I arrived in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, five weeks ago. In the days prior, I had read up on this southwestern African country and its tourist sites, learned about the wildlife conservation successes it has achieved since independence in 1990, and was even reminded that this was where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie chose to give birth to their first child. But on my first night here, I was confronted with a different side of Namibia that isn’t making as many headlines.

A typical arid landscape in the Erongo region of Namibia.

Jet-lagged and disoriented, I stumbled out of my room at 2 a.m. and ran into Johannes Gabriel, the night guard at the guesthouse where I’m staying for three months. Gabriel, an Ovambo man from the village of Okapa, told me of the drought that is gripping the nation, the worst in three decades. “Many cattle and people are dying, schools are closing because children aren’t interested in education, people are waiting on long lines for food.” While much of the world may know Namibia for tourism, wildlife conservation, and famous babies, the drought has received relatively little media exposure. Greater international attention and support will be needed if these conditions are indicative of climate challenges to come.

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Africa, Climate Change, drought, ecotourism, Namibia

For those who spent this year’s mild winter worrying about how incredibly hot the summer would be, recent damages to crops and homes should come as little surprise. Although the abnormally early spring delivered some benefits—such as one of the best blue crab seasons in a long time—they will be largely outweighed by the costs inflicted by the historic drought that is currently plaguing most of the United States, with particularly dire consequences in agricultural states.

The word “historic” is not an exaggeration: the 12 months running from June 2011 to June 2012 are the warmest on record, and more than two thirds of U.S. farms are in drought conditions, a magnitude that has not been experienced since 1956 and is nearing Dust Bowl-like proportions.  

Amid fluctuating rain patterns and crop price speculation, one trend is already emerging: we can expect higher food prices worldwide starting next year, and perhaps as early as this autumn. The Climate Desk, a journalistic collaboration focused on climate change, recently published a helpful estimate of how some basic foods could be affected by 2013. For instance, a 20-ounce loaf of white bread would go from an average price of $1.81 to $1.96; a whole chicken would sell at $4.91, compared to the 2011 average of $4.52.

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agriculture, Climate Change, climate effects, drought, food, food prices

China appears to be heading for its worst power shortage since 2004, putting pressure on already struggling industries and strained livelihoods due to restricted energy access. The 26 provinces served by the State Grid Corp of China could face a combined power shortage of 30 gigawatts (GW) this summer. Central, southern, southwestern and eastern provinces introduced power use restrictions and rationing in late March, well ahead of the summer peak demand season, fueling concerns that shortages could worsen and spread to other regions.

Source: China Daily

Jiangsu, Henan, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Hubei provinces are most susceptible to electricity shortages this summer. Jiangsu province alone is expected to face an 11 GW gap between available power supply and expected demand, accounting for 37 percent of the country’s total shortage. Due to power use restrictions and rationing, many factories in the export-oriented eastern provinces have been forced to significantly reduce output, or instead meet their power demands with costly diesel generators.

The recent financial difficulties faced by China’s power companies caused the thermal power supply slump driving these severe shortages. This is particularly true of coal-fired power plants, which provide more than 70 percent of the country’s generation capacity. According to the 2010 Annual Report of the State Electricity Regulation Commission (SERC), the overall deficits for China’s five major thermal power companies (China Datang Corp., China Guodian Corp., China Huadian Group,  China Huaneng Group and China Power Investment Corp.) exceeded 60 billion Yuan ($6.23 billion) from 2008 to the end of 2010. In May 2011 alone, these “big five” lost 12.16 billion Yuan ($1.88 billion).

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China, drought, electricity, energy roadmap, energy supply, hydropower, low-carbon, nuclear, power shortage, renewable energy, solar, sustainable development, wind