Best of our wild blogs: 27 Sep 12

Dempsey baby civets rescue
from Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

Burrowed time
from The annotated budak

Plant-bird relationship: 1. Need for a catalogue
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Creatures of the deep through the eyes of Dr Bertrand Richer De Forges
from Raffles Museum News

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Indonesia urged to quickly ratify haze agreement

Channel NewsAsia 26 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE: ASEAN Environment Ministers meeting in Bangkok have urged Indonesia to ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution as soon as possible.

A statement from the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said that Indonesia had reported that it was in the final stages of its ratification process.

The meeting also urged ASEAN member states to ensure that companies adopt zero-burning techniques for land clearing.

To follow up on this, the meeting also discussed the identification of errant companies by the sharing of concession maps and cross-referencing of the location of hotspots.

At the meeting, Singapore Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) Dr Vivian Balakrishnan took the opportunity to highlight that the cumulative total number of hotspots that have been recorded in Sumatra so far this year is at its highest level in many years.

The ASEAN ministers noted that the El Nino conditions currently developing in the equatorial Pacific Ocean may prolong the dry season slightly and extend dry weather conditions. As such, increased hotspot activities in the region can be expected.

The ASEAN member states have pledged to remain vigilant to continuously monitor the situation on the ground and implement haze prevention activities.

- CNA/cc

Sumatra hot spot count highest in years
Ministers at Asean meeting urge Jakarta to ratify haze accord
Straits Times 27 Sep 12;

BANGKOK - The number of hot spots recorded in Sumatra so far this year is at its highest level in many years, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said at a regional meeting.

Dr Balakrishnan's observation was shared by a number of other Asean ministers at the Asean ministerial meeting on the environment and related matters in Bangkok yesterday.

Figures show that the hot spot count for this year has exceeded that for 2006, the last year in which Singapore experienced a prolonged haze.

Delegates attending the meeting urged Indonesia to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution as soon as possible, a statement issued by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources in Singapore said. In response, Indonesia reported that it was in the final stages of its ratification process.

The discussions took place among environment ministers at the eighth meeting on the Asean haze agreement, one of the related meetings of the 12th Asean Ministerial Meeting on the Environment.

The meeting also urged Asean member states to ensure that companies adopt zero-burning techniques for land clearing. As a follow-up, those present at the meeting discussed the identification of errant companies and cross-referencing of the location of hot spots, the statement said.

The haze season usually occurs each year from June to September, which is the dry season in Indonesia and also a time when farmers there clear land using the slash-and-burn method.

The worst episode of haze to hit the region occurred in 1997.

Asean's efforts to tackle the annual haze problem saw nine of its members ink the 2002 Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. Only Indonesia has yet to ratify the accord.

Meanwhile, in Jambi, Sumatra, health officials warned of a sharp spike in the number of people with respiratory problems. According to Mr Andi Pada from the Jambi provincial health office, the number of people suffering from respiratory tract ailments in the Sumatran province has risen to 3,020, with 1,241 of them in the capital, The Jakarta Globe reported.

He added that the standard air pollution index in the city had already reached unhealthy levels of more than 100 particles per million.

Local health officials have distributed some 3,000 masks to the population, especially for motorists, reports said.

Another official said attempts were being made to artificially induce rain in the area.

But this was proving difficult with few clouds and the dry nature of the air, he added.

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Creating ripples with 'water diplomacy'

Pau Khan Khup Hangzo Today Online 26 Sep 12;

Singapore's innovative water solutions have been hailed as a success story.

Equally impressive, however, is the transformation of its water diplomacy. It has gone from bilateral engagement with Malaysia on water supply, to sharing the benefits of its water management experience with other countries.

Singapore's water diplomacy was in its formative years centred on relations with Malaysia. Due to geographical limitations, such as its small size and the lack of natural aquifers and groundwater, Singapore had been forced to look beyond its borders for its water supply.

Its engagement with Malaysia resulted in two landmark water agreements, signed in 1961 and 1962, respectively. The 1961 agreement obliged Malaysia to sell to Singapore 86 million gallons of water per day, and the 1962 agreement a further 250 million gallons per day. The 1961 agreement expired last year and the 1962 agreement will expire in 2060.

However, these water agreements are not without their problems. Following Singapore's independence in 1965, the price of water became a major irritant in relations between the two countries.

Malaysia's go-it-alone approach in arriving at a decision to raise the price of water raised concerns in Singapore. It was feared that such actions, if allowed, could set a precedent for unilateral action by Malaysia.

In the face of such issues, Singapore embarked on a programme of self-sufficiency in water. The country's treated waste water, dubbed NEWater, now accounts for 30 per cent of its total water needs.

Another 10 per cent of its water requirements are drawn from desalination plants in the country. Also, 67 per cent of Singapore's land area is now water catchment. These efforts have enabled Singapore to gradually reduce its water dependence on Malaysia, from 80 per cent in 1965 to 40 per cent last year.


The success of Singapore's self-sufficiency efforts has also heralded a new phase in its water diplomacy. Singapore is now actively engaging with international water issues in an effort to position itself as a "hydrohub".

The Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) is a case in point. Launched in 2008, the SIWW has become a major annual event for water practitioners around the world.

The meeting has enabled Singapore to showcase its experience and its innovative water solutions.

The SIWW also provides Singapore with the platform to explore opportunities in the integration of water solutions and urban planning with cities around the world.

For example, Singapore has shared its expertise in water-sector reform and waste-water management with countries such as Australia, India and Mauritius.

Water technologies have also become integral to Singapore's humanitarian assistance efforts. In response to the 2009 typhoon in the Philippines and the 2011 floods in Thailand, Singapore sent water quality monitoring and water purification equipment to enable victims to gain access to clean drinking water.

Singapore's experience in water management is becoming increasingly relevant and its water diplomacy timely.

Rapid urbanisation has put tremendous pressures on urban infrastructure, the environment and natural resources, especially in developing countries.

Singapore, through its water diplomacy, can help these countries confront the challenges associated with accelerating growth.

Pau Khan Khup Hangzo is Associate Research Fellow with the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

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Loss of Species Makes Nature More Sensitive to Climate Change, Study Finds

25 Sep 12;

When we wipe out the most sensitive species, human beings reduce the resilience of ecosystems to climate change, reveals a new study from biologists at the University of Gothenburg, published in the journal Ecology Letters.

High biodiversity acts as an insurance policy for nature and society alike as it increases the likelihood that at least some species will be sufficiently resilient to sustain important functions such as water purification and crop pollination in a changing environment.

“It’s the same principle as an investment portfolio – you’d be mad to put all your eggs in one basket,” says researcher Johan Eklöf.

Experiments with eelgrass meadows in shallow inlets on the west coast of Sweden are now showing that climate change can exacerbate the negative effects of losing sensitive species, and that the insurance effect of biodiversity may be weaker than what we typically assume.

Eelgrass meadows in shallow inlets are important nursery habitats for cod, for example. Since the early 1980s the prevalence of eelgrass has fallen dramatically along the Bohuslän coast.

This is thought to be due partly to eutrophication, which favours mats of filamentous "nuisance" algae which shade and suffocate the eelgrass, and partly to the loss of cod, which has resulted in a huge increase in numbers of smaller predatory fish. These predatory fish, in turn, reduce numbers of Grammarus locusta, herbivorous crustaceans which are effective grazers that normally control the filamentous algae.

This type of cascade effect has become increasingly common both onshore and off as many types of predator have been wiped out by hunting or fishing. Worryingly, theory and observations would indicate that these effects could magnify the effects of global warming, which favours heat-tolerant but grazing-sensitive plants such as filamentous algae.

At the Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Sciences’ Kristineberg research station on Gullmarsfjorden, researchers from the University of Gothenburg’s Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences have developed miniature ecosystems in outdoor aquariums and have been investigating how future ocean warming and ocean acidification could affect the balance between eelgrass and filamentous algae.

The effects were unexpectedly clear and unambiguous: it was the diversity of algal herbivores that determined the extent to which the ecosystem was affected by warming and acidification.

“High diversity meant that neither warming nor acidification had any real effect as the algae were eaten before they managed to grow and shade the eelgrass,” says researcher and biologist Johan Eklöf, who headed up the study. “But when we simultaneously simulated the effects of fishing and removed the effective but vulnerable herbivor Grammarus locusta, the algae took over the ecosystem – especially in the warmer conditions.”

The researchers believe that we should be concerned about the results.

“Most management is based on the assumption that we afford to lose the most sensitive species because other, more resilient species will take their place,” says Johan Eklöf. “But this may not be the case with future climate changes, as it can reduce the net efficiency of the resilient species – without directly affecting them.”

However, the researchers are also careful to point out that there is still hope if society does decide to take action.

“If we protect the local biodiversity we still have, and restore the diversity we’ve lost, by for example protecting predatory fish stocks in coastal areas and reducing nutrient loading, then we’ll probably be able to increase the ecosystems’ resilience to climate change.”

Journal Reference:

Johan S. Eklöf, Christian Alsterberg, Jonathan N. Havenhand, Kristina Sundbäck, Hannah L. Wood, Lars Gamfeldt. Experimental climate change weakens the insurance effect of biodiversity. Ecology Letters, 2012; 15 (8): 864 DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01810.x

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Laos’ last chance to save last 6 river dolphins

WWF 27 Sep 12;

Gland, Switzerland – A tiny population of six river dolphins, isolated in a deep pool in the Mekong River on the border between Laos and Cambodia, will not survive long unless Laos takes urgent action to ban gillnet fishing in the dolphin’s range on their side of the border, warns WWF.

According to a new WWF report, Last chance for dolphins in Laos, more than 30 river dolphins have died since 1991 in and around the trans-boundary pool, with gillnets set by local fishers identified as the main cause. From January to April this year, WWF recorded over 100 separate gillnets in and around the deep pool area and as many as 188 on one occasion.

Cambodia recently enacted a law banning gillnet fishing in the entire pool and nearby areas on their side of the border. In Laos gillnet fishing is banned only in the deepest areas of the pool on their side of the border. While the dolphins are known to reside in the 1km² trans-boundary pool in the dry season they range more widely in the surrounding 5km² area in the wet season.

“Six river dolphins are swimming the gauntlet every day as they risk entanglement and death in the many floating walls of nets,” said Gerry Ryan, Technical Advisor with WWF-Cambodia and author of the report. “Laos must immediately ban gillnets from the entire trans-boundary pool area on their side of the border, throughout the whole year, or face losing the country’s last river dolphins.”

Freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins are critically endangered in the Mekong River, where their numbers have dwindled to around 85 individuals restricted to a 190km stretch of the Mekong mainstream between southern Laos and north-east Cambodia.

As many as 40 - 50 dolphins are believed to have once used the trans-boundary pool, with numbers falling to around 25 in the 1990s. The six dolphins inhabiting the trans-boundary pool are now believed to be an isolated sub-population, and do not move further up or down Mekong mainstem.

While dolphin numbers are shrinking, dolphin-watching tourism to the area is booming. Last year about 20,000 tourists are estimated to have visited the trans-boundary dolphins, with dolphin-watching tours from one of the two main sites in Laos more than doubling since 2008. In Cambodia, visitors to one of the two main dolphin-watching sites have increased nearly thirty-fold since 2005.

“Dolphins are a major tourist attraction and contributor to growth,” said Ryan. “Dolphin-watching tourism brings in much needed income to local communities that otherwise rely heavily on fisheries for subsistence and income. It is clear that saving the dolphins also means smart development.”

The river dolphins not only bring tangible livelihood benefits, they are also an important indicator of the health and effective management of the freshwater ecosystem, and their decline in numbers may reflect a declining trend in the broader ecosystem, which is heavily relied on by local communities.

“The loss of the river dolphins would not only greatly diminish Laos’ biodiversity, it would suggest a potentially devastating decline in the health of the entire river ecosystem, and likely declines in other species too,” said Ryan. “If Laos loses its remaining river dolphins it risks losing so much more.”

While gillnets represent the most immediate threat to the survival of the six dolphins, coordinated cross-border action is also needed to end illegal fishing and the use of explosives in the area, regulate boat traffic transiting the deep pool, and cancel the proposed large concrete pier and ramp at Anlung Cheuteal, one of Cambodia’s main sites for dolphin-watching.

“The pressures on this tiny population of river dolphins are immense, but as long as they survive there is hope,” said Ryan. “Urgent and strict protection efforts are needed to keep hope for the survival of this elusive icon of the Mekong River alive, without it hope will fade very fast.”

Analysis presented in the WWF report predicts that small group of river dolphins will be effectively extirpated within 20 years, and none are expected to remain after 2037—though this could happen much sooner. While the sex of the remaining dolphins is unknown, mating observed earlier this year shows that both males and females remain, and that if protected, the group may recover.

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Tourists Banned From India's Tiger Reserves

Julie McCarthy NPR 26 Sep 12;

Can tigers and tourists coexist? The debate is rumbling through India, where the Supreme Court has temporarily banned tourism in core areas of the country's 41 tiger reserves. The unexpected and controversial ruling is aimed at protecting the last of India's 1,700 tigers.

Up until the late 1960s, big game hunters trod the forests of Rajasthan's Ranthambore National Park, part of a sprawling tiger reserve southwest of Delhi. Under the court's recent ban, spotting one of India's big cats — a tiger or the more elusive leopard — inside the park is forbidden.

But next to the outer wall one night, with the headlights of our van trained on the brick boundary, a beautiful male leopard appeared straight ahead of us in the light of the moon. He sat motionless, his long tail draped over the 5-foot wall. Undistributed by the noise of trucks, the cat finally moved his huge head in our direction, but he wasn't about to jump anywhere.

"He's perfectly comfortable sitting here while we have a vehicle sitting about 40 yards away from him," said guide Balendu Singh, "and he's perfectly at ease. Plus, it's a good perch for him to sit and observe a stray dog or something walking by."

"Dinner?" I asked.

"Dinner, that's right," Singh said.

This forest once teemed with the leopard's cousin, the tiger. But this former hunting ground of the Maharajas has just 52 of the big cats today.

Less Tiger Habitat, More Humans

The forests of Ranthambore are dotted with the remnants of India's past glories. A mile inside, and still open to visitors, looms the thousand-year-old Ranthambhore Fort.

Scavenging monkeys and families feeding them crowd the fort's ramparts and tombs. Below, broad valleys of deciduous forests and expanses of water make up the tiger reserve.

Touring the fort, field biologist Dharmendra Khandal says 20 percent of the land inhabited by Indian tigers has been lost in the past six years to increasing demands for land by an ever-growing population, mostly tied to the agriculture and mining industries. "It's a very big challenge by human population towards the tiger," he says.

Ajay Dubey, the Supreme Court petitioner behind the ban on tourists entering core areas of tiger reserves, says he has been working on "environmental issues and good governance" for the past 12 years.

The 37-year-old activist from Bhopal, who waged successful campaigns against India's powerful mining interests, is now rattling the cage of tiger tourism and some of the more prominent conservationists.

Dubey says "mindless tourism" has adversely affected the big cat, and that human activity should be restricted to "buffer" areas of tiger habitats to stop the decline of the tigers.

"Eighteen-hundred tigers in 1972, right? Now we are having only 1,700 tigers — only 1,700 tigers. We have to be more careful and sincere for the conservation of the tiger," Dubey says.

Livelihoods Dependent On Tourism

Some wildlife experts agree that tourists damage the natural habitat. Others say they act as watchdogs against poachers and lax forestry officials.

Singh, our guide at the park boundary and a local hotelier and wildlife enthusiast, is opposed to the tourism ban. He says entry into Ranthambhore is already strictly regulated, with a total of 520 guests allowed in for a limited time.

"We have three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon — a total of six hours in a day," he says. And Singh says tourists have access to just a quarter of the park.

More importantly, he says, a permanent ban would be disastrous for the local economy.

The court's decision on whether to extend its ban will affect thousands of Indians — including drivers, cooks, guides and luggage bearers at train stations. Their livelihoods depend on tourism, which Singh says only raises the local standard of living.

"Better education, better life, better health care — so the entire area is elevated and becomes better," Singh says. "You get more awareness; awareness and education lead to better conservation. And nobody can deny that."

Many conservationists agree that poachers are a bigger danger to tigers than tourists. Like the ivory of elephants, the bones and body parts of tigers are poached for enormous sums. But the regulations governing tourism are the controversy at the moment.

India's Wildlife Protection Act states that core areas of tiger reserves — 1 percent of Indian's landmass — are "inviolate." The Supreme Court is expected to shed light on what that means when it hears arguments on the tourism ban Thursday.

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Coral Hotspots Discovered off Northeast US Yahoo News 26 Sep 12;

A survey of underwater canyons off the U.S. East Coast found a number of previously unknown hotspots for deep-sea corals.

The exploration, the first to look for corals and sponges in the area in decades, is helping researchers develop a computer model to determine where other coral hotspots might be found.

The survey took place over a two-week stretch in July. Researchers aboard the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Henry B. Bigelow ship looked for corals in submarine canyons off New Jersey, and connected to Georges Bank, a large elevated area of seafloor about 60 miles (100 kilometers) offshore that stretches as far south as Cape Cod, Mass., and north to Nova Scotia.

"The deep-sea coral and sponge habitats observed in the canyons are not like those found in shallow-water tropical reefs or deep-sea coral habitats in other regions," said Martha Nizinski, chief scientist of the research cruise, in a statement. "We know very little about the distribution and ecology of corals in the canyons off the Northeast coast. Although our explorations have just begun, we've already increased our knowledge about these deepwater coral habitats a hundred times over."

The researchers took thousands of photographs of the coral using a remotely operated camera towed behind the ship. The corals observed live at depths between 650 and 6,500 feet (200 to 2,000 meters). Although no specimens were collected during this expedition, the thousands of images taken will be analyzed in the coming months to determine what types of coral live there.

More than 70 deepwater canyons, ranging in depth from 330 to 11,500 feet (100 to 3,500 m), exist along the Northeast's continental shelf and slope. Few are well studied, and many are likely home to as yet undiscovered life-forms.

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Salt marshes to absorb carbon to 2050, but emit it later

Alister Doyle Reuters 26 Sep 12;

(Reuters) - Salt marshes around the world's coasts will help slow climate change until about 2050 by soaking up greenhouse gases but then risk making the problem even worse as sea levels rise, a study showed on Wednesday.

Plants such as grasses and shrubs - which thrive in salt marshes found from India to the United States - absorb heat-trapping carbon from the air. Much of it then ends up buried in sediment where it no longer stokes global warming.

"The net impact of temperature warming and sea level rise is to increase carbon burial rates in the first half of the twenty-first century," researchers in the journal Nature wrote.

Beyond about 2050, rising sea levels would start water logging plants however, the study said, halting the transfer of carbon into the muddy sediment. "At some point too much flooding is bad," lead author Matthew Kirwan at the University of Virginia told Reuters.

Initially, gradually rising sea levels caused by temperature increases that will melt ice on land and make water in the oceans expand, would help wetland plants grow better. Flooding brings in more nutrients and washes out toxins.

At their peak - around mid-century - the study said salt marshes could absorb about 2 kilos (4.4 lbs) of organic matter per square meter per year, much of it carbon. Marshes could easily withstand a sea level rise of 1 mm (0.04 inch) or more a year, it added.

But absorption would stop and the marshes were likely to start emitting carbon if the rise in sea level accelerated, it said. Wind and waves could then erode the seabed sediment, releasing trapped carbon stored beneath the now-dead salt marsh.

"If the plant is submerged 100 percent of the time the roots cannot get more oxygen and the plant dies. Once the marsh dies it is not sequestering any carbon," said Kirwan.


The U.N. panel of climate scientists has projected that sea levels will rise by between 18 and 59 cms (7-23 inches) by 2100 or more if Antarctica or Greenland melt faster. Seas are now rising by about 3 mm a year (0.1 inch).

Kirwan said that the "million dollar question" was whether rising seas would simply create more marshes further inland.

"The big catch is whether there will be land available," he said. In many nations, governments seek to protect coasts - from New Orleans in the United States to Amsterdam in the Netherlands - and to prevent the formation of marshes.

He estimated that salt marshes worldwide absorbed between 10 and 130 million tonnes of carbon a year - at the top end of the range roughly equivalent to Italy or Mexico's greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2009, a "Blue Carbon" report by the U.N. Environment Program also said that mangroves, salt marshes and sea grasses captured up to 450 million tonnes of carbon a year. It urged far greater efforts to protect such huge stores.

Kirwan said that his study - with colleague Simon Mudd who works at both the University of Edinburgh and the University of California, Santa Barbara - was the first to try to assess the effect of a rising sea level on salt marshes.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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El Nino seen developing in September-October: U.N. weather body

Stephanie Nebehay PlanetArk 26 Sep 12;

An El Nino event, usually associated with significant changes in rainfall, is likely to develop this month and next in the Pacific, affecting global climate patterns, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Tuesday.

The phenomenon, characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific, has been linked previously to drier-than-normal conditions in Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, northeastern Brazil, southeastern Africa and parts of Asia, the United Nations agency said.

"A weak El Nino may develop in September and October and last until the northern hemisphere winter," the WMO said in a statement.

El Nino is also associated with wetter-than-normal conditions in Ecuador, northern Peru, southern Brazil to central Argentina and parts of eastern Africa, it said.

El Nino winters tend to be mild over western Canada and parts of the United States and wet over the southern United States, it added.

La Nina, its opposite phenomenon which causes an abnormal cooling of waters, ended in April.

The WMO update is based on many different climate forecast models gathered from centers around the world.

"The majority of these climate forecast models say that there is a 'moderately high likelihood' of an El Nino. Having said that, it can't be ruled out that neutral conditions may continue," WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told a news briefing.

The Geneva-based WMO promotes cooperation among its 189 member states and their national meteorological and hydrological services and is the U.N. system's voice on weather, climate and water.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Jason Neely and Anthony Barker)

Lower chance of El Nino, but risks remain: Australia
Colin Packham PlanetArk 26 Sep 12;

Tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures indicating the onset of an El Nino have eased over the last two weeks, reducing the chance of the weather event emerging, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday.

However, the bureau warned the risk of an El Nino -- which can trigger drought in Australia, Southeast Asia and India and floods in parts of South and North America -- returning remained.

Pacific Ocean temperatures had cooled in the last fortnight, while other indicators remained in neutral territory, it said.

The bureau said that despite the change in indicators conditions continued to favor below average rainfall over much of Australia in the southern hemisphere spring.

"We are seeing the Indian Ocean showing a pattern that would bring drier conditions to at least central and south east Australia," Andrew Watkins, manager of climate prediction at the weather bureau's National Climate Centre said.

"That signal is a little stronger than the El Nino signature in the Pacific is showing."

Japan's weather bureau said on September 10 its climate models indicated the El Nino phenomenon was under way and there was a high chance it would last until winter.

El Nino can cause above average rains in northern Peru and Bolivia, drought in Southeast Asia, Australia, India and northeast Brazil, cyclones in the central Pacific and stormy weather in the southern and western United States.

The worst El Nino on record in 1997/98 killed more than 2,000 people and caused property damage estimated at $33 billion. The pattern can also cause serious damage to crops such as wheat in Australia due to drought.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Ed Davies)

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Climate change is already damaging global economy, report finds

Economic impact of global warming is costing the world more than $1.2 trillion a year, wiping 1.6% annually from global GDP
Fiona Harvey 26 Sep 12;

Climate change is already contributing to the deaths of nearly 400,000 people a year and costing the world more than $1.2 trillion, wiping 1.6% annually from global GDP, according to a new study.

The impacts are being felt most keenly in developing countries, according to the research, where damage to agricultural production from extreme weather linked to climate change is contributing to deaths from malnutrition, poverty and their associated diseases.

Air pollution caused by the use of fossil fuels is also separately contributing to the deaths of at least 4.5m people a year, the report found.

The 331-page study, entitled Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of A Hot Planet and published on Wednesday, was carried out by the DARA group, a non-governmental organisation based in Europe, and the Climate Vulnerable Forum. It was written by more than 50 scientists, economists and policy experts, and commissioned by 20 governments.

By 2030, the researchers estimate, the cost of climate change and air pollution combined will rise to 3.2% of global GDP, with the world's least developed countries forecast to bear the brunt, suffering losses of up to 11% of their GDP.

Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, said: "A 1C rise in temperature [temperatures have already risen by 0.7C globally since the end of the 19th century] is associated with 10% productivity loss in farming. For us, it means losing about 4m tonnes of food grain, amounting to about $2.5bn. That is about 2% of our GDP. Adding up the damages to property and other losses, we are faced with a total loss of about 3-4% of GDP. Without these losses, we could have easily secured much higher growth."

But major economies will also take a hit, as extremes of weather and the associated damage – droughts, floods and more severe storms – could wipe 2% of the GDP of the US by 2030, while similar effects could cost China $1.2tr by the same date.

While many governments have taken the view that climate change is a long-term problem, there is a growing body of opinion that the effects are already being felt. Scientists have been alarmed by the increasingly rapid melting of Arctic sea ice, which reached a new record minimum this year and, if melting continues at similar rates, could be ice free in summer by the end of the decade. Some research suggests that this melting could be linked to cold, dull and rainy summers in parts of Europe – such as has been the predominant summer weather in the UK for the last six years. In the US, this year's severe drought has raised food prices and in India the disruption to the monsoon has caused widespread damage to farmers.

Connie Hedegaard, the European Union's climate chief, warned that extreme weather was becoming more common, as the effects of climate change take hold. "Climate change and weather extremes are not about a distant future," she wrote in a comment for the Guardian last week. "Formerly one-off extreme weather episodes seem to be becoming the new normal."

Michael Zammit Cutajar, former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: "Climate change is not just a distant threat but a present danger – its economic impact is already with us."

100 million will die by 2030 if world fails to act on climate: report
Nina Chestney PlanetArk 26 Sep 12;

More than 100 million people will die and global economic growth will be cut by 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030 if the world fails to tackle climate change, a report commissioned by 20 governments said on Wednesday.

As global average temperatures rise due to greenhouse gas emissions, the effects on the planet, such as melting ice caps, extreme weather, drought and rising sea levels, will threaten populations and livelihoods, said the report conducted by humanitarian organization DARA.

It calculated that five million deaths occur each year from air pollution, hunger and disease as a result of climate change and carbon-intensive economies, and that toll would likely rise to six million a year by 2030 if current patterns of fossil fuel use continue.

More than 90 percent of those deaths will occur in developing countries, said the report that calculated the human and economic impact of climate change on 184 countries in 2010 and 2030. It was commissioned by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a partnership of 20 developing countries threatened by climate change.

"A combined climate-carbon crisis is estimated to claim 100 million lives between now and the end of the next decade," the report said.

It said the effects of climate change had lowered global output by 1.6 percent of world GDP, or by about $1.2 trillion a year, and losses could double to 3.2 percent of global GDP by 2030 if global temperatures are allowed to rise, surpassing 10 percent before 2100.

It estimated the cost of moving the world to a low-carbon economy at about 0.5 percent of GDP this decade.


British economist Nicholas Stern told Reuters earlier this year investment equivalent to 2 percent of global GDP was needed to limit, prevent and adapt to climate change. His report on the economics of climate change in 2006 said an average global temperature rise of 2-3 degrees Celsius in the next 50 years could reduce global consumption per head by up to 20 percent.

Temperatures have already risen by about 0.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Almost 200 nations agreed in 2010 to limit the global average temperature rise to below 2C (3.6 Fahrenheit) to avoid dangerous impacts from climate change.

But climate scientists have warned that the chance of limiting the rise to below 2C is getting smaller as global greenhouse gas emissions rise due to burning fossil fuels.

The world's poorest nations are the most vulnerable as they face increased risk of drought, water shortages, crop failure, poverty and disease. On average, they could see an 11 percent loss in GDP by 2030 due to climate change, DARA said.

"One degree Celsius rise in temperature is associated with 10 percent productivity loss in farming. For us, it means losing about 4 million metric tonnes of food grain, amounting to about $2.5 billion. That is about 2 percent of our GDP," Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in response to the report.

"Adding up the damages to property and other losses, we are faced with a total loss of about 3-4 percent of GDP."

Even the biggest and most rapidly developing economies will not escape unscathed. The United States and China could see a 2.1 percent reduction in their respective GDPs by 2030, while India could experience a more than 5 percent loss.

The full report is available at:

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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