Newsdesk – August 11

A melting glacier in Iceland. Glaciers occupy over a tenth of this famously frigid island near the Arctic Circle. [Phot Credit: Suzie Howell for The New York Times]
What Worries Iceland? A World Without Ice. It Is Preparing.  As rising temperatures drastically reshape Iceland’s landscape, businesses and the government are spending millions for survival and profit.  Glaciers occupy over a tenth of this famously frigid island near the Arctic Circle. Every single one is melting. So are the massive, centuries-old ice sheets of Greenland and the polar regions. Where other countries face rising seas, Iceland is confronting a rise in land in its southernmost regions and considers and climate a matter of national urgency.  “We realize the harmful effects of global warming,” Gudni Jóhannesson, Iceland’s president, said in an interview. “We are taking responsibility to seek practical solutions”.  Environmental activists say that still isn’t enough to make Iceland, a wealthy nation of just 350,000 people, a model. Despite generating clean geothermal energy and hydropower, major industries including aluminum and ferrosilicon production also produce a third of Iceland’s carbon dioxide.  Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the country elected prime minister, running on a platform of tackling climate change in 2017 is also an environmentalist. Her government is budgeting $55 million over five years for reforestation, land conservation and carbon-free transport projects to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Bigger nations like Norway and Finland have cut emissions more, and over 190 other countries except the United States have pledged to combat climate change under the Paris agreement. More than a million trees have been purchased by Icelandic companies and foreign ones like Ikea since 2010. Yet most of Iceland’s volcanic terrain is deforested, and it will take decades for newly planted trees to absorb carbon at a large scale. Trees are certainly not a fast fix for Iceland’s glaciers, which scientists say now can no longer recover the ice they are losing – The New York Times

  • Climate change is sapping nutrients from our food — and it could become a global crisis – The Washington Post
  • We’re eating this planet to death – Wired
  • Rising emissions could drain foods like rice and wheat of their nutrients, causing a slow-moving global food crisis – Business Insider
  • Extinction Rebellion: hitting a nerve at Australia’s climate flashpoint – The Guardian
  • Bees Swarm Berlin, Where Beekeeping Is Booming – The New York Times
  • India’s holiest river is drying up – National Geographic
  • Greta Thunberg takes climate fight to Germany’s threatened Hambach Forest – The Guardian

Grains, flours and pulses in Otavalo market, Ecuador [Photo Credit: Flickr/Robert Nunn]
IPCC – Urgent action needed to tackle hunger alongside climate crisis. Radical land-use changes are needed to reconcile efforts to prevent dangerous climate change and tackle hunger, a major scientific report warned on Thursday. In a special report, the UN’s climate science panel warned use of land to store carbon or grow fuel crops risked worsening food insecurity if poorly managed. Large-scale tree-planting and bioenergy production are important tools to limit global warming but could threaten food security, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Some hope, though, was provided by Hans-Otto Pörtner, a leading IPCC scientists coordinating the report, who said that “land already in use could feed the world in a changing climate and provide biomass for renewable energy, but early, far-reaching action across several areas is required.  The report covered controversial ways to limit global warming such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (Beccs): burning plants to generate energy and pumping the emissions underground.  A senior program officer in climate policy named Linda Schneider added, “The report leaves no doubt about the devastating impacts that large-scale bioenergy and afforestation would have on water availability, biodiversity, food security, livelihoods, land degradation, and desertification. The special report on land use shines a light on the importance of afforestation and fuel crops to absorb carbon dioxide – and the associated risks of land degradation and increased desertification, which it said could have “potentially irreversible consequences”.  For instance, the use of forestry and land to store carbon would cause crop prices to soar 80% by 2050, translating into an extra 80 to 300 million people suffering from undernourishment.  – Climate Home News

Tuvaluan children sing a welcome for Pacific leaders at Funafuti airport. [Photograph Credit: Pacific Islands Forum]
Tuvalu children welcome leaders with a climate plea.  As the leaders of Pacific countries step off their planes at Funafuti airport this week for the Pacific Islands Forum, they are being met by the children of Tuvalu, who sit submerged in water, in a moat built around the model of an island, singing: “Save Tuvalu, save the world.” Climate crisis is more than a meeting agenda item in a host country that could be left uninhabitable by rising sea levels. The country, which is roughly three hours north of Fiji, is also grappling with an ongoing outbreak of dengue fever, the fact it has no supply of safe freshwater, and the fact that it is designated by the UN as a least-developed country.  In the response, the Tuvaluan prime minister, Enele Sopoaga, told Guardian Australia that hosting the conference, which officially begins on Tuesday, was an opportunity the country could not pass up.  “The people of Tuvalu are very, very strong, they are very firm that they want to protect and save their island and their people and their way of life and their resources,” said Sopoaga. “So they are looking at the forum as an opportunity to showcase their resilience.”  Sopoaga also stated that the Australian prime minister was a welcome guest in his country and anticipated “positive and progressive discussions”, but said he had concerns about Australia’s coal mining policy and its use of carryover credits as a means of reducing emissions, so the positive relationship could change if the future of his people was not taken seriously.  The key issue that may see Australia on opposing sides to its Pacific neighbors is that of human rights abuses in West Papua. Fortunately, Australia is strongly supportive of Indonesian sovereignty over Papua, and Australia-based Pacific analyst Tess Newton Cain concluded that “It wasn’t long ago that Australia was saying they wanted to be a leader in this region. They don’t say that anymore, the question is, do they even want to be on the team, is there even a place for them on the team, not to mention the captain of the team?” – The Guardian