Climate change is a threat to world security

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 21 July 2011

Climate change could exponentially increase the scale of natural disasters while at the same time threatening world security, a senior UN official told the UN Security Council Wednesday.

Floods, such as the ones that hit Pakistan, have implications on food markets

Though science cannot yet explain all the reasons behind global warming, “a changing climate is a reality,” and one that effects all sectors of society, said Achim Steiner, director of the UN Environment Program.

Steiner cited a worst-case scenario prediction that temperatures will rise 4 degree Celsius by 2060 while the sea level will rise one meter over the next century.

There are myriad threats already and their numbers will rise, he said, noting droughts like the one currently afflicting Somalia, floods such as the ones that hit Pakistan, and their implications on the food markets.

“The scale of the natural disasters will increase exponentially,” he added.

Two regions of Southern Somalia, hit by a devastating drought, were declared in a state of famine Wednesday by the United Nations, who called it the worst food crisis in Africa in 20 years and have mobilized efforts to stem the situation before it worsens.

“The signs of climate changing, not only is it happening, it is accelerating,” he added.

The famine and rising sea levels “are all threats to peace and security,” said Steiner. The next climate conference will take place in Durban in December and “must be decisive.”

Developed countries must manage their actions but emerging nations must also play their role and cannot be spectators, he urged.

– AFP

Droughts seriously impact on health

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 15 July 2011

In the Horn of Africa, increasingly frequent drought episodes punctuated by ever shorter recovery periods have exhausted the coping capacity of communities in a region where resources and services are already scarce. The resulting depletion of household resources is having a serious impact on the general health and nutritional status of the population.

The vicious cycle of hunger- ill-health- poverty means that fewer resources are dedicated to health care just as health needs increase as a result of poor diet. Lack of water and population displacements, which result in precarious sanitation, further increase the risk of communicable diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and measles. Outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea and measles have already been reported in Djibouti and Ethiopia. The effects of the drought are also aggravated by weak health care systems, with limited human resources and medical supplies and low immunization coverage.

The areas most severely affected are also those suffering from some of the highest disease burdens in the region. For example, in Somalia, child health is among the worst in the world. Infant mortality is estimated at 88 per 1000 live births and under-five mortality at 142 per 1000. In the first half of 2011, at least three Somali children died of malnutrition every day. In parts of Southern Somalia, one in three children is malnourished. Continue reading

Indoor farming may solve world food problem

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 12 April 2011

Farming is moving indoors, where the sun never shines, where rainfall is irrelevant and where the climate is always right.

Indoor rice field in Tokyo.

The perfect crop field could be inside a windowless building with meticulously controlled light, temperature, humidity, air quality and nutrition. It could be in a New York high-rise, a Siberian bunker or a sprawling complex in the Saudi desert.

Advocates say this, or something like it, may be the answer to the world’s food problems.

“In order to keep a planet that’s worth living on, we have to change our methods,” says Gertjan Meeuws of PlantLab, a private research company.

The world is already having trouble feeding itself. Half the people on earth live in cities, and nearly half of those – about 3 billion – are hungry or malnourished.

Food prices, currently soaring, are buffeted by droughts, floods and the cost of energy required to plant, fertilise, harvest and transport produce.

And prices will only get more unstable. Climate change makes long-term crop planning uncertain.

Farmers in many parts of the world already are draining available water resources to the last drop.

And the world is getting more crowded: by mid-century, the global population will grow from 6.8 billion to 9 billion, the UN predicts.

To feed so many people may require expanding farmland at the expense of forests and wilderness, or finding ways to radically increase crop yields. Continue reading

Forests are essential to water cycle

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 21 March 2011

By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in regions with absolute water scarcity and two-thirds of the world’s population may experience water-stress conditions. Forests capture and store water and can play an important role in providing drinking water for millions of people in the world’s mega-cities. Given this fact, the members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), international organizations involved in forests, call upon countries to pay more attention to forest protection and management for the provision of clean water.

One third of the world's biggest cities draw a portion of their drinking-water from forested areas.

“Forests are part of the natural infrastructure of any country and are essential to the water cycle”, said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director General of the FAO Forestry Department.

“They reduce the effects of floods, prevent soil erosion, regulate the water table and assure a high quality water supply for people, industry and agriculture.”  He was speaking prior to the UN World Water Day which will be celebrated this year on 22 March.

Forests are in most cases an optimal land cover for catchments supplying drinking water. Forest watersheds supply a high proportion of water for domestic, agricultural, industrial and ecological needs.

“The management of water and forests are closely linked and require innovative policy solutions which take into account the cross-cutting nature of these vital resources”, said Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat.  “The International Year of Forests, 2011 provides a unique platform to raise awareness of issues such as the water-soil-forests nexus, which directly affect the quality of people’s lives, their livelihoods and their food security.”

Moreover, forests and trees contribute to the reduction of water-related risks such as landslides, local floods and droughts and help prevent desertification and salinization. Continue reading

Saving more water

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 15 March 2011

South Africans were given early warning of the coming Water Week with a river clean-up in the Free State led by Deputy Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi.

The "adopt-a-river" initiative aims to ensure that the Wilge River is cleared of dead tree debris.

She was joined on Friday by volunteers from Mafube municipality and SA Breweries in a clean-up along a stretch of the Wilge River at Frankfort as a precursor to Water Week, marked from March 21 to 27.

The Wilge clean-up is set to become part of the local municipality’s environmental contribution and will provide work for 22 people.

Cape Town will host Water Week starting on Monday with the theme: Water is life, working together we can save more water.

Minister Edna Molewa said although the event was happening at a time when much of the country was still dealing with contrasting effects of droughts in parts and the aftermath of the floods that swept through eight provinces in January, the national water sector had to face up to a myriad of challenges.

“These include pollution of water courses, provision of basic water supply to communities and ensuring security of supply into the future,” she said.

This year’s Water Week coincides with South Africa hosting World Water Day on March 22. The African Minister’s Council on Water, UN Habitat and UN Water will all be in South Africa for the first time along with international, regional and local water experts to deliberate on an absolute essential for continued human survival.

The World Water Day conference at the Cape Town International Conference Centre will focus on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialisation and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems.

By: Kim Helfrich
Source: The New Age