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Green Planet

Debunking the Myth of Man-made Climate Change

Mehwish Akram

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Man-made climate change can be defined as a global rise in temperature is due to human activities. For instance, the excessive use of the fossil fuels for industries and transportation sector is putting pressure on natural ecosystems of the earth. Most of the scientists are skeptical that human activity is causing the global warming. Climate deniers are of the view that climate change is natural and not due to the human activity.   

Misperceptions on Man-made climate change

First, if global warming is real, then why are we experiencing record-cold winters? One cannot deny the fact that extreme colder temperatures are observed in some of the areas. For example, the winter of 2009 to 2010 was extremely cold in Europe and particularly in Antarctica region. It would be wrong to claim it as a evidence against the global warming. Climate change is the complex phenomenon and multifaceted in nature. Moreover, El Nino is causing extreme weather patterns after every four years. Winters are getting warmer in the South American west coast. As a result, Europe is experiencing extremely cold weather due to increase in temperature of the sea surface of Northern Hemisphere.  

Second, the sea ice in Antarctica region is not decreasing but the ice sheets have reduced immensely in Arctic region for past few years. The Antarctic region remained protected from the increase in global temperature. Due to the strong winds and ocean currents, that protects it from external climate changes. The increase in average Earth temperatures is empirically observed since systemic measurements of temperature began in 1880. 2016 was recorded as the warmest year along with 2015 and 2014 at a second and third place in terms of a global rise in temperature. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average increase in temperature was 0.85 degrees Celsius (about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) from 1880 to 2012.

Third, climate change is a natural phenomenon. Humans are not the only factor in the past; the current warming is just a part of natural process. The Earth’s climate has changed many times over the years as part of natural environmental processes. But the current rise in temperature is alarming because the pace of temperature has increased from last 10 years. According to the Climate change skeptics, CO2 emissions from human activity are not the only factor that influences the Earth’s climate to large extent. They are of the view that CO2 emitted from other sources such as volcanoes, by plants and the permafrost cycle.

The increase in carbon emissions caused by burning fossil fuels has disrupted the imbalance in the Earth’s atmosphere. According to the IPCC, it is “highly probable” that human activities have been the primary cause of global warming since the mid-20th century. In 1750, the concentration of CO2 has increased by 40 percent and methane by 150 percent. According to environmental pessimists that represents the conservative think tanks. For example, the Cato Institute that is funded by companies such as Volkswagen and other powerful groups that rely on the use of fossil fuels.

Fourth, it is often claimed that predicting weather forecast is difficult. How can we predict climate for coming 100 years?  Predicting the weather is very different from predicting climate change. The weather is short-term often unpredictable that is influenced by a variety of factors. The climate, on the other hand, is long-term and can be observed. It is easy to predict the increase in global temperatures over decades by using different methods. According to the IPCC, the validity of climate forecasts has improved in recent years.

According to environmental pessimists, the rise in temperature by couple of degrees is not a major issue since Earth is resilient. On the surface level, the rise of temperature of few degrees doesn’t matter. But on a global level, these minor changes in temperature can have extreme consequences. It causes more extreme weather conditions such as drought, storms, and wildfires. The increase in sea levels due to melting glaciers can cause submergence of populated areas across the globe. The implementation of climate protection laws is needed. IPCC predicted that the average global temperature could go up to 5.4 degrees by the end of the 21st century.

Conclusion

It is difficult to predict the Earth’s climate for coming years due the changing nature of natural processes. Earth has an ability to replenish its deteriorating resources but the process is slow and gradual. It needs time to reproduce and recycle the used resources. The over-consumption of existing resources is increasing the pressure on the natural process of planet earth. To sum up, instead of arguing that man-made climate change is a myth scientists should focus on reducing the overuse of natural resources, for example, fossil fuels to meet the needs of an ever-increasing population. 

Mehwish Akram holds masters degree in International Relations and currently doing M Phil in Political Science. Her areas of interest are Democracy, Political theory and Environmental politics .

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Green Planet

Reducing Carbon Emissions, Let Soil and Trees Do the Dirty Work

MD Staff

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By now, most of us are familiar with the role forests play in absorbing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are accelerating climate change around the world. But forests are just one part of a broader landscape that often includes water resources and farming that can also play an important role in climate change mitigation.

Climate-smart approaches to reducing emissions from forestry, agriculture and energy, among other sectors, have the greatest potential to improve sustainable livelihoods while limiting the impacts of climate change. The challenge, however, is how to systematically measure emission reductions across a landscape, in order to unlock results-based payments. And how can this be done in a straightforward way?

That’s where the BioCarbon Fund’s Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL) comes in. In addition to the country programs it supports, the Initiative has pioneered a way to report and account for emission reductions across a diverse landscape. ISFL’s Emission Reductions Program Requirements show countries what they must have in place to receive payments from the ISFL for emission reductions generated by a range of sustainable activities across a landscape. The requirements are part of the BioCarbon Fund’s broader support to countries rewarding them for smarter land use planning, policies and practices.

In recent years, tropical forest countries have significantly improved their reporting and accounting methods for measuring emission reductions in the forestry sector, but many countries find it difficult to accurately report emissions data in other sectors. To respond to this challenge, ISFL built into its requirements a phased approach to emission reductions accounting. This approach allows a country to begin accounting, and receiving payments, for emission reductions from a limited set of land use categories that meet ISFL requirements. Countries can then add data from other sectors into their ISFL accounting, and receive payments for emission reductions from these sectors, as they become available.

These ISFL requirements are a significant new tool not only for countries, but also for the broader climate change community, as they will help test approaches to comprehensive landscape emissions reporting and accounting that could be expected of future emission reductions programs. It is hoped they will form the basis for countries to pilot innovative approaches to emissions accounting at the landscape level, and foster programs that change the trajectory of land use across jurisdictions over the long term. More than 100 countries included forests and land use in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which spell out how they commit to reducing their emissions.

World Bank

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Building a Climate-Resilient South Asia

MD Staff

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Ms. Aisha Khan, Executive Director for Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change (CSCCC) and CEO of Mountain and Glacier Organization (MGPO) in Pakistan, Mr. Anand Patwardhan, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, USA, Ms. Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the South Asia Region, World Bank Group

Last summer’s monsoon hit South Asia particularly hard and left nearly 1,400 people dead and displaced millions of others.

In the last sixty years, such weather extremes have become more common in the subcontinent and, without urgent action to limit carbon emissions, their impact on communities will likely get worse.

In addition to these extremes, average weather patterns are also changing with each year turning out to be warmer than the previous year and monsoon rainfall patterns are getting more and more erratic.

Eight hundred million South Asians to be exact – or half the region’s population—are at risk to see their standards of living and incomes decline as rising temperatures and more erratic rainfalls will cut down crop yields, make water more scare, and push more people away from their homes to seek safer places.

This worst-case scenario and relevant adaptation strategies underpin the upcoming report South Asia’s Hotspots, whose main findings were presented yesterday at a panel on building climate change resilience in South Asia at the World Bank Spring Meetings.

Its main author, World Bank Lead Economist Muthukumara Mani detailed how specific geographic areas across South Asia or “hotspots” which –until now—were relatively immune to climate change threats could be badly affected by 2050.

Most hotspots, Mani remarked, are located inland, already poor, have fewer roads and are isolated from main economic centers. And with many residents subsisting on farming, higher incidences of droughts or floods combined with extreme heat could further drive down their fragile wellbeing and force more people into poverty.

And while other manifestations of climate change such as sea level rise or natural disasters and their impact on economies have been well documented, less is known of the long-term effects of higher temperatures and unpredictable rainfalls on local communities.

It’s urgent to develop this understanding as most countries in South Asia have already passed their optimal temperature tipping points, beyond which standards of living and consumption are only expected to drop irreversibly.

To build resilience, the report recommends that South Asian countries better prioritize their financial resources where they’re most needed and target the most vulnerable individuals and families.

Mani noted that diversifying jobs beyond agriculture, investing in education and skills, and improving access to electricity can ease the expected decline in living standards caused by long-term climate impacts. Such actions, he argued, must be tailored to address the specific climate impacts and local conditions found in South Asia’s hotspots.

In the end, the cost of inaction—that is, if carbon emissions continue unabated—could be huge as countries with severe hotspots, Mani concluded, would see income in these areas drop by 14.4 percent in Bangladesh, 9.8 percent in India, and 10 percent in Sri Lanka by 2050.

Following the presentation, government, civil society, and academia elaborated on concrete climate actions and adaptation strategies to build a more resilient South Asia.

The panel included Ms. Mahmuda Begum, additional Secretary in World Bank Wing at Economic Relations Division at the Bangladesh’s Ministry of Finance, Ms. Aisha Khan, Executive Director for Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change (CSCCC) and CEO of Mountain and Glacier Organization (MGPO) in Pakistan, Mr. Anand Patwardhan,  Professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, USA, and Ms. Jaime Madrigano associate policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, USA. Ms. Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the South Asia Region, World Bank Group moderated the discussion.

Noting that Pakistan’s soaring population coupled with shrinking arable lands present a challenge to the country’s environment sustainability and food security, Aisha Khan emphasized that building climate resilience should go hand in hand with better –that is, more open and inclusive—governance. Involving civil society, including women-run organizations, will bring greater accountability to climate change policies that will later impact the entire population. And that sense of co-ownership and shared responsibility, Khan added, is critical to civil society.

Such collaborations are key to building strategic climate resilience and, to be successful in the long term, should extend to partnership between countries. Water presents such an opportunity. “We in South Asia are the third pole…with the densest glaciers outside polar regions in the world,” she said. “Water being a common problem for all of us, we need to do more work together.”

When it was his turn to speak, Anand Patwardhan noted that the conversation about climate resilience would have to go beyond risks and be reframed around opportunities to further advance the development agenda. In India, large national programs such as Smart Cities or Swachh Bharat projects are two examples of how climate action can help achieve greater development outcomes. In South Asia, Patwardhan later remarked, a lot of infrastructure still needs to be put into place. There lies an opportunity to invest in natural infrastructure [that benefits both the economy and the environment] and ecosystem adaptation to advance resilience across the region.

World Bank

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Green Planet

New Satellite Animations of Earth Show How Quickly Humans Are Changing the Planet

MD Staff

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A new website that combines dramatic images from space with expert analysis of how humans are changing the planet will launch on World Earth Day (22 April).

EarthTime ties together diverse data layers to show the patterns and connections behind some of the major social and political trends of the past two decades – and how they are inscribed into fast-changing landscapes.

The platform has already been used in public outreach in schools and museums, and to inform world leaders at World Economic Forum events of major environmental and geoeconomic shifts, from air pollution to inequality. It uses images captured by NASA satellites since 1984.

The vision, and long-term goal, is to better inform everyone – including individuals, business heads and policy-makers – about the lives we lead, the decisions we make and the impact we have on the planet.

Nine expert analyses on global challenges will be launched on World Earth Day (22 April): deforestation, city growth, coral bleaching, fires at night, glaciers, renewables, sea-level rise, surface-water gain and loss and urban fragility. Other layers will be added in the months and years ahead. You can see them at www.earthtime.org.

EarthTime was developed by CREATE Lab (the Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment Lab) at Carnegie Mellon University, in partnership with the World Economic Forum. It draws on the Forum’s network of experts to give analyses and to tell stories. Users will soon be able to create their own stories.

EarthTime uses more than 300 free, open-source, geospatial datasets – an unprecedented number for visualizations of this kind. Expert opinions make sense of the data and the connections between them allowing a layering of narratives (e.g., how did rise in the global demand for meat trigger deforestation, a major contributor to climate change?). These stories are combined with images from space captured by NASA satellites between 1984 and 2016.

Current datasets come from the World Bank, the UNHCR, NASA, Berkeley Earth, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Climate Central, S&P Global, Kudelski, the International Renewable Energy Agency and WWF, to name a few. New data providers are being added constantly.

“EarthTime tries to build the common ground that we believe is essential to the discourse that we all must have as stewards of our planet and our joint future,” said Illah Nourbakhsh, Professor of Robotics, Carnegie Mellon University, and Director, CREATE Lab.

“The Earth is changing dramatically. No single discipline can make sense of all that is now happening and no citizen is free from the consequences of what we all do next. We all must be involved in understanding Earth’s changes and how we can work together to bring about our desired sustainable future into reality.”

Nourbakhsh also serves as a Global Future Council member at the World Economic Forum. His research focuses on human-robot collaboration.

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