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July 2009

Every silver lining has a cloud: the impacts of climate change in Europe and Central Asia

Rachel Ilana Block's picture
 Photo © Rachel Block/World Bank

Reading the newspapers last January when Russia suspended the supply of gas to the rest of Europe—with Eastern European countries hardest hit—I could not help but think that the region might be better off with fewer sub-zero days during winter.

On a trip to the Balkans last year, I partook of the colorful summer bounty of peppers and tomatoes enjoyed throughout southern Russia and Southeastern Europe. 

"Dear Diary: August 27th, 2008. Sarajevo.  Best tomato of my life. If this reckless bus driver careens off the mountainside, at least I’ll die satisfied."

What a contrast from the pickles and cabbage my great-great-grandparents subsisted on in Poland and Lithuania! Though I was raised “properly”—with a taste for pickled cauliflower and herring—I could see why the northern reaches of the region might appreciate a longer growing season and more sunny, tomato-ripening days.

Studying (and contributing to) projections of global food supply in the changing climate over the next century, I see precipitous drops in yields projected in already-poor swaths of Africa, and in densely populated and cultivated regions in South and East Asia.  But many have concluded that, globally, there will be enough food to go around—thanks to the expanding role of Europe and Central Asia as the breadbasket of the world—and assuming free and fair international trade in food.
 
A recent report by the World Bank, “Adapting to Climate Change in Europe and Central Asia,” argues that these outcomes can by no means be taken for granted.

Spending on pet food and energy R&D - not an apocryphal claim

Marianne Fay's picture

I had heard that the world spent less on energy R&D than on pet food, so I decided to check. Actually, it's worse than that.

   Photo © Sophielouise at Dreamstime

Worldwide energy R&D spending in 2007 was about $12 billion according to IEA statistics that we are reporting in the upcoming World Development Report.   I could not find what the world spends on pet food - so I looked up what happens in the US.  In 2005, Americans spent $34 billion on pet products, 41 percent (or $14 billion) of which was on food and treats.

United Arab Emirates to become world center for renewable energy

Julia Bucknall's picture
 Photo © Julia Bucknall/World Bank

The Gulf News is reporting that oil-rich United Arab Emirates is among the few developing countries to host a major international organization. Abu Dhabi will be the interim headquarters for the International Renewable Energy Agency, appealingly named IRENA. That fact is remarkable enough, but what is really surprising is that it was chosen over  environmental powerhouses Germany, Austria, and Denmark. 
 
The World Development Report is full of recommendations – transform agricultural subsidies in rich countries, make US$ 50bn a year in additional funding available for adaptation in developing countries – that readers may be tempted to dismiss as politically impossible. Yet political transformations are possible. Ten years ago would anyone have thought that Abu Dhabi could become a leader in sustainable development? The transformation reaches deep. Consultants making recommendations about the UAE's drinking water tell us that reform of the tariff structure is now being considered at the highest levels - not because it would improve water management, but because the efficiency gains predicted would reduce the country's carbon footprint.