Category: Uncategorized

The climate crisis has arrived –start imagining your future

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Evidence of the devastating impacts of anthropogenic climate change are stacking up, and it is becoming horrifyingly real. There can be no doubt that the climate crisis has arrived. The climate disaster future is increasingly becoming the present.

The billion-dollar question, of course, is whether these most recent disasters can be used to motivate real change. No doubt it is important to keep this kind of commentary up. It is key that we consider how to give the climate crisis traction in a culture so accomplished at distancing us from uncomfortable realities.

But let’s be honest. No one really knows what works. We have never been here before.

Are you shocked, horrified, scared, bored, tired? What do you do with the terror? Do you compartmentalize it somewhere “safe”? Perhaps like me, you know you care. You attach importance to climate change, you want to act correctly, avoid risking other lives, damaging homes and habitats. Perhaps you know you are scared too – scared of contemplating what we have already lost or of what will happen as the crisis gets closer still.

Halting the climate crisis is still predominately framed as a matter for individual choice and change – use less plastic, cycle to work, fly less. But the behavioral response required is way more complicated than that.

When it comes to the climate crisis, the personal is political. I am talking about a politics that grows from opposition and critique of our current systems. This is evident in young people organizing school strikes and protesters willing to get arrested for their direct action. Some conservation scientists, at least, see recent cultural change as a hopeful sign of a growing sense of care and responsibility.

[The Conversation]

2018 was fourth hottest year on record

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Last year was the fourth warmest on record and the outlook is for more sizzling heat approaching levels that most governments view as dangerous for the Earth, a U.N. report showed on Wednesday.

Average global surface temperatures were 1.0 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times in 2018, the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said, based on data from U.S., British, Japanese and European weather agencies. “The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

“The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt – in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Weather extremes in 2018 included wildfires in California and Greece, drought in South Africa and floods in Kerala, India.

Last year, the United States alone suffered 14 weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion each, led by hurricanes and wildfires, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.

[Reuters]

Forecast: Earth’s warmest period on record

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The forecast for the global average surface temperature for the five-year period to 2023 is predicted to be near or above 1.0 °C above pre-industrial levels, according to the Met Office (the UK’s national weather service). If the observations for the next five years track the forecast that would make the decade from 2014 to 2023 the warmest run of years since records began.

Records for annual global average temperature extend back to 1850.

Professor Adam Scaife, Head of Long-Range Prediction at the Met Office said: “2015 was the first year that global annual average surface temperatures reached 1.0 °C above pre-industrial levels and the following three years have all remained close to this level. The global average temperature between now and 2023 is predicted to remain high, potentially making the decade from 2014 the warmest in more than 150 years of records.”

Forecast patterns suggest enhanced warming is likely over much of the globe, especially over land and at high northern latitudes, particularly the Arctic region.

Professor Tim Osborn, director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, which co-produces the HadCRUT4 global temperature figures with the Met Office Hadley Centre, said: “The warmth of 2018 is in line with the long-term warming trend driven by the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases.”

[EurekAlert!]

We are entering an age of mass displacement

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More than 68 million people are currently exiled from their homes by violence, more than at any other point in recorded history. By 2050, according to a recent study by the World Bank, at least another 140 million people will be forced to relocate because of the effects of climate change. Accelerating inequality, meanwhile, continues to drive inhabitants of poor regions to wealthier ones. While the most recent exodus of refugees from wars in the Middle East into Europe has peaked, such colossal population transfers will soon become routine.

In the midst of this unprecedented wave of dislocation, thousands of migrants disappear every year. These disappearances are a function, largely, of the imperatives of secret travel. Lacking official permission to cross borders, “irregular migrants” are compelled to move covertly, avoiding the gaze of the state. In transit, they enter what the anthropologist Susan Bibler Coutin has called “spaces of nonexistence.” Barred from formal routes, some of them are pushed onto more hazardous paths—traversing deserts on foot or navigating rough seas with inflatable rafts. Others assume false identities, using forged or borrowed documents. In either case, aspects of the migrant’s identity are erased or deformed.

This invisibility cuts both ways. Even as it allows an endangered group to remain undetected, it renders them susceptible to new kinds of abuse. De facto stateless, they lack a government’s protection from exploitation by smugglers and unscrupulous authorities alike. Seeking safe harbor, many instead end up incarcerated, hospitalized, ransomed, stranded, or sold into servitude. In Europe, there is no comprehensive system in place to trace the missing or identify the dead. Already living in the shadows, migrants who go missing become, in the words of Jenny Edkins, a politics professor at the University of Manchester, “double disappeared.”

Taken as a whole, their plight constitutes an immense, mostly hidden catastrophe. The families of these migrants are left to mount searches—alone and with minimal resources—of staggering scope and complexity. They must attempt to defy the entropy of a progressively more disordered world—seeking, against long odds, to sew together what has been ripped apart.

[Harpers]

Digital Technology to Empower Women

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If you own a bank account, chances are you are better off than a third of women worldwide. If that bank account comes with a nice app on your phone, you’re probably economically better off than 60 percent of women worldwide. And, as research suggests, you likely have more autonomy and agency.

Women’s economic empowerment is a holy grail for both policymakers and women’s advocates but is recognizably difficult to attain. Data from India, Indonesia, and Tanzania offer preliminary evidence that the smart offering of digital products to women, both mobile financial services (especially savings) and digital IDs, can be transformative. This offers cautious optimism that the ongoing revolution in digital technologies can help change entrenched social norms that keep millions of women in subordinate positions in the family.

Digital money makes it cheaper to provide financial services, and digital ID expands access to these services. When well-designed digital products target women as individuals (separate from husbands and family) and provide them with privacy to make financial decisions, they boost women’s economic independence and say in household decision-making, as evidence points out.

In both Indonesia and Tanzania, women microentrepreneurs who were encouraged to open mobile-savings accounts reported having greater household decision-making power compared to women who were not offered mobile savings. The empowerment effect in Indonesia was present for women who received financial literacy training and worked with branchless bank agents who received high financial incentives to sign up new customers (and were told that it was good to target women).

In Rajasthan state in northern India, a government mandate to designate women as heads of households to receive direct benefit transfers contributed to a major push towards their financial inclusion. Two-thirds of the women heads of households did not have a bank account before this initiative started in 2014.

Digital technologies can expedite financial inclusion policy goals—especially for women. But technology alone cannot close the gender gap. There must be continuous policy commitment to equality for equality’s sake and an aligned effort to leverage fintech for all.

[Center for Global Development]

Strengthening women’s voices in land decisions

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Since the mid 2000s, sub-Saharan Africa has experienced a land rush driven by factors such as rising commercial agriculture, mineral extraction and large infrastructure projects. This has increased pressures on land and the livelihoods that depend on it.

While investments in agriculture can potentially provide local benefits, they often result in communities losing their land due to exclusionary practices.

Women tend to lose out more than men. They are often excluded from decisions that determine land allocation. And with weaker tenure security, the land that provides their main source of livelihood is more easily taken away.

Over the past two-and-a-half-years, IIED alongside partners in Ghana, Senegal and Tanzania that seeks to strengthen women’s voices in local land governance. While local land governance differs by country, one similarity is clear: women have very limited influence on how land is allocated.

In Tanzania and Ghana this is largely due to a lack of legal implementation and patriarchal socio-cultural norms. Land issues are often perceived as a man’s issue because land is traditionally tied to family lineages and men are generally seen to have sole responsibility for land management and decision-making. Division of labor also plays a role: women tend to work longer hours making it harder to attend community meetings.

Discussions highlighted that Tanzania’s decentralised governance system – with its local government bodies, gender quotas (the minimum number of women required to be members of village councils) and clear democratic processes for allocating land – holds real potential for developing replicable locally-owned solutions to improve women’s participation.

In Ghana, local-level land management is governed by customary law and practices. Decisions on land allocation are usually made by traditional chiefs or family heads (mostly men) and rarely involve community members. Getting women involved would not only require navigating local customs but also establishing inclusive and participatory platforms.

[International Institute for Environment and Development]

Student climate protests snowballing

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Thousands of Belgian students skipped classes for the fourth week in a row on Thursday to protest against global warming, part of a growing youth protest around the world.

Beating drums, chanting and carrying signs, some 30,000 teenagers braved the cold in Brussels and other cities to call on local politicians for stronger action to prevent climate change.

“It’s our planet and the generation before us hasn’t done anything,” said Julian Rume, 17. “In 20, 30 years, we will all be migrants, we’ll all be moved out of our planet.”

The demonstrations are part of a broader grassroots movement started by Swedish student Greta Thunberg, 16, last year.

Students in Germany, Switzerland, France and Australia have followed her lead and also skipped classes to protest.

Thunberg took her protest to this month’s World Economic Forum in Davos to galvanize leaders meeting there to action.

[Reuters]

Why more snow with climate change?

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Extreme winter weather often prompts a fresh wave of public skepticism from those who doubt the existence or severity of human-caused climate change. When the Northeast USA received 2 feet of snow earlier this month, President Trump tweeted, “Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!”

As experts point out, short-term variations in the weather—even when they result in extreme snowfall or record-breaking cold—don’t negate the long-term trend of global warming. Decades of data unambiguously demonstrate that average temperatures all over the world are on the rise.

But when it comes to winter weather, and specifically snow, teasing out the effects of climate change is a special challenge. It seems as though snow—arguably the most iconic feature of a cold climate—should be one of the most obvious indicators of global warming. But scientists are finding that it’s not that simple.

Climate change has conflicting influences on snow. In many places, rising temperatures may increase the chances that snow will turn to rain before it hits the earth or that it will melt faster once it’s on the ground. On the other hand, warmer air is capable of holding more moisture and producing more precipitation. That means in some very cold climates, where there’s still plenty of room for temperatures to stay below freezing, warming could actually cause an increase in snow.

Scientists broadly agree that snow will change in most places as the climate continues to warm, said David Robinson, New Jersey’s state climatologist and head of the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab. But exactly how and why, from one location to the next, may be among the most challenging questions about weather and climate change.

paper published last March found that about a third of all monitoring sites in the western United States are showing significant snowpack declines and that the total amount of water stored in the average April snowpack has declined by 21 percent since 1915. A 2011 paper said the recent declines are likely the most dramatic the region has seen for a thousand years.

2016 analysis of satellite records also pointed to a broad pattern of decreasing snow cover across the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in the spring, with the strongest effects seen in western North America and Eurasia.

But the researchers note that the coldest parts of North America—namely, Canada and parts of the northern United States—might be expected to actually see an increase in the amount of snow.

Gerard van der Schrier, a scientist with the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, says that two seemingly conflicting snow trends can be true at the same time. Some of van der Schrier’s research published last year found widespread declines in snow depth across much of Europe. But in the very coldest places, he pointed out, the opposite appears to be true.

[Scientific American, as reprinted from Climatewire]

How climate change leads to colder winters

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A record-breaking cold snap is relentlessly descending on parts of the U.S. this month. In a time when climate change is discussed in the context of record highs, droughts, and wildfires, cold weather and blizzards can seem out of place. For those who deny that climate change is happening, it’s an opportunity to undermine scientific consensus.

How do you explain a cold winter in a world that scientists say is getting hotter?

First, it’s important to understand the difference between climate and weather. Climate is defined as the average weather patterns in a region over a long period of time. Each of these climate regions experiences day-to-day fluctuations in temperature, precipitation, air pressure, and so on—daily variations known as weather.

When the term “global warming” was popularized a few decades ago, it referred to the phenomenon of greenhouse gases trapping heat in the atmosphere and warming the average temperature of the planet. Though record high temperatures in many places have been one impact of this decades-long shift, scientists now understand that an atmosphere changed by rising levels of gases like carbon and methane leads to more climate changes than just warming. Scientists believe Earth will experience more extreme, disastrous weather as the effects of climate change play out.

In response to President Trump’s January 20 tweet about cold temperatures, Potsdam University physicist Stefan Rahmstorf noted on Twitter that, while North America was experiencing cold Arctic air, the rest of the world was abnormally hot. And, the polar vortex bringing that cold air to the U.S. may actually become increasingly unstable, Rahmstorf noted. As more Arctic air flows into southern regions, North America can expect to see harsher winters. That was the conclusion of a study published in 2017 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Record cold temperatures and blizzards aren’t the only extreme weather patterns expected… floods [will] last longer and droughts become more persistent. One study published in Science Advances last October predicted extreme, deadly weather events could increase by as much as 50 percent by 2100. Scientists have already found climate change contributed to California’s historic, deadly wildfires and powerful, destructive hurricanes.

[National Geographic]

A problem with the term ‘philanthropist’

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Fundraising academic Beth Breeze says people who give large donations are celebrated in the US, but British culture has a problem with the idea of a “philanthropist”.

Breeze, who is director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, said that in the US large donations from very wealthy people were celebrated and seen as something to aspire to. “There’s a very distinct culture of philanthropy in the US, one where they’re pretty positive and encouraging about the use of private wealth to advance the public good,” she said.

Despite the UK’s long tradition of charitable giving, she said, British people seemed to be a lot more comfortable celebrating smaller donors. “If you stick a few zeroes on the end of a donation, people get a bit uncomfortable and unsure how to react,” she said. “We reject the word ‘philanthropist’ in this country. Major donors here will often say ‘I’m not a philanthropist, I’m just generous, I’m just doing what I like’.”

She said this problem was often played out in newspapers, which made snide comments about the large-scale giving of billionaire Bill Gates.

[Third Sector]