Category Archives: Health

World lacks enough plants for healthy diet

Guidelines for a healthy diet emphasise fresh fruit and vegetables. Right now, there may not be enough in the gardens to nourish a cooler, healthier world.

LONDON, 5 November, 2018 − Canadian scientists have confirmed once again that a healthy diet is the best way to help contain global warming and feed 9.8 billion people by 2050. And that involves, among other things, a global shift away from meat-eating and towards consuming plants instead.

But they have also done the sums and identified a problem: the world just does not produce enough of the fruits and vegetables that are at the heart of nutritional health guidelines almost everywhere.

“We simply can’t all adopt a healthy diet under the current global agricultural system,” said Evan Fraser, a researcher in global food security at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

“Results show that the global system currently overproduces grains, fats and sugars, while production of fruit and vegetables and, to a smaller degree, protein is not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the current population.”

“The only way to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, save land and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to consume and produce more fruits and vegetables”

It has become an axiom of climate science that the clearing of wilderness to create more pasture and fodder crops for livestock can only accelerate global warming, and a global shift to the US and north European diet would require an extra billion hectares of grazing land.

Researchers have repeatedly argued that to feed a swelling human population and at the same time limit global warming nations should encourage a drastic shift to the kind of diet  almost universally recommended in national and international health guidelines.

Professor Fraser and colleagues report in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS One that they looked at international output, divided it by the numbers of humans expected by 2050, and calculated the available servings per citizen per day of each of three food groups.

In the health guidelines, half of the plateful should be fruit and vegetables; 25% should be whole grains and the last quarter protein, fats or oils, and dairy produce.

Lop-sided diet

But right now, the world’s farmers are delivering 12 servings of grain instead of the recommended eight, five servings of fruit and vegetables instead of 15, three servings of oil and fat instead of one, and four servings of sugar instead of the recommended none.

Without a worldwide shift towards a much healthier diet, farmers would have to colonise another 12 million hectares of arable land and at least another billion for pasture.

Were habits to change, however, farmers could deliver enough to feed a growing population and at the same time return perhaps 50 million hectares to the wild, because fruit and vegetables can be grown in smaller spaces than grain, sugar and oils.

“Feeding the next generation is one of the most pressing challenges for the 21st century,” said Professor Fraser. “For a growing population, our calculations suggest that the only way to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, save land and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to consume and produce more fruits and vegetables as well as transition to diets higher in plant-based protein.” − Climate News Network

Guidelines for a healthy diet emphasise fresh fruit and vegetables. Right now, there may not be enough in the gardens to nourish a cooler, healthier world.

LONDON, 5 November, 2018 − Canadian scientists have confirmed once again that a healthy diet is the best way to help contain global warming and feed 9.8 billion people by 2050. And that involves, among other things, a global shift away from meat-eating and towards consuming plants instead.

But they have also done the sums and identified a problem: the world just does not produce enough of the fruits and vegetables that are at the heart of nutritional health guidelines almost everywhere.

“We simply can’t all adopt a healthy diet under the current global agricultural system,” said Evan Fraser, a researcher in global food security at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

“Results show that the global system currently overproduces grains, fats and sugars, while production of fruit and vegetables and, to a smaller degree, protein is not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the current population.”

“The only way to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, save land and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to consume and produce more fruits and vegetables”

It has become an axiom of climate science that the clearing of wilderness to create more pasture and fodder crops for livestock can only accelerate global warming, and a global shift to the US and north European diet would require an extra billion hectares of grazing land.

Researchers have repeatedly argued that to feed a swelling human population and at the same time limit global warming nations should encourage a drastic shift to the kind of diet  almost universally recommended in national and international health guidelines.

Professor Fraser and colleagues report in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS One that they looked at international output, divided it by the numbers of humans expected by 2050, and calculated the available servings per citizen per day of each of three food groups.

In the health guidelines, half of the plateful should be fruit and vegetables; 25% should be whole grains and the last quarter protein, fats or oils, and dairy produce.

Lop-sided diet

But right now, the world’s farmers are delivering 12 servings of grain instead of the recommended eight, five servings of fruit and vegetables instead of 15, three servings of oil and fat instead of one, and four servings of sugar instead of the recommended none.

Without a worldwide shift towards a much healthier diet, farmers would have to colonise another 12 million hectares of arable land and at least another billion for pasture.

Were habits to change, however, farmers could deliver enough to feed a growing population and at the same time return perhaps 50 million hectares to the wild, because fruit and vegetables can be grown in smaller spaces than grain, sugar and oils.

“Feeding the next generation is one of the most pressing challenges for the 21st century,” said Professor Fraser. “For a growing population, our calculations suggest that the only way to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, save land and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to consume and produce more fruits and vegetables as well as transition to diets higher in plant-based protein.” − Climate News Network

Change of diet helps to slow climate change

Think global, buy local  but, better still, choose vegetables and fruit. A change of diet can help save the planet from global warming and climate change.

LONDON, 1 November, 2018 – A change of diet can work wonders. European scientists have established one priority for the shopper concerned about climate change: don’t worry about shopping for local produce, worry about the meat and dairy products in the shopping basket instead.

Agricultural emissions are a huge factor in the global greenhouse gas budget. But when scientists from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria sat down to calculate the carbon cost in terms of land use change, transportation and dietary choices, they found one overwhelming component.

Bacon, beef, butter, chicken, cheese and milk do more to step up global warming than any conversion of forest to farmland, the canning of beans, or the transport of tea from China, coffee from Brazil or wheat from Canada.

The researchers report in the journal Global Food Security that they calculated the contribution of an average European Union citizen’s food purchases in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent: each person in what will soon be 27 member states notches up 1,070 kilograms in gas emissions each year.

“People tend to think that consuming locally will be the solution
to climate change, but it turns out that the type of product
we eat is much more important”

This is about what he or she would produce by driving a passenger vehicle for 6,000 kms. It is also about one-third more than previous production-based emission estimates.

Some European states, among them Malta and Luxembourg, import up to 70% of their food. Others, like Romania and Poland, import less than 20%. But even after the scientists factored in the carbon costs of land use change, processing and packaging and transport from another country, they found one clear result.

Meat and dairy production account for more than 75% of the climate impact from EU diets. Grazing animals consume crops grown as animal feed; they occupy more of the farmland converted from forest, and they discharge greater quantities of that potent greenhouse gas methane, along with carbon dioxide.

“People tend to think that consuming locally will be the solution to climate change, but it turns out that the type of product we eat is much more important for overall impact,” says one of the report authors, Hugo Valin, a research scholar in ecosystems services and management at IIASA.

Diversifying diet

“Europeans are culturally attached to meat and dairy product consumption. Reducing our climate footprint does not necessarily require stopping eating these food products, but rather diversifying our diets to reduce the share of these.”

The research applies only to the European Union, and because so much of the European diet is imported, direct food production in the EU amounts to less than 5% of global emissions. A new study published in Nature journal delivers a wider picture of the problem facing the whole planet by 2050, when farmers may have to feed as many as 10 billion people.

In one sample year, 2010, the food production system worldwide put more than 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere, from 12.6 square kilometres of cropland, and consumed 1,810 cubic kilometres of water. This food system also devoured 104 million tonnes of nitrogen and 18 million tonnes of phosphorus as fertilisers.

Cutting waste

By 2050, global income could have tripled, and demand will have increased dramatically. What the scientists politely call the “environmental pressures” of food could increase by from 50% to more than 90%.

But since a third of all food is wasted or lost before it gets to market, there are things societies could do to help. Just halving this waste would reduce pressure on the environment by between 6% and 16%.

And a shift from meat and dairy to fruit and vegetable products – a shift to much healthier eating – could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 56% and other environmental pressures by up to 22%.

But the IAAS researchers warn that there is no single solution. To seriously reduce carbon emissions from the world food system, nations will have to address the problem of waste, the shift to vegetarian or vegan diets, and the need for better farmland management and more efficient technologies, all at the same time. – Climate News Network

Think global, buy local  but, better still, choose vegetables and fruit. A change of diet can help save the planet from global warming and climate change.

LONDON, 1 November, 2018 – A change of diet can work wonders. European scientists have established one priority for the shopper concerned about climate change: don’t worry about shopping for local produce, worry about the meat and dairy products in the shopping basket instead.

Agricultural emissions are a huge factor in the global greenhouse gas budget. But when scientists from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria sat down to calculate the carbon cost in terms of land use change, transportation and dietary choices, they found one overwhelming component.

Bacon, beef, butter, chicken, cheese and milk do more to step up global warming than any conversion of forest to farmland, the canning of beans, or the transport of tea from China, coffee from Brazil or wheat from Canada.

The researchers report in the journal Global Food Security that they calculated the contribution of an average European Union citizen’s food purchases in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent: each person in what will soon be 27 member states notches up 1,070 kilograms in gas emissions each year.

“People tend to think that consuming locally will be the solution
to climate change, but it turns out that the type of product
we eat is much more important”

This is about what he or she would produce by driving a passenger vehicle for 6,000 kms. It is also about one-third more than previous production-based emission estimates.

Some European states, among them Malta and Luxembourg, import up to 70% of their food. Others, like Romania and Poland, import less than 20%. But even after the scientists factored in the carbon costs of land use change, processing and packaging and transport from another country, they found one clear result.

Meat and dairy production account for more than 75% of the climate impact from EU diets. Grazing animals consume crops grown as animal feed; they occupy more of the farmland converted from forest, and they discharge greater quantities of that potent greenhouse gas methane, along with carbon dioxide.

“People tend to think that consuming locally will be the solution to climate change, but it turns out that the type of product we eat is much more important for overall impact,” says one of the report authors, Hugo Valin, a research scholar in ecosystems services and management at IIASA.

Diversifying diet

“Europeans are culturally attached to meat and dairy product consumption. Reducing our climate footprint does not necessarily require stopping eating these food products, but rather diversifying our diets to reduce the share of these.”

The research applies only to the European Union, and because so much of the European diet is imported, direct food production in the EU amounts to less than 5% of global emissions. A new study published in Nature journal delivers a wider picture of the problem facing the whole planet by 2050, when farmers may have to feed as many as 10 billion people.

In one sample year, 2010, the food production system worldwide put more than 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere, from 12.6 square kilometres of cropland, and consumed 1,810 cubic kilometres of water. This food system also devoured 104 million tonnes of nitrogen and 18 million tonnes of phosphorus as fertilisers.

Cutting waste

By 2050, global income could have tripled, and demand will have increased dramatically. What the scientists politely call the “environmental pressures” of food could increase by from 50% to more than 90%.

But since a third of all food is wasted or lost before it gets to market, there are things societies could do to help. Just halving this waste would reduce pressure on the environment by between 6% and 16%.

And a shift from meat and dairy to fruit and vegetable products – a shift to much healthier eating – could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 56% and other environmental pressures by up to 22%.

But the IAAS researchers warn that there is no single solution. To seriously reduce carbon emissions from the world food system, nations will have to address the problem of waste, the shift to vegetarian or vegan diets, and the need for better farmland management and more efficient technologies, all at the same time. – Climate News Network

China’s action on air quality is saving lives

air quality

Emissions control policies in China are rapidly proving effective in improving air quality and helping to increase life expectancy.

LONDON, 22 October, 2018 − Air quality in China has substantially improved over the last three years with a 20% reduction in small particulates, the most dangerous form of pollution that has been causing more than one million deaths a year.

The figures shows that Chinese government policies designed to improve air quality are working, and that life expectancy in the country will increase as a result.

The news is also good for climate change because the same policies mean less fossil fuel is being burned and fewer greenhouse gases released.

The study, published in Environmental Research Letters by the University of Leeds in England, is based on air quality readings taken at 1,600 locations in China from 2015 to 2017.

Hourly assessments were made of concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), and fine particles measuring less than 2.5 thousandths of a millimetre (µm), known as PM2.5s.

Dangerous pollutant

Concentrations of PM 2.5s − the most dangerous pollutant − fell by 7.2% a year over the three-year period, and sulphur dioxide by 10.3%.

Low-level ozone, which is produced by sunlight acting on pollution, rose by 5% per year. This increase, which would have caused some extra irritation of the lungs, may have been the result of more sunlight reaching the ground.

Study co-author Professor Dominick Spracklen, from the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds, says: “Rapid economic growth and large increases in emissions have led to serious air quality issues across China.

“One of the most dangerous components of air pollution is fine particulate matter that measures less than the width of a human hair.

“These particles can penetrate deeply into the lungs, causing serious health complications. Exposure to these particles is estimated to cause more than 1 million deaths across China each year.

“In response, the Chinese government introduced policies to reduce emissions and set ambitious targets to limit the amount of particulates in the atmosphere. This is the first detailed assessment as to whether these policies are having an impact.”

“Rapid economic growth and large increases in emissions
have led to serious air quality issues across China”

Ben Silver, study lead author and post-graduate researcher at Leeds, says: “Our work shows rapid and extensive changes in air pollution right across China. In particular, it is encouraging to see that levels of fine particulate matter have fallen rapidly in the last few years.

“While more research is needed to fully assess what is driving the trends we’ve uncovered here, particularly what is causing the widespread increase in ozone concentrations, we can see that China’s emissions control policies seem to be on the right track.”

Another study, published in Environment International, says that replacing fossil fuels with renewables in China and India will add years to people’s lives.

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences looked at the effect of air pollution on the life expectancy of 2.7 billion people who live in the two countries – more than a third of the world’s population.

Air pollution is one of the largest contributors to death in both countries. China is rated as the fourth most polluted country in the world, and India is ranked fifth.

The researchers found that eliminating harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants could annually save an estimated 15 million years of life in China and 11 million years of life in India.

Highest priority

Using local data from the worst-affected regions of the two countries, the researchers could calculate annual changes to life expectancy.

They were able to narrow down the areas of highest priority, recommending upgrades to the existing power generating technologies in Shandong, Henan and Sichuan provinces in China, and Uttar Pradesh state in India, due to their dominant contributions to the current health risks.

Chris Nielsen, executive director of the Harvard-China Project and a co-author of the paper, says: “This study shows how modelling advances and expanding monitoring networks are strengthening the scientific basis for setting environmental priorities to protect the health of ordinary Chinese and Indian citizens.

“It also drives home just how much middle-income countries could benefit by transitioning to non-fossil electricity sources as they grow.” − Climate News Network

Emissions control policies in China are rapidly proving effective in improving air quality and helping to increase life expectancy.

LONDON, 22 October, 2018 − Air quality in China has substantially improved over the last three years with a 20% reduction in small particulates, the most dangerous form of pollution that has been causing more than one million deaths a year.

The figures shows that Chinese government policies designed to improve air quality are working, and that life expectancy in the country will increase as a result.

The news is also good for climate change because the same policies mean less fossil fuel is being burned and fewer greenhouse gases released.

The study, published in Environmental Research Letters by the University of Leeds in England, is based on air quality readings taken at 1,600 locations in China from 2015 to 2017.

Hourly assessments were made of concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), and fine particles measuring less than 2.5 thousandths of a millimetre (µm), known as PM2.5s.

Dangerous pollutant

Concentrations of PM 2.5s − the most dangerous pollutant − fell by 7.2% a year over the three-year period, and sulphur dioxide by 10.3%.

Low-level ozone, which is produced by sunlight acting on pollution, rose by 5% per year. This increase, which would have caused some extra irritation of the lungs, may have been the result of more sunlight reaching the ground.

Study co-author Professor Dominick Spracklen, from the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds, says: “Rapid economic growth and large increases in emissions have led to serious air quality issues across China.

“One of the most dangerous components of air pollution is fine particulate matter that measures less than the width of a human hair.

“These particles can penetrate deeply into the lungs, causing serious health complications. Exposure to these particles is estimated to cause more than 1 million deaths across China each year.

“In response, the Chinese government introduced policies to reduce emissions and set ambitious targets to limit the amount of particulates in the atmosphere. This is the first detailed assessment as to whether these policies are having an impact.”

“Rapid economic growth and large increases in emissions
have led to serious air quality issues across China”

Ben Silver, study lead author and post-graduate researcher at Leeds, says: “Our work shows rapid and extensive changes in air pollution right across China. In particular, it is encouraging to see that levels of fine particulate matter have fallen rapidly in the last few years.

“While more research is needed to fully assess what is driving the trends we’ve uncovered here, particularly what is causing the widespread increase in ozone concentrations, we can see that China’s emissions control policies seem to be on the right track.”

Another study, published in Environment International, says that replacing fossil fuels with renewables in China and India will add years to people’s lives.

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences looked at the effect of air pollution on the life expectancy of 2.7 billion people who live in the two countries – more than a third of the world’s population.

Air pollution is one of the largest contributors to death in both countries. China is rated as the fourth most polluted country in the world, and India is ranked fifth.

The researchers found that eliminating harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants could annually save an estimated 15 million years of life in China and 11 million years of life in India.

Highest priority

Using local data from the worst-affected regions of the two countries, the researchers could calculate annual changes to life expectancy.

They were able to narrow down the areas of highest priority, recommending upgrades to the existing power generating technologies in Shandong, Henan and Sichuan provinces in China, and Uttar Pradesh state in India, due to their dominant contributions to the current health risks.

Chris Nielsen, executive director of the Harvard-China Project and a co-author of the paper, says: “This study shows how modelling advances and expanding monitoring networks are strengthening the scientific basis for setting environmental priorities to protect the health of ordinary Chinese and Indian citizens.

“It also drives home just how much middle-income countries could benefit by transitioning to non-fossil electricity sources as they grow.” − Climate News Network

Warming raises threat of global famine repeat

famine

Global warming is increasing the chances of worldwide harvest failure on the scale of the tragic 19th-century drought and famine that claimed 50 million lives.

LONDON, 19 October, 2018 − Climate change driven by human-induced global warming could recreate the conditions for a re-run of one of the most tragic episodes in human history, the Great Drought and Global Famine of 1875 to 1878.

Those years were marked by widespread and prolonged droughts in Asia, Brazil and Africa, triggered by a coincidence of unusual conditions in the Pacific, Indian and North Atlantic Oceans.

The famine – made more lethal by the political constraints linked to 19th-century colonial domination of three continents – is now thought to have claimed up to 50 million lives.

And the message contained in new research published in the Journal of Climate is stark: what happened before could happen again.

One of the triggers was a cyclic blister of Pacific warming called El Niño, known to reverse global weather patterns, scorch rainforests and destabilise societies.

Another factor was a set of record warm temperatures in the North Atlantic that have been linked to drought in North Africa.

Linked to famine

A third was an unusually strong Indian Ocean dipole, a natural cyclic temperature change that has recently been linked to famine in the Horn of Africa.

The 1875-78 drought and famine began with the failure of the monsoon in India and China, leading to the most intense drought in the last 800 years. So many died in Shanxi province, China, that the population was restored to 1875 levels only in 1953.

The combination of record ocean temperatures and a very strong El Niño also intensified and prolonged droughts in Brazil and Australia. One million people are thought to have perished in the Nordeste province of Brazil.

In India, British colonial powers hoarded grain and exported it to England while continuing, the authors say, “to collect harsh taxes”.

Hunger, followed by typhoid and cholera, so weakened Asian and Africa societies that the French could colonise North Africa, and British forces could finally defeat the Zulu Nation in South Africa in 1879.

In effect, the authors say, the famine helped advance global inequalities and divide the globe into “first” and “third” worlds.

“Hydrological impacts intensified by global warming could again potentially undermine global food security”

Deepti Singh, a climate scientist at Washington State University Vancouver, has already identified an ominous weakening of the South Asian monsoon.

In her latest study, she and colleagues looked closely at historic records and what climate scientists call proxy evidence – tree ring measurements around the world, for instance – to identify the global climate conditions that must have driven the drought and famine.

“Climate conditions that caused the Great Drought and Global Famine arose from natural variability,” the researchers write. “And their recurrence – with hydrological impacts intensified by global warming – could again potentially undermine global food security.”

In fact, food security and the impact of climate change has become a recurring research theme.

Scientists have repeatedly warned that human-induced global warming can only intensify drought, not just in those already vulnerable regions but also in the fertile and flourishing farmlands of the US and the teeming rainforests of the Amazon.

Catastrophic drought

Studies of the deep past have identified catastrophic, prolonged drought long ago in the eastern Mediterranean, birthplace of agriculture and again suffering from recent sustained drought.

More recent research has confirmed that heat extremes and drought could seriously afflict grain yields in Europe and crop yields worldwide, while drought and monsoon failure present an immediate threat to food supplies in south-east Asia.

Agriculture anywhere is always a gamble on the familiar pattern of climate. Farmers tend to go on planting crops that do well, and some farmers, somewhere, will always experience crop failure.

Multiple disruption

However, the latest study confirms that any change in the global forces that drive weather – and these include air and ocean temperatures – could also make more probable a kind of multiple disruption of the normal.

And that, the researchers suggest, could bring back the triple hazard of disastrous change in all three oceans at the same time. Widespread, sustained drought could become even more severe.

In the last 150 years, the world has changed, politically and economically, but the researchers say that “such extreme events would still lead to severe shocks to the global food system, with local food insecurity in vulnerable countries potentially amplified by today’s highly-connected global food trade network”.

And they argue that better understanding of how the machinery of climate works to produce such devastating drought “should translate into improved prediction of the consequences of any such future event and allow effective management of the resulting food crises, so that the next Great Drought does not trigger another Great Famine.” – Climate News Network

Global warming is increasing the chances of worldwide harvest failure on the scale of the tragic 19th-century drought and famine that claimed 50 million lives.

LONDON, 19 October, 2018 − Climate change driven by human-induced global warming could recreate the conditions for a re-run of one of the most tragic episodes in human history, the Great Drought and Global Famine of 1875 to 1878.

Those years were marked by widespread and prolonged droughts in Asia, Brazil and Africa, triggered by a coincidence of unusual conditions in the Pacific, Indian and North Atlantic Oceans.

The famine – made more lethal by the political constraints linked to 19th-century colonial domination of three continents – is now thought to have claimed up to 50 million lives.

And the message contained in new research published in the Journal of Climate is stark: what happened before could happen again.

One of the triggers was a cyclic blister of Pacific warming called El Niño, known to reverse global weather patterns, scorch rainforests and destabilise societies.

Another factor was a set of record warm temperatures in the North Atlantic that have been linked to drought in North Africa.

Linked to famine

A third was an unusually strong Indian Ocean dipole, a natural cyclic temperature change that has recently been linked to famine in the Horn of Africa.

The 1875-78 drought and famine began with the failure of the monsoon in India and China, leading to the most intense drought in the last 800 years. So many died in Shanxi province, China, that the population was restored to 1875 levels only in 1953.

The combination of record ocean temperatures and a very strong El Niño also intensified and prolonged droughts in Brazil and Australia. One million people are thought to have perished in the Nordeste province of Brazil.

In India, British colonial powers hoarded grain and exported it to England while continuing, the authors say, “to collect harsh taxes”.

Hunger, followed by typhoid and cholera, so weakened Asian and Africa societies that the French could colonise North Africa, and British forces could finally defeat the Zulu Nation in South Africa in 1879.

In effect, the authors say, the famine helped advance global inequalities and divide the globe into “first” and “third” worlds.

“Hydrological impacts intensified by global warming could again potentially undermine global food security”

Deepti Singh, a climate scientist at Washington State University Vancouver, has already identified an ominous weakening of the South Asian monsoon.

In her latest study, she and colleagues looked closely at historic records and what climate scientists call proxy evidence – tree ring measurements around the world, for instance – to identify the global climate conditions that must have driven the drought and famine.

“Climate conditions that caused the Great Drought and Global Famine arose from natural variability,” the researchers write. “And their recurrence – with hydrological impacts intensified by global warming – could again potentially undermine global food security.”

In fact, food security and the impact of climate change has become a recurring research theme.

Scientists have repeatedly warned that human-induced global warming can only intensify drought, not just in those already vulnerable regions but also in the fertile and flourishing farmlands of the US and the teeming rainforests of the Amazon.

Catastrophic drought

Studies of the deep past have identified catastrophic, prolonged drought long ago in the eastern Mediterranean, birthplace of agriculture and again suffering from recent sustained drought.

More recent research has confirmed that heat extremes and drought could seriously afflict grain yields in Europe and crop yields worldwide, while drought and monsoon failure present an immediate threat to food supplies in south-east Asia.

Agriculture anywhere is always a gamble on the familiar pattern of climate. Farmers tend to go on planting crops that do well, and some farmers, somewhere, will always experience crop failure.

Multiple disruption

However, the latest study confirms that any change in the global forces that drive weather – and these include air and ocean temperatures – could also make more probable a kind of multiple disruption of the normal.

And that, the researchers suggest, could bring back the triple hazard of disastrous change in all three oceans at the same time. Widespread, sustained drought could become even more severe.

In the last 150 years, the world has changed, politically and economically, but the researchers say that “such extreme events would still lead to severe shocks to the global food system, with local food insecurity in vulnerable countries potentially amplified by today’s highly-connected global food trade network”.

And they argue that better understanding of how the machinery of climate works to produce such devastating drought “should translate into improved prediction of the consequences of any such future event and allow effective management of the resulting food crises, so that the next Great Drought does not trigger another Great Famine.” – Climate News Network

Well-fed world can slow warming too

The well-fed world scientists say is possible by 2050 could also halve global warming emissions. But it would have to lose its appetite for meat.

LONDON, 12 October, 2018 – The hopeful news is that by mid-century a well-fed world may be able to feed everyone alive, while halving the gases causing global warming. There’s just one snag: for most of us it would mean an almost meatless diet.

On 8 October global scientists said the world must make “rapid and far-reaching changes in all aspects of society” to keep global warming from reaching unacceptably dangerous levels.  They included the food we eat as one sector demanding radical change.

Bang on cue, a report by a separate group of scientists says the 10 billion people expected to be living by 2050 could enjoy sustainable food supplies – while emissions of the greenhouse gases that are warming the Earth fall by more than 50%.

But, for this to happen, the rich world would have to pay a high price, while the poorest people still faced malnutrition and hunger.

Less animal protein

The report says Westerners need to make a drastic switch away from meat and dairy products, cutting their consumption of beef by 90% and eating five times more beans and pulses than they do today to stave off hunger. Similar though slightly less radical changes are in prospect for people in other prosperous countries.

The researchers who wrote the report, published in the journal Nature, say it is the first to quantify how food production and consumption affect the planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity, and beyond which the Earth’s vital systems could become unstable.

“No single solution is enough to avoid crossing planetary boundaries. But when the solutions are implemented together, our research indicates that it may be possible to feed the growing population sustainably,” said Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the study.

“Many of the solutions we analysed are being implemented in some parts of the world, but it will need strong global co-ordination and rapid upscale to make their effects felt”

“Without concerted action, we found that the environmental impacts of the food system could increase by 50-90% by 2050 as a result of population growth and the rise of diets high in fats, sugars and meat. In that case, all planetary boundaries related to food production would be surpassed, some of them by more than twofold.”

A global shift towards healthy and more plant-based diets, halving food loss and waste (about a third of the food produced is lost before it can reach consumers), and improving farming practices and technologies, is needed to feed 10 billion people sustainably by 2050, the study says. Adopting these options cuts the risk of crossing global environmental limits on climate change.

But there will be other advantages too, the researchers say – reductions in the use of agricultural land and freshwater, and in the pollution of ecosystems through the over-use of fertilisers.

The study, funded by EAT as part of the EAT-Lancet Commission for Food, Planet and Health and by Wellcome’s “Our Planet, Our Health” partnership on Livestock Environment and People, combined detailed environmental accounts with a model of the global food system that tracks the production and consumption of food across the world. With this model, the researchers analysed several options that could keep the food system within environmental limits.

Multiple gains

They found that climate change can be checked enough only if diets change to include more plant-based food and reductions in meat and dairy products. Adopting more of these plant-based “flexitarian” diets globally could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than half and cut fertiliser application and the use of cropland and freshwater by between a tenth and a quarter.

But dietary changes alone will not be enough, the researchers say. They argue that improved agricultural management and technology will be essential too. Increasing yields from existing cropland, balancing fertiliser application and recycling and improving water management could, with other changes, reduce those impacts by around half.

A significant contributor to food insecurity is the deterioration and loss of soil. By one calculation, a third of the world’s arable land has been lost to erosion or pollution over the last 40 years. Restoring lost soil quality helps to increase harvests and slow warming.

The report says the world will have to halve wasted food to keep within environmental limits. If that happened worldwide, it would reduce environmental impacts by up to 16%.

Healthy eating

EAT is a science-based global platform for food system transformation founded by the Stordalen Foundation, Stockholm Resilience Centre and Wellcome.

Fabrice de Clerck, its director of science, said: “Tackling food loss and waste will require measures across the entire food chain, from storage and transport, over food packaging and labelling, to changes in legislation and business behaviour that promote zero-waste supply chains.”

“Many of the solutions we analysed are being implemented in some parts of the world, but it will need strong global co-ordination and rapid upscale to make their effects felt,” said Dr Springmann.

“When it comes to diets, important aspects include school and workplace programmes, economic incentives and labelling, and aligning national dietary guidelines with the current scientific evidence on healthy eating and the environmental impacts of our diet.” – Climate News Network

The well-fed world scientists say is possible by 2050 could also halve global warming emissions. But it would have to lose its appetite for meat.

LONDON, 12 October, 2018 – The hopeful news is that by mid-century a well-fed world may be able to feed everyone alive, while halving the gases causing global warming. There’s just one snag: for most of us it would mean an almost meatless diet.

On 8 October global scientists said the world must make “rapid and far-reaching changes in all aspects of society” to keep global warming from reaching unacceptably dangerous levels.  They included the food we eat as one sector demanding radical change.

Bang on cue, a report by a separate group of scientists says the 10 billion people expected to be living by 2050 could enjoy sustainable food supplies – while emissions of the greenhouse gases that are warming the Earth fall by more than 50%.

But, for this to happen, the rich world would have to pay a high price, while the poorest people still faced malnutrition and hunger.

Less animal protein

The report says Westerners need to make a drastic switch away from meat and dairy products, cutting their consumption of beef by 90% and eating five times more beans and pulses than they do today to stave off hunger. Similar though slightly less radical changes are in prospect for people in other prosperous countries.

The researchers who wrote the report, published in the journal Nature, say it is the first to quantify how food production and consumption affect the planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity, and beyond which the Earth’s vital systems could become unstable.

“No single solution is enough to avoid crossing planetary boundaries. But when the solutions are implemented together, our research indicates that it may be possible to feed the growing population sustainably,” said Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the study.

“Many of the solutions we analysed are being implemented in some parts of the world, but it will need strong global co-ordination and rapid upscale to make their effects felt”

“Without concerted action, we found that the environmental impacts of the food system could increase by 50-90% by 2050 as a result of population growth and the rise of diets high in fats, sugars and meat. In that case, all planetary boundaries related to food production would be surpassed, some of them by more than twofold.”

A global shift towards healthy and more plant-based diets, halving food loss and waste (about a third of the food produced is lost before it can reach consumers), and improving farming practices and technologies, is needed to feed 10 billion people sustainably by 2050, the study says. Adopting these options cuts the risk of crossing global environmental limits on climate change.

But there will be other advantages too, the researchers say – reductions in the use of agricultural land and freshwater, and in the pollution of ecosystems through the over-use of fertilisers.

The study, funded by EAT as part of the EAT-Lancet Commission for Food, Planet and Health and by Wellcome’s “Our Planet, Our Health” partnership on Livestock Environment and People, combined detailed environmental accounts with a model of the global food system that tracks the production and consumption of food across the world. With this model, the researchers analysed several options that could keep the food system within environmental limits.

Multiple gains

They found that climate change can be checked enough only if diets change to include more plant-based food and reductions in meat and dairy products. Adopting more of these plant-based “flexitarian” diets globally could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than half and cut fertiliser application and the use of cropland and freshwater by between a tenth and a quarter.

But dietary changes alone will not be enough, the researchers say. They argue that improved agricultural management and technology will be essential too. Increasing yields from existing cropland, balancing fertiliser application and recycling and improving water management could, with other changes, reduce those impacts by around half.

A significant contributor to food insecurity is the deterioration and loss of soil. By one calculation, a third of the world’s arable land has been lost to erosion or pollution over the last 40 years. Restoring lost soil quality helps to increase harvests and slow warming.

The report says the world will have to halve wasted food to keep within environmental limits. If that happened worldwide, it would reduce environmental impacts by up to 16%.

Healthy eating

EAT is a science-based global platform for food system transformation founded by the Stordalen Foundation, Stockholm Resilience Centre and Wellcome.

Fabrice de Clerck, its director of science, said: “Tackling food loss and waste will require measures across the entire food chain, from storage and transport, over food packaging and labelling, to changes in legislation and business behaviour that promote zero-waste supply chains.”

“Many of the solutions we analysed are being implemented in some parts of the world, but it will need strong global co-ordination and rapid upscale to make their effects felt,” said Dr Springmann.

“When it comes to diets, important aspects include school and workplace programmes, economic incentives and labelling, and aligning national dietary guidelines with the current scientific evidence on healthy eating and the environmental impacts of our diet.” – Climate News Network

Hotter planet faces more killer heat

The Earth can expect more killer heat, from lethal heat waves and more intense temperatures claiming more lives. Wildfires, too, will become more polluting.

LONDON, 25 September, 2018 – Once again, researchers have confirmed that limiting global warming will save lives by reducing the impact of killer heat.

An international team has checked predictions for heat-related deaths against some of the global average temperatures likely later this century, to issue this warning: it will be a safer world if temperatures creep up by only 1.5°C over historic levels. Fewer people will die in the ever more intense heat extremes that will go with average global temperature rises.

And a second, separate study of the impact of forest, bush and wildfires on human health has warned that – in the US alone – deaths linked to smoke could more than double, to perhaps 40,000 a year.

The world has already warmed by around 1°C in the last century: the limit of “well below 2°C” set by 195 nations when they met in Paris in 2015 looks increasingly close.

Scientists from Britain, Europe, Australia, the US, Brazil, Chile and China report in the journal Climatic Change that they looked at records for temperature-related deaths from 451 places in 23 countries and then projected likely deaths as global average temperatures rose by 1.5°C, and then up to 3°C and 4°C.

“Large parts of the world could experience a dramatic increase in excess mortality due to heat. This would not be balanced by decreases in cold-related deaths”

They found that at the higher forecasts, hazards rose steeply: in the worst instances, by almost 9%.

Alarm about the impact of heat waves on human health is not new: in the last few years researchers have warned that by 2100, around 75% of humanity will be at some risk of death by heat extremes. Another group has measured suicide statistics and seen a rise with temperature extremes.

A third group has focused on the double hazard of ever greater heat and humidity, and a fourth has identified at least 27 different ways in which heat waves can claim lives.

So the latest study is separate confirmation, this time by medical scientists who need to know what to expect as the thermometer rises.

Limiting fatalities

“Our projections suggest that large increases in temperature-related deaths could be limited in most regions if warming was kept below 2°C,”explains Ana Maria Vicedo-Cabrera, who led the study.

“Under extreme changes in climate, large parts of the world could experience a dramatic increase in excess mortality due to heat. This would not be balanced by decreases in cold-related deaths. Efforts to limit the increase in global temperature to below 1.5°C could provide additional benefits in tropical or arid regions, including the most populous and often poorest countries.”

With ever higher temperatures there will be ever more prolonged droughts, and inevitably greater risk of wildfire, and particularly in the US.

Right now, wildfires in the US claim an estimated 15,000 lives a year, chiefly through smoke inhalation that can worsen chronic pulmonary conditions, or hasten death in people with heart conditions.

By 2100, scientists report in the American Geophysical Union journal Geohealth, the death count in the contiguous US could reach 40,000 a year.

Particulate menace

The study recognizes that wildfire hazard has a number of causes and that climate change is only part of the story. But in the first six months of 2018, the US government’s own National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recorded 37,718 fires that burned almost 20,000 square kilometres.

In 2017, wildfire fighting cost the US Forest Service a record $2.4bn. And each fire hurled high levels of particulate matter – soot and other detritus – into the atmosphere, and into a nation’s eyes and lungs.

“We know from our own research and many, many other groups that smoke has negative impacts on human health,” said Jeff Pierce, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado, and one of the authors.

“With the knowledge that fires have been increasing in parts of the US, we wanted to look at how bad this might get.” – Climate News Network

The Earth can expect more killer heat, from lethal heat waves and more intense temperatures claiming more lives. Wildfires, too, will become more polluting.

LONDON, 25 September, 2018 – Once again, researchers have confirmed that limiting global warming will save lives by reducing the impact of killer heat.

An international team has checked predictions for heat-related deaths against some of the global average temperatures likely later this century, to issue this warning: it will be a safer world if temperatures creep up by only 1.5°C over historic levels. Fewer people will die in the ever more intense heat extremes that will go with average global temperature rises.

And a second, separate study of the impact of forest, bush and wildfires on human health has warned that – in the US alone – deaths linked to smoke could more than double, to perhaps 40,000 a year.

The world has already warmed by around 1°C in the last century: the limit of “well below 2°C” set by 195 nations when they met in Paris in 2015 looks increasingly close.

Scientists from Britain, Europe, Australia, the US, Brazil, Chile and China report in the journal Climatic Change that they looked at records for temperature-related deaths from 451 places in 23 countries and then projected likely deaths as global average temperatures rose by 1.5°C, and then up to 3°C and 4°C.

“Large parts of the world could experience a dramatic increase in excess mortality due to heat. This would not be balanced by decreases in cold-related deaths”

They found that at the higher forecasts, hazards rose steeply: in the worst instances, by almost 9%.

Alarm about the impact of heat waves on human health is not new: in the last few years researchers have warned that by 2100, around 75% of humanity will be at some risk of death by heat extremes. Another group has measured suicide statistics and seen a rise with temperature extremes.

A third group has focused on the double hazard of ever greater heat and humidity, and a fourth has identified at least 27 different ways in which heat waves can claim lives.

So the latest study is separate confirmation, this time by medical scientists who need to know what to expect as the thermometer rises.

Limiting fatalities

“Our projections suggest that large increases in temperature-related deaths could be limited in most regions if warming was kept below 2°C,”explains Ana Maria Vicedo-Cabrera, who led the study.

“Under extreme changes in climate, large parts of the world could experience a dramatic increase in excess mortality due to heat. This would not be balanced by decreases in cold-related deaths. Efforts to limit the increase in global temperature to below 1.5°C could provide additional benefits in tropical or arid regions, including the most populous and often poorest countries.”

With ever higher temperatures there will be ever more prolonged droughts, and inevitably greater risk of wildfire, and particularly in the US.

Right now, wildfires in the US claim an estimated 15,000 lives a year, chiefly through smoke inhalation that can worsen chronic pulmonary conditions, or hasten death in people with heart conditions.

By 2100, scientists report in the American Geophysical Union journal Geohealth, the death count in the contiguous US could reach 40,000 a year.

Particulate menace

The study recognizes that wildfire hazard has a number of causes and that climate change is only part of the story. But in the first six months of 2018, the US government’s own National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recorded 37,718 fires that burned almost 20,000 square kilometres.

In 2017, wildfire fighting cost the US Forest Service a record $2.4bn. And each fire hurled high levels of particulate matter – soot and other detritus – into the atmosphere, and into a nation’s eyes and lungs.

“We know from our own research and many, many other groups that smoke has negative impacts on human health,” said Jeff Pierce, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado, and one of the authors.

“With the knowledge that fires have been increasing in parts of the US, we wanted to look at how bad this might get.” – Climate News Network

Hungrier insects will bite into world’s crops

Higher temperatures mean hungrier insects. And that will mean more crop losses. The question is: who loses most?

LONDON, 13 September, 2018 – Researchers have confirmed, once again, that a warmer world is likely to have hungrier insects. The new predators could increase their share of the harvest of wheat, rice and maize by up to 25%.

That is, for every 1°C rise in average temperature, aphids, beetles, borers, caterpillars and other crop pests could increase their consumption of grain by between one tenth and one quarter.

And with a 2°C rise above the average temperature for most of human history – the target set by 195 nations in Paris in 2015 – additional global losses of grain to insect pests could reach 213 million tonnes a year.

For once, the steepest losses could be experienced in the temperate zones, home to the richest nations, rather than in the poorest communities. The reasoning is simple, and the scientists spell it out with a clarity not normally found in scientific prose.

“Our choice now is not whether or not we will allow warming to occur, but how much warming we are willing to tolerate.”

“First, an individual insect’s metabolic rate accelerates with temperature, and an insect’s rate of food consumption must rise accordingly,” they write.

“Second, the number of insects will change, because population growth rates also vary with temperature.” And for that reason, insect numbers in the tropics might decline, but pest numbers in the cooler regions will rise.

Curtis Deutsch of the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues report in the journal Science that they set themselves the challenge of calculating potential crop losses to insect pests in a warmer world.

They took what is already known about 38 insect species from different latitudes, and the data for harvests over recent decades. About one third of all crops are lost to pests, diseases and weed competition: the point of the study was to isolate the impact of insect predation under a scenario of global warming.

Tropical impact lessened

Most crops are lost in the tropics, but the extra appetite in tropical pests could be offset by reduced numbers as the thermometer rises.

France, China and the US – the countries that produce most of the world’s maize – could experience the most dramatic crop losses from insect pests. France produces much of the world’s wheat, China much of its rice: both crops will be hit hard.

Altogether the scientists calculate that with a 2°C rise – and average global temperatures have already risen by about 1°C – by 2050 the median increase in losses of yield across all climates could be 46% for wheat, 19% for rice and 31% for maize: all of it to ever-hungrier caterpillars, beetles and borers.

These percentages translate to 59 million tonnes for wheat, 92 million tonnes for rice and 63 million tonnes for maize.

Food security jeopardised

Such research is a fresh iteration of an increasingly familiar theme: the threat to food security in a world of climate change driven by ever-increasing use of fossil fuels to raise greenhouse gas ratios in the atmosphere to unprecedented levels. Insect predation however is not the only factor.

Repeatedly over the last decade, researchers have warned that higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide could affect the levels of protein, iron and zinc delivered by crop plants; that the greater extremes of heat that must accompany higher average temperatures could hit grain harvests and yields of fruit and vegetables.

Rice, wheat and maize between them provide a huge share of the world’s calorie intake. The three grains are staples for about 4 billion people, and the UN calculates that more than 800 million worldwide do not have enough to eat.

Most of these are in the developing world, and in the tropics. The twist in the latest research is that it predicts that the biggest losses will be in the well-off zones.

Guiding policy

Eleven European countries are expected to experience a 75% increase in insect-linked wheat losses: altogether, by 2050, insects could be consuming 16 million tonnes of wheat. The US could see a 40% increase in maize losses to pests, and farmers will lose 20 million tonnes in yield. Rice losses in China alone could reach 27 million tonnes.

Such studies are intended as a guide to help ministries of agriculture, crop research institutions and other national and civic governments to confront a future of climate change.

Crop scientists could start devising new farming strategies, and working on more resistant crop varieties. Nations could begin to deliver on promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I hope our results demonstrate the importance of collecting more data on how pests will impact crop losses in a warming world,” said Dr Deutsch, “because collectively, our choice now is not whether or not we will allow warming to occur, but how much warming we are willing to tolerate.” – Climate News Network

Higher temperatures mean hungrier insects. And that will mean more crop losses. The question is: who loses most?

LONDON, 13 September, 2018 – Researchers have confirmed, once again, that a warmer world is likely to have hungrier insects. The new predators could increase their share of the harvest of wheat, rice and maize by up to 25%.

That is, for every 1°C rise in average temperature, aphids, beetles, borers, caterpillars and other crop pests could increase their consumption of grain by between one tenth and one quarter.

And with a 2°C rise above the average temperature for most of human history – the target set by 195 nations in Paris in 2015 – additional global losses of grain to insect pests could reach 213 million tonnes a year.

For once, the steepest losses could be experienced in the temperate zones, home to the richest nations, rather than in the poorest communities. The reasoning is simple, and the scientists spell it out with a clarity not normally found in scientific prose.

“Our choice now is not whether or not we will allow warming to occur, but how much warming we are willing to tolerate.”

“First, an individual insect’s metabolic rate accelerates with temperature, and an insect’s rate of food consumption must rise accordingly,” they write.

“Second, the number of insects will change, because population growth rates also vary with temperature.” And for that reason, insect numbers in the tropics might decline, but pest numbers in the cooler regions will rise.

Curtis Deutsch of the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues report in the journal Science that they set themselves the challenge of calculating potential crop losses to insect pests in a warmer world.

They took what is already known about 38 insect species from different latitudes, and the data for harvests over recent decades. About one third of all crops are lost to pests, diseases and weed competition: the point of the study was to isolate the impact of insect predation under a scenario of global warming.

Tropical impact lessened

Most crops are lost in the tropics, but the extra appetite in tropical pests could be offset by reduced numbers as the thermometer rises.

France, China and the US – the countries that produce most of the world’s maize – could experience the most dramatic crop losses from insect pests. France produces much of the world’s wheat, China much of its rice: both crops will be hit hard.

Altogether the scientists calculate that with a 2°C rise – and average global temperatures have already risen by about 1°C – by 2050 the median increase in losses of yield across all climates could be 46% for wheat, 19% for rice and 31% for maize: all of it to ever-hungrier caterpillars, beetles and borers.

These percentages translate to 59 million tonnes for wheat, 92 million tonnes for rice and 63 million tonnes for maize.

Food security jeopardised

Such research is a fresh iteration of an increasingly familiar theme: the threat to food security in a world of climate change driven by ever-increasing use of fossil fuels to raise greenhouse gas ratios in the atmosphere to unprecedented levels. Insect predation however is not the only factor.

Repeatedly over the last decade, researchers have warned that higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide could affect the levels of protein, iron and zinc delivered by crop plants; that the greater extremes of heat that must accompany higher average temperatures could hit grain harvests and yields of fruit and vegetables.

Rice, wheat and maize between them provide a huge share of the world’s calorie intake. The three grains are staples for about 4 billion people, and the UN calculates that more than 800 million worldwide do not have enough to eat.

Most of these are in the developing world, and in the tropics. The twist in the latest research is that it predicts that the biggest losses will be in the well-off zones.

Guiding policy

Eleven European countries are expected to experience a 75% increase in insect-linked wheat losses: altogether, by 2050, insects could be consuming 16 million tonnes of wheat. The US could see a 40% increase in maize losses to pests, and farmers will lose 20 million tonnes in yield. Rice losses in China alone could reach 27 million tonnes.

Such studies are intended as a guide to help ministries of agriculture, crop research institutions and other national and civic governments to confront a future of climate change.

Crop scientists could start devising new farming strategies, and working on more resistant crop varieties. Nations could begin to deliver on promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I hope our results demonstrate the importance of collecting more data on how pests will impact crop losses in a warming world,” said Dr Deutsch, “because collectively, our choice now is not whether or not we will allow warming to occur, but how much warming we are willing to tolerate.” – Climate News Network

Rising carbon will mean shrunken harvests

Higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere don’t just mean a warmer world: they could also mean both shrunken harvests and a less nourishing diet.

LONDON, 5 September, 2018 – A greenhouse world could be a more malnourished one, trying to survive on shrunken harvests. Researchers have confirmed that as carbon dioxide ratios in the atmosphere double later this century, the protein, iron and zinc content of many of the world’s staple crops could dwindle by between 3% and 17%.

Since an estimated two billion people are already affected in some way by hunger or malnutrition, the consequences are alarming. An extra 175 million people could become deficient in dietary zinc – a vital trace element in plant foods. An additional 122 million people will no longer get enough protein.

And 1.4 billion children below the age of 5 and women of child-bearing age already live in regions where the prevalence of anaemia reaches 20%, and stand to lose 4% of their dietary iron intake.

Almost two thirds of all the world’s dietary protein is provided by plants, along with four-fifths of its dietary iron and more than two thirds of the dietary zinc.

“Decisions we are making every day – how we heat our homes, what we eat, how we move around, what we choose to purchase – are making our food less nutritious”

Human civilisation and human food staples – wheat, rice, maize, potatoes, fruit, brassicas, beans and nuts – evolved together, and for most of human history carbon dioxide ratios in the atmosphere hovered around 280 parts per million. But since the start of the Industrial Revolution, these have reached 400ppm.

Two US scientists report in the journal Nature Climate Change that they used computer simulations to look at the effect of extra carbon dioxide – the consequence of ever-increasing combustion of fossil fuels over the past 200 years – on the nutritional value of 225 different foods in the population of 151 countries around the planet. They settled on an upper limit of 550ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere by 2050 as their test case.

And they found that the prevalence and severity of nutritional deficiency would be increased worldwide, particularly in Africa, south and south-east Asia and the Middle East.

Risk to millions

In just one country, India, an additional 50 million will start to suffer from zinc deficiency, 38 million will go short of protein and more than 500 million women and children will be at greater risk of anaemia and other diseases linked to insufficient dietary iron.

Other researchers have already made the same case using different approaches: they have repeatedly raised the alarm about the nutritional content of humanity’s favourite staples in a greenhouse world, made direct connections between carbon dioxide levels and plant protein productivity, and tested the hypothesis with common varieties of humanity’s most important food plant, rice.

More ominously, higher ratios of the greenhouse gas also mean a warmer world with greater extremes of heat, drought and rainfall: under such conditions plant toxins could become more dangerous, and yields for both fruit and vegetables and for staples such as wheat and maize could begin to fall.

Smaller harvests are likely to mean higher food prices: once again, those already poorest and most at risk of hunger and malnutrition will suffer.

Different future possible

It doesn’t have to happen this way: drastic and concerted efforts to limit global warming by switching to sun and wind power, and to accelerate development in the poorest parts of the world, could reduce the risk.

“Our research makes it clear that decisions we are making every day – how we heat our homes, what we eat, how we move around, what we choose to purchase – are making our food less nutritious and imperilling the health of other populations and future generations,” said Samuel Myers, principal research scientist in planetary health at the Harvard TH Chan school of public health in Boston, who led the research.

“We cannot disrupt most of the biophysical conditions to which we have adapted over millions of years without unanticipated impacts on our health and wellbeing.” – Climate News Network

Higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere don’t just mean a warmer world: they could also mean both shrunken harvests and a less nourishing diet.

LONDON, 5 September, 2018 – A greenhouse world could be a more malnourished one, trying to survive on shrunken harvests. Researchers have confirmed that as carbon dioxide ratios in the atmosphere double later this century, the protein, iron and zinc content of many of the world’s staple crops could dwindle by between 3% and 17%.

Since an estimated two billion people are already affected in some way by hunger or malnutrition, the consequences are alarming. An extra 175 million people could become deficient in dietary zinc – a vital trace element in plant foods. An additional 122 million people will no longer get enough protein.

And 1.4 billion children below the age of 5 and women of child-bearing age already live in regions where the prevalence of anaemia reaches 20%, and stand to lose 4% of their dietary iron intake.

Almost two thirds of all the world’s dietary protein is provided by plants, along with four-fifths of its dietary iron and more than two thirds of the dietary zinc.

“Decisions we are making every day – how we heat our homes, what we eat, how we move around, what we choose to purchase – are making our food less nutritious”

Human civilisation and human food staples – wheat, rice, maize, potatoes, fruit, brassicas, beans and nuts – evolved together, and for most of human history carbon dioxide ratios in the atmosphere hovered around 280 parts per million. But since the start of the Industrial Revolution, these have reached 400ppm.

Two US scientists report in the journal Nature Climate Change that they used computer simulations to look at the effect of extra carbon dioxide – the consequence of ever-increasing combustion of fossil fuels over the past 200 years – on the nutritional value of 225 different foods in the population of 151 countries around the planet. They settled on an upper limit of 550ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere by 2050 as their test case.

And they found that the prevalence and severity of nutritional deficiency would be increased worldwide, particularly in Africa, south and south-east Asia and the Middle East.

Risk to millions

In just one country, India, an additional 50 million will start to suffer from zinc deficiency, 38 million will go short of protein and more than 500 million women and children will be at greater risk of anaemia and other diseases linked to insufficient dietary iron.

Other researchers have already made the same case using different approaches: they have repeatedly raised the alarm about the nutritional content of humanity’s favourite staples in a greenhouse world, made direct connections between carbon dioxide levels and plant protein productivity, and tested the hypothesis with common varieties of humanity’s most important food plant, rice.

More ominously, higher ratios of the greenhouse gas also mean a warmer world with greater extremes of heat, drought and rainfall: under such conditions plant toxins could become more dangerous, and yields for both fruit and vegetables and for staples such as wheat and maize could begin to fall.

Smaller harvests are likely to mean higher food prices: once again, those already poorest and most at risk of hunger and malnutrition will suffer.

Different future possible

It doesn’t have to happen this way: drastic and concerted efforts to limit global warming by switching to sun and wind power, and to accelerate development in the poorest parts of the world, could reduce the risk.

“Our research makes it clear that decisions we are making every day – how we heat our homes, what we eat, how we move around, what we choose to purchase – are making our food less nutritious and imperilling the health of other populations and future generations,” said Samuel Myers, principal research scientist in planetary health at the Harvard TH Chan school of public health in Boston, who led the research.

“We cannot disrupt most of the biophysical conditions to which we have adapted over millions of years without unanticipated impacts on our health and wellbeing.” – Climate News Network

Growing risk of extreme heat and humidity

Hazards multiply when extreme heat and humidity join in lethal combination. Scientists now know exactly where this twin danger could be greatest.

LONDON, 6 August, 2018 – By the close of the century, the two-fisted assault of
extreme heat and humidity could make the North China plain a deadly zone.

As water vapour rises from irrigated farmland, in heat extremes which are likely if humans go on burning ever-greater quantities of fossil fuels, then air temperatures and moisture conditions could become such that outdoor workers could no longer cool by perspiration.

In such circumstances no normal healthy person could survive more than six hours. And since 400 million people already live on the North China plain, by 2070 the consequences of ever-greater temperatures could be devastating, according to new research in the journal Nature Communications.

Simultaneously, a second study in a separate journal confirms that by 2080 excess deaths from extremes of heat will have risen in the tropics, subtropics and even the temperate zones.

In three of Australia’s great cities, deaths from heat waves will have risen by more than 470%.

“Future heatwaves in particular will be more frequent, more intense and will last much longer”

The warning for China – which already emits more greenhouse gases than any other nation – is based on what meteorologists call “wet bulb” temperature, the combination of heat and humidity. When this climbs towards the natural body temperatures of humans and other mammals, conditions become dangerous. The North China plain covers 400,000 square kilometres of fertile floodplain irrigated by three great rivers.

The alarm is sounded by Elfatih Eltahir and a colleague at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.
Professor Eltahir first identified the additional hazard of humidity in extremes of heat with a simulation of close-of-the-century temperatures that pinpointed the Gulf region, between Iran and the Arabian peninsula, as the zone where temperatures could become lethal. But the worst extremes would be over water.

A second examination of likely conditions under what climate scientists call the “business-as-usual” scenario, in which nations go on burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases in ever-increasing quantities, pinpointed Asia as the continent most at risk of lethal heat extremes for the greatest numbers of people.

The latest study is a refinement of the projections, and is based on evidence from the most recent three decades. Warming in the North China region has been double the global average – 0.24°C per decade compared to 0.13°C for the rest of the world. In 2013 there were extremes of heat that lasted for up to 50 days, and maximum temperatures topped 38°C (around the accepted limit for humans).

Irrigation key

And the potential lethal factor for the region is likely to be irrigation: rainfall in the north is low, and evaporation from the soil moisture adds around another 0.5°C to local temperatures. Water vapour is itself a greenhouse gas.

“This spot is just going to be the hottest spot for deadly heat waves in the future, especially under climate change,” said Professor Eltahir.

That extremes of heat combined with higher hazards from humidity are already on the increase, and will continue with ever-greater ratios of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is firmly established. A second international study, in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS Medicine, looks at the risks for more than 400 communities in 20 countries for the decades 2031 to 2100, and once again it is based on a business-as-usual scenario, and data from recent decades.

If the world goes on warming according to the gloomiest predictions, the levels of heat-related excess mortality, the statistician’s phrase for death by heatstroke or heat exhaustion, then deaths in Colombia will by 2080 have risen by 2,000%. Even in Moldova, the sample country with the lowest risk, they will have risen by 150%. In Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, the hazard will have soared by 470%.

Inexorable rise

That heat can kill has been known for decades, and the tens of thousands of extra deaths during heatwaves in Europe in 2003, and Russia in 2010, were harsh reminders. More extremes of temperature are inevitable.

Research of this kind is intended to encourage thinking about ways in which health authorities and city bosses could act to reduce the hazard. But for a global problem, a global solution could be the surest answer.

“Future heatwaves in particular will be more frequent, more intense and will last much longer,” said Yuming Guo of Monash University in Australia, who led the research.

“If we cannot find a way to mitigate climate change (reduce the heatwave days) and help people adapt to heat waves, there will be a big increase of heatwave-related deaths in the future, particularly in poor countries located around the equator.” – Climate News Network

Hazards multiply when extreme heat and humidity join in lethal combination. Scientists now know exactly where this twin danger could be greatest.

LONDON, 6 August, 2018 – By the close of the century, the two-fisted assault of
extreme heat and humidity could make the North China plain a deadly zone.

As water vapour rises from irrigated farmland, in heat extremes which are likely if humans go on burning ever-greater quantities of fossil fuels, then air temperatures and moisture conditions could become such that outdoor workers could no longer cool by perspiration.

In such circumstances no normal healthy person could survive more than six hours. And since 400 million people already live on the North China plain, by 2070 the consequences of ever-greater temperatures could be devastating, according to new research in the journal Nature Communications.

Simultaneously, a second study in a separate journal confirms that by 2080 excess deaths from extremes of heat will have risen in the tropics, subtropics and even the temperate zones.

In three of Australia’s great cities, deaths from heat waves will have risen by more than 470%.

“Future heatwaves in particular will be more frequent, more intense and will last much longer”

The warning for China – which already emits more greenhouse gases than any other nation – is based on what meteorologists call “wet bulb” temperature, the combination of heat and humidity. When this climbs towards the natural body temperatures of humans and other mammals, conditions become dangerous. The North China plain covers 400,000 square kilometres of fertile floodplain irrigated by three great rivers.

The alarm is sounded by Elfatih Eltahir and a colleague at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.
Professor Eltahir first identified the additional hazard of humidity in extremes of heat with a simulation of close-of-the-century temperatures that pinpointed the Gulf region, between Iran and the Arabian peninsula, as the zone where temperatures could become lethal. But the worst extremes would be over water.

A second examination of likely conditions under what climate scientists call the “business-as-usual” scenario, in which nations go on burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases in ever-increasing quantities, pinpointed Asia as the continent most at risk of lethal heat extremes for the greatest numbers of people.

The latest study is a refinement of the projections, and is based on evidence from the most recent three decades. Warming in the North China region has been double the global average – 0.24°C per decade compared to 0.13°C for the rest of the world. In 2013 there were extremes of heat that lasted for up to 50 days, and maximum temperatures topped 38°C (around the accepted limit for humans).

Irrigation key

And the potential lethal factor for the region is likely to be irrigation: rainfall in the north is low, and evaporation from the soil moisture adds around another 0.5°C to local temperatures. Water vapour is itself a greenhouse gas.

“This spot is just going to be the hottest spot for deadly heat waves in the future, especially under climate change,” said Professor Eltahir.

That extremes of heat combined with higher hazards from humidity are already on the increase, and will continue with ever-greater ratios of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is firmly established. A second international study, in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS Medicine, looks at the risks for more than 400 communities in 20 countries for the decades 2031 to 2100, and once again it is based on a business-as-usual scenario, and data from recent decades.

If the world goes on warming according to the gloomiest predictions, the levels of heat-related excess mortality, the statistician’s phrase for death by heatstroke or heat exhaustion, then deaths in Colombia will by 2080 have risen by 2,000%. Even in Moldova, the sample country with the lowest risk, they will have risen by 150%. In Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, the hazard will have soared by 470%.

Inexorable rise

That heat can kill has been known for decades, and the tens of thousands of extra deaths during heatwaves in Europe in 2003, and Russia in 2010, were harsh reminders. More extremes of temperature are inevitable.

Research of this kind is intended to encourage thinking about ways in which health authorities and city bosses could act to reduce the hazard. But for a global problem, a global solution could be the surest answer.

“Future heatwaves in particular will be more frequent, more intense and will last much longer,” said Yuming Guo of Monash University in Australia, who led the research.

“If we cannot find a way to mitigate climate change (reduce the heatwave days) and help people adapt to heat waves, there will be a big increase of heatwave-related deaths in the future, particularly in poor countries located around the equator.” – Climate News Network

Suicide risk may rise as severe heat grows

High temperatures do more than raise tempers and stoke conflicts. They are also linked to depression, mental instability and a higher suicide risk.

LONDON, 31 July, 2018 – A new study suggests that hot weather’s adverse effects on some people can include a heightened suicide risk. While the rise is numerically small today, the increase in extreme heat expected later this century could have starker consequences.

Californian scientists have looked at 50 years of records to establish a link between higher-than-usual temperatures and suicide rates in the United States and Mexico.

They found that a 1°C rise above average temperatures could be linked to a tiny increase – just 0.68% – in suicides in the US and by 2.1% south of the border. The rise is small. But it means that if the pattern of heat extremes predicted under all global warming scenarios continues to 2050, then there could be an additional 21,000 acts of suicide.

The same study, in Nature Climate Change, also identified a tendency to respond depressively: in such hot spells, people who used the social media platform Twitter were more likely to employ telltale words such as “lonely” or “trapped” or “suicidal”.

Scientists have already repeatedly established that heat extremes can be lethal,  and will multiply as the world warms, directly as a consequence of profligate human combustion of fossil fuels.

“Suicide is one of the leading causes of death globally, and suicide rates in the US have risen dramatically over the last 15 years”

The Californian scientists looked at official death records county by county in the US from 1968 to 2004, and across municipalities in Mexico from 1990 to 2010. They then matched these with temperature records by day and by month for those locations.

They also checked 600 million Twitter updates that could be identified as coming from a particular place and combed them for evidence of what they call “depressive feelings.” And they found a link between temperature and low spirits, as well as between temperature and suicide rates.

If extended to temperatures likely by 2050, suicide rates could increase in the US by 1.4% and in Mexico by 2.3%. And that could add up to an extra 9,000 deaths at the very least, or as many as 44,000.

“Surprisingly, these effects differ very little based on how rich populations are or if they are used to warm weather,” said Marshall Burke, an economist at Stanford University.

“Suicide is one of the leading causes of death globally, and suicide rates in the US have risen dramatically over the last 15 years. So better understanding of the causes of suicide is a public health priority.”

Human impact

Dr Burke and one of his co-authors, Solomon Hsiang of Berkeley University, have repeatedly focused on the human consequences of climate change. Dr Burke has already established that even small reductions in global warming could deliver huge benefits to society.

Separately, Dr Hsiang has warned that global warming could bring poverty even worse than the 1930s Depression for many in the US, and that politicians were ignoring evidence of the sheer social cost precipitated by climate change, not least because rising temperatures make violence and social conflict ever more likely.

Working together, they have also warned that rising temperatures could be associated with lower incomes and productivity, and that with every shift in temperature, there is a link to levels of violence in conflicts worldwide.

“We’ve been studying the effects of warming on conflict and violence for years, finding that people fight more when it’s hot,” said Dr Hsiang. “Now we see that, in addition to hurting others, some individuals hurt themselves. It appears that heat profoundly affects the human mind and how we decide to inflict harm.”

And Dr Burke said: “Hotter temperatures are clearly not the only, nor the most important, risk factor for suicide. But our findings suggest that warming can have a surprisingly large impact on suicide risk, and this matters for both our understanding of mental health as well as for what we should expect as temperatures continue to warm.” – Climate News Network

High temperatures do more than raise tempers and stoke conflicts. They are also linked to depression, mental instability and a higher suicide risk.

LONDON, 31 July, 2018 – A new study suggests that hot weather’s adverse effects on some people can include a heightened suicide risk. While the rise is numerically small today, the increase in extreme heat expected later this century could have starker consequences.

Californian scientists have looked at 50 years of records to establish a link between higher-than-usual temperatures and suicide rates in the United States and Mexico.

They found that a 1°C rise above average temperatures could be linked to a tiny increase – just 0.68% – in suicides in the US and by 2.1% south of the border. The rise is small. But it means that if the pattern of heat extremes predicted under all global warming scenarios continues to 2050, then there could be an additional 21,000 acts of suicide.

The same study, in Nature Climate Change, also identified a tendency to respond depressively: in such hot spells, people who used the social media platform Twitter were more likely to employ telltale words such as “lonely” or “trapped” or “suicidal”.

Scientists have already repeatedly established that heat extremes can be lethal,  and will multiply as the world warms, directly as a consequence of profligate human combustion of fossil fuels.

“Suicide is one of the leading causes of death globally, and suicide rates in the US have risen dramatically over the last 15 years”

The Californian scientists looked at official death records county by county in the US from 1968 to 2004, and across municipalities in Mexico from 1990 to 2010. They then matched these with temperature records by day and by month for those locations.

They also checked 600 million Twitter updates that could be identified as coming from a particular place and combed them for evidence of what they call “depressive feelings.” And they found a link between temperature and low spirits, as well as between temperature and suicide rates.

If extended to temperatures likely by 2050, suicide rates could increase in the US by 1.4% and in Mexico by 2.3%. And that could add up to an extra 9,000 deaths at the very least, or as many as 44,000.

“Surprisingly, these effects differ very little based on how rich populations are or if they are used to warm weather,” said Marshall Burke, an economist at Stanford University.

“Suicide is one of the leading causes of death globally, and suicide rates in the US have risen dramatically over the last 15 years. So better understanding of the causes of suicide is a public health priority.”

Human impact

Dr Burke and one of his co-authors, Solomon Hsiang of Berkeley University, have repeatedly focused on the human consequences of climate change. Dr Burke has already established that even small reductions in global warming could deliver huge benefits to society.

Separately, Dr Hsiang has warned that global warming could bring poverty even worse than the 1930s Depression for many in the US, and that politicians were ignoring evidence of the sheer social cost precipitated by climate change, not least because rising temperatures make violence and social conflict ever more likely.

Working together, they have also warned that rising temperatures could be associated with lower incomes and productivity, and that with every shift in temperature, there is a link to levels of violence in conflicts worldwide.

“We’ve been studying the effects of warming on conflict and violence for years, finding that people fight more when it’s hot,” said Dr Hsiang. “Now we see that, in addition to hurting others, some individuals hurt themselves. It appears that heat profoundly affects the human mind and how we decide to inflict harm.”

And Dr Burke said: “Hotter temperatures are clearly not the only, nor the most important, risk factor for suicide. But our findings suggest that warming can have a surprisingly large impact on suicide risk, and this matters for both our understanding of mental health as well as for what we should expect as temperatures continue to warm.” – Climate News Network