Best of our wild blogs: 30 Mar 14

#18 Pulau Ubin (Offshore Island) – Naked Hermit Crabs walk
from My Nature Experiences

Night Walk At Admiralty Park (28 Mar 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Nature Ways in Singapore
from Butterflies of Singapore

How do the professionals deal with oil spills?
from wild shores of singapore

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Choa Chu Kang Park pilots '3G community garden'

Channel NewsAsia 29 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: Forging community bonds -- across generations, and between residents -- will be the goal, as Choa Chu Kang Park pilots the concept of a "three-generation community garden".

An extension of seven hectares of recreational space to the park aims to boost the spirit of fostering multi-generational ties.

It features facilities for people of all ages, allowing families to use it together.

Visiting the park on Saturday morning, Minister for Health and MP for the area Gan Kim Yong said this is a unique feature of a three-generation park.

Another special feature, he said, is the three-generation community garden.

So far, about 80 residents have signed up to help out.

Mr Gan said he hopes this 3G concept can be replicated in other parks.

"This is a new concept, and we hope NParks will continue to develop this concept further, and using this as a pilot site to develop this idea, and when it works, we will replicate in other parks.

"Through this 3G living park, we hope to be able to encourage families to come together, to spend time together, to strengthen their bond to get to know each other better, and to also enjoy, relax in the park together," he said.

- CNA/de

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Lights off for Earth Hour in Singapore

Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 29 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: Earth Hour came to Singapore, and was observed for an hour from 8.30pm on Saturday.

The environmental campaign saw record participation from 350 organisations, who pledged to switch off their lights in their bid to help save the planet.

At the flagship event in Singapore was Earth Hour's global super hero ambassador Spider-Man.

Lending star power to the celebrations were the cast of the "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" -- Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Jamie Foxx.

They helped to switch off the lights at over 60 iconic structures across the Marina Bay skyline.

Members of the public too joined in the fun while learning about the use of sustainable energy sources.

In the activity, Energy Floors, they showed off their dance moves on a huge mat that converts kinetic energy from footwork into electricity.

Joining other organisations in supporting Earth Hour was Singapore's leading media company MediaCorp.

Bright digital screens at malls and bus stops were switched off from 8.30pm to 9.30pm.

It is part of an initiative by MediaCorp's outdoor advertising arm, OOH Media, to show its concern for the environment, and encourage the public to save electricity.

OOH media has over 70 digital screens in bus shelters and malls in Singapore.

Malls supporting the initiative include ION Orchard, JCube and The Star Vista.

- CNA/de

Singapore gets set for Earth House
Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE - Property consultant Ho Wai Man, 54, leads a team that has worked since 2009 to trim his condominium's use of resources by reducing the number of lights and turning off water features during dry spells.

He also tries to make his neighbours at Floravale more environmentally aware; so, tomorrow, residents of the Jurong West condominium will take part in Earth Hour for the second time. About 300 to 400 of them are expected to attend a low-key, candle-lit get-together by the pool. Last year, about 200 people turned up.

The neighbourhood is among a handful taking part in the annual event, which was started in 2007 by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Sydney.

Neighbourhoods in West Coast, Hong Kah, Tampines West and Simei will mark Earth Hour by asking residents to switch off their lights between 8.30pm and 9.30pm tomorrow, and attend community get-togethers. At Woodlands and Marine Parade, star gazing has been organised.

Companies and organisations are also getting in on the act. The i Light Marina Bay light show will go dark for the hour, as will 63 buildings around Marina Bay, including the ArtScience Museum.

Supermarket chain FairPrice will turn off non-essential lights at its 120 outlets between 8.30pm and closing time. Its 24-hour stores will forgo lights until 7am.

More than 5,000 people are expected to be at The Float @ Marina Bay from 5pm tomorrow, as Earth Hour is celebrated with music performances and a carnival.

Globally, buildings like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates will go dark for an hour.

Property company CapitaLand Group said non-essential lights will be turned off for the hour or more in its 230 buildings in 20 countries. Last year, about 345 million people in more than 154 countries and 7,000 cities marked Earth Hour. The event's carbon footprint will be monitored and offset against carbon purchases, said the WWF.

But Earth Hour was always meant to go beyond the day's festivities. It "started out as a lights-off campaign, but always dreamed of being something much bigger", said Earth Hour Global co-founder Andy Ridley.

WWF Singapore chief executive Elaine Tan said people here are asked to pledge to raise air- conditioning by 1 deg C, use lower-energy LED lights and fewer plastic bags and take shorter showers. About 20,000 such pledges are expected this year, 43 per cent more than the 14,000 made last year. These include pledges by Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Post and furniture giant Ikea.

Awareness is crucial as Singapore's carbon footprint increases with the size of its economy. So how effective is Earth Hour?

Assistant Professor Sonny Rosenthal, an expert on environmental communication at Nanyang Technological University, said: "It's probably one of the best-known environmental campaigns, involving millions of people around the world every year.

"So in terms of name recognition and getting people to do that one little environmental action, it's very successful."

But that may not necessarily translate into more, he said.

Still, Earth Hour can help community members like Mr Ho introduce others to sustainable behaviour, added Prof Rosenthal.

Lights off for Earth Hour's global crowdfunding call
AFP AsiaOne 29 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE - Lights went off in thousands of cities and towns across the world on Saturday for the annual Earth Hour campaign, which is aiming to raise money via the Internet for local environmental projects.

The Singapore-based campaign by conservation group WWF was boosted by Hollywood star power, with "The Amazing Spiderman-2" stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Jamie Foxx leading ceremonies at the city-state's Marina Bay district.

Comic-book hero Spiderman is this year's "ambassador" for Earth Hour, which was launched in Sydney in 2007.

Sydney's Opera House and Harbour Bridge were among the first landmarks around the world to dim their lights for 60 minutes during Saturday's event.

An estimated 7,000 cities and towns from New Zealand to New York are taking part.

Hong Kong's stunning waterfront skyline was unrecognisable on Saturday evening, with the city's tallest skyscraper, the International Commerce Centre, stripped of the vast light show usually wrapped around its 118 stories.

Blazing neon signs advertising some of the world's largest brands were shut off, leaving the view of the heavily vertical southern Chinese city peppered only with tiny lights from buildings' interiors.

Earth Hour partnered with payments giant PayPal to allow donors to contribute to specific projects from Russia and India to Canada and Indonesia, using Asian fundraising site Crowdonomic.

Earth Hour chief executive Andy Ridley said before the lights went off in Singapore that the event had moved beyond symbolism to concrete action.

"If you want to get real social change you need to have symbolism," he told AFP.

"We are seeing some really big outcomes."

Projects under the "Earth Hour Blue" crowdfunding scheme - which aim to raise more than $650,000 in total - include a turtle centre in Italy and funding for forest rangers in Indonesia.

The event is being marked in more than 150 countries, organisers said, estimating that thousands of cities and towns would have taken part by the time the ceremonies began in Singapore.

The projects seeking crowdfunding include a 24,000-dollar effort in the Philippines to bring fibreglass boat technology to coastal communities affected by super typhoon Haiyan in November last year.

In Nepal, $100,000 is being sought for a programme called "A Flame Called Hope" to provide access to biogas energy for 150 households in the Terai region, reducing the need for wood as fuel and helping protect the habitat of endangered wildlife, according to the Earth Hour website.

Spiderman-2 star Garfield told journalists that he was a personal supporter of the Nepal project.

"What they are doing is turning waste into energy, it's like the cycle of life right there, if only everyone knew how simple it was," he said.

Earth Hour will see other landmarks including the Empire State Building in New York, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow switch off their lights for an hour starting at 8:30 pm local time on Saturday.

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Water-efficient washing machines get a big tick

Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Mar 14;

Consumers here are buying more of the most water-efficient washing machines.

The more "ticks" a machine has, the more efficient it is. A three-tick washer uses less water per kilo of laundry than one with two ticks, and so on.

From October 2012 to September 2013, consumers here bought 79,309 three-tick washing machines, up from 55,174 the year before - a rise of nearly 44 per cent, according to figures from national water agency PUB.

The market share of three-tick washing machines sold here went from 37 to 54 per cent in that time period. Products must be certified by accredited testing firms.

Currently, six in 10 of the washing machine models available in the market are three-tick ones.

Ms Elsa Khoo, 28, who lives with her husband in a four-room HDB flat at Punggol Walk, said: "We purchased a three-tick washing machine when we moved into our new flat last year. It helps us to save water and money."

Ms Khoo, a teacher, said she makes sure to wash full loads of clothing to conserve energy, and also saves the rinse water to flush the toilet with.

Laundry is the third most water-intensive activity in households here, soaking up 19 per cent of the average household's water use. Showers and washing in the kitchen sink make up 29 per cent and 22 per cent respectively.

Meanwhile, the least water-efficient washing machines on the market will be phased out from April 1. Only washers with one or more ticks can be sold.

On average, a zero-tick machine uses 25 litres of water per kg and a three-tick machine uses just nine.

So for a 7kg load, a three-tick machine will use 112 litres less water than a zero-tick one.

From 2015, the PUB aims to phase out one-tick washing machines as well. Singapore's per capita domestic water consumption is 151 litres a day, and the PUB wants to shrink this footprint to 147 litres by 2020 and 140 litres by 2030.

Household appliances here have carried water and energy efficiency labels for several years to provide clear information for consumers, and minimum performance standards are being gradually tightened in both areas.

Since 2009, taps, mixers, some cisterns and urinals have had to carry water efficiency labels, and washing machines have been required to do so since 2011.

Air-conditioners and fridges have had energy efficiency labels, which go up to four ticks, since 2008. Minimum energy performance standards were introduced in 2011 for air-conditioners and fridges.

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Indonesia: Riau braces for more hotspots, Jambi to face extreme weather

Rizal Harahap and Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post 29 Mar 14;

Dry conditions across Riau in the past few days had created more hotspots, sharply increasing the total number from 219 on Thursday to 777 on Friday, an official said on Friday.

Spokesperson of the Riau haze disaster mitigation task force, Col. Bernard Robert, said that according to the Terra and Aqua satellites, the majority of hotspots were detected in Bengkalis, followed by Rokan Hilir, Siak, Dumai, Indragiri Hilir, Pelalawan, Indragiri Hulu and Meranti Islands.

“Thin haze still covers Riau despite our efforts in fighting [forest and peatland] fires,” Bernard said, adding that the task force had spread a total of 83.5 tons of salt in clouds above the province to induce rain.

“We have also called on residents to help extinguish fires and prevent them from reoccurring in their respective regions,” he added.

The Riau provincial administration, Bernard went on, had decided to extend the emergency response period to April 4.

Meanwhile, as of Friday, 102 individual suspects had been arrested for allegedly setting fires to clear land and carrying out illegal logging during the emergency response period. “Six suspects are still at large,” Riau Police spokesperson Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tejo said.

The charges vary and the maximum penalty is 10 years’ imprisonment and a Rp 10 billion (US$881,000) fine.

“The dossiers of 18 cases have already been completed and the suspects will stand trial in the near future,” Guntur said.

Separately, Riau Health Agency head Zainal Arifin confirmed that the air quality in the province had deteriorated in the last few days, saying that the agency had prepared 110,000 masks for distribution.

Meanwhile, Jambi is facing a similar problem as it has been predicted it will experience an extreme dry season this year, which is expected to start in May and end in October, due to the weak El Niño phenomenon that is expected to hit the province.

“This [the phenomenon] will cause extreme dry weather from late May until September. We need to be aware of possible forest fires during this period,” Kurnianingsih of the Jambi Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said on Friday.

Jambi Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Zubaidi AR said that his agency had discussed this issue with other agencies in anticipation of impending dry conditions.

The agency, he added, had also coordinated with the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) to prepare measures to create artificial rain, such as cloud seeding, if it was necessary.

Among the worst-hit areas, according to Zubaidi, are Muaro Jambi, West Tanjung Jabung and East Tanjung Jabung regencies as well as Jambi municipality.

“We have also coordinated with water company PDAM Tirta Matang in anticipation of a possible water shortage,” he said.

Previously, a researcher from the National Aeronautics and Space Institute (Lapan), Didi Satiadi, said data from the Satellite Disaster Early Warning System (Sadewa) had indicated a shift in the dry season, which was predicted to start after April’s transitional season.

“The dry season will start in May, and last till October,” he said. He recommended that nine fire-prone provinces be preemptively put on alert status to anticipate hotspots. The areas are Riau, Jambi, North Sumatra, South Sumatra, Aceh, Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and West Kalimantan.

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South Africa, Vietnam work out Action Plan to combat rhino poaching

Xinhua 29 Mar 14;

PRETORIA, March 28 (Xinhua) -- An action plan has been developed between South Africa and Vietnam in curbing rhino poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, it was announced on Friday.

This emerged from just-concluded discussions in Pretoria on issues related to biodiversity conservation and management, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) said.

The action plan is aimed at promoting cooperation between the two countries in the field of biodiversity management, conservation and protection, law enforcement, technology transfer, and other relevant legislation and international conventions on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.

The commitment by both sides to improving cooperation on biodiversity conservation, especially controlling the illicit trade and poaching of wildlife, including rhino, has formed an important part of the working visit to South Africa by a high level delegation from Vietnam, the DEA said.

The 20-member delegation was headed by Vietnamese Vice Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Bùi Cách Tuyen.

The delegation was briefed on rhino anti-poaching initiatives in the Kruger National Park, one of Africa's biggest game reserves, and were provided an insight into the research and work being undertaken by the non-governmental sector in South Africa to curb rhino poaching.

"Following the robust discussions, agreement was reached to advance the implementation of the Action Plan and to assist South Africa in meeting its international obligations," DEA spokesperson Roopa Singh said.

Pham Anh Cuong, Director of Biodiversity Conservation Agency of Vietnam, said, "Through these discussions we have learnt and exchanged many valuable lessons including that biodiversity management is unified in South Africa, the mobilization and involvement of stakeholders, as well as the establishment of joint management structures to protect biodiversity."

Rising demand for rhino horns in Asia, particularly Vietnam is believed to be the driving force for uncurbed rhino poaching in South Africa. The latest official statistics show that South Africa has lost 233 rhinos since the beginning of this year. Last year, the number of rhinos poached for their horn in South Africa totalled 1004, up from 668 in 2012.

Since 2011, South Africa and Vietnam have been actively engaging on measures to address the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.

In December 2012, Vietnam and South Africa signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to strengthen bilateral cooperation on biodiversity conservation and on concerted efforts to fight poaching and illegal trade in rhino horns and rhinos.

"South Africa and Vietnam recognize the value for both countries to share information, policies and legislation on biodiversity protection and committed to further developing cooperation between the two countries in striving to address international wildlife crime and the conservation and management of biodiversity," Singh said.

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Coral cultivation offers hope to devastated western Indian Ocean reefs

Wanjohi Kabukuru Thomson Reuters Foundation 29 Mar 14;

AMITIE, Seychelles (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Marine scientists in the Seychelles are propagating and replanting corals resistant to bleaching in the hope of replacing destroyed reefs in the western Indian Ocean with ones that are more resilient.

Each workday, Claude Reveret and Sarah Frias-Torres of Nature Seychelles, a not-for-profit environmental organisation, lead a team of scuba divers down to the ocean floor around Praslin, the country’s second-largest island, and the nearby Cousin Island Special Reserve.

There they take part in an unusual undersea gardening project – cultivating corals that have proven resistant to the stress caused by warming water, which has led to the collapse of coral reef systems in the western Indian Ocean.

The large-scale death of coral reefs has exposed the Seychelles to increased erosion and the loss of fisheries that the reefs had harboured. The Indian Ocean island nations of Mauritius and Comoros and the eastern African countries of Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia are also affected.

The restoration project, which began in 2010 with over $700,000 in funding from the US Agency for International Development and the UN Development Programme, “is our response to climate change effects,” says Reveret.

The western Indian Ocean suffered damage to its vast coral ecosystems in 1998 due to El Nino, a periodic atmospheric phenomenon that warms ocean currents. Intense El Ninos in recent decades have been linked by some scientists to climate change.

“Fishermen told us that ‘mawe ya bahari’ (stones of the sea), as they refer to corals, had changed colour,” says Obura, who at that time was studying marine life at the Kiunga Marine National Reserve near the Kenyan-Somali border. “In other words, they were all bleached.”

Frias-Torres explained that coral bleaching occurs when higher than normal water temperatures and bright sunlight cause corals to expel the algae living in their tissues. The bleached coral eventually dies, and it cannot support other life, drastically affecting fisheries.

The effects of the 1998 El Nino were not limited to the Kiunga area. Ninety percent of corals in the western Indian Ocean, from the Mozambique Channel to the Seychelles archipelago and north to the Gulf of Aden, collapsed because of bleaching.

“This coral bleaching was a (wake-up) call,” said Kenyan marine scientist David Obura, who directs the East Africa programme of Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean (CORDIO), based in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa.

“It was probably the first time in recent history that the western Indian Ocean had experienced large-scale climate change effects,” he added.

Research by CORDIO and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), a regional scientific body, has investigated the consequences of coral bleaching to island and coastal communities along the Indian Ocean rim. Coral reefs are not only essential to fisheries but also protect shorelines, reduce beach erosion and help control sea-level rise.

The current restoration efforts in the Seychelles are trying to mitigate the damage by propagating corals from the few coral colonies that managed to withstand the effects of El Nino.


Following an ecosystem survey which identified eight resilient species of coral, fragments of them – called “nubbins” – were chiselled from donor colonies within the Seychelles archipelago and used to establish nurseries around Cousin Island.

“We harvested (the nubbins) and tied them to nylon ropes of 20 metres (65 feet) each,” Reveret said. “We have two types of nurseries, the rope and net nurseries, which make up our coral propagation garden.”

Eight rope nurseries with 40,000 nubbins have so far been established. The nurseries are monitored and the coral cleaned with hard brushes each day to accelerate growth.

“By attaching the ropes into the sea floor ... the corals can sense the sea bed and attach themselves and grow,” Fries-Torres said.

Reveret said corals take from six months to a year to grow to the point where they can be transplanted, depending on the species.

Help also comes from the humphead parrot fish. The fish eat algae that would otherwise stunt coral growth, and their excrement is believed to provide the coral with nutrition.

Nirmal Shah, who heads Nature Seychelles and serves as president of WIOMSA, said the scientists studied similar restoration endeavours in Haifa in Israel and in the Dominican Republic before beginning the reef restoration project four years ago.

“For the last four years we have propagated resistant corals from scratch and in the last few months we have been involved in transplanting them from the garden nurseries to the actual restoration sites,” Shah said.

According to Shah, 11,000 coral colonies, covering an area of about 4,800 square metres, have been transplanted.

“The nursery has been a success so far and we grew more corals than we expected,” he adds.

Although the project is currently limited to the Seychelles, Shah says that Nature Seychelles will share its knowledge and offer training to their western Indian Ocean neighbours.


According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the global benefit accruing from corals stands at $29.5 billion annually. Globally around 500 million people rely on corals for food, livelihoods and coastal defence.

“Coral reefs are one of the most sensitive ecosystems to climate change and the corals in this region have been quite disturbed,” said Tim McClanahan, a senior conservation zoologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Mombasa.

“If reefs and fisheries were better managed they could contribute more to food security,” McClanahan added. “Weak management is undermining their potential.”

Shah concurs with McClanahan and notes that fish catches in the western India Ocean have declined by 20 percent in the last two years.

“We are tied (together) by the Indian Ocean ecosystem, and even though the conservation approaches to climate change responses are different ... they are all aimed at the common good of the sea,” CORDIO’s Obura said.

(Rewriting and editing by James Baer)

Wanjohi Kabukuru is a freelance journalist specialising in environmental affairs and based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Latin America: how climate change will wipe out coffee crops – and farmers

Rising temperatures resulting from climate change are fuelling the growth of rust, a disease ravaging coffee plantations in Central America. We report from Nicaragua's Jinotega hills, where starving villagers are desperate to save their livelihoods
Alex Renton The Observer The Guardian 30 Mar 14;

Under the coffee bushes, Rosibel and Benjamín Fijardo are on their knees, scraping carefully through a litter of dead leaves and dried mud. They are scavenging for stray coffee berries, fallen when the harvesters went through the plantation last week. After 20 minutes, Benjamín has a plastic cup half full. The beans look grey and mouldy, but he says they can be dried and sold. He returns to the work: "This is how we will feed our family for the next two months. By pecking like chickens!"

For two million or more coffee workers and small farmers across Central America, the "hungry season" is beginning. It's always a thin time before crops ripen, but with this winter's coffee harvest down 50% or more on normal, for the second year running, hunger, malnutrition and debt are new curses for hundreds of thousands.

Candida Rosa Piñeda, who owns this little plantation in the village of Atuna Uno, says she has not earned enough this year to buy a new pair of shoes. And she needs to replace most of her disease-damaged coffee bushes.

The disease that has brought these calamities to the pretty hills of Jinotega, in Nicaragua's central highlands, is new to most of the farmers I meet. They call it roya, rust. It is ugly. First, parts of the arabica bush's glossy green leaves turn a dirty orange. Then dark dead patches appear and become holes. The infection spreads to the ripening berries, turning them from bright red to a zombie-skin grey.

Trees can be saved, but they need to be carefully pruned and, just as carefully, treated with chemicals. The chemicals can be toxic to humans, and the trees will take years to come back to their normal production. Hemileia vastatrix, the coffee rust fungus, is a known hazard of growing arabica, which is 70% of the world's production and all of a cup of coffee's taste. It has been a curse of coffee planters ever since it appeared in east Africa 150 years ago.

However, the rust cannot survive temperatures below 10C. In this region of Nicaragua it usually occurred only below 1,300 metres. Up in the hills, cold nights and drier weather kept the disease at bay. And so that's where the coffee farms are.

Most of the people I met said they had never seen it until three years ago: some believed it had been deliberately sprayed from the skies by aircraft. Some thought it had spread from the banana trees that shade the coffee plants and provide crucial food for farmers. But most agree that in recent years the weather has become hotter, wetter and less predictable.

Science is in no doubt that the changing climate is behind the rust and other problems affecting coffee production worldwide – and that things are likely to deteriorate.

"In many cases, the area suitable for [coffee] production would decrease considerably with increases of temperature of only 2-2.5C," said a leaked draft of a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, officially published on Monday. The panel predicts falling coffee production in a range of countries, largely because of warmer weather. In late February, markets scared by drought in Brazil saw futures prices in coffee rise by 70%.

All the coffee-producing countries of Central America have seen drops in production of 30% or more in each of the past two years. Some, such as Guatemala, report rising cases of chronic malnutrition in coffee workers' children. Last week Oxfam cited coffee among other crops in a report that warned climate change was putting back the global fight against hunger "by decades".

Nicaragua's problem is particularly acute. Along with neighbouring Honduras, and Burma, it is already one of the three countries most affected by climate change, according to the 2013 Global Climate Risk Index. Nearly a third of its working population, about 750,000 people, depend on coffee directly or indirectly for a living. Coffee provides 20% of GDP. The Nicaraguan government is deeply worried: it has predicted that, because of falling rainfall and rising temperatures, by 2050 80% of its current coffee growing areas will no longer be usable.

This will mean disaster. The effects of two bad harvests are already severe in a country that, after Haiti, is the poorest in the western hemisphere, with more than three-quarters of its population subsisting on £1.20 a day. Rosibel Fijardo, 30, and Benjamín, 34, the scavengers I met, have much less: to keep the family from starving, their children, aged 10 and five, have to work too.

School in Nicaragua is free, but itinerant farm labourers often have to enlist their children's help in the fields to earn enough money. That is despite the signs on the walls of the big farms we drive past: "No children are employed here."

Rosibel's parents were also landless labourers; she had no schooling at all. If the whole family scavenge all day – in fields where the farmers permit it – they may earn 140 córdobas (£3.20). That will just cover the money they need to buy maize and beans to fill their stomachs. Even so, the children have been crying with hunger. "There's no money for fruit or meat," says Rosibel. "Instead we drink coffee."

Usually in March the family would have cash to spare, after working as cortadores (pickers) during the two-month harvest season. That would tide them through until the pruning and fertilising work starts in May. But this year, like most people they know in Atuna Uno, the Fijardos earned hardly anything because there was so little coffee to pick. Pineda employed no one on her plantations; she did the harvest with her sons. They got five sacks, where normally there would be 60.

"If we don't pick dropped coffee beans, we don't eat, and nor do our children. There are lots of people and just not enough work here," Rosibel says. Benjamín shakes his head in despair: there are not many more farmers who will let them scavenge – "they call it stealing". The couple's next idea, they say, is to see if they can find fish in the lake nearby. "They are free!"

Key to the problems of farmers across the region is the fact that February's global price increase came too late. Before that, the price of coffee had been at historic lows for two years. Last year's poor harvest got the poorest prices per pound, farmer Pantaleón Mungía, 55, said, standing among the skeletal remains of his bushes in the village of Los Robles. "I want to renew my plantation with healthy trees, but I'm in debt. There's no help from the government. Even if I could replace them, it would be three or four years until they were big enough to provide a normal crop."

Oxfam's Máximo Blandón works on poverty in rural Nicaragua: he feels the problem acutely because his family are also small coffee farmers, not far from Los Robles. "Coffee here is not just numbers. It's an art, a profession, a way of life, and without income from the coffee harvest the rural economy collapses. The problem is not just roya – there's also the injustice of the coffee market, which just does not pass down the price of coffee to the people here. Unless it does, they cannot develop the resilience needed to fight the effects of climate change – and there won't be any more coffee in Central America."

Commodities analysts confirm that, in a global market awash with speculators' cash as a result of the quantitative easing policies of governments trying to end the recession, the price of coffee bears little relation to supply. Often it is more dictated by what's happening to the price of wheat or oil than anything in the coffee-growing world.

But that might change. It will be at least three years before any normality returns to countries like Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, where coffee production employs a third or more of the population. Meanwhile, the IPCC has warned that some quite modest global warming predictions "will cause a strong decrease in coffee production in Brazil", the world's largest producer. Even Starbucks has visited the White House to warn that, without a plan to address climate change, the world's coffee supply is under threat.

Last month's spooking of the market was exacerbated by dire predictions about a gaping hole in long-term coffee supply in reports from the International Coffee Organisation and one of the world's leading commodity trading firms. These predicted a huge difference this year between the amount of coffee available and the amount the world wants – as much as 300m kilos. That's two years of British coffee consumption.

Jeremy Torz, co-owner of the British specialist coffee importer Union, has just returned from the roya-hit plantations of Guatemala. He does not believe that there will be a world coffee drought. But the fact that the disease is hitting some of the world's best coffee is significant. "Prices are going to go up and quality down in the commercial coffee world. People need to look for brands that support the producers."

That was pretty much what the cafetaleros of Nicaragua said when I asked them what they wanted from coffee-drinkers in Europe. Coffee picker Myra Carmen Chavarría in Atuna Uno was amazed when I told her that I spent £2 or more every day on a cappuccino. "If you love coffee in your country that much, you need to help us survive to grow it for you!"

The most important issues in the IPCC report on the impacts of climate change, due to be published tomorrow:


People living in these areas and on small islands face storm surges, coastal flooding and sea-level rises. And there are dangers to urban areas from inland flooding – that wipes out homes and businesses, water treatment centres and power plants – as well as from extreme heatwaves.


The report will consider the extent to which warming is already locked in by the necessities of economic infrastructure, but also whether climate change will have a negative or positive impact on global economic growth, and how that impact will be distributed around the world. Climate change could cause a tourism boom in the Arctic, with melting ice-caps giving cruise ships increased access to the area.


Food production is threatened by drought, flooding and changing rainfall patterns. There is particular concern over crop yields. The report is expected to touch on the threat to bees, with concerns about the extinction of species of butterflies and other pollinating insects.


As ocean chemistry is skewed by climate change, some fish in the tropics could become extinct. Others, especially in northern latitudes, are migrating.


Drought could put safe drinking water in short supply. Storms could wipe out electricity stations and damage other infrastructure, the report is likely to say.


Also key is the speed at which the climate is changing, rather than just the magnitude of the change. This will dictate how quickly governments and people must adapt to a level of global warming effectively guaranteed by the carbon already in the atmosphere.

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Scientists struggle to complete climate impacts report

Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News 29 Mar 14;

Negotiators worked through the night here in Yokohama in an effort to complete their review of a key report on the impacts of climate change.

At stake is a dense 29-page summary detailing the effects of climate change on the planet over the next 100 years.

Several hundred members of the UN's climate panel have been deep in deliberations since Tuesday, with many sessions running very late.

The report is the first such assessment since 2007.

The tired attendees left the conference centre at eight thirty in the evening as the lights were dimmed to commemorate Earth Hour.

But 60 minutes later they trooped back in to continue their word-by-word analysis of the contents.

The report is the second of three analyses developed by international teams of researchers. The first, published last September detailed the mechanics of climate change, explaining that warming was "unequivocal" and humans were behind it.

This new document being prepared here in Japan will detail the impacts and vulnerabilities to rising temperatures that the world faces over the coming century.

It will also highlight how much we can reduce the scale of these effects by adaptation.

Several versions of the report, called the Summary for Policymakers, have already been leaked but the final version won't be released until everyone - scientists and governments - are agreed on its contents.

There are likely to be a number of significant changes since the previous assessment came out in 2007.

There are now far more observations, more scientific studies on the effects of rising temperatures on humans and the species with which we share the planet. Running to 30 chapters in all, many delegates felt that it was the scale of the data that was causing delays.

There are two new chapters detailing impacts on the oceans. There are chapters on human health, on food security and conflict, but also four chapters on how we can adapt to the effects.

"We have a lot more information," said Dr Chris Field, who is the co-chair of the working group that is behind the report.

"The way I see it, we have a much sharper take on aspects of the issue that are serious but we also have a much sharper focus on the things that can be done to reduce the risks."

The summary is likely to say that the observed impacts of climate change are "widespread and consequential".

Whether it is increased melting of glaciers, or tree mortality, or impacts on rainfall patterns, the report says that the very real effects of warming are happening in the here and now.

Over the next 20 to 30 years, the report highlights some important impacts that we have little chance of avoiding, given the level of warming the world is already committed to, say the scientists.

These include threats to some "unique and threatened systems" even at 1C.

Risks from extreme weather events, including heat waves and flooding are also high at 1C.

At 2C, there are "very high risks" for Arctic sea ice and coral reefs.

The report is, according to authors, likely to be more doubtful of the benefits of warming on agriculture than its predecessor.

It is expected to say that yield losses of up to 2% per decade will occur for the rest of this century, at a time when population is set to rise sharply.

"There is a lot more literature on the response of agriculture to a changing climate and we are able to make a more comprehensive assessment than before, based on observations and model calculations," said Dr Field.

"The science on crop yields and especially on food security is getting to be a lot more actionable and usable."

Flood risks for people living in Asia are highlighted as a particular vulnerability.

The report talks about impacts on human health, how mortality increases with greater heating and how species the world over are likely to respond by moving towards the poles.

Fish will move, some stocks will be significantly impacted and people who depend on them for food will have to find other sources of protein.

The threat of the oceans becoming more acidic is spelled out as are threats to human security and migration.

The report spells out the likely impacts at different levels of warming in different parts of the world.

"We've projected climate change impacts at different levels of temperature rise, at levels of 2C and 4C and now beyond," said Dr Rachel Warren from the University of East Anglia, UK.

"We've also looked at how people and biodiversity can adapt to climate change. This notion of vulnerability is embedded in the concept of the report."

Adaptation is a key element of the report, with clear tables showing that what are currently classed as high-risk impacts could be reduced to low risks, if steps are taken.

Overall there is a greater attempt to set climate change as one of a number of threats facing people now and in the future.

"Once we think of the challenge as one of managing risk, rather than of, oh once we know for sure what's going to happen then we can do something, it becomes much more tractable," said Dr Field.

"It becomes much more a question of figuring out what are the smart and effective things to do."

IPCC report: climate change felt 'on all continents and across the oceans'
Leaked text of blockbuster report says changes in climate have already caused impacts on natural and human systems
Suzanne Goldenberg 28 Mar 14;

Climate change has already left its mark "on all continents and across the oceans", damaging food crops, spreading disease, and melting glaciers, according to the leaked text of a blockbuster UN climate science report due out on Monday.

Government officials and scientists are gathered in Yokohama this week to wrangle over every line of a summary of the report before the final wording is released on Monday – the first update in seven years.

Nearly 500 people must sign off on the exact wording of the summary, including the 66 expert authors, 271 officials from 115 countries, and 57 observers.

But governments have already signed off on the critical finding that climate change is already having an effect, and that even a small amount of warming in the future could lead to "abrupt and irreversible changes", according to documents seen by the Guardian.

"In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans," the final report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will say.

Some parts of the world could soon be at a tipping point. For others, that tipping point has already arrived. "Both warm water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts," the approved version of the report will say.

This will be the second of three reports on the causes, consequences of and solutions to climate change, drawing on researchers from around the world.

The first report, released last September in Stockholm, found humans were the "dominant cause" of climate change, and warned that much of the world's fossil fuel reserves would have to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change.

This report will, for the first time, look at the effects of climate change as a series of risks – with those risks multiplying as temperatures warm.

The thinking behind the decision was to encourage governments to prepare for the full range of potential consequences under climate change.

"It's much more about what are the smart things to do then what do we know with absolute certainty," said Chris Field, one of the co-chairs overseeing the report. "If we want to take a smart approach to the future, we need to consider a full range of possible outcomes and that means not only the more likely outcomes, but also outcomes for truly catastrophic impacts, even if those are lower probability," he said.

The gravest of those risks was to people in low-lying coastal areas and on small islands, because of storm surges, coastal flooding and sea-level rise.

But people living in large urban areas would also be at risk from inland flooding that wipes out homes and businesses, water treatment centres and power plants, as well as from extreme heatwaves.

Food production was also at risk, the report said, from drought, flooding, and changing rainfall patterns. Crop yields could decline by 2% a decade over the rest of the century.

Fisheries will also be affected, with ocean chemistry thrown off balance by climate change. Some fish in the tropics could become extinct. Other species, especially in northern latitudes, are on the move.

Drought could put safe drinking water in short supply. Storms could wipe out electricity stations, and damage other infrastructure, the report is expected to say.

Those risks will not be borne equally, according to draft versions of the report circulated before the meeting. The poor, the young and the elderly in all countries will all be more vulnerable to climate risks.

Climate change will slow down economic growth, and create new "poverty traps". Some areas of the world will also be more vulnerable – such as south Asia and south-east Asia.

The biggest potential risk, however, was of a number of those scenarios unfolding at the same time, leading to conflicts and wars, or turning regional problem into a global crisis, said Saleemul Haq, a senior fellow of the International Institute for Environment and Development and one of the authors of the report.

"The really scary impacts are when things start getting together globally," he said. "If you have a crisis in two or three places around the world, suddenly it's not a local crisis. It is a global crisis, and the repercussions of things going bad in several different places are very severe."

There was controversy in the run-up to the report's release when one of the 70 authors of a draft said he had pulled out of the writing team because it was "alarmist" about the threat. Prof Richard Tol, an economist at Sussex University, said he disagreed with some findings of the summary. But British officials branded his assessment of the economic costs of climate change as "deeply misleading".

The report argues that the likelihood and potential consequences of many of these risks could be lowered if ambitious action is taken to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. It also finds that governments – if they act now – can help protect populations from those risks.

But the report also acknowledges that a certain amount of warming is already locked in, and that in some instances there is no way to escape the effects of climate change.

The 2007 report on the effects of climate change contained an error that damaged the credibility of the UN climate panel, the erroneous claim that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035.

This year's report will be subject to far more rigorous scrutiny, scientists said. It will also benefit from an explosion of scientific research. The number of scientific publications on the impacts of climate change doubled between 2005 and 2010, the report will say.

Researchers said they also hoped to bring a fresh take on the issue. They said they hoped the reframing of the issue as a series of risks would help governments respond more rapidly to climate change.

"Previously the IPCC was accused of being very conservative," said Gary Yohe, professor of economics and environmental studies at Wesleyan University, one of the authors of the report. "This allows them to be less conservative without being open to criticism that they are just trying to scare people to death."

UN author says draft climate report alarmist, pulls out of team
Alister Doyle Reuters 27 Mar 14;

(Reuters) - One of the 70 authors of a draft U.N. report on climate change said he had pulled out of the writing team because it was "alarmist" about the threat.

Richard Tol told Reuters he disagreed with some findings of the summary to be issued in Japan on March 31.

"The drafts became too alarmist," the Dutch professor of economics at Sussex University in England said by telephone from Yokohama, Japan, where governments and scientists are meeting to edit and approve the report.

But he acknowledged some other authors "strongly disagree with me".

The final draft says warming will disrupt food supplies, slow economic growth, and may already be causing irreversible damage to coral reefs and the Arctic.

"The report is a product of the scientific community and not of any individual author," the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a statement. "The report does not comprehensively represent the views of any individual."

It said Tol notified it in September that he was withdrawing from the team writing the summary. He had been invited to Japan to help the drafting and is also the coordinating lead author of a sub-chapter about economics.

Tol, who has sometimes been at odds with other scientists in the past by pointing to possible benefits from global warming, had not made his pullout widely known until now.

The report will help governments prepare a deal to cut rising greenhouse gas emissions, mainly by shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energies, at a summit in Paris in late 2015.


Tol said the IPCC emphasized the risks of climate change far more than the opportunities to adapt. A Reuters count shows the final draft has 139 mentions of "risk" and 8 of "opportunity".

Tol said farmers, for instance, could grow new crops if the climate in their region became hotter, wetter or drier. "They will adapt. Farmers are not stupid," he said.

He said the report played down possible economic benefits of low levels of warming. Less cold winters may mean fewer deaths among the elderly, and crops may grow better in some regions.

"It is pretty damn obvious that there are positive impacts of climate change, even though we are not always allowed to talk about them," he said. But he said temperatures were set to rise to levels this century that would be damaging overall.

Another expert criticized Tol, saying his IPCC chapter exaggerated possible benefits.

"Of the 19 studies he surveyed only one shows net positive benefits from warming. And it's the one he wrote," said Bob Ward, policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Unit on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics.

The IPCC summary says warming of 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times will reduce world economic income by between 0.2 and 2.0 percent a year.

Among rare examples of past dissent within the IPCC, Richard Landsea, a U.S. meteorologist, pulled out of the last report published in 2007, accusing the IPCC of overstating evidence that global warming was aggravating Atlantic hurricanes.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; editing by Andrew Roche)

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