Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Climate change timetable slips as Obama backtracks on 2008 deadline

Campaign pledge to quickly pass laws to cut emissions faltering in the first weeks of his presidency

Barack Obama painting

Barack Obama is easing up on emissions rule pledge. Photograph: Patrick Leahy/AP

Barack Obama has been forced to slow down early legislation to reduce the CO2 emissions that cause global warming, a key green objective of his presidency.

Officials conceded that Congress is unlikely to pass such legislation by the end of 2009, a delay that could hurt efforts to reach a global treaty at the climate change conference in Copenhagen this December.

It also frustrates hopes that last week's huge infusion of green investment in the $787bn (£546bn) economic rescue plan would give momentum to efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Presidential staff say America remains determined to play a leadership role at the climate talks in Copenhagen, but downplay prospects of taking steps to curb its own carbon emissions first.

"What is necessary is for us to demonstrate some leadership," Nancy Sutley, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said. She brushed aside the idea that climate change legislation would be seen as evidence of leadership. "I wouldn't comment on whether that is the only thing that would show leadership. It is still early on," she said.

Sutley spoke to reporters on Monday after a speech at a new centre on the law and climate change at Georgetown ­University in Washington DC. The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, also indicated on Monday that Obama was easing up on his timetable for climate legislation. He told reporters the president would support moves by Congress to act on global warming "whether that's this year or next year".

The shift appeared to be an attempt to downplay expectations for further dramatic action on the environment. It was also testimony to deep Republican resistance to the White House.

Obama's early moves on the environment – and the huge green investment in last week's economic rescue package – had raised expectations for further green legislation.

American environmentalists had routinely described the economic rescue plan as a "down payment" on a new green economy, that would need to be followed up if its potential were not squandered. Legislation to reduce CO2 emissions was seen as a crucial part of that follow-up.

Environment ministers also believe the US would be on a better footing at the Copenhagen conference to press for action from other big polluters, such as China and India, if it could show it was addressing the same problems at home.

Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives had promised legislation on CO2 reductions by the end of May. The Senate is operating on a longer time scale – though the Democratic leadership too has promised to introduce legislation before Copenhagen.

But the White House now evidently believes that both those schedules are unrealistic after the wrangling in Congress over the economic rescue plan.

The rescue plan ran into concerted Republican opposition, preventing Obama from making good on an election promise to end partisan bickering in Washington.

The White House is still trying to build political support for its green agenda. Governors who gathered at their annual meeting in Washington last weekend were briefed by the Obama green team.

Obama also told the governors he supported a cap and trade regime, the Washington governor, Christine Gregoire, said. But he said it would be harder to get such legislation through Congress amid the rows over the economic rescue plan.

"The president said it nicely: 'That as complex as the stimulus package has been, cap and trade will become as well'," Gregoire said.

China's growth is no figleaf for the real source of CO2 emissions: the UK

George Monbiot Blog, UK

China is blamed for soaring carbon emissions and used as an excuse for the west to do nothing

china emissions

A worker rides past coal-fueled cooling towers at a power plant in Guangan Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP

Whenever a government or a corporation doesn't want to do something, it blames China. You want fair terms of trade? Sorry, not when China's dumping its goods on the world market. You want a 40-hour week? Forget it, the Chinese are working a 40-hour day.

You want to cut carbon emissions? Pointless when the Chinese are building a new power station every three seconds. Just as it has been for 150 years, the "Yellow Peril" is invoked to frighten us into acquiescing to any number of domestic agendas.

But now, of course, we find that the story is not quite as we have been told. Yes, China's carbon pollution is soaring (though the Chinese still produce less than half as much CO2 per capita as we do), but that's only partly because of China's own consumption.

A new paper in Geophysical Research Letters shows that half the recent growth in emissions, and one-third of China's total carbon pollution, should, in fairness belong to other countries, as they have been produced while manufacturing goods for export. By closing down our manufacturing industries and moving production to China, we have dumped our emissions in another country.

This is the only reason why the UK, among other nations, appears to be meeting its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. Two studies, one by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the other by economist Dieter Helm show that when the UK's total consumption - rather than just its production - of carbon pollution is audited, our emissions have increased by 18-20% since 1990, rather than falling by 18.4% as the government claims.

The government is well aware of this. After all, it commissioned the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) report – but has sought to hide it from the public. The only acknowledgement of this issue in its latest annual Climate Change Progress report (pdf) was expressed in such a backhanded way that I had to perform several small sums to work out what it meant.

The progress report boasted that even when emissions in countries exporting goods to the UK are taken into account, "the total annual reduction of UK greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 was around 240 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent [MtCO2eq] below business as usual".

Elsewhere in the report, the government says that "business as usual" would have led to an increase of 40% in emissions since 1990. This gives us a figure of 1079 MtCO2eq. Subtract 240 from 1,079 and you get 839, or 187 MtCO2 eq above current emissions.

This means that the emissions for which the UK is responsible have risen by 9%. But even this is only half the real figure, according to SEI and Dieter. It's another of New Labour's blatant attempts to con us.

Dieter Helm argues that by counting only directly-emitted carbon production, the Kyoto treaty gives governments and corporations an incentive to dump as many of their emissions in other countries as possible, through the transfer of manufacturing jobs overseas. He also points out that it leads to optimistic assumptions about the costs of cutting carbon, such as Lord Stern's estimate that preventing climate breakdown would cost only 1% of GDP.

The current accounting method is also grossly unfair on China and other manufacturing nations in the developing world. Unless it is changed at Copenhagen in December, they will be asked to take responsibility for much of our consumption, as well as their own. Justice demands that the ultimate polluter pays: this means consumers in the rich world, not producers in poorer nations.

Global warming 'changing balance' of marine life in polar seas

Scientists involved in the most comprehensive study of life in the oceans ever conducted have documented changes in species distribution in the polar regions as warmer oceans spur migration

Arctic creatures

The Pelagonemertes rollestoni. Scientists found that at least 235 species live in both polar regions despite being 6,800 miles apart. Photograph: Russ Hopcroft, University of Alaska Fairbanks/Census of Marine Life

Global warming is changing the distribution, abundance and diversity of marine life in the polar seas with "profound" implications for creatures further up the food chain, according to scientists involved in the most comprehensive study of life in the oceans ever conducted.

Researchers from the Arctic Ocean Diversity (Arcod) project have documented rising numbers of warm-water crustaceans in the seas around Norway's Svalbard Islands. Arcod is part of the Census of Marine Life, a huge 10-year project involving researchers in more than 80 nations that aims to chart the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the oceans.

They say an increasing number of these species are extending their range towards the poles as previously cold waters between Norway and the North Pole become warmer and more hospitable.

The team, led by Dr Rolf Gradinger, from the University of Alaska, also collected evidence from the polar Chukchi Sea, between Russia and Alaska, which showed that at least three species have extended their range northwards by up to 500km. The most notable is the snow crab, which has crossed the Bering Strait and is occurring in the Chukchi Sea for the first time.

"This is an example of a general trend we are observing where water is warming further north and making this region more suitable for southerly species," Gradinger said.

The Census is a huge 10-year project involving researchers in more than 80 nations that aims to chart the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the oceans.

The team also found that smaller species are replacing larger ones in some Arctic waters, a shift which could have profound implications further up the food chain.

"We are finding two smaller species of plankton. This difference in size is big enough to cause a problem for the breeding populations of birds and whales as they will be forced to eat smaller species that has less energy content."

Gradinger's team of scientists from the University of Alaska and the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology in Moscow has collected its findings over five years. Their research has been released in conjunction with another survey from the Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML) following a series of expeditions during International Polar Year 2007-08. Both projects will contribute data on polar regions to the global Census of Marine Life, which is due to be released in 2010.

"In oceanographical terms these [Arctic] changes are huge," said Gradinger. "A change in temperature of just a few degrees will see the loss of sea ice cover and with it the sea ice algae, small animals and crustaceans which depend on it. By 2050 the arctic oceans may be ice free, we will lose these animals and that will have implications further up the food chain."

"From an Arctic perspective it's not only about an increase in temperature, it's a complete change in the ecosystem - salinity, ice melt, flow, currents - all of these together will have an impact."

The Antarctic team also reported evidence that some species of pteropods - snail-like species also known as sea butterflies - are moving further towards the pole. "It is similar to the Arctic – animals adapted to cold water environments are having to head to the poles to keep to colder climes as northern waters warm," said Dr Julian Gutt of the CAML.

By comparing notes, Arcod and CAML scientists found that at least 235 species live in both polar regions despite being 6,800 miles (11,000km) apart. Marine life that both poles share includes grey whales, birds, worms, crustaceans and pteropods. Scientists say the discovery opens a host of future research questions over where they originated and how they ended up at opposite ends of the earth.

Another major finding from the 18 research expeditions conducted by CAML during 2007-08 has revealed that life on the seafloor around the Antarctic continent forms a single bioregion - not separate ecosystems, as previously thought. Sampling from 1m locations around the 5,300 miles (8,500km) of Antarctic seafloor - or benthos - has also confirmed that the system is united by a single high-speed current.

"These findings are a major part of new information because so little was really known historically about these regions," said Ron O'Dor, the chief scientist of the census.

Gradinger added: "It's extremely difficult to get information from polar seas because we don't have good historical data. But we must collect data now to evaluate the impact of climate change and the use of the seas for tourism, fishing and shipping. With the warming of Arctic commercial exploitation might increase and therefore it's important to document what species are occurring currently."

Scientists from around the world have been involved in 17 different marine projects that will inform the census, a 10-year project that will provide a snapshot of life in the world's oceans.

The Earth's ice oceans have already revealed some secrets that have excited scientists. Last year at team of British Antarctic Survey scientists working on the census found that seas surrounding an archipelago near the tip of the Antarctic peninsula are richer in animal life than the Galapagos Islands, challenging the notion that warm seas in tropical zones are higher in biodiversity.

In February last year, giant sea creatures, including sea spiders the size of dinner plates and jellyfish with six-metre long tentacles, were found by Australian scientists working on a census project in the deep waters around Antarctica.

Nasa's CO2 satellite crashes into Antarctic ocean

A sunset silhouette of the Taurus XL rocket with NASA's OCO satellite aboard

A sunset silhouette of the Taurus XL rocket with Nasa's OCO satellite aboard sits poised for launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Photograph: Analex Randy Beaudoin/Nasa

Nasa's pioneering satellite, designed to map carbon dioxide concentrations, has crashed into the ocean near Antarctica after running into technical difficulties during launch earlier today.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (Oco) blasted off in the early hours of this morning aboard a Taurus XL rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. However, at 10.11am GMT, as the satellite prepared to separate from the launch vehicle, Nasa launch director Chuck Dovale "asked that the contingency plan be implemented".

Three minutes later an explanation came through on the satellite's launch blog: "According to Nasa commentator George Diller, the payload fairing failed to separate from the vehicle during ascent." The 160 centimetre-wide payload fairing is the nose cone that protects the satellite as it blasts through the atmosphere and should have split in two before falling away from the satellite. Because of the additional weight of the fairing, the rocket and satellite failed to reach orbit and subsequently plummeted into the Southern Ocean.

The remains of the satellite are unlikely to be recoverable, said a Nasa spokesman: "I'm not sure there'll be much of the satellite left." He added that fairing failures are not a regular occurrence.

"Certainly for the science community it's a huge disappointment," said John Brunschwyler, Taurus project manager for Orbital Sciences Corp, which built the rocket and satellite. "It's taken so long to get here." The project took nine years to reach the launch pad.

"The loss of this instrument is a serious setback," added Professor John Burrows, a co-investigator for the satellite. "Oco planned to build on the first measurements by the European Sciamachy instrument on Envisat and is complementary to the recently launched Japanese mission, Gosat." The technology onboard Oco was unique and boasted the ability to take more frequent and sensitive readings of CO2 levels than Envisat and Gosat.

Nasa's director of Earth sciences, Michael Freilich, said: "Over the next several days, weeks and months, we're going to carefully evaluate how to move forward and advance the science, given our evaluation of the assets that are in orbit now, the assets of our international partners and the existence of flight spares in order to put together a programme, as rapidly as possible, to pick up where Oco left off."

The £190m satellite was designed to collect precise measurements of the greenhouse gas in the Earth's atmosphere, identifying where it is being emitted, where it being absorbed and what happens to it in between.

"It's critical that we understand the processes controlling carbon dioxide in our atmosphere today so we can predict how fast it will build up in the future and how quickly we'll have to adapt to climate change," said David Crisp, principal investigator for the Oco based at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Experts believe a successor to Oco is likely. "Given its relatively low cost, I would expect a second Oco to be approved," said Dr Chris Welch, principal lecturer in Astronautics at Kingston University's Faculty of Engineering.

Arctic Sea Ice Underestimated for Weeks Due to Faulty Sensor

From: Bloomberg

A glitch in satellite sensors caused scientists to underestimate the extent of Arctic sea ice by 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles), a California- size area, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center said.

The error, due to a problem called “sensor drift,”� began in early January and caused a slowly growing underestimation of sea ice extent until mid-February. That’s when “puzzled readers”� alerted the NSIDC about data showing ice-covered areas as stretches of open ocean, the Boulder, Colorado-based groupsaid on its Web site.

“Sensor drift, although infrequent, does occasionally occur and it is one of the things that we account for during quality- control measures prior to archiving the data,”� the center said. “Although we believe that data prior to early January are reliable, we will conduct a full quality check.’’

The extent of Arctic sea ice is seen as a key measure of how rising temperatures are affecting the Earth. The cap retreated in 2007 to its lowest extent ever and last year posted its second- lowest annual minimum at the end of the yearly melt season. The recent error doesn’t change findings that Arctic ice is retreating, the NSIDC said.

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Cold winter doesn't buck global warming trend


Temperatures sink to record lows while snow depths are twice the normal level - is Switzerland's seemingly abnormal winter another indicator of climate change?

Bern University climatologist Heinz Wanner tells swissinfo that although the current winter season may appear colder and snowier than usual the larger historical picture shows it isn't as severe as it seems.

The head of the Climatology and Meteorology Research Group (Klimet), Wanner has for three decades been studying the climate to reconstruct conditions as they were up to 10,000 years ago. He's also working to understand the influence humans have had on weather patterns.

Wanner explains that the deep cold and record snow has to do largely with changes in the air pressure thousands of kilometres away between the Azores and Iceland. Conditions there influence Europe's wind patterns, which this year have sent storm after storm barrelling across Switzerland.

It's a natural cycle, he says, but that doesn't mean humans aren't influencing those events.

swissinfo: Another storm just rolled through this week. With conditions like these some find it hard to believe that global warming is happening. Is it?

Heinz Wanner: First of all, it's important if we really want to diagnose whether the influences are anthropogenic or natural, we need to look at data over a very long time and a very large area. Normally, if it's warming in a certain area, it's cooling at another site. The only answer, the important answer, can be given if we look at a global scale. On a regional scale or at a single site, there is much more natural variability.

swissinfo: So what is happening on a global scale versus a regional one here in Switzerland?

H.W.: The global trend for the last three decades has been temperatures increasing on average about 0.2 degrees per decade. In Switzerland it's actually higher, at about 0.3 degrees.

swissinfo: But we seem to be having record cold with lots of snow.

H.W.: It's a cold anomaly in southwest and central Europe. I can imagine that in certain sites in the Alps and in the plains, the length of the period of snow cover will be quite high and a record at some sites, but it's local. It's clear that almost every day you'll have a record in some part of the world but we have to study it over a long time and on a global scale.

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Polar Research Reveals New Evidence Of Global Environmental Change

From: International Council for Science (ICSU).

Multidisciplinary research from the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2008 provides new evidence of the widespread effects of global warming in the polar regions. Snow and ice are declining in both polar regions, affecting human livelihoods as well as local plant and animal life in the Arctic, as well as global ocean and atmospheric circulation and sea level.

These are but a few findings reported in “State of Polar Research”�, released February 25 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU). In addition to lending insight into climate change, IPY has aided our understanding of pollutant transport, species’ evolution, and storm formation, among many other areas.

The wide-ranging IPY findings result from more than 160 endorsed science projects assembled from researchers in more than 60 countries. Launched in March 2007, the IPY covers a two-year period to March 2009 to allow for observations during the alternate seasons in both polar regions. A joint project of WMO and ICSU, IPY spearheaded efforts to better monitor and understand the Arctic and Antarctic regions, with international funding support of about US$ 1.2 billion over the two-year period.

IPY has provided a critical boost to polar research during a time in which the global environment is changing faster than ever in human history. It now appears clear that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass contributing to sea level rise. Warming in the Antarctic is much more widespread than it was thought prior to the IPY, and it now appears that the rate of ice loss from Greenland is increasing.

Researchers also found that in the Arctic, during the summers of 2007 and 2008, the minimum extent of year-round sea ice decreased to its lowest level since satellite records began 30 years ago. IPY expeditions recorded an unprecedented rate of sea-ice drift in the Arctic as well. Due to global warming, the types and extent of vegetation in the Arctic shifted, affecting grazing animals and hunting.

Other evidence for global warming comes from IPY research vessels that have confirmed above-global-average warming in the Southern Ocean. A freshening of the bottom water near Antarctica is consistent with increased ice melt from Antarctica and could affect ocean circulation. Global warming is thus affecting Antarctica in ways not previously identified.

IPY research has also identified large pools of carbon stored as methane in permafrost. Thawing permafrost threatens to destabilize the stored methane -a greenhouse gas- and send it into the atmosphere. Indeed, IPY researchers along the Siberian coast observed substantial emissions of methane from ocean sediments.

In the area of biodiversity, surveys of the Southern Ocean have uncovered a remarkably rich, colourful and complex range of life. Some species appear to be migrating poleward in response to global warming. Other IPY studies reveal interesting evolutionary trends such as many present-day deep-sea octopuses having originated from common ancestor species that still survive in the Southern Ocean.

IPY has also given atmospheric research new insight. Researchers have discovered that North Atlantic storms are major sources of heat and moisture for the polar regions. Understanding these mechanisms will improve forecasts of the path and intensity of storms. Studies of the ozone hole have benefited from IPY research as well, with new connections identified between the ozone concentrations above Antarctica and wind and storm conditions over the Southern Ocean. This information will improve predictions of climate and ozone depletion.

Many Arctic residents, including indigenous communities, participated in IPY’s projects. Over 30 of these projects addressed Arctic social and human science issues, including food security, pollution, and other health issues, and will bring new understanding to addressing these pressing challenges. “IPY has been the catalyst for the development and strengthening of community monitoring networks across the North”� said David Carlson, Director of the IPY International Programme Office. “These networks stimulate the information flow among communities and back and forth from science to communities.”�

The increased threats posed by climate change make polar research a special priority. The “State of Polar Research”� document not only describes some of the striking discoveries during IPY, it also recommends priorities for future action to ensure that society is best informed about ongoing polar change and its likely future evolution and global impacts. A major IPY science conference will take place in Oslo in June 2010.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Argentine farmers face ruin as drought kills cattle, crops

SAN MIGUEL DEL MONTE, Argentina (CNN) -- In a small farming town 105 kilometers (65 miles) southwest of Buenos Aires, farmers are struggling to nourish their crops and feed their animals. The worst drought in half a century has turned Argentina's once-fertile soil to dust and pushed the country into a state of emergency.

Argentine farmers profited in years past from selling beef to the world, but some now struggle to feed their cattle.

Argentine farmers profited in years past from selling beef to the world, but some now struggle to feed their cattle.

Cow carcasses litter the prairie fields and sun-scorched soy plants wither under the South American summer sun. Farmers are concerned about their livelihoods.

"I'm losing money. I can't afford to lose money all the time," said Juan Cahen D'Anvers, whose family has been farming in Argentina since the late 1700s. He owns 700 hectares (1,730 acres) in San Miguel del Monte, where he grows sunflowers and barley.

He says this year is one of the hardest he's ever had. Video Watch farmer explain how hard he's been hit »

"Production is going to go down a minimum of 50 percent, maybe more. I don't know yet," he said.

Argentina is one of the world's breadbaskets, providing commodities such as soy, wheat, corn and beef to countries around the globe. In recent years, record-high prices for these products reaped millions of dollars for Argentine farmers, but since the global economic crisis hit, demand and profits have dropped. Now the drought is making matters even worse.

Cesar Gioia, another San Miguel del Monte farmer, said time is growing short.

"If it doesn't rain in the next 10 days, I will have to wipe out my entire corn crop, 90 hectares (220 acres)," he said. "The best I can do with it is feed it to my cows."

Facing pressure from farmers, Argentina President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced emergency measures this week that will exempt the worst-hit farmers from paying most taxes for one year.

"This is a big boost of patriotism, and a sign of support from all Argentines," Kirchner said on January 26. "All other sectors of the economy will continue to contribute, so we can help the farmers who have been affected by this drought."

Kirchner has had a contentious relationship with farmers, who staged noisy protests and strikes last year over an increase in export taxes. Those taxes eventually were reduced, but farming leaders still contend that the government is out of touch with their needs.

They say the measures announced this week fall short, and are demanding a cohesive, long-term plan for dealing with emergencies such as the current drought. If not, they say, they may strike again. Video Watch how farmers reacted to Kirchner's move »

"Sure, this plan is approved now, and it helps, but we need money to feed cows, to go back to planting crops, because this drought is impacting life in every sector of society," said Eduardo Buzzi of the Argentine Agrarian Federation.


As she yanks dead soy plant vines from a dusty field in San Miguel del Monte, Lorena del Rios of the Argentina Rural Society says she expects the drought to affect both Argentine and overseas consumers, especially when it comes to Argentina's world-famous beef.

"We will see less meat available, which means rising prices," she said. "There is even the possibility that in a few years Argentina will have to import beef, which is almost unthinkable for people here."

Bigger trees helping fight against climate change

Trees across the tropics are getting bigger and offering help in the fight against climate change, scientists have discovered.

A laborious study of the girth of 70,000 trees across Africa has shown that tropical forests are soaking up more carbon dioxide pollution than originally thought. Almost one-fifth of our fossil fuel emissions are absorbed by forests across Africa, Amazonia and Asia, the research suggests.

Simon Lewis, climate expert at the University of Leeds, who led the study, said: "We are receiving a free subsidy from nature. Tropical forests are absorbing 18% of the CO2 added to the atmosphere each year from burning fossil fuels."

The study, published tomorrow in Nature, measured trees in 79 areas of intact forest across 10 African countries from Liberia to Tanzania, and compared records going back 40 years. "On average the trees are getting bigger," Lewis said.

Compared to the 1960s, each hectare of intact African forest has trapped an extra 0.6 tonnes of carbon a year. Over the world's tropical forests, this extra "carbon sink" effect adds up to 4.8bn tonnes of CO2 removed each year - close to the total carbon dioxide emissions from the US.

Although individual trees are known to soak up carbon as they photosynthesise and grow, large patches of mature forest were once thought to be carbon neutral, with the carbon absorbed by new trees balanced by that released as old trees die.

The discovery suggests that increased CO2 in the atmosphere could fertilise extra growth in the mature forests.

Lewis said: "It's good news for now but the effect won't last forever. The trees can't keep on getting bigger and bigger."

Helene Muller-Landau of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, said the growing forests could recovering from trauma - droughts, fire and human activity - going back hundreds or even thousands of years.

The research comes as efforts intensify to include protection for tropical forests in carbon credit schemes, as part of a new climate deal to replace the Kyoto protocol.

Worsening drought in Argentina


by Alex Deakin

Many parts of Argentina have been experiencing a very dry spell, which is being described by the National Meteorological Service as the most severe drought in a generation.

The worst affected area is the Pampas region in east and central Argentina, which is also the most important agricultural region of the country. Argentina is one of world’s top exporters of wheat, soy, corn and beef, but this year, crop yields are down, and hundreds of thousands of cattle have died.

The Pampas region is one of the driest parts of the country, as the Andes provide shelter from the persistent westerly winds. Here, most of the rainfall falls in the summer months of October until March. However, since March of last year, rainfall has been significantly below normal and temperatures have been unusually hot.

Drought conditions are fairly new to Argentina, which usually receives plentiful rainfall for much of the year. Therefore, few strategies are in place to deal with the ongoing drought.

The weather for Bahía Blanca in Buenos Aires state is forecast to be hot and dry for at least the next week, with no respite from the drought conditions on the horizon.

China drought deprives millions of drinking water

From: Reuters

By Andrew Torchia

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Millions of people and cattle in north China face shortages of drinking water because of a severe drought, the government said on Saturday, promising to speed up disbursement of billions of dollars of subsidies to farmers.

State television quoted disaster relief officials as saying 4.4 million people and 2.1 million cattle lacked adequate drinking water. Official media have described the drought as north China's worst in half a century.

The Ministry of Finance said it would accelerate disbursement of 86.7 billion yuan ($12.7 billion) of annual subsidies for farmers to assist grain production and minimize the impact of the drought on rural incomes.

The government is particularly anxious to avoid a drop in rural incomes because of the threat of social unrest as millions of migrant workers, laid off from urban jobs during China's economic slump, return to the countryside.

Instead of distributing the farm subsidies evenly over this year as it did in the past, the finance ministry said it was immediately disbursing the entire 15.1 billion yuan earmarked to supplement the incomes of grain farmers.

It is also immediately disbursing part of a 71.6 billion yuan sum earmarked to aid capital spending by farmers. The ministry called on provincial governments to deliver that money into the hands of farmers in the worst-hit areas within a month.

However, meteorological officials said there were signs that better rainfall in coming weeks would ease the crisis. Rainfall is forecast for the next 10 days, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the China Meteorological Administration as saying.

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