Climate change in the news (Sept 14 - Sept 18, 2009)
- News Update
I saw one of the World Development Report’s recommendations in action yesterday. Kenya’s Green Belt Movement (founded by Professor Wangari Maathai) is working with the Kenya Forest Service, with support from the French Development Agency, a grant from the Government of Japan (PHRD) and carbon credits (both managed by the World Bank), to replant native forests.
|Mercy Karunditu, Project Officer|
The original forest had been cut down and a tough native grass had taken over. Patches of grass had to be cut in order to plant the seedlings of native trees and the grass constantly managed for the first years until the trees were strong enough. The team told us how the carbon credits were planned for 12 years from the start of the project, though it was clear that the trees would still be small at that point. Up front financing for a period of many years is clearly essential.
Project officer Mercy Karunditu told us of the multiple challenges the team faces in nurturing these seedlings. First, villagers grazing their animals on the land where the year old seedlings stand at just ankle height. Second, elephants which destroy the seedlings. Third, fires set by villagers in the native forests to encourage growth of new grass for their animals. And fourth, climate change.
“We used to be sure when the rains would come, now we cannot be sure and when they do come they are very strong and last only for a very short period,” Mercy said.
Getting the operational details right so that teams like this can succeed will be key to making this tool, which brings both mitigation and adaptation benefits, succeed.
| Photo © World Bank/
Tree planting: Professor Wangari
Maathai with Johannes Zutt
I spent yesterday in rural Kenya with the World Development Report (WDR) team and the inspirational activist Professor Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Professor Maathai graphically showed us the problems across multiple areas of the economy when the climate does not behave as predicted. The visit powerfully demonstrated how much worse the effects are when the changing climate combines with a poorly managed environment. Only 1.7 percent of Kenya's territory has forest cover, compared to about 10 percent a century ago. And the forests are increasingly fragmented. Yet these fragments protect water towers that are the source of the country’s rivers. The diverse natural forests regulate rainfall, provide homes for Kenya's stunningly diverse flora and fauna, and of course they also help our planet to store carbon. But human activity in and around the forests continues to threaten their survival. Over recent decades, plantation forests have replaced much of the natural forests that once covered Kenya, but they are much less effective at regulating rain, preventing soil erosion and protecting diversity. As I said on our visit to the Aberdare Forest yesterday, in many places I did not see forests; what I saw instead were tree farms.
No one in Nairobi—where we just released pre-press version of the World Development Report—needs to be reminded about the effects of climate change. Four consecutive rains have failed, and on 80 percent of the country’s land area, water resources are at a tenth of their normal levels.
|Photo © Ann Phillips|
Everyone is feeling it.
Farmers see dying crops. The harvest is 28 percent of normal amounts. The Minister of Environment reported at the WDR launch yesterday that ten million Kenyans were going hungry because of the drought. Herders see their cattle dying or have to sell them for low prices. Some are shipping their cattle to areas that still have grass only to see them die of cold at the higher altitudes.
After more than a year of research, consultation, and writing, I’m happy to announce that we have just released a “pre-press” version of our report: World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change. While the printed books won’t be ready until the end of October, the advance files (subject to correction and change) are now available on our website, so please feel free to download them and let us know what you think via comments on this blog!
The report, which is the latest in the World Bank’s long-running series on development, emphasizes that developing countries are the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. In fact, they face 75 to 80 percent of the potential damage from climate change. The latest and best scientific evidence tells us that at global warming of more than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures—an increase that will be extremely difficult to avoid—more than a billion people could face water scarcity, 15 to 30 percent of species worldwide could be doomed to extinction, and hunger will rise, particularly in tropical countries. So it’s overwhelmingly clear that developing countries need help to cope with these potential impacts, even as they strive to reduce poverty faster and deliver access to energy and water for all.
Sub-Saharan African countries are bracing for dramatic impacts of climate change. As Andrew Simms of the UK-based New Economics Foundation has aptly put it, they are “caught between the devil of drought and the deep blue sea of floods.”
Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions have been minimal because of its low levels of industrial output. Yet African countries are likely to suffer disproportionately from global warming. They are therefore right to demand that international climate negotiations be based on principles of historical justice.
But behind this seemingly dismal outlook lies a unique opportunity for Africa to lead the way in adopting low-carbon growth strategies. The region is not too heavily committed to the same damaging industries that its industrial counterparts are having difficulties abandoning. African countries therefore need to complete their demand for historical justice with the design of climate-smart policies.
|Photo © Julia Bucknall/World Bank|
In our culture, we need nine cattle in order to get married. I have worked hard and now have my nine cattle. One of them is a bull. I am planning to get married in February with a big celebration.
But this year, the rains have come so late, and there is no grass left. We are trucking the cattle to other places where we think the grass is better, but there won't be enough grass for everyone.
For the first time, the Ewaso Nyiro River has stopped flowing. There are more people living upstream now, and global warming is affecting the glacier on Mount Kenya.
Every year, the World Development Report focuses on a different topic of global importance, and, as part of its preparatory activities, consults with various groups around the world. The 2010 World Development Report on Development and Climate Change is no exception. This report has required unique attention to varying points of view because climate change affects different countries in drastically different ways. Over the past year, as we approached the task of putting together a report on such a significant topic, we sent our team of authors all over the world to consult with representatives from over 40 countries. We listened to stories about how climate change is affecting them, and sought their views on our report’s evolving messages, which I described in an earlier blog post. We compiled this feedback as it was received, and have posted summaries of these consultations on our website.
|Photo © iStockphoto.com|
While people are largely well adapted to the ‘natural’ climate variability of their region (of which drought is one half of the equation, and abnormally wet periods the other), droughts can pose very serious risks when their severity exceeds expected levels, or when they strike in areas which are not used to coping with them. And this is likely to happen more frequently with climate change.