Best of our wild blogs: 21 Nov 13

What does the bat say? Listening to echolocating, insect-eating bats on Kent Ridge from Otterman speaks

E-version of my book "Your first guide to water quality monitoring in Singapore" is out! from Water Quality in Singapore

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Draft Master Plan strikes good balance between economic & social needs: analysts

Eileen Poh Channel NewsAsia 20 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: The Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA's) Draft Master Plan offers a good balance between Singapore's economic and social needs, analysts said.

But they also pointed out possible areas of concern, such as the potential over-development of certain areas, which could affect their original character.

Holland Village is known for its quaint shophouses, restaurants and bars. And its unique character will be further expanded under the URA's Draft Master Plan.

A new extension is planned to be built in the next two years, and it has also been designated as an identity node. This means that the area's charm will be conserved and enhanced.

But some analysts said there is the risk of over-development.

Colin Tan, director and head (research & consultancy) at Suntec Real Estate Consultants, said: "The danger is that as you add on more density, and you build around Holland V, you may interfere with the natural evolution process.

“Sometimes making it more accessible and popular, you draw in other groups that may interfere with the original group that went to Holland V. When you have the accessibility, the MRT, you may bring in other people – tourists -- who may change the character of the whole place."

And with more crowds, challenges such as insufficient parking may surface.

Mr Tan said: "I think, for example, like in Joo Chiat itself -- Joo Chiat has come up because there are a lot of conserved shophouses.

“Next thing you know, there's overcrowding, illegal parking, and URA telling eateries that you can't have in-house dining, you can only have takeaways because they don't want to add to the congestion and to the problems of the residents there.”

But experts also said the Master Plan reflects a good balance between Singapore's economic and social needs.

Liang Eng Hwa, MP and deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for National Development, said: "We need to continue to allow Singapore to grow, and then to balance our other challenges like ageing, the desire to have more green space and so on.

“So this Master Plan actually strikes a very good balance between that. And I think it does take in a lot of inputs and feedback from a lot of areas and quarters."

Mr Liang also applauded the fact that the Master Plan builds on earlier efforts to make estates more liveable. These include better transport connectivity, more greenery and bringing jobs closer to homes.

The plan also aims to set aside land at the Woodlands Regional Centre specifically for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Analysts welcomed the move, saying that there has been too much focus on multi-national corporations.

Mr Tan said: "The strategy for us has always been an open economy, and we always depend on external trade and services. But we seem to have neglected the domestic sector."

But observers said more details are needed of the specific support to be provided to SMEs.

- CNA/nd

New residential developments announced under Draft Master Plan 2013
Eileen Poh Channel NewsAsia 20 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans can expect some 15,000 new homes in central Singapore, more commercial hubs outside the city centre, and a new waterfront area in the future.

These are some of the plans laid out in the Draft Master Plan 2013.

The plan guides Singapore's development in the medium term and is reviewed every five years.

It was launched on Wednesday by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

New developments are expected at Marina South - an area which is currently largely occupied by construction.

These include an 800 metre-long pedestrian street with an underground shopping mall connecting two MRT stations - Marina South and Gardens by the Bay, a high-rise walkway from Gardens by the Bay right to the seafront, as well as 9,000 new homes.

Development of the area is expected to begin after 2017.

Over at Holland Village, a new extension has been planned to create more walkways and meeting spaces.

Some 1,500 residential units and a community park have also been proposed.

The first batch of developments is expected to be up and running in the next one to two years.

And for Kampong Bugis, the third residential development outlined in the Master Plan, it is set to be an eco-friendly and car-reduced precinct.

There will likely be fewer car parks in the area and water taxis could be offered as an alternative commuting mode to the city.

Some 4,000 housing units have been planned for the area as well.

Kampong Bugis has also been identified as a pilot site to serve as a model for sustainable water management practices internationally.

And like in earlier plans, the draft adopts the decentralisation strategy which means having people working closer to where they are living.

Other than creating sustained growth of the City Centre, more commercial hubs will be developed in areas like the Jurong Lake District and Woodlands.

A mixed-use integrated township in the west is one such project. Named 2 West, the URA says it will create a work, live, play and learn ecosystem integrated within a manufacturing environment.

2 West will comprise of the 50 ha CleanTech Park, Nanyang Technology University, Wenya Industrial park and part of the future Tengah Town.

The relocation of Tanjong Pagar, Keppel and Brani terminals by 2027 and Pasir Panjang terminal thereafter will free up 1,000 hectares of land. Some ideas have been planned for this vast area which will be called the Greater Southern Waterfront.

These ideas include building of a new reservoir between Tanjong Pagar and Pulau Brani, and creating an eco-corridor by joining up green spaces in the area such as Labrador Park, Southern Ridges and the Rail Corridor.

Other initiatives include dedicated cycling paths in the Central area, and new identity nodes at Holland Village, Serangoon Garden and Jalan Kayu.

This means URA will explore ways to conserve and enhance the special character of these three places as part of their land use planning.

The Draft Master Plan is on display at The URA Centre and on URA's website.

The public can give their feedback on the proposed plans, from Wednesday until December 19.

- CNA/fa

Waterfront provides recreation space, helps with water needs
Waterfront provides recreation space, helps with water needs
Sumita D/O Sreedharan and Woo Sian Boon Today Online 21 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE — The idea of building a reservoir at the Greater Southern Waterfront caught the eye of urban planners and experts, who felt the proposal could provide a new recreational space and additional water-catchment area.

Planners and experts described the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Draft Master Plan as grand and comprehensive, but evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

But most were taken by the plans for the waterfront, which has an area about three times the size of Marina Bay.

The URA unveiled yesterday six preliminary conceptual plans for the waterfront, which includes a 30km stretch of waterfront promenade that extends from Labrador Park to Marina South, and encompasses Pulau Brani, a new reservoir created between the offshore island and Tanjong Pagar, and new residential and commercial districts along the coastline.

Associate Professor Ng Wai Keen, Programme Director at the National University of Singapore’s Urban Planning Programme, sees the Greater Southern Waterfront as crucial to Singapore’s growth, with intensified development in the area allowing for preservation of other pockets of greenery around the island.

“With the projected increase in population, the amount of green spaces per person will (decrease), so intensifying development in existing areas would allow us to hold off developing other pockets of land for as long as possible,” he said.

Mr William Lau, President of the Singapore Institute of Planners, felt some of the concepts are “fairly generic” and similar to earlier ideas that had been floated in past projects. An idea that piqued his interest was that of a possible reservoir between Tanjong Pagar and Pulau Brani.

“It is a fantastic plan and will be an engineering feat that will allow Singapore to create waterfront recreational spaces and help with our water needs in the future,” he said.

The area for the new waterfront will be freed up after all container-port activities are consolidated in Tuas after 2027.

With plans for two new residential areas — Kampong Bugis and Marina South — situated around the southern coast and along major waterways, some observers were less enthusiastic about URA’s push of water taxis as an alternative mode of transport.

Residents of ‘identity nodes’ hope for end to congestion woes
Xue JianYue and Amanda Lee Today Online 21 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE — They are glad that a slice of their past will be preserved for posterity. But some residents in estates earmarked as “identity nodes” under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) latest plans also hope to see an end to a more current problem: Congestion woes.

Under the draft Master Plan 2013 announced yesterday, Jalan Kayu, Serangoon Garden and Holland Village — famed for their eateries and shophouses — have been added to the URA’s list of identity nodes, which means the character of these places will be preserved and enhanced even after redevelopment.

The housing estate at Jalan Kayu, famed for its roti prata stalls, draws crowds of people in cars on weekends. On weekdays, heavy vehicles drive through a one-lane road to a new aerospace park in Seletar, generating noise and dust.

Mr Ong Ah Chong, a 61-year-old resident, hopes that urban planners can cap the number of eateries at the Jalan Kayu shophouses due to the noise, smoke and heavy traffic past midnight.

On weekends, cars owned by non-residents occupy the scarce parking spaces in the estate.

“You can have preservation, but you shouldn’t have eateries,” the retiree said, pointing to six chimneys belonging to eateries behind his home. “All the washed laundry is affected.”

Another long-time resident, 85-year-old M Sinniah, hopes the shophouses can be preserved as they are the only surviving buildings from his younger days as a Royal Air Force store superintendent at Seletar Air Base. “The buildings are ... like my children,” he said, referring to the shophouses.

At Holland Village, shop owners and residents felt that more needs to be done to preserve the heritage of the area.

Mr Sam Thambi, whose family has been operating a magazine store there since the 1940s, said there used to be an open-air theatre in the 1980s.

“There were also mango trees, rambutan trees. But, with time, suddenly there are so many tall buildings. It feels like a city ... no more kampung atmosphere,” said the 39-year-old.

Like Jalan Kayu’s Mr Ong, he complains about congestion problems, noting that there are not enough car park lots. “Sometimes, my store becomes a drive-through magazine store. Customers just sit in the car, ask for a magazine and drive off,” Mr Thambi said.

For several other residents, preservation is not only about keeping old buildings intact — it also involves maintaining the ties among neighbours.

Serangoon Garden resident Low Moi In is worried that familiar faces will disappear from the estate if it undergoes redevelopment.

The 70-year-old said that for people of her age, “if we can keep the (things of the) past, it is the best”.

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Public feedback invited on Botanic Gardens management plan for UNESCO bid

Channel NewsAsia 20 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: The National Heritage Board (NHB) and National Parks Board (NParks) have unveiled their proposed five-year site management plan for the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

A joint statement from the three parties issued Wednesday said the plan is part of the dossier that it will submit to UNESCO for the Gardens' World Heritage Site nomination.

Members of the public are invited to contribute their feedback on the plan.

Hard copies of the plan can be obtained from the three visitor service counters at the Gardens and the soft copy is available online at the Gardens' website.

The statement said where possible, feedback from the public will be incorporated into the nomination dossier, which will submitted to UNESCO by February 2014.

The World Heritage Committee will then deliberate on the nomination and decide if the Gardens is worthy of inscription as a World Heritage Site.

The statement also said that NHB and NParks have received over 100 feedback submissions on the nomination document -- the part of the dossier which was already made available to the public for feedback in September.

Most of the comments received either express support for the Gardens' nomination, or share memories of time spent at the Gardens.

The Gardens is Singapore's first nomination for inscription as a World Heritage Site.

- CNA/ec

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Does Singapore treat global warming seriously enough?

Sun Xi Today Online 20 Nov 13;

Singapore enjoys a favourable geographical location that shelters it from serious natural disasters. It is highly unlikely that a storm like Typhoon Haiyan would hit the island in the near future.

However, Singapore is not an isolated haven immune to climate change. The frequency of recent heavy downpours and flash floods is expected to increase as sea levels rise due to global warming.

The city-state is renowned for its environmental management expertise and contributes less than 0.2 per cent to global carbon emissions. Still, is global warming treated seriously enough here?

Although many Singaporeans find the air-conditioning in offices, cinemas, schools, public transport and other public areas too cold, is such energy wastage curbed?

Consumption habits fuelled by a high gross domestic product per capita are common in Singapore. Food wastage amounted to 703,200 tonnes last year, up 26 per cent from 2007. And although water is a scarce and precious resource in Singapore, wastage is still high.

The per capita domestic water consumption is 152 litres per day (the goal is 140 litres by 2030), whereas cities such as Hamburg in Germany and Barcelona in Spain hope to lower usage to less than 100 litres by 2015. (“It’s drought, not floods, S’pore should fear”; March 18)

We should really play our part to curb climate change, starting with our daily life. Otherwise, we may also be victims of environmental disasters eventually.

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Singapore calls for strong global commitment & action to tackle climate

Channel NewsAsia 21 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has called for strong commitment and action from the international community to deal with climate change.

Speaking at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland on Wednesday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan urged all parties to implement the decisions that were made in previous rounds of talks.

Delivering Singapore's national statement at the meeting, he said that is essential for credibility and momentum.

Dr Balakrishnan also said it is important for all nations on keep to the principles and provisions of the Framework Convention as they provide a strong and adequate foundation for action by all parties.

He further stressed the importance of universal participation, with all parties being equally legally bound to make a contribution to the new global agreement on climate change that is being negotiated.

Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore is fully committed to play its part in the global effort against climate change despite its constraints as a small city-state.

For instance, Singapore has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 16 per cent below 2020 business-as-usual (BAU) levels if there is a legally-binding global agreement for all countries.

Ahead of that, Singapore has embarked on policies and measures to reduce emissions by 7 per cent to 11 per cent below 2020 BAU levels.

Singapore is also studying how its economic strategies and industrial structure can best respond to and take advantage of a low-carbon future.

He said Singapore can act as a test-bed for innovative best practices in urban management and sustainability, and has been actively sharing experiences and expertise in green development with other developing countries.

Rounding off his speech, Dr Balakrishnan called all countries to build a durable, balanced framework to strengthen the multilateral, rules-based system and secure a safer, more resilient future for all.

- CNA/xq

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Malaysia-Singapore high speed rail project on track

The Star 21 Nov 13;

PROPOSED talks have been scheduled next month between Malaysia and Singapore to get the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail link project back on track, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri said here.

She said the talks, which had been initially set for October, were postponed to next month.

“Negotiations on the high speed rail link project between Malaysia and Singapore will centre on technical and legal issues including financing and policies,” she said when answering a question raised by Wong Chen (PKR-Kelana Jaya).

However, she said, finer details of the proposed rail link were still not finalised pending discussions between the two countries.

To a supplementary question by Wee Ka Siong (BN-Ayer Hitam), Nancy said the rail link would pass through the Klang Valley, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor and on to Singapore.

Wee suggested that proper engineering planning is done to ensure the feasibility of project, to avoid technical problems such as that affecting the earlier proposed Kunming-Singapore Railway link.

Earlier this year, Malaysia and Singapore announced plans for the rail link, which is expected to cut land travelling time between the two countries to just 90 minutes.

The project, targeted to be completed by 2020, is expected to cost about RM40bil. Several local and foreign firms have been reported to have started talks to form consortiums to bid for the project.

The firms are MMC Corp Bhd, which may team up with Gamuda Bhd and Chinese and European system integrators and YTL Corp Bhd with Spanish bullet trainmaker Talgo or CAF.

Later Wong told reporters that Malaysia should insist that the Singapore government pays at least 50% of the costs for the high speed train project.

“All high speed train studies show that in two connecting cities, the bigger city becomes more prosperous.

“Since Singapore is the bigger city here, it will stand to benefit substantially through this project,” he said.

Wong also called for a joint management of the train service, and implementation of the high procurement standards of the Singapore government, in managing the high speed rail.

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Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions

Chevron, Exxon and BP among companies most responsible for climate change since dawn of industrial age, figures show

Interactive - which fossil fuel companies are most responsible?

Suzanne Goldenberg The Guardian 20 Nov 13;

The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.

The companies range from investor-owned firms – household names such as Chevron, Exxon and BP – to state-owned and government-run firms.

The analysis, which was welcomed by the former vice-president Al Gore as a "crucial step forward" found that the vast majority of the firms were in the business of producing oil, gas or coal, found the analysis, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Climatic Change.

"There are thousands of oil, gas and coal producers in the world," climate researcher and author Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado said. "But the decision makers, the CEOs, or the ministers of coal and oil if you narrow it down to just one person, they could all fit on a Greyhound bus or two."

Half of the estimated emissions were produced just in the past 25 years – well past the date when governments and corporations became aware that rising greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of coal and oil were causing dangerous climate change.

Many of the same companies are also sitting on substantial reserves of fossil fuel which – if they are burned – puts the world at even greater risk of dangerous climate change.

Climate change experts said the data set was the most ambitious effort so far to hold individual carbon producers, rather than governments, to account.

The United Nations climate change panel, the IPCC, warned in September that at current rates the world stood within 30 years of exhausting its "carbon budget" – the amount of carbon dioxide it could emit without going into the danger zone above 2C warming. The former US vice-president and environmental champion, Al Gore, said the new carbon accounting could re-set the debate about allocating blame for the climate crisis.

Leaders meeting in Warsaw for the UN climate talks this week clashed repeatedly over which countries bore the burden for solving the climate crisis – historic emitters such as America or Europe or the rising economies of India and China.

Gore in his comments said the analysis underlined that it should not fall to governments alone to act on climate change.

"This study is a crucial step forward in our understanding of the evolution of the climate crisis. The public and private sectors alike must do what is necessary to stop global warming," Gore told the Guardian. "Those who are historically responsible for polluting our atmosphere have a clear obligation to be part of the solution."

Between them, the 90 companies on the list of top emitters produced 63% of the cumulative global emissions of industrial carbon dioxide and methane between 1751 to 2010, amounting to about 914 gigatonne CO2 emissions, according to the research. All but seven of the 90 were energy companies producing oil, gas and coal. The remaining seven were cement manufacturers.

The list of 90 companies included 50 investor-owned firms – mainly oil companies with widely recognised names such as Chevron, Exxon, BP , and Royal Dutch Shell and coal producers such as British Coal Corp, Peabody Energy and BHP Billiton.

Some 31 of the companies that made the list were state-owned companies such as Saudi Arabia's Saudi Aramco, Russia's Gazprom and Norway's Statoil.

Nine were government run industries, producing mainly coal in countries such as China, the former Soviet Union, North Korea and Poland, the host of this week's talks.

Experts familiar with Heede's research and the politics of climate change said they hoped the analysis could help break the deadlock in international climate talks.

"It seemed like maybe this could break the logjam," said Naomi Oreskes, professor of the history of science at Harvard. "There are all kinds of countries that have produced a tremendous amount of historical emissions that we do not normally talk about. We do not normally talk about Mexico or Poland or Venezuela. So then it's not just rich v poor, it is also producers v consumers, and resource rich v resource poor."

Michael Mann, the climate scientist, said he hoped the list would bring greater scrutiny to oil and coal companies' deployment of their remaining reserves. "What I think could be a game changer here is the potential for clearly fingerprinting the sources of those future emissions," he said. "It increases the accountability for fossil fuel burning. You can't burn fossil fuels without the rest of the world knowing about it."

Others were less optimistic that a more comprehensive accounting of the sources of greenhouse gas emissions would make it easier to achieve the emissions reductions needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.

John Ashton, who served as UK's chief climate change negotiator for six years, suggested that the findings reaffirmed the central role of fossil fuel producing entities in the economy.

"The challenge we face is to move in the space of not much more than a generation from a carbon-intensive energy system to a carbonneutral energy system. If we don't do that we stand no chance of keeping climate change within the 2C threshold," Ashton said.

"By highlighting the way in which a relatively small number of large companies are at the heart of the current carbon-intensive growth model, this report highlights that fundamental challenge."

Meanwhile, Oreskes, who has written extensively about corporate-funded climate denial, noted that several of the top companies on the list had funded the climate denial movement.

"For me one of the most interesting things to think about was the overlap of large scale producers and the funding of disinformation campaigns, and how that has delayed action," she said.

The data represents eight years of exhaustive research into carbon emissions over time, as well as the ownership history of the major emitters.

The companies' operations spanned the globe, with company headquarters in 43 different countries. "These entities extract resources from every oil, natural gas and coal province in the world, and process the fuels into marketable products that are sold to consumers on every nation on Earth," Heede writes in the paper.

The largest of the investor-owned companies were responsible for an outsized share of emissions. Nearly 30% of emissions were produced just by the top 20 companies, the research found.

By Heede's calculation, government-run oil and coal companies in the former Soviet Union produced more greenhouse gas emissions than any other entity – just under 8.9% of the total produced over time. China came a close second with its government-run entities accounting for 8.6% of total global emissions.

ChevronTexaco was the leading emitter among investor-owned companies, causing 3.5% of greenhouse gas emissions to date, with Exxon not far behind at 3.2%. In third place, BP caused 2.5% of global emissions to date.

The historic emissions record was constructed using public records and data from the US department of energy's Carbon Dioxide Information and Analysis Centre, and took account of emissions all along the supply chain.

The centre put global industrial emissions since 1751 at 1,450 gigatonnes.

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What 11 Billion People Mean for Food Security

Rachael Rettner Yahoo News 20 Nov 13;

Editor's note: By the end of this century, Earth may be home to 11 billion people, the United Nations has estimated, earlier than previously expected. As part of a week-long series, LiveScience is exploring what reaching this population milestone might mean for our planet, from our ability to feed that many people to our impact on the other species that call Earth home to our efforts to land on other planets. Check back here each day for the next installment.

Beetles, scorpions and other insects may not be found on most restaurant menus — at least in the Western world — but they may need to find a place in human diets, if society is to feed the world's booming population.

At least that's one solution, albeit an unconventional one, offered up in a 200-page-plus report released in May by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, in which the group outlined the potential of edible insects to help alleviate food insecurity in the present and future.

"To meet the food and nutrition challenges of today — there are nearly 1 billion chronically hungry people worldwide — and tomorrow, what we eat and how we produce it needs to be re-evaluated," the report reads. "We need to find new ways of growing food."

Although eating insects may sound like a strange prospect to some people, such broad-minded thinking may be necessary at a time when human population growth shows no signs of slowing down.

The world's population is projected to hit 11 billion by 2100, and exactly how the planet will feed this growing population is one of the biggest questions society faces in the coming years, experts say. The new 2100 population estimate, released in a new U.N. report in June, is 800 million more people than previously predicted by that time. Much of the increase is due to birthrates in Africa not falling as quickly as expected. [What 11 Billion People Mean for the Planet]

However, the world's future food security is not a simple matter of producing more food. Rather, food security relies upon a number of intertwining factors, including population size, climate change, food production, food utilization (for things like animal feed and biofuels) and prices, experts say. Humans also have to pay close attention to their use of the Earth's resources, or risk making the situation worse, according to the World Resource Institute, a nonprofit organization that aims to protect the Earth for current and future generations.

Experts agree the planet can definitely produce enough food for 11 billion people, but whether humans can do it sustainably, and whether consumers will ultimately be able to afford that food, are not guarantees. Feeding the growing population will likely require a number of different strategies — from creating new crop varieties and reducing food waste to, yes, eating insects — with efforts from governments, farmers, the private sector and consumers themselves.

"The world's facing a great balancing act," said Craig Hanson, director of the People & Ecosystems Program at WRI. "On the one hand, the world needs to feed more people," Hanson said. "At the same time, you want agriculture to continue to advance economic and social development. And we've got to reduce agriculture's impact on the environment." There's no easy way to meet all of those demands, Hanson added.


To feed just 9 billion people (the estimated population in 2050) would require a 60 percent increase in the number of food calories available for human consumption, according to WRI, based in Washington, D.C. When taking into account food needed to feed livestock, the world needs to increase crop production by 103 percent, or 6,000 trillion calories per year, according to WRI, which released a series of reports this year about the world's food security future.

One obstacle to increasing food production will be climate change, which is predicted to reduce crop yields in certain parts of the world. A 2009 study published in the journal Science found that, in 2100, regions in the tropics and subtropics are very likely to experience unprecedentedly warm temperatures during the growing season, reducing crop yields in the tropics by 20 to 40 percent. About 3 billion people, or nearly half the world's population, live in the tropics and subtropics, and the population in these regions is growing faster than anywhere else, the researchers said.

Extreme weather events, such as heavy rains and flooding, as well as drastic changes in weather in a short period will also pose challenges for crop production, said Walter Falcon, deputy director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University.

Falcon pointed out that while U.S. agriculture was affected by drought in 2012 — the most extensive drought since the 1950s — farmers had to contend with the opposite, heavy rains, this year. Rains can prevent farmers from planting their crops at the optimal time, or prevent them from planting altogether in certain areas that are flooded, said Falcon, who owns a farm in Iowa that was hit by the drought.

Changes to the food supply — which can occur when crop production is reduced by extreme weather events or when countries designate a portion of food crops to be turned into fuel, like the United States does with 40 percent of its non-exported corn crop — can push up food prices and affect people's ability to afford food. Using corn to produce ethanol has caused corn prices to increase, Falcon said.

In the midst of last year's drought, corn prices rose 50 percent, to $8 a bushel. Because corn is also used for animal feed, an increase in corn prices can affect the cost of other foods. "Corn is kind of a linchpin commodity," Falcon said. Most experts don't think the United States will increase the amount of corn that goes to ethanol in the near future, but over the course of the century, that could change, Falcon said.

Improving trade cooperation

To continue to feed a growing population in light of the food shortages that are likely to occur with climate change, global crop production in the future will have to be much more coordinated than it is today, said Jason Clay, an expert in natural resources management at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

"We're going to have to work to make sure that we have a global food system that takes care of everybody," Clay said. Because extreme weather events may cause crop yields to be destroyed in certain parts of the world in a given year, such a system should be able to shift food from areas that have plenty to those that have less, Clay said. [Can the World Feed 11 Billion People? (Infographic)]

Falcon agreed. Currently, certain restrictions on trade exist that may prove problematic in the future, such as when countries ban exports if their crop production is down. The idea that each country should be self-sufficient in food production is not the answer, Falcon said.

"In a world of lots of [climate] variation, there is a lot of work to be done in getting trade flows straightened out," Falcon said.

Reduce food waste

Another strategy to help ensure food security in a world with so many hungry mouths to feed is to simply reduce food waste. One out of every four calories that's produced for human consumption today is lost or wasted, according to WRI. (Food loss refers to food that spoils, spills, etc., before it reaches the consumer, while food waste refers to food that is discarded by the consumer, either when it is still edible, or after it spoils due to negligence, according to WRI.) The average American household loses $1,600 a year on wasted food, Hanson said.

Some 56 percent of global food loss and waste occurs in the developed world — particularly in North America and Oceania, where about 1,500 calories are lost or wasted per person per day, WRI reported. In developed countries, the majority of food is wasted at the consumption stage, whereas in developing countries, most food loss occurs during production, handling and storage.

A number of changes could reduce food loss and waste around the world. For example, better storage facilities on farms in Africa — and even putting harvested crops in plastic storage bags — would reduce the amount of food that falls victim to pests there, Hanson said.

And using simple plastic crates — instead of bags and sacks — to transport food to market can reduce food damage, such as bruising and smashing, that would otherwise cause goods to be inedible. Introducing plastic crates to farmers in a town in Afghanistan — a $60,000 project sponsored by the nonprofit international development organization CNFA — reduced tomato losses from 50 percent to 5 percent, according to WRI.

At home, Americans can reduce the amount of food they throw away, perhaps by eating leftovers, or not preparing more food than they'll need for a given meal, Hanson said.

Americans also commonly have misperceptions about the meaning of labels with dates on foods, and may throw away food before it has really "gone bad," according to a WRI report. These labels, which typically read "sell-by," "best if used by" or "use-by," refer to the quality or flavor of the food, but not to food safety (whether the food would cause someone to be sick). "So while food that has passed its 'sell-by' date might be less desirable than newly purchased food, it is often still entirely safe to eat," WRI reported. Governments may be able to help by creating guidelines on what types of labels should appear on packages, and then explaining to consumers what the labels mean, according to WRI.

Eat differently

Even with less wasted food, the world could not support 11 billion people who eat the way Americans do today, said Jamais Cascio, a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future, a think tank in Palo Alto, Calif. Feeding 11 billion people would require a different diet, which may involve eating less meat, or consumers growing more of their own food, Cascio said.

Beef, in particular, is a very unsustainable food to eat, Cascio said. "If we get away from thinking that feeding 11 billion people means giving them all Big Macs and steak sandwiches, then we're at a better starting point," Cascio said. According to an analysis by Cascio, the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the production of cheeseburgers in the United States each year is about equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from 6.5 million to 19.6 million SUVs over a year (There are about 16 million SUVs on U.S. roads, Cascio said.) [6 Ways to Feed 11 Billion People]

Scientists have been working on developing cultured meat, or meat grown in a lab, Cascio said. Earlier this year, researchers in the Netherlands showcased their lab-grown burger, and allowed a taste test. However, right now, the cost is exorbitant (a single burger costs $325,000), and it does not taste exactly like meat (taste-testers said the burger was dry). But with future research, the price is likely to come down, and the product's taste could improve, Cascio said.

And don't forget the insects. Beetles, wasps, grasshoppers and other insects are very efficient at converting the food they eat into body mass, take up very little space and emit fewer greenhouse gases than livestock, according to the U.N.'s FAO report. Although eating insects comes with an "ick factor" for many Westerners, bugs are a part of the diet of about 2 billion people worldwide, according to the report.

Grow differently

Farmers could also focus on growing crops that provide the most calories while using the fewest resources, said Clay, of the WWF. Bananas and plantains are examples of crops that provide a lot of calories compared with the resources it takes to grow them, Clay said.For instance, 1 kilogram of bananas (2.2 lbs.) contains about 1,000 calories, and uses about 500 to 790 liters of water to grow. On the other hand, producing 1,000 calories of beef takes about 5,133 liters of water. (One kilogram of beef contains about 3,000 calories and requires about 15,400 liters of water to produce.)

In addition, crop production in certain parts of the world is not very efficient, Clay said. Efforts should be made to improve crop production in those areas, using the foods that are already grown and eaten by the people there, Clay said. Some native crops — such as pigeon peas and pulses in South Asia, and cowpeas and millet in Africa — have not yet benefited from plant-breeding techniques that could improve productivity, he said.

Innovations from scientists to come up with hardier crops, either through genetic engineering or traditional crop-breeding techniques, may also help protect against crop losses in the future due to extreme weather conditions, said Tim Thomas, an economist at the Washington, D.C.-based International Food Policy Research Institute, an international nonprofit organization that aims to find sustainable solutions for ending world hunger and poverty.

"You could picture developing varieties that are resilient to more than one shock," Thomas said, referring to varying weather and climate conditions, such as rains, flooding and heat.

Such a strategy would be similar to the one employed in the green revolution, in which research and development was used to increase crop production worldwide from the 1940s to 1970s.But this time, humans will have to work with the land they have, rather than bringing new land into production, Thomas said. Improving crop varieties will help use land more efficiently, he said.

"We need a new green revolution," Thomas said.

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$280m forests initiative launched at UN climate talks in Warsaw

UK, US and Norway to fund drive to save world's forests and encourage sustainable agriculture to cut deforestation
Fiona Harvey and John Vidal in Warsaw 20 Nov 13;

A new $280m (£173m) initiative to help save the world's remaining forests was launched by the UK, the US and Norway at the United Nations climate change talks in Warsaw on Wednesday.

The money is aimed at encouraging the sustainable use of land, including ensuring that fewer forests are lost to agriculture – the biggest cause of deforestation – and that there is a market for sustainably produced forestry goods, including food, fibre and timber.

Norway is earmarking up to $135m, the UK $120 million and the US $25m for the first year.

But the contributors to the fund acknowledged that the money was not new, as it came from existing climate aid budgets. The plan, called BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes, is aimed at kickstarting the Redd+ scheme, for the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, which has been in the works for more than six years but is still not fully operational. The World Bank will be involved in its implementation.

Ed Davey, the UK energy and climate change secretary, told the conference: "Our global forests are the lungs of the world, and protecting them is fundamental for our survival. When we hand these forests to future generations, we must be able to say we exercised our stewardship wisely and responsibly. This century, tree-cover the size of Greenland has been destroyed by logging, fire, disease and storms. We have the opportunity now to pull forests back from the brink – reducing emissions and safeguarding the wildlife, agriculture and other livelihoods that depend on the forests. We must not let that opportunity pass us by."

John Kerry, US secretary of state, speaking by video link, said: [This is a] critical new tool to help us meet our responsibilities to future generations. It will help countries make progress on sustainable land use practices. The United States stands with willing partners in the fight against global climate change and I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure a more secure future, not only forested countries but for the entire planet that we share."

Davey said that one new aspect of the initiative was that it would work with the private sector to promote the sustainable use of forest products.

Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever, said: "This is exactly the type of initiative that we are delighted to support. We need to find new forms of public private partnership to address global challenges such as deforestation. Multilaterals like the World Bank play a critical role in catalysing these new business models and Unilever is interested to learn how we can participate and partner with the Bio Carbon Fund."

Some green campaigners welcomed the initiative, but said it did not go far enough, as tens of billions of pounds are needed for Redd+ to work effectively.

Josefina Brana-Varela of WWF said: "The announcement by top donor countries to fund the new joint Redd+ programme, the Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes, with $280m committed so far, is a great example of nations coming together to address climate change in ways that benefit people and nature, but more needs to be done. WWF's expectation is that nations fulfill their promise of $100bn per year from both public and private sources by 2020."

She added: "The announcement, though, sends an important and strong signal that some key nations are willing to work together to both fund and implement Redd+ ... action that needs to be embraced by other [countries] in order to achieve broad agreement on a Redd+ finance architecture."

However, Asad Rehman, head of International Climate, Friends

of the Earth EWNI said: "This money is the clearest choice in favour of dirty energy we've seen so far in Warsaw. Rather than investing in the transition to renewable energy at home and abroad, these countries are investing in establishing the conditions for discredited and ineffective 'forest carbon credits'

"We face a planetary emergency – the solution is not in continuing business at usual at home and generating false 'credits' from forestry, it is making the shift to clean energy technologies, while also protecting forests and forest dependent communities through improved forest governance and protecting rights to land and resources."

Brandon Wu, senior policy analyst of ActionAid International said: "No new or additional climate finance has been announced at this event. Non-additional and repackaged finance provided in an ad-hoc manner through bilateral initiatives does not move us towards our long term finance goals."

'Signature' achievement on forests at UN climate talks
Matt McGrath BBC News 22 Nov 13;

Nations meeting in Warsaw at UN talks have agreed a significant step forward towards curbing emissions from deforestation.

A package of measures has been agreed here that will give "results-based" payments to developing nations that cut carbon by leaving trees standing.

One observer told the BBC that this was the "signature achievement" of these talks.

Deforestation accounts for about 20% of global emissions of carbon dioxide.

Earlier this week the UK, US, Norway and Germany agreed a $280m package of finance that will be managed by the World Bank's BioCarbon fund to promote more sustainable use of land.

Now negotiators have agreed a package of decisions that will reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus pro-forest acitivities (known as Redd+).

The conference agreed a "results based" payments system that means that countries with forests will have to provide information on safeguards for local communities or biodiversity before they can receive any money.

'Thrilling' outcome
The delegates agreed to finalise the technical requirements and establish a process to allocate money.

According to Paul Bledsoe, an energy research fellow at the German Marshall Fund, who is attending the talks, it is a significant step.

"The ministers have been working for almost 10 years to finalise the rules which will allow donors to invest in forest management practices in the developing world and get a way to verify the emissions reductions," he said.

"I think this agreement allowing for investments in forests in developing countries is probably the signature achievement of these talks."

This view was echoed by Pipa Elias from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

With the technical and financing decisions signed and sealed at today's plenary, the Redd+ house is built, though there will be a bit more work in terms of furnishing it.

"The biggest issue is that developed countries still need to ante up the $20-$35bn a year necessary for a global Redd+ programme. But, in the meantime, developing countries can get started now. We couldn't be more thrilled with this outcome," she said.

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Warming seen worse as nations fail to meet carbon goals

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 21 Nov 13;

The world is getting further off track in limiting global warming with setbacks in Japan and Australia outweighing positive signals from the United States and China, a study showed on Wednesday.

A Climate Action Tracker compiled by scientists said the world was headed for a temperature rise of 3.7 degrees Celsius (6.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times by 2100, against 3.1C (5.8F) if governments stuck to promised cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Governments meeting in Warsaw from November 11-22 are trying to find ways to limit global warming to an agreed ceiling of less than 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels to avert more heatwaves, droughts, downpours and rising sea levels.

"We are seeing a major risk of a further downward spiral in ambition, a retreat from action, and a re-carbonization of the energy system led by the use of coal," said Bill Hare, director of Climate Analytics.

Wednesday's study, by Climate Analytics, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Ecofys, said Japan's decision last week to ease its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions goals made it harder to reach the global 2C goal.

Japan said its original emissions goal of a 25 percent cut below 1990 levels was out of reach after its nuclear power industry was shuttered by the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The new goal is for a maximum 3 percent rise.

Australia's new policies, shifting from an emissions trading scheme, would also marginally raise emissions, adding to a problem that many nations were failing to stick to curbs on emissions agreed in 2009.

"These negative signals tend to outweigh some positive signals," the study said, noting that U.S. President Barack Obama had outlined tougher action and that China was, for instance, banning coal-fired power plants in some areas.

In September, the U.N. panel of climate scientists said that world temperature rises were headed to exceed 2.0C under most of its scenarios. It said that limiting warming would require "substantial and sustained" cuts in emissions.

The panel also raised the probability that human activities are the main cause of warming since 1950 to 95 percent, up from 90 percent in its previous assessment in 2007.

The Warsaw talks are meant to lay the groundwork for a global deal in 2015 to combat climate change.

But many developed governments are focusing more on reviving weak economic growth than cutting their greenhouse gas emissions, while developing nations led by China and India insist that the rich have to take the lead.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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Poor countries walk out of UN climate talks as compensation row rumbles on

Bloc of 132 countries exit Warsaw conference after rich nations refuse to discuss climate change recompense until after 2015
John Vidal 20 Nov 13;

Representatives of most of the world's poor countries have walked out of increasingly fractious climate negotiations after the EU, Australia, the US and other developed countries insisted that the question of who should pay compensation for extreme climate events be discussed only after 2015.

The orchestrated move by the G77 and China bloc of 132 countries came during talks about "loss and damage" – how countries should respond to climate impacts that are difficult or impossible to adapt to, such as typhoon Haiyan.

Saleemul Huq, the scientist whose work on loss and damage helped put the issue of recompense on the conference agenda, said: "Discussions were going well in a spirit of co-operation, but at the end of the session on loss and damage Australia put everything agreed into brackets, so the whole debate went to waste."

Australia was accused of not taking the negotiations seriously. "They wore T-shirts and gorged on snacks throughout the negotiation. That gives some indication of the manner they are behaving in," said a spokeswoman for Climate Action Network.

After a three hour delay in the negotiatons,while countries debated what to do in private, talks resumed. "[The walkout] helped to clear the air. They know we are serious," said one lead negotiator, who denied developing countries were "grandstanding."

Developing countries have demanded that a new UN institution be set up to oversee compensation but rich countries have been dismissive, blocking calls for a full debate in the climate talks.

"The EU understands that the issue is incredibly important for developing countries. But they should be careful about … creating a new institution. This is not [what] this process needs," said Connie Hedegaard, EU climate commissioner.

She ruled out their most important demand, insisting: "We cannot have a system where we have automatic compensation when severe events happen around the world. That is not feasible."

The G77 and China group, which is due to give a press conference on Wednesday to explain the walkout, has made progress on loss and damage, which it says is a "red line" issue. It claims to be unified with similar blocs including the Least Developed Countries, Alliance of Small Island States and the Africa Group of negotiators.

Hedegaard poured cold water on last week's related proposal by Brazil, that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change be asked to find a way to quantify each country's historical emissions of greenhouse gases in order to help countries establish the level of future emission cuts.

Debate on the issue has been rejected by rich countries, which fear it could lead to unacceptable costs.

Hedegaard conceded that rich countries had a special responsibility to cut emissions. "The whole financing discussion reflects that the developed world knows it has special responsibility. Most of what has been emitted has been done by us," she said.

Harjeet Singh, ActionAid Internatonal's spokesman on disaster risk, said: "The US, EU, Australia and Norway remain blind to the climate reality that's hitting us all, and poor people and countries much harder. They continue to derail negotiations in Warsaw that can create a new system to deal with new types of loss and damage such as sea-level rise, loss of territory, biodiversity and other non-economic losses more systematically."

Australian ambassador Justin Lee, who is heading Australia's delegation following its decision not to send a minister to the talks, rejected criticism the country had been obstructive during negotiations, in particular related to possible financial commitments.

"Australia is engaging in negotiations constructively," Lee said. "Australia wants progress on negotiation of an agreement that sets up effective global action based on broad participation. Major economies and Australia's key trading partners will need to participate and Australia will move in step with them, protecting our competitiveness."

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Edinburgh forum says putting value on nature could save it

Claire Marshall BBC News 20 Nov 13;

Business leaders and environmentalists say putting an economic value on nature could be the best way to save it.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond will be among those speaking at the first World Forum on Natural Capital in Edinburgh later.

The event has been organised by the Scottish Wildlife Trust in partnership with the UN and other organisations.

The concept of "natural capital" involves businesses calculating the economic value of nature.

This allows an assessment of companies' financial impact on the environment. This data is used to make strategic decisions that conserve the natural raw materials they rely on, to ensure the future growth of the business.

The forum, being attended by senior business leaders and conservationists, is considering a new kind of economics, according to Alan McGill from accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers.

"Chief executives used to roll their eyes at the subject matter, but when you get Paul Polman who's running Unilever standing up and saying that climate change is costing his business £250m a year, that's time to wake up, that's time to do something, that's time to innovate," he told BBC News.

"We will see changes from top to toe in organisations. I believe the chief financial officer will disappear, and you will have the chief information officer.

"It's taken around 150 years for accountants and governments to agree how financially to measure performance. We're now in the process of doing the same for non-financial information, looking at the environment and understanding how to value it.

"It won't take us 150 years to do that, because we haven't got 150 years to do it."

Jonathan Hughes, director of conservation at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said that species were continuing to go extinct at an unprecedented rate. "The true value of nature has been invisible and has not been factored in," he added.

He gave the example of the recent storm in the Philippines, where mangrove forests that would have helped to protect many of the islands have been cut down.

"If sold for wood the value of mangrove is £1,000 per hectare. But if you factor in storm protection, the fact fish use them to breed in, the carbon they absorb - the mangroves are worth around £21,000 per hectare to the local communities," Mr Hughes explained. Such unrecognised benefits are sometimes referred to as "ecosystem services".

An increasing number of multinationals from B&Q to Harley Davidson are now starting to see the environment in terms of natural capital.

Kering, the company that owns brands such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, is examining how the environment impacts the whole group, for example where the leather and precious metals used in these products are sourced.

"The planet is changing - it's climate change, it's social change. So you can't do business as usual any more," said Michael Beutler, Kering's sustainability operations director

"We need to reflect that change. It's the new business paradigm. You need to think about natural resources."

However, there are environmental groups that believe that monetising nature will only damage it.

The World Development Movement views it as "The Great Nature Sale".

Nick Dearden told BBC News: "I don't know many people who believe that the financial markets will be able to solve the environmental crisis.

"I would argue the very reverse, actually. What we need to do is remove finance from nature and indeed remove finance from many of the places it is in the world today, and think about nature as something that cannot have a price put on it, and that's why it needs to be held in common by all of us."

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