Governments have been accused of backtracking on water commitments, The Guardian reported, after representatives at the World Water Forum in Marseilles endorsed a ministerial declaration calling for a “new approach” to water policy ahead of June’s Rio+20 conference on sustainable development. Campaigners say the document does not formally define water and sanitation as human rights, leaving potential loopholes for countries to avoid their obligations.
Chronic water problems in many parts of the world will worsen as demand for food increases and climate change intensifies, a UN report warned, unless a crackdown on waste is conducted. Agence France-Presse said the report urges an overhaul in water management, including better irrigation systems, less-thirsty crops and the use of “grey” (used) water to flush toilets.
In a development that may increase food security, Bloomberg News reported, Australian scientists have bred salt tolerance into durum wheat for the first time and boosted grain yields by 25% in saline soils. The researchers, writing in Nature Biotechnology, said they introduced a salt-tolerant gene from a wheat relative into a commercial wheat variety, using traditional methods.
A report by the Earth Security Initiative puts arable land at the center of a new security agenda, showing the interdependence that soil resilience, human rights and access to water has on risks to national economies, political stability and social cohesion – and why soil, rights and water must be considered together. (See Alejandro Litovsky’s related chinadialogue article here.)
Mining the oil in Canada’s tar sands will require the wholesale destruction of nearly 30,000 hectares of peatlands, emitting 11.4 million to 47.3 million tonnes of additional, previously unquantified, carbon, mongabay cited a study by Canadian scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as finding. Industry claims that the peatlands will be restored are “clearly greenwashing”, the researchers said.
The complete melt of the Greenland ice sheet could occur at lower global temperatures than previously thought, Reuters reported, quoting scientists in Germany and Spain in Nature Climate Change. Increasing the threat and severity of a sea-level rise, the melt could happen if temperatures rose between 0.8° and 3.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with a best estimate of 1.6°, the scientists’ computer modeling indicated.
Climate-related disasters have displaced more than 42 million people in Asia over the past two years, Agence France-Presse cited the Asian Development Bank as saying in a report calling for prompt action to avert future crises. More than 10 million people in Pakistan alone were affected by massive flooding in 2010.
The Pacific archipelago of Kiribati intends to buy land on Fiji’s main island as a long-term measure to cope with rising sea levels, New Scientist said. Kiribati’s cabinet approved the purchase of 25 square kilometres on Viti Levu as an investment, with relocation of the population a “last resort”. Low-lying Kiribati is threatened by changing weather patterns, saltwater intrusion and extended droughts.
Shell has shelved plans to drill the Arctic, but many other resources firms are eying exploitation of the environmentally-vulnerable region