Tag Archives: Asia

Melting tropical glaciers sound an early warning

Climate change means melting tropical glaciers are losing frozen landscapes of great beauty − and high value to millions.

LONDON, 5 July, 2021 − The world’s remotest water towers are in retreat. The snows of Kilimanjaro in Africa are diminishing: between 1986 and 2017 the area of ice that crowns the most famous mountain in Tanzania has decreased by 71%. A tropical glacier near Puncak Jaya in Papua in Indonesia has lost 93% of its ice in the 38 years from 1980 to 2018. Melting tropical glaciers are together sounding an ominous warning.

The frozen summit of Huascarán, the highest peak in the tropics, in Peru has decreased in area by 19% between 1970 and 2003. In 1976, US scientists first took cores from the ice cap of Quelccaya in the Peruvian Andes: by 2020, around 46% had gone.

The darkening summits of the highest tropical mountains have a message for the world about the rate of climate change. “These are in the most remote parts of our planet − they’re not next to big cities, so you don’t have a local pollution effect,” said Lonnie Thompson of Ohio University.

“These glaciers are sentinels, they’re early warning systems for the planet and they are all saying the same thing.”

Millennial climate records

He and colleagues report in the journal Global and Planetary Change that they analysed the impact of warming on what they call “rapidly retreating high-altitude, low-latitude glaciers” in four separate regions of the planet: Africa, the Andes in Peru and Bolivia, the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayas of Asia, and the mountains of Papua province in Indonesia on the island known as New Guinea in the southwestern Pacific.

Each of the sample glaciers has yielded cores of ice that preserve, in their snow chemistry and trapped pollen, a record of many thousands of years of subtle climate change. And, since 1972, Earth observation satellites such as Nasa’s Landsat mission have monitored their surfaces.

In a world now heating as a response to greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, where once snow had fallen, there is now rain to wash away the high-altitude ice. Glaciers serve as sources of fresh water for farmers and villagers in the tropical mountain zones: they also provide the river melt for many millions downstream.

The latest research confirms something climate scientists already knew: that almost everywhere, mountain ice is in retreat, with potentially devastating consequences for local economies. And the culprit is climate change driven by profligate fossil fuel combustion.

“These glaciers are sentinels, they’re early warning systems for the planet and they are all saying the same thing”

The Ohio researchers say: “Since the beginning of the 21st century the rates of ice loss have been at historically unprecedented levels.”

Within two or three years, the high snows near Puncak Jaya − these have powerful religious and cultural significance for the local people − will have gone.

But, the scientists argue, it is not too late to slow or stop the rate of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, and to slow or stop the retreat of many tropical glaciers.

“The science doesn’t change the trajectory we’re on,” said Professor Thompson. “Regardless of how clear the science is, we need something to happen to change that trajectory.” − Climate News Network

Climate change means melting tropical glaciers are losing frozen landscapes of great beauty − and high value to millions.

LONDON, 5 July, 2021 − The world’s remotest water towers are in retreat. The snows of Kilimanjaro in Africa are diminishing: between 1986 and 2017 the area of ice that crowns the most famous mountain in Tanzania has decreased by 71%. A tropical glacier near Puncak Jaya in Papua in Indonesia has lost 93% of its ice in the 38 years from 1980 to 2018. Melting tropical glaciers are together sounding an ominous warning.

The frozen summit of Huascarán, the highest peak in the tropics, in Peru has decreased in area by 19% between 1970 and 2003. In 1976, US scientists first took cores from the ice cap of Quelccaya in the Peruvian Andes: by 2020, around 46% had gone.

The darkening summits of the highest tropical mountains have a message for the world about the rate of climate change. “These are in the most remote parts of our planet − they’re not next to big cities, so you don’t have a local pollution effect,” said Lonnie Thompson of Ohio University.

“These glaciers are sentinels, they’re early warning systems for the planet and they are all saying the same thing.”

Millennial climate records

He and colleagues report in the journal Global and Planetary Change that they analysed the impact of warming on what they call “rapidly retreating high-altitude, low-latitude glaciers” in four separate regions of the planet: Africa, the Andes in Peru and Bolivia, the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayas of Asia, and the mountains of Papua province in Indonesia on the island known as New Guinea in the southwestern Pacific.

Each of the sample glaciers has yielded cores of ice that preserve, in their snow chemistry and trapped pollen, a record of many thousands of years of subtle climate change. And, since 1972, Earth observation satellites such as Nasa’s Landsat mission have monitored their surfaces.

In a world now heating as a response to greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, where once snow had fallen, there is now rain to wash away the high-altitude ice. Glaciers serve as sources of fresh water for farmers and villagers in the tropical mountain zones: they also provide the river melt for many millions downstream.

The latest research confirms something climate scientists already knew: that almost everywhere, mountain ice is in retreat, with potentially devastating consequences for local economies. And the culprit is climate change driven by profligate fossil fuel combustion.

“These glaciers are sentinels, they’re early warning systems for the planet and they are all saying the same thing”

The Ohio researchers say: “Since the beginning of the 21st century the rates of ice loss have been at historically unprecedented levels.”

Within two or three years, the high snows near Puncak Jaya − these have powerful religious and cultural significance for the local people − will have gone.

But, the scientists argue, it is not too late to slow or stop the rate of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, and to slow or stop the retreat of many tropical glaciers.

“The science doesn’t change the trajectory we’re on,” said Professor Thompson. “Regardless of how clear the science is, we need something to happen to change that trajectory.” − Climate News Network

Old King Coal is forced at last to pull out of Asia

Solar is much better than fossil fuel for bringing electricity to the poor, so Old King Coal is quitting Asia.

LONDON, 14 May, 2021 − The Asian Development Bank (ADB), which serves more than half the world’s population, has decided it will no longer finance coal for electric generation and heating plants and instead will aid poor countries in the rapid phase-out of existing coal plants. So for Old King Coal, it’s good-bye to Asia.

The bank’s new policy document says coal has no future if developing countries are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It aims to phase out all coal plants in Asia by the middle of the century.

Despite the shift in policy, the plan remains to equip the entire population of the region the bank serves with access to electricity by 2030. It will also commit US$80 billion between now and 2030 to support climate change mitigation and adaption in the most vulnerable communities.

The bank’s decision is important because the Asia-Pacific region is home to the largest proportion of the world’s population and to many of its poorest people. It includes both China and India and also many island states in the Pacific.

ADB says the region’s progress in poverty reduction and economic growth has been remarkable, but that reliance on coal has not solved the problem of access to electricity. Fossil fuels are harming the region’s environment and accelerating climate change.

Vulnerable region

Because of this reliance on coal the bank’s developing member countries contribute 45% of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector. “With continued economic growth, emissions from these countries will further increase if energy systems continue to rely on the expanded use of fossil fuels,” the policy document says.

In addition to the challenges of climate change mitigation, many member countries “are highly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards and impacts of climate change, such as the growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns, and increasing temperatures.

“Disaster-related losses are already growing due to insufficient regard for climate and disaster risk in either the design or location of new infrastructure. Climate change impacts and disruption of ecosystem services can lead to severe effects on livelihoods and food security, which in turn would affect human health.

“Indeed, the region is known to be the most vulnerable in the world to natural disasters, from typhoons and flooding to earthquakes and tsunamis.

“To become truly sustainable, economic growth must be decoupled from environmental degradation.”

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option”

Instead of investing in coal, the bank will give priority to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Even without coal, it believes it can secure a grid supply by 2030 for the 200 million people in the Asia-Pacific region who still lack access to electricity. This, it says, can be done best with renewables, especially solar power.

The bank says some countries have made notable strides with electrification since 2010. One of the greatest success stories is Cambodia, where electrification has increased from 31% in 2010 to 93% in 2018.

South Asia, as a whole, has extended electricity services to a “remarkable 286 million people” in the same time period. All countries in the region now have more than 50% of their population with grid electricity, although a number still fall below 80%.

These countries include Pakistan, Myanmar, Papua-New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The people still without a supply are largely in outlying islands or in hard-to-reach mountainous regions. Solar energy is particularly suitable for these areas.

Expanding access to clean cooking facilities, vital for promoting indoor and outdoor air quality, has been less successful. Central and South Asia had less than 50% access in 2018, and other regions only about two-thirds.

Gas still an option

Ensuring 100% of the population rely primarily on clean fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030 “is clearly more challenging than electrification,” the bank says.

Partly for this reason, it has not entirely ruled out the use of gas, particularly for cooking, but says it would need to be convinced that there was not a better alternative. It will review its energy policy in 2025.

Chuck Baclagon, Asia Finance Campaigner for 350.org, said: “We welcome this step because it brings to fruition the years of painstaking resistance from communities and organisations against energy projects that come at the expense of health, ecosystems, and the climate.

“The exclusion of coal in the new investment policy further affirms that coal is not only bad for the environment and our climate, it is also a bad investment because of the growing risk of coal infrastructure becoming stranded assets.

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option for demand, even before factors such as public health impacts and environmental damage are priced in.” − Climate News Network

Solar is much better than fossil fuel for bringing electricity to the poor, so Old King Coal is quitting Asia.

LONDON, 14 May, 2021 − The Asian Development Bank (ADB), which serves more than half the world’s population, has decided it will no longer finance coal for electric generation and heating plants and instead will aid poor countries in the rapid phase-out of existing coal plants. So for Old King Coal, it’s good-bye to Asia.

The bank’s new policy document says coal has no future if developing countries are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It aims to phase out all coal plants in Asia by the middle of the century.

Despite the shift in policy, the plan remains to equip the entire population of the region the bank serves with access to electricity by 2030. It will also commit US$80 billion between now and 2030 to support climate change mitigation and adaption in the most vulnerable communities.

The bank’s decision is important because the Asia-Pacific region is home to the largest proportion of the world’s population and to many of its poorest people. It includes both China and India and also many island states in the Pacific.

ADB says the region’s progress in poverty reduction and economic growth has been remarkable, but that reliance on coal has not solved the problem of access to electricity. Fossil fuels are harming the region’s environment and accelerating climate change.

Vulnerable region

Because of this reliance on coal the bank’s developing member countries contribute 45% of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector. “With continued economic growth, emissions from these countries will further increase if energy systems continue to rely on the expanded use of fossil fuels,” the policy document says.

In addition to the challenges of climate change mitigation, many member countries “are highly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards and impacts of climate change, such as the growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns, and increasing temperatures.

“Disaster-related losses are already growing due to insufficient regard for climate and disaster risk in either the design or location of new infrastructure. Climate change impacts and disruption of ecosystem services can lead to severe effects on livelihoods and food security, which in turn would affect human health.

“Indeed, the region is known to be the most vulnerable in the world to natural disasters, from typhoons and flooding to earthquakes and tsunamis.

“To become truly sustainable, economic growth must be decoupled from environmental degradation.”

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option”

Instead of investing in coal, the bank will give priority to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Even without coal, it believes it can secure a grid supply by 2030 for the 200 million people in the Asia-Pacific region who still lack access to electricity. This, it says, can be done best with renewables, especially solar power.

The bank says some countries have made notable strides with electrification since 2010. One of the greatest success stories is Cambodia, where electrification has increased from 31% in 2010 to 93% in 2018.

South Asia, as a whole, has extended electricity services to a “remarkable 286 million people” in the same time period. All countries in the region now have more than 50% of their population with grid electricity, although a number still fall below 80%.

These countries include Pakistan, Myanmar, Papua-New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The people still without a supply are largely in outlying islands or in hard-to-reach mountainous regions. Solar energy is particularly suitable for these areas.

Expanding access to clean cooking facilities, vital for promoting indoor and outdoor air quality, has been less successful. Central and South Asia had less than 50% access in 2018, and other regions only about two-thirds.

Gas still an option

Ensuring 100% of the population rely primarily on clean fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030 “is clearly more challenging than electrification,” the bank says.

Partly for this reason, it has not entirely ruled out the use of gas, particularly for cooking, but says it would need to be convinced that there was not a better alternative. It will review its energy policy in 2025.

Chuck Baclagon, Asia Finance Campaigner for 350.org, said: “We welcome this step because it brings to fruition the years of painstaking resistance from communities and organisations against energy projects that come at the expense of health, ecosystems, and the climate.

“The exclusion of coal in the new investment policy further affirms that coal is not only bad for the environment and our climate, it is also a bad investment because of the growing risk of coal infrastructure becoming stranded assets.

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option for demand, even before factors such as public health impacts and environmental damage are priced in.” − Climate News Network

World still warms in 2020 as greenhouse gases fall

Greenhouse gases have fallen during 2020. But that’s no reason for congratulations, in a year of climate drama.

LONDON, 11 December, 2020 − The year of the coronavirus − the year of global lockdown − meant a record fall in emissions of the greenhouse gases that drive global warming: by December there had been 34 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion worldwide, a fall of 7% compared with 2019, according to a new study.

If governments followed the economic shutdown with what the UN calls a “green pandemic recovery”, then by 2030 greenhouse gas emissions could fall by up to 25%. That remains a “big if.” Right now the planet is heading towards an end-of-century average temperature rise of a calamitous 3°C, according to a second report.

And a third summary of the last 12 months finds the pandemic changed almost nothing, says the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). The year looks to be one of the three warmest on record, in the warmest decade on record. The warmest six years ever recorded have all happened since 2015.

The news in the journal Earth System Science Data, that humankind managed not to add 2.4 bn tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere because car journeys fell by half and airline flights dwindled at the peak of the lockdowns from Covid-19, should be encouraging.

“There is at least a one in five chance of [the world] temporarily exceeding 1.5°C by 2024. 2020 has been yet another extraordinary year for our climate”

To be on track to meet the promises made under the Paris Agreement of 2015, humankind has to reduce emissions by around 1 to 2 billion tonnes a year for the next ten years. Nobody can yet say whether the decline will continue, or whether emissions will rebound.

“All the elements are not yet in place for sustained decreases in global emissions, and emissions are slowly edging back to 2019 levels”, warned Corinne Le Quéré, of the University of East Anglia, UK. “Government actions to stimulate the economy at the end of the Covid-19 pandemic can also help lower emissions and tackle climate change.”

Here is the message of the United Nations Environment Programme’s latest Emissions Gap Report. Examining the gap between what nations promised to do in Paris, and what is actually happening, it warns that a 7% drop in emissions during 2020 translates to a reduction in global warming by 2050 of no more than 0.01°C.

If nations stepped into economic recovery with plans to advance renewable energy and save fossil fuel use, a 25% emissions cut could indeed create a chance of meeting the 2°C limit promised in the Paris Agreement. But it wouldn’t get the world to the real goal of a rise of no more than 1.5°C by 2100.

Roasting Arctic

Greenhouse gases continue to inflict a relentless burden. Right now the world is already 1.2°C warmer than at any time for almost all of human history, thanks to profligate fossil fuel use over the last century. And, says the WMO’s secretary-general Petteri Taalas, “there is at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5°C by 2024.”

Ocean heat has reached record levels and 80% of the blue planet experienced at least one marine heatwave in the last year, says a summary of the year based on evidence from January to October. In the Siberian Arctic, temperatures were 5°C above normal. The Arctic summer sea ice was the second-lowest since records began 42 years ago. In California’s Death Valley in August, the thermometer hit 54.4°C, the highest anywhere in the world for at least the last 80 years.

“2020 has, unfortunately, been yet another extraordinary year for our climate. We saw new extreme temperatures on land, sea and especially in the Arctic. Wildfires consumed vast areas in Australia, Siberia, the US West Coast and South America, sending plumes of smoke circumnavigating the globe,” Professor Taalas said.

“We saw a record number of hurricanes in the Atlantic, including unprecedented back-to-back category 4 hurricanes in Central America in November. Flooding in parts of Africa and South-east Asia led to massive population displacement and undermined food security for millions.” − Climate News Network

Greenhouse gases have fallen during 2020. But that’s no reason for congratulations, in a year of climate drama.

LONDON, 11 December, 2020 − The year of the coronavirus − the year of global lockdown − meant a record fall in emissions of the greenhouse gases that drive global warming: by December there had been 34 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion worldwide, a fall of 7% compared with 2019, according to a new study.

If governments followed the economic shutdown with what the UN calls a “green pandemic recovery”, then by 2030 greenhouse gas emissions could fall by up to 25%. That remains a “big if.” Right now the planet is heading towards an end-of-century average temperature rise of a calamitous 3°C, according to a second report.

And a third summary of the last 12 months finds the pandemic changed almost nothing, says the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). The year looks to be one of the three warmest on record, in the warmest decade on record. The warmest six years ever recorded have all happened since 2015.

The news in the journal Earth System Science Data, that humankind managed not to add 2.4 bn tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere because car journeys fell by half and airline flights dwindled at the peak of the lockdowns from Covid-19, should be encouraging.

“There is at least a one in five chance of [the world] temporarily exceeding 1.5°C by 2024. 2020 has been yet another extraordinary year for our climate”

To be on track to meet the promises made under the Paris Agreement of 2015, humankind has to reduce emissions by around 1 to 2 billion tonnes a year for the next ten years. Nobody can yet say whether the decline will continue, or whether emissions will rebound.

“All the elements are not yet in place for sustained decreases in global emissions, and emissions are slowly edging back to 2019 levels”, warned Corinne Le Quéré, of the University of East Anglia, UK. “Government actions to stimulate the economy at the end of the Covid-19 pandemic can also help lower emissions and tackle climate change.”

Here is the message of the United Nations Environment Programme’s latest Emissions Gap Report. Examining the gap between what nations promised to do in Paris, and what is actually happening, it warns that a 7% drop in emissions during 2020 translates to a reduction in global warming by 2050 of no more than 0.01°C.

If nations stepped into economic recovery with plans to advance renewable energy and save fossil fuel use, a 25% emissions cut could indeed create a chance of meeting the 2°C limit promised in the Paris Agreement. But it wouldn’t get the world to the real goal of a rise of no more than 1.5°C by 2100.

Roasting Arctic

Greenhouse gases continue to inflict a relentless burden. Right now the world is already 1.2°C warmer than at any time for almost all of human history, thanks to profligate fossil fuel use over the last century. And, says the WMO’s secretary-general Petteri Taalas, “there is at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5°C by 2024.”

Ocean heat has reached record levels and 80% of the blue planet experienced at least one marine heatwave in the last year, says a summary of the year based on evidence from January to October. In the Siberian Arctic, temperatures were 5°C above normal. The Arctic summer sea ice was the second-lowest since records began 42 years ago. In California’s Death Valley in August, the thermometer hit 54.4°C, the highest anywhere in the world for at least the last 80 years.

“2020 has, unfortunately, been yet another extraordinary year for our climate. We saw new extreme temperatures on land, sea and especially in the Arctic. Wildfires consumed vast areas in Australia, Siberia, the US West Coast and South America, sending plumes of smoke circumnavigating the globe,” Professor Taalas said.

“We saw a record number of hurricanes in the Atlantic, including unprecedented back-to-back category 4 hurricanes in Central America in November. Flooding in parts of Africa and South-east Asia led to massive population displacement and undermined food security for millions.” − Climate News Network

Drylands hit harder by poverty than richer regions

The arrival of the rains leaves the drylands hit harder than richer areas. Once again, climate change sows injustice.

LONDON, 7 December, 2020 − Not even the climate can be even-handed. When the rains come they leave the world’s drylands hit harder: the wealthier fare better and the poorest get relatively a little poorer. And the evidence is visible literally at the grassroots.

European scientists have been measuring vegetation growth as recorded in fine detail by satellite observation over the last 20 years. And they report that in the developing world, the vegetation that sprouts after rainfall on arid lands is more meagre, while in the better-off nations the same rainfall on the same kind of dryland terrain produces more healthy growth.

The consequence, researchers warn in the journal Nature Sustainability, could result in more food shortages, more disruption, and growing numbers of climate refugees.

“We observe a clear trend of arid areas developing in a negative direction in the most economically challenged countries,” said Rasmus Fensholt, of the University of Copenhagen, one of the authors.

“Here it is apparent that the growth of vegetation has become increasingly decoupled from the water resources available, and that there is simply less vegetation in relation to the amount of rainfall. The opposite is the case in the wealthiest countries.”

“One consequence of declining vegetation in the world’s poorer arid regions may be an increase in climate refugees from various African countries. There is no indication that the problem will diminish”

Roughly 40% of the Earth’s habitable land is arid or semi-arid, and the global drylands are home to almost a third of all humanity, around half of all the planet’s birds and mammals, as well as providing range for livestock and land for crops. Most of the world’s drylands are also home to many of the world’s least developed countries, and many of the poorest citizenry.

And, in a world of climate change driven by ever-rising global temperatures, fuelled in turn by greenhouse gas emissions from increasing fossil fuel use, things don’t look promising.

Research from the last four decades has repeatedly predicted that although global rainfall may be higher in total, those regions already well-watered will tend to become wetter, while those that have adapted to arid climate regimes will get drier. By the end of this century the proportion defined as dryland may have expanded by 23%.

And although higher temperatures, higher levels of atmospheric carbon and changes in rainfall regimes have had the overall effect of “greening” many of the drylands, those already struggling to survive are getting less benefit from any rain that falls.

The scientists, from Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands, made a close analysis of satellite imagery from 2000 to 2015 to identify not rainfall changes, but vegetation productivity in relation to rainfall: they found pronounced differences across regions and continents. Drylands in Africa and Asia fared proportionately less well compared to South America and Australia.

Upward trend reversed

What made the difference, they think, is the number and the plight of the people on whom the rain fell. Rapid population growth in Africa meant greater pressure on land less suitable for agriculture, and more intense grazing on already fragile grassland cover.

In the richer nations, conversely, farms had expanded and intensified with help from fertiliser and irrigation.

This is not the first study to find that in a world of climate change, the poorest − among them those who have contributed least to global heating − will be hit hardest. The match of more people with less productive land can only mean more competition for less food at higher prices.

“One consequence of declining vegetation in the world’s poorer arid regions may be an increase in climate refugees from various African countries. According to what we have seen in this study, there is no indication that the problem will diminish in future,” Professor Fensholt said.

“We have been pleased to see that, for a number of years, vegetation has been on an upwards trend in arid regions. But if we dig only a tiny bit deeper and look at how successfully precipitation has translated into vegetation, then climate change seems to be hitting unevenly, which is troubling.” − Climate News Network

The arrival of the rains leaves the drylands hit harder than richer areas. Once again, climate change sows injustice.

LONDON, 7 December, 2020 − Not even the climate can be even-handed. When the rains come they leave the world’s drylands hit harder: the wealthier fare better and the poorest get relatively a little poorer. And the evidence is visible literally at the grassroots.

European scientists have been measuring vegetation growth as recorded in fine detail by satellite observation over the last 20 years. And they report that in the developing world, the vegetation that sprouts after rainfall on arid lands is more meagre, while in the better-off nations the same rainfall on the same kind of dryland terrain produces more healthy growth.

The consequence, researchers warn in the journal Nature Sustainability, could result in more food shortages, more disruption, and growing numbers of climate refugees.

“We observe a clear trend of arid areas developing in a negative direction in the most economically challenged countries,” said Rasmus Fensholt, of the University of Copenhagen, one of the authors.

“Here it is apparent that the growth of vegetation has become increasingly decoupled from the water resources available, and that there is simply less vegetation in relation to the amount of rainfall. The opposite is the case in the wealthiest countries.”

“One consequence of declining vegetation in the world’s poorer arid regions may be an increase in climate refugees from various African countries. There is no indication that the problem will diminish”

Roughly 40% of the Earth’s habitable land is arid or semi-arid, and the global drylands are home to almost a third of all humanity, around half of all the planet’s birds and mammals, as well as providing range for livestock and land for crops. Most of the world’s drylands are also home to many of the world’s least developed countries, and many of the poorest citizenry.

And, in a world of climate change driven by ever-rising global temperatures, fuelled in turn by greenhouse gas emissions from increasing fossil fuel use, things don’t look promising.

Research from the last four decades has repeatedly predicted that although global rainfall may be higher in total, those regions already well-watered will tend to become wetter, while those that have adapted to arid climate regimes will get drier. By the end of this century the proportion defined as dryland may have expanded by 23%.

And although higher temperatures, higher levels of atmospheric carbon and changes in rainfall regimes have had the overall effect of “greening” many of the drylands, those already struggling to survive are getting less benefit from any rain that falls.

The scientists, from Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands, made a close analysis of satellite imagery from 2000 to 2015 to identify not rainfall changes, but vegetation productivity in relation to rainfall: they found pronounced differences across regions and continents. Drylands in Africa and Asia fared proportionately less well compared to South America and Australia.

Upward trend reversed

What made the difference, they think, is the number and the plight of the people on whom the rain fell. Rapid population growth in Africa meant greater pressure on land less suitable for agriculture, and more intense grazing on already fragile grassland cover.

In the richer nations, conversely, farms had expanded and intensified with help from fertiliser and irrigation.

This is not the first study to find that in a world of climate change, the poorest − among them those who have contributed least to global heating − will be hit hardest. The match of more people with less productive land can only mean more competition for less food at higher prices.

“One consequence of declining vegetation in the world’s poorer arid regions may be an increase in climate refugees from various African countries. According to what we have seen in this study, there is no indication that the problem will diminish in future,” Professor Fensholt said.

“We have been pleased to see that, for a number of years, vegetation has been on an upwards trend in arid regions. But if we dig only a tiny bit deeper and look at how successfully precipitation has translated into vegetation, then climate change seems to be hitting unevenly, which is troubling.” − Climate News Network

Glaciers’ global melt may leave Alps bare

High mountain ice is vital to millions. As the world warms, the glaciers’ global melt could see the frozen peaks vanish.

LONDON, 12 April, 2019 – Many of the planet’s most scenic – and most valued – high-altitude landscapes are likely to look quite different within the next 80 years: the glaciers’ global melt will have left just bare rock.

By the century’s end, Europe’s famous Alps – the chain of snow- and ice-covered peaks that have become a playground of the wealthy and a source of income and pleasure for generations – will have lost more than nine-tenths of all its glacier ice.

And in the last 50 years, the world’s glaciers – in Asia, the Americas, Europe, Africa and the sub-Arctic mountains – have lost more than nine trillion tonnes of ice as global temperatures creep ever upwards in response to profligate combustion of fossil fuels.

And as meltwater has trickled down the mountains, the seas have risen by 27mm, thanks entirely to glacial retreat.

“Present mass-loss rates indicate that glaciers could almost disappear in some mountain ranges in this century”

In two separate studies, Swiss scientists have tried to audit a profit and loss account for the world’s frozen high-altitude rivers, and found a steady downhill trend.

Glacial ice is a source of security and even wealth: in the poorest regions the annual summer melt of winter snow and ice banked at altitude can guarantee both energy as hydropower and water for crops in the valleys and floodplains.

In wealthy regions, the white peaks and slopes become sources of income as tourist attractions and centres for winter sport – as well as reliable sources of power and water.

Swiss focus

In the journal The Cryosphere, a team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, almost always known simply as ETH Zurich, looked into the future of the nation’s own landscape, and beyond.

They made computer models of the annual flow of ice and its melting patterns and took 2017 as the reference year: a year when the Alpine glaciers bore 100 cubic kilometres of ice. And then they started simulating the future.

If humankind kept the promise made by 195 nations in Paris in 2015, to drastically reduce fossil fuel use, lower emissions of carbon dioxide, restore the forests and keep global warming to no more than 2°C above historic levels, then the stores of high ice would be reduced by more than a third over the next eight decades. If humankind went on expanding its use of fossil fuels at the present rates, then half of all the ice would be lost by 2050 and 95% by 2100.

Time lag

But there will be losses in all scenarios: warming so far has seen to that. Ice reflects radiation and keeps itself cold, so change lags behind atmospheric temperature.

“The future evolution of glaciers will strongly depend on how the climate will evolve,” said Harry Zekollari, once of ETH and now at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, who led the research. “In the case of a more limited warming, a far more substantial part of the glaciers could be saved.”

The Alpine glaciers were made world-famous first by Romantic painters and poets of the 19th century, among them JMW Turner and Lord Byron. But their contribution to rising sea levels is, in a global context, negligible.

When Swiss researchers and their Russian, Canadian and European partners looked at the big picture, they found that the mass loss of ice from the mountains of AlaskaCanada, parts of Asia and the Andes matched the increasing flow of water from the melting Greenland ice cap, and exceeded the flow of melting water from the Antarctic continent.

Europe’s modest melt

They report in Nature that glaciers separate from the Greenland and Antarctic sheets covered 706,000 square kilometres of the planet, with a total volume of 170,000 cubic kilometres, or 40 centimetres of potential sea level rise.

And in the five decades from 1961 to 2016, according to careful study of satellite imagery and historic observations, the seas have already risen by 27mm as a consequence of increasing rates of glacial retreat. This is already between 25% and 30% of observed sea level rise so far.

Europe did not figure much in the reckoning. “Globally, we lose three times the ice volume stored in the entirety of the European Alps – every single year,” said Michael Zemp, a glaciologist at the University of Zurich.

He and his colleagues warn: “Present mass-loss rates indicate that glaciers could almost disappear in some mountain ranges in this century, while heavily glacierised regions will continue to contribute to sea level rise beyond 2100.” – Climate News Network

High mountain ice is vital to millions. As the world warms, the glaciers’ global melt could see the frozen peaks vanish.

LONDON, 12 April, 2019 – Many of the planet’s most scenic – and most valued – high-altitude landscapes are likely to look quite different within the next 80 years: the glaciers’ global melt will have left just bare rock.

By the century’s end, Europe’s famous Alps – the chain of snow- and ice-covered peaks that have become a playground of the wealthy and a source of income and pleasure for generations – will have lost more than nine-tenths of all its glacier ice.

And in the last 50 years, the world’s glaciers – in Asia, the Americas, Europe, Africa and the sub-Arctic mountains – have lost more than nine trillion tonnes of ice as global temperatures creep ever upwards in response to profligate combustion of fossil fuels.

And as meltwater has trickled down the mountains, the seas have risen by 27mm, thanks entirely to glacial retreat.

“Present mass-loss rates indicate that glaciers could almost disappear in some mountain ranges in this century”

In two separate studies, Swiss scientists have tried to audit a profit and loss account for the world’s frozen high-altitude rivers, and found a steady downhill trend.

Glacial ice is a source of security and even wealth: in the poorest regions the annual summer melt of winter snow and ice banked at altitude can guarantee both energy as hydropower and water for crops in the valleys and floodplains.

In wealthy regions, the white peaks and slopes become sources of income as tourist attractions and centres for winter sport – as well as reliable sources of power and water.

Swiss focus

In the journal The Cryosphere, a team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, almost always known simply as ETH Zurich, looked into the future of the nation’s own landscape, and beyond.

They made computer models of the annual flow of ice and its melting patterns and took 2017 as the reference year: a year when the Alpine glaciers bore 100 cubic kilometres of ice. And then they started simulating the future.

If humankind kept the promise made by 195 nations in Paris in 2015, to drastically reduce fossil fuel use, lower emissions of carbon dioxide, restore the forests and keep global warming to no more than 2°C above historic levels, then the stores of high ice would be reduced by more than a third over the next eight decades. If humankind went on expanding its use of fossil fuels at the present rates, then half of all the ice would be lost by 2050 and 95% by 2100.

Time lag

But there will be losses in all scenarios: warming so far has seen to that. Ice reflects radiation and keeps itself cold, so change lags behind atmospheric temperature.

“The future evolution of glaciers will strongly depend on how the climate will evolve,” said Harry Zekollari, once of ETH and now at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, who led the research. “In the case of a more limited warming, a far more substantial part of the glaciers could be saved.”

The Alpine glaciers were made world-famous first by Romantic painters and poets of the 19th century, among them JMW Turner and Lord Byron. But their contribution to rising sea levels is, in a global context, negligible.

When Swiss researchers and their Russian, Canadian and European partners looked at the big picture, they found that the mass loss of ice from the mountains of AlaskaCanada, parts of Asia and the Andes matched the increasing flow of water from the melting Greenland ice cap, and exceeded the flow of melting water from the Antarctic continent.

Europe’s modest melt

They report in Nature that glaciers separate from the Greenland and Antarctic sheets covered 706,000 square kilometres of the planet, with a total volume of 170,000 cubic kilometres, or 40 centimetres of potential sea level rise.

And in the five decades from 1961 to 2016, according to careful study of satellite imagery and historic observations, the seas have already risen by 27mm as a consequence of increasing rates of glacial retreat. This is already between 25% and 30% of observed sea level rise so far.

Europe did not figure much in the reckoning. “Globally, we lose three times the ice volume stored in the entirety of the European Alps – every single year,” said Michael Zemp, a glaciologist at the University of Zurich.

He and his colleagues warn: “Present mass-loss rates indicate that glaciers could almost disappear in some mountain ranges in this century, while heavily glacierised regions will continue to contribute to sea level rise beyond 2100.” – 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

Rain and heat extremes set to grow

Millions of people in Asia and Europe can expect fiercer heat extremes, even if the world makes promised emissions cuts.

LONDON, 23 February, 2018 – The big heat is on the way: over 50% of Europe, and across more than a quarter of east Asia, the probability of record-breaking heat extremes will increase fivefold.

Over more than 35% of North America, Europe and East Asia, the chance of record-breaking rainfall will increase by more than threefold.

And this will happen even if the world’s nations honour the commitments they have already made to contain global warming by switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

That would result in an average rise in global temperatures of between 2°C and 3°C by 2100. If the 195 nations that signed a climate accord in Paris in 2015 actually honour their collective vow to contain planetary average warming to about 1.5°C above historic averages, there will still be record-breaking temperatures and more intense extremes of wet and dry – but over a smaller proportion of the globe, according to a new study.

“We can use this kind of research to make decisions that both build resilience now and help us be prepared for the climate that we will face in the future”

That is, a difference of even 1°C in outcome means a huge difference in impact across the planet. The study confirms once again, with a different methodology, that action planned now to meet the Paris targets is not enough: nations must do more.

Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford University in California and colleagues report in the journal Science Advances that they took a statistical framework already tested on drought in California and floods in northern India and applied it to the entire planet to see what difference global action might make.

The point of such research is to prepare national and civic authorities for extremes to come, and Professor Diffenbaugh and his fellow researchers have already used their statistical approach to connect human-induced global warming with drought in California, and changes in monsoon rainfall in Asia.

Conflict link

They have also applied mathematical techniques to connect climate change to the greater likelihood of conflict and violence.

The scientists warn that their methodology is conservative, and based not just on sophisticated computer simulations of climate, but also direct observations of climate extremes of temperature, drought and flood.

“Damages from extreme weather and climate events have been increasing, and 2017 was the costliest year on record. These rising costs are one of many signs that we are not prepared for today’s climate, let alone for another degree of global warming,” said Professor Diffenbaugh.

“But the good news is we don’t have to wait to play catch-up. Instead we can use this kind of research to make decisions that both build resilience now and help us be prepared for the climate that we will face in the future.” – Climate News Network

Millions of people in Asia and Europe can expect fiercer heat extremes, even if the world makes promised emissions cuts.

LONDON, 23 February, 2018 – The big heat is on the way: over 50% of Europe, and across more than a quarter of east Asia, the probability of record-breaking heat extremes will increase fivefold.

Over more than 35% of North America, Europe and East Asia, the chance of record-breaking rainfall will increase by more than threefold.

And this will happen even if the world’s nations honour the commitments they have already made to contain global warming by switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

That would result in an average rise in global temperatures of between 2°C and 3°C by 2100. If the 195 nations that signed a climate accord in Paris in 2015 actually honour their collective vow to contain planetary average warming to about 1.5°C above historic averages, there will still be record-breaking temperatures and more intense extremes of wet and dry – but over a smaller proportion of the globe, according to a new study.

“We can use this kind of research to make decisions that both build resilience now and help us be prepared for the climate that we will face in the future”

That is, a difference of even 1°C in outcome means a huge difference in impact across the planet. The study confirms once again, with a different methodology, that action planned now to meet the Paris targets is not enough: nations must do more.

Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford University in California and colleagues report in the journal Science Advances that they took a statistical framework already tested on drought in California and floods in northern India and applied it to the entire planet to see what difference global action might make.

The point of such research is to prepare national and civic authorities for extremes to come, and Professor Diffenbaugh and his fellow researchers have already used their statistical approach to connect human-induced global warming with drought in California, and changes in monsoon rainfall in Asia.

Conflict link

They have also applied mathematical techniques to connect climate change to the greater likelihood of conflict and violence.

The scientists warn that their methodology is conservative, and based not just on sophisticated computer simulations of climate, but also direct observations of climate extremes of temperature, drought and flood.

“Damages from extreme weather and climate events have been increasing, and 2017 was the costliest year on record. These rising costs are one of many signs that we are not prepared for today’s climate, let alone for another degree of global warming,” said Professor Diffenbaugh.

“But the good news is we don’t have to wait to play catch-up. Instead we can use this kind of research to make decisions that both build resilience now and help us be prepared for the climate that we will face in the future.” – Climate News Network

Warmer, wetter world faces lethal future

The thermometer rises, the air becomes saturated, and the warmer, wetter world turns potentially lethal. By 2100, billions could be in danger.

LONDON, 3 August, 2017 – If humans go on burning fossil fuels at an ever increasing rate – the notorious “business as usual” scenario – then potentially more than a billion people could be exposed to lethal levels of heat and humidity in this warmer, wetter world.

But if, instead, the world manages to act upon a global promise made in Paris in 2015, and to contain global warming to no more than an average rise of 2°C, the number at risk would be measured only in millions.

The threat comes not just from the extremes of heat of the kind that in 2015 killed an estimated 3,500 in India and Pakistan. It comes from the deadly double punch of heat and rising humidity.

Human safety under such conditions is measured on a scale called “wet bulb temperature”. Once this combined measure of temperature and air moisture reaches 31°C, perspiration can no longer be easily evaporated. Since perspiration is part of the machinery for keeping cool in intemperate conditions, human health and even survival is threatened.

Threshold nears

And researchers report in the journal Science Advances that unless there are serious reductions in global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that drive global warming and could trigger catastrophic climate change, the most extreme, once-in-25-years heat waves could increase wet bulb temperatures now at around 31°C to 34.2°C. At 35°C, few humans could survive more than a few hours.

“It brings us close to the threshold of survivability,” said Elfatih Eltahir, an environmental engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.

And the people most likely to be at risk from such extremes live in northern India, Bangladesh and southern Pakistan. These regions are home to 1.5bn people, one fifth of the world’s population, many of whom survive on subsistence farming: they are among the world’s poorest. They are more likely to work out of doors, and are less likely to have access to air conditioning.

“With the disruption to agricultural production, it doesn’t need to be the heat wave itself that kills people. Production will go down, so potentially everyone will suffer”

“That makes them very vulnerable to these climatic changes, assuming no mitigation,” said Professor Eltahir. 

The forecasts are based on computer simulations of scenarios that nobody would wish to see repeated as real life experiments. They are backed by inexorable logic: for every 1°C rise in temperature, the potential saturation levels of the air rise by 7%, so where there is water to be evaporated, local humidity rises with the thermometer.

Professor Eltahir and his colleagues in 2015 examined conditions in the relatively wealthy Gulf region, and predicted potentially lethal wet bulb temperatures by 2100. He recently examined the effect of climate change on the flow of the River Nile, which provides food for millions in Egypt and Sudan.

Then he and colleagues looked at the possible future consequences for the most densely populated, food-growing regions of South Asia. Other researchers have repeatedly warned that heat extremes will increase, both in temperature and in frequency,  and in particular in parts of Asia.

Not inevitable

These heat waves will make air temperatures so high that some planes will have difficulty taking off, and will certainly reduce harvests in ways that will once again put the world’s poorest at highest risk.

“With the disruption to agricultural production, it doesn’t need to be the heat wave itself that kills people. Production will go down, so potentially everyone will suffer,” said Professor Eltahir. But this doesn’t have to happen: serious emissions reductions could reduce the risk.

“With mitigation, we hope we will be able to avoid these severe projections. This is not something that is unavoidable.” – Climate News Network

The thermometer rises, the air becomes saturated, and the warmer, wetter world turns potentially lethal. By 2100, billions could be in danger.

LONDON, 3 August, 2017 – If humans go on burning fossil fuels at an ever increasing rate – the notorious “business as usual” scenario – then potentially more than a billion people could be exposed to lethal levels of heat and humidity in this warmer, wetter world.

But if, instead, the world manages to act upon a global promise made in Paris in 2015, and to contain global warming to no more than an average rise of 2°C, the number at risk would be measured only in millions.

The threat comes not just from the extremes of heat of the kind that in 2015 killed an estimated 3,500 in India and Pakistan. It comes from the deadly double punch of heat and rising humidity.

Human safety under such conditions is measured on a scale called “wet bulb temperature”. Once this combined measure of temperature and air moisture reaches 31°C, perspiration can no longer be easily evaporated. Since perspiration is part of the machinery for keeping cool in intemperate conditions, human health and even survival is threatened.

Threshold nears

And researchers report in the journal Science Advances that unless there are serious reductions in global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that drive global warming and could trigger catastrophic climate change, the most extreme, once-in-25-years heat waves could increase wet bulb temperatures now at around 31°C to 34.2°C. At 35°C, few humans could survive more than a few hours.

“It brings us close to the threshold of survivability,” said Elfatih Eltahir, an environmental engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.

And the people most likely to be at risk from such extremes live in northern India, Bangladesh and southern Pakistan. These regions are home to 1.5bn people, one fifth of the world’s population, many of whom survive on subsistence farming: they are among the world’s poorest. They are more likely to work out of doors, and are less likely to have access to air conditioning.

“With the disruption to agricultural production, it doesn’t need to be the heat wave itself that kills people. Production will go down, so potentially everyone will suffer”

“That makes them very vulnerable to these climatic changes, assuming no mitigation,” said Professor Eltahir. 

The forecasts are based on computer simulations of scenarios that nobody would wish to see repeated as real life experiments. They are backed by inexorable logic: for every 1°C rise in temperature, the potential saturation levels of the air rise by 7%, so where there is water to be evaporated, local humidity rises with the thermometer.

Professor Eltahir and his colleagues in 2015 examined conditions in the relatively wealthy Gulf region, and predicted potentially lethal wet bulb temperatures by 2100. He recently examined the effect of climate change on the flow of the River Nile, which provides food for millions in Egypt and Sudan.

Then he and colleagues looked at the possible future consequences for the most densely populated, food-growing regions of South Asia. Other researchers have repeatedly warned that heat extremes will increase, both in temperature and in frequency,  and in particular in parts of Asia.

Not inevitable

These heat waves will make air temperatures so high that some planes will have difficulty taking off, and will certainly reduce harvests in ways that will once again put the world’s poorest at highest risk.

“With the disruption to agricultural production, it doesn’t need to be the heat wave itself that kills people. Production will go down, so potentially everyone will suffer,” said Professor Eltahir. But this doesn’t have to happen: serious emissions reductions could reduce the risk.

“With mitigation, we hope we will be able to avoid these severe projections. This is not something that is unavoidable.” – Climate News Network

Asia can gain by welcoming refugees

Welcoming refugees instead of seeing them as a drain on national economies could offer huge opportunities to Asian countries’ private sectors.

LONDON, 2 August, 2017 – Asian countries whose private business sectors are good at welcoming refugees as an opportunity, not a problem, can create benefits for everyone, says a sustainability expert.

Writing in the journal CSR Asia Weekly, Aaron Sloan says: “In the midst of the highest levels of displacement on record, it’s time to reconsider the relationship between the private sector and refugee populations, and how responsible businesses in Asia can leverage opportunities related to refugees that create shared value for all stakeholders.”

The Asia and Pacific region is home to 11% of the world’s displaced people, including 3.5 million refugees. The Asian Development Bank says Asia will continue to provide about 60% of global growth over 2017-18.  

But the Brookings Institute reported last year: “Asia lacks good regional models of constructive refugee policy and capacity-building to host the strangers at the gates,” adding: “For Asian countries to continue their economic growth and political rise, they’ll need better national and regional efforts to open up to the world’s diverse people and cultures.” 

Neglected human capital

Nearly two-thirds of all refugees have been or will be displaced for at least three years. In fact almost half have been displaced for over a decade, and more than 60% live in towns and cities, not camps.  

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has described Asia’s refugees as “a rich source of human capital that we are failing to cultivate.” 

Across the globe, Sloan writes, tensions are high from concerns that influxes of displaced people will result in increased crime levels and related social problems.

For businesses facing labour shortages, refugee workers – who are often more motivated and highly-adaptable than local employees – can ease tensions and promote stability, while also encouraging local people to see refugees as adding value to the communities in which they are hosted, as well as paying their share of taxes.

Multiple methods

The positive contribution refugees can make is also clear from Africa. Although, unlike in most Asian countries, refugees face substantial restrictions on their right to work and to move freely, they still actively contribute to the local economy.

A 2014 report on the right to work in 15 countries found “that working refugees bestow a range of benefits upon their host countries.

“Refugee entrepreneurs stimulate economies, creating businesses and jobs. They bring new skills into the country and place new demands for goods and services, diversifying markets and expanding trade. They pay taxes and prevent wage-depression.”

Sloan says there are three important ways the private sector can address the refugee crisis: the first is by exploiting its agility to respond quickly to market opportunities or humanitarian crises.

“The Syrian crisis is simply a dress rehearsal for an immense climate-fuelled disaster, which I think will begin to be felt within the next decade”

It can also fill humanitarian response gaps and seize the business opportunities offered as new arrivals offer their talents and knowledge to forward-thinking firms.

And the private sector can also welcome the skillset diversity and perspectives that refugees bring: “the business community’s reaction can highlight the long-term advantages of migration, something that politicians in fear of (or in thrall to) xenophobic currents have struggled to accomplish.” 

Other possible courses of action include:

  • offering private sponsorship to refugees (Canada is an example); 
  • empowering refugees by providing mobile phones and internet platforms, enabling them to protect themselves better and identify opportunities;
  • providing refugee-matching and job-matching services that put refugees in touch with local businesses using high-tech jobs platforms;
  • supporting risk-sharing investments that aim to address problems created in countries of first asylum by providing entrepreneurship and employment for both refugees and local people. 

By the end of this century, with the human population projected possibly to have reached 11 billion people, 2bn of them could be climate refugees. In 2015 a former British diplomat said: “The Syrian crisis is simply a dress rehearsal for an immense climate-fuelled disaster, which I think will begin to be felt within the next decade, perhaps within five or six years from now.” – Climate News Network

Welcoming refugees instead of seeing them as a drain on national economies could offer huge opportunities to Asian countries’ private sectors.

LONDON, 2 August, 2017 – Asian countries whose private business sectors are good at welcoming refugees as an opportunity, not a problem, can create benefits for everyone, says a sustainability expert.

Writing in the journal CSR Asia Weekly, Aaron Sloan says: “In the midst of the highest levels of displacement on record, it’s time to reconsider the relationship between the private sector and refugee populations, and how responsible businesses in Asia can leverage opportunities related to refugees that create shared value for all stakeholders.”

The Asia and Pacific region is home to 11% of the world’s displaced people, including 3.5 million refugees. The Asian Development Bank says Asia will continue to provide about 60% of global growth over 2017-18.  

But the Brookings Institute reported last year: “Asia lacks good regional models of constructive refugee policy and capacity-building to host the strangers at the gates,” adding: “For Asian countries to continue their economic growth and political rise, they’ll need better national and regional efforts to open up to the world’s diverse people and cultures.” 

Neglected human capital

Nearly two-thirds of all refugees have been or will be displaced for at least three years. In fact almost half have been displaced for over a decade, and more than 60% live in towns and cities, not camps.  

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has described Asia’s refugees as “a rich source of human capital that we are failing to cultivate.” 

Across the globe, Sloan writes, tensions are high from concerns that influxes of displaced people will result in increased crime levels and related social problems.

For businesses facing labour shortages, refugee workers – who are often more motivated and highly-adaptable than local employees – can ease tensions and promote stability, while also encouraging local people to see refugees as adding value to the communities in which they are hosted, as well as paying their share of taxes.

Multiple methods

The positive contribution refugees can make is also clear from Africa. Although, unlike in most Asian countries, refugees face substantial restrictions on their right to work and to move freely, they still actively contribute to the local economy.

A 2014 report on the right to work in 15 countries found “that working refugees bestow a range of benefits upon their host countries.

“Refugee entrepreneurs stimulate economies, creating businesses and jobs. They bring new skills into the country and place new demands for goods and services, diversifying markets and expanding trade. They pay taxes and prevent wage-depression.”

Sloan says there are three important ways the private sector can address the refugee crisis: the first is by exploiting its agility to respond quickly to market opportunities or humanitarian crises.

“The Syrian crisis is simply a dress rehearsal for an immense climate-fuelled disaster, which I think will begin to be felt within the next decade”

It can also fill humanitarian response gaps and seize the business opportunities offered as new arrivals offer their talents and knowledge to forward-thinking firms.

And the private sector can also welcome the skillset diversity and perspectives that refugees bring: “the business community’s reaction can highlight the long-term advantages of migration, something that politicians in fear of (or in thrall to) xenophobic currents have struggled to accomplish.” 

Other possible courses of action include:

  • offering private sponsorship to refugees (Canada is an example); 
  • empowering refugees by providing mobile phones and internet platforms, enabling them to protect themselves better and identify opportunities;
  • providing refugee-matching and job-matching services that put refugees in touch with local businesses using high-tech jobs platforms;
  • supporting risk-sharing investments that aim to address problems created in countries of first asylum by providing entrepreneurship and employment for both refugees and local people. 

By the end of this century, with the human population projected possibly to have reached 11 billion people, 2bn of them could be climate refugees. In 2015 a former British diplomat said: “The Syrian crisis is simply a dress rehearsal for an immense climate-fuelled disaster, which I think will begin to be felt within the next decade, perhaps within five or six years from now.” – Climate News Network