What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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Indian Youth on Climate Change

Climate Catalysts 2014

Climate Catalysts 2014

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ‘climate change is a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that  alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which occurs in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time and periods.

Climate Change builds elevated levels of insecurity about our future and amidst this uncertainty; there is only one thing certain. We shall leave our planet to our children, the future generations – today’s youth. The swift environmental changes demand humanity to not think in terms of years and decades, but across centuries and generations, where choices made today shall have a spillover on climate across the coming years. This recognizes the high need of making the youth aware about the challenges and opportunities that shall come along the science and policy of climate change. Undoubtedly, it is a must and the right of the youth to have a say in their future, not because of the anticipated impacts but it is their ingenuity, ability to define and bring upon answers with outright determination, that can make a significant difference in evading the catastrophes of climate change.

India is a powerhouse of the youth; not only for itself, but also for the world. By 2020, India is said to be the world’s youngest country with 64 percent of its population to be below 35 (United Nations IRIS Knowledge Foundation Report 2012). Think the quantum of change such millions minds can bring out. But battling with huge population, high poverty rate, weakening Indian rupee and weak governance coupled with its unparallel development schemes, India is a fragile landwhen it comes to impacts of climate change. The techno-economic solutions, financial incentives and political regulations are not enough. Education is the most powerful tool that has the potential to bring about a fundamental change in the way people think. It requires extensive makeover of the conventional education. It calls for learning and knowing climate change, about risk mitigation measures, biodiversity and innovative alternatives.

This key role to the involvement of the young in the matters of climate change was recognized by the United Nations Systems which works in collaboration with the United Nations Joint Framework Initiative on Children, Youth and Climate Change (Joint Framework Initiative). Through this, the youth has a decisive role of raising the national ambitions, which would result into an established new climate change regime by the year 2015. The COP13 (Conference of Parties) at Bali witnessed a paradoxical absence of the Indian delegation. Despite being one of the most vulnerable nations with the leading youth population, there was only a mere representation at the conference. Thus, to empower the Indian youth with a voice and to facilitate communication with the Indian parliamentarians, the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) was born. Such a formulation gave a platform to Indian youth to participate and contribute to the Indian climate dialogues on climate policy and agreements at national and international levels. The onset of COP20, to be held in Lima this year in December, will have IYCN play a very important role as it will take the climate change movement of India youth from the grassroots level to the global arena. A flagship programme called the IYCN Agents of Change, will train hundreds of youth across India around climate change. Through its workshops Agents of Change programme will lay a favorable ground for the Indian youth to formulate their voices for the future international policy on climate change. Selected youth from these workshops will be taken to Lima in December this year to attend COP 20. Agents of Change programme will expose youth to ongoing international climate discussions and gear them to participate at the local level negotiations. The programme will also help in harnessing the youth as a nation’s asset, driving them towards sustainable development where they shall formulate, work and lead the change.

The increasing impact and presence of young people in the climate talks in not only because climate change is inter-generational, but all because climate change doesn’t discriminate between with respect to age. Youth bring a different voice, energy and determinations. A youth attending the Regional Workshop on the Implementation of Article 6 of the UNFCCC in Africa, 2010, rightly said, “Fighting climate change is not about polar bears. It’s about me and about us; it’s about love and about trust.”

Youth can build effectual partnership with printing and social media to exponentially spread public awareness on youth action on climate change. They can produce documentaries, movies and science fiction on anticipated consequence of climate change on the ecosystem. Through networks like IYCN, the youth have immense opportunities to mobilize their ideas and imagination and develop them to drive India on the path of sustainable development. Al Gore in his new climate change awareness campaign, The Climate Reality Project, correctly highlighted the youth as ‘the advocates of the climate change movement.’ — By Dimple Ranpara, Project Survival Media

Agents of Change is a programme of IYCN and being supported by Germany India Cooperation (GIZ). The workshops are being conducted in 8 cities- Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune, Ahmedabad, Vizag and Chandigarh. The workshops are open to youth from all walks of life. Please check the schedulebelow to participate in your city. There is no fee for attending these workshops.

SCHEDULE

Date

City

August       23, 24

Hyderabad

                 30, 31

Bangalore

September 6,7

Pune

                 13, 14

Ahmadabad

                 20, 21

Chandigarh

                 27, 28

Delhi

October     11, 12

Kolkata

                 18, 19

Bangalore

November   1, 2

Vizag

 

 

 


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Rising temperatures and aquatic invasives affecting global fisheries

The following piece was sent to us by Pucci Foods, a seafood company.  Rising ocean temperatures have begun to affect our oceans in many ways, some we are just beginning to comprehend.  Rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is further compounding the stress on the diverse ecosystems in the oceans by increasing the pH levels of the waters.  All of this affects our global fisheries.  While fisheries have been squeezed by unsustainable fishing practices of many companies, some have begun to implement healthy fisheries management practices.  Indeed the climate movement could use the support of this industry.  Having the companies communicate about how climate change affects their industry is critical.  While this entry is not an official endorsement of any company, we urge readers to take note of this important issue.  The original piece can be found here

There are three little words that strike dread in the heart of anyone who relies on the natural resources of our oceans: aquatic invasive species. Life in our oceans has evolved over millions of years to build the beautiful ecosystems we see today. Each creature is well-suited for their watery niche – if they they don’t adapt they die. Each animal and plant has adapted to live in a very specific environment. Each one is adapted to a unique set of prey, predators, and environmental conditions, such as temperature and salinity. When removed from their habitat and placed in a new one, they either thrive or expire. Unfortunately for many marine ecosystems, aquatic invasive species have taken hold and infringed upon native habitat.

Aquatic invasive species

Invasive green crabs, aided by warming ocean temperatures, are wreaking habitat and economic destruction on the East Coast. 
Image courtesy of SERC.

Aquatic invasive species are a growing problem. With the fleets of ships and shipments traveling from one country to another, there are endless ways for little critters to hitch a ride. A common mode of transport is the ballast water of a ship, as it is sucked up in one port and expelled in another, releasing any number of invasive larval invertebrates and fish. Their spread is unpredictable and some of our environmental conditions are able to keep them at bay. However, we are now learning some disturbing news: the spread of some aquatic invasive species may be facilitated by warming ocean temperatures associated with climate change.

The European Green Crab

When aquatic invasive species manage to enter a new ecosystem, they don’t have the same predators that have evolved along with them. If they can survive the environmental conditions, then they have free reign to grow, multiply, and begin devouring native species with nothing to hold them back. The East Coast of the United States is being attacked by one such aquatic invasive species: the European green crab. This little crab is well-known to ecologists here in California – it has also reached the West Coast, but to a lesser extent.

The seemingly harmless green crab exists in marine habitats with harmony along the Atlantic coast of Europe and northern Africa; here in the United States it is an insatiable predator that has steadily been eating it’s way through our valuable shellfish. When first introduced to the U.S. over 100 years ago, most likely transported by an unsuspecting Trojan Horse in the shape of a ship, the green crab was not so terribly bad. They invaded – but we were quick to respond with effective management and squelched them before they got out of control. Little pocket populations persist along the West Coast and definitely do our native species no favors, but the green crab has so far been unable to establish a destructive stronghold on our coast.

Aquatic invasive species

Invasive European green crabs have been found on both the West and East coasts, but is wreaking far more havoc along Atlantic shores.
Image courtesy of Marine Invasions Research Lab/SERC.

Unfortunately, it seems like times are changing. The population of invasive green crabs has exploded along the coast of Maine and are decimating shellfish populations, a loss that will likely cost the state millions of dollars. The bivalve shellfish industry is Maine’s third most profitable fishery and the green crabs have been gobbling up the “spat”, or juvenile shellfish, like there’s no tomorrow. Efforts to eradicate them have thus far proved fruitless. As fishermen grow more desperate, the crabs are simply growing fatter and multiplying. In some areas, up to 90% of clam flats no longer have any harvestable clams.

The devastation wrought by the invasive green crabs will cost fishermen their jobs and could impact the state’s tourism, as Maine is well known for it’s abundant and delicious seafood – which may no longer be available. Coastal embankments are crumbling where the green crabs have been burrowing in their never ending search for food, causing a devastating erosion process.

Warming ocean temperatures are to blame

So why has the European green crab suddenly been able to outsmart us to such an extent after more than 200 years in residence? This tremendous explosion in numbers is very likely the result of warming ocean temperatures. The sea surface temperature in the Gulf of Maine reached its highest temperatures in over 150 years during 2012. We’ve known for some time that green crabs have difficulty molting and reproducing in water colder than 10 degrees celsius, which is partly why they have not been able to invade the West Coast as effectively – at least not yet. The invasive crabs are well-adapted to warmer temperatures that more closely match their native range. They are able to spread faster and reproduce more quickly, entering areas that before were too cold for them, and increasing their invasive range.

aquatic invasive species

Sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine reached the highest on recorded in 150 years in 2012. 
Image courtesy of TalkingFish.org

It is a side effect of climate change that is unprecedented, one that we were not prepared to handle. Warming ocean temperatures can not only make a less favorable habitat for our native species, but it can make conditions more favorable for aquatic invasive species. The green crab has always required little management on both coasts, but with warming temperatures, we have no real management method in place for a booming population of the invasive crabs.

Fishermen, regulators, and scientists are scrambling to find a way out of the green crab pickle. There is such a massive number of the green crabs that an effort to catch and eradicate them completely would have to be on a grand scale. There is no established economic market for the crabs – the large ones can provide nutritional food, but most are too small to be eaten. They can be used as compost, but as of now they have little economic value. Gathering all these crabs has proven to be a daunting task, considering the sheer numbers and range. Any type of chemical pesticide would damage non-target native species as well.

Of course ocean conservationists and researchers are trying to discover what effect warming ocean temperatures might have in tropical waters. If our cold, resilient east coast has suffered so much from one little invasive crab, what will be the effects of warming ocean temperatures on delicate coral reef ecosystems? As the center of marine biodiversity, South Asia is one very important area of concern when we are considering how warming ocean temperatures will affect coral reefs. Corals are already sensitive to even minuscule temperature changes and have the terrible tendency to bleach when under stress, or expel their zooxanthellae (symbiotic algae that provides food for the coral). If the stressor goes away, the corals are able to resorb zooxanthellae and they will survive. But if the stressor continues long enough – such as a persistently warmer ocean – the corals eventually die. As coral reefs provide for countless coastal communities in South Asia, a warmer ocean could have economically devastating effects.

What does the future look like?

This is yet another downside to the climate change dilemma. What other aquatic invasive species will thrive in the new conditions our oceans are undergoing? How much economic impact will we see in the coming years from the spread of invasives like the green crab? How can we manage to adapt our fisheries management strategies to compensate for the unforeseen effects of climate change? In time, the West Coast could suffer a similar boom in green crabs, bringing habitat and economic damage with it. Our coasts are more nutrient rich than the Atlantic and there is even more potential for native species to fall victim to aquatic invasive species.

Hopefully we will learn from the crisis on the other side of the country and investigate what management procedures can be set in place in case something similar happens. Scientists are struggling to understand what changes in the marine ecosystem will be brought on by climate change, but these changes are difficult to predict and it will be even more difficult to implement fisheries management changes on the basis of predictions.

This is why it is so important to make the change now. Our carbon emissions are affecting marine ecosystems in complex ways that we are only beginning to understand. The best way to mitigate these effects is by starting at the source and working to reduce our carbon footprint. Each and every person has a part to play, and together we create a brighter future. We urge you to support businesses that strive to keep our oceans healthy, such as Pucci Foods.

 


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A Journey to Remember: Climate Solutions Road Tour (Episodes 1 & 2)

In 2009, an adventurous team of young people gathered in India to undertake a 3,500 kilometer journey across the country in search of solutions to climate change.  This unforgettable journey in a caravan led by electric vehicles made quite a splash.  Five years later thanks to Solar Punch, we are able to share this journey with you in snippets.  For more on the tour, you can also visit the website.


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Is Sri Lanka prepared for climate change?

Vulnerability of coastal areas in Sri Lanka due to rising oceans. Source: National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for Sri Lanka 2011 to 2016.

By Apsara Perera

Haiyan’s devastation as one the strongest typhoons ever recorded has left the world reeling in shock and the Philippines, as the country worst affected by the super storm, is slowly trying to get back on its feet again.

During the same period as the typhoon, Sri Lanka too experienced heavy rains, winds, thunder and lightning and thus, it only seems fair to bring forward the oft posed question: is climate change to be blamed for it? If so, what can we do about it?

The Climate Budget

With the Appropriation Bill having been taken up in parliament recently, let’s face the crucial question of how much of the annual budget is set aside for climate change related activities in Sri Lanka. The answer is no surprise – it is within the overall amount set aside for the activities of the Ministry of Environment, under whose purview the Climate Change Secretariat functions. The money is for research: climate change impact studies, research on scenarios, adaptation, and mitigation but, the allocation is said to be low. (Confirmation on the exact amount requested for climate change research was not available at the time of going to print as the officials concerned were not available for comment due to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)).

Climate change consultant Tharuka Dissanaike, speaking to Ceylon Today, points out that this is due to several practical reasons. “For research and adaptation on climate change, it is difficult to give a budgetary percentage. This is because, unlike education and health where allocations can be reflected as a percentage of the total budget or government expenditure, climate change impacts are across sectors and ministries”.

Impacts are felt in agriculture, fisheries, urban development, forestry, water management, irrigation, health, coastal and disaster management, making it difficult to quantify it as a percentage of the total budget.

“In general, in the worst affected sectors such as agriculture, water management and coastal protection it would be good to see around 20% of the sectoral budget allocated for research and adaptation measures. Especially for drought and flood tolerant crops, land management, rehabilitating small irrigation tanks, strengthening coastal dunes and protecting mangrove areas. However there is no general agreement on this,” she states further. Continue reading


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Nepal close to Carbon Neutral?

By Om Astha Rai

In 2009, Nepal’s cabinet held a meeting at the Everest base camp to highlight the country’s vulnerability to climate change.

In a reassertion of the fact that Nepal´s contribution to the world´s total greenhouse gas emission is still negligible, a yet-to-be published report states that the Himalayan nation emits less than 0.1 per cent of what scientists say causes climate change.

Nepal´s new report on National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, being finalized by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MoSTE), confirms that Nepal, the chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), emits mere 0.027 per cent of global greenhouse gas emission.

Earlier, when Nepal submitted its first national communication report to the UNFCCC in 1998, its contribution to global emission was jut 0.025. Although the new report shows a slight increase in Nepal´s contribution to global emission, experts say it is still negligible.

“This means that we have done virtually nothing to increase the rate at which the Earth is warming up,” says Prakash Mathema, Chief of the Climate Change Division at the MoSTE. “It gives us more rights to seek financial support from the developed world to adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

Mathema adds, “It is an irony that a country, whose role in global emission is virtually non-existent, is one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”

The report, which is likely to be submitted to the UNFCCC within the next few months as Nepal´s second national communication report, has taken into account just three major greenhouse gases and five major sources of their emissions. Continue reading


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Dispatch from Pakistan: Women most affected by climate change

By Sonia Malik

File Photo from Reuters

For woman in rural areas, the consequences of climate change have been a sharp increase in their daily workload and a host of health and social issues, according to a study conducted in Shaheed Benazirabad, formerly Nawabshah, district in Sindh.

Climate Change and Women: A Study, conducted by Shirkat Gah, assesses the impact of changing weather in four flood-affected villages, particularly on women. According to the study, yet to be published,the heavy floods of 2010 and 2011 affected women more than men as it had resulted in an increase in their workload.

A report cited in the study estimated that the floods affected 51 per cent of the women in the district and 40 per cent of the men. About 3.6 million women in Sindh were affected by the floods in 2010 and 2011, of whom 133,000 were pregnant at the time.

Since the floods, women in these villages have been travelling to other villages to find work such as cotton harvesting, while continuing with their household chores and home-based work like embroidery to make extra money.

The floods wiped away most crops, meaning families needed money to buy vegetables and grains previously available in the fields. The loss of a substantial portion of agricultural land meant more labour was required, so women were spending more time in the fields alongside men than before, in addition to their usual tasks.

Many women complained that the rise in heat intensity over the summer and loss of livestock in the floods meant they had to rise earlier to ground and knead flour, cook, fetch water from wells, buy firewood from markets, clean the house, and then also help in the field. Rising temperatures, coupled with poor diet, made it especially hard for women to work in the fields as well as do house chores. Continue reading


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दलों का दलदल

(We are all trapped in the quicksand of political parties)

Elections have just concluded in 5 of the 30 states of India.  There has been a record turnout of youth and women voters this election season.  In Delhi alone, youth voters turned out in historical numbers pushing the total number of voters to 65% (the maximum before this was 61.8% in 1993).  While the allure of new political winds ushered in by the arrival of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) (The Common Man’s Party) may have driven some of the enthusiasm in a population beleaguered by poor governance and the false prophets of established political parties, let’s hope that these demographic shifts are here to stay.  And why shouldn’t youth be engaged?  After all, it is their future that is being whittled away by career politicians who are happy to sell the ecological wealth on which their livelihoods will depend.

So why do Indian political parties fail to acknowledge the need for environmental conservation in their campaigns? Article 48(A) of Part IV of the Indian constitution reads: “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.”  In no political party’s manifesto is it apparent that the political class has thought clearly about the matter.  If we can thank anyone for the protection of any ounce of our nation’s ecological capital (from a legal/governance perspective) it is the Supreme Court which has been cited as the greenest court in the world.

Why the empty promises of 30% reduced electricity tariffs which will only further bleed our utilities dry and leave them with no revenue to innovate for the future much less provide reliable access?  Why promise 700 liters of free potable water when you have a fetid and dead river that flows through your city (and there’s hardly any ground water left)?  Why promise new sewage treatment plants when billions of dollars have been spent on sewage treatment plants already and while we still have over 50% of our untreated sewage making its way to the river?  Who needs “Statehood” for what should be the most easily governed unit in the whole Republic of India?  You want to set up child-friendly courts for crimes against children?  How about one that will ensure that these children have their right to life and livelihood protected by having a firm foundation (environment) in place by the time they grow up?  You want a monorail?  Did you forget about the ring rail that is hardly used?  How about refurbishing that and integrating it with the metro system (and continuing to build the Bus Rapid Transit)?  These populous promises mean nothing.  Meanwhile Delhi and India at large are headed nowhere, very fast.  Think about that the next time you are caught in traffic and choking on the ever-increasing fumes while mantri’s whiz past you in their luxury vehicles.

  By Supriya Singh and Kartikeya Singh

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