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EU should reconsider the proposal to ban the use of Malaysian palm oil-based biofuel so that it does not affect the livelihood of small farmers. (AFP pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The European Union’s (EU) proposal to ban the use of Malaysian palm oil-based biofuel within the union is invalid and unjustified, an advocate for Planters United, an NGO made up of a group of planters, said.

Read more: Proposal to ban Malaysian palm oil unjustified, planters tell EU

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Trees fell and roads flooded but storm appears to have done less damage than feared.

Rain, wind, and surging seawater from a tropical storm have buffeted coastal villages and tourist resorts on southern Thailand’s east coast, knocking down trees and utility poles and flooding roads.

One person was reported dead and another missing after a fishing boat with a crew of six capsized in high waves, but by nightfall it appeared that Tropical Storm Pabuk had caused less damage than feared.

Airlines and boat operators suspended operations for safety reasons and some tourists were forced to change travel plans. Beaches were closed but some bars and restaurants on the popular island of Koh Samui remained open.

Before the storm, more than 6,100 people were evacuated from their homes in four provinces, according to the department of disaster prevention and mitigation.

The meteorological department said the storm had maximum sustained winds of 47mph when it made land shortly after noon. It warned of continuing strong winds and waves 3-5 meters high in the Gulf of Thailand and 2-3metres in the Andaman Sea. It advised all ships to stay ashore on Saturday and warned of possible storm surges on the Gulf coast.

“We can expect heavy rain and downpours, flooding and flash floods in the area throughout the night,” said the department’s director general, Phuwieng Prakhammintara.

Evacuation efforts were especially intense in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, where authorities sent trucks through flooded streets with downed power lines urging people to leave. “You cannot stay here. It’s too dangerous,” officials repeated over loudspeakers.

Read more: Tropical Storm Pabuk buffets Thailand's east coast

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Extreme weather and dire climate reports are intensifying the mental health effects of global warming: depression and resignation about the future.

The Delta Fire rages in Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California on Sept. 6.Noah Berger / AP file

When the U.N. released its latest climate report in October, it warned that without “unprecedented” action, catastrophic conditions could arrive by 2040.

Read more: 'Climate grief': The growing emotional toll of climate change

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Forests are the most powerful and efficient carbon-capture system on the planet.

A forest planted on an abandoned open-pit coal mine, Germany. Credit: Hans Blossey Getty Images

The latest IPCC report  does not mince words about the state of our planet: we must act now to achieve global change at a scale that has “no documented historical precedent” in order to avoid the climate catastrophe that would result from a 2 degree C rise in average global temperature. Climate change already disproportionately affects the world’s most vulnerable people including poor rural communities that depend on the land for their livelihoods and coastal communities throughout the tropics. Indeed, we have already seen the stark asymmetry of suffering resulting from extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires and more.

Read more: The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change Isn't a Technology

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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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