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Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet

Mental health

Dutch Report Warns About Negative Impact Of Climate Change On Health Of Citizens Worldwide

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) just published a report on climate change’s impact on health, warning of dire consequences should the world not act to curb global warming. What KNAW calls a “climate crisis” is leading…


World Environment Day 2023: Rural India bears the brunt of climate change

Climate change is a global challenge with local implications; important to build coping mechanisms for rural communities

Rural India is diverse — from coastal regions, deltas and flood plains to deserts, hills, mountains and plateaus. Those living there have diverse aspirations, resources and skills as well. They are marginal farmers, manual wage earners, fisherfolk, animal-rearers, shepherds, nomads and many times a combination of these. 

That leaves millions of rural Indians at the mercy of the weather and climate change. Any deviation from standard long-term weather patterns makes them vulnerable to the uncertainties emerging from changing weather patterns with little access to coping mechanisms.  

Read more: Nearly 150,000 Indians have died in the past 51 years because of extreme weather: WMO

This happens in many ways. 

Rising temperature and heat stress

Most rural Indians eke out their livelihoods under the baking sun. But exposure to heat higher than 38 degrees Celsius is a severe health hazard. At temperatures above 40.6°C, our organs start to fail and the risk of death increases sharply, according to Mridula Ramesh’s book The Climate Solution

Coping mechanisms to these extreme heat conditions, like access to shade and hydration, are generally unavailable to the workers engaged. The stress worsens for malnourished women, small kids and elderly workers. 

The productivity of crops and animals is also badly affected by extreme temperatures. For instance, the increase in temperature in January lowers the yields of wheat and chickpeas. Similarly, the productivity of stressed animals is reduced significantly. 

Changing rainfall patterns

Around 120 million marginal farmer households depend on their farming and wages. Their farming practices, like time of field preparations, sowing, selection of varieties, labour availability and water management, have evolved based on prevalent weather patterns for ages. 

These aberrations from the typical weather patterns put all the farming operations in total chaos for these resource-poor farmers. This leads to poorer yields and severe economic losses. 

The implication of delayed onset of monsoon or failed September rainfalls and untimely rainfall in November for rainfed farmers is well known. It shrinks the whole rural economy and causes huge agrarian distress.        

Flood impact 

After floods, the farms and waterbodies need to be repaired. Dead livestock has to be restocked. Homes, small businesses and enterprises washed away by the torrents of rain need refinancing. 

There is a severe erosion of assets and livelihoods. But more than that, there is hardly any coping mechanism to meet these losses. 

During the flood periods, the human tragedy is immense. People survive on the high grounds, roadside and embankments for weeks and months, under plastic tents suffering during the flood and post-flood traumas.   

Read more: Budget 2023-24: Whither rural development? Allocation for livelihood and other schemes sees 14% cuts

Devastating droughts 

Droughts are slow destroyers. They slowly suck out the vitality of rural communities. 

The income of marginal and livestock farmers is affected by long-term water stress. They find themselves in a fix; they can’t abandon the farm and move away to look for alternatives and find it extremely difficult to continue with it. 

Marginal farmers have little control over the water needed for farming and water stress leads to unpredictable yields and reduced income to farmers. With the increasing water stress, farmers will reduce their investment in farming, further reducing productivity. 

More droughts also lead to the use of unsustainable already-stressed water sources. These include mining water from deeper layers that can’t be replenished, stealing water from other plots and fighting for water access.

This will lead to a significant reduction in farm incomes and increased dependency of wages from non-farm labour and distress migration. And, of course, with migration, the elderly and children left behind in villages will suffer more.

Vector-borne diseases

These unpredictable floods, droughts and rising temperatures will also increase vector-borne diseases like malaria, Kala Azar, dengue, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis and Zika. 

The changing climate also changes the prevailing pattern of vector emergence, their pathogenicity and the severity of vectors. This may create havoc on already scanty health services available to rural communities. These vector-borne diseases can become endemic in rural areas, leading to acute human distress. 

Read more: MGNREGA graft: Social audit finds irregularities worth Rs 54 lakh in Rajasthan

Nutrition impact

Climate change will also impact the quantity and quality of food available to rural communities. 

As already mentioned, the productivity of crops will be adversely affected due to unfavourable weather conditions. But with increasing carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, there is also a reduction of protein content in food grains like rice and wheat, which are the staples for rural communities. 

This reduced nutrition access is compounded by increasing vector-borne diseases in malnourished children and women.   

Toll on mental health

The stress and anxiety related to loss of livelihoods, uncertain futures, helplessness and physical stress due to extreme weather conditions also affect the mental health of rural communities. 

The anxiety to rebuild their lives and livelihoods or distressed migration to new places, feeling the vulnerability of their existence makes the rural people depressed and may lead to living unhappy lives or even add to farmers’ suicides.  

Call for action

Globally, there are discussions on actions around compensation, mitigation and restoration of climate change-related losses. Crucially, there must be actions at the local level. 

Each community has a different kind of vulnerability to the risks associated with climate change. The vulnerability reduction action needs to be customised to the specific human and ecological situation. 

This will need close interaction with the communities. Universalisation of access to public system support, insurance, easy access to financial systems, diversification of livelihood choices and collective action can reduce the vulnerability of rural communities.

Considering the scale of climate change, the hazards and losses are inevitable; it is important to build coping mechanisms for rural communities too. 

Read more: Tax the wealthy: 2 billion people can be lifted from poverty by levying the super-rich, says Oxfam

It is a global challenge with local implications; hence the solution should also be of that scale. Efforts are required everywhere, including the urban communities. The solutions may cover these points:

  • Helping the community to understand the spread and depth of the crisis — Often, communities in hilly regions do not appreciate the challenge of rising sea levels. Similarly, the urban folks may not appreciate how the power cuts affect the farmers and their livelihoods.
  • Solving water and energy crisis challenges — Investing in rainwater harvesting, checking soil erosions and distributing renewable energy like stand-alone microgrids for rural communities.
  • Making the primary healthcare functional
  • Nature-based solutions for climate restoration like large-scale reforestation / agroforestry investments and linking them with the livelihoods of local communities.
  • Technologies for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Local-level waste management — Recycle, reuse and compost.
  • Local food system — Diversified food production to meet the needs locally, reducing food miles, carbon dioxide, energy and water footprint.
  • Diversified livelihoods portfolio for rural communities to bring resilience and reduce vulnerabilities. 

Read more: Will India officially be poverty free in 2023?

There are no easy solutions to this global crisis, but we have no choice other than to try everything that may work. 

Ashok Kumar is director for farm prosperity at non-profit Transform Rural India

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

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Earth’s energy budget is not in balance. Should we be concerned?

A recent report from the World Meteorological Organization about the state of the climate indicates that the global mean temperature in 2022 was 1.15°C above the 1850-1900 (preindustrial reference period) average. Moreover, the last eight years have been the warmest since the beginning of instrumental temperature records 173 years ago.

In other words, the climate system has been out of balance for several decades.

As an expert in atmospheric science, I aim to shed light on Earth’s energy imbalance and its consequences for humankind.

Earth’s energy imbalance

Solar radiation is virtually Earth’s only energy source, the other energy sources – such as Earth’s interior heat and tidal energy – being negligible. The Earth reflects around 30 per cent of the solar radiation and emits radiation towards space.

The greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane) let solar radiation pass, but not the radiation emitted by the Earth, thus trapping this energy. Earth’s near-surface temperature, which is 15°C, would be around -19°C without the greenhouse effect.

If the difference between the incoming energy – solar radiation – and outgoing energy – the sum of the solar radiation reflected by the Earth and the radiation emitted by the Earth – is not equal to zero, as is the case currently, we refer to this as Earth Energy Imbalance (EEI).

It is human activity, through the emission of greenhouse gases (generating an additional greenhouse effect), that has caused the Earth energy imbalance.

But where does the excess energy accumulate? It accumulates under the form of heat in the different components of the climate system (atmosphere, land, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere). And this is what explains why the Earth is warming, or more globally, climate change.

The ocean, heat accumulator

Assessing the Earth heat inventory through an international effort is essential to better understand the impact of Earth’s energy imbalance on the climate system.

Such an inventory corresponding to the period 1960-2020 has been provided by a recently published study. This study shows that the Earth system has been accumulating heat since 1971. Moreover, the rate of heat accumulation corresponding to the period 2006-2020 is higher than that corresponding to 1971-2020. Most of the excess heat is stored in the ocean (89 per cent), mainly in the upper ocean (0-700 metres in depth). The rest of the excess heat is stored in the land (six per cent) and the atmosphere (one per cent), and has led to the melting of the components of the cryosphere – glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice (four per cent).

The Earth heat inventory showing the percentage of heat stored in the different components of the climate system for the periods 2006-2020 and 1971-2020, as well as the total heat gain over the period 1971-2020. Schuckmann et al., 2023

In addition to storing excess heat, the ocean is also an important CO₂ sink, thus playing an essential role in the regulation of the climate. However, the ocean will become less efficient at capturing CO₂ with the increase in the cumulative emissions of this gas. Why? Because of the positive feedback between the ocean warming and the decrease in the capacity of the oceans to absorb CO₂.

Unfortunately, the current state of the ocean is concerning. In 2022, the ocean heat content reached a record high, and 58 per cent of the ocean surface experienced at least one marine heatwave. Since mid-March this year, the mean ocean surface temperature is the highest ever observed since the beginning of the satellite era. Among other negative impacts on the marine ecosystems, marine heatwaves cause coral bleaching events.

The consequences of the imbalance

Global warming has negative impacts on humanity and ecosystems, as the recently published Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reminds us. This report warns that, currently, between 3.3 and 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are very vulnerable to global warming.

The people who live in coastal areas are particularly affected. The risk of coastal floods increases with sea level rise, which is mainly due to the thermal expansion of the ocean and the melting of the land ice of glaciers and of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. To provide some numbers, the contributions of the ocean thermal expansion and of the land ice melting to sea level rise were, respectively, 55 per cent and 36 per cent for the period 2005-2019.

Global warming is not just a threat to our physical health, but also to our mental health. In effect, sudden-onset events (e.g., hurricanes, storms) can cause trauma. Changes in the climate variables (e.g., drought) can generate a sense of uncertainty. And the awareness of climate change can cause climate anxiety.

This goes to show that the imbalance of the climate system can lead to our own imbalance.

Given the numerous warnings from the scientific community about the harmful consequences of climate change for our societies, we may wonder: Could global warming lead to the collapse of society at a global scale, or even to the extinction of the human being?

Unfortunately, this subject has not received all the attention it deserves. Luke Kemp, researcher at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, and his colleagues, have suggested a research agenda with the evocative name “Climate Endgame.”

Win-win solution: Net zero emission

Let’s go back to the origin of the problem: The Earth will continue to warm as long as this energy imbalance persists. Since human-caused emissions are responsible for Earth’s energy imbalance, the solution is, in principle, simple: emissions must be reduced to zero.

What can we do at an individual level? We can reduce our contribution to climate change by using active transportation (walking, biking), by consuming less meat and dairy products, by reducing food waste, and by improving the energy efficiency of our homes, among other actions.

Hence, the climate game is not over. It is up to us to decide whether we want to solve the climate crisis.

But the window of opportunity is quickly closing…The Conversation

Marta Moreno Ibáñez, PhD candidate in Earth and atmospheric sciences, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


World Meteorological Congress endorses 10-year plan to integrate and scale up climate, health services

Speakers at the 19th World Meteorological Congress also raised concerns over extreme heat and the need to strengthen early warning systems

The World Meteorological Congress May 24, 2023 recognised climate change as a threat to human health and endorsed a 10-year plan to scale up health services. 

The 2023-2033 Implementation Plan for Advancing Climate, Environment and Health Science and Services by the World Health Organization (WHO)-WMO was chalked out with the aim to achieve “better health and well-being for people facing existing and emerging extreme weather events, climate change and environmental risks through the effective integration of climate, environment and health science and services across the world”.

This will promote a coordinated approach to manage the impact of climate, weather, air pollution, ultraviolet radiation, extreme events and other environmental factors on health. 

The endorsement of the plan on the second day of the 19th World Meteorological Congress (Cg-19) is significant when climate-related illnesses, premature deaths, malnutrition and threats to mental health and well-being are increasing. 

Speakers at the WMO Congress paid special attention to the increase in climate-related diseases like malaria and dengue fever. 

From 2030-2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress, according to WHO. 

Up to 8.4 billion people could be at risk from two major vector-borne diseases, malaria and dengue, by the end of the century if emissions keep rising at current levels, according to a study. 

Whether it is zoonoses or water-borne diseases, climate change has a clear role to play in their spread in the African continent, according to an analysis by Down to Earth

Climate-related health emergencies are on the rise in Africa, said WHO. 

The speakers also raised concerns over extreme heat and the need to strengthen “understanding, early warning and risk management of the climate-related cascading risks of extreme heat, wildfire and air quality related health risks”.

These concerns have been raised since hundreds of millions of people are experiencing more frequent and intense heat waves that are now starting earlier and ending later than in the past.

For example, in 2022, India recorded its hottest March which had triggered an early onslaught of heat waves across north, central and east India from March-May, according to the State of India’s Environment 2023: In figures report published by Down to Earth magazine of the Centre for Science and Environment. 

Extreme heat will oust 600 million Indians from their climate niche, exposing them to extreme temperatures by 2030, warned a new study released May 22, 2023. 

At least 15,000 people died in Europe because of extreme heat in 2022, confirmed Hans Henri P Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, in a statement in November 2022.

Extreme heat is therefore a focus area of the United Nations Early Warnings for All initiative and for climate adaptation strategies, stated WMO in its statement May 24, 2023. 

The Early Warnings for All initiative is one of the top strategic priorities at Cg-19, which is currently taking place from May 22 to 2 June, 2023 at Geneva.

Study finds 2 billion people will struggle to survive in a warming world – and these parts of Australia are most vulnerable

Two billion people, including many Australians, will find themselves living in dangerously hot places this century if global warming reaches 2.7℃, research released today reveals. The authors calculated how many people would be left outside the “human climate niche” by…

Heat-Related Prison Deaths Are Rising Due to Climate Change

The best time to visit a prisoner in Texas is early morning, when the crowds are thin and the lines are short. During the summer months psychologist Amite Dominick aims for mid-afternoon, not because it’s better for her schedule—it’s not—but…

Global heating will push billions outside ‘human climate niche’

Global heating will drive billions of people out of the “climate niche” in which humanity has flourished for millennia, a study has estimated, exposing them to unprecedented temperatures and extreme weather. The world is on track for 2.7C of heating…

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