Sunday, July 31, 2011

Iraq could be running out of water

Ensuring national security is the most important issue for any country, and strategies are developed and policies made towards that end.

The issue of national security goes beyond the concept of safeguarding the land, skies and water of a given country to stopping the country from breaking apart and protecting it against threats to its natural resources.
Most Arab countries are considered arid because on the one hand the rates of rainfall are very low and, on the other, water resources — if they exist — are located outside their geographical boundaries.
However, over the years, this delicate issue has not received the attention it deserves.

On March 21 this year, the UN issued a report on the eve of World Water Day, about the tragic water situation in Iraq. The report said that 50 per cent of water resources are wasted in Iraq, and six million people have no access to clean water.
In the report, the UN warned that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers could completely dry up by 2040. The accelerating decline of water supplies and increasing demand threaten to bring Iraq closer to the water poverty threshold, the report cautioned.

We shall overlook the negative aspects of the report, about Iraq running out of water and the dangers to the environment of the whole region — and focus on the possibility of Iraq becoming an arid country.
The UN report failed to make clear some points, as it follows diplomatic protocols that forbid it from stating facts in a blunt manner. The real reason behind the expected water catastrophe in Iraq is the drop in the water levels at the sources of the two rivers.

Iraq suffers from drought; rainfall is low and does not exceed 200 millimetres annually at most locations, while the rainfall exceeds 600 millimetres, and at times double the amount, in the Kurdish region of the country. Hence water strategy depends mainly on the river water. However, the source of both rivers is outside the country. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Scholarships and Bursaries Call for Caribbean Nationals in Graduate Studies in Climate Change

Scholarships and Bursaries Call for Caribbean Nationals in Graduate Studies in Climate Change

Study areas related to Climate Change that can be considered for these Scholarships and Bursaries are:
Climatology; Environmental Sciences; Coastal Management; Water Resources; Sustainable Tourism; Gender Studies

The CARIBSAVE Partnership, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Waterloo (UW), Canada, announce a joint research project entitled:

Partnership for Canada-Caribbean Community Climate Change Adaptation (ParCA)*

Students’ scholarships and bursaries will focus on ParCA; a project that will conduct comparative case study research in Tobago, Jamaica and two Atlantic Canadian provinces. The project will use a community-based vulnerability assessment (CBVA) framework in collaboration with coastal communities and local partners to identify vulnerabilities and exposures, and develop strategies for adaptation to climate change. Under this program, funding is available for Caribbean Nationals to study at the University of the West Indies or the University of Waterloo at Masters and PhD levels.

ELIGIBILITY for Scholarships and Bursaries

Must be a Caribbean National
Must have successfully completed an undergraduate or graduate degree at a high level in an area relevant to Climate Change including Climatology, Environmental Sciences, Coastal Management, Water Resources, Sustainable Tourism, Gender Studies.
Must have been accepted and registered in a Masters or PhD Programme at UWI or UW.
Evidence of professional experience in any of the fields indicated above will be an asset.
Applicants for Scholarships and Bursaries will be assessed by a Selection Committee established by the University of the West Indies, the University of Waterloo and The CARIBSAVE Partnership.

Applications should be sent via email to The Office of Research, The University of the West Indies: and must be copied to The CARIBSAVE Partnership: When applying please include ‘ParCA’ as Subject in the email.

The following should be included in your Application: an up to date Curriculum Vitae; a covering letter indicating qualifications; professional experience; preferred study location (UWI Campus or Waterloo); your area of interest for graduate studies and full contact details for three Referees. Closing date for this round of applications is 31 August 2011.

* Funding for this project and its student scholarships and bursaries is kindly provided by the Canadian IDRC and the Tri Council and disseminated through The CARIBSAVE Partnership, The University of Waterloo and The Unversity of the West Indies. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Friday, July 29, 2011

Report: U.S. Cities Must Prepare for Water-related Impacts of Climate Change

Today marks the release of a new NRDC report called Thirsty for Answers: Preparing for the Water-related Impacts of Climate Change in American Cities.

The report makes clear that some of the most profound effects of climate change are water-related, like sea level rise, increased rain and storms, flooding, and drought. These changes affect the water we drink, fish, and swim in, as well as impact our infrastructure and the economy.

One need only look as far as the recent deadly flooding and severe storms in the Midwest, or to the impacts of the prolonged drought across the South, to understand the profound effects of water, or a lack thereof. Whether any specific weather event, like the flooding in the Midwest, reflects the impacts of climate change or not, the research compiled in our report makes clear that these kinds of events are likely to increase in the coming years as a result of climate change.

In our report, we compiled local and regional research findings about the water-related impacts of climate change in 12 U.S. cities (chosen for their geographic diversity and range in size, in order to provide a snapshot of the varied national picture): New York, Boston, Norfolk (Virginia), Miami, New Orleans, Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Homer (Alaska). We also analyzed what many of these municipalities are doing in terms of preparedness planning, and offer their solutions as examples for other communities to emulate.

A brief rundown of the types of changes and impacts detailed in the report include:

Rising Seas: Most of the coastal cities in the report are facing threats from sea level rise, including coastal flooding and storm surges. Miami ranks number one worldwide in terms of assets exposed to coastal flooding, and the Norfolk-Virginia Beach metropolitan area ranks tenth, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Rising seas threaten to decimate the protective wetlands surrounding New Orleans and inundate a large portion of the Florida Keys.

Increased Storms and Flooding: The Midwest and East Coast are at the highest risk for more frequent and intense storms. The frequency of very heavy rainfall in Chicago, for example, is expected to increase by 50 percent in the next 30 years. More frequent and intense rainfall contributes to the type of flooding recently seen along the Mississippi River, and combined sewer overflows that send untreated sewage and stormwater into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

Water Supply Impacts: Rising seas are likely to cause increased saltwater intrusion into freshwater supplies, including drinking water for millions of Americans, especially in Miami and the San Francisco Bay area. In the West, rising temperatures, less rain, and decreased snowpack will create challenges for maintaining a sufficient water supply. For example, a large decline in the spring snowpack in the watersheds that supply water to Seattle is projected over the next two decades. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Thursday, July 28, 2011

An effective response to climate change

Foreign Secretary William Hague has delivered a speech titled 'The Diplomacy of Climate Change' to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Thank you Governor Whitman. I am most grateful for your generous introduction.

I am delighted to be here at the Council on Foreign Relations. In the modern networked world, diplomacy is no longer the sole preserve of diplomats. Instead, we all have a stake in global affairs. That is why the work of renowned bodies such as this is more valuable than ever.

Today I want to talk about why I believe we, as foreign policy practitioners, need to up our game in building a credible and effective response to climate change. Climate change is perhaps the twenty-first century’s biggest foreign policy challenge along with such challenges as preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. A world which is failing to respond to climate change is one in which the values embodied in the UN will not be met. It is a world in which competition and conflict will win over collaboration.

We are at a crucial point in the global debate on climate change. Many are questioning, in the wake of Copenhagen, whether we should continue to seek a response to climate change through the UN and whether we can ever hope to deal with this enormous challenge.

I will first argue that an effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity. Second, our response should be to strive for a binding global deal, whatever the setbacks. And third, I will set out why effective deployment of foreign policy assets is crucial to mobilising the political will needed if we are to shape an effective response. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

African land grab threatens food security: study | Reuters

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Rich countries grabbing farmland in Africa to feed their growing populations can leave rural populations there without land or jobs and make the continent’s hunger problem more severe, an environmental think tank said on Tuesday.

The trend is accelerating as wealthier countries in the Middle East and Asia, particularly China, seek new land to plant crops, lacking enough fertile ground to meet their own food needs, Washington DC-based Worldwatch Institute said.

Worldwatch said its researchers interviewed more than 350 farmers’ groups, NGOs, government agencies and scientists over 17 months. The meetings, held in 25 countries across sub-Saharan Africa, addressed issues that hinder the efforts of African farmers to alleviate hunger and poverty.

“People are always saying that Africa needs to feed itself. It can’t do that if the Chinese and the Saudis are taking up the best land for production for food,” Danielle Nierenberg, director of Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project, told Reuters.

The International Food Policy Research Institute reports that 15 million to 20 million hectares of land in sub-Saharan Africa have been purchased by foreign investors between 2006 and mid-2009. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Microfinance Can Help Rural Communities Adapt to Climate Change

CAPE TOWN, Jun 27, 2011 (IPS) - Projects to fight climate change are being designed all around the world. But only five percent of them can be financed with the current international funds available, which means resources have to be used more wisely. Microfinance could be one solution.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges to development that the world has ever faced.

According to the World Bank, mitigation of its effects in developing countries could cost 140 to 175 billion dollars per year by 2030, while adaptation costs are expected to reach between 75 and 100 billion dollars per year between 2010 and 2050.

"The low-income masses will be most affected by climate change in their daily lives. We need solutions for mainstreaming adaptation projects to also include these people," said African Development Bank director for energy, environment and climate change development Hela Cheikhrouhou.

She spoke at the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) 2011 Partnership Forum, held from Jun. 24-25 in Cape Town, South Africa.

The CIF, established by the World Bank and regional multilateral development banks, provide funding to support developing countries’ climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Even though more than a third of CIF money have so far gone to 15 African countries, few people in rural and poverty-stricken areas – who struggle most to access financing – have been able to benefit from the schemes, largely due to administrative barriers.

"We need to make sure that funds can be accessed by rural populations because there is urgency in making climate change projects happen on the ground," said Victor Kabengele, project coordinator at the ministry of environment of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

He demanded less red tape and fewer conditions -- otherwise including the poor in climate change projects would remain an empty promise. Without money, the best ideas are worth little, Kabengele pointed out: "Money is the name of the game. Access to microcredit is therefore crucial." More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rising Temperatures Melting Away Global Food Security

WASHINGTON, Jul 6, 2011 (IPS) - Heat waves clearly can destroy crop harvests. The world saw high heat decimate Russian wheat in 2010. Crop ecologists have found that each one-degree Celsius rise in temperature above the optimum can reduce grain harvests by 10 percent. But the indirect effects of higher temperatures on our food supply are no less serious.

Rising temperatures are already melting the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Recent studies indicate that a combination of melting ice sheets and glaciers, plus the thermal expansion of the ocean as it warms could raise sea level by up to six feet during this century.

Yet even a three-foot rise in sea level would sharply reduce the rice harvest in Asia, a region home to over half the world's people that grows 90 percent of the world's rice. It would inundate half the riceland in Bangladesh and submerge part of the Mekong Delta in Viet Nam. Viet Nam, second only to Thailand as a rice exporter, could lose its exportable rice surplus.

This would leave the 20 or so countries that import rice from Viet Nam looking elsewhere. Numerous other rice-growing river deltas in Asia would be submerged in varying degrees.

While the ice sheets are melting, so too are mountain glaciers. The snow and ice masses in the world's mountain ranges and the water they store are taken for granted simply because they have been there since before agriculture began. Now we risk losing the "reservoirs in the sky" on which so many farmers and cities depend.

The World Glacier Monitoring Service reported in 2010 the 19th consecutive year of shrinking mountain glaciers. Glaciers are melting in all of the world's major mountain ranges, including the Andes, the Rockies, the Alps, the Himalayas, and the Tibetan Plateau. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

A world in hunger: east Africa and beyond

The severe drought across much of east Africa is a human emergency that requires urgent attention. It also signals a global crisis: the convergence of inequality, food insecurity and climate change.

A drought across much of east Africa in mid-2011 is causing intense distress among vulnerable populations, many of them already pressed by poverty and insecurity. The range of the affected areas is extensive: the two districts in Somalia that are now designated as famine-zones are but the most extreme parts of a much wider disaster that stretches from Somalia across Ethiopia into northern Kenya, and as far west as Sudan and even the Karamoja district in northeast Uganda.

The numbers put at risk in this, the worst drought in the region since the 1950s, are enormous. At least 11 million people are touched by the disaster. In the Turkana district of northern Kenya, 385,000 children (among a total population of about 850,000) are suffering from acute malnutrition (see Miriam Gathigah, “East Africa: Millions Stare Death in the Face Amidst Ravaging Drought”, TerraViva / IPS, 18 July 2011). In Somalia, the conflict between the Islamist Shabaab movement and the nominal government makes conditions even more perilous for those affected.

The world's largest refugee camp, at Dadaab in northern Kenya, offers a stark illustration of the consequences of the drought. The population of Dadaab, which was designed to cope with 90,000 people, has increased in recent months to 380,000 - and 1,300 more are arriving daily (see Denis Foynes, “Eleven Million at Risk in Horn of Africa”, TerraViva / IPS, 19 July 2011).

The lessons of crisis

But just as striking is that this is part of a recurring phenomenon. Major warning-signs of malnutrition and famine were already visible in April 2008; among them were climatic factors, steep oil-price increases, increased demand for meat diets by richer communities, and the diversion of land to grow biofuel crops (see “The world’s food insecurity”, 24 April 2008).
More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Growing Water Deficit Threatening Grain Harvests

Many countries are facing dangerous water shortages. As world demand for food has soared, millions of farmers have drilled too many irrigation wells in efforts to expand their harvests.

As a result, water tables are falling and wells are going dry in some 20 countries containing half the world’s people. The overpumping of aquifers for irrigation temporarily inflates food production, creating a food production bubble that bursts when the aquifer is depleted.

The shrinkage of irrigation water supplies in the big three grain-producing countries—the United States, India, and China—is of particular concern. Thus far, these countries have managed to avoid falling harvests at the national level, but continued overexploitation of aquifers could soon catch up with them.

In most of the leading U.S. irrigation states, the irrigated area has peaked and begun to decline. In California, historically the irrigation leader, a combination of aquifer depletion and the diversion of irrigation water to fast-growing cities has reduced irrigated area from nearly 9 million acres in 1997 to an estimated 7.5 million acres in 2010. (One acre equals 0.4 hectares.) In Texas, the irrigated area peaked in 1978 at 7 million acres, falling to some 5 million acres as the Ogallala aquifer underlying much of the Texas panhandle was depleted.

Other states with shrinking irrigated area include Arizona, Colorado, and Florida. All three states are suffering from both aquifer depletion and the diversion of irrigation water to urban centers. And now that the states that were rapidly expanding their irrigated area, such as Nebraska and Arkansas, are starting to level off, the prospects for any national growth in irrigated area have faded. With water tables falling as aquifers are depleted under the Great Plains and California’s Central Valley, and with fast-growing cities in the Southwest taking more and more irrigation water, the U.S. irrigated area has likely peaked.

India is facing a much more difficult situation. A World Bank study reported in 2005 that the grain supply for 175 million Indians was produced by overpumping water. Water tables are falling in several states, including Punjab and Haryana, two surplus grain producers that supply most of the wheat and much of the rice used in India’s massive food distribution program for low-income consumers. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Eleven Million at Risk in Horn of Africa

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19, 2011 (IPS) - "I have never seen anything like it. Many mothers have lost three or four children. It's a tragedy out here," Austin Kennan, regional director for the Horn of Africa for Concern Worldwide, told IPS from within the crisis zone.

The United Nations and humanitarian workers report that food insecurity is now at emergency levels across the Horn of Africa, affecting Kenya, Ethiopia and especially south Somalia, with 11 million people in dire need of emergency assistance due in part to a major prolonged drought.

"From our point of view, this is the worst drought we have seen in Africa since the 1950s, but it must be remembered that this is not the only factor that led to this level of crisis," Alun McDonald, media and communications officer for the Horn, East and Central Africa at Oxfam, explained to IPS.

"The effects of high staple food prices and the conflicts in the region over the last few decades have become all the more devastating due to the drought," said McDonald, who is based in Nairobi. "This combination has wreaked havoc in the region." More >>>

Ensuring fair shares in a world of limits

As worldwide demand increases for natural resources that are already in short supply, how should aid donors and campaigners respond? 

As the 21st-century global economy increasingly hits natural resource limits and planetary boundaries, fundamental questions about fair shares will start to arise. How these arguments play out will exert a crucial influence over prospects for poor people and international development. Are aid donors, NGOs and other development opinion-formers paying attention?

Demand for resources of all kinds – especially food, oil, land, water and "carbon space" for greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere – is growing exponentially. It's a logical consequence of the world's population continuing to grow, and the global middle class becoming larger and more affluent.

But even as demand grows, supply is struggling to keep up. The yield gains of the agricultural "green revolution" are running out of steam. Competition for land and water is intensifying. Investment in new oil production is inadequate to meet future demand, according to the International Energy Agency – even before peak oil is taken into account. Carbon space is acutely limited if the world is to limit global warming to anything like 2C. More >>>

Yemen entering serious humanitarian crisis

World Food Program (WFP) -Yemen Situation Report

It is WFP’s assessment that Yemen is entering a serious humanitarian crisis. UN presence in the country is essential, both to provide relief during the ongoing political and economic emergency, as well as to ensure operational continuity.

The security situation in Sana’a is stable but remains tense. The ceasefire in the neighbourhoods of Hassaba and Hadda continues to hold.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh remains out of country. Government officials are reporting that he will not return from Saudi Arabia pending clearance from his doctor.
On 16 July 2011, the Youth Revolution Council chaired by activist Tawakol Karman declared the formation of a transitional council to manage the affairs of the country. The Government of Yemen’s Deputy Minister of Information has dubbed the move “a coup against constitutional legitimacy.” Some youth groups in Sana’a have yet to respond to the council’s formation, while the Al-Hirak secessionist movement in the south has rejected it outright.
As of 18 July 2011, the total number of Abyan IDPs residing in Aden, Lahj and Abyan governorates was approximately 80,000.
Fuel remains scarce or non-existent in most of the country, though availability has improved slightly in Sana’a. The situation has also improved marginally in Aden, on account of donations made by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the card-based rationing system introduced by the Yemen Petroleum Company.
UNHCR has not yet transferred to Al-Mazrak Camp II the 4,000 urban refugees who were displaced by the fighting in Hassaba. Thus far, only 40 families had been successfully transported. UNHCR is now reassessing its strategy for this caseload. More >>>