Thursday, June 30, 2016

Here's the Next Big Story on Climate Change

[Mother Jones] Last December, the climate summit in Paris offered journalists an unprecedented opportunity to reframe the global warming story. Climate reporting used to rest on the tacit understanding that the problem is overwhelming and intractable. That no longer rings true. While we have a better understanding than ever of the potential calamity in store, we finally have a clear vision of a path forward—and momentum for actually getting there.
To that end, Paris was a turning point for me personally, too: It was the end of the beginning of my career as an environmental journalist. This week I'm leaving Mother Jones after five years covering climate and other green stories. Paris underscored that it's past time for me to look beyond the borders of the United States. That's why, this fall, I'm going to undertake a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship. For at least nine months, I'll move between Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria to document how climate change is affecting food security.
I see agriculture in Africa as one of the most important yet underreported stories about climate change today. It's a fascinating intersection of science, politics, technology, culture, and all the other things that make climate such a rich vein of reporting. At that intersection, the scale of the challenge posed by global warming is matched only by the scale of opportunity to innovate and adapt. There are countless stories waiting to be told, featuring a brilliant and diverse cast of scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians, farmers, families, and more.
East Africa is already the hungriest place on Earth: One in every three people live without sufficient access to nutritious food, according to the United Nations. Crop yields in the region are the lowest on the planet. African farms have one-tenth the productivity of Western farms on average, and sub-Saharan Africa is the only place on the planet where per capita food production is actually falling.
Now, climate change threatens to compound those problems by raising temperatures and disrupting the seasonal rains on which many farmers depend. An index produced by the University of Notre Dame ranks 180 of the world's countries based on their vulnerability to climate change impacts (No. 1, New Zealand, is the least vulnerable; the United State is ranked No. 11). The best-ranked mainland African country is South Africa, down at No. 84; Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda rank at No. 147, No. 154, and No. 160, respectively. In other words, these are among the places that will be hit hardest by climate change. More often than not, the agricultural sector will experience some of the worst impacts. Emerging research indicates that climate change could drive down yields of staples such as rice, wheat, and maize 20 percent by 2050. Worsening and widespread drought could shorten the growing season in some places by up to 40 percent. Read More