Author: Kieran Cooke

About Kieran Cooke

Kieran Cooke, a founding editor of Climate News Network, is a former foreign correspondent for the BBC and Financial Times. He now focuses on environmental issues

Earth’s future ‘hinges on UN Glasgow climate talks’

With the UN Glasgow climate talks starting next month, three Christian leaders say they will decide the planet’s future.

LONDON, 10 September, 2021 − In an unprecedented action, the leaders of three of the world’s main Christian faiths have spoken out less than two months before the crucial UN Glasgow climate talks begin, issuing a joint appeal to safeguard the future of the planet.

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, have, for the first time, come together to plead for everyone to “choose life” and head off environmental catastrophe.

“We call on everyone, whatever their belief or world view, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us,” says the statement.

The three leaders exercise influence over hundreds of millions of Christians around the world. In the past religious leaders have often been criticised for not taking a strong enough stand and speaking out on the climate emergency facing the world.

“This is a critical moment. Our future and the future of our common home depend on it”

In the US, sections of the powerful Evangelical movement have argued against the science of climate change, saying God, not humankind, governed the climate. But attitudes are changing, even among the more politically right wing, Trump-supporting churches in the US.

In 2015 Pope Francis issued a 180-page encyclical – an official statement on church teaching − berating the powerful for their exploitation and misuse of the earth’s resources and calling for urgent action on climate change, particularly to safeguard the lives of the poor.

Bartholomew, often referred to as the Green Patriarch, has long been an activist on environmental issues, heading a series of symposia focusing on the damage climate change and pollution are causing to the world’s oceans.

Paying the price

Justin Welby has for many years spoken about the danger to humanity posed by the climate crisis. In 2019 he strongly criticised the investment industry for its lack of action on the issue.

This latest declaration uses stark language to emphasise the scale of the problem facing the world: “We have maximised our own interest at the expense of future generations … today, we are paying the price. The extreme weather and natural disasters of recent months reveal afresh to us with great force and at great human cost that climate change is not only a future challenge, but an immediate and urgent matter of survival.”

The three leaders talk about a profound injustice: “The people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest and have been the least responsible for causing them.”

Of the forthcoming COP26 UN Glasgow climate talks, they say simply that the meeting will decide the future of the planet: “This is a critical moment. Our future and the future of our common home depend on it.” − Climate News Network

With the UN Glasgow climate talks starting next month, three Christian leaders say they will decide the planet’s future.

LONDON, 10 September, 2021 − In an unprecedented action, the leaders of three of the world’s main Christian faiths have spoken out less than two months before the crucial UN Glasgow climate talks begin, issuing a joint appeal to safeguard the future of the planet.

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, have, for the first time, come together to plead for everyone to “choose life” and head off environmental catastrophe.

“We call on everyone, whatever their belief or world view, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us,” says the statement.

The three leaders exercise influence over hundreds of millions of Christians around the world. In the past religious leaders have often been criticised for not taking a strong enough stand and speaking out on the climate emergency facing the world.

“This is a critical moment. Our future and the future of our common home depend on it”

In the US, sections of the powerful Evangelical movement have argued against the science of climate change, saying God, not humankind, governed the climate. But attitudes are changing, even among the more politically right wing, Trump-supporting churches in the US.

In 2015 Pope Francis issued a 180-page encyclical – an official statement on church teaching − berating the powerful for their exploitation and misuse of the earth’s resources and calling for urgent action on climate change, particularly to safeguard the lives of the poor.

Bartholomew, often referred to as the Green Patriarch, has long been an activist on environmental issues, heading a series of symposia focusing on the damage climate change and pollution are causing to the world’s oceans.

Paying the price

Justin Welby has for many years spoken about the danger to humanity posed by the climate crisis. In 2019 he strongly criticised the investment industry for its lack of action on the issue.

This latest declaration uses stark language to emphasise the scale of the problem facing the world: “We have maximised our own interest at the expense of future generations … today, we are paying the price. The extreme weather and natural disasters of recent months reveal afresh to us with great force and at great human cost that climate change is not only a future challenge, but an immediate and urgent matter of survival.”

The three leaders talk about a profound injustice: “The people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest and have been the least responsible for causing them.”

Of the forthcoming COP26 UN Glasgow climate talks, they say simply that the meeting will decide the future of the planet: “This is a critical moment. Our future and the future of our common home depend on it.” − Climate News Network

How an Irish weather station decided D-Day

Climate change and fickle elements can save nations or sink them. Irish weather was crucial to the Allies in June 1944.

COUNTY MAYO, IRELAND, 24 August, 2021 − Any military analyst worth his or her stripes will be aware of the challenges to operations caused by climate change and differing weather patterns. The Irish weather held the balance in 1944 as the Allies prepared to attack the Nazi forces in northern France.

How would heavy military equipment cope now in Arctic conditions as the permafrost melts and the ice cover becomes ever thinner? Will naval bases be threatened by rising sea levels? Will drought and environmental devastation be the catalyst for more conflicts round the world, and where will they occur? Ireland’s World War II experience could be salutary.

Brendan McWilliams, who died in 2007, was a prominent Irish meteorologist who, for several years, wrote a daily column for the Irish Times.

Among his many erudite observations, he analysed what impact the weather and climate had had on various key historical military events.

On 18 June 1815 the Emperor Napoleon was planning his attack on the Anglo-Dutch forces led by the Duke of Wellington near the small town of Waterloo, south of Brussels in Belgium.

Surprise lost

“Napoleon was the master of the quick manoeuvre”, said McWilliams. “His success as a general rested largely on his being able to deal a crushing blow to the weakest spot when it was least expected.

“He would use his artillery as one might aim a pistol, continually searching for the point where maximum advantage might be gained, and reacting to the ebb and flow of fortune at different places on the battlefield.

“For these tactics dry ground and a firm footing were essential; both were denied to him at Waterloo.”

McWilliams says that the day before the battle a small but very active depression caused very heavy falls of rain in the environs of Waterloo, turning fields into quagmires.

Napoleon had planned his attack for early morning on the 15th but had to postpone it till noon, in the hope that the ground would dry out. In the event, Napoleon’s troops became bogged down and could not sustain their advance; the delay in the attack allowed time for reinforcements to arrive.

“Rain and Force 7 winds affected the English Channel around the time for which the invasion had been originally planned”

Wellington won the battle and the tide of history, courtesy the weather, was radically changed.

On another June day nearly 130 years later, during World War II, Allied forces under the command of US General Dwight Eisenhower were about to launch Operation Overlord – the Normandy landings and the ground attack on German forces in mainland Europe.

Light winds, good visibility and calm seas were essential if the attack was to be a success; military planners selected 5 June as the best day for the invasion to go ahead.

At that time, McWilliams points out, accurate weather forecasting was still in its infancy.

On 3 June reports started coming in from a weather station at Blacksod Point in County Mayo in the west of Ireland of the approach of an active – and totally unexpected – cold front.

Postponement lifted

The small weather station was manned by the Sweeney family, who also ran the local post office. Though Ireland was neutral in the war, weather reports sent to Dublin were passed on to London.

It was obvious, says McWilliams, that the cold front would be over the invasion area by 5 June, bringing rain and strong winds, and likely to severely hamper the operations of Allied forces. The military command decided to postpone the invasion for a day.

“Sure enough, rain and Force 7 winds affected the English Channel around the time for which the invasion had been originally planned”, says McWilliams.

“By 6 June, however, the depression had lost much of its intensity, the cold front had passed the battle area, and the weather was sufficiently good not to interfere with operations.”

And the rest, due to the weather and the observations of the Sweeney family, is history. − Climate News Network

Climate change and fickle elements can save nations or sink them. Irish weather was crucial to the Allies in June 1944.

COUNTY MAYO, IRELAND, 24 August, 2021 − Any military analyst worth his or her stripes will be aware of the challenges to operations caused by climate change and differing weather patterns. The Irish weather held the balance in 1944 as the Allies prepared to attack the Nazi forces in northern France.

How would heavy military equipment cope now in Arctic conditions as the permafrost melts and the ice cover becomes ever thinner? Will naval bases be threatened by rising sea levels? Will drought and environmental devastation be the catalyst for more conflicts round the world, and where will they occur? Ireland’s World War II experience could be salutary.

Brendan McWilliams, who died in 2007, was a prominent Irish meteorologist who, for several years, wrote a daily column for the Irish Times.

Among his many erudite observations, he analysed what impact the weather and climate had had on various key historical military events.

On 18 June 1815 the Emperor Napoleon was planning his attack on the Anglo-Dutch forces led by the Duke of Wellington near the small town of Waterloo, south of Brussels in Belgium.

Surprise lost

“Napoleon was the master of the quick manoeuvre”, said McWilliams. “His success as a general rested largely on his being able to deal a crushing blow to the weakest spot when it was least expected.

“He would use his artillery as one might aim a pistol, continually searching for the point where maximum advantage might be gained, and reacting to the ebb and flow of fortune at different places on the battlefield.

“For these tactics dry ground and a firm footing were essential; both were denied to him at Waterloo.”

McWilliams says that the day before the battle a small but very active depression caused very heavy falls of rain in the environs of Waterloo, turning fields into quagmires.

Napoleon had planned his attack for early morning on the 15th but had to postpone it till noon, in the hope that the ground would dry out. In the event, Napoleon’s troops became bogged down and could not sustain their advance; the delay in the attack allowed time for reinforcements to arrive.

“Rain and Force 7 winds affected the English Channel around the time for which the invasion had been originally planned”

Wellington won the battle and the tide of history, courtesy the weather, was radically changed.

On another June day nearly 130 years later, during World War II, Allied forces under the command of US General Dwight Eisenhower were about to launch Operation Overlord – the Normandy landings and the ground attack on German forces in mainland Europe.

Light winds, good visibility and calm seas were essential if the attack was to be a success; military planners selected 5 June as the best day for the invasion to go ahead.

At that time, McWilliams points out, accurate weather forecasting was still in its infancy.

On 3 June reports started coming in from a weather station at Blacksod Point in County Mayo in the west of Ireland of the approach of an active – and totally unexpected – cold front.

Postponement lifted

The small weather station was manned by the Sweeney family, who also ran the local post office. Though Ireland was neutral in the war, weather reports sent to Dublin were passed on to London.

It was obvious, says McWilliams, that the cold front would be over the invasion area by 5 June, bringing rain and strong winds, and likely to severely hamper the operations of Allied forces. The military command decided to postpone the invasion for a day.

“Sure enough, rain and Force 7 winds affected the English Channel around the time for which the invasion had been originally planned”, says McWilliams.

“By 6 June, however, the depression had lost much of its intensity, the cold front had passed the battle area, and the weather was sufficiently good not to interfere with operations.”

And the rest, due to the weather and the observations of the Sweeney family, is history. − Climate News Network

Ireland faces future of climate change division

Ireland, known as the Emerald Isle for its verdant pastures, may soon lose its title as climate change division takes hold.

DUBLIN, 17 August, 2021 − A friend emails from Athens, describing brown, smoke-filled skies caused by Greece’s raging fires, and says she dreams of soft Irish rain. Little does she know of the growing climate change division which is splitting the island apart.

The brother, living in northern California, talks of temperatures yet again topping 40°C, and driving along highways and hearing the macabre, crackling sound of burning forests.

“What I wouldn’t give for a breath of fresh Irish air”, he says.

Ireland, blessed with a temperate climate, little polluting heavy industry and a relatively small population, has so far escaped most of the extremes of climate change.

While many countries in southern Europe in recent months have been hit by record high temperatures, drought and wildfires, and several states in northern Europe have endured torrential rain and floods, Ireland has been unscathed.

Semi-tropical Ireland

But a new report on the country’s climate – the most comprehensive such study in more than eight years – warns that Ireland is not immune to the dramatic changes happening elsewhere.

The study, by the government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  and Met Éireann, the national meteorological service, warns of coming weather extremes.

Trends point to “more intense, almost tropical rainfall events.” Couched in cautious terms, the study says scientists in Ireland are “more certain” that the country is becoming both wetter and warmer.

The report says annual rainfall has increased by 6% over the last 30 years compared with the 1960 to 1990 period, while annual average temperatures in Ireland have increased by 0.9% over the past 120 years. The seas round Ireland are becoming warmer and are rising – by approximately 2 to 3mm a year since the early 1990s.

“What I wouldn’t give for a breath of fresh Irish air”

A lack of rainfall is not a phenomenon usually associated with Ireland, but the study warns that, despite the increase in total amounts of precipitation, drought could hit many areas in coming years.

The climate is effectively dividing the country in half: rivers in the west and north of the country are becoming fuller, leading to an increased risk of serious flooding. But in the east and south – where the majority of the population lives – some rivers are at risk of drying up.

Frank McGovern, the EPA’s chief scientist, told the Irish Times that government policies need to take account of the country’s changing rainfall patterns: the study’s findings “should inform investment in planning and making our infrastructure and population more resilient to climate change.”

Ireland markets itself as a green and unpolluted land, free of the smoking industrial chimneys of much of the developed world.

Judicial rebuke

The reality is different: per head of population, Ireland is one of the leading emitters of climate-changing greenhouse gases (GHGs) in Europe.

Its agricultural sector – a key part of the economy – is responsible for a large portion of those emissions.

Problems caused by GHG emissions from the country’s seven million cattle herd and by nitrate-based fertilisers are only slowly being tackled. Ireland’s transport sector is also a big polluter.

Last year Ireland’s Supreme Court, the country’s highest judicial authority, described the Dublin government’s climate policies as “excessively vague and aspirational” and lacking in clear plans and goals. − Climate News Network

Ireland, known as the Emerald Isle for its verdant pastures, may soon lose its title as climate change division takes hold.

DUBLIN, 17 August, 2021 − A friend emails from Athens, describing brown, smoke-filled skies caused by Greece’s raging fires, and says she dreams of soft Irish rain. Little does she know of the growing climate change division which is splitting the island apart.

The brother, living in northern California, talks of temperatures yet again topping 40°C, and driving along highways and hearing the macabre, crackling sound of burning forests.

“What I wouldn’t give for a breath of fresh Irish air”, he says.

Ireland, blessed with a temperate climate, little polluting heavy industry and a relatively small population, has so far escaped most of the extremes of climate change.

While many countries in southern Europe in recent months have been hit by record high temperatures, drought and wildfires, and several states in northern Europe have endured torrential rain and floods, Ireland has been unscathed.

Semi-tropical Ireland

But a new report on the country’s climate – the most comprehensive such study in more than eight years – warns that Ireland is not immune to the dramatic changes happening elsewhere.

The study, by the government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  and Met Éireann, the national meteorological service, warns of coming weather extremes.

Trends point to “more intense, almost tropical rainfall events.” Couched in cautious terms, the study says scientists in Ireland are “more certain” that the country is becoming both wetter and warmer.

The report says annual rainfall has increased by 6% over the last 30 years compared with the 1960 to 1990 period, while annual average temperatures in Ireland have increased by 0.9% over the past 120 years. The seas round Ireland are becoming warmer and are rising – by approximately 2 to 3mm a year since the early 1990s.

“What I wouldn’t give for a breath of fresh Irish air”

A lack of rainfall is not a phenomenon usually associated with Ireland, but the study warns that, despite the increase in total amounts of precipitation, drought could hit many areas in coming years.

The climate is effectively dividing the country in half: rivers in the west and north of the country are becoming fuller, leading to an increased risk of serious flooding. But in the east and south – where the majority of the population lives – some rivers are at risk of drying up.

Frank McGovern, the EPA’s chief scientist, told the Irish Times that government policies need to take account of the country’s changing rainfall patterns: the study’s findings “should inform investment in planning and making our infrastructure and population more resilient to climate change.”

Ireland markets itself as a green and unpolluted land, free of the smoking industrial chimneys of much of the developed world.

Judicial rebuke

The reality is different: per head of population, Ireland is one of the leading emitters of climate-changing greenhouse gases (GHGs) in Europe.

Its agricultural sector – a key part of the economy – is responsible for a large portion of those emissions.

Problems caused by GHG emissions from the country’s seven million cattle herd and by nitrate-based fertilisers are only slowly being tackled. Ireland’s transport sector is also a big polluter.

Last year Ireland’s Supreme Court, the country’s highest judicial authority, described the Dublin government’s climate policies as “excessively vague and aspirational” and lacking in clear plans and goals. − Climate News Network

Livestock’s harmful climate impact is growing fast

Lobbyists are trying to downplay livestock’s harmful climate impact, which adds large amounts of methane to the atmosphere.

DUBLIN, 13 July, 2021 − A summer’s day, the sky is blue and the cattle are quietly meandering about in the meadow, grazing on lush grass. But this idyllic country scene hides a serious problem: livestock’s harmful climate impact.

The flatulence of cattle results in enormous amounts of methane, one of the most potent climate-changing greenhouse gases (GHGs), being released into the atmosphere. And these emissions, which contribute to the danger of global warming on a catastrophic scale, are growing.

According to the latest report on the worldwide outlook for agriculture by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), global carbon emissions from the sector are set to rise by 4% over the next 10 years, mostly as a result of expanding livestock production.

Buoyed by rising meat and dairy demand from what are referred to as middle income countries such as China, farmers are increasing the size of their herds. Giant meat and dairy companies, which farm cattle on an industrial scale, are also upping production.

Livestock – a large proportion of them cattle – are responsible for an estimated 14% of the total annual amount of greenhouse gases discharged worldwide.

“The industry has been borrowing tactics from the fossil fuel playbook”

Here in Ireland – a country which entices tourists with images of its green, pastoral environment – there are seven million cattle, with the country’s dairy herd increasing in size by almost 30% over the past six years.

The OECD says the adoption of new greener technologies across the world’s agricultural sector means that emissions per unit of output – the carbon intensity of production – will decrease significantly in coming years. But a big expansion in livestock production would wipe out those benefits.

“Thus, additional policy effort will be needed for the agricultural sector to effectively contribute to the global reduction in GHG emissions as set in the Paris Agreement,” says the OECD.

Bringing about changes in agricultural policies – whether in Ireland or elsewhere – is a tough task. Farming organisations and lobby groups wield considerable political and financial clout, particularly in countries such as Ireland where agriculture plays a big role in the economy.

Other powerful forces are at work. Jennifer Jacquet is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at New York University who has studied the lobbying methods of the big US meat and dairy companies.

US Republican support

Writing in the Washington Post, Jacquet says the giants of the livestock industry have been seeking to call into question the dangers of global warming.

“Since at least 2006, when the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization  published a report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, cataloguing the sector’s global environmental impacts, the industry has been borrowing tactics from the fossil fuel playbook,” says Jacquet.

“While meat and dairy producers have not claimed that climate change is a liberal hoax, as oil and gas producers did starting in the 1990s, companies have been downplaying the industry’s environmental footprint and undermining climate policy.”

The political and financial lobbying efforts of “big meat” in the US have been successful, particularly among Republican Party officials.

Calls to eat less meat were, said a Republican governor, “a direct attack on our way of life”. Another Republican official had a blunt warming for those seeking to downsize the livestock industry. “Stay out of my kitchen”, he said. − Climate News Network

Lobbyists are trying to downplay livestock’s harmful climate impact, which adds large amounts of methane to the atmosphere.

DUBLIN, 13 July, 2021 − A summer’s day, the sky is blue and the cattle are quietly meandering about in the meadow, grazing on lush grass. But this idyllic country scene hides a serious problem: livestock’s harmful climate impact.

The flatulence of cattle results in enormous amounts of methane, one of the most potent climate-changing greenhouse gases (GHGs), being released into the atmosphere. And these emissions, which contribute to the danger of global warming on a catastrophic scale, are growing.

According to the latest report on the worldwide outlook for agriculture by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), global carbon emissions from the sector are set to rise by 4% over the next 10 years, mostly as a result of expanding livestock production.

Buoyed by rising meat and dairy demand from what are referred to as middle income countries such as China, farmers are increasing the size of their herds. Giant meat and dairy companies, which farm cattle on an industrial scale, are also upping production.

Livestock – a large proportion of them cattle – are responsible for an estimated 14% of the total annual amount of greenhouse gases discharged worldwide.

“The industry has been borrowing tactics from the fossil fuel playbook”

Here in Ireland – a country which entices tourists with images of its green, pastoral environment – there are seven million cattle, with the country’s dairy herd increasing in size by almost 30% over the past six years.

The OECD says the adoption of new greener technologies across the world’s agricultural sector means that emissions per unit of output – the carbon intensity of production – will decrease significantly in coming years. But a big expansion in livestock production would wipe out those benefits.

“Thus, additional policy effort will be needed for the agricultural sector to effectively contribute to the global reduction in GHG emissions as set in the Paris Agreement,” says the OECD.

Bringing about changes in agricultural policies – whether in Ireland or elsewhere – is a tough task. Farming organisations and lobby groups wield considerable political and financial clout, particularly in countries such as Ireland where agriculture plays a big role in the economy.

Other powerful forces are at work. Jennifer Jacquet is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at New York University who has studied the lobbying methods of the big US meat and dairy companies.

US Republican support

Writing in the Washington Post, Jacquet says the giants of the livestock industry have been seeking to call into question the dangers of global warming.

“Since at least 2006, when the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization  published a report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, cataloguing the sector’s global environmental impacts, the industry has been borrowing tactics from the fossil fuel playbook,” says Jacquet.

“While meat and dairy producers have not claimed that climate change is a liberal hoax, as oil and gas producers did starting in the 1990s, companies have been downplaying the industry’s environmental footprint and undermining climate policy.”

The political and financial lobbying efforts of “big meat” in the US have been successful, particularly among Republican Party officials.

Calls to eat less meat were, said a Republican governor, “a direct attack on our way of life”. Another Republican official had a blunt warming for those seeking to downsize the livestock industry. “Stay out of my kitchen”, he said. − Climate News Network

Drought and famine stalk desperate Madagascar

Erratic rainfall, locusts and cyclones are causing havoc in desperate Madagascar. Now the climate crisis adds to the misery.

LONDON, 23 June, 2021 – Dense swarms of locusts ravage croplands. Starved of food, local people are forced to eat the locusts and other insects. Changes in climate threaten famine across large areas of increasingly desperate Madagascar, an island nation of 27 million people off the east coast of Africa.

The outlook is stark. Amer Daoudi, a senior director of the UN’s World Food Programme, (WFP) says people are desperate, particularly in the semi-arid south of the country, where there’s been a prolonged drought.

“Famine looms in southern Madagascar as communities witness an almost total disappearance of food sources, which has created a full-blown nutrition emergency”, says Daoudi.

“People have had to resort to desperate survival measures, such as eating locusts, raw red cactus fruits and wild leaves.”

Single day’s rain

Daoudi, a veteran aid worker, says that on a fact-finding tour of villages across southern Madagascar, he came across horrific scenes. “They are on the periphery of famine; these are images I haven’t seen for quite some time across the globe.”

For years droughts have been a regular occurrence for the people of understandably desperate Madagascar, particularly in the south. The World Bank says climate change is exacerbating the area’s problems.

“Now climate change poses potential risks and has already increased average temperatures in the region, combined with erratic rainfall patterns which have compounded the effects of droughts, cyclones and the influence of plagues of locusts.”

The annual rains have failed to arrive in several recent years. In southern Madagascar the rainy season occurs in November and December. Last year it rained for only one day over those months.

“They are on the periphery of famine; these are images I haven’t seen for quite some time across the globe”

As a result the local crops – mainly maize, manioc and beans – failed. Cattle and goats died for lack of water. Farmers have no seeds to plant fresh crops.

WFP and other aid organisations estimate that more than 1.3 million people are in danger of running out of food. Many living in the south migrate around the country at various times of the year in search of work. The Covid pandemic has shut down this valuable source of cash. The drought, combined with Covid, has meant most services have halted.

“Children have abandoned schools”, says the WFP. “75% of children in this area are either begging or foraging for food.”

Apart from the drought, rising temperatures and locusts, farmers in southern Madagascar have had to cope with another climate phenomenon – an increase in both the number and ferocity of dust storms, locally called tiomena.

The next pandemic

These storms have blown in regularly over the last few months, covering farmlands with a thick layer of dust. Aid agencies, starved of cash, have struggled to cope, though some progress has been made.

UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, together with Madagascar’s central government, opened a new 180 km water pipeline to the south in 2019. Women do most of the water fetching and carrying duties in Madagascar, often having to go more than 15 km for supplies.

The new pipeline has brought relief to some, but many thousands of households in the area are still without readily accessible water supplies.

Drought is a growing problem worldwide as the climate undergoes often dramatic change. In a recent report the UN likened drought to the Covid pandemic. “Drought is on the verge of becoming the next pandemic and there is no vaccine to cure it”, it said. – Climate News Network

Erratic rainfall, locusts and cyclones are causing havoc in desperate Madagascar. Now the climate crisis adds to the misery.

LONDON, 23 June, 2021 – Dense swarms of locusts ravage croplands. Starved of food, local people are forced to eat the locusts and other insects. Changes in climate threaten famine across large areas of increasingly desperate Madagascar, an island nation of 27 million people off the east coast of Africa.

The outlook is stark. Amer Daoudi, a senior director of the UN’s World Food Programme, (WFP) says people are desperate, particularly in the semi-arid south of the country, where there’s been a prolonged drought.

“Famine looms in southern Madagascar as communities witness an almost total disappearance of food sources, which has created a full-blown nutrition emergency”, says Daoudi.

“People have had to resort to desperate survival measures, such as eating locusts, raw red cactus fruits and wild leaves.”

Single day’s rain

Daoudi, a veteran aid worker, says that on a fact-finding tour of villages across southern Madagascar, he came across horrific scenes. “They are on the periphery of famine; these are images I haven’t seen for quite some time across the globe.”

For years droughts have been a regular occurrence for the people of understandably desperate Madagascar, particularly in the south. The World Bank says climate change is exacerbating the area’s problems.

“Now climate change poses potential risks and has already increased average temperatures in the region, combined with erratic rainfall patterns which have compounded the effects of droughts, cyclones and the influence of plagues of locusts.”

The annual rains have failed to arrive in several recent years. In southern Madagascar the rainy season occurs in November and December. Last year it rained for only one day over those months.

“They are on the periphery of famine; these are images I haven’t seen for quite some time across the globe”

As a result the local crops – mainly maize, manioc and beans – failed. Cattle and goats died for lack of water. Farmers have no seeds to plant fresh crops.

WFP and other aid organisations estimate that more than 1.3 million people are in danger of running out of food. Many living in the south migrate around the country at various times of the year in search of work. The Covid pandemic has shut down this valuable source of cash. The drought, combined with Covid, has meant most services have halted.

“Children have abandoned schools”, says the WFP. “75% of children in this area are either begging or foraging for food.”

Apart from the drought, rising temperatures and locusts, farmers in southern Madagascar have had to cope with another climate phenomenon – an increase in both the number and ferocity of dust storms, locally called tiomena.

The next pandemic

These storms have blown in regularly over the last few months, covering farmlands with a thick layer of dust. Aid agencies, starved of cash, have struggled to cope, though some progress has been made.

UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, together with Madagascar’s central government, opened a new 180 km water pipeline to the south in 2019. Women do most of the water fetching and carrying duties in Madagascar, often having to go more than 15 km for supplies.

The new pipeline has brought relief to some, but many thousands of households in the area are still without readily accessible water supplies.

Drought is a growing problem worldwide as the climate undergoes often dramatic change. In a recent report the UN likened drought to the Covid pandemic. “Drought is on the verge of becoming the next pandemic and there is no vaccine to cure it”, it said. – Climate News Network

Rising floods threaten Danish financial system

Stormier seas and more frequent floods can cause havoc anywhere. The Danish financial system is now growing apprehensive.

LONDON, 16 June, 2021 − Flooding caused by storm surges and general changes in climate give rise to misery around the world, destroying homes and livelihoods and forcing the migration of hundreds of thousands of people. The financial impact of floods can also impose severe economic strains, and not just in the developing world: the Danish financial system now fears growing losses to come.

Denmark is a relatively small country but has a long coastline, stretching for more than 8,000 kilometres.

As part of a series of reports on the impacts of climate change, Danmarks NationalBank, the country’s central bank, warns that billions of dollars have been loaned to householders and businesses located in coastal and other flood-prone areas.

Flood damage could make recouping many of these loans extremely difficult; credit institutions with substantial exposure to such loans could go out of business. The integrity of the financial system might be threatened.

“Climate change is leading to increased recurrence and severity of flooding from storm surges”

“Exposures of 41 billion krone (US$7billion) are currently located in areas already at risk of flooding”, says the central bank.

“This amount will increase to DKK198 billion (US$32 billion) over the next 50-80 years in the most extreme climate scenario…this implies that the risk could constitute a risk for individual credit institutions as well as the financial system.”

The central bank’s report says the occurrence of floods round the country is increasing, with more than 40 flooding events caused by storm surges happening in the 1991 to 2017 period.

“Climate change is leading to increased recurrence and severity of flooding from storm surges, and the effect from storm surges is further exacerbated by sea level rises,” says the report.

Losses passed on

Areas of the country most exposed to flooding include the area round Copenhagen, the capital, the west coast, and Jutland in the north.

Initially, says the bank, homeowners and businesses with premises located in flood-prone areas will bear the financial costs of flood damage.

“However, the loss can ultimately affect credit institutions…value depreciation has a direct effect on homeowners and can be transmitted to credit institutions if the real estate has been pledged as collateral for the loan.”

Central banks around the world are issuing increasingly strident warnings to banks and other credit institutions about the challenges posed by climate change.

Warned off

In many instances insurance companies and other financial institutions are being told to put aside a portion of their earnings in order to cope with the increased costs climate change will bring.

Investors are being warned that putting money into fossil fuel companies and related enterprises is an increasingly risky business.

Fossil fuel companies are also being told to revise their accounts to take into consideration so-called “stranded assets” – corporate fossil fuel holdings made essentially worthless due to the looming climate catastrophe and the growth of regulation forbidding their exploitation.

As a result, many billions of dollars have been written off the value of what were, till a few years ago, some of the world’s biggest and most financially powerful companies. Climate News Network

Stormier seas and more frequent floods can cause havoc anywhere. The Danish financial system is now growing apprehensive.

LONDON, 16 June, 2021 − Flooding caused by storm surges and general changes in climate give rise to misery around the world, destroying homes and livelihoods and forcing the migration of hundreds of thousands of people. The financial impact of floods can also impose severe economic strains, and not just in the developing world: the Danish financial system now fears growing losses to come.

Denmark is a relatively small country but has a long coastline, stretching for more than 8,000 kilometres.

As part of a series of reports on the impacts of climate change, Danmarks NationalBank, the country’s central bank, warns that billions of dollars have been loaned to householders and businesses located in coastal and other flood-prone areas.

Flood damage could make recouping many of these loans extremely difficult; credit institutions with substantial exposure to such loans could go out of business. The integrity of the financial system might be threatened.

“Climate change is leading to increased recurrence and severity of flooding from storm surges”

“Exposures of 41 billion krone (US$7billion) are currently located in areas already at risk of flooding”, says the central bank.

“This amount will increase to DKK198 billion (US$32 billion) over the next 50-80 years in the most extreme climate scenario…this implies that the risk could constitute a risk for individual credit institutions as well as the financial system.”

The central bank’s report says the occurrence of floods round the country is increasing, with more than 40 flooding events caused by storm surges happening in the 1991 to 2017 period.

“Climate change is leading to increased recurrence and severity of flooding from storm surges, and the effect from storm surges is further exacerbated by sea level rises,” says the report.

Losses passed on

Areas of the country most exposed to flooding include the area round Copenhagen, the capital, the west coast, and Jutland in the north.

Initially, says the bank, homeowners and businesses with premises located in flood-prone areas will bear the financial costs of flood damage.

“However, the loss can ultimately affect credit institutions…value depreciation has a direct effect on homeowners and can be transmitted to credit institutions if the real estate has been pledged as collateral for the loan.”

Central banks around the world are issuing increasingly strident warnings to banks and other credit institutions about the challenges posed by climate change.

Warned off

In many instances insurance companies and other financial institutions are being told to put aside a portion of their earnings in order to cope with the increased costs climate change will bring.

Investors are being warned that putting money into fossil fuel companies and related enterprises is an increasingly risky business.

Fossil fuel companies are also being told to revise their accounts to take into consideration so-called “stranded assets” – corporate fossil fuel holdings made essentially worthless due to the looming climate catastrophe and the growth of regulation forbidding their exploitation.

As a result, many billions of dollars have been written off the value of what were, till a few years ago, some of the world’s biggest and most financially powerful companies. Climate News Network

Olympic cauldron awaits 2021’s Tokyo competitors

Despite a recent Covid spike Japan is going ahead with its plans, involving a veritable Olympic cauldron for competitors.

LONDON, 9 June, 2021 − Athletes, spectators and the many thousands of officials and members of the media attending the events due to start in late July might be concerned about Covid. But they will also have to deal with the impacts of climate change, and the Olympic cauldron that is heating up to receive them.

With daytime temperatures likely to reach 37°C or more, and humidity levels of 80%, the Tokyo Olympics is likely to set its own Olympic record – as the hottest and most humid games ever held. The Paralympics, due to begin later in August, will also have to endure the heat.

Makoto Yokohari, professor of environment and urban planning at the University of Tokyo, told the Reuters news agency that the Olympics – originally scheduled for July last year but postponed because of the Covid pandemic – could turn into what he calls a nightmare.

Professor Yokohari has been studying climate conditions at past Olympics.
“When it comes to heat stress or heat stroke, the problem is not only the temperature but also the humidity,” he says. “When you combine the two…Tokyo is the worst in history.”

Far-reaching effects

Heat exhaustion will be an ever-present danger for athletes. Mara Yamauchi, who competed for the UK in the marathon at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, says sporting events are increasingly affected by climate change.

Writing in a special report, Rings of Fire, on the impact of climate change on athletic performance, produced by the British Association for Sustainable Sport (Basis), Yamauchi says rising temperatures have an obvious effect on outdoor sports, not only on the athletes but on officials, broadcasters and spectators too.

“Nothing stirs up passion, motivation and fascination quite like sport. In one way or another, most of us love it. But we risk potentially far-reaching consequences for sport as we know it if climate change continues apace.”

Tokyo last staged the Olympics in 1964: that year the games were held in October, when it was much cooler.

“The problem is not only the temperature but also the humidity. When you combine the two…Tokyo is the worst in history”

The International Olympic Committee, the body that supervises the games, has said that because of various multi-million dollar TV deals and the staging of other major sporting events, there is no alternative to holding the Olympics at the height of the Japanese summer.

Paloma Trascasa-Castro is a researcher at the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds in the UK.

Writing in the Basis report, she says the mean average temperature in Tokyo has increased by 2.86°C since 1900, more than three times as fast as the global average rise. Periods of extreme heat in Tokyo, she says, have become more common, particularly since the 1990s.

“ On top of the global and Japanese trends, changes in land use and urbanisation in Tokyo enhance the urban heat effect, which traps heat in the surface and impacts on thermo-regulation, effectively impairing a city’s ability to breathe.”

Record heat stress

Professor Mike Tipton of the University of Portsmouth in the UK, who helped put together the Basis study, says Tokyo is likely to be the most “thermally stressful Olympics” ever held in recent times. He also says that conditions will impair the performances of many athletes.

Alistair Brownlee is a British triathlete. In the Basis study he explains what it’s like competing in high temperatures. At one event in London held in the heat, he could not recall anything between running toward the finish and waking up on an intensive care ward.

The study describes events at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha in Qatar: because of the heat and humidity in the Gulf state – venue of next year’s soccer world cup – 28 of the 68 competitors in the women’s marathon failed to finish.

The organisers of the Tokyo Olympics have moved the marathons and long distance walking events to Sapporo in northern Japan, where temperatures are considerably lower. The rest of the athletes – along with spectators, officials and media – will have to sweat it out in Tokyo’s Olympic cauldron. − Climate News Network

Despite a recent Covid spike Japan is going ahead with its plans, involving a veritable Olympic cauldron for competitors.

LONDON, 9 June, 2021 − Athletes, spectators and the many thousands of officials and members of the media attending the events due to start in late July might be concerned about Covid. But they will also have to deal with the impacts of climate change, and the Olympic cauldron that is heating up to receive them.

With daytime temperatures likely to reach 37°C or more, and humidity levels of 80%, the Tokyo Olympics is likely to set its own Olympic record – as the hottest and most humid games ever held. The Paralympics, due to begin later in August, will also have to endure the heat.

Makoto Yokohari, professor of environment and urban planning at the University of Tokyo, told the Reuters news agency that the Olympics – originally scheduled for July last year but postponed because of the Covid pandemic – could turn into what he calls a nightmare.

Professor Yokohari has been studying climate conditions at past Olympics.
“When it comes to heat stress or heat stroke, the problem is not only the temperature but also the humidity,” he says. “When you combine the two…Tokyo is the worst in history.”

Far-reaching effects

Heat exhaustion will be an ever-present danger for athletes. Mara Yamauchi, who competed for the UK in the marathon at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, says sporting events are increasingly affected by climate change.

Writing in a special report, Rings of Fire, on the impact of climate change on athletic performance, produced by the British Association for Sustainable Sport (Basis), Yamauchi says rising temperatures have an obvious effect on outdoor sports, not only on the athletes but on officials, broadcasters and spectators too.

“Nothing stirs up passion, motivation and fascination quite like sport. In one way or another, most of us love it. But we risk potentially far-reaching consequences for sport as we know it if climate change continues apace.”

Tokyo last staged the Olympics in 1964: that year the games were held in October, when it was much cooler.

“The problem is not only the temperature but also the humidity. When you combine the two…Tokyo is the worst in history”

The International Olympic Committee, the body that supervises the games, has said that because of various multi-million dollar TV deals and the staging of other major sporting events, there is no alternative to holding the Olympics at the height of the Japanese summer.

Paloma Trascasa-Castro is a researcher at the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds in the UK.

Writing in the Basis report, she says the mean average temperature in Tokyo has increased by 2.86°C since 1900, more than three times as fast as the global average rise. Periods of extreme heat in Tokyo, she says, have become more common, particularly since the 1990s.

“ On top of the global and Japanese trends, changes in land use and urbanisation in Tokyo enhance the urban heat effect, which traps heat in the surface and impacts on thermo-regulation, effectively impairing a city’s ability to breathe.”

Record heat stress

Professor Mike Tipton of the University of Portsmouth in the UK, who helped put together the Basis study, says Tokyo is likely to be the most “thermally stressful Olympics” ever held in recent times. He also says that conditions will impair the performances of many athletes.

Alistair Brownlee is a British triathlete. In the Basis study he explains what it’s like competing in high temperatures. At one event in London held in the heat, he could not recall anything between running toward the finish and waking up on an intensive care ward.

The study describes events at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha in Qatar: because of the heat and humidity in the Gulf state – venue of next year’s soccer world cup – 28 of the 68 competitors in the women’s marathon failed to finish.

The organisers of the Tokyo Olympics have moved the marathons and long distance walking events to Sapporo in northern Japan, where temperatures are considerably lower. The rest of the athletes – along with spectators, officials and media – will have to sweat it out in Tokyo’s Olympic cauldron. − Climate News Network

Polar cod face new threat from Arctic oil pollution

Already struggling to survive in warming Arctic seas, the polar cod are now at risk from rising oil pollution.

LONDON, 2 June, 2021 – They are small – on average around 25cm long. But polar cod (Boreogadus saida) are a vital part of the Arctic food chain, a major ingredient in the diet of seals, narwhals and a wide variety of seabirds.

The Arctic is warming faster than any other area on the planet, and a study published in 2020 found that declines in winter sea ice cover in the Barents Sea region of the Arctic, plus warmer sea temperatures, were causing declines in polar cod reproduction rates.

The latest research indicates that the polar cod is now under threat not only from warming Arctic seas, but because of oil pollution as well, as the region’s rapidly diminishing ice cover allows more shipping traffic and commercial activity.

Morgan Lizabeth Bender is a researcher in the department of Arctic and Marine Biology at the University of Tromsø (UiT) in northern Norway. Her research has found that when the polar cod is exposed to a combination of warmer waters and only very slight levels of oil pollution, its development is interrupted, with abnormalities common.

“Polar cod is a somewhat difficult species that hasn’t been researched that much,” Dr Bender told the Science Norway website. “The fish are a difficult species to find and to take care of in the lab. However, this species has a very important ecological role.”

“Increased water temperature can increase the harmful effects of oil exposure”

The fish, monitored during the breeding process, were sorted into aquariums – some at a current Arctic water temperature of 0.5°C, others at a warmer 2.8°C to mimic an Arctic affected by climate change.

The aquariums contained either pure water or water contaminated by minuscule amounts of crude oil. “The pollution level would be the equivalent of about five drops of oil in an Olympic-size swimming pool,” says Dr Bender.

Though the study found that polar cod eggs in the warmer water hatched much faster than those in the colder water, at first there was little difference between survival rates in the various aquariums.

But then something strange started happening to the fry – the young fish – that were exposed to oil.

“When they first hatched, there wasn’t much difference,” says Dr Bender. “But as their jaw, face and eyes started to develop, we saw very clearly that they weren’t forming properly.”

Lower survival rates

The research found that the fry were very sensitive to even the slightest amount of oil pollution: death rates were highest among fry exposed to both warmer water and oil.

When the fry became large enough to start feeding, only 8% survived in the contaminated warmer water and 23% in the contaminated cold water.

Marine scientists say that polar cod numbers have shown a downward trend since 2010, despite the fact that they are not a fished species.

Sonnich Meier, of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, has been examining the impact of both global warming and oil pollution on Arctic fish species for a number of years.

“Polar cod is one of the fish species that is hardest hit by climate change in the Arctic,” he says. “The study shows that increased water temperature can increase the harmful effects of oil exposure.” – Climate News Network

Already struggling to survive in warming Arctic seas, the polar cod are now at risk from rising oil pollution.

LONDON, 2 June, 2021 – They are small – on average around 25cm long. But polar cod (Boreogadus saida) are a vital part of the Arctic food chain, a major ingredient in the diet of seals, narwhals and a wide variety of seabirds.

The Arctic is warming faster than any other area on the planet, and a study published in 2020 found that declines in winter sea ice cover in the Barents Sea region of the Arctic, plus warmer sea temperatures, were causing declines in polar cod reproduction rates.

The latest research indicates that the polar cod is now under threat not only from warming Arctic seas, but because of oil pollution as well, as the region’s rapidly diminishing ice cover allows more shipping traffic and commercial activity.

Morgan Lizabeth Bender is a researcher in the department of Arctic and Marine Biology at the University of Tromsø (UiT) in northern Norway. Her research has found that when the polar cod is exposed to a combination of warmer waters and only very slight levels of oil pollution, its development is interrupted, with abnormalities common.

“Polar cod is a somewhat difficult species that hasn’t been researched that much,” Dr Bender told the Science Norway website. “The fish are a difficult species to find and to take care of in the lab. However, this species has a very important ecological role.”

“Increased water temperature can increase the harmful effects of oil exposure”

The fish, monitored during the breeding process, were sorted into aquariums – some at a current Arctic water temperature of 0.5°C, others at a warmer 2.8°C to mimic an Arctic affected by climate change.

The aquariums contained either pure water or water contaminated by minuscule amounts of crude oil. “The pollution level would be the equivalent of about five drops of oil in an Olympic-size swimming pool,” says Dr Bender.

Though the study found that polar cod eggs in the warmer water hatched much faster than those in the colder water, at first there was little difference between survival rates in the various aquariums.

But then something strange started happening to the fry – the young fish – that were exposed to oil.

“When they first hatched, there wasn’t much difference,” says Dr Bender. “But as their jaw, face and eyes started to develop, we saw very clearly that they weren’t forming properly.”

Lower survival rates

The research found that the fry were very sensitive to even the slightest amount of oil pollution: death rates were highest among fry exposed to both warmer water and oil.

When the fry became large enough to start feeding, only 8% survived in the contaminated warmer water and 23% in the contaminated cold water.

Marine scientists say that polar cod numbers have shown a downward trend since 2010, despite the fact that they are not a fished species.

Sonnich Meier, of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, has been examining the impact of both global warming and oil pollution on Arctic fish species for a number of years.

“Polar cod is one of the fish species that is hardest hit by climate change in the Arctic,” he says. “The study shows that increased water temperature can increase the harmful effects of oil exposure.” – Climate News Network

Musings on a threatened world: the path to hope

To acknowledge the realities of the climate crisis is the path to hope, towards finding a way to overcome them.

DUBLIN, 26 May, 2021 − Several decades ago Michael Viney packed in his job as a newspaperman in Dublin and moved out to an isolated cottage on Ireland’s west coast to indulge his passion for nature and the environment.

From there, for the past 45 years, he has regaled readers of the Irish Times with a weekly column full of lyrical observations on nature and life on the Atlantic shore.

There is talk of insects demolishing cow pats, of coconuts swept in by the tide from far away places, of the simple pleasures of digging.

“A handful of my garden soil has a cool, silky feel,” he writes.

In his contribution to Empty House, an anthology of Irish and international  writing on the climate crisis by various writers and poets, Viney adopts a more ominous tone. Climate change, he says, is the new and disconcerting background to our lives.

“It’s no longer so hard to think it possible that the great human experiment will doom itself to extinction, leaving a mangled planet to lick its wounds.”

Empty House has a lot of anxiety within its pages – little wonder, considering the dire environmental state the Earth is in.

Alice Kinsella, one of the book’s editors, points out that the eco in ecosystem and ecology comes from the ancient Greek οἶκος (oikos), meaning the house, family, household or home.

Eco-anxiety, she says, is the fear of losing our home. A poem by Catherine Phil MacCarthy imagines Earth as a house:

Could it be sometime
we are not there,
gone without trace,
planet earth, an empty house.

There is fear of what the future holds – and humour. Michael Whelan describes a flooded Dublin:

The year could be 2098 but no one there will know it
as the last polar bear surfs down O’Connell Street
on the flotsam of a rushing tide, balancing on the curved
upturned roof of a long-rusted tour bus…

There is talk of the joys of simple things. Arnold Fanning walks to quell his worries:

Walking lessens the grip anxiety has on me, step by step, and in walking I can breathe deeply again, more easily, appreciate life more, even as I absorb nature around me, feel the healthy functions of my body, and so walk on, less burdened, less afflicted, more bountiful.

For Orla ní Dhúill, gardening is the great salvation:

My mother says when her hands are inside the soil
that is how she goes to church.
It took me two decades to really understand.
It took me finding my own piece of land,
five square feet of neglected backyard, but it was mine.

There is an acute awareness of how the world around us is changing, of how nature shows signs of shutting down. John Sexton talks of the loss of bees, the planet’s pollinators:

On the sills the bees are dying. Bumbles
fuzzing in their humming. Their furred knitwear
losing lustre; their breathing visible,
their wings crisply stopped. The dustpan will share
them to the hedged garden…

This is a brave book: the climate crisis is not an easy subject for either poetry or prose. Readers do not want too much gloom. Many look instead for possible pointers towards the path to hope.

As Alice Kinsella says in her introduction, it isn’t pessimism to acknowledge the peril we now face, to know that action on a global scale is our only hope.

“To engage with the realities is to be optimistic. Because it’s only by acknowledging the very real threats that we have any hope of preventing them.” − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

Empty House: Poetry and Prose on the Climate Crisis. Doíre Press, €15/£12 Eds. Alice Kinsella & Nessa O’Mahony

To acknowledge the realities of the climate crisis is the path to hope, towards finding a way to overcome them.

DUBLIN, 26 May, 2021 − Several decades ago Michael Viney packed in his job as a newspaperman in Dublin and moved out to an isolated cottage on Ireland’s west coast to indulge his passion for nature and the environment.

From there, for the past 45 years, he has regaled readers of the Irish Times with a weekly column full of lyrical observations on nature and life on the Atlantic shore.

There is talk of insects demolishing cow pats, of coconuts swept in by the tide from far away places, of the simple pleasures of digging.

“A handful of my garden soil has a cool, silky feel,” he writes.

In his contribution to Empty House, an anthology of Irish and international  writing on the climate crisis by various writers and poets, Viney adopts a more ominous tone. Climate change, he says, is the new and disconcerting background to our lives.

“It’s no longer so hard to think it possible that the great human experiment will doom itself to extinction, leaving a mangled planet to lick its wounds.”

Empty House has a lot of anxiety within its pages – little wonder, considering the dire environmental state the Earth is in.

Alice Kinsella, one of the book’s editors, points out that the eco in ecosystem and ecology comes from the ancient Greek οἶκος (oikos), meaning the house, family, household or home.

Eco-anxiety, she says, is the fear of losing our home. A poem by Catherine Phil MacCarthy imagines Earth as a house:

Could it be sometime
we are not there,
gone without trace,
planet earth, an empty house.

There is fear of what the future holds – and humour. Michael Whelan describes a flooded Dublin:

The year could be 2098 but no one there will know it
as the last polar bear surfs down O’Connell Street
on the flotsam of a rushing tide, balancing on the curved
upturned roof of a long-rusted tour bus…

There is talk of the joys of simple things. Arnold Fanning walks to quell his worries:

Walking lessens the grip anxiety has on me, step by step, and in walking I can breathe deeply again, more easily, appreciate life more, even as I absorb nature around me, feel the healthy functions of my body, and so walk on, less burdened, less afflicted, more bountiful.

For Orla ní Dhúill, gardening is the great salvation:

My mother says when her hands are inside the soil
that is how she goes to church.
It took me two decades to really understand.
It took me finding my own piece of land,
five square feet of neglected backyard, but it was mine.

There is an acute awareness of how the world around us is changing, of how nature shows signs of shutting down. John Sexton talks of the loss of bees, the planet’s pollinators:

On the sills the bees are dying. Bumbles
fuzzing in their humming. Their furred knitwear
losing lustre; their breathing visible,
their wings crisply stopped. The dustpan will share
them to the hedged garden…

This is a brave book: the climate crisis is not an easy subject for either poetry or prose. Readers do not want too much gloom. Many look instead for possible pointers towards the path to hope.

As Alice Kinsella says in her introduction, it isn’t pessimism to acknowledge the peril we now face, to know that action on a global scale is our only hope.

“To engage with the realities is to be optimistic. Because it’s only by acknowledging the very real threats that we have any hope of preventing them.” − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

Empty House: Poetry and Prose on the Climate Crisis. Doíre Press, €15/£12 Eds. Alice Kinsella & Nessa O’Mahony

Asia’s cities are worst hit in warming world

Climate change, water shortage and pollution are worst for Asia’s cities, researchers say. The rest of us have a lucky escape.

LONDON, 17 May, 2021 – It’s bad news for residents of Jakarta. People living in Delhi, Chennai or Wuhan do not fare much better. A new study has found that a wide range of environmental and climate change threats are worst for Asia’s cities, with the rest of the planet getting off more lightly.

The study, by the analysis and forecasting group Verisk Maplecroft, looks primarily at the risks posed to businesses operating and investing in various urban centres.

Based on such factors as pollution, a lack of water, extreme heat and general vulnerability to climate change, 99 of the 100 most risk-prone cities in the world are in Asia, with the Indonesian capital Jakarta topping the list and cities in India close behind.

Jakarta, with a population of more than 10.5 million people, is sinking. Like many coastal cities round the world, it is vulnerable to sea level rise.
Built on what was once a swamp, the city has serious water supply problems as well, and the air is severely polluted.

“The reality for most cities is of widespread productivity losses, skyrocketing cooling costs, and a grim toll of heat-related disease”

Little can be done: the Indonesian government plans to shut up shop and move the capital to East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.

Air and water pollution are particularly acute problems in India’s cities. In its risk index, the study ranks Delhi, Chennai, Agra and Kanpur in the top ten of the world’s cities most at risk of environmental disaster and climate change.

Several cities in China, along with Manila in the Philippines, Bangkok in Thailand and Karachi in Pakistan score badly. Nor are cities outside Asia immune from the growing environmental and climate crisis.

“Londoners might envisage warm days in the park and an Italian café culture, but the reality for most cities is of widespread productivity losses, skyrocketing cooling costs, and a grim toll of heat-related disease”, says the study.

Clean Cairo?

The business sector has to be aware of what’s happening and assess the risks of locating and investing in various urban centres. “How well global organisations manage the escalating environmental and climate crisis is now one of the most critical factors determining their long-term resilience”, says Verisk Maplecroft.

Legal issues have to be considered. “As the pace picks up on carbon regulations, legal liabilities related to climate are also becoming more mainstream”, the study says.

Cities in Canada and New Zealand generally perform well on the Verisk Maplecroft index. Many European cities also achieve a good rating.

Istanbul in Turkey and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia perform badly while, perhaps surprisingly, the Egyptian capital Cairo – a city of nearly 10 million – performs better, mainly due to its cleaner air and greater access to water supplies.

Northern attraction

Elsewhere In Africa, the teeming metropolises of Lagos in Nigeria and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo have a low rating. In South America, the desert city of Lima, the Peruvian capital, is facing severe water shortages and other environmental problems.

There is more and more evidence that fish and many other creatures are moving north as ocean and land temperatures rise. Plant life is also trying to adjust to global warming.

One of the overall messages of the study seems to be that, however grim the problems of Asia’s cities, when it comes to looking for cities to live in, we humans should also be moving northwards.

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, scores well on the study’s index. Vancouver and Ottawa in Canada would not be a bad bet. Krasnoyarsk in Siberia looks OK.

And there’s good news for those heading for Glasgow for the big COP-26 climate conference later this year. The Scottish city – not renowned for warm, moisture-free days – is among those in the world least exposed to the dangers of climate change, says the study. – Climate News Network

Climate change, water shortage and pollution are worst for Asia’s cities, researchers say. The rest of us have a lucky escape.

LONDON, 17 May, 2021 – It’s bad news for residents of Jakarta. People living in Delhi, Chennai or Wuhan do not fare much better. A new study has found that a wide range of environmental and climate change threats are worst for Asia’s cities, with the rest of the planet getting off more lightly.

The study, by the analysis and forecasting group Verisk Maplecroft, looks primarily at the risks posed to businesses operating and investing in various urban centres.

Based on such factors as pollution, a lack of water, extreme heat and general vulnerability to climate change, 99 of the 100 most risk-prone cities in the world are in Asia, with the Indonesian capital Jakarta topping the list and cities in India close behind.

Jakarta, with a population of more than 10.5 million people, is sinking. Like many coastal cities round the world, it is vulnerable to sea level rise.
Built on what was once a swamp, the city has serious water supply problems as well, and the air is severely polluted.

“The reality for most cities is of widespread productivity losses, skyrocketing cooling costs, and a grim toll of heat-related disease”

Little can be done: the Indonesian government plans to shut up shop and move the capital to East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.

Air and water pollution are particularly acute problems in India’s cities. In its risk index, the study ranks Delhi, Chennai, Agra and Kanpur in the top ten of the world’s cities most at risk of environmental disaster and climate change.

Several cities in China, along with Manila in the Philippines, Bangkok in Thailand and Karachi in Pakistan score badly. Nor are cities outside Asia immune from the growing environmental and climate crisis.

“Londoners might envisage warm days in the park and an Italian café culture, but the reality for most cities is of widespread productivity losses, skyrocketing cooling costs, and a grim toll of heat-related disease”, says the study.

Clean Cairo?

The business sector has to be aware of what’s happening and assess the risks of locating and investing in various urban centres. “How well global organisations manage the escalating environmental and climate crisis is now one of the most critical factors determining their long-term resilience”, says Verisk Maplecroft.

Legal issues have to be considered. “As the pace picks up on carbon regulations, legal liabilities related to climate are also becoming more mainstream”, the study says.

Cities in Canada and New Zealand generally perform well on the Verisk Maplecroft index. Many European cities also achieve a good rating.

Istanbul in Turkey and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia perform badly while, perhaps surprisingly, the Egyptian capital Cairo – a city of nearly 10 million – performs better, mainly due to its cleaner air and greater access to water supplies.

Northern attraction

Elsewhere In Africa, the teeming metropolises of Lagos in Nigeria and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo have a low rating. In South America, the desert city of Lima, the Peruvian capital, is facing severe water shortages and other environmental problems.

There is more and more evidence that fish and many other creatures are moving north as ocean and land temperatures rise. Plant life is also trying to adjust to global warming.

One of the overall messages of the study seems to be that, however grim the problems of Asia’s cities, when it comes to looking for cities to live in, we humans should also be moving northwards.

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, scores well on the study’s index. Vancouver and Ottawa in Canada would not be a bad bet. Krasnoyarsk in Siberia looks OK.

And there’s good news for those heading for Glasgow for the big COP-26 climate conference later this year. The Scottish city – not renowned for warm, moisture-free days – is among those in the world least exposed to the dangers of climate change, says the study. – Climate News Network