New report calls for urgent action to tackle climate change

Photo credit: Hans via Pixabay

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.

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COP21: Major climate deal agreed in Paris



A landmark agreement to limit global temperature rises to below 2 °C has been announced

After two intensive weeks of debate the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) drew to a close on 12th December with a new climate deal on the table. The ambitious global agreement commits the 195 participating parties to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. All but the smallest poorest countries are asked to play their part to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions peak and then begin declining as soon as possible to help achieve the long term temperature goal.

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Misshapen fruit and ugly veg….is it time that retailers relaxed cosmetic specifications?

           Vegetables_groupedbWould you eat a carrot with three roots or an overly curved cucumber? The contribution of "ugly" fruit and vegetables to food wastage is not a new problem but one that has moved in and out of the spotlight for several years.  A new BBC production "Hugh’s War on Waste", fronted by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, aims to reduce the amount of waste that Britain produces and is probably the first program in which a huge pile of parsnips made viewers very angry.  In the Program, Hugh visited a family ran farm that supplied Parsnips to a major UK supermarket.  The strict policies imposed by the supermarket on how the parsnips should look meant that up to 40% of the farm’s root veg, equating to 20 tonnes of parsnips -or enough to fill nearly 300 shopping trolleys -never made it to the shelves.  That was just one week’s wastage.

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Climate of changing public opinion

This week is Climate Week in the UK, which aims to get the public involved in thinking about climate change. In the scientific community, there is an increasing level of consensus about climate change and the need to take drastic action to limit severe consequences. However, in order to introduce challenging policies, there must be public support. In a paper in CAB Reviews, Ashley Cobb and Michael Carolan from Colorado State University, look at trends in public attitudes, and consider their implications for plans to mitigate climate change impacts.


US media coverage of climate change has been a double-edge sword, in that while it has raised awareness about climate change by increasing perceived knowledge, it has also suggested scientific disagreement on the issue, despite the consensus amongst climatologists.

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Climate Change – What Will Happen to Weeds and Diseases?

Much attention has focused on what plants will be able to grow where as the effects of climate change are felt. A key factor that plays into that analysis is what effect climate change will have on diseases and weeds.Two new papers in CAB Reviews look at those two elements and show that that the picture is a complex and sometimes surprising one.

Sukumar Chakraborty (from CSIRO Plant Industry) and co-authors note that modelling experiments suggest that the range of key pathogenic fungi may shift significantly towards the poles as a result of global warming. The impacts of raised CO2 and temperature together are more difficult to estimate, as raised CO2 may increase the vigour of some trees and crops. From certain studies it seems that C3 plants, such as cereals, may suffer from increased numbers of pathogens with increased CO2, while C4 plants (most other crops and trees) may not. Chakraborty and colleagues write that minor changes in climate can tip the balance in favour of an exotic species, and the same may be true of disease outbreaks. Import risk analysis will need to take into account changes in the risks of establishment of pests and pathogens as the climate alters.

Examining the 12 most serious weeds, Xianshong Wang (from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) and Jacqueline Mohan (from the University of Georgia) suggest the competitiveness of weeds at higher temperatures and CO2 levels may be affected greatly by water availability. Most of the weeds will be expected to be boosted by rising temperatures. Field bindweed may become a more serious weed in drier regions, while it may be outcompeted in well-watered soils. Purple nutsedge may suffer because of expected reductions in moisture and rising soil nitrogen.

Wang and Mohan point out that the move to biofuels may exacerbate some of the projected weed problems: “Altered land use and the unforeseen consequences of energy plants may have a greater impact on the seriousness and injuriousness of weeds and weed-crop interactions than the effects of other global environmental changes, including rising CO2, global warming and more frequent and severe droughts.”

Effects of global environmental changes on weeds by Xianzhong Wang, J.E .Mohan
CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, 2008, 3, No. 067, 20 pp.

Impacts of global change on diseases of agricultural crops and forest trees by S. Chakraborty, J .Luck, G. Hollaway, A. Freeman, R. Norton, K.A. Garrett, K. Percy, A. Hopkins, C. Davis, D.F. Karnosky
CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, 2008, 3, No. 054, 15 pp.

World tourism leaders tackle climate change

Earlier this week, some 600 representatives from over 100 countries, representing all sectors of the tourism industry (public and private sector, NGOs and governments) met in the idyllic Swiss resort of Davos to debate the  global challenge of climate change as it affects and is affected by tourism, at the 2nd International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism. This meeting was organised by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in collaboration with UNEP and the World Meteorological Organisation, and included many senior tourism figures. As CABI is a leading information provider in both environmental and tourism literature, I was lucky enough to be able to attend, both to learn more about the issues and consider what contribution CABI may be able to make in the area of information dissemination – one of the components of the Davos Declaration which was drafted at the end of the conference.

To give a full picture of the debate at the conference, and the issues involved, would take a book rather than a blog entry. But I’ll try and give a very broad-brush overview of the issues and conclusions, and will be presenting more detail of some of the ideas presented in CABI’s subscription website,, over the next few days for those whose institutions are subscribers. There were some very impressive presentations at Davos from some leading figures in both the public and private sector, and it was heartening to see areas where governments and private companies are starting to take real action. It was clear that the tourism sector recognises the need for action, not least to avoid being used as a scapegoat for climate change and the target for kneejerk response, as is increasingly the case in some European countries (the UK’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s ears may have been burning, as speaker after speaker attacked his doubling of Air Passenger Duty, without designating the revenue raised for any positive action on transport, the environment or climate).

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