tagged w/ crop failures
Syria’s current social unrest is, in the most direct sense, a reaction to a brutal and out-of-touch regime and a response to the political wave of change that began in Tunisia early last year. However, that’s not the whole story. The past few years have seen a number of significant social, economic, environmental and climatic changes in Syria that have eroded the social contract between citizen and government in the country, have strengthened the case for the opposition movement, and irreparably damaged the legitimacy of the al-Assad regime. If the international community, and future policy-makers in Syria, are to address and resolve the drivers of unrest in the country, these changes will have to be better explored and exposed.
Out of the blue?
International pundits characterized the Syrian uprising as an “out of the blue” case in the Middle East - one that they didn’t see coming. Many analysts, right up to a few days prior to the first protests, predicted that Syria under al-Assad was “immune to the Arab Spring.” However, the seeds of social unrest were right there under the surface, if one looked closely. And not only were they there, they had been reported on, but largely ignored, in a number of forms.
Water shortages, crop-failure and displacement
From 2006-2011, up to 60% of Syria’s land experienced, in the terms of one expert, “the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago.” According to a special case study from last year’s Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR), of the most vulnerable Syrians dependent on agriculture, particularly in the northeast governorate of Hassakeh (but also in the south), “nearly 75 percent…suffered total crop failure.” Herders in the northeast lost around 85% of their livestock, affecting 1.3 million people.
The human and economic costs are enormous. In 2009, the UN and IFRC reported that over 800,000 Syrians had lost their entire livelihood as a result of the droughts. By 2011, the aforementioned GAR report estimated that the number of Syrians who were left extremely “food insecure” by the droughts sat at about one million. The number of people driven into extreme poverty is even worse, with a UN report from last year estimating two to three million people affected.
This has led to a massive exodus of farmers, herders and agriculturally-dependent rural families from the countryside to the cities. Last January, it was reported that crop failures (particularly the Halaby pepper) just in the farming villages around the city of Aleppo, had led “200,000 rural villagers to leave for the cities.” In October 2010, the New York Times highlighted a UN estimate that 50,000 families migrated from rural areas just that year, “on top of the hundreds of thousands of people who fled in earlier years.” In context of Syrian cities coping with influxes of Iraqi refugees since the U.S. invasion in 2003, this has placed additional strains and tensions on an already stressed and disenfranchised population.
Climate change, natural resource mis-management, and demographics
The reasons for the collapse of Syria’s farmland are a complex interplay of variables, including climate change, natural resource mis-management, and demographic dynamics.
A NOAA study published last October in the Journal of Climate found strong and observable evidence that the recent prolonged period of drought in the Mediterranean littoral and the Middle East is linked to climate change. On top of this, the study also found worrying agreement between observed climate impacts, and future projections from climate models. A recent model of climate change impacts on Syria conducted by IFPRI, for example, projects that if current rates of global greenhouse gas emissions continue, yields of rainfed crops in the country may decline “between 29 and 57 percent from 2010 to 2050.”
This problem has been compounded by poor governance. The al-Assad regime has, by most accounts except their own, criminally combined mismanagement and neglect of Syria’s natural resources, which have contributed to water shortages and land desertification. Based on short-term assessments during years of relative plenty, the government has heavily subsidized water-intensive wheat and cotton farming, and encouraged inefficient irrigation techniques. In the face of both climate and human-induced water shortages, farmers have sought to increase supply by turning to the country’s groundwater resources, with Syria’s National Agricultural Policy Center reporting an increase in wells tapping aquifers from “just over 135,000 in 1999 to more than 213,000 in 2007.” This pumping “has caused groundwater levels to plummet in many parts of the country, and raised significant concerns about the water quality in remaining aquifer stocks.”
On top of this, the over-grazing of land and a rapidly growing population have compounded the land desertification process. As previously fertile lands turn to dust, farmers and herders have had no choice but to move elsewhere, starve, or demand change.
by Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell
This article was also posted on Climate Progress, with an addendum by Joe Romm
More at the linkSyria’s current social unrest is, in the most direct sense, a reaction to a... more
Thousands of demonstrators have marched through the South African city of Durban demanding faster action on climate change.
The annual UN climate summit is being held at the city's convention centre.
Protesters were particularly angered by the stance of rich countries such as the US and Canada.
In London. former UK Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott said the approach of these nations was "appalling".
Halfway through this summit, some progress has been made, but a few countries including the US, Canada and Saudi Arabia are holding out on important issues such as the future of the Kyoto Protocol.
Fourteen years ago, Lord Prescott played a leading role in the UN summit in Kyoto that brought the protocol into existence.
Speaking to the BBC, he was scathing about nations trying to delay progress now.
"Let's have a reassessment of it by 2015." he said. "But if you don't finish in time for the ending of Kyoto Two, which is next year, 2012, then, you know, it will actually wither on the vine and that's what Canada and America wants - and one or two other rich countries.
"It's a conspiracy against the poor. It's appalling. I'm ashamed of such countries not recognising their responsibilities."
The European Union wants talks on a new global agreement covering all nations to start as soon as possible.
It is backed by most of the world's poorest countries and small island states vulnerable to rising sea levels.
But even if resistance from the US and others can be overcome, it is hard to envisage anything being agreed that can start to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions before 2020.
And that is the timeframe science suggests is necessary if the most dangerous climate impacts are to be avoided.Thousands of demonstrators have marched through the South African city of Durban... more
Take note US law enforcement: no pepper spray, no raids, no beatings.
This is it. This is the crux of the global economic and environmental crises we face and this was the place to take it. It is always the 1% that is heard even at these conferences above the voices of the poor, the indigenous peoples and those in this world who are being disproportionately affected most by climate change. It is our time now. Failure here is a failure of and for humanity, our water, our land, other species and our economies. The science is indisputable. The effects to water, agriculture and social structure are now a reality and becoming more severe. It is time to put humanity first.
Occupy climate justice.Take note US law enforcement: no pepper spray, no raids, no beatings. This is it.... more
Mexico is being battered its worst drought in seven decades, which has devastated farm life and is expected to continue into next year.
The lack of rainfall has affected almost 70 percent of the country and northern states like Coahuila, San Luis Potosi, Sonora, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas have suffered the most acute water shortage.
Due to the drought and a cold snap at the start of the year, the government has cut its forecast for corn production two times in 2011. It now expects a harvest of 20 million tonnes compared to a previous estimate of 23 million.
Crops that cover tens of thousands of acres have been lost this year and roughly 450,000 cattle have died in arid pastures. Crucial dams, typically full at this time of year, are at 30 to 40 percent of capacity.
"This is very serious," Ignacio Rivera, an official at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, told Reuters. "Statistics on precipitation in the country show us that this year has been the driest in the last 70 years."
The country has total arable land of 22 million hectares (54.4 million acres) that can be tilled over two planting seasons while the national cattle herd last year was just over 32.6 million.
Mexico is one of the world's five top corn producers and the government expects output to recover to 25 million tonnes in 2012, aided by reorganization of the cultivated areas.
Rivera said that of the 8.1 million hectares of farmland insured by the government against natural disaster, some 600,000 claims have been lodged to recover losses on 3.8 million hectares. The Mexican government has so far set aside some 1.6 billion pesos ($113 million) to cover the losses.
Forecasts do not signal any near-term relief, but rather more losses ahead as the winter season brings damaging frost.
"It's a troubling situation, and is more worrisome because the rainy season is over... the hope is that by June it starts to rain," said Felipe Arreguin, deputy director of the National Water Commission (Conagua).
In the northern state of Durango, where a third of the population lives in the countryside, authorities expect significant losses in grain and seed production as well as bean and corn, which are a staple in the Mexican diet.
"It's a tragedy because there is virtually no harvest. It's a critical situation that we don't even have beans for home consumption," the state governor Jorge Herrera told Reuters.
Official figures show an expected 28 percent loss in production of beans this year, while the recovery to historical levels of 1.2 million tonnes will depend on the weather.
If the drought does not lift soon, analysts say authorities will be forced to raise its food imports to cover lower domestic production.Mexico is being battered its worst drought in seven decades, which has devastated farm... more
The driest 10-month period on record for Texas has devastated the state and its crops. The National Weather Service warned Monday:
THERE IS LITTLE TO SUGGEST ANY END TO THE DROUGHT
Every state — along with much of Asia — has been hit by record temperatures this summer. And thanks in large part to extreme weather around the globe, food prices are stuck at record levels, causing hardship for tens of millions:
Dr. Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, emailed TP Green, that while Gov. Perry may deny climate science:
There are dozens of credible atmospheric scientists in Texas at institutions like Rice, UT, and Texas A&M, and I can confidently say that none agree with Gov. Perry’s views on the science of climate change. This is a particularly unfortunate situation given the hellish drought that Texas is now experiencing, and which climate change is almost certainly making worse.
Global warming is certainly making the drought hotter, which creates a vicious cycle, since the higher temps dry out the earth, but the drier it gets, the hotter its gets, as the NWS explains below.
Yet, the dots aren’t being connected for the public by and large. “In Coverage of Extreme Weather, Media Downplay Climate Change” as a Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting analysis recently concluded.
Indeed, I just saw NBC Evening News tonight, which explained that we are seeing record food prices and that extreme weather is a major contributor, but had no mention whatsoever of climate change.
The dividing line between good climate reporting and bad climate reporting is almost always whether the reporter talked to real climate scientists. Typically, the more a reporter talks to, the better the story.
That’s a key reason why ABC News has been one of the few major media outlets to explain the connection between extreme weather and global warming (see links below). And they did so last night. Indeed, they went beyond the connection between global warming and extreme weather to the key climate impact on crops and food prices:
Great quote by climatologist Heidi Cullen, “When you crank up the heat, when you globally warm the planet, you’re going to see more extreme events.”
Governor Rick Perry, who failed to stop the drought with his prayer proclamation, yesterday dismissed any worries about the impact of the drought on Texas, saying “we’ll be fine. As my dad says, it’ll rain. It always does.“ He is not only unaware of the recent climate studies warning of permanent drought in the region (see literature here), but also the stunning warning from National Weather Service that there is no end in sight to the drought:
More at the link.The driest 10-month period on record for Texas has devastated the state and its crops.... more
Food prices are skyrocketing all across the globe, and there's no end in sight. The United Nations says food inflation is currently at 30% a year, and the fast-eroding value of the dollar is causing food prices to appear even higher (in contrast to a weakening currency). As the dollar drops in value due to runaway money printing at the Federal Reserve, the cost to import foods from other nations looks to double in just the next two years -- and possibly every two years thereafter.
That's probably why investors around the globe are flocking to farmland as the new growth industry. "Investors are pouring into farmland in the U.S. and parts of Europe, Latin America and Africa as global food prices soar," reports Bloomberg magazine (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-...). "A fund controlled by George Soros, the billionaire hedge-fund manager, owns 23.4 percent of South American farmland venture Adecoagro SA."
Jim Rogers is also quoted in the same story, saying, "I have frequently told people that one of the best investments in the world will be farmland."
That's because demand for food is accelerating even as radical climate changes, a loss of fossil water supplies, and the failure of genetically engineered crops is actually reducing food yields around the globe. Ceres Partners, which invests in farmland, has produced astonishing 16 percent annual returns since its launch in 2008. And this is during a depressed economy when most other industries are showing losses.
Why growing and storing your own food can be a goldmine
All this means we can count on three things happening in the years ahead:
Prediction #1) Food supplies will become more scarce.
Prediction #2) Food prices will double over the next 2-3 years, and then probably double again in another 2-3 years.
Prediction #3) When food prices are 400% of today's levels, backyard farming or gardening pays off big in terms of real dollar savings.
In other words, as food prices skyrocket, it becomes increasingly more financially viable to grow your own food (or store it now while prices are low). I'm listing some resources below where you can learn more about growing your own food or storing high-density superfoods right now, but in the mean time, I'd like you to start considering the idea of starting your own garden in the spring.
You can't grow gold. You can't print your own currency (unless you're the Fed). But you CAN grow something more valuable than gold and money: Food!
http://www.naturalnews.com/033319_food_prices_farmland.html#ixzz1VJJLuwL0Food prices are skyrocketing all across the globe, and there's no end in sight.... more
With India expected to be warmer than estimated earlier, a new set of government-sponsored studies have predicted lesser availability of water and decline in agriculture production on account of climate change. The studies were done under the aegis of the Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment (INCCA) to provide a holistic picture with an aim to push the government to form mitigation and adaptation policies.
Climate change impact on agriculture is the highlight of the studies to be published in Current Science on Monday with recorded fall in per acre production of wheat and rice.
It comes at a time when India is debating the proposed National Food Security law to ensure monthly food entitlement to 75% of population in the rural India and 50% in the urban India.
A study by PK Aggarwal of the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IRAI) shows wheat production in 2004 fell by 4 million tonnes on account of an increase in temperature of one degree, resulting in faster maturing of the crop. A fall in production of mustard, peas, tomatoes, onion and garlic has also been reported on the basis of 22 years’ record of yield.
The future, with temperature expected to rise by another four degrees Celsius by the end of 21st century, would be bleak.
The Indo-Gangetic plains, the food bowl of India, will have the maximum impact with a decline in water sources. Western Ghats and the coastal belt are highly vulnerable areas, with estimates of a huge fall in production by 2030, the study says.
In another study, analysing monsoon data from 1901 to 2007, Krishna Kumar of Pune-based Indian Institute for Tropical Meteorology says the number of rainy days have reduced with increase in frequency and intensity of heavy rains.
The IITM study predicts that there would be 15% increase in summer monsoon precipitation by 2080, meaning lesser sunny days for crops to mature.
The study predicts increase in intensity of transmission of malaria from seven to nine months to 10-12 months in north-east and some regions of the Himalayan belt.
Every year 2.3 million people are affected by malaria and about a million from dengue.
More at the linkWith India expected to be warmer than estimated earlier, a new set of... more
Scientists are finally making inroads into understanding the effect that aerosol particulate matter is having on the way storm clouds form. Recent research has revealed that the tiny pollutants can either inhibit thunderstorms or make them stronger depending on wind shear conditions.
Wind shear occurs when wind begins to change velocity and direction along a wind stream. It is involved in forming storms, tornados, and other weather phenomena. Planes and jets often experience turbulence when there are changes in wind shear.
When wind shear conditions are strong, aerosol pollution impedes the formation of thunderhead clouds. When wind shear is weak, the pollutants actually increase thunderhead development and cause storms to be stronger.
The interaction between aerosol pollution and the formation of clouds has long been a mystery to scientists and climatologists. Current research suggests that the microscopic, man-made particles may be severely altering the hydrological cycle. They may be limiting rainfall in some areas while increasing it in others.
Jiwen Fan and her team from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that wind shear plays the largest role in determining how aerosol pollution will affect cloud formation. Though it was believed in the past that humidity and other factors came into play, she and her team conducted computer models that verified the dominance of wind shear in determining how and when clouds form.
Their research strongly suggests that aerosol pollution may be directly altering local weather patterns, including the amount and rate of precipitation that occurs and the intensity of storms.Scientists are finally making inroads into understanding the effect that aerosol... more
One more thing to worry about.