Posts tagged as: atmosphere

South Africa: Green Energy Conference Focuses On SA Climate, Water

With the threat of climate change impacting on natural resources, the National Cleaner Production Centre South Africa (NCPC-SA) is hosting an energy conference focused on the green energy industry.

The free biennial Industrial Efficiency Conference in Cape Town will expose companies to government policy on transitioning to a low carbon economy.

“We host the event in a different province each year. The 2013 event in Gauteng was the first, followed by an even more successful conference in Durban in July 2015,” said Julie Wells, marketing and communication manager of the NCPC-SA.

The conference will offer a number of workshops and panel discussions on how policy might affect company operations in terms of resource efficient methodologies.

Delegates will also have the opportunity to learn from one another on topics such as energy efficiency, water efficiency, industrial symbiosis, waste management, green productivity, localisation and clean technology.

Climate change

The increase of storm severity has been linked to climate change.

Scientists have calculated that for every 1°C increase in temperature, the atmosphere could hold 7% more water, resulting in more rain, especially during storm events.

READ Scientists: Harvey may be the soggy sign of future storms

Despite that, US President Donald Trump has pulled his country out of the Paris accord designed to engender co-operation between countries to mitigate the effects of climate change.

In SA, Cape Town has seen declines in rainfall that has left the city struggling to cope with an acute drought.

Dr Peter Johnston’ a climate scientist at UCT’ estimates that by 2050, Cape Town will receive 20% less rainfall. This could result is partial desertification of the Western Cape province.

The Industrial Efficiency Conference kicks off on Thursday and is funded by the departments of trade and industry and environment. It is hosted by the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research).

It will be held at the Century City Conference Centre, in Cape Town.

Source: News24

Africa: Climate Smart Crops – a Necessity for Future Food & Nutrition Security

By Bev Postma

Washington DC — Climate change is taking a severe toll on farmers, as they watch their livelihoods disappear with the onslaught of floods, droughts and rising sea levels and temperatures. With agriculture currently employing over 1.3 billion people throughout the world, or close to 40 percent of the global workforce, it is imperative that we incorporate climate resilience into all aspects of crop breeding and food innovation.

Developing ways to improve staple crops so that they can withstand some of the adverse effects of climate change will ensure food security and agricultural livelihood for generations to come.

A recent report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) found that at current rates of climate change, it is likely that global food production will decline by two percent every decade until at least 2050, just as the world’s population is expected to reach 9.7 billion people.

As a result of these factors, people may be forced to eat fewer fruits, vegetables, and red meat products because their availability may be scarce and prices may rise accordingly. Access to food may also be limited by climate-related vulnerabilities in transportation, storage, and processing.

Projection models from the World Bank likewise show that by the 2030s-2040s, between 40 to 80 percent of cropland used to grow staple crops like maize, millet and sorghum could be lost due to the effects of higher temperatures, drought and aridity.

At the same time, increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are already decreasing the nutritional quality of crops – lowering their concentrations of vital micronutrients like zinc and iron. In a 2014 study on CO2 and crop nutrition, Samuel Myers of Harvard University and his colleagues determined that the CO2 levels in the second half of this century would likely reduce the levels of zinc, iron, and protein in wheat, rice, peas, and soybeans.

Some two billion people live in countries where citizens receive more than 60 percent of their zinc or iron from these foods. Many already suffer from diets that lack enough of these important minerals, and increased deficiencies of these vital nutrients would have even more devastating health consequences.

A new technology known as biofortification – the process of increasing the nutrient content of staple food crops – is a promising tool in the global effort to mitigate these trends.

Many of the effects of climate change are already being felt. Increased drought and aridity are now a reality in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, leading to widespread harvest losses and livestock death. As a result, malnutrition levels in the area have skyrocketed. In Somalia alone, the UN says more than six million people are in need of urgent help.

Though climate change continues to progress at an advanced pace, researchers and policymakers can help offset some of the negative impact on farmers by focusing on crop adaptation strategies. Organizations like HarvestPlus and our global partners recognize the necessity of climate resilience and our scientists, plant breeders and country teams are working daily to scale out more climate-resilient crops.

At the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Palmira, Colombia, researchers are developing beans that can “beat the heat.” Often referred to as “the meat of the poor,” beans offer a crucial source of vitamins and protein as well as income for millions of people, particularly in Africa and Latin America.

But climate modeling suggests that, over the coming decades, higher temperatures will threaten bean production, reducing yields and quality. Moreover, heat stress could diminish the area for growing beans by up to 50% in eastern and central Africa by the year 2050.

By identifying elite lines of beans that show strong tolerance to heat – up to 30 degrees Celsius – breeders can develop more productive, nutritionally improved beans that are resilient even in harsh growing conditions.

Indeed, climate resistant traits are integral to all 150 varieties of the 12 staple crops we and our partners have developed. We run extensive tests to ensure crops will be successful, from stress tests in the field mimicking intense climate conditions, to studies in laboratories.

Under repeatable stress conditions, we generate an environment for testing which allows breeding for climate smart, robust varieties with high micro¬nutrient and high yield stability.

The traits bred into our crops are virus, disease and pest resistance, as well as drought and heat tolerance. These selective plant breeding techniques are just one means of securing agriculture in areas vulnerable to climate change, but we have to do more.

As climate change continues to play a dominant role in agriculture and food security, we have to remain committed to continued research to be sure people in rural communities receive the most nutritious and resilient crop varieties available.

With ongoing crises of famine in five countries stretching from Africa to the Middle East, farmers and vulnerable populations are relying on policymakers, scientists and aid workers to provide the necessary tools to mitigate hunger and prevent additional harvest losses.

Africa: Agriculture a Culprit in Global Warming, Says U.S. Research

By Ellen Wulfhorst

New York — Agriculture has contributed nearly as much to climate change as deforestation by intensifying global warming, according to U.S. research that has quantified the amount of carbon taken from the soil by farming.

Some 133 billion tons of carbon have been removed from the top two meters of the earth’s soil over the last two centuries by agriculture at a rate that is increasing, said the study in PNAS, a journal published by the National Academy of Sciences.

Global warming is largely due to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from such activities as burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees that otherwise would absorb greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

But this research showed the significance of agriculture as a contributing factor as well, said Jonathan Sanderman, a soil scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts and one of the authors of the research.

While soil absorbs carbon in organic matter from plants and trees as they decompose, agriculture has helped deplete that carbon accumulation in the ground, he said.

Widespread harvesting removes carbon from the soil as do tilling methods that can accelerate erosion and decomposition.

“It’s alarming how much carbon has been lost from the soil,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Small changes to the amount of carbon in the soil can have really big consequences for how much carbon is accumulating in the atmosphere.”

Sanderman said the research marked the first time the amount of carbon pulled out of the soil has been spatially quantified.

The 133 billion tons of carbon lost from soil compares to about 140 billion tons lost due to deforestation, he said, mostly since the mid-1800s and the Industrial Revolution.

But the findings show potential for the earth’s soil to mitigate global warming by absorbing more carbon through such practices as better land stewardship, more extensive ground cover to minimize erosion, better diversity of crop rotation and no-till farming, he said.

The world’s nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases generated by burning fossil fuels that are blamed by scientists for warming the planet.

President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark Paris accord in May, saying it would undermine the U.S. economy and weaken national sovereignty.

Supporters of the accord, including some leading U.S. business figures, said Trump’s move was a blow to international efforts to tackle global warming that would isolate the United States.

– Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, editing by Belinda Goldsmith


Immigration Bill Targets Africans Who Benefit United States

African immigrants to the United States account for less than five percent of the total, but they are better educated… Read more »

South Africa: Despair and Depression At Law School Are Real, and Need Attention

analysisBy Penelope Andrews

Cape Town — Pursuing a professional degree can be extremely stressful for students, who often experience it as a time riddled with anxiety, uncertainty, fear and financial challenge.

The emotional health of law students was recently brought to my attention in an email from a student at the University of Cape Town’s law faculty where I am the dean. The student noted a perceived hyper competitive, overly demanding and alienating environment. This, he told me, was putting the mental health of some law students under severe strain. He stated that because of the atmosphere, “the use of anti-anxiety and antidepressant medication has become the norm amongst students” and alcohol is being consumed in alarming proportions.

The disturbing email had me pondering: was this an individual case of emotional distress or did it suggest a wider problem that required urgent attention? And what kind of attention? Is there something about law school in particular that drives its students to mental health problems and substance abuse? And, if so, how can it be addressed?

In seeking answers to these questions I first looked into the University of Cape Town’s policies and practices on addressing mental health and substance abuse. I then began an investigation into the issue of mental health among law students specifically, looking at South Africa and other countries. Though most of the rigorous, scientific research on the subject has been conducted in the US, it does offer some valuable insight into what’s driving the issue and how it may be addressed.

What we know

The American media has drawn attention to issues of substance abuse and mental health among law students and lawyers. One article written about the high instances of suicides among law students and lawyers cites a study by the American Psychology Association showing that lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non lawyers.

In 2014 a comprehensive study, The Survey of Law Student Well-Being, was conducted at 15 law schools across the US. It was designed to examine and address the incidence of alcoholism and drug use, as well as mental health concerns of law students. The study found that a quarter to a third of law students reported misuse of alcohol and drugs, as well as experiencing mental health problems.

What was particularly disturbing about the findings was that a sizeable group of the students experiencing problems were reluctant to seek help. The factors that stopped them included social stigma, potential threat to job status, financial reasons, the idea that they could handle the problem themselves, or not having the time.

At South African universities, the question of student emotional wellness has been acknowledged and examined in some depth. These studies do not focus on law specifically but anecdotal evidence suggest that some law students may be experiencing similar pressure, requiring both personal and professional support and care.

All the signs seem to suggest that there is something particular to the education and training of lawyers that makes students and graduates prone to mental health problems and substance abuse. But knowing how to intervene requires a better understanding of what is driving this disturbing phenomenon.

Stresses in law

Studying law is fulfilling, rewarding and fun. But law studies are also academically tough. Success is predicated on hard work, long hours and emotional persistence. The skills of successful law graduates include resilience, perseverance and the determination and capacity to succeed despite obstacles.

This is true of other professions, but law is distinct in a few key ways.

In many ways law operates as an adversarial system with clear winners and losers. The combative prosecutor, the shrewd defence lawyer, the ruthless negotiator, the tough judge – these are all images of the strong, successful lawyer. Learning law therefore feels combative, not collaborative. This leads to a culture of competitiveness in law school, where the pressure to emulate successful lawyers is strong.

The practice of lawyering is also a more public endeavour than in other professions. Lawyers are open to public ridicule.

And because law students have to certify that they are “fit and proper” persons to practice they may feel particularly constrained to demonstrate any emotional problem, fearing that it may have an impact on their ability to be licensed to practice. They may also perceive seeking help as a sign of weakness – anathema to the perceived image of the strong lawyer.

Where to from here?

In response to the mental health challenges of its students, the University of Cape Town is pursuing a revised mental health policy for students that’s responsive to their needs and attuned to issues of inclusiveness and care.

In the law faculty, in line with the broader university-wide initiative, we are focusing on the question of how to encourage students to seek help when they need it. This means making mental health services visible, accessible, affordable and socially acceptable.

We are also addressing the way we teach law. Some aspects of the legal profession are inherently stressful. But our aim is to develop a caring institutional culture as well as solid academic support structures.

Disclosure statement

Penelope Andrews does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Museveni Orders Diversion of Road Funds to Help Hunger Victims

Photo: PPU/Daily Monitor

President Museveni hands over food supplies to Kaliro District leaders during a function at Lugonyola Primary School grounds in Nawampiti.

By Joseph Kato

Kampala — Districts whose roads were budgeted for construction in this fiscal year may have to wait a little longer as President Museveni orders diversion of roads funds to tackle drought and hunger.

Mr Museveni while delivering relief food to people affected by prolonged drought in Kaliro District, eastern Uganda on Sunday, announced that funds meant to construct roads will be diverted to cater for millions on the verge of starvation in the country.

The President’s directive comes at the time when several districts like Kaliro, Iganga, Bukomansimbi, Isingiro and Karamoja among other areas are crying for what to eat after a prolonged drought destroyed the crops.

In Early November, State minister for Agriculture Christopher Kibazanga warned that Ugandans in 45 districts across the country were facing a food crisis and a disaster for the whole country was looming should the September to December planting season fail.

He said already over 1.3 million Ugandans need urgent food aid. He cited Singiro District where some people were reported to have starved to death.

Other bags of maize flour were sent to Teso sub region to prevent potential deaths from hunger and malnutrition related illnesses. Mr Kibazanga named sub regions of Karamoja, Teso, Lango, Acholi, Bukedi, West Nile, and Cattle Corridor districts of Nakasongala, Isingiro, Luweero, Apac and parts of Busoga as areas facing severe food crisis.

The unusual dry spell devastating the country has been blamed on climate change brought about by among others things; deforestation, wetland degradation and burning of fossils into the atmosphere which warms the earth, according to environmentalists.

Mr Kibazanga also revealed that 50 per cent of the people of Koboko, Yumbe, Moyo, Maracha, Arua, Zombo, Nebbi, Adjumani, Amuru, Nyoya, Gulu, Pader, Lamwo, Kitgum, Agago, Soroti, Ngora, Amolatar, Pallisa, Butaleja, Rakai, Isingiro and Tororo have access to a meal a day. The districts of Oyam, Apac, Kiryandongo, Masindi, Bulisa, Kyankwanzi, Nakaseke, Kiboga, Mubende, Luwero, Kyegegwa, Sembabule, Kiruhura, Lwengo, Ntugamo, Kamuli and Kibuuku are in a minimal phase of food insecurity, meaning the people can still afford all meals though stocks are running low.

Let us Think Globally but Act Locally in Saving Planet Earth

By Oscar Kimanuka

The climate is changing, and the impacts on the planet are frightening. Due to burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere and temperatures are rising at an alarming rate.

Experts say the earth is warming faster than at any time in the last centuries. As global warming increases, its effects are being felt from land to sea, from the Equator to the poles. This warming is manifesting changes that can be seen in the weather, our economy, and definitively our health and way of life. Every day we feel the effects of climate change in the form of more extreme weather events like floods and so on.

Yes, the Earth is being ravaged by climate change and the evidence is overwhelming. The scientists sometimes say: “Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising. Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse, as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying.”

In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits, and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of actions to save the planet. Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must be persuaded to join the effort. This is such a moment everyone needs to act.

The planet is in danger. Many species of animals and plants are nearing distinction. Our clean water supply is at risk and more and more of our beautiful, open spaces are disappearing as new buildings and factories are constructed

Imagine a world without clean water, clean air, sustainable land, or living oceans. Our natural resources exist in a delicate balance and are vulnerable to environmental changes. That’s why it’s important that we all do our part to conserve, preserve, and care for the Earth’s resources – and protect the environment that sustains us with food, fuel, shelter and medicine.

The simplest explanation about why this matters is that, as humans, the environment (the Earth) is our home. It is where we live, breathe, eat, and raise our children. Our entire life support system is dependent on the well-being of all of the species living on earth.

Without planet Earth we have nowhere to live, along with many other organisms. If we don’t save the Earth now maybe our children or grandchildren might not be able to see it for long. Our atmosphere is weakening and we have to do something about it right from the local level.

We could plant more trees to create more oxygen to keep the bad air away from the atmosphere, or we could just stop cutting down the rainforest. We are living and we need the space but we are not the only species on this earth. Saving the rainforest is not only good for us and the atmosphere but also good for the many different species.

We could try to get as many people as possible to switch to hybrids and other energy saving things to use less fossil fuel for energy and relying more on solar and wind energy. Fossil fuels are destroying our earth and we need to limit the use of it.

Recycling is a great and easy way to help our precious planet. Everyone can help, all they have to do is follow three simple rules; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Let’s show that we are not taking anything for granted or waiting until the earth and its resources are gone. Our moral obligation to future generations and mother earth demands no less of us.

The greatest impediment to taxing ourselves is to create a better future for posterity is the evolutionary instinct of discounting the future. Until then, here is to the bountiful and sustainable future for all of us derived from the ingenious human mind.

We need to acknowledge that out of all the planets, the one thing that makes Earth unique is the presence of a superb form of intelligent life called the human race. However, somewhere on the way, the human race has forgotten to acknowledge the planet that gave it life; and used its resources ruthlessly and now we have to provide the remedy.

The global actions such as the UN Climate Conference in Paris have continued to provide opportunity to put the world on course to realise these and meet the climate change challenges. However, the task lies at our grassroots level where everyone has to do something.

For instance, Rwanda is moving towards having a green economy, and all sectors like agriculture, power, land-use, and construction, industrial and technological sectors have to step in and make the right efforts in achieving this. Definitely, it is by thinking globally and acting locally that we will save this planet earth!

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