Drought and desertification in the USA

Photo credit: Yareah Magazine

Soil moisture 30 cm below ground projected through 2100 for moderate emissions scenario RCP 4.5. The soil moisture data are standardized to the Palmer Drought Severity Index and are deviations from the 20th century average.
Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Global Warming And US Desertification. New Study Of Future Drought Projections


Droughts in the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains during the last half of this century could be drier and longer than drought conditions seen in those regions in the last 1,000 years, according to a new NASA study.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science Advances, is based on projections from several climate models, including one sponsored by NASA. The research found continued increases in human-produced greenhouse gas emissions drives up the risk of severe droughts in these regions.

“Natural droughts like the 1930s Dust Bowl and the current drought in the Southwest have historically lasted maybe a decade or a little less,” said Ben Cook, climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City, and lead author of the study. “What these results are saying is we’re going to get a drought similar to those events, but it is probably going to last at least 30 to 35 years.”

According to Cook, the current likelihood of a megadrought, a drought lasting more than three decades, is 12 percent. If greenhouse gas emissions stop increasing in the mid-21st century, Cook and his colleagues project the likelihood of megadrought to reach more than 60 percent.

Read the full article: YAREAH magazine

Climate change projects for a sustainable solution

Photo credit: Google

Farmers in Sierra Leone

Effects of Climate Change in Sierra Leone

Climate change refers to an increase in average global temperatures. Natural events and human activities such as deforestation, increasing population pressure, intensive agricultural land use, overgrazing, bush burning, extraction of fuel wood and other biotic resources are believed to be contributing to an increase in average global temperatures. This is caused primarily by increases in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2).

Sierra Leone is experiencing adverse climate conditions with negative impacts on the welfare of millions of Sierra Leoneans. Flooding during the raining season, off season rains and dry spells have sent growing seasons out of orbit; on a country dependent on a rain fed agriculture. Alarm bells are ringing. Lakes are drying up. There is reduction in river flow. The water table is at its lowest ebb. The red flag is up. No one is talking. The warnings are being dismissed. It’s been business as usual.

The result is fewer water supplies for use in agriculture, hydro power generation and other domestic purposes. The main suspect for all this havoc is climate change. This has been confirmed following release of the 4th IPCC Assessment report. Africa will be worst hit by the effects of climate change. Sierra Leone not exempted.

The agricultural sector contributes about 47.9% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and agriculture is the largest employer of labour with 80% of the population working in the sector. The dominant role of agriculture makes it obvious that even minor climate deteriorations can cause devastating socioeconomic consequences.

Read the full article: allAfrica

Southern portion of the Amazon rainforest is at a much higher risk of dieback (Science Daily)

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Risk of Amazon Rainforest Dieback Is Higher Than IPCC Projects, Study Suggests

Oct. 21, 2013 — A new study suggests the southern portion of the Amazon rainforest is at a much higher risk of dieback due to stronger seasonal drying than projections made by the climate models used in the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). If severe enough, the loss of rainforest could cause the release of large volumes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It could also disrupt plant and animal communities in one of the regions of highest biodiversity in the world.

Using ground-based rainfall measurements from the past three decades, a research team led by Rong Fu, professor at The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences, found that since 1979, the dry season in southern Amazonia has lasted about a week longer per decade. At the same time, the annual fire season has become longer. The researchers say the most likely explanation for the lengthening dry season is global warming.


A new possibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide (Science Daily)

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Biochar in Soils Cuts Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Oct. 4, 2013 — University of Tübingen microbiologists show soil microbe communities can be influenced to decrease nitrous oxide emissions.

Introducing biochar into agricultural soils changes the composition and activity of microorganisms in a way that emissions of nitrous oxide — also known as laughing gas (N2O) — are significantly reduced, according to researchers Johannes Harter and Hans-Martin Krause. Their study was supervised by environmental microbiologist Dr. Sebastian Behrens and geomicrobiologist Professor Andreas Kappler of the Center for Applied Geosciences at the University of Tübingen in cooperation with researchers from the University of Hohenheim. The results are important not only for a sustainable, more effective use of nitrogen fertilizers; they also present a new possibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Biochar is produced by high-temperature thermochemical decomposition of organic material, a process known as pyrolysis. Unlike charcoal, which is primarily used to produce heat, biochar is used as a soil supplement in agriculture. Nitrous oxide is produced by nitrogen-transforming microorganisms in the soil, and these emissions increase with the use of nitrogen fertilizers. Biochar’s surface properties prevent nutrients from being washed out of poor soils. It also positively influences the abundance, composition, and activity of microorganisms in the soil, which form complex biological communities involving plants and animals. “Soil biochar amendment helps to raise water storage capacity and decrease soil nutrient leaching, which in turn increases soil fertility and can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because it stores carbon in the soil,” says Sebastian Behrens.


Greenhouse gases and new or aggravated water scarcity (Science Daily)

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Current Pledges to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions Put Over 600 Million People at Risk of Higher Water Scarcity

Sep. 12, 2013 — Our current pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are projected to set the global mean temperature increase at around 3.5°C above pre-industrial levels, will expose 668 million people worldwide to new or aggravated water scarcity.

This is according to a new study published today, 13 September, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, which has calculated that a further 11 per cent of the world’s population, taken from the year 2000, will live in water-scarce river basins or, for those already living in water-scarce regions, find that the effects will be aggravated.

The results show that people in the Middle East, North Africa, Southern Europe and the Southwest of the USA will experience the most significant changes.


Adoption and monitoring of sustainable agricultural management in smallholder conditions (FACTS)

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Carbon Intensification and Poverty Reduction in Kenya: Lessons from the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project

by Timm Tennigkeit, Katalin Solymosi, Matthias Seebauer and Bo Lager

The Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project, implemented by the NGO Vi Agroforestry, is breaking new ground in designing and implementing climate finance projects in the agricultural sector. For the first time, while increasing agricultural productivity and enhancing resilience to climate change, smallholder farmers in Africa will receive benefits for greenhouse gas mitigation based on sustainable agricultural land management.

The project has developed an activity monitoring system for sustainable agricultural land management (SALM) practices that enables smallholder famers and extension service provider to track and improve farm production. Based on the development of a carbon accounting methodology this system, in combination with a carbon model, is monitoring soil and biomass carbon sequestration consistent with the Verified Carbon Standard. As a result farmers in Africa for the first time can benefit from international voluntary carbon markets.

The paper describes the Vi Agroforestry extension approach, outlines the project objectives and activities, and explains the carbon accounting methodology. Project achievements and lessons learned, but also the challenges that still lie ahead are presented.

The authors conclude that the project model has great potential for scaling up and provide a potential blueprint for widespread adoption and effective monitoring of sustainable agricultural management in smallholder conditions.


Warmer Soils Release Additional CO2 Into Atmosphere (Science Daily)

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Warmer Soils Release Additional CO2 Into Atmosphere; Effect Stabilizes Over Longer Term

Warmer temperatures due to climate change could cause soils to release additional carbon into the atmosphere, thereby enhancing climate change – but that effect diminishes over the long term, finds a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study, from UNH professor Serita Frey and co-authors from the University of California-Davis and the Marine Biological Laboratory, sheds new light on how soil microorganisms respond to temperature and could improve predictions of how climate warming will affect the carbon dioxide flux from soils.


Adapting to the effects of climate change in the Sahel (Google / Daily Maverick)

Read at : Google Alert – desertification


Sahel a key case study for climate change at COP17


Negotiations at the UN Climate Change conference, COP17, have so far focused on the politics of the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Equally important, however, are the negotiations on adapting to the effects of climate change in embattled parts of the developing world like Africa’s Sahel.

At the opening ceremony of high level segment of COP17 on Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma stressed the need to redirect climate change discussions towards the adaptation to real-life effects of climate change. African leaders reiterated that Africa stood to be worst hit by climate change while contributing the least to the problem itself.

Both Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba stressed the effects of climate change on the Sahel region of Africa.

The Sahel is a semi–arid zone that is one of the poorest regions in the world.  Some countries in this region are on the bottom tier of the Human Development Index. In a region with an existing propensity for drought and desertification, the population of the Sahel depends greatly on subsistence agriculture and pastoralism.

The United Nations Environmental Programme used COP17 to reveal findings from a new study on climate change in the Sahel. In the study, “Livelihood Security: Climate Change, Migration and Conflict in the Sahel”,  UNEP found changing climatic conditions had already impacted on the availability of natural resources and, together with population growth and weak governance, have led to greater competition for scarce resources and changing migration patterns.


Africa is not short of climate change problems (Google / allAfrica / ADB)

Read at : Google Alert – desertification


African Development Bank

Africa Slow in Seeking Carbon Emission Aid Despite Urgent Needs (AfDB)

Africa is lagging behind the rest of the world in seeking help to cut carbon emissions, despite being the continent that suffers the most from the harmful effects of climate change.

That was one message that came across at the climate change conference, or COP 17, currently happening in Durban.

Countries around the world can submit proposals to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCC) for assistance in dealing with carbon emissions.

The mechanisms are called Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs). They are catalysts for low carbon development and were under discussion at a session in the Africa Pavilion at COP 17.

Caroline de Vit, of Ecofys Germany, opened the session by saying: “The large diversity of NAMAs makes the term difficult to define”. A NAMA could be a specific target such as a carbon-neutrality goal, an intensity target, a strategy, a policy or even a specific development project.

In short, she summed NAMAs up as a set of strategies and actions that countries undertake as part of the fight to cut greenhouse gas emissions.


How to deal with the effects of climate change and protection measures against the effects of deforestation (Google / The Malta Independent Online)

Read at : Google Alert – desertification


Threats of climate change to our culture

by Martin Scicluna

Delegates from 193 countries will meet for the 17th Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa from 28 November to 9 December. On the agenda is a ‘pathway’ towards a cut in carbon emissions, a fund to help poor countries deal with the effects of climate change and protection measures against the effects of deforestation

After the huge disappointment following the much-hyped Copenhagen Conference two years ago, the prognosis for Durban is more modest. Yet the scientific evidence of global warming and climate change is now overwhelming and the need for action more urgent.

It is not too dramatic to state that if global warming continues on its upward path, and if climate change is not mitigated by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Malta will be, at best, largely unrecognisable from the island we know today and, at worst, an arid, thirsty, over-heated rock.

No one can predict the outcome of climate change, or its effects, with complete certainty. There are, indeed, legitimate concerns over particular details and effects. But scientists now know enough to understand the risks. Global warming is no longer a theoretical phenomenon. Its potential damage is no longer an abstract proposition.

Global warming will affect Malta in many ways. The impact of climate change will lead to more extreme and haphazard weather patterns, with prolonged Saharan-style heat waves more intense rainy periods and longer dry spells. The escalating rise in temperature will be accompanied by severe water shortages as rainfall over the central Mediterranean is drastically reduced by as much as 30%.


Livestock, greenhouse gas and desertification (Sydney Morning Herald

A message of  Lee O. Cherry of the African Scientific Institute (www.asi-org.net)”

Science and Technology News, October 2011

Sydney Morning Herald

Some say cows are killing the earth. So do we need to ban beef?

Michael Bachelard – September 25, 2011

Animal agriculture is responsible for more than 30 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.  When all those sheep, cattle and goats digest and burp, there are consequences.

THE QUESTION: When are we going to hear more about the great elephant in the room – animal agriculture? The CSIRO and the University of Sydney have jointly reported that it is responsible for more that 30 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Meaningful action in [reducing emissions] cannot be achieved without a general move towards a plant-based diet.

AUSTRALIANS chew through more red meat a head than Americans, and we export more again. So attached are we to red meat and dairy products that the sheep and cattle population of this country outnumbers the human population by five to one, and 56 per cent of Australia’s land mass is devoted to grazing.
As grass makes its way through the four-stomach digestive process of these ruminants, it ferments, and the animals burp, fart, urinate and defecate with such gusto that they pump out, on official figures, between 11 per cent and 15 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions, about the same as every car, truck and bus in Australia.

To solve this problem, our questioner, vegan Paul Mahony, says there is only one option: a general move towards a plant-based diet.


Private sector in financing a $100-billion annual fund to help developing countries reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (UN News Centre)

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Private sector role in climate change fund for poorer countries focus of UN meeting

9 September 2011 – The role of the private sector in financing a $100-billion annual fund to help developing countries limit and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and adapt to the effects of climate change takes centre stage at a United Nations meeting in Geneva next week.

“Nothing short of transformational change is required in order to enable the world to shift towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient future,” UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said of the 11 to 13 September meeting of UNFCCC’s Transitional Committee of the Green Climate Fund.

“This cannot happen without an effective way of using public funds to leverage much higher levels of private capital. The Transitional Committee of the Fund is exploring how to design it in such a way that it can engage the private sector to bring about this essential change in developing countries.”

In Cancún, Mexico, last December, governments agreed to design the fund for consideration at the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, from 28 November to 9 December this year.



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