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Climate stress continues in 2018
by UNFCCC News, PBS, MercyCorps
 
May 2018
 
Deadly storms in India and record temperatures in Pakistan are an indication that more extreme weather events are happening globally owing to climate change, United Nations weather experts said this week.
 
Amid flash-floods in the East and Horn of Africa - and sand and dust storms in the Arabian Gulf - Clare Nullis from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) told journalists at UN headquarters in Geneva that this week’s storms in northern India had reportedly left more than 100 dead.
 
What may well be the hottest temperature ever recorded for April, was registered this week in Pakistan, she added. A weather station in the city of Nawabshah registered 50.2 degrees Celsius on Monday; or 122.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
 
“This is April - not June and July - this is April,” she exclaimed. “We don’t normally see temperatures above 50 degrees: in fact, as we’re aware, we’ve never seen a temperature above 50 degrees C in April.”
 
“We are witnessing the severe impacts of climate change throughout the world”, said the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa. “Every credible scientific source is telling us that these impacts will only get worse if we do not address climate change and it also tells us that our window of time for addressing it is closing very soon,” she added. “We need to dramatically increase our ambitions,” stressed the UNFCCC chief.
 
May 2, 2018
 
Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere hits record High. April monthly average exceeds 410 parts per million for the first time in recorded history.
 
The average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 410.31 parts per million (ppm) for the month of April, according to the Keeling Curve measurement series made at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.
 
This marks the first time in the history of the Mauna Loa record that a monthly average has exceeded 410 parts per million. This also represents a 30-percent increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the global atmosphere since the Keeling Curve began in 1958. In March, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego observed the 60th anniversary of the data series, the first measurements of which were 315 ppm.
 
Prior to the onset of the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels had fluctuated over the millennia but had never exceeded 300 ppm at any point in the last 800,000 years.
 
Carbon dioxide is the most prevalent among all greenhouse gases produced by human activities, attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. http://bit.ly/2IbdZBe
 
Apr. 2018
 
Scientists are now worried that unless accelerated action is taken by 2020, the Paris goal may become unattainable, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters at the UN’s New York Headquarters.
 
The Paris Climate Change Agreement, adopted by countries in December 2015, aims to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further, to 1.5 degrees.
 
“I am beginning to wonder how many more alarm bells must go off before the world rises to the challenge,” Mr. Guterres said on 29 March, noting that 2017 was filled with “climate chaos” and “2018 has already brought more of the same.”
 
“Climate change is still moving much faster than we are,” he warned, calling the phenomenon “the greatest threat facing humankind.”
 
Recent information from the World Meteorological Organization, the World Bank and the International Energy Agency shows the relentless pace of climate change.
 
For instance, the UN chief noted, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.4 per cent, to a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes in 2017.
 
Weather related disasters caused some USD 320 billion in economic damage in 2017, making the year the costliest ever for such losses.
 
In social and economic terms, the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was devastating, washing away decades of development in an instant, according to the World Bank.
 
In South Asia, major monsoon floods affected 41 million people in 2017, while severe drought drove nearly 900,000 people from their homes in Africa.
 
Wildfires caused destruction across the world. Arctic sea ice cover in winter is at its lowest level, and the oceans are warmer and more acidic than at any time in recorded history, according to the WMO.
 
“This tsunami of data should create a storm of concern,” Mr. Guterres said, noting that next year he will “convene a climate summit in New York aimed at boosting global ambition to meet the level of the climate challenge.”
 
“The Stone Age did not end because the world ran out of stones. It ended because there were better alternatives. The same applies today to fossil fuels,” he said, stressing the need for a global transition to a low-carbon economy. http://bit.ly/2qOmAiy
 
Apr 2018
 
How climate change affects people living in poverty (MercyCorps)
 
Around the world, people are experiencing both the subtle and stark effects of climate change. Gradually shifting weather patterns, rising sea levels and more extreme weather events are all clear and devastating evidence of a rapidly changing climate.
 
The impacts of climate change affect every country on every continent. The increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires and droughts threaten food supplies, drive people from their homes, separate families and jeopardize livelihoods. And all of these effects increase the risk of conflict, hunger and poverty.
 
Visible evidence and climbing numbers demonstrate that climate change is not a distant or imaginary threat, but rather a growing and undeniable reality.
 
Climate change places compounded stress on our environment, as well as our economic, social and political systems. Whether it comes in the form of unbearable heat waves, harsh winters, or extreme weather events like Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, climate change undermines development gains and leads to shortages in basic necessities.
 
Climate change threatens the cleanliness of our air, depletes our water sources and limits food supply. It disrupts livelihoods, forces families from their homes and pushes people into poverty.
 
One-third of the planet’s land is no longer fertile enough to grow food. More than 1.3 billion people live on this deteriorating agricultural land, putting them at risk of climate-driven water shortages and depleted harvests. These circumstances lead to worsening hunger and poverty.
 
And they’re facing more disasters than ever. The number of people affected by natural disasters doubled from approximately 102 million in 2015 to 204 million in 2016, although there were fewer natural disasters.
 
They must also learn to adapt to more gradual changes, such as climbing temperatures and declining rainfall. Droughts alone have affected more than 1 billion people in the last decade. Since 2001, droughts have wiped out enough produce to feed 81 million people every day for a year — equivalent to the population of Germany.
 
Climate change is also one of many root causes of conflict around the world: it leads to food shortages, threatens people’s livelihoods, and displaces entire populations.
 
Where institutions and governments are unable to manage the stress or absorb the shocks of a changing climate, threats to the stability of states and societies will only increase.
 
While everyone around the world feels the effects of climate change, people living in the world’s poorest countries — like Haiti and Timor-Leste — are the most vulnerable.
 
Increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, shifting seasons, and natural disasters disproportionately threaten these populations, increasing their risk and their dependency on humanitarian aid.
 
Three out of four people living in poverty rely on agriculture and natural resources to survive. For these people, the effects of climate change — limited water and food sources and increased competition for them — are a real matter of life and death. Climate change has turned their lives into a desperate guessing game.
 
Conflict is the primary cause of poverty and suffering in the world today. And it’s exacerbated by climate change.
 
By amplifying existing environmental, social, political and economic challenges, climate change increases the likelihood of competition and conflict over resources. It can also intensify existing conflicts and tensions.
 
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, shifts in the timing and magnitude of rainfall undermine food production and increase competition for remaining arable land, contributing to ethnic tensions and conflict.
 
And in Karamoja, an area of land that straddles the border of Kenya and Uganda, where resource scarcity has been a long-standing challenge, climate change has further reduced pasture and water resources, increasing competition and resulting in violence, such as cattle raiding.
 
But while climate change can lead to conflict, it can also provide an opportunity for collaboration. These challenges present a unique opportunity for collective action and cooperation in order to mitigate the impacts. For some communities, food, health and lives will depend on cooperation over conflict.
 
Floods and droughts brought on by climate change threaten food production and supply. As a result, the price of food increases, and access becomes more and more limited, putting many at higher risk of hunger.
 
Undernutrition is the largest health impact of climate change in the 21st century. The number of undernourished people in the world has been on the rise since 2014, reaching an estimated 815 million in 2016. And the vast majority live in developing countries. Much of the increase is linked to the growing number of conflicts, which are often exacerbated by climate-related shocks.
 
Rising sea levels, extreme weather events and prolonged drought force millions of people to move away from home every year in search of food, water and jobs.
 
Since 2008, climate change-induced disasters like Hurricane Maria have displaced an average of 21.7 million people each year — 59,600 people every day, 41 people every minute. Millions more have been forced to leave their homes behind to escape severe drought.
 
In 2016, there were 24.2 million new internal displacements due to disasters, which accounted for nearly 80 percent of all new displacements for the year.
 
Meanwhile, gradual changes brought on by deforestation, overgrazing and drought slowly transform pastures to dust, destroy crops and kill livestock, effectively challenging the livelihoods of millions of farmers. These families are forced to leave their homes behind in search of basic necessities and new work.
 
And as sea levels continue to rise, those living near the ocean — about 40 percent of the world’s population — will be left with no choice but to move inland.
 
Almost all of these displacements are occurring in developing countries, where people have fewer resources on hand to cope with progressive shifts or sudden disasters.
 
The impacts of climate change continue to exceed previous scientific forecasts, worsening and multiplying at dramatic rates that will only be amplified in the years to come.
 
Access to clean water is likely to become even more limited, and the risk of hunger and famine will become even greater than it is today. By 2050, climate change has the potential to increase the number of people at risk of hunger by at least 20 percent. The majority of those at risk live in Africa.
 
Tens of millions of people are expected to be forced from their homes in the next decade as a result of climate change. This would be the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen. http://bit.ly/2ISnKB3
 
* PBS Interactive: Rising seas are threatening the Marshall Islands, a low lying nation in the Pacific ocean: http://apps.frontline.org/the-last-generation/


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Biodiversity – the essential variety of life forms on Earth – continues to dangerously decline
by Robert Watson
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
 
24 Mar. 2018
 
Human destruction of nature is rapidly eroding the world’s capacity to provide food, water and security to billions of people, according to the most comprehensive biodiversity study in more than a decade.
 
Biodiversity – the essential variety of life forms on Earth – continues to decline in every region of the world, significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to people’s well-being.
 
This alarming trend endangers economies, livelihoods, food security and the quality of life of people everywhere, according to four landmark science reports released today, written by more than 550 leading experts, from over 100 countries.
 
The result of three years of work, the four regional assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services cover the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, as well as Europe and Central Asia – the entire planet except the poles and the open oceans. The assessment reports were approved by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), in Medellín, Colombia, at the 6th session of its Plenary. IPBES has 129 State Members.
 
“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people sound, to many people, academic and far removed from our daily lives,” said the Chair of IPBES, Robert Watson, “Nothing could be further from the truth – they are the bedrock of our food, clean water and energy. They are at the heart not only of our survival, but of our cultures, identities and enjoyment of life.
 
The best available evidence, gathered by the world’s leading experts, points us now to a single conclusion: we must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature – or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we currently lead. Fortunately, the evidence also shows that we know how to protect and partially restore our vital natural assets.”
 
In every region, biodiversity and nature’s capacity to contribute to people are being degraded, reduced and lost due to a number of common pressures – habitat stress; overexploitation and unsustainable use of natural resources; air, land and water pollution; increasing numbers and impact of invasive alien species and climate change.
 
“One of the most important findings across the four IPBES regional assessments is that failure to prioritize policies and actions to stop and reverse biodiversity loss, and the continued degradation of nature’s contributions to people, seriously jeopardises the chances of any region, and almost every country, meeting their global development targets,” said Dr. Anne Larigauderie, the Executive Secretary of IPBES.
 
“Achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and the Paris Agreement on climate change, all depend on the health and vitality of our natural environment in all its diversity and complexity. Acting to protect and promote biodiversity is at least as important to achieving these commitments and to human wellbeing as is the fight against global climate change”.
 
“Richer, more diverse ecosystems are better able to cope with disturbances – such as extreme events and the emergence of diseases. They are our ‘insurance policy’ against unforeseen disasters and, used sustainably, they also offer many of the best solutions to our most pressing challenges.”
 
The assessment of the Americas concludes that continued biodiversity loss may well undermine the achievement of a number of the SDGs as well as some of the international climate-related goals, targets and aspirations.
 
The Americas – which has about 40% of the world’s remaining biodiversity – the regional population is gobbling up resources at twice the rate of the global average. Despite having 13% of the people on the planet, it is using a quarter of the resources, said Jake Rice, a co-chair of the Americas assessment.
 
Since the start of colonisation by Europeans 500 years ago, he said 30% of biodiversity has been lost in the region. This will rise to 40% in the next 10 years unless policies and behaviours are transformed.
 
“It will take fundamental change in how we live as individuals, communities and corporations,” he said. “We keep making choices to borrow from the future to live well today. We need a different way of thinking about economics with a higher accountability of the costs in the future to the benefits we take today,” Rice said.
 
“It’s because of us,” added Mark Rounsevell, co-chair of the European assessment. “We are responsible for all of the declines of biodiversity. We need to decouple economic growth from degradation of nature. We need to measure wealth beyond economic indicators. GDP only goes so far.”
 
The authors all stressed the close connection between climate change and biodiversity loss, which are adversely affecting each other. By 2050, they believe climate change could replace land-conversion as the main driver of extinction.
 
In many regions, the report says current biodiversity trends are jeopardising UN global development goals to provide food, water and housing. They also weaken natural defences against extreme weather events, which will become more common due to climate change.
 
All the plausible future scenarios explored in the Africa assessment highlight that the drivers of biodiversity loss will increase, with associated negative impacts on nature’s contributions to people and human well-being. Achieving the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the SDGs and the Aichi Targets is unlikely in three out of five scenarios explored.
 
The experts of the Asia-Pacific assessment point to the value of ecosystem based approaches and identify, among others, lack of solid waste management, as well as air, water and land pollution as factors undermining gains in a number of the Aichi Targets and SDGs for many countries (e.g. extinction of plant and animal species due to deforestation, rising temperature and water pollution).
 
“The Sustainable Development Goals aim to “leave no one behind”. If we don’t protect and value biodiversity, we will never achieve this goal. When we erode biodiversity, we impact food, water, forests and livelihoods. But to tackle any challenge head on, we need to get the science right and this is why UN Environment is proud to support this series of assessments. Investing in the science of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge, means investing in people and the future we want.” - Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment
 
“Biodiversity is the living fabric of our planet - the source of our present and our future. It is essential to helping us all adapt to the changes we face over the coming years. These four regional reports are critical to understanding the role of human activities in biodiversity loss and its conservation, and our capacity to collectively implementing solutions to address the challenges ahead.” - Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO
 
“The regional assessments demonstrate once again that biodiversity is among the earth’s most important resources. Biodiversity is also key to food security and nutrition. The maintenance of biological diversity is important for food production and for the conservation of the ecological foundations on which rural livelihoods depend. Biodiversity is under serious threat in many regions of the world and it is time for policy-makers to take action at national, regional and global levels.” - José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
 
“Tools like these four regional assessments provide scientific evidence for better decision making and a path we can take forward to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and harness nature’s power for our collective sustainable future. The world has lost over 130 million hectares of rainforests since 1990 and we lose dozens of species every day, pushing the Earth’s ecological system to its limit. Biodiversity and the ecosystem services it supports are not only the foundation for our life on Earth, but critical to the livelihoods and well-being of people everywhere.” - Achim Steiner, Administrator of UNDP
 
“The time for action was yesterday or the day before,” says Robert Watson. “We must act now to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature or risk not only the future but the lives we currently lead”.
 
* Access the IPBES landmark science reports via the link below.


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