Category Archives: The World

Extreme sea level events ‘will hit once a year by 2050’

Glacier
A child walks through floodwaters near a pier in California. The climate crisis can expose millions to flooding. Photograph: Ana Venegas/AP

The Guardian: 25 September 2019 – Extreme sea level events that used to occur once a century will strike every year on many coasts by 2050, no matter whether climate heating emissions are curbed or not, according to a landmark report by the world’s scientists.

The stark assessment of the climate crisis in the world’s oceans and ice caps concludes that many serious impacts are already inevitable, from more intense storms to melting permafrost and dwindling marine life.

But far worse impacts will hit without urgent action to cut fossil fuel emissions, including eventual sea level rise of more than 4 metres in the worst case, an outcome that would redraw the map of the world and harm billions of people.

The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and approved by its 193 member nations, says that “all people on Earth depend directly or indirectly on the ocean” and ice caps and glaciers to regulate the climate and provide water and oxygen. But it finds unprecedented and dangerous changes being driven by global heating.

Sea level rise is accelerating as losses from Greenland and Antarctica increase, and the ocean is getting hotter, more acidic and less oxygenated. All these trends will continue to the end of the century, the IPCC report said.

Half the world’s megacities, and almost 2 billion people, live on coasts. Even if heating is restricted to just 2C, scientists expect the impact of sea level rise to cause several trillion dollars of damage a year, and result in many millions of migrants.

“The future for low-lying coastal communities looks extremely bleak,” said Prof Jonathan Bamber at Bristol University in the UK, who is not one of the report’s authors. “But the consequences will be felt by all of us. There is plenty to be concerned about for the future of humanity and social order from the headlines in this report.”

The new IPCC projections of likely sea level rise by 2100 are higher than those it made in 2014, due to unexpectedly fast melting in Antarctica. Without cuts in carbon emissions, the ocean is expected to rise between 61cm and 110cm, about 10cm more than the earlier estimate. A 10cm rise means an additional 10 million people exposed to flooding, research shows.

The IPCC considers the likely range of sea level rise but not the worst-case scenario. Recent expert analysis led by Bamber concluded that up to 238cm of sea level rise remains possible by 2100, drowning many megacities around the world. “This cannot be ruled out,” said Zita Sebesvari at the United Nations University, a lead author of the IPCC report.

Even if huge cuts in emissions begin immediately, between 29cm and 59cm of sea level rise is already inevitable because the ice caps and glaciers melt slowly. Sea level will rise for centuries without action, Sebesvari warned. “The dramatic thing about sea level rise is if we accept 1 metre happening by 2100, we accept we will get about 4 metres by 2300. That is simply not an option we can risk.”

Extreme sea level impacts will be felt in many places very soon and well before 2050, Sebesvari said. The IPCC report states: “Extreme sea level events that [occur] once per century in the recent past are projected to occur at least once per year at many locations by 2050 in all scenarios.”

The heating oceans are causing more intense tropical storms to batter coasts, the IPCC report found, with stronger winds and greater deluges of rain. For example, Hurricane Harvey’s unprecedented deluge, which caused catastrophic flooding, was made three times more likely by climate change.

Ocean heating also harms kelp forests and other important ecosystems, with the marine heatwaves that sear through them like underwater wildfires having doubled in frequency in the last 40 years. They are projected to increase by at least 20 times by 2100, the IPCC reported.

Extreme El Niño events, which see heatwaves in some regions and floods in others, are projected to occur twice as often this century whether emissions are cut or not, the report said. Coral reefs, vital nurseries for marine life, will suffer major losses and local extinctions. Across the ocean, heat, acidification and lower oxygen is set to cut fisheries by a quarter and all marine life by 15% if emissions are not slashed.

The IPCC report also records the large reduction in Arctic ice. This loss exacerbates global heating, because the exposed darker ocean absorbs more heat from the sun than highly reflective ice. On Monday, scientists announced that the Arctic sea ice in 2019 shrank to its second lowest extent in the 41-year satellite record.

The world’s high mountain glaciers, upon which almost 2 billion people rely for water, are also melting fast, the IPCC found, while landslides are expected to increase. A third of the great Himalayan range is already doomed, with two-thirds projected to vanish if emissions are not cut.

One of the most worrying alarms sounded by the IPCC report is about melting tundra and increasing wildfires in northern latitudes: “Widespread permafrost thaw is projected for this century and beyond.” A quarter is already near certain to melt, it said, and 70% or more would go if emissions are not curbed. In the latter case, hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane could be released, supercharging the climate emergency.

“That risks taking us beyond the point where climate change could be easily constrained,” said Richard Black, at the UK’s Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. “Nevertheless, the IPCC’s 2018 report concluded that governments can shrink emissions quickly enough to keep global warming to 1.5C if they choose. None can claim to be unaware of both the dangers of untrammelled climate change nor the feasibility of preventing it.”

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris and chair of the C40 Cities climate coalition, said the IPCC report was shocking. “Around 1.9 billion people and over half of the world’s megacities are all in grave danger if we don’t act immediately. Several cities, home to hundreds of thousands of people, are already disappearing underwater. This is what the climate crisis looks like now.”

Taehyun Park, of Greenpeace East Asia, said: “The science is both chilling and compelling. The impacts on our oceans are on a much larger scale and happening way faster than predicted. It will require unprecedented political action to prevent the most severe consequences to our planet.”

As well as cutting fossil fuel emissions, preparing for the inevitable impacts is also vital, said Sebesvari, especially in poorer nations that lack the funds to build sea walls, move settlements or restore protective coastal marshes.

“Action is needed now to secure the coast for our children and coming generations,” she said. The pressure now being exerted by the global school strikes for climate was important, she said. “I have very strong motivation. I have two kids and we are really being tested by our kids on our actions.”


https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/25/extreme-sea-level-events-will-hit-once-a-year-by-2050

 

 

We scientists must rise up to prevent the climate crisis. Words aren’t enough

ScientistExtinction Rebellion protesters on Waterloo Bridge, London, April 2019. ‘This is what we have been waiting for, yet strangely the reaction within the scientific community has been muted.’ Photograph: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images

As scientists, we tend to operate under an unspoken assumption – that our job is to provide the world with factual information, and if we do so our leaders will use it to make wise decisions. But what if that assumption is wrong? For decades, conservation scientists like us have been telling the world that species and ecosystems are disappearing, and that their loss will have devastating impacts on humanity. Meanwhile, climate scientists have been warning that the continued burning of fossil fuels and destruction of natural carbon sinks, such as forests and peatlands, will lead to catastrophic planetary heating.

We have collectively written tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers, and shared our findings with policymakers and the public. And, on the face of it, we seem to have done a pretty good job: after all, we all know about the environmental and climate crises, don’t we?

But while we’re now well informed, we haven’t actually changed course. Biodiversity loss proceeds apace, to the extent that a million species face extinction in the coming decades, and we continue to pump carbon into the atmosphere at ever faster rates. We have emitted more greenhouse gases since 1990, in full awareness of its impacts, than we ever did in ignorance. It seems that knowledge alone cannot trigger the radical global changes we so urgently need.

It was this realisation that incited us both to embrace activism, and to take to the streets and engage in non-violent civil disobedience as members of Extinction Rebellion. The refusal to obey certain laws has a long and glorious history: from the suffragettes to Rosa Parks and Gandhi, many of the 20th century’s greatest heroes engaged in non-violent civil disobedience to win their rights.

Today, civil disobedience is again on the rise. And it is working. The protests that shut down four sites in London in April raised the climate crisis rapidly up the political agenda, and into the public consciousness. The environment is now the third most pressing issue for British voters, above the economy, crime and immigration: the UK parliament and half the country’s local councils have declared a climate emergency, and a zero-carbon target has been enshrined into law. We don’t know what policy change will follow, but it is an encouraging start.

Alongside this are the Greta Thunberg-inspired school strikes and our sister movements worldwide. This is what we have been waiting for. And yet, the reaction within the scientific community has been strangely muted. In conversation, our conservationist colleagues (and we imagine climate scientists, too) have long bemoaned the fact that environmental issues remain so marginal in the public consciousness. “If only conservation was mainstream,” we lament, “and if only people would take action to fight for our world.” Well, now they are, yet few of us seem to have joined them.

Young people have embraced the movement, and grandparents, too. So have doctors and lawyers, farmers and unemployed people. But not many scientists, which is odd given we probably know more about the severity of the problems we face than anybody. Perhaps it’s related to an unspoken assumption that if our job is to provide information, then adopting a position will weaken our authority. In fact, research shows it doesn’t.

Alternatively, scientists may be reluctant to rise up because there are “proper” channels for influencing policy: you can vote, you can write letters and sign petitions, and if things get really desperate you can walk from A to B on a sanctioned march. The trouble is, these avenues aren’t working, and lobbyists for fossil-fuel industries have far greater access to political decision-makers. In 2018, for example, oil and gas lobbyists alone spent more than $125m (£100m) lobbying politicians in just one country, the United States.

Worse, these lobbyists and the corporations they work for have invested heavily in an anti-science agenda, all with the aim of convincing the world that we can carry on as normal. They are endangering our very survival in pursuit of profit, and undermining the faith in truth, rationality and the scientific method that – surely – will be critical to surviving these crises. This is why we have taken a break from our usual areas of research to publish an article in the prestigious journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, urging our fellow scientists to rise up and embrace rebellion.

As scientists we have spent years telling policymakers that we must change course, but they haven’t taken action. They may be starting to now, but only because people have engaged in open rebellion, making it clear that we will no longer accept inaction. Surely scientists have a moral duty to join the masses, and rebel for life.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/06/scientists-climate-crisis-activism-extinction-rebellion

Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis

Trees Redwood trees in Guerneville, California. Photograph: Gabrielle Lurie/The Guardian

Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists, who have made the first calculation of how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas.

As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as “mind-blowing”.

The analysis found there are 1.7bn hectares of treeless land on which 1.2tn native tree saplings would naturally grow. That area is about 11% of all land and equivalent to the size of the US and China combined. Tropical areas could have 100% tree cover, while others would be more sparsely covered, meaning that on average about half the area would be under tree canopy.

The scientists specifically excluded all fields used to grow crops and urban areas from their analysis. But they did include grazing land, on which the researchers say a few trees can also benefit sheep and cattle.

“This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who led the research. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”

Crowther emphasised that it remains vital to reverse the current trends of rising greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and forest destruction, and bring them down to zero. He said this is needed to stop the climate crisis becoming even worse and because the forest restoration envisaged would take 50-100 years to have its full effect of removing 200bn tonnes of carbon.

But tree planting is “a climate change solution that doesn’t require President Trump to immediately start believing in climate change, or scientists to come up with technological solutions to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere”, Crowther said. “It is available now, it is the cheapest one possible and every one of us can get involved.” Individuals could make a tangible impact by growing trees themselves, donating to forest restoration organisations and avoiding irresponsible companies, he added.

Other scientists agree that carbon will need to be removed from the atmosphere to avoid catastrophic climate impacts and have warned that technological solutions will not work on the vast scale needed.

Jean-François Bastin, also at ETH Zürich, said action was urgently required: “Governments must now factor [tree restoration] into their national strategies.”

Christiana Figueres, former UN climate chief and founder of the Global Optimism group, said: “Finally we have an authoritative assessment of how much land we can and should cover with trees without impinging on food production or living areas. This is hugely important blueprint for governments and private sector.”

René Castro, assistant-director general at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, said: “We now have definitive evidence of the potential land area for re-growing forests, where they could exist and how much carbon they could store.”

The study, published in the journal Science, determines the potential for tree planting but does not address how a global tree planting programme would be paid for and delivered.

Crowther said: “The most effective projects are doing restoration for 30 US cents a tree. That means we could restore the 1tn trees for $300bn [£240bn], though obviously that means immense efficiency and effectiveness. But it is by far the cheapest solution that has ever been proposed.” He said financial incentives to land owners for tree planting are the only way he sees it happening, but he thinks $300bn would be within reach of a coalition of billionaire philanthropists and the public.

The research is based on the measurement of the tree cover by hundreds of people in 80,000 high-resolution satellite images from Google Earth. Artificial intelligence computing then combined this data with 10 key soil, topography and climate factors to create a global map of where trees could grow.

This showed that about two-thirds of all land – 8.7bn ha – could support forest, and that 5.5bn ha already has trees. Of the 3.2bn ha of treeless land, 1.5bn ha is used for growing food, leaving 1.7bn of potential forest land in areas that were previously degraded or sparsely vegetated.

“This research is excellent,” said Joseph Poore, an environmental researcher at the Queen’s College, University of Oxford. “It presents an ambitious but essential vision for climate and biodiversity.” But he said many of the reforestation areas identified are currently grazed by livestock including, for example, large parts of Ireland.

“Without freeing up the billions of hectares we use to produce meat and milk, this ambition is not realisable,” he said. Crowther said his work predicted just two to three trees per field for most pasture: “Restoring trees at [low] density is not mutually exclusive with grazing. In fact many studies suggest sheep and cattle do better if there are a few trees in the field.”

Crowther also said the potential to grow trees alongside crops such as coffee, cocoa and berries – called agro-forestry – had not been included in the calculation of tree restoration potential, and neither had hedgerows: “Our estimate of 0.9bn hectares [of canopy cover] is reasonably conservative.”

However, some scientists said the estimated amount of carbon that mass tree planting could suck from the air was too high. Prof Simon Lewis, at University College London, said the carbon already in the land before tree planting was not accounted for and that it takes hundreds of years to achieve maximum storage. He pointed to a scenario from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 1.5C report of 57bn tonnes of carbon sequestered by new forests this century.

Other scientists said avoiding monoculture plantation forests and respecting local and indigenous people were crucial to ensuring reforestation succeeds in cutting carbon and boosting wildlife.

Earlier research by Crowther’s team calculated that there are currently about 3tn trees in the world, which is about half the number that existed before the rise of human civilisation. “We still have a net loss of about 10bn trees a year,” Crowther said.

Visit the Crowther Lab website for a tool that enables users to look at particular places and identify the areas for restoration and which tree species are native there.

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/04/planting-billions-trees-best-tackle-climate-crisis-scientists-canopy-emissions

 

‘Reaching end game’: New paper on climate change raises alarm

Climate changeProtesters march demanding urgent measures to combat climate change in Kolkata, India last week [Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]

A climate change paper grabbed headlines this week with its terrifying prediction of what the world will be in 30 years’ time – absent drastic and immediate change to human societies.

“World of outright chaos,” “Climate apocalypse,” “We’re all gonna die,” the media banners blared.

The sobering headlines and equally disconcerting stories beneath described a “scenario analysis” by an Australian think-tank, Breakthrough National Center for Climate Restoration.

The paper portrayed what the year 2050 will look like if urgent action to build carbon-neutral energy systems around the world fails to come to fruition in the next 10 years.

It’s worse than any of the apocalyptic Hollywood horror films making the rounds.

One billion people displaced and fighting desperately for survival, with half the world’s population subjected to “lethal heat” conditions for more than 20 days a year – “beyond the threshold of human survivability”.

Drought, wildfires, and floods collapse entire ecosystems as two billion people struggle for potable water. Mega-cities such as Mumbai, Hong Kong, Lagos, and Manila are largely abandoned because of massive floods.

“This scenario provides a glimpse into a world of ‘outright chaos’ on a path to the end of human civilisation and modern society as we have known it,” said the paper, co-authored by Ian Dunlop, a former chair of the Australian Coal Association, and David Spratt, a long-time climate researcher.

‘The end game’

Spratt told Al Jazeera the eye-catching headlines were “somewhat over the top”, but he maintained the dire warnings were legitimate.

“We are reaching the end game, there are not a lot of pieces left on the chess board. We have to take action really fast,” said Spratt.

He challenged climate scientists, including those from the leading Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to be more forthright with the global public about the calamity awaiting humanity if nothing is immediately done to halt the pumping of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The planet is currently on track for a 4.5 degree Celsius increase in global temperature as CO2 emissions continue to rise each year.

Dunlop noted the IPCC set a target of staying below a 1.5C increase in the coming decades. “This IPCC analysis assumes only a 50-66 percent chance of meeting the targets. Not good odds for the future of humanity,” he wrote this week.

Asked about the criticism, IPCC’s Nina Peeva responded: “We can’t comment on individual papers on climate science. Our job is to inform policymakers about the current state of knowledge on climate change… If this paper was published in a peer-reviewed journal, it will probably be considered in the next assessment appearing in 2021.”

US intelligence warnings

Congressional testimony from two US government intelligence analysts on Wednesday seemed to corroborate Breakthrough’s grim climate change analysis.

Peter Kiemel, from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told a House committee investigating the global effects of climate change on national security that it played a role in the bloody civil wars in Syria and Libya, and will do the same in the future.

Just prior to the outbreak of Syria’s devastating war in 2011, the region suffered one of the most severe droughts in its history, quadrupling rural-to-urban migration and causing food riots.

Climate change impacts on food and water systems were also “catalysts for social breakdown and conflict” in the Maghreb and the Sahel, contributing to the European migration crisis, Breakthrough’s paper said.

“We already have seen water crises exacerbate social unrest in and emigration from fragile states in the Middle East and North Africa,” said Kiemel.

“As the climate changes, disputes over water and access to arable land are likely to grow, prompting more such local conflicts.”

Rod Schoonover, a senior State Department analyst, told members of the House Intelligence Committee no nation would be immune from the ravages of climate change.

“Most countries, if not all, are already unable to fully respond to the risks posed by climate-linked hazards under the present conditions,” said Schoonover.

“Absent extensive mitigating factors or events, we see few plausible future scenarios where significant harm does not arise from the compounded effects of climate change.”

The Washington Post reported on Friday that Trump administration officials ordered the words “possibly catastrophic” erased from Schoonover’s written statement.

What can’t be deleted is a 2007 climate change security report titled The Age of Consequences, co-authored by former CIA director James Woolsey. Its wording leaves no doubt about the threat to the human species.

“Armed conflict between nations over resources, such as the Nile and its tributaries, is likely and nuclear war is possible. The social consequences range from increased religious fervour to outright chaos,” the study warned.

Race against time

While the immense challenge of abruptly ending fossil fuel use seems extremely daunting, there are reasons for hope.

Spratt and others noted the technology to shift away from fossil fuels to clean energy is already in place, and more could be done if government budgets were allocated towards decarbonisation.

“We have the technological and economic capacity. If we would have made the shift in 2009, we would be all right today,” said Spratt.

Climate watchers say what is desperately needed is political leadership worldwide to rein in C02-burning corporations and shift the global economic system to green technology.

Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told USA Today the technology for a carbon-free economic system is already in place.

“We’re not waiting for solutions. We’re simply waiting for political will to understand that the solutions are here. Clean energy is not a matter of waiting, it’s a matter of implementing,” said Patz.

But with US President Donald Trump, who denies human-induced climate change and oversees the world’s largest economy, there is ample reason for serious concern.

The winds of change are blowing, however, as climate change protest movements sprout up worldwide.

In the US, the world’s second largest CO2 emitter after China, presidential candidate Joe Biden announced a $5 trillion climate proposal on Tuesday as part of his campaign for 2020. The same day, Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jr said he would launch a new hi-tech venture called the Footprint Coalition to combat climate change.

On Thursday, US billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would spend $500m in the “fight of our time” to move the US away from carbon energy.

Breakthrough’s paper stated “a massive global mobilisation” of resources was needed in the next decade to build a zero-emissions industrial system.

So can humanity save itself with the clock ticking down fast?

Admiral Chris Barrie – the former chief of Australia’s defence forces who wrote the foreword to Breakthrough’s paper – said human societies must act collectively to survive.

“A doomsday future is not inevitable, but without immediate drastic action, our prospects are poor.”

Russian parliament approves bill to isolate country’s internet

Russian photoThe bill passed its first reading by 334 votes to 47 in the Russian parliament [File: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters]

Russian legislators have given tentative approval to a draft legislation that could cut off Russia from the global internet.

The bill, co-authored by Andrei Lugovoi – one of the main suspects in the 2006 murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in the UK – passed its first reading in the lower house of parliament on Tuesday by 334 votes to 47.

A heated debate preceded the vote with many legislators from minority parties criticising it as too costly and argued that it was not written by experts.

Authors of the initiative say Russia must ensure the security of its networks after US President Donald Trump unveiled Washington’s new cybersecurity strategy last year, which threatened to respond to any cyber attack both offensively and defensively.

Russia’s new bill proposes creating a centre to “ensure and control the routing of internet traffic” and requires that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) install “technical measures to withstand threats”.

It also mandates regular “drills” to test whether Russia’s internet can function in an isolated mode.

Taking questions on the floor, the authors were unable to estimate the long-term costs, what threats it would repel or even how it would work. They, however, said expert opinions could be incorporated into the bill for its second hearing.

One of the authors dismissed all criticism, citing the scale of the potential threat from Washington.

“This isn’t kindergarten!” shouted Lugovoi. “All of the websites in Syria” have been turned off by the US before, he claimed.

Internet freedoms
Critics say the bill shows the authorities’ continued efforts to limit internet freedoms despite the huge public and private cost.

“This is very serious,” said Andrei Soldatov, who co-authored a book on the history of internet surveillance in Russia. “This is a path towards isolating Russia as a whole… from the internet.”

Russian internet providers have reportedly been tasked by April 1 to come up with a way that the country could reliably shield itself from cyberattacks.

The concept appears similar to China’s Great Firewall, which regulates internet operations in view of reinforcing national sovereignty.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/russian-parliament-approves-bill-isolate-country-internet-190212134228143.html

Women at the front can help defeat global warming, say leaders

Women at the front can help defeat global warming, say leaders
by Sophie Hares | @SophieHares | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 27 February 2018 01:23 GMT

Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, speaks next to Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera during a news conference within the framework 2018 Women4Climate Summit in Mexico City
Mayors of cities and participants pose for a photo at the end of the Women4Climate conference in Mexico City, Feb. 26, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero

“It’s clear if we want to face climate change, women and girls from all the world should be central actors”

MEXICO CITY, Feb 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Cities will be the battleground and women can be effective warriors on the frontlines in the fight against climate change, activists and leaders said on Monday.

Investing in the education and leadership of women and girls will provide a much-needed boost in efforts to slow global warming, said attendees at the Women4Climate conference organised by C40, a global alliance of cities, in Mexico City.

“For thousands of years we’ve been investing in the education of men, in the professional capacities of men, in their rise to positions of leadership and decisions,” Christiana Figueres, former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told the group.

“We haven’t done this investment with women,” said Figueres, who now leads “Mission 2020,” a global initiative to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The Women4Climate conference brought together mayors, business leaders and leaders working to curb climate change. It was the second such conference held since world leaders agreed in Paris in 2015 on a goal of slowing the rise in average global temperatures.

“It is clear the battle will be fought especially in urban areas,” said Patricia Espinosa, the current UNFCCC head.

“It’s clear if we want to face climate change, women and girls from all the world should be central actors,” she said. “We have little time left.”

Extreme weather related to climate change is hitting urban areas, said Salt Lake City, Utah Mayor Jackie Biskupski.

She said the western U.S. city is warming at double the global rate, affecting the snowfall it depends upon for water.

Rome’s Mayor Virginia Raggi said her city planned to ban diesel-fueled cars from its centre, plant thousands of trees and invest in zero-emissions buses.

“Cities can do a lot to make a difference on climate, but just like women, cities can’t be expected to change the world all by themselves,” said Andrea Reimer, a Vancouver, Canada city official.


(Reporting by Sophie Hares, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/)

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is reporting on resilience as part of its work on zilient.org, an online platform building a global network of people interested in resilience, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation.

Understanding Child Soldier Recruitment Needed to Help Curb Crisis

By Will Higginbotham
Inter Press News

child-soldier_-629x419
Former child solider Mulume (front left) feels hopeless about his future. Credit: Einberger/argum/EED/IPS

 

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 23 2018 (IPS) – It is not known exactly how many child soldiers there are in the world, but current estimates tell us that in 2018, the number is likely to be in the tens of thousands.

Children have been used in hostilities – including as human bombs –by state and non-state groups in at least 18 conflicts since 2016 alone.

Today, a staggering 46 nations continue to attract and enlist people under 18 into their militaries.

These are some of the statistics from the Child Soldiers World Index – a newly released database that examines UN member states for their use of child soldiers in the armed forces and non-state groups.

The statistics are indeed concerning, with even the UN declaring that the number of at risk children is increasing at an “alarming rate.”

So what exactly is driving children to become involved with armed groups? And, what can be done to get a grip on the crisis?

These are the questions that the United Nations University (UNU), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations Luxemburg and Switzerland have been working to answer by conducting field research on child recruitment practices in Mali, Iraq and Nigeria.

THE ROLE OF “RADICALISATION”

According to the report, entitled ‘Cradled by Conflict: Children in Contemporary Conflict’, a mistake that policy makers are making is focusing too much on the idea that child soldiers join armed groups because they have been ‘radicalised.’

“Currently there is a tendency to attribute child involvement in conflicts to them becoming radicalised and swept up in this violent ideology… but this is rarely the primary factor motivating child association in armed groups,” the project’s leader researcher Siobhan O’Neil told IPS.

For example, the report found that ideology was hardly a factor in Mali where child solider recruitment is often paired with a narrative of radicalisation.

“In Mali, the intercommunal conflicts over resources and cattle, issues made worse by climate change and state corruption– were far more likely to drive children to armed groups,” O’Neil said.

Even in cases where ideology does play a role in a child’s trajectory towards an armed group, it is usually only one of a number of motivating or facilitating factors.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram has conflated its religious ideology with a rejection of the Nigerian state, the latter of which, the report found “may be the greater driver of association with Boko Haram for Nigerians who have experienced state oppression and violence.”

“NO CHOICE BUT TO JOIN”

UNU’s research also challenges a re-occurring perception that children can simply avoid joining armed groups.

The report stressed that for many children, especially those living within an occupied territory, neutrality is not an option.

“That’s a fallacy. It’s virtually impossible for children to remain unaffiliated in a war zone,” Kato Van Broeckhoven, a co-author of the research, told IPS.

“When an armed group is the only employer – like they are in parts of Syria and Nigeria – and they have physical control of a region, joining may be the only realistic way to survive,” she continued.

“PRO-SOCIAL REASONS TO JOIN”

The report also found that for some children, armed groups are attractive because they offer a sense of ‘community’, a sense of ‘significance’, and a feeling of ‘order amid chaos’.

For example in both Mali and Nigeria, where strict hierarchical societies are the norm, armed groups can provide a way for young people to express themselves and attain a level of status beyond what society would usually allow someone of their age.

Addressing what this research means for policy makers and programs on the ground, O’Neil told IPS that “ultimately, what we see is that there is no mono-causal reason for children getting involved in armed groups.”

“It’s important any intervention programs geared towards preventing them becoming involved, assisting them with release and reintegration recognise that and take a holistic approach to addressing children’s needs and risks,” she continued.

The report argues that many current interventions aimed at assisting child soldiers have leaned towards an ‘ideological approach’ – one that aims to ‘prevent’ and ‘counter’ violent extremism.

In the absence of evidence that links radical ideology to children becoming involved in armed groups, O’Neil and her fellow researchers say that any ‘ideological approach’ to intervention should only be used when there is clear evidence that it would be preventative.

Otherwise, as the report noted, “it’s a one size, fits none’ approach.

In the report, researchers urged for more effective international efforts to prevent and respond to child recruitment and use by armed groups including:

(1) avoid programmes focused primarily on ideological factors; (2) only incorporate ideological components where individually necessary and where they can be embedded into larger, holistic efforts to address the needs and risks of children; (3) ensure all interventions are empirically based; (4) rigorously assess interventions over the long term; and (5) engage children not just as beneficiaries, but as partners.

The ‘Cradled to Conflict’ report and the Child Soldiers World Index data was launched on the International Day against the use of Child Soldiers, and the anniversary of the OPAC treaty – the world’s first international treaty wholly focused on ending the military exploitation of children.