In Singapore, where temperatures are rising at twice the global average, there is a real fear that extreme heat could make the affluent city-state uninhabitable.
That urgency has led to a government push for solutions. With the help of high-tech developments, including a mobile cart that measures radiation, researchers on the island are now trying to address urban heat through a program that the government said could be a model for other countries.
The program is aiming to build a computer model of Singapore, which would allow policymakers to analyze the effectiveness of heat mitigation measures.
Researchers say Singapore’s geographical position in Southeast Asia makes it a good model for others, particularly nations in the tropics. Situated near the Equator, the island has an average of 84 percent humidity and year-round temperatures that hover around 88 degrees Fahrenheit.
Data: A climate change study predicted that Singapore’s daily average temperature could rise between 35 degrees and 40 degrees Fahrenheit toward the end of this century.
What’s next: Singapore has planted 388,000 trees toward a goal of one million trees by 2030. “The prevailing hypothesis now is that the presence or absence of shade in a place like Singapore is the critical determinant in adjusting to heat exposure,” Winston Chow, a climate researcher, said.
Nepal imports timber worth billions, while the country has it in abundance. Community forest advocates say it’s happening mainly in the absence of the government’s non-cooperation to sustainable forest management.
When the Division Forest Office, Nawalparasi, permitted Deurali Community Forest Users’ Group to cut down 149 sal trees (Shorea robusta) per year under the Scientific Forest Management Program, Nar Bahadur Magar convinced banks and financial institutions to loan to harvest timber from the forest they were tending for over two decades.
Magar started chopping down trees for three years until the government abruptly scrapped the program last year entirely, citing the complete decimation of community and national forests across the country. The decision put the forest users’ groups in a difficult situation as to what to do with the trees felled in the forest. And most importantly, how to pay back the loans they took from local financial institutions.
Magar, chair of the Deurali Community Forest Users’ Group, has a Rs 2.5 million loan to settle.
“The money was borrowed to pay the daily wages of workers. We were hoping to reimburse expenses and settle bank loans soon after the timbers are sold to the local market,” said Magar, “Now, the program itself plunged into controversy over irregularities and deforestation, this has put us in a difficult spot,” said Magar.
Forest users’ groups have cut down and piled up hundreds of thousand tons of logs in their woods. There couldn’t be a public tender for selling the timber in the past three years. The piles of logs started decaying over the period. By the time the government lifted the ban on collecting fallen trees this year, timber had already decayed.
As per the program, the forest users are required to plant as many numbers of saplings in the same forest as the number of trees felled. The plantation of the saplings has also remained as the logs are yet to be hauled out of the place.
Consequently, community forests have been thoroughly decimated, even without saplings in the denuded land. Neither the government nor forest users’ groups have shown interest in restoring forests for the past year.
The government’s scientific management of forests turned into a timber trading enterprise. Timber traders made out with the timber from local forest users. And now when the government banned logging in community forests, the traders market timbers at an expensive rate from international markets.
Proponents of scientific forest management argue that it was meant to meet local demands and promote forest-based green enterprises. The government implemented the program in the national forest, 52 community forests and 5 collaborative forests despite repeated objections from stakeholders including forest users’ groups.
However, the forest program focused more on producing timber from the hard-grown forest. They were less interested in maintaining the forest in a sustainable manner. And this dismayed local users. Influential people deforested forest areas in collusion with forest administrators, contractors and locals. Reports of irregularities were reported in the media from several parts of the country mainly in the far-western region.
Under enormous pressure from all quarters including lawmakers, the KP Sharma Oli government formed a parliamentary probe committee to investigate the haphazard forest clearance and recommended the government to scrap scientific forest management.
With the scientific forest conservation model controversy reaching boiling point, the government barred the forest users’ group from selling forest products. Forest users’ groups, who borrowed money to manage forest products are now debt-ridden as bank interest remains unsettled for years.
The forestry program promoted deforestation particularly in the far-western region of Nepal, according to Magar. The Covid-19 lockdown created a conducive environment for smugglers to fall the trees and smuggle.
Forest rights activists say scientific forest management should not be repeated. This model, according to them, puts the entire forest biodiversity, customary practices, and sustainable growth of community forest at high risk.
Community forest users’ groups say they are worried about the government’s indecision. “It’s not clear which forest model the government enforces on us. For us, managing forest in a sustainable way is important,” said Vijaya Basnet, an office secretary at the Kankali Community Forest Users’ Group, Chitwan.
Because of the participatory forest conservation model, Nepal’s forest coverage has increased to almost 45 percent from 26 percent in the 90s. The increased forest coverage has helped Nepal to increase the number of endangered wildlife. The tiger population is expected to double in a decade. So is the case of rhino.
Despite massive forest coverage increase in the country Nepal is unsuccessful to meet its domestic timber demand. Rather it imports timber worth billions from mostly Malaysia.
In the fiscal year 2075-76, Nepal imported timber worth 6.60 billion from India, Indonesia, China, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Germany, Ukraine, the United States of America, and the United Arab of Emirates. These timbers were used for housing construction, furniture and decoration materials. A year ago, or in the fiscal year 2074-75, Nepal had imported timber worth Rs. 5.75 billion whereas timber worth Rs 2.13 billion was imported in the fiscal year 2071-72.
On average Nepal annually needs 30 million cubic feet of timber whereas Nepal produces about half of the total need from the national, community, and private forestry.
“If community forest actions were endorsed in time and users were allowed to use them concisely, our domestic production would be enough to meet our timber demand,” said Birkha Bahadur Shahi, general secretary at the Federation of Community Forest Users’ Nepal.
Shahi said the community forest’s operational plan comprises a participatory plan that acknowledges both women and men as head of the house, uses forest products, follows customary practices, and conserves the forest in a sustainable manner.
The Forest Act has ensured full rights to the community. Since the act was designed in the participation of community forest users it has ensured the rights of community people and sustainable forest management.
As provisioned in the Forest Act-2066 community forests are ensured to protect the forest, develop entrepreneurship, and eco-tourism and support the community in tackling the impending climate crisis. The act envisions making community forest users’ groups autonomous, independent and self-disciplined organizations.
Then the government introduced scientific forest management, undermining the power of community forest users and is now obstructing them from using their hard-grown forest in a sustainable way.
Because of this Nepali people, who are more reliant on forest products, are deprived of benefits.
About 50 percent of the total forest land is state-protected areas that remain largely unmanaged and have failed to ensure livelihoods and employment opportunities as compared to community forests, according to government data.
Unlike poor people’s decisions in the participatory decision-making process of community forestry, bureaucrats remain decisive in every decision. Community forestry users group make collective decisions, allow permits of forest clearance only after analyzing the ground reality, demands of the people, and protect the religious identity of local people.
As part of a relentless campaign for community forest users’ groups prioritize the continuity of customary practices, protection of different endangered species, eco-tourism, indigenous knowledge, and use of only old-growth trees.
But the community forests are not allowed to work on their operational plan because the government hasn’t approved them since the scientific forest management program was canceled. In the lack of a proper plan, Nepal is importing forest products.
Community forest rights defenders say they should be allowed to work independently and focus on participation, and capacity building. For this state should allocate more resources, customary practices need to be protected and such resources should be linked to the livelihood of the community people. They say a new standard must be finalized in consultation with key stakeholders–government and forest users’ groups.
Shahi argued that even if the community played an important role to increase forest coverage, they are not getting the benefits. “Who’s getting the benefit from the forest? Has anyone paid money for their hard work to protect the forest?” he said.
Nearly 3 million households of community forestry have protected 2.2 million hectares of forest land which is almost 38 percent of the country’s total forest land.
Agency: As negotiators at the Glasgow climate talks try to agree on greenhouse gas cuts, African leaders say poorer countries can’t be expected to remake their systems as quickly as wealthy ones.
Sub-Saharan Africa contributes about 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, among the lowest of the world’s regions. Yet African countries are particularly affected by the consequences of climate change.
Improvements can be costly, and many people still don’t have basic needs like electricity. Leaders point out that some wealthier countries keep natural gas in their own transition plans.
Context: Development banks and richer countries alike have been rolling back their support for fossil fuel projects, including ones in African countries with an abundance of fossil fuel resources.
Agency: Barack Obama, who helped to seal the Paris climate agreement six years ago, returned to an international climate summit to rally nations to heal the planet.
“To be honest with ourselves, yes, this is going to be really hard,” Obama said. He added: “Sometimes we will be forced to settle for imperfect compromises. But at least they advance the ball down the field.”
Negotiators from about 200 countries were entering Week 2 of climate talks trying to resolve big issues around money, transparency and timelines. Attendees are sharply divided over how much progress is being made.
Some are optimistic, pointing to flashy new promises and heads of state coming together. Others note that the gauzy commitments with decades-long deadlines often lack the concrete details to follow through. As the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg put it, “Blah, blah, blah.”
Quotable: “The actual negotiations here are in danger of being drowned out by a blitz of news releases that get great headlines, but are often less than meets the eye,” said Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, a research institute based in Kenya.
Recap: More than 100 countries agreed to cut methane emissions. Another 130 countries vowed to halt deforestation by 2030 and committed billions. India committed to net zero emissions by 2070.
Agency: Australia is the world’s third-largest exporter of fossil fuels and one of the last holdouts among developed nations to commit to net zero emissions by 2050.
With just days to go before a major U.N. climate conference opens in Scotland, Australia has refused to strengthen its 2030 target or make plans for transitioning away from fossil fuel production.
Coal mines and gas fields are still being opened and approved. Tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry last year alone were worth more than what Australia spends on its army.
“The government and the opposition are captured by the coal and gas industries,” said Adam Bandt, the leader of the Australian Greens and a member of Parliament from Melbourne. “It’s a version of a petro-state.”
Growing backlash: Polls show that a strong majority of Australians want climate action even if the costs are significant, and want the government to stop approving new coal mines. Several states, including New South Wales, have committed to net zero emissions by 2050.
COP26: Prime Minister Scott Morrison only recently agreed to attend the climate summit after criticism from Queen Elizabeth II and a crowd-funded billboard in Times Square that mocked his reluctance to address climate change, calling him “Coal-o-phile Dundee.”
Related: U.S. intelligence and defense agencies issued reports warning that the warming planet will increase strife between countries and spur migration.
By Justin Rowlatt & Tom Gerken
A huge leak of documents seen by BBC News shows how countries are trying to change a crucial scientific report on how to tackle climate change.
The leak reveals Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia are among countries asking the UN to play down the need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels.
It also shows some wealthy nations are questioning paying more to poorer states to move to greener technologies.
This “lobbying” raises questions for the COP26 climate summit in November.
The leak reveals countries pushing back on UN recommendations for action and comes just days before they will be asked at the summit to make significant commitments to slow down climate change and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees.
The leaked documents consist of more than 32,000 submissions made by governments, companies and other interested parties to the team of scientists compiling a UN report designed to bring together the best scientific evidence on how to tackle climate change.
These “assessment reports” are produced every six to seven years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body tasked with evaluating the science of climate change.
These reports are used by governments to decide what action is needed to tackle climate change, and the latest will be a crucial input to negotiations at the Glasgow conference.
The authority of these reports derives in part from the fact that virtually all the governments of the world participate in the process to reach consensus.
The comments from governments the BBC has read are overwhelmingly designed to be constructive and to improve the quality of the final report.
The cache of comments and the latest draft of the report were released to Greenpeace UK’s team of investigative journalists, Unearthed, which passed it on to BBC News.
Agency: A high-level meeting is underway this week as part of an effort to stop a biodiversity collapse that scientists say could equal climate change as an existential crisis.
The U.N. biodiversity conference seeks to tackle the rapid collapse of species and systems that collectively sustain life on Earth, and comes ahead of the global climate summit in Glasgow, beginning Oct. 31.
The stakes at the two meetings are equally high, many leading scientists say, but the biodiversity crisis has received far less attention. Humans have destroyed land through farming, mining, logging, overfishing and more. Scientists say transformational change is needed.
Quotable: “If the global community continues to see it as a side event, and they continue thinking that climate change is now the thing to really listen to, by the time they wake up on biodiversity it might be too late,” said Francis Ogwal, one of the leaders of the working group charged with shaping an agreement among nations.
Details: The average abundance of native species in most major terrestrial biomes has fallen by at least 20 percent, mostly since 1900, according to a major report on the state of the world’s biodiversity. Lose too many players in an ecosystem, and it will stop working.
Agency: Just weeks before a critical U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, attention is riveted on China and whether it will do more to cut emissions.
The world’s top energy agency said last week that China “has the means and capacity” to reduce its emissions. Its actions could be consequential for the planet’s climate.
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has promised to start reducing carbon dioxide and other gases generated by burning coal, gas and oil by 2030, and to stop financing new coal power plants in other countries. But China is also currently building several huge gas-fired power plants and still plans to build 247 gigawatts of new coal power — nearly six times Germany’s entire coal capacity — according to the U.S. climate envoy John Kerry.
Growth: The additional energy is demanded in China, where its manufacturing sector produces a third of the world’s factory goods. The biggest driver of China’s emissions, however, is its insatiable appetite for steel and cement, which are needed for apartment towers, bullet train lines, subways and other large construction projects.
Incentives: To encourage the use of renewable energy, the Chinese government has ordered electric utilities to charge customers up to five times as much when power is scarce, and generated mainly by coal, as when renewable energy is flooding into the grid.
Climate change combined with overfishing, coastal development and declining water quality destroyed ecosystems home to at least a quarter of all marine animals and plants.
Global warming helped wipe out 14 percent of the world’s coral reefs between 2009 and 2018, the largest-ever survey of coral health has found, warning that more of the vibrant underwater ecosystems were likely to die if oceans warm further.
Corals in South Asia and the Pacific, around the Arabian Peninsula, and off the coast of Australia, were the hardest hit, according to the report which was released on Tuesday, compiled by more than 300 scientists in the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network.
The report spanned data for 40 years, 73 countries and 12,000 sites and found the total area destroyed equal to about 11,700 square kilometres (4,517 square miles).
“Climate change is the biggest threat to the world’s reefs,” co-author Paul Hardisty, the chief executive of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said in a statement.
Besides anchoring marine ecosystems, they also provide food, protection from storms and shoreline erosion and jobs for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
The study looked at 10 coral reef-bearing regions around the world and found that reef loss was mainly the result of coral bleaching, but also overfishing, unsustainable coastal development and declining water quality.
“There are clearly unsettling trends toward coral loss, and we can expect these to continue as warming persists,” Hardisty said.
Sunlight illuminates a coral reef in the Red Sea near the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah. Reefs provide a home to at least a quarter of all marine animals and plants [File: Lucas Jackson/Reuters]
Oceans absorb more than 90 percent of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions and bleaching takes place when corals, under stress from warmer water, expel the colourful algae living in their tissues and turn white.
A single so-called bleaching event in 1998 caused by warming waters wiped out 8 percent of all corals.
“Since 2009 we have lost more coral worldwide than all the living coral in Australia,” noted UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.
“We can reverse the losses, but we have to act now.”
The UN’s climate science advisory panel, the IPCC, projects with “high confidence” that global warming of 1.5C above preindustrial levels will see between 70 and 90 percent of all corals disappear.
In a 2C world, less than 1 percent of global corals would survive.
Earth’s average surface temperature has already increased by 1.1C above that benchmark.
The report titled: Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2020, found reasons for cautious optimism.
“Some reefs have shown a remarkable ability to bounce back, which offers some hope for the future recovery of degraded reefs,” Hardisty said.
East and Southeast Asia’s so-called Coral Triangle, which contains nearly 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs, were hit less hard by the warming waters and in some cases showed recovery.
This resilience could be due to species unique to the region, potentially offering strategies for boosting coral growth elsewhere, the authors said.
Courtesy: News Agencies
India: The police are investigating whether the son of one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ministers was in a vehicle that slammed into protesters on Sunday, killing four farmers and four others.
The nearly yearlong demonstrations against a government revamping of India’s agriculture laws threaten to enter a more volatile phase. Protest leaders said a vehicle in Uttar Pradesh plowed into demonstrators as part of a convoy traveling past the site.
Ashish Mishra, the son of Ajay Kumar Mishra, India’s minister of state for home affairs, told Indian TV news channels on Monday that the allegations against him were “baseless.”
The incident drew further attention after the Uttar Pradesh police detained Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, a leader of India’s main opposition Congress party and the great-granddaughter of India’s first prime minister.