An Uncertain Harvest

Increasingly volatile weather patterns around the world are already causing supermarket prices to rise. But when it comes to global warming and the food supply, the real losers will be those in developing countries. A look at how one corner of Africa is coping.

By Jocelyn Craugh Zuckerman

Similar water-harvesting initiatives are proliferating across the developing world, and experts say they have the potential to make a big difference in the face of rising temperatures. Kenya, for example, currently gets enough rainfall to supply the needs of six to seven times its population of 40 million. And the beauty of small-scale efforts like Minisa’s tank (which required just four days of labor and cost just $60) is that, unlike big, exposed dams, they lose little water to evaporation. At the close of the November conference, Kenya’s water minister announced plans to require all new buildings to include similar structures.

Back in my old stomping grounds out west, I come across other signs of a growing dedication to mitigating the effects—and the causes—of climate change. One afternoon I stop by the Mumias Sugar Factory, a huge compound near my former home that’s visible from miles away thanks to the two thick plumes of gray smoke it sends into the air, marring the otherwise idyllic expanse of apple-green fields and periwinkle sky. There, James Luchacha, the head of factory operations, assures me that the plumes will be gone within two years. The company recently launched a $50 million cogeneration project, which involves installing a new environmentally friendly boiler and upgrading the power system to better utilize bagasse, the fiber that remains after the juice has been extracted from sugarcane. By the end of 2008, says Luchacha, the factory will produce enough power to meet its own needs and have some left over to sell to the national grid. In addition, the company recently signed an agreement to begin selling its carbon emissions reductions to a Japanese firm. (Bagasse is considered a clean fuel under the Kyoto Protocol.) “The only thing I’m getting out of this is legacy,” says Luchacha, his face opening into a wide grin, “but I’m really looking forward to it.”

Perhaps most significantly, the world community seems finally to be making the connection between global warming and a threatened supply of food. This past December, the consortium of scientists known as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research announced a climate-change initiative whose goal is to breed crops capable of withstanding heat, flooding, and drought. And India’s Navdanya, the organic farming program led by environmental activist Vandana Shiva, also recently launched a plan to establish seed banks for drought-, saline-, and flood-resistant crops.

Increasingly, governments and aid organizations are supporting forward-thinking strategies like agro-forestry, in which trees are cultivated together with food crops, which helps prevent erosion, restores the soil’s fertility, and provides shade for the crops (while also sequestering carbon); and conservation farming, a minimum-tillage strategy that traps moisture, improves the quality of the soil, and minimizes erosion, thereby fostering more drought-tolerant growing conditions. Researchers are also aiming to improve climate-change monitoring capacities across the developing world and to implement early warning systems that will give farmers the information they need to protect their harvests. Columbia University, for example, has paired farmers in India and Zimbabwe with climate and agricultural scientists for just this purpose.

And at the November conference, Annan announced the Nairobi Framework, a U.N. initiative intended to help developing nations get funding to promote clean energy technology and manage the climate threat in general. Included in the Framework is a program that will facilitate carbon finance agreements under the Kyoto Protocol between developing and industrialized countries. The World Bank has estimated that by selling carbon credits, developing nations could earn as much as $100 billion a year by 2050.

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There are of course alternative views to the one you have propounded above.
One of these is that of a specifically Christian/Biblical world view - you are therefore welcome to read (via Word document, or as a published booklet)
"Global Warming & Climate Change - A Christian Perspective"
Do contact me on e mail address above for details.

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