Land grabbing: exploring challenges and implications for water, energy and food security

A conversation with Marta Antonelli

Increasing demand for water, energy and food related to population growth and urbanization, as well as changing lifestyles and diets, has spurred a new global rush for agricultural land and water resources. This phenomenon has been referred to as “land grabbing” and mainly rests on three inter-related causes: the food crisis and the need to secure reliable supply of cheap food for water and land scarce countries (such as the Gulf States) by outsourcing food production; the need to diversify energy sources and to boost biofuel production; the financial crisis which has exacerbated speculation on food and land as a result of huge amounts of capital seeking for more secure and profitable investments than traditional markets.
Although the acquisition of farming land per se is not a new phenomenon, the character, scale, pace, orientation, and key drivers of the current wave is a distinct unprecedented phenomenon, which seems to be closely tied to major shifts in power and production characterizing the new global political economy. Europe, and Italy in particular, plays a major role as an investor in foreign land, which has been raising major concerns about the claimed sustainability of EU energy and food policies and targets. Climate Science and Policy explored the main drivers and implications of land transactions around the world with Marta Antonelli, Research Fellow at IUAV University. Interview by Laura Caciagli

Hidden hunger and the carbon dioxide effect on nutritional values of food

Interview to Samuel S. Myers

The indirect effects of climate change represent a major threat and put human health and well-being at risk. Water and food scarcity, human migrations and conflicts may be some of the consequences of climate change impacts.
A study recently published underlies another unexpected event: high CO2 levels decrease the concentrations of zinc, iron and proteins in grains of rice, wheat, maize, soybeans and field peas, which are the most important food crops. An analysis of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization food balance sheets reveals that in 2010 approximately 2.3 billion people were living in countries whose populations received 60% of their dietary zinc and iron from grains and legumes. Therefore, decreasing amounts of zinc and iron in the edible portion of these food crops will likely exacerbate the issue of “hidden hunger” of micronutrient deficiencies.
In an interview conducted by Laura Caciagli, researcher and leading author of the study Samuel Myers (Harvard University, Center for the Environment), addresses these topics and explains to us the kinds of threats that human nutrition is expected to face in the near future.

One planet, one ocean: towards new management approaches for ocean governance

Conversation with Francesca Santoro

It’s a matter of science and research, but it’s also a matter of gender equality: the environmental, economic and social risks and opportunities connected to the conditions of the Oceans are strictly linked to the conditions of women, especially in some regions of the Planet.
These are the main topics of our conversation with Francesca Santoro, Programme specialist at UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). Dr. Santoro focuses, on one hand, on how much we need a holistic approach that should be able to guarantee a sustainable use of coastal resources, while identifying key habitats, functions, ecosystem services to be protected, restored, and maintained. On the other hand, Dr. Santoro explains that “Women – who are more socially, economically and politically vulnerable in most societies – are more severely affected by climate change and natural hazards (such as floods, cyclones, tsunamis, etc) than men”, and this is among the UNESCO major global priorities.
Interview by Laura Caciagli.

Biodiversity at stake

Interview with Raquel Garcia

The local extinctions of lizards in Mexico, the threat of shrinking areas of polar climates, the decline of Aloe tree populations in the Namib desert, the increasing frequency of extreme warming and drying events in tropical areas. Climate change is more complex than what is often portrayed in maps of gradual warming or gradual increases or decreases in precipitation.
Biodiversity faces very different climatic challenges across regions and the impacts of the changing climate are still extremely difficult to predict.
A recent study tries to shed light on the implications of climate change for biodiversity while providing a detailed global overview of the threats and opportunities for species and ecosystems resulting from different measures of climate change. Researcher and co-author of the study, Raquel Garcia (CSIC National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid and Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at University of Copenhagen) addresses these topics and explains what challenges biodiversity is expected to face. Interview by Laura Caciagli

Addressing climate change for poverty reduction and development in sub-Saharan Africa

Conversation with Christoph Müller

Droughts, floods, rising sea levels, extreme events: these are just some of the environmental impacts of climate change on sub-Saharan Africa. They may have serious consequences for many economic and development sectors, while threatening the economies and livelihoods of many African countries. This situation is exacerbated by low levels of development, limited adaptive capacity and widespread poverty across the continent.
A recent study illustrates the African regions that are the most severely struck by climate change impacts while investigating implications for adaptation and development. In this conversation with Laura Caciagli, Christoph Müller, co-author of the study cited and researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), explains the main topics of the African vulnerabilities to the changing climate.

Global health and climate-change: together bound

Interview with George Luber

Understanding all climate-change related environmental and socio-economical impacts requires one of the large efforts in the science world. The effects of the global changes related to rapid modification in climate patterns are heterogeneous, complex, and vast. Think about public health and the ways in which it will be compromised through the changing climate.
George Luber – Associate Director for Climate and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – talks about this topics and focuses on a new area of concentration that is convening people in a wide variety of areas, involving epidemiology studies that are trying to assess what the thresholds for these health effects are. An example? “Malaria and Dengue – Dr. Luber says – there is increasing evidence that those geographies are changing, as you would expect with climate change, increasing in latitude as well as increasing its reach in altitude as those habitats become more suited”. Interview by Emanuele Bompan

Addressing climate change as a security issue: scenarios and perspectives

Climate change is an environmental, economic and social issue. Since the UN Security Council in 2007 it has been also identified as a concern for peace and security.
Climate change should be regarded as a threat multiplier while affecting key natural resources such as water, land, coastal areas and exacerbating conflicts. Contentions over natural resources, border disputes, environmentally induced-migration (due to further desertification, sea level rise, more extreme weather events), food scarcity and health diseases related to extreme events are a reality, and there are many concrete examples on security issues related to climate change: for instance, the management of the Jordan river basin is posed at risk by the negative effects of climate change on water stocks, while the inhabitants of South Pacific islands have become the first climate refugees. Angela Liberatore – European Commission, DG RTD – highlights the most useful approach on addressing climate change impacts and security issues while envisioning some possible scenarios. Watch the video

Science story hunters: the future of journalism and reporting

A conversation with Tim Radford

“What’s the future of science journalism? We don’t know. Science journalism is actually still a messy and undefined thing and as science journalists, we have a great opportunity: since we still don’t have science journalism, we can create it. There is no point in not being an aggressive journalist: go and hunt your story. Science doesn’t provide answers, science provides more questions”. This is how Tim Radford, freelance journalist and former science editor for the Guardian, begins his talk to an audience of students on science writing and reporting.
In an interview conducted by Laura Caciagli, he talks about the role of a journalist and explains how to catch the reader’s attention by shaping science facts into narratives, focusing on climate change media reporting.

Loss and damage: the third way to face climate change impacts

So far, the climate negotiations have focused on two parallel responses to climate change: mitigation and adaptation. However, the present situation suggests that in the future there might be events related to climate change that countries won’t be able to adapt to. These include both slow-onset events and extreme weather more intense than any seen so far. In order to deal with this, a large number of countries are pushing for a new approach to be negotiated within the UNFCCC. It is called loss and damage and aims to ensure an effective, coordinated international response to future economic and non-economic losses due to climate change. Even if Cop 19 in Warsaw closed with few results on this issue, loss and damage is going to be a central theme in present and future climate negotiations.

“Let’s be prepared”. Considering geohazards in the framework of climate change

An Interview with Nadim Farrokh

Geohazards are natural phenomena that cause major problems all over the world. Human communities, natural ecosystems, infrastructures and economic, social, or cultural assets are exposed to sudden geohazards such as earthquakes, floods and storms, as well as to hazards that occur slowly over a long period of time such as droughts and sea level rise that are becoming more frequent due to climate change. The presence of people as well as the expansion and development of cities have caused an increase in impact and damage due to geological hazards. In this interview conducted by Laura Caciagli, Professor Nadim Farrokh (Director IGC, NGI, Norway) addresses these topics and explains to us what a center of excellence for geohazards is, and how researchers are tackling the numerous issues related to them.