Displaying 1-18 of 18 key documents
Source: UNEP | February 2012
This report presents important environmental events and developments of 2012, and provides an overview of the status of key environmental indicators. It highlights the benefits of carbon storage in soil and the decommissioning of nuclear power plants as issues of emerging significance, and aims to strengthen science policy in these areas.
According to UNEP's executive director, although these may seem like separate issues, they go to the heart of questions about ensuring enough food and fuel while combating climate change and handling hazardous waste.
The report points out that the draining of peatlands is producing carbon dioxide emissions that amount to around six per cent of man-made greenhouse gas emissions; and their degradation is occurring 20 times faster than peat is accumulated. It also suggests that the nuclear industry needs to develop safer, faster and cheaper decommissioning of nuclear power plants.
Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
This report from the IPCC, provides a complete and comprehensive overview of the current knowledge and understanding of climate change. The report includes four separate documents that cover the physical science basis for climate change, projected impacts, adaptation and vulnerability of different populations, mitigation strategies, and a synthesis report for policymakers.
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: CEOS | 2008
This report, prepared by the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), presents the main capabilities of satellite systems and their applications to detect, monitor and adapt to climate change, alongside plans for future relevant satellite missions.
The report is divided into three parts. The first discusses the Earth's changing climate, emphasising the role of satellite imagery in monitoring this. The second presents a number of case studies to illustrate how earth observing satellites provide data to improve our understanding of climate change, including charting sea-level rise to better cope with flooding.
The final part summarises satellite capabilities with a description of the different satellite missions and instruments as well as their applications, such as to improve weather forecasting or provide damage assessment associated with natural disasters.
This Nature paper reviews evidence that a changing climate poses significant health risks and that global warming over the past few years has already increased illness and death worldwide.
Infectious diseases are strongly affected by climatic variations because the vectors that carry the bacteria or viruses do not have thermoregulatory mechanisms, say the authors. One of the most important existing sources of climatic variability is El Niño. This weather system has been shown to influence malaria in South America, rift valley fever in east Africa, cholera in Bangladesh and dengue fever in Thailand. If, as some scientists have suggested, climate change alters El Niño, the consequences will be significant.
The authors say there are some promising early warning systems for infectious disease. In Botswana, for example, two-thirds of the inter-annual variability of malaria can be predicted from sea surface temperatures and monthly rainfall.
Source: Malaria Journal | December 2008
Paul Reiter, a researcher on insects and infectious disease at the Institut Pasteur in France, is not convinced that climate change will cause a rise in malaria in tropical regions. In this opinionated review he sets out to dispel widely held "common misconceptions" about the effect of climate variability on future transmission.
To do so, he examines the history of malaria. He finds that in the past, contrary to expectations, climate has often not affected the transmission of the malaria parasite. Researchers claim that the Anopheles mosquito that carries the parasite cannot survive extreme temperatures, yet Reiter cites examples of the mosquito finding ways to adapt. In Sudan, for example, they can survive temperatures of over 55 degrees Celsius by hiding in buildings in daytime and only feeding after midnight.
Reiter's main disagreement with prediction models is that they only look at how one climate variable, temperature, is likely to interact with mosquito populations. Temperature, rainfall and humidity are interconnected and cannot be analysed separately, he says. The ecology of mosquitoes and humans is too complex to predict future malaria prevalence and incidence from temperature alone, he adds.
Source: Bulletin of the WHO | 2000
As global temperatures rise, vector-borne disease is set to increase in the developing world but patterns will vary across countries. This review looks at how the prevalence of vector-borne disease will change in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.
As the authors explain, urbanisation levels will determine which diseases are likely to hit hardest. For example, dengue fever is a largely urban disease and will affect South America, where over 70 per cent of the population live in cities, far more than it will Sub-Saharan Africa, where less than 30 per cent of people live in urban areas. Malaria, by contrast, will have a bigger impact in Africa.
As ecosystems change, so will the distribution of vector species. Some will find their habitats expanded. A positive note is that most vectors cannot survive above about 40 degrees Celsius, so regions in which warming tips the temperature over this level could well see a drop in vector-borne disease — this is starting to be seen in Senegal, for example.
But the precise extent to which climate variability affects vector-borne disease is yet unknown, say the authors, which hampers evidence-based policy change.
Source: Global Canopy Programme | December 2008
This policy brief, published by the Global Canopy Programme, proposes a system called Proactive Investment in Natural Capital (PINC), to reward countries for conserving large areas of tropical forest that act as 'global utilities' providing ecosystem services essential for preserving global food and energy security.
The authors suggest that the system, could complement current proposals for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). They argue that REDD could encourage countries with historically low deforestation rates to destroy their forests. They point out that if REDD successfully brings deforestation rates down — to zero eventually — then in the long-term, countries will not be able to receive payments for reducing deforestation.
The alternative, PINC, would build on existing systems that pay for ecosystem services, such as eco-certification, although scaling-up funding for standing forests is still a challenge, say the authors. To be effective, PINC requires capacity building and improved governance across the world. Land tenure reform will be needed in many countries, as will local participation in decision making and training in forest management. But, if appropriately designed, PINC could provide local communities with co-benefits such as poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation.
Source: Global Canopy Programme | June 2009
This guide to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), published by the Global Canopy Programme, reviews many of the REDD proposals under discussion in global climate change negotiations.
The authors highlight why strategies for REDD are needed, then outline and compare the 32 government and nongovernmental proposals being considered by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They frame their analysis by examining the proposals in terms of scope, reference level, distribution mechanisms and financing options.
Visual comparisons are included to show where proposals agree and differ, and highlight areas with emerging consensus. For example, the proposals generally agree that reference levels should be set at a national level, and that a phased approach using a combination of different financing approaches could be most appropriate. Some challenges for reaching agreement on REDD measures and areas of current research are also highlighted.
The book includes a chapter summarising key research on REDD, including the Meridian Institute's Options Assessment Report, written for the Norwegian government, and several papers published by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Source: Tebtebba | September 2008
This guide, published by Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education), outlines the expected impacts of climate change on indigenous peoples around the world, and showcases traditional methods of climate change mitigation and adaption.
Following a basic introduction to climate change and the bodies, mechanisms and processes used for addressing it, the authors outline how climate change is impacting indigenous peoples in diverse ecosystems. For example, food and water insecurity arising from increased flooding or drought, and loss of biodiversity and traditional knowledge from rising temperatures.
The authors discuss the likely impacts of climate change mitigation measures highlighting, for example, the limitations of market-based strategies such as the Clean Development Mechanism. They discuss a range of alternative adaptation measures already being practiced by indigenous people, providing several case studies and examples of innovative strategies used in different regions. For example, African farmers using zero-tillage practices to moderate soil temperatures, Asian farmers growing varieties of crops to minimise the risk of harvest failure, and Honduran farmers using agroforestry and terracing to reduce erosion.
The authors go on to discuss measures for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and emphasise the need for indigenous people to be fully engaged in the debate.
Source: UNEP | February 2009
This report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) calls for international action to combat the global economic crisis with a stimulus package based on clean energy and environmental protection. The author — Edward B Barbier from the University of Wyoming — argues that while stimulating growth and creating jobs are key objectives, unless new policy initiatives also reduce carbon dependency, protect ecosystems and water resources, and alleviate poverty they will not be enough to avert future crises.
Developed countries must remove subsidies and adopt complementary carbon pricing policies, says Barbier. Developing countries should spend at least one per cent of GDP on improving access to clean water and should also expand educational and health services for the poor. And all economies should consider removing water subsidies to increase water efficiency, he adds.
He concludes that the international community has a central role to play in promoting this global green new deal — through global governance, facilitating access to development assistance and enhancing trade incentives.
Source: FAO | 2008
This report, jointly published by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the University of the South Pacific, examines the likely impacts of climate change on Pacific island countries, with a focus on food security threats.
Two reports from international meetings and three case studies — from Vanuatu, the Republic of Marshall Islands and the Cook Islands — highlight small island vulnerability. Each case study includes an overview of the country's socio-economic status, an assessment of its agricultural sector and a list of likely climate change impacts, including ocean warming, frequent tropical cyclones, flash floods and droughts.
The authors include successes in each case and make recommendations for future action. They call for a systematic approach to climate change, using national development plans to implement adaptation programmes.
This report, written by a team of international scientists and published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), explores the effects of 'atmospheric brown clouds'(ABCs) on regional climate, agriculture and human health.
ABCs are large plumes of pollutant gases that result from burning fossil fuels and biomass. The authors of the UNEP report examine the spread of ABCs — particularly in Asia — and discuss their likely impacts, including decreases in the Indian summer monsoon rainfall, accelerated glacial retreat and increases in surface ozone.
They suggest that ABCs threaten water and food security in Asia, impact human health and may mask the warming effects of climate change by 20 – 80 per cent. The authors recommend an international response to tackle the twin effects of ABCs and greenhouse gases, and the unsustainable development that underpins them.
Source: Nature | September 2008
The authors of this article use satellite data to examine trends in the maximum intensities that cyclones can achieve during their lifetimes.
Results from previous analyses of tropical cyclone trends have been questioned due to a lack of consensus regarding data reliability. Moreover results have not been matched to theory because the focus has mainly been on changes in mean tropical cyclone statistics.
In this article, the authors conclusively show significant increases in the maximum wind speeds achieved by the strongest cyclones across all ocean basins except the South Pacific Ocean, with the largest increases occurring over the North Atlantic and northern Indian Oceans.
These findings are consistent with the idea that as seas warm, cyclones become more intense because the ocean has more energy that can be converted to tropical cyclone wind.
Source: Nature | November 2001
The authors report new data showing that the western side of the north Greenland ice sheet is thinning much more than anticipated from previous studies.
Source: Nature | September 2002
The author summarises the current state of knowledge regarding uncertainties in modelling future climates, and describes how several scientific approaches are being taken to address these issues.
Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The Third Assessment Report of the IPCC's Working Group 1 builds on past assessments and incorporates new results from the past five years of climate change. It descibes the current state of udnerstanding of the cliamte system, and provides estiamtes of its projected future evolution and their uncertainties.
Many hundreds of scientists from around the world participated in the preparation and review of the report, which states that "there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities".
Source: Royal Institute of International Affairs | February 2002
The Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in 2001, is the most comprehensive and authoritative source of information on climate change. Its conclusions confirm and strengthen those of the previous reports: human-induced climate change is a reality and most of the effects will be negative, but a range of mitigation opportunities is available to address the problem.
The Report finds that most of the earth’s warming over the past 50 years can be attributed to human activities, and that its effects are already being felt. Global temperature is expected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8ºC over the next century, a significant increase on the projections of the 1995 Second Assessment Report. This briefing paper summarises the findings of the Third Assessment Report and the debates underpinning them, and discusses the likely outcomes of the Report.