If one thinks of the ongoing climate negotiations as a paint-by-numbers picture, the Cancun Agreements outlined what to paint and the basic colors to use. In last week’s Panama talks, Parties continued painting with various hues that, once complete, will hopefully create a detailed and beautiful picture. The painting does not yet have a frame, however, as the Parties still have to decide on what kind of “agreed outcome” the negotiations are leading to – i.e., a legally binding agreement or a non-binding one. At the same time the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ends in 2012, which adds complexity but also opportunity to the picture.
The American author Tom Peters once wrote “if a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade”. Next week’s UNFCCC session in Panama is the penultimate stop in what has been a long and at times difficult year in the climate negotiations. The road to COP 17 in Durban has featured contentious agenda items, complex issue areas, and moments to test the resolve of the most patient negotiator. Yet despite these trying times glimmers of progress are evident, and as the year draws to a close we are beginning to see outlines of a deal that is both ambitious and imaginable.
This post was written with James Anderson, Communications Coordinator at the World Resources Institute.
“This is unprecedented fire behavior. We’ve never seen conditions like this before. Not a single one of our firefighters has ever faced such extreme conditions.”
This statement from the director of the Texas Forest Service makes it clear that the recent wildfires that scorched Texas belong in a new category of disaster. Already, the state’s wildfires this season have consumed 3.6 million acres (an area the size of Connecticut), swallowed over 1,500 homes, and killed at least four people. According to NOAA, the current wildfire is costing more than $1 million per day and exceeds $5 billion in overall damages across the Southwest. These are costs that will be borne by government, business and residents, alike.
As the climate changes, the global community and national governments both need to take action to prevent the kind of humanitarian disaster underway In parts of the Horn of Africa. Early action can help communities confront climate change, take advantage of ecosystem services, and prevent future food-related tragedies due to drought and other extreme weather.
People relying on agriculture and livestock rearing for their livelihoods make up over seventy percent of the total population of east Africa. Over the last two years, the eastern part of the region has faced two consecutive failed rainy seasons. The UN reported that dry-lands of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia were facing "one of the driest years since 1950/51." This extreme lack of rain has reduced the ability of people in the region to grow their food. Pastures have dried up, making it impossible to sustain cattle. With animals and agriculture in jeopardy, the main sources of food and income for many in the region have been greatly threatened. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) declared a famine in parts of Somalia on July 28, 2011.
This story originally appeared in the Washington Post.
It's too darn hot. From Maine to Hawaii, the mercury has been rising relentlessly. The oven-like conditions in the United States are just the latest in a series of extreme weather events over the past year -- epic floods in Pakistan and Australia, record heat waves in Moscow, the heaviest snowfall in more than a century in South Korea. These extremes are pushing the limits of human experience. What is driving this phenomenon? And rather than just complain, what can we do about it?
This piece originally appeared on Bloomberg Government and is reposted with permission.
Extreme weather events and climate- related disruptions are occurring with alarming frequency and intensity, whether it’s the Mississippi and Missouri rivers overflowing or the sight of parched earth across the U.S. Southwest.
As climate-change models show, we’re on a course for more extreme weather and other environmental disruptions that don’t just affect the people and infrastructure in their path -- they also have profound effects on businesses, the economy and government policy.
To stay competitive, companies will need to find ways to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Record breaking wildfires raging in Arizona, massive flooding disrupting lives from Iowa to Vermont — extreme weather events have been at the forefront of America’s national consciousness. Yet these events and their repercussions are hardly limited to the United States. Think back last year to the floods that affected millions in Pakistan, or the wildfires and droughts that destroyed Russia’s wheat crops, causing price spikes around the world.
In a survey of global businesses, 86 percent described responding to climate risks or investing in adaptation as a business opportunity. So finds a new report jointly released yesterday by the UN Global Compact, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Oxfam and the World Resources Institute.
Already, businesses worldwide are beginning to see the risks and economic impacts of more frequent and intense storms, water scarcity, declining agricultural productivity and poor health.
Update [10/17/2011]: WRI has released the latest edition of Climate Science.