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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Climate change brings trouble to millions of farmers: UN

Boureima Hama 

WHEN yet another drought wiped out his flock five years ago, Toro, a Fulani shepherd in Niger, decided to migrate to the capital Niamey, where he found work selling cell phones instead. “Without water or grass, my oxen and sheep died, one by one,” the lanky man in his 40s said, adjusting a white turban that protects him against the searing heat. But now, living in the city “without my animals, I’ve lost my identity,” he says.

Climate change has wreaked havoc in Niger, bringing floods, droughts, spikes in temperature and food shortages – buffeting the lives and livelihoods of millions of farmers in the west African nation. Farmers flee to cities, while those who stay in rural areas are vulnerable to bloody conflicts over land, livestock or water.

Flooding in the vast sandy nation in 2012 alone killed 102 people, affected more than half a million Nigerians and caused some 135 million euros ($204 million) worth of damage, according to Mahaman Goni Boulama of the disaster prevention office. Niger’s some 18 million inhabitants are no strangers to hardship, with the landlocked former French colony already one of the world’s least developed countries, ranking 187th on the UN Human Development Index.

Global warming is only worsening the problems, with the steadily encroaching desert now covering three-quarters of the country – a reality experts and authorities have warned about for three decades.

Temperatures top 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in the dusty desert north, while the mercury tends to hover between 30 and 45 degrees in the shade for the rest of the country. The country’s water supplies are dwindling relentlessly, with wells, reservoirs and waterways drying up. “You have to dig several hundred metres to reach water,” says Issa Amoumoune, whose home area Tanout in the centre of the country was once its breadbasket but now faces being engulfed by the sands of the Sahara.

The United Nations says two in three people regularly drink polluted water. The desert sands are encroaching on the Niger River itself, threatening the survival of more than 100 million people living in its basin – a vast swathe from Guinea to Nigeria, the nine-country Niger Basin Authority warns.

Fish can no longer breed and boats can no longer ply parts of Africa’s third largest river as aquatic weeds clog up some of the waterways.

Humans contribute to desertification by cutting down trees for firewood, since they have no electricity for cooking.

The environment ministry says households consume around 200,000 tonnes of wood per year, which translates to 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of destroyed forest.

Just one per cent of Niger’s land receives an average of 600 millimetres (24 inches) of rain during the rainy season, which lasts three or four months.

Everywhere else is lucky to get between 150 and 300 mm.

“Everything has vanished,” said Albert Wright, a Nigerian civil solar engineer, recalling when Niger was an abundant producer of figs and cashews.

Today, Niger can no longer feed the bulk of its people, a situation that is only getting worse because of a population explosion.

Agricultural output is increasing by two percent per year, while the population is growing at nearly twice that rate, says Manou Bague, head of Niger’s farmers’ union SNAN.

With one of the world’s highest birthrates of 7.6 children per woman, the population may reach 50 million by 2050, authorities warn.

Aid groups say 13.3 per cent of children under age five suffer serious malnutrition, well above the 10 percent critical threshold set by the UN World Health Organisation.

Many Nigerians decide to flee their country – but they do so at their great peril. In 2013, 92 migrants, mainly women and children fleeing poor harvests, died of thirst while crossing the Sahara to reach Algeria.

Last year, Algiers turned back more than 3,700 migrants from Niger including some 900 children.

Sumber - The Brunei Times

When mankind fails to take action against global warming

IF mankind fails to curtail global warming, we will have to deal with fallout ranging from massive refugee crises and submerged cities to scorching heatwaves and drought, scientists say.

Starting on November 30, 195 nations will huddle in Paris for a climate rescue pact to rein in the greenhouse gases that drive climate change.

Here is what could happen if they come up empty handed:

Without additional action, Earth could heat up by as much as four degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, compared to pre-industrial levels.

A mountain of scientific evidence tells us this would be a recipe for disaster.

A “business as usual” emissions scenario would “lead to a very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible” impacts, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

By 2100, the world’s oceans would rise 26 to 82 centimetres over levels seen between 1986-2005, the IPCC found in its most recent assessment, which includes data up to 2012. More recent studies suggest the increases could be even higher.

Driving the rise are ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica shedding mass faster than ever, melting glaciers, and oceans that expand as they warm.

Even a two centigrade rise as targeted by the UN would submerge land currently occupied by 280 million people, according to Climate Central, a US-based research group. The change could take a few hundred years, or up to 2,000 years.

Superstorms, bone-chilling cold snaps and intense heat waves could become more common – and more extreme – due to global warming.

While the link between specific weather events and climate remains hard to nail down, recent research has teased out climate change as an aggravating factor for deadly floods, snowstorms, typhoons and heat waves.

Not all nasty hurricanes or heat waves, however, can be chalked up to climate change, scientists caution.

Global warming can lead to long-running droughts and devastating floods, which means some parts of the world will not have enough water and others too much.

Droughts in Syria and California have been tied to climate change. Heavy rains carry the risk of flooding that can send people fleeing for their lives, destroy homes and crops.

Global warming can spur disease, ravage crops and push more people into poverty. Conflict over water or smaller harvests could instigate war or mass migration.

People living on low-lying islands such as the Maldives, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, or the Philippines could become climate refugees, forced to flee their homes due to rising seas.

Impoverished people in the world are already being hurt by heat waves, drought and flooding, because they are both more dependent on the land and lack public services.

Sumber - The Brunei Times

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