Governments worldwide are failing to do enough to tackle drought, which lacks the headline-making punch of a hurricane but can have an equally devastating human and economic impact, the UN weather agency warned Thursday.
“A flood or hurricane is over within hours or days. A drought can last weeks, months, a season, a year. But droughts can cause as many deaths over time as any other natural disaster,” said Robert Stefanski, head of World Meteorological Organisation?s (WMO) agriculture division.
Droughts in recent years have struck regions ranging from the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, China, India, Mexico and Brazil to the United States, Russia and southeastern Europe.
Droughts are estimated to affect tens of millions of people and cause tens of billions of dollars in economic losses every year.
They are expected to increase in frequency, area and intensity due to climate change, yet Read more…
The last decade has produced record-breaking heat waves in many parts of the world. At the same time, it was globally the warmest since sufficient measurements started in the 19th century. Here we show that, worldwide, the number of local record-breaking monthly temperature extremes is now on average five times larger than expected in a climate with no long-term warming. This implies that on average there is an 80 % chance that a new monthly heat record is due to climatic change. Large regional differences exist in the number of observed records. Summertime records, which are associated with prolonged heat waves, increased by more than a factor of ten in some continental regions including parts of Europe, Africa, southern Asia and Amazonia. Overall, these high record numbers are quantitatively consistent with those expected for the observed climatic warming trend with Read more…
Persecution of Christians is rising in at least eight African countries, according to the latest Open Doors USA list of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.
“Africa, where Christianity spread fastest during the past century, now is the region where oppression of Christians is spreading fastest,” the group noted.
On the 2013 World Watch List (analysis and Top 10 country summaries at bottom), which ranks the 50 countries where Christians face the most religious persecution, Mali has skyrocketed from being unranked to No. 7 this year, joining Somalia (No. 5) and Eritrea (No. 10) among the top 10.
“Mali used to be a model country. … Christians and even missionaries could be active,” said Jerry Dykstra, spokesman for Open Doors. “[But] currently the situation in northern Mali is Read more…
A new report from the World Bank states what has been obvious for months: food prices have spiked so high that the costs represent a threat to the ability of many people to feed themselves. The organization also offered solutions it would like to implement, but none of them comes close to a solution to the mammoth problem. And solutions cannot come from elsewhere either. Food shortages are too great, and the nations that might offer aid have become hog-tied by moves toward austerity.
In the latest edition of its Food Price Watch report, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim commented:
Food prices rose again sharply threatening the health and well-being of millions of people. Africa and the Middle East are particularly vulnerable, but so are people in other countries where the prices of grains have gone up abruptly.
Maize prices were up 25% from June to July, as was the price of wheat. Soybean prices rose 17%. The price of internationally traded commodities moved 1% above the previous high in February 2011. The geographic areas hurt most Read more…
THE $200 million new headquarters of the African Union – a gift from China – is another confirmation of the continent’s inability to get things done by itself. Almost 50 years after the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, OAU, the AU’s forebear, the continent could not afford the AU’s new edifice that has cast a permanent role for China in Africa.
Disgraced Libyan despot Moammar Gadhafi could be largely thanked for the new building. As AU Chairman in 2009, he was planning to move the AU’s headquarters from Addis Ababa to his native Sirte. The Ethiopians, who have been close to China, secured the AU headquarters with the offer from China, which built and furnished it.
Addis Ababa has been Africa’s diplomatic capital since the Read more…
Malaria-carrying mosquitoes are disappearing in some parts of Africa, but scientists are unsure as to why.
Figures indicate controls such as anti-mosquito bed nets are having a significant impact on the incidence of malaria in some sub-Saharan countries.
But in Malaria Journal, researchers say mosquitoes are also disappearing from areas with few controls.
They are uncertain if mosquitoes are being eradicated or whether they will return with renewed vigour.
Data from countries such as Tanzania, Eritrea, Rwanda, Kenya and Zambia all indicate that the incidence of malaria is dropping fast.
Researchers believe this is due to effective implementation of control programmes, especially the deployment of bed nets treated with insecticide.
But a team of Danish and Tanzanian scientists say this is not the whole story. For more than 10 years they have been collecting and Read more…
The researchers point to two main factors driving the increase in food prices
The waves of social unrest and political instability seen recently around the world have coincided with large peaks in global food prices, US researchers have found.
They warn that unless something is done urgently to address rising food prices, it could trigger more widespread trouble in the near future.
Professor Yaneer Bar-Yam, president of the New England Complex Systems Institute, and colleagues, correlated the dates of riots around the world with data from the United Nations that plots changes in the price of food.
They found evidence that episodes of social unrest in North Africa and the Middle East coincided closely with peaks in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index.
Reporting their findings on the pre-press website arXiv.org the researchers say that although the riots reflect many factors such as the long-standing political failings of governments, high food prices provide a tipping point.
“There are indeed many factors that can contribute to unrest,” Bar-Yam explains. “What we see, however, is that these conditions can Read more…