Tag Archive for 'climate change'

East Kolkata most vulnerable to climate change: World Bank

From Down To Earth [via @GhoshAmitav):

Click on the image to read "Climate risks and adaptation in Asian coastal megacities: A synthesis report"

Click on the image to read “Climate risks and adaptation in Asian coastal megacities: A synthesis report”

The eastern fringe of Kolkata, the fastest growing part of the city, is expected to be hit the hardest by climate change-induced impacts, and the poor will be affected the most, according to the findings of a World Bank study submitted recently to the West Bengal government.

The study reiterates an earlier prediction by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that exposure would increase in future and that by 2070 Kolkata would lead the list of top ten vulnerable cities of world in terms of population exposure. By 2050, almost 40 per cent of city area and 47 per cent of city’s population—close to 25 million—would be affected as a consequence.

The World Bank study, the first of its kind in India, states that nine wards of the city would be most vulnerable to climatic vagaries—vulnerability being assessed on the basis of topography, land use, infrastructure, social parameters and predictions on natural calamities. Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok are the other cities where similar studies have been undertaken. More:

Himalayan journal


Aaron Putnam, a postdoctoral research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, is a leader of an expedition to Bhutan to examine links among climate, glaciers, water resources and society in the Himalayas.

Follow his journey at scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com

Wednesday, Sept. 26

The day after the arrival of our colleague Scott Travis in Thimpu, Bhutan, we gathered our gear and loaded a small bus that would convey us to the beginning of our trek into Rinchen Zoe La. We traveled for about 12 hours along twisting, narrow gravel roads that hugged the most precipitous topography I have ever seen.

Along the way we ascended high mountain passes and ducked into the low, humid rain forests that characterize the impressive climatic and ecological gradients compressed into the small country of Bhutan. more:


Jairam Ramesh – India’s economic reformer

John Elliott at his blog Riding the Elephant:

My choice is Jairam Ramesh, minister for the environment, who has used more than two decades of personal experience as an economic reforms adviser to bring some order and ethics to a previously policy-starved and corrupt area of government.

He has, to return to Mr Jaitley’s words, showed that “truth comes out”, not by directly accusing those involved of evading and bending environmental laws and administration, but simply by rigorously implementing those laws and personally reforming the administration.

Consequently, the truth has come out about how Vedanta, a London-based mining and metals group headed by India-born Anil Agarwal, has breached environmental regulations with bauxite mining and other projects, and a proposed university in Orissa. A long-delayed $12bn iron and steelworks project planned by Posco of Korea has come unstuck, also in Orissa, because of possibly faulty environmental and land-use approvals. A politically influential branch of the Jindal business family has been told it has ignored requirements on another Orissa steelworks. A partially built “hill station” (a romantic euphemism for lucrative urbanisation of rolling hills) called Lavasa in Maharashtra, which is promoted by powerful political and business interests, is also (as the Indian media terms it) “under the scanner”.

Mr Ramesh’s approach has also helped the truth to come out about massive illegal mining in other states such as Karnataka and Jharkhand, tied in most cases to corrupt politicians. More:

India’s hidden climate change catastrophe

Over the past decade, as crops have failed year after year, 200,000 farmers have killed themselves. Alex Renton in The Independent:

Naryamaswamy Naik went to the cupboard and took out a tin of pesticide. Then he stood before his wife and children and drank it. “I don’t know how much he had borrowed. I asked him, but he wouldn’t say,” Sugali Nagamma said, her tiny grandson playing at her feet. “I’d tell him: don’t worry, we can sell the salt from our table.”

Ms Nagamma, 41, showed us a picture of her husband – good-looking with an Elvis-style hairdo – on the day they married a quarter of a century ago. “He’d been unhappy for a month, but that day he was in a heavy depression. I tried to take the tin away from him but I couldn’t. He died in front of us. The head of the family died in front of his wife and children – can you imagine?”

The death of Mr Naik, a smallholder in the central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, in July 2009, is just another mark on an astonishingly long roll. Nearly 200,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves in the past decade. Like Mr Naik, a third of them choose pesticide to do it: an agonising, drawn-out death with vomiting and convulsions.

The death toll is extrapolated from the Indian authorities’ figures. But the journalist Palagummi Sainath is certain the scale of the epidemic of rural suicides is underestimated and that it is getting worse. “Wave upon wave,” he says, from his investigative trips in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. “One farmer every 30 minutes in India now, and sometimes three in one family.” Because standards of record-keeping vary across the nation, many suicides go unnoticed. In some Indian states, the significant numbers of women who kill themselves are not listed as “farmers”, even if that is how they make their living. More:

The man who came in from the cold

An account of how a retired geologist took apart the alarmist climate claims of a Nobel Prize winning organisation. Ashish K. Mishra in Forbes India:

V ijay Kumar Raina is amused. The 76-year old retired geologist who lives in Sector 17, Panchkula in Haryana has been blitzkrieged by the media, government, world scientist community and the average citizen since December 2009.

Why? Because he blew the lid off the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC), headed by the charismatic R.K. Pachauri, claims that the Himalayan glaciers will be extinct by 2035.

Raina’s life has taken a complete turnaround in the last six months. Like most retirees, Raina had followed a routine: Early morning walks, discussing politics, attending to his plants and working religiously on his book devoted to ‘tracing the work done on Indian glaciers’. More

Waiting for Godwits


Flying 2,000 km, Kunta, a one-legged grey wagtail from Central Asia, returns to her winter home, an organic coffee farm 200 km from Bangalore. Kunta means lame in Kannada. Pramila N. Phatarphekar in Open magazine:

I’m waiting for my hero to arrive,” says TS Ganesh, his gruff voice gearing down to gentle as he mentions the one-legged yellow bird who flies in from Central Asia to land in his organic coffee farm, 200 km south of Bangalore. Whipping across 2,000 km, on a wing and a stumpy red leg, this 15 gm bird uses astounding avian aeronautics to escape from the clutches of eagles and defy great gusts of winds and mountains. Just so she can spend winter on Ganesh’s farm, Indian Almond, neighbouring the Biligiri Ranganaswamy Wildlife Sanctuary.

The ability to survive such a long journey has earned this grey wagtail a title: Kunta. Though it means lame in Kannada, it’s an affectionate tribute to this plucky migrant who’s overcome her disability with her feathers of steel.

Ganesh photographed a grey wagtail pair hopping about in his garden two years ago. While processing the images, he noticed, “one bird holding a stub-leg up like a crane”. A good host, Ganesh set out rice, ragi and water. But Kunta wasn’t looking for handouts. The wounded flier found her own feed, flies and termites, contently snacking on the porch as Ganesh watched her every morning over the newspaper. That was till May, when the wagtails winged out of Indian Almond, obeying natural migratory instincts. More:

Charting change is real


Kunda Dixit in Himal Southasian:

Namgye Chumbi was weeding his potato garden in the village of Phakding in Nepal’s Khumbu region below Mount Everest on the morning of 4 August 1985. Because of the monsoon season, there were not too many trekkers hiking up the trail towards Namche Bazaar. It was a brilliantly clear day, unusual for the monsoon season, and he was working by the banks of the Dudh Kosi River. True to its name, the river was milky white and frothing, as the water tumbled noisily over boulders. Yet around two in the afternoon, the river suddenly became strangely silent. The water level went down, and Namgye sensed danger. Much in the same way as coastal dwellers saw the sea recede before the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Dudh Kosi was about to reveal its terrifying avatar. “I noticed that the white water had turned muddy brown, and in the distance I heard a thundering sound like an approaching helicopter,” Namgye recalls. “I looked upstream and saw this huge wall of dark brown water approaching very fast.” Namgye indicates the level of the river with his right hand, and raises his left hand high over his head like a cobra to show what he saw.

There was no time to think. Namgye dropped everything and began to run up the mountain. His wife, Sherkima, had more presence of mind, and picked up their two young children, Hira and Tsering, and followed her husband. They reached a ledge as the thunderous flood raced beneath them, lapping at their heels. The ground was shaking like an earthquake, and the sound was deafening. Namgye and Sherkima lost their house and everything in it. If they had been just a few seconds slower, they would have lost their lives as well. Their millet farm upstream was cut in half, as the river changed its course and started flowing through its terraces. Thereafter, the family built a hut, and other families helped them with food. “We only had the clothes we were wearing, but at least we were all alive,” he says. Nearly 25 years later, Namgye has built a new house higher up the mountain, where his married children and four grandchildren today live together. The Dudh Kosi, meanwhile, is still frothing white as it flows past the farm. Namgye points out one boulder the size of his house that was brought down by that terrible flash flood. More:

[Image: Kunda Dixit]

Maldives Cabinet holds underwater meeting


From AFP: Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, who staged the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting at the weekend, is emerging as the global stuntman in the battle against climate change.

Nasheed, 42, dived with his cabinet to the sea bottom Saturday in an effort to press December’s UN summit in Copenhagen to cap carbon emissions that cause global warming, threatening low-lying nations such as the Maldives.

“We should come out of Copenhagen with a deal that will ensure that everyone will survive,” said the president as he bobbed in the shimmering Indian Ocean after the meeting. More

Can this man save the Maldives – and the rest of the world – from the rising seas?

Mohamed Nasheed, the President of the Maldives. Photo: the Guardian

Mohamed Nasheed, the President of the Maldives. Photo: the Observor

Robin McKie in the Observor:

On a humid, airless night last March, Mohamed Nasheed – the 42-year-old president of the Maldives – opened up his palace in Male for an unusual public event. A projection screen was hung at the back of a ballroom and brightly coloured chairs were arranged in rows. Then the audience was shown in: lawyers, cabinet members, presidential advisers and journalists, along with a sizeable chunk of Maldives society.

Nasheed, dressed in an open-neck striped shirt and dark chinos, sat in the front row. The lights dimmed and scenes of environmental mayhem unfolded on the screen: Sydney Opera House in flames, ice sheets crashing into the seas, deserts spreading and forests burning.

Thus the people of the Maldives had their first glimpse of Franny Armstrong’s documentary, The Age of Stupid, in which Pete Postlethwaite plays the last man left alive in a post-apocalyptic, climate-fried world.

The film is scrappy but passionate, a classic example of agit-prop cinema. But in the dripping night heat of Male, The Age of Stupid had a very different effect on its audience than it has had in the west. Its message seemed direct and immediate, a call to arms. Nor is it hard to understand such emotion. The islands that make up the Maldives are threatened with complete inundation, probably by the end of the century, as ice sheets melt and sea levels rise catastrophically, thanks to global warming. More

House flies at 5,000m in the Himalayas

From the Guardian:

Earlier this year Dawa Steven Sherpa was resting at Everest base camp when he and his companions heard something buzzing. “What the heck is that?” asked the young Nepali climber. They searched and found a big black house fly, something unimaginable just a few years ago when no insect could have survived at 5,360 metres.

“It’s happened twice this year – the Himalayas are warming up and changing fast,” says Dawa, who only took up climbing seriously in 2006, but in a few years has climbed Everest twice as well as two 8,000m peaks in Tibet.

“What I do is climb. It’s a family business. And what we see is the Himalayan glaciers melting. It’s not a seasonal thing any more. It’s rapid. It’s so apparent.

“Look at the walls and slopes of the Khumbu glacier [which flows 1.5 miles down from an icefall on the southern flanks of Everest]. “You can see a clear line where the black rock becomes white. That’s where it’s been exposed to the sun. That means metres of thick ice have melted in just a few decades,” he says. More:

Shekhar Kapur: Act now on global warming

From the Hindustan Times:

shekhar-kapurWhen you read this I will have returned to the Himalayas once again to try and highlight the dramatic changes that are taking place in our mountains as a result of climate change. These lungs of the world are clogging with the noxious fumes of our carbon emissions, and the slow crawl of poison must be checked before it is too late. The Himalayas are the largest concentration of glaciers outside of the polar caps, and they are also receding faster than any other in the world because of global warming.

I have always felt a connection with the mountains. I’m not sure where exactly that connection comes from, but I know it is something I have in common with thousands of others who have been as lucky to visit them. I think it’s the sense of humility they impart to you: to stand there and face the immensity of nature and try to be at one with it is a great and humbling experience; the effect it has on you is unique.

Of course, the spirituality the Himalayas provoke isn’t just consigned to the mountain ranges: the Gangotri glacier is the source of the Ganga, the holy mother of India. It is also shrinking at a rate of 34m per year. That means that, by tomorrow morning, as this paper lies outside and a fresh copy is in your hands, another slice of glacier the thickness of your thumb will be gone. My daughter is nine now. If we allow the retreat of these glaciers to continue at the current rate, they’ll be gone by the time she’s in her thirties. There’s a real chance her children will not experience the beauty of the Himalayan ranges and rivers. More:

India should combine tough climate stand with a green policy

Nandan Nilekani in Yale Global Online

_usr_local_y_samba_data_repository__1246551532208_pollutionbig1The emergence of a Congress Party-led coalition government with a comfortable majority could not have been better timed. A government with a strong mandate is well placed to define India’s long-term strategy towards climate change, and to call for the steps that the nation and the world need to take at the Copenhagen climate summit scheduled for December.

These climate negotiations are easily the most complex collaborative effort the world has undertaken, and India, like all nations, is being asked to sign on to the deal being worked out at Copenhagen. India is likely to be among the most affected by coming climate shifts – in prediction maps, the subcontinent shows up as dark red, threatened by melting ice caps, shifting rainfall patterns and rising sea levels. The Indian government rightly points out that the burden of cutting carbon emissions should lie with the developed nations responsible for the accumulated levels of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere.


Rainspotting in Bangalore

Rainspotting is a project run by Greenpeace to investigate how people in India are already being affected by climate change. Grace Boyle has traveled from London to Bangalore to work on the project, and is documenting their progress in the Independent:

trafficBangalore provides a good illustration of the complex outcomes of India’s rampant and often uncharted growth. Back in the day, Bengaluru (its Indian name) was known as ‘The Garden City’; an altitude of 3000 feet above sea level and numerous parks and lakes kept the climate cool and fresh while the rest of India sweltered. Maharajas and Rajas spent their summers here; the British favoured it as ‘India without the scorching heat’ and Winston Churchill whiled away some years growing roses and collecting butterflies. But a booming IT industry in the 1990′s soon led to a new moniker – the ‘Silicon City of India’ – and brought with it a huge influx of immigrants and their associated trappings.

The advantages to this are many: the population is young, cosmopolitan and confident, the jobs are plenty and the nightlife is buzzing – at least up until curfew. But there are of course also many associate disadvantages: the usual polarisation of wealth that comes with sudden injections of capital, and a city infrastructure that is struggling to keep up with the demands of its fast-moving inhabitants.

It’s most immediately noticeable in the traffic. And boy, does this place have traffic. Twenty-five thousand new cars come onto the roads every month, piling and dodging and blaring their horns on narrow roads that are not designed for such a large loads, and the smog is choking. Thirty years ago, there were no fans in Bangalore. But the thick pollution has raised the temperature of the city by several degrees, and a summer without fans is now unthinkable. Most buildings have air con. My eyes sting, my throat is sore. After dark, the gases dance in the headlights thick as dust. If a city’s main roads are its arteries, it is surely this noxious clog that will lead to Bangalore’s eventual heart attack. More:

Slipping from Shangri-La

Ted Conover at the Virginia Quarterly Review [via 3quarksdaily]:

The line of forty walkers moved quickly, which was good for keeping warm but bad for keeping my balance. Because we were walking on ice, a frozen river. The Zanskar, walled in on both sides by a towering gorge, is the only winter link between villages in that Himalayan valley and the outside world. And it’s only a link for a little while, in deepest winter, when its surface freezes enough to support human footsteps.

The mountain village of Reru

The mountain village of Reru

Zanskar is part of Ladakh-the eastern, Buddhist part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. At more than 11,000 feet above sea level (with peaks as high as 23,000), the area has long been defined by remoteness. The valley has the feel of a cul-de-sac, because there is only one real road in and out-a dirt track from Kargil, an untouristed and predominantly Muslim town just a couple of miles from the disputed border (or “Line of Control”) with Pakistan, to Padum, the main town of Zanskar. Summers are short there, and the Kargil road is only reliably open four or five months a year, from the end of May to early October. After that, snow makes it impassable and the valley gets very, very quiet. But for a few weeks each winter, when the ice is strong enough, the river provides the Zanskaris another way out-an ice road, a forty-mile trail upon the frozen surface called the chaddar.

The walkers were teenagers, mainly. They had maxed out the educational opportunities in Reru, a village with the area’s largest boarding school, and were taking advantage of the cold to get out of Dodge-to make their way to larger boarding schools in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, and in Leh, the capital of Ladakh, not far from the end of the chaddar at the confluence of the Zanskar and the Indus. They also were taking advantage of scholarships, offered by Europeans sympathetic to young Tibetan Buddhists in this poor part of the world. More:

Climate change will lead to mass migration in 40 years

Seema Singh in Mint:

A report commissioned last year by the international activist group Greenpeace, titled Blue Alert: Climate Migrants in South Asia – Estimates and Solutions, has estimated that 50 million people in India and 75 million in Bangladesh will be rendered homeless by the turn of the century, with the bulk of Bangladeshis likely to seek shelter in India.

“We categorize the poor as the ones who will suffer most, but richer societies will potentially lose as well,” said geographer Alexander de Sherbinin at Columbia University’s Centre for International Earth Science Information Network in New York. Sherbinin has co-authored the report with researchers from the United Nations University and the humanitarian agency Care International. More:

The Maldives’ struggle to stay afloat

From TIME Asia:

The Maldives’ coffers, though, are perilously low. In part that is a consequence of the global downturn, which has hit international tourism hard. The crunch was exacerbated by profligate spending in the final years of the Gayoom regime, as it sought to cement votes with new infrastructure projects. In February, Nasheed’s government moved to auction off some of the former ruler’s more extravagant state possessions, including a personal yacht, a private pleasure island and a gold-plated toilet.

Gayoom’s supporters point to the influx of foreign cash that flooded into the country after he assumed power. His government opened dozens of the archipelago’s islands to international tourism, which now directly contributes to 30% of the Maldives’ GDP. In a country short on land, construction became a lucrative business: the cramped capital Malé, where more than a third of the population lives, is a maze of concrete. Rents sometimes match those of world cities such as Hong Kong or New York City, and a bleary-eyed community of foreign laborers hammers away at building sites daily. That’s quite a change. Not long ago, Malé was a sleepy fishing island with sand-packed streets and pens for livestock, only reachable after a perilous weeklong journey by ship from Colombo. Now, most people there sport flashy cell phones; at night, a few Porsches and Maseratis rev their engines impotently around the 500-acre (2 sq km) capital’s congested roads. More:

Wanted: A new home for my country

Global warming may drown the Maldives, and the island nation’s president is considering relocating the entire population. Nicholas Schmidle in the New York Times Magazine:


One recent evening at the presidential palace in Malé, the capital of the Maldives, around 100 people showed up to watch a movie. Rows of overstuffed chairs in a gaudy combination of stripes and paisleys faced a projection screen hanging on the front wall of what seemed like a grand ballroom. At the back of the hall, journalists erected camera and microphone rigs: Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives’ mohamed_nasheed41-year-old president, was expected to make a major announcement after the film. And ever since Nasheed declared on the eve of his inauguration last November that, because of global warming, he would try to find a new homeland for Maldivians somewhere else in the world, on higher ground, local reporters didn’t miss the chance to see their unpredictable (“erratic” and “crazy” were other adjectives I heard used) president.

Nasheed appeared when a pair of French doors opened and a gust of conversation blew into the room. It was a humid night in March. Several dozen cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, parliamentarians, presidential advisers and other dignitaries trailed the young president, who wore navy slacks and a striped white shirt, open at the neck and sleeves rolled to the elbows. He took a seat in the front row, the lights dimmed and the British feature documentary “The Age of Stupid” began. More:

[Images: MyMaldives and Wikipedia]

Third World stove soot is target in climate fight


Scientists say that reducing soot from tens of thousands of cooking stoves — called chulhas in north India — used in the villages  in developing countries is a relatively simple climate fix and should be pursued immediately. From the New York Times:

chulhaKohlua, India: “It’s hard to believe that this is what’s melting the glaciers,” said Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, as he weaved through a warren of mud brick huts, each containing a mud cookstove pouring soot into the atmosphere.

As women in ragged saris of a thousand hues bake bread and stew lentils in the early evening over fires fueled by twigs and dung, children cough from the dense smoke that fills their homes. Black grime coats the undersides of thatched roofs. At dawn, a brown cloud stretches over the landscape like a diaphanous dirty blanket.

In Kohlua, in central India, with no cars and little electricity, emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, are near zero. But soot – also known as black carbon – from tens of thousands of villages like this one in developing countries is emerging as a major and previously unappreciated source of global climate change.


Maldives first to go carbon neutral

From The Guardian:

Photo: Maldives Tourism

Photo: Maldives Tourism

The president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, will today unveil a plan to make his country carbon-neutral within a decade. The announcement comes only days after scientists issued stark new warnings that rising seas caused by climate change could engulf the Maldives and other low-lying nations this century.

The president will formally announce the scheme – and make a plea for other countries to follow the Maldives’ lead – this evening, following the world premiere of The Age of Stupid, a major new climate change film in which a man living alone in the devastated world of 2055 looks at old footage from 2008 and asks why people didn’t stop climate change when they had the chance.

More here and here:

Paradise almost lost: Maldives seek to buy a new homeland

Randeep Ramesh from Male, the Maldives, in the Guardian:

The highest land point on the Maldives is only 2.4 metres above sea level.

The highest land point on the Maldives is only 2.4 metres above sea level.

The Maldives will begin to divert a portion of the country’s billion-dollar annual tourist revenue into buying a new homeland – as an insurance policy against climate change that threatens to turn the 300,000 islanders into environmental refugees, the country’s first democratically elected president has told the Guardian.

Mohamed Nasheed, who takes power officially tomorrow in the island’s capital, Male, said the chain of 1,200 island and coral atolls dotted 500 miles from the tip of India is likely to disappear under the waves if the current pace of climate change continues to raise sea levels.


But where on earth can they go?

Also in the Guardian, Jon Henley explores the Maldives’ options:

It is an intriguing, if deeply depressing idea: the first nation on earth to be forced to abandon its homeland because of the impact of global warming and steadily rising sea levels. Nasheed is basically talking about relocating the Maldives’ 300,000-strong population to nearby India, or Sri Lanka or, possibly, Australia. But even if you accept the neccessity of such a grim scenario, is it actually feasible? Could an entire people simply move to a new country, set up home there and pick up their lives again as if nothing bar the unfortunate disappearance of their old base had actually happened?

The current consensus seems to be that it is not. “It would be very difficult for a state, as such, to move,” says Dr Graham Price, head of the Asia programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. “There can be ad-hoc migration, of course, even of quite large numbers. But there are big jurisdictional issues here, issues of sovereignty. That said, it is a real problem, and one we’re going to have to get used to. Nasheed is saying to the rest of the world, we really have to think about this. We want to stay together, we don’t want to lose our culture, and this isn’t our fault.”


15 people the next US President should listen to

Wired magazine has a “Smart List of 15 Wired people” it says the next president should listen to. These 15 are “the best minds” on climate change, the military, space exploration, democracy, global health, terrorism, China and India. They have “big ideas about how to fix the things that need fixing.” The list includes:

Jagdish Bhagwati: As the world’s preeminent globalization buff, Jagdish Bhagwati doesn’t toe standard party lines. The Columbia University economist, 74, who has advised everyone from the Indian government to the World Trade Organization, is a rare nonpartisan in a field dominated by ideologues. A registered Democrat who is willing to face down the anti-free-trade wing of his own party, Bhagwati is also comfortable arguing against what he sees as the compassion-free laissez-faire attitude exhibited by many of his fellow globalization advocates.

Parag Khanna: In his book The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order, Khanna, 31, describes a planet dominated by a trio of superpowers: the US, China, and Europe. In this tripolar era, America’s fate depends on tough national choices, not lame historical analogies. If the US wises up – by tightening trade and energy ties to the rest of the hemisphere, pursuing economic innovation at home, and establishing a “diplomatic-industrial complex” – it can grow stronger even as the globe becomes less red, white, and blue.

Ram Shriram: In the face of terrorism, global warming, and economic stagnation, spectrum policy may not seem like a top presidential priority. But it ought to be. Ram Shriram, a venture capitalist who helped fund Google a decade ago, says wireless carriers are hamstringing the mobile industry. He advocates opening the airwaves – and even mounted an (unsuccessful) bid on a chunk of radio spectrum in January. What’s at stake? “The greatest wave of innovation since the PC-platform era.”


Go vegetarian. Save the world.

Going vegetarian at least one day in the week can seriously reduce greenhouse gas emissions, argues R.K. Pachauri who heads the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Climate Change Panel. The Times of India has the story.

R K Pachauri, chief of the Nobel prize winning UN climate change panel, has spiced up the debate on kebabs and steaks by suggesting that the best and easiest way of stemming climate change is to not eat meat at least one day each week. What’s eating meat got to do with climate change, you may ask. A lot, actually.

The FAO calculates that meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. The emissions arise not because you eat and belch or fart but in the way land is cleared, and feed for animals is grown. And also how the livestock emit methane, when it belches or farts, which is 23 times stronger as a climate-changing agent than carbon dioxide.

Losing the ground beneath their feet

Climate change means that millions of people now face the risk of catastrophic flooding, but few more so than the char-dwellers of Bangladesh, clinging to tiny impermanent islands of sand in the Jamuna river. Tahmima Anam, whose debut novel A Golden Age charted the nation’s birth, returns to see what the future might hold for her homeland. From The Guardian:

Every six months, for the better part of my life, I have been making a seasonal journey to Bangladesh. I left Dhaka at the age of two, and I have always called it home, though the city my parents and I left in the 70s is unrecognisable, now a jumble of Lego-shaped buildings, barely a road or a tree between them. My visits home, which used to consist of lazy rickshaw rides around Dhanmondi Lake, are now spent waiting in the frozen car-seas of Dhaka traffic. And, of course, there are family visits and long lunches and my parents, who wait eagerly for me and shower me with affection, no matter how old I am, or how often I have disappointed them by refusing to move back.

But this time around, I am leaving the city and travelling to an island off the banks of the Jamuna river, to learn how people are adapting to a difficult environment. I was recently told by a journalist that, having written a novel about the birth of my country, perhaps I should now write about its death. Bangladesh is sinking under the weight of the rising seas, one of the first victims of our transforming climate. Already there are great swaths of land in the coastal belt that have surrendered to the tides.

The facts about climate change in Bangladesh are indeed grim. The country is a low-lying delta, meaning any slight shift in sea levels will cause the land to be slowly swallowed by the waters of the Bay of Bengal.


Water crisis > Food prices

‘Water is not a renewable resource’. The looming water shortage is a bigger threat than rising food prices, writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in The Telegraph

A catastrophic water shortage could prove an even bigger threat to mankind this century than soaring food prices and the relentless exhaustion of energy reserves, according to a panel of global experts at the Goldman Sachs “Top Five Risks” conference.

Nicholas (Lord) Stern, author of the Government’s Stern Review on the economics of climate change, warned that underground aquifers could run dry at the same time as melting glaciers play havoc with fresh supplies of usable water.

“The glaciers on the Himalayas are retreating, and they are the sponge that holds the water back in the rainy season. We’re facing the risk of extreme run-off, with water running straight into the Bay of Bengal and taking a lot of topsoil with it,” he said.


In Bangladesh: fears of a climatic Armageddon

While the least developed countries suffer the worst effects of climate change, brought about by the actions of the rich, they have no voice in global warming talks. Now Bangladesh is leading a fightback, reports John Vidal in The Guardian


On September 27 last year, Fakhruddin Ahmed, chief adviser – or head – of the interim government of Bangladesh, stood in the UN general assembly in New York and appealed on behalf of all the most vulnerable countries in the world for help and justice to cope with climate change. “This year we in Bangladesh have witnessed one of the worst floods in recent times . . . there is little we can do to prevent significant damage . . . a one-metre sea level rise will submerge about one-third of Bangladesh, uprooting 25 million to 30 million people. I speak for Bangladesh and many other countries on the threshold of a climatic Armageddon,” he said.


[pic: women queue at a flood shelter in Dhaka after floods last August. Abir Abdullah]