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Climate - June 11

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Water Stress, Ocean Levels to Unleash 'Climate Exodus'

Richard Ingham, Agence France Presse via Common Dreams
Tens of millions of people will be displaced by climate change in coming years, posing social, political and security problems of an unprecedented dimension, a new study said on Wednesday.

"Unless aggressive measures are taken to halt global warming, the consequences for human migration and displacement could reach a scope and scale that vastly exceed anything that has occurred before," its authors warned.

"Climate change is already contributing to migration and displacement.

"All major estimates project that the trend will rise to tens of millions of migrants in coming years. Within the next few decades, the consequences of climate change for human security efforts could be devastating."

The report, "In Search of Shelter," was compiled by specialists from Columbia University in New York and the United Nations University, and from a non-governmental organisation, CARE International.
(10 June 2009)



Hotter Planet Means More Underweight Babies

Tom Jacobs, Miller-McCune Magazine
If current projections of a warming planet prove accurate, researchers say the percentage of dangerously underweight newborns will increase significantly in the U.S. by the end of the century.
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... If current projections of a warming planet prove accurate, the percentage of dangerously underweight newborns will increase significantly in the U.S. by the end of the century, according to a paper recently published in the American Economic Review. Due to the effects of hot temperatures, mean birth weights will decrease, on average, by 0.22 percent among whites and 0.36 percent among blacks.

"We find an estimated 5.9 percent increase in the probability of a low-birth-weight birth (defined as less than 2,500 grams) for whites and a 5.0 percent increase for blacks," the researchers conclude.

"I would expect these effects to be possibly much larger in poorer/hotter countries," added Deschenes, the lead author and associate professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
(9 June 2009)



Study Finds Large Area of Africa Vulnerable to Climate Change

Alisha Ryu, Voice of America (VOA)
A new study on climate change warns that hotter weather and shifting rainfall patterns could ruin as many as one million square kilometers of marginal farmlands in sub-Saharan Africa by 2050. Scientists say poor subsistence farmers may have to depend much more on livestock to act as a source for food and income.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute, looked at climate change models and projections to determine what could be the worst-case scenario for subsistence farmers in semi-arid regions of West, East and southern Africa.

Senior scientist Phil Thorton tells VOA that while it is impossible to predict accurately how rapidly or severely climate change will affect those areas in the next 40 years, higher temperatures and unpredictable rainfall patterns are being observed on a wide scale.

"The area we have come up with is a very huge area, something like three percent of the land area in sub-Saharan Africa. These are areas that are not heavily populated, likely to dry up somewhat in the future and where cropping may currently be possible even though it may be quite risky and variable. What the results suggest is that, in some of these areas, cropping may become essentially impossible by the middle of the century," he said.

High levels of man-made carbon emissions are thought to be creating a greenhouse effect, trapping sunlight and heating the planet.

Not being able to cultivate staples such as maize, millet, and sorghum because of deteriorating growing conditions could mean a devastating loss of food and income for millions of poor subsistence farmers in Africa.

The study says that farmers could avoid being wiped out by adding more livestock to their agriculture systems. Animals, such as cows and goats, are much more tolerant of heat and drought than crops, and an increasing demand for meat and dairy products in Africa could make livestock production profitable as well.

The study does not say how much livestock a household should have in order to act as a sufficient buffer against the risk of climate change. Thorton says scientists need to study that question in more detail.

"The next step is to maybe take a few case study locations and then really look at the household impact, so that we can say something about what kinds of changes these households might be facing and what they may do about it, We certainly have some of the tools that could help us answer those questions," Thorton said.

Thorton says researchers are also hoping to pinpoint specific areas in Africa, where it may be appropriate to promote livestock ownership in a sustainable manner.
(3 June 2009)



Captured on camera: 50 years of climate change in the Himalayas

Felicity Carus, Guardian
Series of before and after panoramas of Imja glacier taken five decades apart highlights dramatic reduction of Himalayan ice
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... "Only five decades have passed between the old and the new photographs and the changes are dramatic," says Byers. "Many small glaciers at low altitudes have disappeared entirely and many larger ones have lost around half of their volume. Some have formed huge glacial lakes at the foot of the glacier, threatening downstream communities in case of an outburst."

His scientific results were published in the Himalayan Journal of Sciences and he is now in the Cordillera Blanca mountains in Peru where he will replicate Schneider's 1930 photos of glaciers.

"Much remains uncertain about the melting of glaciers and future water supplies," he said. "But what is certain is that by promoting the conservation and restoration of mountain watersheds we can counter many of the impacts of warming trends, by creating cooler environments, saving biodiversity and protecting water supplies."

The effects of climate change are dramatically illustrated at the world's "third pole", so-called because the mountain range locks away the highest volume of frozen water after the north and south poles.
(4 June 2009)
Photos at original.



China alone could bring world to brink of climate calamity, claims US official

Jonathan Watts, Guardian
Business as usual in China would lead to 2.7C rise by 2050 even if all other countries slash emissions, says energy assistant
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China must be far more ambitious in tackling climate change if the international community wants to prevent calamitous levels of global warming, a senior US official told counterparts in Beijing today.

David Sandalow, assistant secretary of state for energy, said the continuation of business as usual in China would result in a 2.7C rise in global temperatures by 2050 even if every other country slashed greenhouse gas emissions by 80%.

"China can and will need to do much more if the world is going to have any hope of containing climate change," said Sandalow, who is in Beijing as part of a high-level negotiating team that aims to find common ground ahead of the crucial Copenhagen summit at the end of this year.

No effective deal will be possible without the US and China, which together account for almost half of the planet's carbon emissions.
(9 June 2009)

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