by Samuel Okiror The Guardian – Global Development
May 8 2018
In Kenya, Rwanda and Somalia death toll reaches 300, with hundreds of thousands more people displaced, adding to crisis in region stricken by drought…
Heavy rains and severe flash floods have left more than 300 people dead and displaced thousands of others across parts of east Africa, with Kenya and Rwanda being the worst hit.
“We are concerned about the flooding that has displaced so many people in Somalia, Kenya and Rwanda,” said Farhan Aziz Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN secretary general in a statement to the Guardian.
“Our hearts go out to all the people who have been harmed by the rains and flash floods,” he said.
In Kenya ongoing torrential rains have damaged infrastructure, preventing or limiting humanitarian access to many of the affected areas and cutting off people’s access to markets in several places.
“Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that heavy rainfall in Kenya has caused severe flooding in at least 32 counties, out of 47, across the country. An estimated 100 people have lost their lives and 260,000 others have been displaced,” said Haq.
Euloge Ishimwe, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said it is a “double jeopardy” for the affected communities, as many of them are already struggling to recover from the devastating drought in 2017, after which more than 2.6 million Kenyans were in urgent need of food aid.
“The livelihoods and resilience of the affected communities had already been weakened… With the flooding, we are worried that these communities will be further rendered more vulnerable.”
The extreme weather has compounded a cholera outbreak in the country as well as an epidemic of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, and is increasing the risk of large-scale outbreaks.
The number of cholera cases reported since the beginning of 2018 stands at 2,943, with 55 deaths, according to the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Unocha).
In a statement, Unocha said education and health facilities have been damaged in the flooding, and the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) said roads and train lines had been destroyed. Extensive damages and losses have been reported to fields and livestock, with at least 8,700 hectares (21,5000) acres of farmland destroyed and more than 19,000 animals killed.
Cape Town is parched. Severe drought and high water use have collided in South Africa’s second largest city, and unless the drought breaks, residents may run out of water in the next few months when there simply isn’t enough water left to supply the drinking water taps.
In response to this looming “Day Zero” currently projected in May? city managers have imposed new and unprecedented restrictions, including limiting residential water use to 50 liters (around 13 gallons) per person per day. They released plans to open 200 community water points to provide emergency water in the event of a shutoff – for four million people. As the crisis worsens, water scarcity will sharpen South Africa’s economic inequalities, inflaming tensions between wealthier and disadvantaged communities.
Cape Town is not alone. Water crises are getting worse all over the world. The past few years have seen more and more extreme droughts and floods around the globe. California just endured the worst five-year drought on record, followed by the wettest year on record. São Paulo, Brazil, recently suffered a severe drought that drastically cut water supplies to its 12 million inhabitants – a drought that also ended in heavy rainfall, which caused extreme flooding. Houston was devastated in 2017 by Hurricane Harvey, the most extreme precipitation event to hit any major city in the United States.
Severe droughts and floods. Water rationing. Economic and political disruption. Urban taps running dry. Is this the future of water?
Any city, in building a water system, tries to prepare for extreme weather, including floods and droughts. It also considers estimates of future population growth, projections of water use and a host of other factors. Cape Town’s water system is a relatively sophisticated one, with six major storage reservoirs, pipelines, water treatment plants and an extensive distribution network. Its water managers, and South Africa’s overall water expertise, are among the best in the world.
The problem is that the traditional approach for building and managing water systems rests on two key assumptions. The first is that there is always more supply to be found, somewhere, to satisfy growing populations and growing water demand. The second is that the climate isn’t changing.
Neither of these assumptions is true any longer.
Many regions of the world, as in Cape Town, have reached “peak water” limits and find their traditional sources tapped out. Many rivers are dammed and diverted to the point that they no longer reach the sea. Groundwater is over pumped at rates faster than nature can replenish. And massive long-distance transfers of water from other watersheds are increasingly controversial because of high costs, environmental damages and political disagreements.
The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, has been embroiled in war and conflict for years.
The oil-rich nation – which won independence from Sudan in 2011 – descended into civil war in 2013, with tens of thousands of people killed and a third of the population forced to flee their homes.
Recent research found that extreme weather, such as prolonged drought, has increased competition between communities over dwindling resources like water and pastures.
Although data is hard to come by, historically conflicts frequently occur soon after a flood or drought, said a report by a group of NGOs and U.N. agencies.
For example, tensions between nomadic herders and settled farmers over water wells or poor harvests can lead to unoccupied and frustrated men being lured into militias.
“Climate change has a multiplier effect on the challenges experienced in South Sudan, specifically on localised conflict,” said Michael Mangano, country director of aid agency ACTED in South Sudan.
INVESTING IN RESILIENCE
So could building resilience against climate shocks help bring peace to South Sudan?
“There is a growing momentum on investing in resilience in South Sudan,” said Nellie Kingston of Concern Worldwide, a charity that works on the UK-funded Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme.
The project in the East African country set up early warning systems, weather monitoring tools, field schools to teach farmers best practices, and seed stores to preserve and exchange crop seeds in the event of climate shocks.
It also established 17 environment clubs in schools for students to discuss climate issues and plant trees, for example, with the minister of education keen to roll out such initiatives into the national curriculum, said Kingston.
An assessment of the project found that people felt more resilient to climate shocks after joining farmer groups, better managing their land and making savings, said Suzanne Philips of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
As well as equipping communities with better tools and responses to climate threats, the project sought to bring together tribes traditionally divided by conflict.
“It’s one of those things we can’t measure, but there are groups (taking part in the projects) that are made up of three ethnicities… so just the fact that they’re meeting on a weekly basis prevents more ethnic tension,” said Mangano.
Other outcomes of the project include communities becoming more self-sufficient and relying less on international aid, said Kingston, with other villages replicating some of the successful activities.
Although fragile states face huge social and economic problems, protecting people from natural disasters can be done and should be attempted despite the practical difficulties, U.N. officials have recently said.
Conflict-torn countries may lack functioning governments, but pockets can be identified where it is possible to work with communities to reduce the risks of floods, earthquakes and other hazards, according to Robert Glasser, head of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Despite these successes and improved resilience in South Sudan the country is still highly vulnerable to climate shocks, said Kingston.
“Resilience interventions are feasible in South Sudan,” she said. “But flexibility is needed to tailor them to the local context and adjust to changing circumstances.”
Just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, study says.
A relatively small number of fossil fuel producers and their investors could hold the key to tackling climate change
Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report.
The Carbon Majors Report (pdf) “pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions,” says Pedro Faria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute.
Traditionally, large scale greenhouse gas emissions data is collected at a national level but this report focuses on fossil fuel producers. Compiled from a database of publicly available emissions figures, it is intended as the first in a series of publications to highlight the role companies and their investors could play in tackling climate change.
The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established – can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report.
ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988. If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, says the report, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4C by the end of the century. This is likely to have catastrophic consequences including substantial species extinction and global food scarcity risks.
While companies have a huge role to play in driving climate change, says Faria, the barrier is the “absolute tension” between short-term profitability and the urgent need to reduce emissions.
A Carbon Tracker study in 2015 found that fossil fuel companies risked wasting more than $2tn over the coming decade by pursuing coal, oil and gas projects that could be worthless in the face of international action on climate change and advances in renewables – in turn posing substantial threats to investor returns.
CDP says its aims with the carbon majors project are both to improve transparency among fossil fuel producers and to help investors understand the emissions associated with their fossil fuel holdings.
A fifth of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions are backed by public investment, according to the report. “That puts a significant responsibility on those investors to engage with carbon majors and urge them to disclose climate risk,” says Faria.
Investors should move out of fossil fuels, says Michael Brune, executive director of US environmental organisation the Sierra Club. “Not only is it morally risky, it’s economically risky. The world is moving away from fossil fuels towards clean energy and is doing so at an accelerated pace. Those left holding investments in fossil fuel companies will find their investments becoming more and more risky over time.”
There is a “growing wave of companies that are acting in the opposite manner to the companies in this report,” says Brune. Nearly 100 companies including Apple, Facebook, Google and Ikea have committed to 100% renewable power under the RE100 initiative. Volvo recently announced that all its cars would be electric or hybrid from 2019.
And oil and gas companies are also embarking on green investments. Shell set up a renewables arm in 2015 with a $1.7bn investment attached and a spokesperson for Chevron says it’s “committed to managing its [greenhouse gas] emissions” and is investing in two of the world’s largest carbon dioxide injection projects to capture and store carbon. A BP spokesperson says its “determined to be part of the solution” for climate change and is “investing in renewables and low-carbon innovation.” And ExxonMobil, which has faced heavy criticism for its environmental record, has been exploring carbon capture and storage.
But for many the sums involved and pace of change are nowhere near enough. A research paper published last year by Paul Stevens, an academic at think tank Chatham House, said international oil companies were no longer fit for purpose and warned these multinationals that they faced a “nasty, brutish and short” end within the next 10 years if they did not completely change their business models.
Investors now have a choice, according to Charlie Kronick, senior programme advisor at Greenpeace UK. “The future of the oil industry has already been written: the choice is will its decline be managed, returning capital to shareholders to be reinvested in the genuine industries of the future, or will they hold on, hoping not be the last one standing when the music stops?”
A list of the world’s Top 100 Polluters is available on line at The Guardian.
ROME, Jul 7 2017 (IPS) – World organisations, experts and scientists have been repeating it to satiety: climate change poses a major risk to the poorest rural populations in developing countries, dangerously threatening their lives and livelihoods and thus forcing them to migrate.
Also that the billions of dollars that the major industrialised powers—those who are the main responsible for climate change, spend on often illegal, inhumane measures aiming at impeding the arrival of migrants and refuges to their countries, could be devoted instead to preventing the root causes of massive human displacements.
One such a solution is to invest in sustainable agriculture. On this, the world’s leading body in the fields of food and agriculture has once again warned that climate change often leads to distress-driven migration, while stressing that promoting sustainable agriculture is an essential part of an effective policy response.
The “solution to this great challenge” lies in bolstering the economic activities that the vast majority of rural populations are already engaged in,” José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 6 July said.
The UN specialised agency’s chief cited figures showing that since 2008 one person has been displaced every second by climate and weather disasters –an average of 26 million a year– and suggesting the trend is likely to intensify in the immediate future as rural areas struggle to cope with warmer weather and more erratic rainfall.
For his part, William Lacy Swing, director-general of the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), also on July 6 said “Although less visible than extreme events like a hurricane, slow-onset climate change events tend to have a much greater impact over time.”
“Since 2008 one person has been displaced every second by climate and weather disasters”
Swing cited the drying up over 30 years of Lake Chad, now a food crisis hotspot. “Many migrants will come from rural areas, with a potentially major impact on agricultural production and food prices.”
FAO and IOM, chosen as co-chairs for 2018 of the Global Migration Group –an inter-agency group of 22 UN organisations– are collaborating on ways to tackle the root causes of migration, an increasingly pressing issue for the international community.
By John Scales Avery The author was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in organising the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. He is Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen. He was chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group and the Danish Peace Academy, and he is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent book is Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century.
A petrochemical refinery in Grangemouth, Scotland, UK.| Author: John from wikipedia | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
OSLO, Sep 7 2016 (IPS) – We often read comparisons between the prices of solar energy or wind energy with the prices of fossil fuels. It is encouraging to see that renewables are rapidly becoming competitive, and are often cheaper than coal or oil. In fact, if coal, oil and natural gas were given their correct prices renewables would be recognized as being incomparably cheaper than fossil fuels.
Externalities in pricing
The concept of externalities in pricing was first put forward by two British economists, Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) and Arthur C. Pigou (1877-1959).
In his book “The Economics of Welfare”, published in 1920, Pigou further developed the concept of externalities in pricing which had earlier been introduced by Sidgwick. He proposed that a tax be introduced to correct pricing for the effect of externalities.
An externality is the cost or benefit of some unintended consequence of an economic action. For example, tobacco companies do not really wish for their customers to die from cancer, but a large percentage of them do, and the social costs of this slaughter ought to be reflected in the price of tobacco.
The true environmental costs of fossil fuel use are much greater than those of smoking. Unless we stop burning fossil fuels within one or two decades, we risk a situation where uncontrollable feedback loops will lead to catastrophic climate change regardless of human efforts to prevent the disaster.
If we do not act very quickly to replace fossil fuels by renewables, we risk initiating a 6th geological extinction event. This might even be comparable to the Permian-Triasic extinction, during which 96 per cent of all marine species and 70 per cent of all vertebrates were lost forever.
Subsidies to fossil fuel companies
Far from being penalized for destroying the global environment and threatening the future of all life on earth, fossil fuel companies currently receive approximately $500,000,000,000 per year in subsidies (as estimated by the IEA).
They use part of this vast sum to conduct advertising campaigns to convince the public that anthropogenic climate change is not real.
Betrayal by the mainstream media
If we turn on our television sets, almost nothing that we see informs us of the true predicament of human society and the biosphere.
Programs like “Top Gear” promote automobile use. Programs depicting ordinary life show omnipresent motor cars and holiday air travel. There is nothing to remind us that we must rapidly renounce the use of fossil fuels.
A further betrayal by the mainstream media can be seen in their massive free coverage of US presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is an infamous climate change denier.
Despite the misinformation that we receive from the mainstream media, we must remember our urgent duty to leave fossil fuels in the ground. If threats to the future are taken into account, the price of these fuels is prohibitive.
The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.