Producing enough food for a rapidly growing population, and taking care of our planet are two of the world's biggest challenges.
Displaying 1-20 of 30 key documents
Source: Humanitarian Futures Programme | May 2010
This paper discusses how forecasters and risk managers can build common ground by designing 'smart' forecast‐based decisions as well as simple decision‐based forecasts. The aim is to bridge the gap between science and the humanitarian sector, and help translate early warning into early action.
It details successful examples of collaboration between forecasters and the risk managers. These include the 2008 emergency appeal, launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) West and Central Africa Zone, to prepare for flooding based on a seasonal rainfall forecast.
The paper describes how unlike previous years, where forecasts had been greeted with confusion, a partnership between the IFRC and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society allowed the flood forecast and accompanying uncertainty to be communicated effectively to the humanitarian policymakers, enabling them to act in time.
It proposes a framework based on four key attributes of science-based forecasts: the likely location of the event, its magnitude, its lead time (how far into the future it is likely to occur) and, its probability. These are then linked, respectively, to vulnerability, expected loss, range of plausible actions and whether or not to act.
Source: UNESCO International Hydrological Programme | July 2012
This collection of papers was presented at a conference on linkages between climate change, water, conflict and migration, held in September 2011 at The Hague, in the Netherlands, where the discussion focused on: capacity building and resilience in climate hotspots; conflict prevention; and a legal framework to protect environmental migrants.
The publication includes a conference summary and a background document providing an overview of how climate change, water stress and environmental problems are increasingly seen as major threats to human security. Also included are papers that explore connections between these issues from the perspective of vulnerability; put forward a research and capacity-building agenda for climate-induced migrations; and review current literature, evidence and implications for policymaking on the environment, climate change and human displacement.
Source: SustainUS | June 2012
This guide provides an overview of water-related topics up for discussion at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). It aims to introduce the Rio+20 process and facilitate relevant stakeholder participation.
It gives an overview of global water commitments, emerging issues related to water resources such as sound management and sustainable urban development, and an outline of where water features in the draft document prepared for the summit. It concludes with policy recommendations which include national strategies that recognise the human right to water, and the establishment of gender indicators that strengthen women's participation in governance. The authors say that a strong unified front from the water community is required to ensure a positive result from the agreements made at Rio+20.
Source: EDF and the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) | May 2012
This publication presents case studies that illustrate the strong links and inter-dependencies between water, food and energy, from the perspective of a range of organisations worldwide. It was produced to inform discussions of the High-Level Panel on the Water, Food and Energy Nexus, held during the 6th World Water Forum 2012. The forum highlighted the need to integrate strategies on water, food and energy and increase resource productivity, as well as improve grassroots participation for sustainable development.
Case studies presented in the report addressed policy processes for ensuring water, food and energy security in African countries, issues associate with management of the Machángara River Basin in South America, drip irrigation in India, dam building in South-East Asia, and irrigation and hydropower in Asia.
Each case study outlines the background and how the case relates to the nexus between water, food and energy; objectives and a summary of actions taken; and results including lessons learnt.
Source: United Nations Environment Management Group | October 2011
This report outlines the first coherent strategy drawn up by the UN to address dryland management, taking into account environmental concerns and the well-being of dryland communities. It examines the relationship between drylands and climate change, food security and livelihoods, and highlights ways in which the UN is working to mainstream drylands into policymaking processes.
Climate change is already having an impact on crop yields and nutrition in areas that rely on rain-fed agriculture, according to the report, and these impacts will intensify by 2020 in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. The impacts of climate change may be most pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, suggesting that those already vulnerable will be affected the most.
A key message is that the international community has an opportunity to address the underlying causes of dryland degradation. The report concludes that global cooperation must be intensified if the ten-year strategic plan of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification — whose aim is to tackle desertification and degradation — and the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved.
Source: Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
This paper, published by the UK-based Institute of Development Studies, examines how disaster risks associated with climate change might impact electricity generation and energy planning — which is an emerging research and development agenda. The authors argue that energy researchers and policymakers have overlooked how changing disaster risks could affect electrical power production.
The report assesses the vulnerability of nuclear power as well as several other options for energy generation — including oil, natural gas, hydropower and bioenergy — and identifies the implications for energy policy and planning. It lists recommendations as to how policymakers could take into account the link between disaster risk management and low-carbon development to improve the capacity of developing countries to build resilience. Suggestions include completing environmental impact assessments when siting new power plants, establishing better links between energy, climate, and disaster policymakers, and planning climate change adaption strategies for electricity production.
Source: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
This safety guide, published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is designed to help countries prepare plans to improve their capacity to respond to nuclear or radiological emergencies whether as a result of an accident or malicious use of nuclear material. The guide can also be used to meet IAEA's safety requirements.
It outlines generic and operational criteria, according to specific radiation doses, to help policymakers decide between different courses of action to protect the public, emergency workers and the environment. It includes guidelines for assessing food and water contamination, and subsequent remediation measures, as well as on how to set safety perimeters around an incident depending on initial observations at the scene. The guide also outlines lessons learned from past experiences.
Source: The Royal Society Philosophical Transactions B | 12 October 2011
This special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Science explores how vaccines can fulfil their full potential for addressing global health challenges. It charts the progress to date, reviewing successes as well as challenges in the development and distribution of both human and veterinary vaccines.
The articles describe how vaccines can help mitigate and treat the world's major infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, as well as chronic diseases, such as cancer. They explore vaccine policy and financing, ways to accelerate the development of new vaccines, issues surrounding public acceptance, and the logistics of getting vaccines to where they are needed. Also discussed is the use of vaccines to treat diseases in livestock — making an important link between health interventions, agricultural output and economic consequences.
The papers in this issue were presented at the meeting, 'New vaccines for global health', held at the Royal Society in London, United Kingdom, in November 2010.
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute | May 2011
This paper aims to assess the suitability of using self-reported food security indicators to assess the welfare impact of the 2007–2008 global food crisis. It tests the usefulness of data from the Gallup World Poll (GWP) — a survey of self-reported food insecurity conducted before, during, and after the crisis — as an alternative to modelling estimates produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the US Department of Agriculture, and the World Bank.
The results suggest that although trends vary across countries, global self-reported food insecurity fell between 2005 and 2008, with the most reasonable estimate indicating 60–250 million fewer food-insecure people over that period. This trend contrasts with what was estimated by modelling-based methods. It is driven by rapid economic growth and limited food price inflation in China and India, among other heavily populated countries.
Source: EMBO Reports
This perspective article highlights some of the most proactive and innovative ideas related to water management and policy, including the concepts of 'virtual water' — water used to produce food that is traded — and the 'water footprint'. The authors discuss a range of issues, including water pricing, sustainability, water quality and alternative resources.
Source: Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability | May 2010
This academic paper explores the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) system within the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The authors highlight the principle challenges facing non-commercial biodiversity research scientists, in particular the tight regulations that restrict access to genetic resources in many countries and ultimately hinder the generation of knowledge vital to implementing the CBD.
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute | February 2010
This report describes practices that small-scale farmers can use to adapt to climate change. The authors divide these practices into five categories: farm management and technology, farm financial management, diversification, government interventions in infrastructure, health and risk reduction. They conclude that farmers in developing countries are already using creative practices to manage climate challenges and that climate policies must strive to incorporate these.
Source: Veterinary Pathology | January 2010
This discussion paper describes the links between global climate change and ecosystem and animal health that researchers generally agree on and the impacts that, while less certain, are still likely. The author highlights gaps in current knowledge, emphasising the need for better disease surveillance and more localised climatological and ecological data.
Source: Nature | November 2003
This feature article examines some of the key debates around the role of genetically modified (GM) technology in Africa.
The technology promises much to malnourished populations on a continent that climate change threatens to make even more inhospitable to crops. But anti-GM campaigners maintain that Africa's hunger crisis will not be solved by biotechnology.
US agri-biotech corporations such as Monsanto who lobby African governments to buy into such technology also have a large financial stake in rolling out GM over such a large continent. The anti-GM lobby, traditionally made up of environment charities such as Greenpeace, are now seeing aid charities such as Oxfam join its ranks.
The real stand-off, however, is between the largely pro-GM United States and a cautious Europe. The US Agency for International Development (USAID), which is pro-GM, has provided millions of dollars to support biosafety policymaking and research in the developing world.
European countries meanwhile do not rule out introducing GM technology to Africa but want GM products labelled and traceable to their source. The deciding factor may be how effective GM is in improving nutrition — and that remains under debate.
Source: Nature | August 2007
The one bright note in global warming is seemingly that higher carbon dioxide levels will make food crops grow faster. More crops should equal more food. But, as this feature article emphasises, the story is not that simple.
Initial tests have shown that plants grown in high carbon dioxide environments could be less nutritious — with lower protein levels and a different type of protein produced. Other scientists have found a drop in key micronutrients such as chromium, selenium and zinc in high carbon dioxide environments.
Mitigating these changes can involve increasing nitrogen levels to offset protein deficiency, although not all scientists agree on this.
What is clear is that there is very little research in this area and past studies have only looked at carbon dioxide concentrations of 550 parts per million, which is lower than levels predicted by the end of this century.
Source: ICT Update | June 2008
This feature article, written by members of the UN Operational Satellite Applications (UNOSAT) programme, outlines how satellite technology can improve emergency relief after a natural disaster.
UNOSAT uses satellite data to produce maps and damage reports for nongovernment organisations, intergovernmental agencies and disaster managers in emergency situations. The authors describe how the process works — from receiving a relief agency's phone call to collecting and analysing relevant satellite data.
They argue that satellite data, when combined with ancillary data such as road maps or population distribution, can help aid workers navigate affected areas and provide estimates of the number of people likely to be affected by, for example, floods or landslides.
The authors describe the range of satellite sensors used by UNOSAT, explaining the advantages of different types of data depending on the disaster. For example, radar imagery, which is unaffected by cloud, is particularly useful to monitor flooding, whereas high resolution optical data is better for earthquake damage assessment.
Source: ODI | December 2008
This opinion article, published by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), argues that the real challenges to effective preparation for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) are creating robust governance and funding structures, not just capacity building.
The authors outline the practicalities of developing REDD mechanisms. They note that REDD could potentially mitigate the risk of climate change, conserve biodiversity and support development in forest areas. They express concern, however, that some approaches to implementing REDD projects have had limited success and note that reducing degradation can be particularly challenging.
The report concludes with suggestions for ensuring that REDD frameworks move from preparation to successful deployment. These include careful consideration of development implications for measures taken to promote reduced forest dependence and improve links between public and private finance to encourage complementary use of funds.
This report, submitted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, looks at how smallholder agriculture could help mitigate climate change. It focuses on soil carbon sequestration, which, say the authors, has high mitigation potential and is relevant to smallholders, although it is currently excluded from the Clean Development Mechanism.
One issue highlighted by the report is how to quantify mitigation through soil carbon sequestration. It proposes a combined measurement and modelling approach and the steps needed to implement this are discussed. These include creating a fund for pilot projects, agreeing field and lab protocols, establishing a common data archive and devising monitoring and evaluation methods.
The report also asks how carbon finance can be linked to the smallholder agricultural sector. It argues that enabling agricultural mitigation from developing countries will mean creating institutions that can aggregate carbon crediting among many stakeholders, facilitating the flow of carbon finance, building capacity and agreeing property rights to the carbon benefits generated.
This article, published by Mongabay.com, discusses the use of forest conservation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in the Amazon. The author describes the 'reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation' (REDD) mechanism included in the Bali roadmap for international agreement on climate change. He gives a brief history of REDD, explains how it could work and discusses complicating factors including land rights, measurement of deforestation rates, displacement effects of conservation and funding.
The author also discusses how promoting ecosystem services could provide a route to conserving rainforests, citing the example of Canopy Capital — a UK private equity firm that recently bought the rights to environmental services generated by a rainforest reserve in Guyana. He also examines other market incentives that could be used, including satellite surveillance to enforce conservation and certification for farmers following conservation rules.
Source: Nature | October 2008
This collection of features and commentaries, published by Nature, reflects the broad spectrum of activities and opinions of members and associates of TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world.
With more than three dozen articles written by prominent scientists working on research or policy issues in the South, the collection examines a range of topics in science-based international development — from the relevance of subjects like mathematics or physics, to the increasing roles of biotechnology and renewable energy.
The achievements made and challenges still facing developing countries in key areas like agriculture, health, climate change and energy are also discussed. And evidence from across the South is presented to show how strengthening science can help achieve economic goals and what more is needed to ensure that knowledge and development are shared by all.