.

At the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings in Bali in October, the Bank signaled that it would further limit its future coal finance portfolio, introducing a new policy that will encourage divestment from coal in financial intermediaries (i.e. commercial banks and asset funds) that are clients of the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the Bank’s private sector arm). The Bank also formally announced that a coal-fired power plant in Kosovo, which it had previously considered funding, was now ‘off the table’ (see Observer Autumn 2018).

Read more: As climate crisis bites, World Bank further distances itself from coal

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Spurred by a likely El Niño as well as climate change, the planet is expected to heat up, even more, scientists warn.

An El Niño event is very likely underway, amping up extreme weather already made worse by climate change and increasing the odds that 2019 will be the hottest year in recorded human history, scientists warn.

There is an 80 percent chance a full-fledged El Niño has already begun and will last until at least the end of February 2019, according to the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The impacts of El Niño have been more severe in recent years because of global warming, and these impacts will be worse as temperatures continue to rise, according to a recent study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“With an El Niño, it’s entirely possible 2019 will be the hottest year ever,” said co-author Samantha Stevenson, a climate scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The top four hottest years have been among the last four, 2015-2018, driven by increased emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2)—which have also reached record levels, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The Earth’s climate has been warmer than the 20th Century average over the last 406 consecutive months. That means no one under the age of 32 has ever experienced a cooler-than-average month.
 
“Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference to human health and access to food and fresh water, to the extinction of animals and plants, to the survival of coral reefs and marine life,’’ said WMO Deputy Secretary-General Elena Manaenkova.

Read more: 2019 may be the hottest year yet—here's why

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Climate change has forced Mr Bernardo Pelayo to relook his rice-growing practices, which include introducing varieties that are resilient in both heavy rain and drought.ST PHOTO: TAN HUI YEE

Besides reintroducing native rice varieties, Philippine growers are eyeing other crops like cassava.

Mr Bernardo Pelayo carefully scoops up a handful of rice from a sack in a corner of his home, which doubles as a village sundry shop.

The stubby grains ofCamuros, a native variety of rice well adapted to the mountainous Maragondon municipality, some two hours' drive from Manila, are not for sale.

Difficult farming conditions mean that the wiry-framed widower has little surplus to sell, so he keeps it to feed his four children and himself. The 49-year-old is among the falling numbers of people in Layong Mabilog village who grow their own rice.

"When I first came here 30 years ago, there used to be rice fields everywhere. Everyone was secure. There was plenty of rice and different kinds of rice," he tells The Sunday Times in his patio, which gave respite from the searing mid-morning sun.

But climate change, labor shortage and a host of other hurdles forced many of his neighbors to give up planting paid.

Read more: Farmers see indigenous crops in a new light

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The International Rice Research Institute has secured indefinite funding to produce varieties that can resist high temperatures, droughts, and floods.

Picture: ISTOCK

Read more: Rice gene bank gets huge funding boost to combat climate change

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  • A study in 2007 of 141 countries over the period 1981 to 2002 shows that in societies where the socioeconomic status of women is low, natural disasters kill more women than men, both directly and indirectly via related post-disaster events.
  • A Berkley study in the Philippines found that while officials report roughly 740 deaths on average every year due to typhoon exposure in the Philippines, post-typhoon mortality among baby girls is approximately 15 times higher than that.

Disasters are regularly in the news — from hurricanes to earthquakes to, droughts to chemical explosions — and they are as diverse as their impacts, which can disrupt the economy, the environment, infrastructure, people and livelihoods. No person, country or sector is immune, but the type and degree of impacts are variable. Women and girls are among the most negatively impacted by disasters: not due to any inherent vulnerability but as a result of social construction of gender norms and the related power imbalance in which women often have limited access to and control over resources.

In most societies, women are responsible for the majority of unpaid domestic and care work. And in many cases, women work a triple shift: productive work in the formal or informal sector; reproductive work associated to the household (cooking, cleaning, providing water and fuel, caring for children, the elderly and the sick); and community management roles (volunteer work in community management). This workload can impede enough time for sleep, and can impact a woman’s health and resilience to shocks and stressors. But add to that other inequalities that women face in terms of access to their human rights in the form of decent paid work, land tenure, health care including sexual and reproductive health, education, water and sanitation, freedom from sexual and other violence, a healthy environment, etc., and the shock of a disaster can be a major setback.

A body of research shows the impacts of disaster are differentiated, with particular issues for women that include increased domestic violence and sexual assault in emergency shelters. But gender-disaggregated data is still not collected regularly enough to give a full picture of the impacts of disasters on women and girls, not to mention on LGBTIAQ+, indigenous, disabled or older persons, or migrants/refugees.

The hard economic data that is collected in the short-term to measure progress on the expansive commitments of the Sendai and SDG frameworks does not capture many of the risks and impacts that are complex and secondary to the disaster in question, such as job and livelihood loss, displacement, migration, health, infant mortality and food security, and which highly impact women as a result of systemic discrimination. Women’s rights and feminist advocates, activists, and researchers have advocated for decades for better data as well as resources to meet gender commitments.

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Read more: Climate-Induced Disasters Affect Women & Girls First

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Many people are already facing the impacts of a changing climate and need help adjusting now, world leaders assert.

Read more: Bill Gates launches effort to help the world adapt to climate change

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In a landmark report released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), experts have warned that urgent actions are needed if we are to keep global warming below 1.5°C to prevent catastrophic environmental collapse that would impact on the health, livelihoods, food security and economic growth of vulnerable communities around the world.

Read more: One key to change is on our plates

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It is imperative that we breed new varieties of plants to make agriculture more sustainable, given increasing food demand and a warming climate. Until recently, mutations and classical breeding techniques were sufficient to breed new varieties. At the end of the 20th century, tissue culture, gene transfer, and other molecular biologic developments entered the picture. In the past decade, a variation on mutation has emerged. We now see thousands of new plant varieties that were bread using artificial mutation with X or gamma rays or colchicine application. A mutation is a spontaneous or purposeful change in one of the genes of a living organism.

Read more: Countering the impact of climate change through new breeding techniques

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