News / Africa

Many Unknowns about Future Climate Change Effects

Many Unknowns about Future Climate Change Effects
Many Unknowns about Future Climate Change Effects
Joe DeCapua

Scientists say many of the long-term effects of rising temperatures are still unknown. They’re discussing the problem at the U.N. climate change conference in Durban, South Africa. Researchers say climate change is a complex mix of potential benefits and consequences, especially regarding food production.

In early November, researchers from several countries met in Beijing. They represented the so-called BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – as well as the United States and Indonesia. They discussed climate change and food security and agreed on a number of issues and recommendations to present to the Durban conference.

One of those researchers – Gerald Nelson – said they came up with a work program for climate change treaty negotiators. It concentrates on the role of agriculture.

“The advantage of the work program is that it puts these research findings about the importance of looking at climate change effects on agriculture – and also agriculture’s role in mitigation – directly into the record for delegates to look at,” he said.

We know we don’t know

Nelson is a senior fellow at IFPRI, the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates is quoted as saying, “I know that I don’t know.” Nelson said it’s not that researchers don’t know anything about climate change, it’s just that they need to know a lot more.

"Our research results, our understanding of what’s going on on the surface of the planet today, is really hindered by a lack of data. We just have very little information about the actual changes that are taking place on the planet. We are still groping, perhaps not in the complete dark, but with only very limited illumination, to understand those changes. And we need to do a much better job of collecting data about where things are changing and how they’re changing,” he said.

Good and bad

At first glance, some of the changes being seen appear to be beneficial, at least for now.

“Take for example, in Iowa, farmers there are seeing longer growing seasons. They’re planting earlier in the year. They’re seeing wetter springs, with more summer precipitation happening. If you take a look at China, you see that Heilongjiang Province, which used to have essentially no rice production, now accounts for 15 percent of China’s rice production. In the northern parts of Russia, you’re finding grain growing that was not possible to grow there 20 or 30 years ago,” he said.

But what if global temperatures continue to rise? Would those apparent benefits continue? Maybe not.

“In the short run, they do seem to be positive,” said Nelson, “That is, rice production further north because it’s warmer potentially is a good thing for China. It’s harder to sort out the climate signals as you get towards the middle of the planet. It’s the northern extremes where you can see it earlier. But of course that’s with the climate change we have so far.”

Nelson says predictions call for substantially greater temperature increases. He says there’s been about a one degree Celsius rise over the past 100 years. But the forecast is for a two degree Celsius increase by 2050. Such an increase, he says, could have a dramatic effect on corn or maize.

“The corn plant, for example, can do ok as long as the temperature is in the range of 30 to 31 degrees Celsius. But as the temperature increases get above 30 or 31 to 32 or 33, recent research has shown substantial drop-off in yields,” he said.

Priorities

Nelson and others at the Beijing meeting came up with a list of 12 climate change priorities. One of them warns that a rise in temperature can also mean a rise in pests that attack crops.

“For insects, in particular, as the temperatures rise then they reproduce more rapidly. So, instead of having three cycles of a pest per season you might end up with four or five. And that means more damage to the plants as they grow,” he said.

And as temperatures rise, regions may lose killing frosts, which help limit insect populations. As for weeds, many are thriving in the richer CO2 or carbon dioxide environment.

Then there are ruminants, animals that produce lots of methane gas while digesting their food. Nelson says methane is much more powerful than CO2. More nations are expected to raise livestock for food as their lifestyles improve.

Other priority areas include soil ecosystems, irrigation, land use, biotechnology, food supply storage losses and training for researchers, farmers and others to better deal with climate change.

You May Like

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

update At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid