The world’s leading climate scientists have issued their most extensive warning yet on the risks associated with increasing global temperatures. The authors of the new report, published yesterday in Incheon, South Korea, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), say that urgent, far-reaching and unprecedented actions are needed across society, in order to limit warming to a maximum of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Exceeding this target by even half a degree significantly increases the risk of flooding, droughts, extreme heat and poverty for millions of people around the world. However, the authors believe the changes needed are achievable, but only if we act now.
Dr Yelitza Colmenarez, CABI Brazil Centre Director & Plantwise Regional Coordinator – Latin America and Caribbean, recently presented at the First International Congress of Biological Control in Beijing, China, on the fascinating issue of climate change and the impact on the Biological Control of agricultural pests and diseases in Latin America.
Here we present Dr Colmenarez’s expert insight (including link to her full PowerPoint presentation) into what pests and diseases need to prioritized and why Climate Smart Agriculture could be the key to fighting these risks to crops exacerbated by changing climatic conditions in countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Peru.
This year the 22nd of May will be a celebration of the progress made since the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity 25 years ago. The International day for Biological Diversity was designed to overlap with the UNs post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and the date chose to commemorate the adoption of the Convention of Biodiversity in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit. Previous themes promoted over the years have included: biodiversity and sustainable tourism, water and biodiversity, invasive alien species and biodiversity and climate change.
Lancet Countdown has published its first annual report, monitoring how we are doing on action against climate change in relation to health. Its findings show that climate change is affecting health today and affects those in developing countries disproportionately. Twenty-five years of inaction on climate change have damaged our health, says the report, but it also found some promising signs of accelerating action in the last few years including increased research into climate effects on health, more funding directed at health and climate change and moves away from fossil fuels to renewable, cleaner energy boding well for heart and respiratory health.
Multiple climate records were broken in 2016, according to a report published by the World Meteorological Organization this morning. Hearing about record high global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, and persistent sea level rise was admittedly not the best start for celebrating the fifth International Day of Forests. Yet we need to be reminded about the vital and fragile links between atmospheric processes and forest functioning. As climate change rages on, we can expect hydrological cycles to become increasingly imbalanced around the globe. Especially tropical rainforests will consequently suffer. On the more hopeful side, scientists have now discovered that maintaining as high as possible forest complexity in tropical rainforests could buffer the negative impacts of climate change.
"It is difficult to rate the importance of the different soil functions, since all are vital to our well-being to some extent. However, the function of supporting food and agriculture worldwide is fundamental for the preservation and advancement of human life on this planet." – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO).
The multiple roles of soil often go unnoticed. During time spent carrying out research for this blog I came across the following quote which I feel really captures the relevance of soil health for the One Health concept:
‘The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible’.
This was actually said seven decades ago by Lady Eva Balfour, one of the first women to study agriculture at an English University, who went on to found the Soil Association in 1946. Yet it seems that on many levels we are still to realise the connectedness between health in soils, plants, animals and people.
Diversity within maize. Image source: Sam Fentress, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1293212
16 October is World Food Day (#WFD2016); this year’s theme is ‘Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.’ Jennifer Cunniff, plant scientist in CABI’s editorial team looks at how harnessing crop diversity is vital for us to meet the challenge.
Of the wide variety of edible plant species growing on our planet it’s amazing how few of them we actually include in our diet. Around 30 000 edible plant species are known, yet only 30 of these feed the world, and we are heavily reliant on a handful of cereals – rice, bread wheat, maize, millets and sorghum – provide 60% of the energy intake of the world population (FAO). This narrowing of our food base largely started with the advent of farming – before then, there is plentiful archaeological evidence that shows we were foraging across a much wider breadth of plant species (e.g. Weiss et al. 2004; Fairbairn et al. 2006). Once we formed settled societies we began to focus on crops that offered the best level of return and were best adapted to the cultivated environments we created. Furthermore, even though multiple accessions1 of our widely grown cereal species exist (naturally and through breeding) only a few dozen are grown on a wide scale. This strategy has consequences – genetic variability for adaptation to future climate change is lost.
1 A single collected variety or cultivar. It could be a wild variety, a landrace or a bred cultivar.