Last month, Kenya's President William Ruto announced that the El Niño climate phenomenon, which has historically brought devastating flooding to the country, would not occur this year, contradicting weeks of warnings from meteorologists. Today, across the country, at least 60 people have died, over 50,000 more have been displaced, and 221 acres of farmland are under water as heavy rains associated with El Niño lash the region. The impact has been acutely felt in the northeast, where entire towns have been submerged. And it could be even worse in neighboring Somalia, where nearly 1.2 million people have been affected, prompting the country to declare an emergency and the UN's emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, to release $25 million to help it prepare for worse to come. The World Meteorological Organization predicts that this El Niño will last until at least April 2024, and the Food and Agriculture Organization in Somalia is projecting a once-in-a-century magnitude flood event.
A comprehensive US government report released Nov. 21 confirmed that extreme weather linked to climate change is worsening despite drops in US greenhouse gas emissions. The report urges further action to mitigate potentially catastrophic consequences across the country.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, Ian Fry, called Nov. 15 for the disbandment of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which he called a "counter-insurgency force" in the Philippines.
Panama's President Laurentino Cortizo announced Oct. 29 that he will hold a referendum to determine the fate of a contentious mega-mining contract, after several days of the country's largest protests in decades. Cortizo also said he would instate a moratorium on any new mining projects in response to the protests, a move approved by a vote of the National Assembly on Nov. 2. The moratorium bill was signed by Cortizo the next day, which was Panama's independence day. The protests, driven by environmental concerns, were sparked by the National Assembly's Oct. 20 vote to award an extended concession to Canadian company First Quantum, allowing it to operate the largest open-pit copper mine on the Central American isthmus for another 20 years.
El Niño will drive global food aid needs even higher in the coming months, a new analysis warns. The prediction comes as food aid agencies are already making ration cuts amid a budget squeeze. In July, meteorologists declared the onset of El Niño, a periodic climate phenomenon that usually brings drought to large stretches of the globe and wetter weather elsewhere. The analysis by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network says that humanitarian groups must prepare for "high food assistance needs." Another climate phenomenon, the Indian Ocean Dipole, could amplify El Niño's effects—with both compounded by the climate crisis. This September was the hottest ever recorded. "The temperature anomalies are enormous—far bigger than anything we have ever seen in the past," Petteri Taalas, head of the UN's meteorological agency, WMO, said in a press release. ACAPS, the Geneva-based analysis outfit, says Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mozambique, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, and Sudan may be the countries at the highest risk.
At least 14 people were killed and over 100 are missing after South Lhonak glacial lake in the Indian state of Sikkim burst due to incessant rains Oct. 4, inundating downstream areas. The sudden deluge on the Teesta River destroyed the Chungthang dam and flooded several districts, including Mangan, Gangtok, Pakyong and Namchi. Many residents remain cut off. (Indian Express, The Hindu) Scientists had long warned that South Lhonak lake would burst. A detailed study, Future Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) hazard of the South Lhonak Lake, Sikkim Himalaya, was published in Geomorphology journal in September 2021. It noted that the lake had witnessed a significant increase in size over the past decades due to glacial retreat. India's Central Water Commission had initiated an advisory study to evaluate the condition of the Himalayan lake system in Sikkim. (DownToEarth)
The sixth mass extinction, primarily driven by human activities, is more dire than previously anticipated, with entire branches on the tree of life now disappearing, finds a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Sept. 18. Researchers from Stanford University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, led by Gerardo Ceballos and Paul Ehrlich, assessed 5,400 genera of terrestrial vertebrates, including 34,600 species. The staggering results: 73 genera have become extinct since 1500 AD. This rate of extinction surpasses the last million years by 35 times. In other words, in just five centuries, human actions have triggered a surge of genus extinctions that would have otherwise taken 18,000 years. The researchers refer to this as a "biological annihilation." (Earth.com)
Brazil's Supreme Federal Tribunal on Sept. 21 struck down the spurious thesis behind a legislative proposal advancing in the country's Congress, which would impose a marco temporal or "time limit" on indigenous land recovery claims. The marco temporal law would nullify any indigenous group's claim to traditional lands that they weren't physically occupying on Oct. 5, 1988, the day of the enactment of Brazil's Constitution, which for the first time recognized native peoples' territorial rights. Instead, these lands would be considered the property of those currently in occupancy, or of the state. The thesis ignores the forced displacements that occurred during Brazil's dictatorship in the generation before 1988, as well as the nomadic lifeways of some indigenous groups. Environment Minister Marina Silva declared the high court's annulment of the marco temporal thesis an "act of justice."