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On the importance of snow and joint climate action in Central Asia

Kulsum Ahmed's picture
Kyrgyz Republic / World Bank

If you think about it, snow is a pretty amazing thing. It is nature’s way of storing water in the winter, and then using it in the summer when it is needed, namely during the growing season. If it gets too warm, the water does not stay locked up as snow till the summer. Too much warmth also means that more snow and ice may melt than usual, resulting in floods. But at the same time, if the water comes down the mountain too abundantly and too early, there may not be enough water during the growing season, causing drought-like conditions.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are among the Europe and Central Asia Region’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. In these five landlocked Central Asian countries, water resources depend on glaciers and snow pack. In this region, we have already seen average annual temperatures increase since the mid-20th century by 0.5°C in the south to 1.6°C in the north, and impacts are already being observed, from melting glaciers in upland areas (where glaciers have lost one-third of their volume since the 1900s), to droughts and floods in the lowlands (where weather-related disasters are estimated to cause economic losses from 0.4 to 1.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product per year for Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyz Republic, for instance).
The future looks even more challenging. According to a World Bank report Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal,” the region’s glaciers, which account today for 10 percent of the annual stream flow in the Amu Darya and Syr Darya basins, are projected to lose up to 50 percent in volume in a 2°C warmer world, and potentially up to 75 percent in a 4°C warmer world. Melting glaciers and a shift in the timing of rivers’ flow will result in a lot more water in the rivers but this excess availability will not be in sync with growing season’s water needs.  In the second half of the century, there would then be too little water flow in the rivers when the glacier volume is reduced.  The timing of peak flow of key rivers is projected to shift towards spring with a 25 percent reduction in flow during the critical crop growing season. The report also projects increased heat extremes which mean more of a reliance on irrigated agriculture (the report projects a 30 percent increase in irrigation demand) leading to an increase in water demand, exactly when water availability becomes more unpredictable. In this region, water is also connected to energy security, given the reliance on hydropower, creating further challenges.

The road to a greener future

Jonathan Coony's picture

In the run-up to the COP21 climate conference, one question becomes central: where will we find the solutions on the ground—and the people to implement them—to realize the renewed political ambitions on climate?

Among wealthy nations, Nordic countries are leading the pack on sustainable development

Craig James Willy's picture
Source: Bertelsmann Stiftung

Sustainable development was once thought of as primarily a concern for the poorer, so-called “developing” countries. Today, with industrial civilization spreading across the entire world, devouring ever more resources and emitting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, economists believe wealthy countries too are in a sense still “developing” ones. Life on Earth will not survive in its current form if lifestyle of the northern countries remains as it is and extends across the planet.

That is the spirit behind the Bertelsmann Foundation’s latest report on wealthy country’s progress on fulfilling Sustainable Development Goals. Recent developments have often not been pretty. Many countries have stuck to energy-intensive economic models, and inequality has been rising almost everywhere, with economic elites getting an ever-larger part of the pie, while working and middle classes decline.

Let's come clean about dirty cooking

Anita Marangoly George's picture
Photo by Rodney Rascona / Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

Really – let’s.

It’s a fact: Indoor air pollution from cooking with solid fuels including wood, charcoal, coal, animal dung, and crop waste in open fires and traditional stoves is the fourth leading cause of death in the world, after heart and lung disease and respiratory infection.

Nearly 2.9 billion people, a majority of whom are women, still cook with dirty, smoke and soot-producing cookstoves and solid fuels. That’s more people using these dangerous appliances than the entire populations of India and China put together.

This has to change. And change is happening as I heard from the various discussions that took place in Accra, Ghana at the Clean Cooking Forum 2015 last week.  Hearing the Minister of Petroleum of Ghana and the Deputy Minister for Gender and Development, I realize that the ambition to provide clean cookstoves and cleaner fuels to the households who need it most is definitely there. But transforming ambition into reality is a challenge. This is true not just in Ghana but in many other parts of the world.    

I have been thinking a lot about this lately, especially as we come up on the climate change conference (COP21) in Paris, where world leaders will gather to reach a universal agreement on mitigating the effects of climate change. Adopting clean energy sources is key to reach that goal. To that end, the UN’s sustainable energy goal (SDG7) that aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all also aims for bringing clean cooking solutions to the 2.9 billion who do not have it today.

What El Niño teaches us about climate resilience

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
It was recorded by the Spanish conquistadors, and triggered famines that have been linked to China’s 1901 Boxer Rebellion and even the French revolution.

Named by Peruvian fishermen because of its tendency to appear around Christmastime, El Niño is the planet’s most large-scale and recurring mode of climate variability. Every 2-7 years, a slackening of trade winds that push sun-warmed water across the Pacific contributes to a rise in water temperature across large parts of the ocean. As the heat rises, a global pattern of weather changes ensues, triggering heat waves in many tropical regions and extreme drought or rainfall in others.

The fact that we are undergoing a major El Niño event should cause major concern and requires mobilization now. Already, eight provinces in the Philippines are in a state of emergency due to drought; rice farmers in Vietnam and Thailand have left fields unplanted due to weak rains; and 42,000 people have been displaced by floods in Somalia.

And this is before the event reaches its peak. Meteorologists see a 95% chance of the El Niño lasting into 2016, with its most extreme effects arriving between now and March. Coastal regions of Latin America are braced for major floods; India is dealing with a 14% deficit in the recent monsoon rains; and poor rainfalls could add to insecurity in several of Africa’s fragile states. Indeed, Berkeley Professor Soloman Hsiang has used historical data to demonstrate that the likelihood of new conflict outbreaks in tropical regions doubles from 3% to 6% in an El Niño year.

But despite its thousand-year history, the devastation associated with El Niño is not inevitable. Progress made by many other countries since the last major event, in 1997-98, shows that we can get a grip on its effect – and others caused by climate trends.

Making the risky business of agriculture ‘climate-smart’

Vikas Choudhary's picture

Farmers harvest crops in Madagascar.

Agriculture is an inherently risky business.  From natural disasters and erratic rainfall to pests, few other sectors are as exposed or as vulnerable to shocks.
Climate change is a source of significant risks for agricultural and food systems: Climate projections suggest that average growing conditions will shift and there will be more uncertainty in predicting climate and weather conditions. More concretely, these impacts will translate into an overall warming trend, an increasingly erratic distribution of precipitation, more frequent and more devastating extreme weather events, and spatial shifts in the occurrence of pests and diseases. These impacts can cause production losses which lead to market volatility and in some cases, reactionary shifts in policies and regulations. 

Boosting clean tech to power a low-carbon future

Zhihong Zhang's picture
A thermo-solar power plant in Morocco. Photo by Dana Smillie / World Bank.

Global warming can be limited by reducing or avoiding greenhouse gases stemming from human activities - particularly in the energy, industry, transport, and building sectorswhich together account for over 75% of global emissions. So low carbon technologies are key to achieving mitigation while creating new economic opportunities.
Since 2008, the $5.3 billion Clean Technology Fund (CTF) - one of the $8.1 billion Climate Investment Funds' (CIF) four funding windows—has been partnering with multilateral development banks (MDBs), including the World Bank and the IFC, to provide concessional financing to large-scale country-led projects and programs in renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transport.
As the world gets ready for the climate negotiations in Paris later this month, the governing bodies of CTF met in Washington D..C. MDBs, donor countries, recipient countries and civil society organizations gathered to, among other things, share the results and lessons of how the CTF is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating energy savings, and improving the lives of some of the world’s poorest people by creating jobs and reducing pollution.
The CTF report card is based on the results from operational projects and programs over a one year period. In total, the CTF has achieved 20 mtCO2e in emission reductionsthat’s the equivalent to taking four and a half million cars off the road or shutting down six coal fired power plants.

A better way to build -- promoting sustainable infrastructure

Robert Montgomery's picture

As countries prepare to meet at the G20 summit in Turkey next week, global growth and infrastructure needs will be at the top of decision makers’ concerns. And rightly so: Infrastructure – roads, bridges, ports, power plants, water supply – drive economic growth in many countries by facilitating manufacturing, services and trade. But it’s not just a matter of building more. To achieve good development on a planet stressed by climate change and diminishing natural resources, infrastructure needs to be sustainable.

Natural Capital Accounting: Going beyond the numbers

Stig Johansson's picture
Guatemala. World Bank

Here are some facts that you might not know: Do these numbers just seem like bits of trivia? In fact, these are all important results that came out of natural capital accounting (NCA) – a system for generating data on natural resources, such as forests, energy and water, which are not included in traditional statistics. NCA follows standards approved by the United Nations to ensure trust, consistency and comparison across time and countries.
The results above are among the numerous NCA findings that are being generated every year, with support from a World Bank-led global partnership called Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES). In response to the growing appetite for information on NCA, WAVES has set up a new Knowledge Center bringing together resources on this topic.

Lima, from Gastronomic Center to Capital of Urban Transformation

Eric Dickson's picture

Vista de la costa de Lima

‘Oh you’re going to Lima? I’ve heard the food is supposed to be amazing’. So goes the typical comment I get from friends and family when I would mention my work related travel plans. And in this sense the city does indeed live up to what is now internationally recognized. In my short amount of time in Lima I discovered it has a gorgeous historic downtown area, a stunning coastline peppered with manicured parks in the upscale parts of town, and a largely flat topography coupled with a near complete lack of rain.