Tag Archives: sustainability

World population to surpass 7 billion in 2011

World population to surpass 7 billion in 2011; Explosive population growth means challenges for developing nations.

ScienceDaily (July 28, 2011) — Global population is expected to hit 7 billion later this year, up from 6 billion in 1999. Between now and 2050, an estimated 2.3 billion more people will be added — nearly as many as inhabited the planet as recently as 1950. New estimates from the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations also project that the population will reach 10.1 billion in 2100.

These sizable increases represent an unprecedented global demographic upheaval, according to David Bloom, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography at the Harvard School of Public Health, in a review article published July 29, 2011 in Science.

Over the next forty years, nearly all (97%) of the 2.3 billion projected increase will be in the less developed regions, with nearly half (49%) in Africa. By contrast, the populations of more developed countries will remain flat, but will age, with fewer working-age adults to support retirees living on social pensions.

“Although the issues immediately confronting developing countries are different from those facing the rich countries, in a globalized world demographic challenges anywhere are demographic challenges everywhere,” said Bloom.

The world’s population has grown slowly for most of human history. It took until 1800 for the population to hit 1 billion. However, in the past half-century, population jumped from 3 to 7 million. In 2011, approximately 135 million people will be born and 57 million will die, a net increase of 78 million people.

Considerable uncertainty about these projections remains, Bloom writes. Depending on whether the number of births per woman continues to decline, the ranges for 2050 vary from 8.1 to 10.6 billion, and the 2100 projections vary from 6.2 to 15.8 billion.

Population trends indicate a shift in the “demographic center of gravity” from more to less developed regions, Bloom writes. Already strained, many developing countries will likely face tremendous difficulties in supplying food, water, housing, and energy to their growing populations, with repercussions for health, security, and economic growth.

“The demographic picture is indeed complex, and poses some formidable challenges,” Bloom said. “Those challenges are not insurmountable, but we cannot deal with them by sticking our heads in the sand. We have to tackle some tough issues ranging from the unmet need for contraception among hundreds of millions of women and the huge knowledge-action gaps we see in the area of child survival, to the reform of retirement policy and the development of global immigration policy. It’s just plain irresponsible to sit by idly while humankind experiences full force the perils of demographic change.”

The afterlife of our electronic waste

CultureLab: The afterlife of our electronic waste.

Is it real or wilful ignorance that permits us to foul our own planet with Styrofoam cups and rusted batteries? Would we curb our wasteful activities if only we knew the error of our ways? Technophiles from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology think so, and to equip the public with the knowledge we need to change our behaviour they’ve tagged our technological trash with GPS chips and tracked it across the globe. “Some trash is recycled, some is thrown away, some ends up where it shouldn’t end up,” says Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

(In the past, New Scientist teamed up with the Senseable City Lab for a trash-tracking project and competition in which readers followed the trail of their own rubbish.)

The lab’s video project, Backtalk (as in trash that talks back) is currently on display at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art as part of a group show about our communication with technology. In the video, batteries, cell phones and other discarded electronic devices begin as dots in Seattle, which scatter across a map of the US, leaving a web of fluorescent trails in their wake. “In one case we saw printer cartridges go from Seattle, to the east coast, to southern California,” says Assaf Biderman, associate director at the Senseable lab. “To me, that poses a question on the benefit of recycling versus the cost of travel.”


Backtalk also includes photos taken from laptops that had been sent to developing countries by laptop-donation programmes in the US. New users of the “discarded” laptops consented to have their photo taken. These tracked devices reveal a life that extends far beyond the original owner’s sight. “If you can get feedback about how the end of life looks for an object, it can help you become more aware so you can rethink your actions, ” Biderman says.

The MIT lab isn’t the first to point out inefficiencies in how the US handles electronic waste, of course. Debates on how to best recycle electronics have been waged since the first televisions broke – and as they continue into the present day, these disagreements expose how complex solutions are. About 53 million tons of electronic waste was generated in 2009, according to the technology market research firm, ABI Research. With a dearth of electronic waste recycling plants in the US, many companies export their toxic products to harvesting and smelting operations in Africa and Asia. And what isn’t recycled ends up in landfills, where it poses significant health risks because of leaching lead and other metals. Watchdog groups have sought to improve electronic waste recycling for years, but companies need economic or regulatory incentives to alter their current modes of operation. In Backtalk, Biderman and Ratti reiterate how inefficient the electronic waste recycling system is, and hope their new display of data will encourage people to pause before tossing out a printer cartridge – or better yet, work to fix the system.

“A moral argument is a hard one to make,” says Adam Williams, a doctoral student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who is studying recycling markets in China. “Successful recycling systems in China and Brazil happen when people realise they can profit off of trash,” he explains. “‘Save Mother Earth’ fails in terms of creating a system of global responsibility. Recycling needs to put money into someone’s pockets in order to work effectively.”

Yet Biderman maintains people can also be reached by driving home the concept of our interconnectedness. “After the Civil War, people realised there was a benefit to pooling their money to contribute to the common good, so they created the income tax,” he explains. “If we could create an environment where people were aware of the impact of waste or the impact of traffic, by sharing data obtained through sensors, there would be an incentive to participate in order to improve communal spaces.” Backtalk is a proof of concept that a technologically driven bottom-up approach can engage the public, he says. But if getting the message across to the broader public is anything like trying to get through to the to the over-stimulated visitors milling through the MoMA’s buzzing exhibit on communicative technologies, I’m afraid the message may be lost in digital noise.

Dry onion skin a treasure we're tossing out?

Dry onion skin has a use.

ScienceDaily (July 14, 2011) — More than 500,000 tonnes of onion waste are thrown away in the European Union each year. However, scientists say this could have a use as food ingredients. The brown skin and external layers are rich in fibre and flavonoids, while the discarded bulbs contain sulphurous compounds and fructans. All of these substances are beneficial to health.

Production of onion waste has risen over recent years in line with the growing demand for these bulbs. More than 500,000 tonnes of waste are generated in the European Union each year, above all in Spain, Holland and the United Kingdom, where it has become an environmental problem. The waste includes the dry brown skin, the outer layers, roots and stalks, as well as onions that are not big enough to be of commercial use, or onions that are damaged.

“One solution could be to use onion waste as a natural source of ingredients with high functional value, because this vegetable is rich in compounds that provide benefits for human health,” says Vanesa Benítez, a researcher at the Department of Agricultural Chemistry at the Autonomous University of Madrid (Spain).

Benítez’s research group worked with scientists from Cranfield University (United Kingdom) to carry out laboratory experiments to identify the substances and possible uses of each part of the onion. The results have been published in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition.

According to the study, the brown skin could be used as a functional ingredient high in dietary fibre (principally the non-soluble type) and phenolic compounds, such as quercetin and other flavonoids (plant metabolites with medicinal properties). The two outer fleshy layers of the onion also contain fibre and flavonoids.

“Eating fibre reduces the risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal complaints, colon cancer, type-2 diabetes and obesity,” the researcher points out.

Phenolic compounds, meanwhile, help to prevent coronary disease and have anti-carcinogenic properties. The high levels of these compounds in the dry skin and the outer layers of the bulbs also give them high antioxidant capacity.

Meanwhile, the researchers suggest using the internal parts and whole onions that are thrown away as a source of fructans and sulphurous compounds. Fructans are prebiotics, in other words they have beneficial health effects as they selectively stimulate the growth and activity of bacteria in the colon.

Sulphurous compounds reduce the accumulation of platelets, improving blood flow and cardiovascular health in general. They also have a positive effect on antioxidant and anti-inflammatory systems in mammals.

“The results show that it would be useful to separate the different parts of onions produced during the industrial process,” explains Benítez. “This would enable them to be used as a source of functional compounds to be added to other foodstuffs.”

'Super sand' to help clean up dirty drinking water

BBC News – ‘Super sand’ to help clean up dirty drinking water.

Contaminated water can be cleaned much more effectively using a novel, cheap material, say researchers.

Dubbed “super sand”, it could become a low-cost way to purify water in the developing world.

The technology involves coating grains of sand in an oxide of a widely available material called graphite – commonly used as lead in pencils.

The team describes the work in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials and Interfaces.

In many countries around the world, access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities is still limited.

The World Health Organization states that “just 60% of the population in Sub-Saharan African and 50% of the population in Oceania [islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean] use improved sources of drinking-water.”

The graphite-coated sand grains might be a solution – especially as people have already used sand to purify water since ancient times.

Coating the sand

But with ordinary sand, filtering techniques can be tricky.

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Given that this can be synthesized using room temperature processes and also from cheap graphite sources, it is likely to be cost-efficient”

Mainak Majumder Monash University, Australia

Wei Gao from Rice university in Texas, US, told BBC News that regular coarse sand was a lot less effective than fine sand when water was contaminated with pathogens, organic contaminants and heavy metal ions.

While fine sand is slightly better, water drains through it very slowly.

“Our product combines coarse sand with functional carbon material that could offer higher retention for those pollutants, and at the same time gives good throughput,” explained the researcher.

She said that the technique the team has developed to make the sand involves dispersing graphite oxide into water and mixing it with regular sand.

“We then heat the whole mixture up to 105C for a couple of hours to evaporate the water, and use the final product – ‘coated sand’ – to purify polluted water.”


Sand “Super sand” is made using regular sand – and it could become a low-cost way to purify water

The lead scientist of the study, Professor Pulickel Ajayan, said it was possible to modify the graphite oxide in order to make it more selective and sensitive to certain pollutants – such as organic contaminants or specific metals in dirty water.

Another team member, Dr Mainak Majumder from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said it had another advantage – it was cheap.

“This material demonstrates comparable performance to some commercially available activated carbon materials,” he said.

“But given that this can be synthesized using room temperature processes and also from cheap graphite sources, it is likely to be cost-efficient.”

He pointed out that in Australia many mining companies extract graphite and they produce a lot of graphite-rich waste.

“This waste can be harnessed for water purification,” he said.

Dozens of countries queue up to go nuclear

Dozens of countries queue up to go nuclear – tech – 24 June 2011 – New Scientist.

IN THE wake of the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan in March, several countries have announced plans to reject nuclear power. Japan will not build any more reactors. Germany plans to phase out its nuclear power plants, Switzerland will not replace its reactors, and last week Italy voted against starting a nuclear programme.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is running an emergency conference this week to identify the key lessons from Fukushima (see “Agency report praises Fukushima staff, slams TEPCO“). So does this mean a decade-long revival of interest in nuclear power is grinding to a halt?

IAEA figures suggest not. They list 65 reactors under construction, and those figures are just the tip of the iceberg because they do not include reactors that are contracted to be built, or those being planned. Neither do they acknowledge the significance of the United Arab Emirates being on course to become the first country to go nuclear since China in 1985: the UAE has signed a deal with a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation to build four reactors. Saudi Arabia is following suit, having announced earlier this month that it will build 16 reactors by 2030. Turkey plans to build two new plants.

Dozens more countries have registered an interest in the nuclear option with the IAEA, though few are likely to follow through, according to Jessica Jewell at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.

Jewell gathered data on countries with established programmes to work out what it takes to go nuclear. When they started building nuclear power stations, these countries had robust electricity grids, stable, effective governments and big economies that could swallow the upfront costs.

Of 52 countries that have recently asked the IAEA to help them start a nuclear programme only 10 meet all of these criteria, Jewell says. Another 10 had the motivation and resources but were politically unstable (Energy Policy, DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2010.10.041).

That second group includes Egypt, which Jewell reckons is the most likely to gain nuclear power of the five north African countries with stated intentions. Continuing political uncertainty in Egypt makes nuclear an unlikely option there in the near term, however.

Meanwhile, the plants already under construction in established nuclear countries are feeling the ripples of Fukushima. Just under half of the reactors listed as under construction by the IAEA are in China – but following events in Japan, the Chinese government has suspended approvals for new plants while it reviews their safety


New Dam evaluation protocols better but not perfect

Damned if they do : Nature : Nature Publishing Group.

An industry approach to greener hydropower is far from perfect, but it does offer a way forwards.

The mighty Iguaçu Falls in Brazil are an excellent illustration of the power of water, so what better place for the hydropower industry to promote what it says is a fresh approach to its sustainability?

There is ample room for scepticism about the effort — known as the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (see page 430). It is an industry-led endeavour that requires next to nothing from the industry. It grades hydropower projects, but makes no judgement on what should happen to projects that rank poorly. And it is geared towards assessment of individual dams, independent of broader questions about energy-resource development. So far, so bad. Yet, if deployed properly, it could also be an invaluable tool to inject much-needed science and reason into a planning process that has operated with little of either for much too long.

Developers and governments have historically assessed dam projects mainly on the basis of cost and power. Engineers simply survey the landscape to identify the easiest places to block channels, set up turbines and run power lines. Sediments, endemic species and the consequences of severing communication between headwaters and estuaries are very much secondary issues. Even people get short shrift, leading indigenous groups to mount the kind of intense protests that last week saw the Peruvian government shelve plans for a massive dam in the Amazon.

“The hydropower assessment protocol asks all the right questions but fails to provide any answers.”

This standard approach has caused numerous environmental problems — such as siltation and blockages to migrating fish — in industrialized countries, which exploited their best hydropower resources long ago and are now trying to repair the damage. In some cases, the costs of improvement outweigh the benefits, and old dams are being decommissioned. But, in the developing world, hydropower projects continue to stack up. Countries in Southeast Asia and Latin America, in particular, are pursing hydropower with gusto, hoping to alleviate energy poverty and feed burgeoning economies. By one optimistic industry estimate, cumulative hydropower capacity could nearly double by 2030. Without a more coordinated approach, these countries are doomed to make the same mistakes.

The new hydropower protocol comes courtesy of the International Hydropower Association, which consulted with environmental and human-rights groups, as well as representatives from finance and government, in an effort to set out some basic principles of sustainable hydropower.

After three years of work, the result is a way to assess dam projects on a range of criteria — from planning, governance and public engagement to ecology and hydrology. It is voluntary, however, and there are no minimum standards. The protocol asks all the right questions but fails to provide any answers.

This has driven a wedge into the community of environmental and social activists that work in this arena. Critics argue that the protocol represents little more than a public-relations exercise that will allow bad developers to appear green while pursuing business as normal — often on projects that pre-date current environmental thinking. This may be true, but, unfortunately, in the political and corporate world such ‘greenwash’ is common. The new effort would at least create a common language with which to raise concerns, evaluate the best available science and negotiate improvements.

The biggest shortcoming lies in the assessment of individual dams that have already been proposed for specific locations. Much better would be an approach to analyse entire river basins in an effort to identify the most suitable locations, as well as areas where special precautions should be taken. Indeed, it might well be that some rivers should be left to flow freely to preserve ecological integrity.

The protocol does touch on these issues, raising questions about a dam’s role in the broader energy mix and about wider impacts from hydroelectric development. And it could yet offer a foundation to set minimum standards in these and other areas, so that companies would need to build and operate better dams, as well as integrate them into a more comprehensive energy strategy. For all of its faults, the protocol opens another bridge to a better future. Now it’s up to governments, banks and companies to make the journey across.

New solar cell: Engineers crack full-spectrum solar challenge

New solar cell: Engineers crack full-spectrum solar challenge.

ScienceDaily (June 26, 2011) — In a paper published in Nature Photonics, U of T Engineering researchers report a new solar cell that may pave the way to inexpensive coatings that efficiently convert the sun’s rays to electricity.

The U of T researchers, led by Professor Ted Sargent, report the first efficient tandem solar cell based on colloidal quantum dots (CQD). “The U of T device is a stack of two light-absorbing layers — one tuned to capture the sun’s visible rays, the other engineered to harvest the half of the sun’s power that lies in the infrared,” said lead author Dr. Xihua Wang.

“We needed a breakthrough in architecting the interface between the visible and infrared junction,” said Sargent, a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, who is also the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology. “The team engineered a cascade — really a waterfall — of nanometers-thick materials to shuttle electrons between the visible and infrared layers.”

According to doctoral student Ghada Koleilat, “We needed a new strategy — which we call the Graded Recombination Layer — so that our visible and infrared light-harvesters could be linked together efficiently, without any compromise to either layer.”

The team pioneered solar cells made using CQD, nanoscale materials that can readily be tuned to respond to specific wavelengths of the visible and invisible spectrum. By capturing such a broad range of light waves — wider than normal solar cells — tandem CQD solar cells can in principle reach up to 42 per cent efficiencies. The best single-junction solar cells are constrained to a maximum of 31 per cent efficiency. In reality, solar cells that are on the roofs of houses and in consumer products have 14 to 18 per cent efficiency. The work expands the Toronto team’s world-leading 5.6 per cent efficient colloidal quantum dot solar cells.

“Building efficient, cost-effective solar cells is a grand global challenge. The University of Toronto is extremely proud of its world-class leadership in the field,” said Professor Farid Najm, Chair of The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.

Sargent is hopeful that in five years solar cells using the graded recombination layer published in the Nature Photonics paper will be integrated into building materials, mobile devices, and automobile parts.

“The solar community — and the world — needs a solar cell that is over 10% efficient, and that dramatically improves on today’s photovoltaic module price points,” said Sargent. “This advance lights up a practical path to engineering high-efficiency solar cells that make the best use of the diverse photons making up the sun’s broad palette.”

The publication was based in part on work supported by an award made by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), by the Ontario Research Fund Research Excellence Program, and by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada. Equipment from Angstrom Engineering and Innovative Technology enabled the research.

Virtual water cannot remedy freshwater shortage

Virtual water cannot remedy freshwater shortage.

ScienceDaily (June 6, 2011) — The implementation of virtual water into trading deals has been suggested as a realistic solution to solving the global inequality of renewable freshwater, but new research suggests that it may not be as revolutionary as first thought.

In a study published June 7, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, researchers have claimed that virtual water is unlikely to increase water use equality, primarily because the existing amount of virtual water is not large enough to overcome the inequalities that exist.

Lead author David Seekell, of the University of Virginia, said, “Virtual water is unlikely to overcome these constraints because there just isn’t enough to go around.”

80 per cent of humanity currently lives in regions where water security is threatened, meaning that as the global population grows against a finite volume of freshwater, a more equal distribution of water use between countries will be needed.

Virtual water — the amount of water it takes to produce goods or a service — has been suggested as a possible solution to this growing problem by using virtual water values to inform international trade deals.

Most goods carry a virtual water value — for example, producing one kilogram of beef requires 15 thousand litres of water — which can act as a significant tool for addressing a country’s input and output of water.

For example, a trade deal could be struck where products with a high virtual water value, such as oranges, could be exported from countries where there is an efficient and abundant water supply, into a country where the requirement of water to grow that particular product is more of a burden.

This would allow the receiving country to save on water, relieving the pressure on their limited water resources, and allowing the water to be used elsewhere in its infrastructure.

This study, performed by researchers at the University of Virginia, assessed the inequality in water use between countries and examined how different uses, such as industrial, household, and for agricultural products consumed domestically, contributed to the overall inequality.

To do this, the authors compared United Nations statistics on both social and human development statuses with water usage statistics for a range of countries.

Their study concludes that virtual water transfers are not sufficient to equalise water use among nations because water used for agriculture consumed domestically dominates a nation’s water needs and cannot be completely compensated by current volumes of virtual water transfers.

Seekell continued, “Even if it cannot completely equalise water use between countries, virtual water may stand to contribute to this effort if there is increased transfer from high water use to low water use countries, but the danger here is that these transfers effectively prop up populations above the carrying capacity of their natural resources and this could actually erode a population’s long-term resilience to drought or other disasters.

“There are a myriad of political and economic barriers to trade, and because water is not usually a deciding factor in trade decisions, it is unlikely that global trade will ever be viewed as efficient from a water use point of view.”

Overuse of antimicrobials in livestock risks human health, warn experts

Overuse of antimicrobials in livestock risks human health, warn experts.

ScienceDaily (June 1, 2011) — Excessive use of antimicrobials in livestock promotes resistance and risks the future health of both animals and humans, warn experts in an editorial published by Student BMJ on June 1, 2011.

Jørgen Schlundt and colleagues at the National Food Institute in Denmark argue that the routine use of antimicrobials can be reduced substantially, while maintaining profitable animal production, and call for their use to be monitored in all countries.

Antimicrobials are essential for treating bacterial infections in humans and animals. Substantial amounts are used in modern animal production, but their use can result in bacteria that are resistant to treatment.

Resistant bacteria can spread from animals to humans, mainly through the food chain.

Three of four recently emerging infections in humans originate from animals: avian influenza H5N1, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Salmonella.

Several global organisations have proposed a range of different actions to contain antimicrobial resistance from animals, including restricting use in animals of the most critically important antimicrobials for humans. The European Union has also begun monitoring resistance in food animals and is implementing mandatory monitoring of antimicrobial usage in all member states.

Such monitoring already occurs in Denmark, along with progressively tighter rules on the use of antimicrobials in the raising of livestock since 1995.

Yet tighter rules do not lead to lower productivity. In Denmark, use of antimicrobial agents per kilogram of pork produced is estimated to be less than a fifth of that in the United States, yet Denmark continues to be the world’s largest exporter of pork and productivity is now higher than ever before.

Data from Norway also show that improving fish farm management and introducing effective vaccines can reduce the use of antimicrobials more than 20 fold.

“We have major tasks ahead for global containment of resistance, in relation to both veterinary and human medicine,” write the authors. “Antimicrobials are too precious to be wasted, and both sectors have plenty of room for improvement.”

They conclude: “Substantial reduction of antimicrobial use in livestock is feasible and necessary if we want to preserve the power of antimicrobials for future generations of both animals and humans.”

Identifying "Hot Spots" of Future Food Shortages Due to Climate Change

Identifying “Hot Spots” of Future Food Shortages Due to Climate Change: Scientific American.

climate change, global warming, food, agriculture, food crisis FOOD CRISIS: A new report identifies world regions likely to be hardest hit by climate change’s impact on food. Image: Evelyn Simak/Wikimedia Commons

Southern Africa, India and Southeast Asia will be plagued with both high susceptibility and a lack of coping mechanisms as climate change takes its toll, according to models published in a new study.

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research’s (CGIAR) Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security identified world regions that will bear the brunt of climate change’s consequences on food availability. The project’s researchers measured current food security indicators and climate-sensitive zones in 2050, and the overlap between the two.

Other high-risk hot spots include Mexico, northeast Brazil, southern Africa and West Africa, assessed by indicators like future water availability, number of days above 30 degrees Celsius, length of the growing period, reliable growing days and high or low rainfall.

“In all of these areas, food security is always an issue,” said Philip Thornton, one of the study’s authors and a senior scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute. In addition to climate and economy, “these are areas where population increases are projected to carry on, adding more potential problems.”

How productivity flips
The researchers mapped vulnerability to nine thresholds — the points at which a region can “flip” from normal productivity to subpar yields. One example of a threshold is the 120-day growing period, the minimum length needed for a crop like corn to survive. If climate change causes growing periods to shrink to less than 120 days, it will take a significant toll on food sustainability.

Southern Africa — encompassing Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa — showed to be highly exposed to several of the eight thresholds. Spots in northeastern Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan were also very vulnerable, concluded the study.

Food security indicators, a combination of economic, health, logistic and population statistics, assessed which areas are currently at greatest risk for hunger and malnutrition.

“Africa and South Africa are clearly much more chronically food insecure regions than Latin America or China,” states the study. “In terms of resource pressure, again Africa is highlighted for population growth rates.”

Market access, economy also key
North Africa, a region that will not be especially vulnerable to climate change according to the study’s findings, ranked high in the number of hours needed to access a market. As seen in food riots earlier this year, the region is also sensitive to price volatility in international markets.

“One of the key areas in helping to provide food security is not simply an idea of more productivity, but also access and affordability of food to those who need it,” said Thornton, in regard to North Africa.

But for the regions that are faced with increasingly stressful weather patterns, “there’s a great deal that could be done to offset the impacts of climate change through adaptation, farming with new technology and government policies that are conducive to promoting small-holder agriculture,” he said.

Crop substitution for a drier and warmer climate, converting cropland to livestock grazing land, and making better use of rainfall are proven methods.

“It’s not particularly rocket science,” he said.

Thornton’s words reflect the conclusions of another report released this week. The nonprofit aid organization Oxfam released a food security report recommending government investment in small-scale farming and instituting concrete plans to deal with climate change. Continuing to follow the current system may drive food prices up 70 to 90 percent in the next 18 years, warns Oxfam.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500