Best of our wild blogs: 4 Apr 18

16 Apr (Mon): Talk on "Did China Admiral Zheng He’s fleet visit VivoCity Singapore in early 15th century?"
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Singapore has lush seagrass meadows!
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Read more!

PUB investigating discoloured water supply in Serangoon, Beng Wan and Bendemeer Roads

Lydia Lam Straits Times 3 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - National water agency PUB is investigating reports of discoloured water spotted by residents in Serangoon Road, Beng Wan Road and Bendemeer Road on Tuesday (April 3).

A reader of The Straits Times, who declined to be named, alerted ST to the incident, saying clean water was being provided to residents at a playground near Beng Wan Road, which is near Bendemeer Primary School.

In response to queries from ST, PUB said it received "reports of discoloured water from residents at Serangoon Road, Beng Wan Road and Bendemeer Road this afternoon around noon".

PUB officers are on the scene to assist residents and to flush the water mains.

Water bags and two water wagons have also been deployed at Block 48, Bendemeer Road, and notices are being sent to the residents in the affected areas, PUB said.

"Affected households are advised not to use the water until it runs clear," said the spokesman.

The water agency is currently investigating the cause of the incident.

Affected residents who require assistance can call PUB on 1800-2255-782.

Discoloured water due to dislodged sediment
Lydia Lam Straits Times 5 Apr 18;

Discoloured water that was coming out of residents' taps in Serangoon Road, Beng Wan Road and Bendemeer Road from noon on Tuesday cleared up yesterday morning, PUB said.

Residents in those areas were advised not to use the water and to instead collect clean water from five water wagons deployed at collection points near blocks 44 to 49 in Bendemeer Road on Tuesday.

Photos posted by Facebook user Jo Ee at 10.37pm on Tuesday showed people queueing up for water in Bendemeer.

National water agency PUB told The Straits Times that its officers were at the scene to help residents and to flush the water mains.

"The discoloured water is due to resuspension of mineral sediments arising from sudden flow changes within a water pipe," said PUB.

Such mineral sediments are naturally present in the water and settle down inside the pipe over time, it added.

PUB said it had isolated the section of the pipe where the mineral resuspension occurred and tapped an alternative feed to supply water to affected blocks on Tuesday night.

The agency is investigating what caused the resuspension of the sediments. Residents who need help can call PUB on 1800-2255-782.

Lydia Lam

Read more!

Students develop solar cone and other energy-efficient projects under new initiative

Tan Shu Yan Straits Times 3 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - A locally designed solar cone, which absorbs more than five times the solar energy compared to a solar panel, could help generate energy for residential use and reduce utility costs.

The solar cone, or Scone, has an inverted conical shape and has special lenses that maximise energy absorption onto a solar cell, harnessing more energy per unit area.

As it is compact in size compared to a conventional flat solar panel, Scone also addresses the problem of an increasing lack of suitable rooftop space for solar energy generation.

If it is installed on the rooftops of residential units, more heat can be absorbed and converted into thermal energy, which can be channelled into the heating of water for residential usage. This could reduce the cost of energy for residents.

The prototype was showcased on Tuesday (April 3) at the launch of ideaBox, a platform which offers Singapore Polytechnic (SP) students the space and resources to concretise their ideas into energy and cost-saving technologies.

An initiative by SP and energy utilities provider Singapore Power Group (SP Group), ideaBox selects ideas with potential from tertiary-level students at ideation competitions, and passes them to SP students to translate into product prototypes.

A 200 sq m space in the polytechnic has been carved out to allow students to work on their projects and receive guidance from industry experts.

SP Group has pledged its support in mentoring students in areas like engineering, design and media, and will also provide S$1 million in funding over the next three years.

Mr Wong Kim Yin, group chief executive officer of SP Group, said: “We are committed to drive research and innovation that benefit consumers, helping them to save energy and cost. We strengthen our collaboration with Singapore Polytechnic by exposing their students to real-world challenges, test out new ideas and build solutions to implement their ideas.”

The idea behind Scone was first presented by a group of five students from various tertiary institutions at the Singapore Frontier Challenge last September.

The project came in second in the competition, after Cloud Nine, which utilises rainwater collected on rooftops of high rise buildings to generate electrical energy. Cloud Nine has also been prototyped at ideaBox, and is preparing for field deployment in the next three months.

Ms Ting Qi Yu, 24, one of the students who conceptualised Scone, said: “It’s good that they continued to expand our idea, and it’s exciting to visualise an idea that eventually became real.”

The three polytechnic students working on Scone hope to continue developing the prototype.

“This is just the start, and maybe it will take some time to be released into the market. From now, we hope to just do further research on how to improve the product,” said Mr Lester Loh, 19, who is starting his third year in electrical and electronic engineering at SP.

A national inter-polytechnic ideation competition, sponsored by SP Group, will be organised by SP this June. Promising ideas there could also be considered for prototyping at ideaBox.

Read more!

Malaysia: New laws needed to protect our rivers

The Star 3 Apr 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry plans to enact new legislation relating to the protection of rivers to ensure river cleanliness is at the highest level, said its minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said the existing laws on river protection, provided under the Environmental Quality Act 1974, were no longer relevant for current use.

“The ministry will introduce new laws in efforts to ensure river cleanliness is preserved.

“In addition, the ministry intends to introduce an environmental education syllabus in stages for primary and secondary schools to raise awareness among students on the importance of taking care of river cleanliness,” he told the Dewan Negara sitting here Tuesday.

He was replying to a question by Senator Tan Sri Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor who wanted to know how the country could achieve a high level of river cleanliness such as that in developed countries.

Wan Junaidi said the cost to treat polluted rivers involved a huge allocation and also awareness education, hence legislative action needed to be intensified to ensure rivers were always protected from pollution.

“Awareness of river cleanliness is still at a low level among our people because many still dump waste into the river.

“Factories that only think of profits, without taking into account environmental sustainability, are also dumping rubbish and toxic waste into rivers while plantation, logging and uncontrolled farming activities cause the rivers to be a buffer zone that is becoming more shallow,” he added. – Bernama

Read more!

Malaysia: Wandering tapir enters Sik housing estate, rescued by Kedah Perhilitan

EMBUN MAJID New Straits Times 3 Apr 18;

ALOR SETAR: A tapir was rescued after wandering around a housing estate in Bandar Baru Beris Jaya near Sik yesterday.

Kedah Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Muhammad Ali Che Aman said the lost female tapir was caught behind a house at 2pm before being taken to state Perhilitan office for further checks.

Residents said the animal was spotted wandering around the housing area about 8am and alerted the department.

“She was found to be healthy and was not hurt. We have informed the tapir conservation team about the animal,” he said when contacted today.

Muhammad Ali said the animal would be released back into the wild soon.

He said Perhilitan was carrying out investigation on tapir population in the state including in the Ulu Muda Forest Reserves and Gunung Jerai area.

A 2-minute video, recorded by a resident, has emerged on the social media, showing the animal hiding behind the trees before a man, believed to be from Perhilitan, used a tranquilizer to catch the animal.

Read more!

Indonesia: Police arrest 'killers' of Riau sun bears in viral video

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 3 Apr 18;

The Indragiri Hilir Police have arrested four people in Riau province on suspicion of killing at least four sun bears, a protected species listed as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, following a video that went viral on social media.

The four arrested, all local farmers, have been identified as FS, 33; JS, 51; GS, 34; and JPDS, 39.

A joint team comprising the police, the law enforcement division of the Sumatra Environment and Forestry Office and forest rangers started their investigation upon receiving a viral video showing the capture and killing of sun bears, allegedly in the regency, Indragiri Hilir Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Christian Rony said on Monday evening.

The team discovered that the killings took place on Saturday and found several pieces of evidence, including the sun bears’ skins, meat and gall bladders, as well as the rope that was apparently used to trap the bears, which are rarely encountered in the wild.

The suspected perpetrators confessed to police that they had killed at least four sun bears. During the preliminary investigation, the four said they had initially set up traps for wild boars, but the trap had ensnared three sun bears instead. They said they then killed, skinned and butchered the protected animals to divide the meat among them for personal consumption.

The four added that they found another sun bear in the trap on a separate day. At first, they took the sun bear alive to one of their houses. However, they claimed they shot the bear dead after it became aggressive, said Rony.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the sun bear as a vulnerable species with a declining population trend as a result of poaching and widespread deforestation.

Police intend to charge the perpetrators under the 1990 Law on Conservation of Living Natural Resources and Their Ecosystems, which carries a maximum sentence of five years and a maximum fine of Rp 100 million (US$7,270). (dpk/rin)

Indonesians nabbed over sun bear slaughter: police
AFP Yahoo News 3 Apr 18;

Pekanbaru (Indonesia) (AFP) - A group of Indonesians has been arrested after a video emerged of them skinning and cooking four sun bears that they had slaughtered, police said Tuesday.

The men on the island of Sumatra were charged under Indonesia's environment law and could face five years in prison and 100 million rupiah ($7,000)in fines, if convicted, authorities said.

The sun bear -- listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature -- is the smallest of the bear species and lives in Southeast Asia's tropical forests and swamps.

But their population is in decline in Indonesia because of rapid deforestation, which has led to habitat loss.

The four bears were caught in traps set by the suspects who later beat or shot them to death, said local police chief Christian Rony.

The men, who range in age from 33 to 51, skinned the bears and cooked their meat.

"They also distributed the meat to other villagers," Rony said, adding that police had seized a gun and airgun pellets from the suspects.

Human-animal conflicts are common across the vast Indonesian archipelago, especially in areas where the clearing of rainforest to make way for palm oil plantations is destroying animals' habitats and bringing them into closer contact with people.

But attacks by the bear are rare in Indonesia.

Last October a sun bear mauled a couple in Sumatra, killing the wife and seriously injuring her husband.

In 2015 a man died when a sun bear mauled him in South Sumatra and in 2009 another lost his fingers and left eye in an assault.

Four in Riau arrested for killing, eating protected sun bears
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 4 Apr 18;

After watching a video that went viral on social media, the Indragiri Hilir Police in Riau have arrested four farmers for allegedly killing four sun bears.

The four suspects, all of whom are residents of Tempuling district, allegedly butchered and consumed the meat of the sun bears, which are protected under the 1990 law on natural resources and ecosystem conservation.

A joint team comprising the police, the Sumatra Environment and Forestry Office law enforcement division and forest rangers started an investigation after watching a viral video showing the capture and killing of the sun bears, allegedly in the regency, Indragiri Hilir Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Christian Rony Putra said on Tuesday.

The team alleged that the killings took place on Saturday and found several pieces of evidence, including bear skin, meat and gall bladders, as well as a spear, knife, air rifle and rope that was apparently used to trap the bears, which are rarely encountered in the wild.

During a preliminary investigation, the four suspects said they had initially set up traps to capture wild boars in Mumpa village, Tempuling, on March 18. Last Saturday, they found that the trap had ensnared three sun bears instead.

They said they then either hit the heads of the bears or speared their necks to kill them before skinning and butchering them. They then divided the bear meat among them for personal

The four also told investigators that they found another sun bear in the trap on a different day. At first, they took the sun bear alive to one of their houses.

"The bear was then shot with an air rifle on Sunday. They claimed they had to kill the bear as they were afraid of the bear becoming aggressive," Rony said.

The suspects are now facing charges under the 1990 law, which carries a maximum punishment of five years' imprisonment and Rp 100 million (US$7,270) in fines.

Sun bears trapped and killed, then made into rendang curry
The Star 5 Apr 18;

PETALING JAYA: Four residents in Riau, Indonesia, are facing the threat of jail-time after admitting to catching and killing three sun bears before cooking them into rendang.

According to a BBC Indonesia report, the four men with the initials CS, GS, E and ZDS had caught the sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) with the use of traps.

ZDS admitted to setting up 50 snares on March 18, 2018 to catch pigs together with his three friends.

When checking the traps 12 days later, they found that one sun bear had been caught.

They set up the snares again and caught two more sun bears on April 1.

The animals were then put into cages before being shot with an airgun.

ZDS admitted he used the spoils to cook bear meat rendang, while his other friends turned the gamey meat into soups and gulai (curry-like sauce).

The bile from the bears' livers was also extracted as traditional medicine for breathing problems.

The men claimed they did not know that sun bears are protected animals both in Indonesia and internationally .

They were arrested after the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency learned of the incident through social media.

One of the men had uploaded a video of them skinning the bears and then cooking them on Facebook.

They face up to five years in jail and a fine of 100 million rupiah (RM27,000), under Indonesia’s Conservation of Natural Resources and their Ecosystems (1990) law.

The sun bear is the world's smallest bear species, and lives in South-East Asia’s tropical forests.

However, their population is in decline in Indonesia because of rapid deforestation to make way for oil palm plantations, which has led to habitat loss.

Read more!

Indonesia: Balikpapan declares emergency status after oil spill

N. Adri The Jakarta Post 2 Apr 18;

The Balikpapan administration in East Kalimantan has declared an emergency status in the city following an oil spill on Saturday that triggered a fire on Balikpapan Bay.

“We are in an emergency situation because of the oil spill,” municipal secretary Sayid MN Fadli said at City Hall on Monday.

Two people died in the fire on Saturday and another was severely injured. Authorities found two more bodies on Monday, while one person remains missing.

Fadli urged residents who conduct activities around the bay to make safety a priority, then specifically warned smokers to refrain from lighting cigarettes.

“I may be exaggerating [with regard to smokers], but the bay is now like a gas station,” he added.

The city has distributed masks to protect residents from the overwhelming smell of fuel.

The Semayang Port Authority is coordinating with private oil company PT Chevron Indonesia and state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina to clean the spill.

As Balikpapan Police continue to investigating the source of the spill, Pertamina has denied it had anything to do with the incident. Based on tests the firm conducted on oil samples found in the bay, the spill comprises marine fuel oil, not crude oil, Pertamina said.

Marine fuel oil is used as fuel for ships, it added.

According to most recent reports, the spill has spread to the Makassar Strait in South Sulawesi.

Residential areas on the coast have also been affected.

Residents of Kampung Atas Air Margasari, who live in stilted houses, have reported a strong, fuel-like smell in the area, with Mukmin Azis claiming that a black substance was spreading in the waters beneath his house.

Health authorities in Penajam Paser Utara regency reported that some 1,200 people in Penajam subdistrict had complained of experiencing nausea, difficulty breathing and vomiting over the weekend.

Coastal residents have said they were afraid of lighting fires, including to cook and grill fish, in front of their houses.

The Balikpapan administration provided them with ready-made meals. (evi)

Borneo oil spill: Fishermen and environmentalists concerned over spread of slick
Adam Harvey and Archicco Guiliano ABC News 3 Apr 18;

An Indonesian oil company has denied responsibility for a major oil slick off the coast of Borneo, which appears to be spreading and contaminating new stretches of coastline and local fisheries.

At least four fishermen died in Balikpapan Bay on the weekend when part of the slick ignited. A fifth fisherman is missing.

The toxic slick is at least 4 kilometres long and fishermen say it has already killed at least one protected dugong that washed up on a local beach yesterday.

They also said it was wrecking their livelihood.

"It's a fire hazard and the smell is still there," local fisherman Maspele told the ABC.

Media player: "Space" to play, "M" to mute, "left" and "right" to seek.
VIDEO: Huge plumes of dark smoke emerge from oil slick fire off Borneo coast (ABC News)
"I'm standing on the coast nearby and the smell is so strong it's giving me a headache.

"The sea pollution is so bad and we've lost our livelihood."

Fishermen in the town of Balikpapan, in the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan, said they would hold a protest on Wednesday over the lack of responsibility shown by the Indonesian Government and the state-owned oil company Pertamina.

"We demand the stakeholders investigate and punish the culprit who's caused this ecological disaster and caused the loss of lives," Maspele said.

Pertamina said the spill had nothing to do with its nearby refinery or undersea pipeline.

The general manager of the nearby Pertamina Unit V Refinery said the company's divers had not been able to find any pipeline leaks.

"That's the reason why we're still running the refinery facility normally," manager Togar Manuring said.

The fishermen and environmentalists were sceptical about Pertamina's claim it was not responsible for the slick.

"We think there must be a leak from the Pertamina pipe because it's located very close to the oil — maybe 100 metres," Pradarma Rupang, from the local environmental group Jatam, said.

"There is no shipwreck, no collision, no sinking ship, no burned ship, nothing. Suddenly oil appears in the middle of the sea.

"People in the coastal area smelt oil at midnight on March 31, then there was a fire at 10:00am. There's an offshore refinery of Pertama nearby."

Borneo oil spill: Police question bulk coal carrier crew after four people killed, water polluted
Adam Harvey ABC News 3 Apr 18;

Indonesian police are questioning the crew of a bulk coal carrier over an oil spill off the island of Borneo that killed four fishermen and continues to pollute local waters.

Police have taken fuel samples from the Panama-flagged MV Ever Judger, which remains in Balikpapan Bay.

The ship, which is crewed by Chinese nationals, had been due to take a load of Indonesian coal to Malaysia.

The spill continues to affect the bay, with aerial footage showing it has spread across a wide area.

The oil slick ignited on Friday morning, killing four fishermen and sending thick black smoke over the city of Balikpapan. Another man remains missing.

A police forensic team has taken fuel samples from the ship as well as from a nearby refinery operated by state-owned oil company Pertamina, East Kalimantan provincial police chief Inspector General Priyo Widyanto told ABC News.

Pertamina pipelines run across the bay.

"We're questioning some witnesses including the boat crew of MV Ever Judger, also the local residents, workers from Pertamina — and we're waiting for all the results," Inspector General Widyanto said.

Media player: "Space" to play, "M" to mute, "left" and "right" to seek.
VIDEO: Huge plumes of dark smoke emerge from oil slick fire off Borneo coast (ABC News)
Pertamina said it is not responsible for the oil leak.

It said its own testing showed the slick was diesel fuel oil, not crude oil from the refinery.

The noxious fumes from the leak continue to affect Balikpapan, which has a population of 700,000 people.

The fumes are causing health problems throughout the city, environmental group Jatam's Pradama Rupang said.

"This is dangerous for people who live around the cove," he said.

"It's also affecting the fishermen — let's say they used to be able to catch two to three kilograms of fish. Now they get nothing.

"It's a hit to the economy — all the cafes along the coast are losing their customers because of the smell."

Indonesia declares state of emergency as oil spill spreads
BBC 3 Apr 18;

Indonesia has declared a state of emergency to help stop a deadly oil spill spreading off the coast of the island of Borneo.

At least four fishermen in the port city of Balikpapan were killed over the weekend when the fuel ignited.

Hundreds of people have reported health issues since Saturday's spill.

It is not clear what caused the oil spill. As it continues to spread, the risk of further fires is increasing, the authorities said on Tuesday.

The Balikpapan environmental agency has warned members of the local community to avoid any activities "that could spark fires".

The spill, which threatens to further contaminate the fishing waters along the coast, currently covers an area of 12 sq km (seven sq miles).

In addition to the four reported deaths, local health officials have said that hundreds of people in the area have experienced difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting since the oil fires broke out.

Issuing a state of emergency allows for the release of government funds to aid local authorities in their efforts to contain the spill and for any subsequent clean-up operations.

Balikpapan, which is in East Kalimantan province, is home to a large oil refinery belonging to the state-owned company Pertamina. As investigations continue into how the oil escaped into the sea, Pertamina says its underwater pipeline has not leaked.

A general manager at the refinery told the Jakarta Post on Saturday that the spill was marine fuel oil, not crude.

Fishermen in Balikpapan say they will take part in a protest on Wednesday to hold the Indonesian government and Pertamina to account for the spill.

Pertamina has denied responsibility for the disaster.

Read more!

China 'environment census' reveals 50% rise in pollution sources

Ministry says country has 9m sources of pollution, with factories breaking emissions rules the big problem
Lily Kuo The Guardian 3 Apr 18;

China’s environment ministry has said the number of sources of pollution in the country has increased by more than half in less than a decade.

Releasing preliminary results of an ongoing “environmental census”, China’s ministry of ecology and environment said the number of sources of pollution in the country stands at about 9m, compared to 5.9m in its first census, in 2010.

“The objectives and scope of the second census is different from those of the first one,” said Hong Yaxiong, head of the pollution survey at the ministry, Thursday. “But overall, there are more pollution sources.”

The census did not say whether pollution had increased but declines in airborne pollution in major cities have been recorded in other studies.

Hong said factories flouting emissions standards were the main problem. The ministry found 7.4m sources of industrial pollution, compared to a million in rural areas and 500,000 in urban locations.

Five years ago, China declared a “war against pollution.” Since then, new coal plants have been barred from opening and existing ones have been ordered to cut emissions. Major cities restrict the number of cars allowed on the roads. This past winter, residents in Beijing were left without heat after their coal boilers were removed.

As part of the campaign, officials this month expanded the powers of the country’s 10-year-old ministry of environmental protection to include water management, emissions reductions, agricultural pollution, and other duties previously managed by half a dozen other ministries.

As part of its new remit, the ministry is holding a second environmental census, to be completed in 2019. It will look into industrial parks, as well as municipal and rural sources of pollution. “We will look into all kinds of pollution sources,” Hong said.

China has made some important gains. Michael Greenstone, director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, analysed data from government air monitors collected between 2013 and 2017, and found that many of China’s densest cities have recorded major declines in air pollution.

In Beijing, where several days of smog known as “the airpocalypse” of 2013 in part prompted China’s declaration of war, the concentration of fine particulates in the air fell 35%.

“By winning this war, China is due to see dramatic improvements in the overall health of its people, including longer lifespans, if these improvements are sustained,” Greenstone said in a statement.

Read more!

Scientists examine threats to food security if we meet the Paris climate targets

Even with aggressive climate policies to limit global warming, food security in some areas will be threatened
John Abraham The Guardian 3 Apr 18;

We have delayed action for so long on handling climate change, we now can no longer can “will it happen?” Rather we have to ask “how bad will it be?” and “what can be done about it?” As our society thinks about what we should do to reduce our carbon pollution and the consequences of electing science-denying politicians, scientists are actively studying the pros and cons of various emission reductions.

Readers of this column have certainly heard about temperature targets such as 1.5°C or 2°C. These targets refer to allowable temperature increases over pre-industrial temperatures. If humans take action to hit a 1.5°C target, it means we are committed to keeping the human-caused global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Similarly for a 2°C target.

The lower the target, the smaller the climate change. The smaller the climate change, the better. But is it worth the effort to set lower targets? I mean, if 2°C is good enough, why take the trouble to keep temperatures within 1.5°C?

Fortunately, a new paper just out in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A asks this question. Specifically, they ask “How much larger are the impacts at 2°C compared to 1.5°C?” A follow-on question asked by the authors relates to what conditions occur at a particular level of warming, such as 2°C. This is a really important question because policymakers need to know what it will take to adapt to a 1.5°C world or a 2°C world.

The authors focus on the impact of climate change on food security, and in particular, how changes to extreme weather will impact food production. The weather issues that are central to this study are drought and precipitation. We know that in a warming world, the weather will get wetter. This is because warm air is more able to hold water (air can be more humid). As a consequence, when rains fall, they come in heavier bursts. We are already seeing this in the US, for example, where the most extreme rainfalls are increasing across the country.

But, at the same time, evaporation happens quicker and areas can dry out faster. So, when the rains stop, drought can set in quicker and more severely.

So, there are competing issues and an obvious question is, which will win out? Will the world become drier or wetter? The answer to this question depends on where you live. It is likely that areas that are currently wet will become wetter. Areas that are currently dry will become drier. This is just a general rule of thumb, there are variations to this rule. But it is a pretty good generalization.

This behavior is vexing for farmers because it makes planning for the future complicated. But this study at least shines some light on the subject and helps us prepare. To complete the study, the authors considered an Earth that has 1.5°C warming and another Earth with 2°C warming. The authors then identified specific measures for extreme weather. Among the measures are the annual maximum temperature, the percentage of days with extreme daily temperatures, the number of consecutive dry days, and the maximum rainfall in a 5-day period.

Measures of heavy rainfall and drought were combined with societal factors to form a Hunger and Climate Vulnerability Index. The index incorporates how exposed a country is to climate hazards, how sensitive a country’s agriculture is to climate hazards, and how able a country is to adapt. With these metrics and indices calculated for 122 countries in the developing and under-developed parts of the globe, the authors show that some areas will be more impacted than others.

Increased wetness will affect Asia more than other regions. Among their predictions is that the water flowrate in the Ganges river may increase by 100%. However, increases to drought could hit Africa and South America hardest. An example outcome is that the Amazon river flow may decrease by 25%. They also found that for most of the planet, a 2°C world is worse than a 1.5°C world. This is to be expected, but now there is a way to quantify the impact of incremental increases in temperature on societal impact.

When the authors continued their look at various regions, that found that temperature changes are amplified in some locations. For instance, with a 2°C warmer world, the land areas mostly warm by more than 2°C. In some regions, like North America, China, northern Asia, northern South America, and Europe, the daily high temperature increases could be double that of the globe on average.

In the figure below, the Hunger and Climate Variability Index is shown for a 2°C warmer world. The image is scaled according to how vulnerable they are to food insecurity. Countries with a larger value are more vulnerable than countries with a smaller number. Any country with a vulnerability greater than 1 is more vulnerable than any country today.

As lead author Richard Betts explained,

Food insecurity is affected by many factors, not just climate. Poverty, access to irrigation and transport networks are all crucial. But increased flooding or drought can impact food production and distribution, making food systems less secure.

I’ll offer a couple of words of caution. The study really focused on drought and rainfall only. There are other societal impacts that are not included, like sea level rise or ocean acidification. With drought and precipitation, at least the climate behaves somewhat proportionally to the warming. But with something like sea level rise, things are far less certain. There, tipping points may exist that once we cross them, there is no going back. For instance, is there a tipping point for ice sheet loss from Greenland or Antarctica? A certain temperature threshold that once passed cannot be reversed?

The other word of caution is that this study is purposely limited to extreme weather, fresh water, and agriculture. There are many other impacts of climate change on society that are not captured in this research.

But that aside, this is an important study that helps us identify the winners and losers in a warming world and helps policymakers decide whether we should take action now to try to limit temperature increases to 1.5°C or 2°C. From a practical matter, we humans are not doing enough to hit either temperature target, but at least we have some idea of the wisdom (or lack thereof) of our actions.

Read more!