Europe Launches First Environment Satellite!

Europe has launched the first in a constellation of hi-tech satellites designed to monitor Earth for climate change and environmental damage and help disaster relief operations.

Sentinel-1A, a satellite designed to scan the Earth with cloud-penetrating radar, lifted off on Thursday evening aboard a Soyuz rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

The satellite is the first of half a dozen orbital monitors that will be built and launched under the $5bn Copernicus project, a joint undertaking of the ESA and the European Union.

It will be followed by a partner, Sentinel-1B, due to be launched towards the end of next year, according to the AFP news agency.

Operating 180 degrees apart, at an altitude of about 700km, between them the pair will be able to take a radar picture of anywhere on Earth within six days.

Radar scanning has a range of uses, from spotting icebergs and oil slicks to detecting rogue logging and ground subsidence.

The data will be widely accessible to the public and is likely to have uses that go beyond the environment, such as in construction and transport.

Environmental disasters

By mapping areas stricken by flood or earthquake, the monitors will also be able to help emergency teams identify the worst-hit areas and locate roads, railway lines and bridges that are still passable, the ESA says.

The others in the series are Sentinel-2, which will deliver high-resolution optical images of forests and land use; Sentinel-3, providing ocean and land data, and Sentinels 4 and 5, which will monitor Earth’s atmospheric composition the basic component in fine-tuning understanding about greenhouse gases.

The goldmine of data expected to be thrown up by the satellite constellation will be more accessible to the public than any previous Earth-monitoring programme.

The potential applications go beyond stewardship of the environment. They could help shipping firms, farmers and construction companies, too.

“Copernicus is the most ambitious Earth observation programme to date,” ESA said.

“It will provide accurate, timely and easily accessible information to improve the management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security.”

Copernicus replaces Envisat, one of the most successful environmental satellites in space history, whose mission ended in 2012.

It was named last year in honour of the 16th-century Polish astronomer who determined that the Earth orbited the Sun, and not the other way round, as convention had it at the time.

Source: Al Jazeera 

UN Sounding The Alarm on Climate Change

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — If the world doesn’t cut pollution of heat-trapping gases, the already noticeable harms of global warming could spiral “out of control,” the head of a United Nations scientific panel warned Monday.

And he’s not alone. The Obama White House says it is taking this new report as a call for action, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying “the costs of inaction are catastrophic.”

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that issued the 32-volume, 2,610-page report here early Monday, told The Associated Press: “it is a call for action.” Without reductions in emissions, he said, impacts from warming “could get out of control.”

One of the study’s authors, Maarten van Aalst, a top official at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said, “If we don’t reduce greenhouse gases soon, risks will get out of hand. And the risks have already risen.”

Twenty-first century disasters such as killer heat waves in Europe, wildfires in the United States, droughts in Australia and deadly flooding in Mozambique, Thailand and Pakistan highlight how vulnerable humanity is to extreme weather, according to the report from the Nobel Prize-winning group of scientists. The dangers are going to worsen as the climate changes even more, the report’s authors said.

“We’re now in an era where climate change isn’t some kind of future hypothetical,” said the overall lead author of the report, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science in California. “We live in an area where impacts from climate change are already widespread and consequential.”

Nobody is immune, Pachauri and other scientists said.

“We’re all sitting ducks,” Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer, one of the main authors of the report, said in an interview.

After several days of late-night wrangling, more than 100 governments unanimously approved the scientist-written 49-page summary — which is aimed at world political leaders. The summary mentions the word “risk” an average of about 5 1/2 times per page.

“Changes are occurring rapidly and they are sort of building up that risk,” Field said.

These risks are both big and small, according to the report. They are now and in the future. They hit farmers and big cities. Some places will have too much water, some not enough, including drinking water. Other risks mentioned in the report involve the price and availability of food, and to a lesser and more qualified extent some diseases, financial costs and even world peace.

“Things are worse than we had predicted” in 2007, when the group of scientists last issued this type of report, said report co-author Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University in Bangladesh. “We are going to see more and more impacts, faster and sooner than we had anticipated.”

The problems have gotten so bad that the panel had to add a new and dangerous level of risks. In 2007, the biggest risk level in one key summary graphic was “high” and colored blazing red. The latest report adds a new level, “very high,” and colors it deep purple.

You might as well call it a “horrible” risk level, said van Aalst: “The horrible is something quite likely, and we won’t be able to do anything about it.”

The report predicts that the highest level of risk would first hit plants and animals, both on land and the acidifying oceans.

Climate change will worsen problems that society already has, such as poverty, sickness, violence and refugees, according to the report. And on the other end, it will act as a brake slowing down the benefits of a modernizing society, such as regular economic growth and more efficient crop production, it says.

“In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans,” the report says.

And if society doesn’t change, the future looks even worse, it says: “Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts.”

While the problems from global warming will hit everyone in some way, the magnitude of the harm won’t be equal, coming down harder on people who can least afford it, the report says. It will increase the gaps between the rich and poor, healthy and sick, young and old, and men and women, van Aalst said.

But the report’s authors say this is not a modern day version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Much of what they warn of are more nuanced troubles that grow by degrees and worsen other societal ills. The report also concedes that there are uncertainties in understanding and predicting future climate risks.

The report, the fifth on warming’s impacts, includes risks to the ecosystems of the Earth, including a thawing Arctic, but it is far more oriented to what it means to people than past versions.

The report also notes that one major area of risk is that with increased warming, incredibly dramatic but ultra-rare single major climate events, sometimes called tipping points, become more possible with huge consequences for the globe. These are events like the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which would take more than 1,000 years.

“I can’t think of a better word for what it means to society than the word ‘risk,’” said Virginia Burkett of the U.S. Geological Survey, one of the study’s main authors. She calls global warming “maybe one of the greatest known risks we face.”

Global warming is triggered by heat-trapping gases, such as carbon dioxide, that stay in the atmosphere for a century. Much of the gases still in the air and trapping heat came from the United States and other industrial nations. China is now by far the No. 1 carbon dioxide polluter, followed by the United States and India.

Unlike in past reports, where the scientists tried to limit examples of extremes to disasters that computer simulations can attribute partly to man-made warming, this version broadens what it looks at because it includes the larger issues of risk and vulnerability, van Aalst said.

Freaky storms like 2013′s Typhoon Haiyan, 2012′s Superstorm Sandy and 2008′s ultra-deadly Cyclone Nargis may not have been caused by warming, but their fatal storm surges were augmented by climate change’s ever rising seas, he said.

And in the cases of the big storms like Haiyan, Sandy and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the poor were the most vulnerable, Oppenheimer and van Aalst said. The report talks about climate change helping create new pockets of poverty and “hotspots of hunger” even in richer countries, increasing inequality between rich and poor.

Report co-author Maggie Opondo of the University of Nairobi said that especially in places like Africa, climate change and extreme events mean “people are going to become more vulnerable to sinking deeper into poverty.” And other study authors talked about the fairness issue with climate change.

“Rich people benefit from using all these fossil fuels,” University of Sussex economist Richard Tol said. “Poorer people lose out.”

Huq said he had hope because richer nations and people are being hit more, and “when it hits the rich, then it’s a problem” and people start acting on it.

Part of the report talks about what can be done: reducing carbon pollution and adapting to and preparing for changing climates with smarter development.

The report echoes an earlier U.N. climate science panel that said if greenhouse gases continue to rise, the world is looking at another about 6 or 7 degrees Fahrenheit (3.5 or 4 degrees Celsius) of warming by 2100 instead of the international goal of not allowing temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius). The difference between those two outcomes, Princeton’s Oppenheimer said, “is the difference between driving on an icy road at 30 mph versus 90 mph. It’s risky at 30, but deadly at 90.”

Tol, who is in the minority of experts here, had his name removed from the summary because he found it “too alarmist,” harping too much on risk.

But the panel vice chairman, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, said that’s not quite right: “We are pointing for reasons for alarm … It’s because the facts and the science and the data show that there are reasons to be alarmed. It’s not because we’re alarmist.”

The report is based on more than 12,000 peer reviewed scientific studies. Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, a co-sponsor of the climate panel, said this report was “the most solid evidence you can get in any scientific discipline.”

Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University who wasn’t part of this report, said he found the report “very conservative” because it is based on only peer reviewed studies and has to be approved unanimously.

There is still time to adapt to some of the coming changes and reduce heat-trapping emissions, so it’s not all bad, said study co-author Patricia Romero-Lankao of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.

“We have a closing window of opportunity,” she said. “We do have choices. We need to act now.”

Source: The Huffington Post

Climate Change Is Creeping Into Our Crops

Climate change could put back the fight against hunger by decades but our global food system is woefully unprepared to cope with the challenge, said Oxfam today. The warning comes as governments gather in Japan to agree a major new scientific report, which is expected to show that the impacts of climate change on food will be far more serious and will hit much sooner than previously thought.

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Washington DC – infoZine – Oxfam’s briefing paper, ‘Hot and Hungry: How to stop climate change derailing the fight against hunger’ analyses ten key factors that will have an increasingly important influence on countries’ ability to feed their people in a warming world. Across all ten areas, Oxfam found serious gaps between what governments are doing and what they need to do to protect our food systems. The results also show that while many countries – both rich and poor – are unprepared for the impact of climate change on food security, it is the world’s poorest and most food insecure among them that are least prepared and most at risk.

The ten gaps, “failing” policy areas that will undermine the world’s ability to feed itself in a warming world, are:

International adaptation finance (score: <1/10): Rich countries promised to help poor countries adapt to a changing climate but have only provided around 2 per cent of the money poor countries need.

Crop irrigation (score: < 1/10): In California irrigation covers over 80 per cent of arable land. In Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, where farmers are confronting cyclical droughts, irrigation covers less than one per cent of arable land.

Crop insurance (score < 2/10): Just 1 per cent or less of farmers in poor countries such as Malawi have crop insurance compared to 91 per cent of farmers in the US – making it harder for them to survive when climate shocks destroy their harvests.

Agricultural research and development (R&D) (score: 2/10): Global seed diversity has declined by 75 per cent in the last 100 years, depriving farmers of crop varieties better suited to changing weather patterns. Poor countries spend a sixth of the amount that rich countries spend on agricultural R&D.

Social protection (score: 3/10): Just 20 per cent of people across the globe have access to adequate social protection schemes, such as free school meals or cash transfers, when food is unavailable or too expensive.

Weather forecasting (score: 3/10): Information from weather stations helps farmers avoid crop failure. In California, there is one station every 2,000 square km. In Chad there is only one station every 80,000 square km – roughly the size of Austria.

Gender discrimination (score: 5/10): Women make up 43 per cent of the agricultural workforce in developing countries but discrimination makes it hard for them to adapt. For example, women rarely own the land they farm so it’s hard to change their farming methods to deal with a changing climate.

Food stocks (score 5/10): World grain reserves are at historically low levels. If extreme or erratic weather wipes out harvests in key producing countries, food prices could skyrocket, triggering major food crises.

Agricultural investment (score: 7/10): Only four of the 20 African countries Oxfam looked at have delivered on their commitment to spend 10 per cent of their national budget on agriculture.

Humanitarian aid (score: 6/10): Climate change could mean more food crises but humanitarian aid is already failing to keep pace with demand – the difference between the amount of aid which is needed and the amount provided has tripled since 2001.

Oxfam’s analysis also highlights that a number of countries such as Ghana, Viet Nam and Malawi that are bucking the trend by taking action in areas such as social protection, crop irrigation and agricultural investment. This is helping them to outstrip countries such as Nigeria, Laos and Niger on food security, despite sharing similar levels of income and climate risk.

Source: InfoZine

Is Our Society Really Doomed? We Certainly Hope Not!

NASA Study Concludes When Civilization Will End…
And It’s Not Looking Good for Us

Originally published by Tom McKay for PolicyMic
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Civilization was pretty great while it lasted, wasn’t it? Too bad it’s not going to for much longer. According to a new study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, we only have a few decades left before everything we know and hold dear collapses.
The report, written by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center along with a team of natural and social scientists, explains that modern civilization is doomed. And there’s not just one particular group to blame, but the entire fundamental structure and nature of our society.
Analyzing five risk factors for societal collapse (population, climate, water, agriculture and energy), the report says that the sudden downfall of complicated societal structures can follow when these factors converge to form two important criteria. Motesharrei’s report says that all societal collapses over the past 5,000 years have involved both ”the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity” and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor].” This “Elite” population restricts the flow of resources accessible to the “Masses”, accumulating a surplus for themselves that is high enough to strain natural resources. Eventually this situation will inevitably result in the destruction of society.
Elite power, the report suggests, will buffer “detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners,” allowing the privileged to “continue ‘business as usual’ despite the impending catastrophe.”
Science will surely save us, the nay-sayers may yell. But technology, argues Motesharrei, has only damned us further:

Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.

In other words, the benefits of technology are outweighed by how much the gains reinforce the existing, over-burdened system — making collapse even more likely.

The worst-case scenarios predicted by Motesharrei are pretty dire, involving sudden collapse due to famine or a drawn-out breakdown of society due to the over-consumption of natural resources. The best-case scenario involves recognition of the looming catastrophe by Elites and a more equitable restructuring of society, but who really believes that is going to happen? Here’s what the study recommends:

The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth.

These are great suggestions that will, unfortunately, almost certainly never be put into action, considering just how far down the wrong path our civilization has gone. As of last year, humans are using more resources than the Earth can replenish and the planet’s distribution of resources among its terrestrial inhabitants is massively unequal. This is what happened to Rome and the Mayans, according to the report.

… historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases).

And that’s not even counting the spectre of global climate change, which could be a looming “instant planetary emergency.” According to Canadian Wildlife Service biologist Neil Dawe:

Economic growth is the biggest destroyer of the ecology. Those people who think you can have a growing economy and a healthy environment are wrong. If we don’t reduce our numbers, nature will do it for us … Everything is worse and we’re still doing the same things. Because ecosystems are so resilient, they don’t exact immediate punishment on the stupid.

In maybe the nicest way to say the end is nigh possible, Motesharrei’s report concludes that “closely reflecting the reality of the world today … we find that collapse is difficult to avoid.”
Writes Nafeez Ahmed at The Guardian:

“Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies — by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance — have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a ‘perfect storm’ within about fifteen years. But these ‘business as usual’ forecasts could be very conservative.”

Well, at least zombies aren’t real.

Climate Change Loves A Good All Nighter

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It might not have had the drama of a Sen. Ted Cruz overnight talk-a-thon, but some Senate Democrats hope their all-night effort draws similar attention to their issue that has been stalled in Congress: climate change.

Mirroring a tactic employed by Cruz during his marathon effort aimed at derailing Obamacare, Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts read from Dr. Seuss during his turn speaking just before midnight Tuesday.

He chose the children’s book “The Lorax,” which touches on the environment.

“But now says the Once-ler, now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear. Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better,” Markey read, then added his own thoughts: “So to my colleagues here in the Senate and everyone watching and following tonight thank you for caring a whole awful lot.”

Twenty-eight Dems participate

The effort by 28 Democratic senators was launched in part by Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse, who credits warming oceans for the state’s disappearing idyllic and populated coastline.

Whitehouse has spoken about the issue every week the Senate has been in session for the past two years, culminating in 60 speeches that have gone largely unnoticed by the public.

He and fellow Democratic members of the climate change caucus hope their all-night session propels the issue back into the spotlight since it has been on the back burner for several years.

“There’s a group of senators who have not given up on getting something done on climate change and aren’t willing to just sit quietly through the current status quo,” Whitehouse told CNN in a phone interview on Monday.

After climate change legislation, one of President Barack Obama’s top three priorities entering office, failed in 2010, the issue fell off the radar. The President rarely talked about it. Congress did little to address it.

“If you were looking for reassurance that somebody took this seriously in Washington, you weren’t finding much,” Whitehouse said.

Why the renewed focus on climate change?

The third rail

Climate change turned into an issue that few wanted to touch, especially those facing difficult reelection campaigns.

When Democrats tried to pass legislation that would have capped carbon emissions, skepticism around climate change reached an all-time high.

According to Gallup, 48% of respondents said the issue on its face is exaggerated.

Opponents, led by organizations and businesses involved in the fossil fuel industry, successfully turned public opinion and stopped any efforts in its tracks.

The death of climate change

Opponents successfully renamed cap and trade, which referred to legislation that placed limits on carbon emissions by power plants and other major polluters, to “cap and tax.”

Amid recession, they argued the proposal would kill jobs and raise energy prices.

Key players in changing the dynamic of the debate were the Koch Brothers, billionaire businessmen who made their fortune in the oil and gas industry and have also spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to defeat Democrats.

Cap and trade would have cut into Koch industries’ revenue, which is estimated to hover around $100 billion per year.

Tim Phillips, the President of Americans for Prosperity, the political organization backed by the Kochs, said that killing climate change legislation in a Democratic-controlled Washington was his organization’s major accomplishment.

“Stopping cap and trade was a crucial policy victory that most folks would have thought impossible at the time,” he said during a recent interview. “Defeating that was an enormous policy victory that has lasting policy repercussions in a good way.”

Not only did they kill the legislation, they successfully helped to elect a crop of new lawmakers who don’t believe that human activity is the cause of global warming.

According to the League of Conservation Voters, 100 lawmakers currently fall into their ranks.

Whitehouse had this response: It’s “something that his grandchildren will be very ashamed of.”

Opinion: Why are we still debating climate change?

The top Republican in the Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell, took to the floor Monday afternoon to deride the climate change talkers as “cruel.”

“Families are losing work because of government attacks on the coal industry,” McConnell said, referring to his home state of Kentucky. “And tonight you’re going to hear 30 hours of excuses from a group of people who think that’s OK. Well it’s not OK. It’s cruel.”

A revival?

The death of cap and trade triggered new fears among environmentally friendly legislators.

“It is unfortunate,” Whitehouse said. “History will look back at the propaganda effort of the carbon polluters as one of the most sophisticated and complex propaganda efforts that human kind had to withstand.”

But since then, the public has started to shift its opinion.

According to Gallup, 41% now say that climate change is exaggerated — 7 points lower than its high in 2010. And the number of those who say the seriousness of the issue is underestimated is on the rise.

Now Whitehouse thinks it’s his side’s turn to make a move. He has buy in from the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who told reporters last week that it is “the worst problem” the world faces.

But they have to start at Square One by working to convince the public that climate change is real.

The Senate’s all-night session is well-timed.

Wealthy former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer is willing to spend Koch-like money to push the issue of climate change and defeat skeptics in the 2014 midterms.

Whitehouse, who has known Steyer since college, said if he can make good on his pledge to infuse the effort with $100 million, he would “help to neutralize an incredibly one-sided spending.”

“We can change the conversation very quickly.”

The absentees

But not all Democrats – and no Republicans – are on board. Notable senators were absent from the overnight session Monday into Tuesday.

They include those who have difficult election campaigns, including Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska.

Republicans aren’t letting Landrieu’s absence go unnoticed.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which aims to get Republicans elected to the Senate, put out a web video Tuesday, criticizing Landrieu for allowing the talk-a-thon to take place. The video also argues she doesn’t stand up enough for American energy.

Tiernan Sittenfeld, a senior vice president of the League of Conservation Voters, said the fact that just over half of the Democratic caucus is willing to speak in the wee hours of the night about climate change is “incredibly exciting” and “good politics.”

In fact, Whitehouse is working to ensure that climate change is a topic in the 2016 presidential race by traveling to Iowa next week to talk to voters and activists.

He insists he is not running for President but wants to make sure those who do talk about the impact of climate change.

Obama’s engagement

After a hiatus post 2010, the Obama administration is also back in the climate change game.

President Barack Obama proposed his Climate Action Plan this past summer that would create carbon pollution standards for power plants and expand renewable energy production. And in his new budget plan, the President proposed funding to study the impacts of climate change.

Secretary of State John Kerry said last month that climate change is the “greatest challenge of our generation.”

Whitehouse is optimistic that the tide is turning. So much so that he traveled to Sea Island, Georgia, this past weekend to speak at the conservative American Enterprise Institute conference.

“I think it went pretty well,” he said.

Source: CNN

Climate Change Calls For An All Nighter

 

A group of 28 senators will take over the Senate floor on Monday evening for an all-night talk-a-thon on climate change.

The senators plan to start their climate-fest on Monday, March 10, after the last votes, and continue until around 9 a.m. on Tuesday. The senators are part of the Climate Action Task Force, which was launched in January.

The event, said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), is meant “to show the growing number of senators who are committed to working together to confront climate change.”

The number of participating senators has grown since the event was first announced several weeks ago. Now they’re up to 26 Democrats and two independents. The senators are also planning to tweet the event using the hashtag #Up4Climate.

The following senators are participating: Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray, (D-Wash.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Barbara Boxer, (D-Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Angus King (I-Maine), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Source: Huffington Post Green

Say It Ain’t So! Nine Foods Are In Danger Due To Climate Change.

Originally published by Sara Boboltz for The Huffington Post

While the next four decades aren’t likely to see an agricultural apocalypse, it’s pretty likely that some foods will be harder to come by — due to increased costs and decreased supply — as harvesting becomes more difficult due to rising temperatures and irregular weather patterns spurred by climate change.

Here are a few of the food items you should be most concerned about.

A decent cup of coffee.

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The Arabica coffee bean comes from finicky plants growing in developing nations heating up around the equator. (There are other variants, such as Robusta, but most people agree they’re gross.) Arabica is also particularly susceptible to a disease called “coffee rust,” which is pretty much what it sounds like — a rust-like fungus that turns leaves dark brown, causing a lower yield of poorer quality and even death for the plant. Climate change is seen as the main culprit in the coffee rust explosion, the devastating effects of which caused the Guatemalan president to declare a national state of emergency in 2013.

A 2011 study predicted a downfall of the poor Arabica tree in Nicaragua and Veracruz, Mexico if nothing is done over the coming decades. By 2050, Nicaragua, which produces about 17 percent of the world’s coffee supply at present, “will hardly be a coffee producer anymore,” according to Tim Schilling, executive director of the World Coffee Research Center. Instead of sourcing beans from Central America, he said, “you’ll be doing it from Texas or the south of France.”

In an effort to protect their core product, Starbucks recently purchased a hilly Costa Rican coffee farm for “research” — or rather, for creating a hybridized tree that can survive drought, plagues and probably nuclear warfare. Cheers to you, Starbucks!

Inexpensive chocolate.

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A whopping 70 percent of the world’s cocoa — a particularly heat-sensitive crop — is grown in West Africa, and that region is expected to warm up in the coming decades. Sure, farmers could just plant trees higher up on a hillside, except for the fact that Africa is generally pretty flat.

A 2011 report on cocoa farming funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation predicted a 2.3 degree global temperature increase by 2050, which could send “yields crashing and prices soaring” as more and more land becomes unsuitable for cultivation. That’s unfortunate for the world’s chocoholics, yes, but also for its cocoa farmers, many of whom depend solely on their fair-trade, small-scale operations to get by. However, the report suggested a crisis could be averted by pouring funds into researching heat-resistant trees.

Peanut butter.

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The price of peanut butter is already going up, but we may also start seeing less of this household favorite thanks to droughts on peanut farms. Peanuts — which are actually a legume — are also finicky things that require 20 to 40 inches of rain within a certain timeframe. Too little rain overall makes for a dry crop, while enough rain too far from harvest time leads to toxic mold.

According to a 2009 U.S. Global Change Research Program report, these trends could be a picture of the future — conditions in states that grow the most peanuts are likely to become drier in the coming decades. Might want to hold your PB&J a little closer.
French wines.

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Three decades ago, vintners first started noticing changes to their harvests, before climate research took off to the extent it has today. Grapes were ripening sooner — two weeks earlier than they once did — with increased sugar content and less acidity. Their growth was inhibited by droughts. So winemakers have begun switching to more heat-resistant species of grape, trying to adapt to the inevitable change.

But if change comes more quickly, the famous grape-stompers of Bordeaux may need to abandon their vines. The most “pessimistic scenario,” one expert told The Daily Telegraph, is “that the climate will no longer be suitable for Cabernet and Merlot wines by the middle of the century.” (Champagne makers, however, aren’t complaining yet.)

As for U.S. wineries, a 2006 study suggested the end of this century could see an 81 percent reduction in premium wine-grape growing regions. Other regions with more favorable temperature conditions could be used, but temperature is only one factor in growing the best of the best grapes — soil health and knowledge of the trade being equally important.

“Wine is tied to place,” said David Graves of Napa’s Saintsbury wine company, “more than any other form of agriculture.”

Apple pie.

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Apple trees, as we all know, shed their leaves and go dormant each winter. Turns out this chill period leading up to the spring is crucial — the trees actually keep track of how much winter weather they get, blossoming fully only once they’ve reached the end of their cold period. There’s been little success growing apples without this chilling period, since the plants originate in areas with cold winters.

Thanks to rising winter temperatures, we might start seeing smaller and smaller apple harvests, which means fewer and more expensive apples. And the ones we do get could start tasting differently than we remember them, too. According to Japanese researchers, climate change is making Fuji apples softer and sweeter than ever before, since the plants are tricked with warm temperatures into blossoming earlier.

Other fruits whose chilling requirements could also be affected by warmer winters include peaches, plums, apricots and pears. (Let’s all learn how to make preserves, quick.)

Water.

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Sure, you might think water isn’t “delicious” (and it’s certainly not a food), but without it these other things don’t really matter. According to a 2010 report commissioned by the National Resources Defense Council, around one-third of U.S. counties “will face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of global warming.” Between 2030 and 2050, problems sourcing freshwater are “anticipated to be significant” in the country’s major agricultural and urban regions.

Anyone who’s paid attention to the news in the recent past has noticed reports of droughts — although exactly how linked they are to Earth’s warming trend is still a question for scientists. But what seems likely is a decrease in snowfall and earlier snow melts due to warmer temperatures, which could affect regions that rely on gradually melting snow as a freshwater supply.

Craft beers.

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Two of the most important ingredients for the beer industry face an unknown future. Not only will finding a reliable water supply become an obstacle for brewers in some areas, but so will obtaining hops in the coming decades — particularly specialty hops used in specialty beers. Scientists are already trying to breed more heat-resistant varieties and implement better irrigation systems, but brewers stress the importance of the issue.

“This is not a problem that’s going to happen someday,” Jenn Orgolini of Colorado’s New Belgium Brewery explained. “If you drink beer now, the issue of climate change is impacting you right now.”

Hops require — surprise, surprise — a cold winter and a hot summer. For U.K. farmers, warm winters and springs have resulted in early-blooming crops with small yields. Saaz hops are particularly hurting. Malting barley production is also expected to decline in the coming decades, resulting in more expensive beer or worse — less beer.

Fresh fish.

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Fish are probably shrinking in size, according to the researchers behind a 2012 study. Global warming, they wrote, is likely to decrease the amount of oxygen in oceans worldwide, which fish need in order to grow. Less oxygen will lead to smaller fish — their average weight is expected to drop 14 to 24 percent by 2050 — that will seek out the colder, more oxygen-rich waters of the north and south.

Fish weight is “expected to have large implications” on the marine food chain. It’s possible that small fish will thrive as their usual predators shrink.

Bananas.

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Costa Rican farmers are blaming global warming on the devastating pests that are destroying their harvests and, back in December, caused the nation to declare a national emergency. Changes in rainfall and temperature favor the bugs that cause blemishes on the crop, which exporters may then refuse. They also make the plants more susceptible to disease.

For example, a soil fungus that previously wiped out the Gros Michel species of banana back in the 1950s has somehow made it to Central America and is now threatening crops. (Gros Michel bananas were replaced by the Cavendish variety we currently know and love.) Both insects and fungi are bad news for the small-scale farmers of Latin America.

“I can tell you with near certainty that climate change is behind these pests,” said the director of Costa Rica’s Agriculture and Livestock Ministry’s State Phytosanitary Services.

All photos via Getty.

 

Nature Deserves Legal Rights Too!

Law of Mother Earth sees Bolivia pilot new social and economic model based on protection of and respect for nature.

Bolivia is to become the first country in the world to give nature comprehensive legal rights in an effort to halt climate change and the exploitation of the natural world, and to improve quality of life for the Bolivian people.

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