The rise and rise of the infographic

HungerIn the policy and advocacy sphere finding the best way to communicate to a broad audience is a constant challenge. As we have seen while following the COP19 in Warsaw, urgent messages, such as the importance of including agriculture in climate negotiations, do not always get through to those making decisions.

The challenge is to unravel complex data and present it in an accessible and powerful way. Enter the infographic, which lays out hard hitting facts and figures in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Just this week, we’ve stumbled upon several new infographics, which help to explain how the world works and where we’re heading in the future.

Despite (or perhaps because of) agriculture remaining side-lined at the COP, it may be that agriculture groups will need to refocus their efforts on other UN processes instead.  The post-2015 agenda, for instance, offers such an opportunity, as a new infographic by Farming First illustrates.

The infographic, entitled Food and Farming in 2030, presents a range of trends and data for the year 2030 (when the Sustainable Development Goals or post-2015 agenda is set to expire).  In essence, it lays out where we need to be by 2030 and how can agriculture help us get there. For example by 2030, agriculture will have the potential to mitigate around 7.5% of the world’s carbon emissions (3% currently) and so excluding agriculture from climate change talks is a major missed opportunity to tackle climate change.

Farming First, a coalition of multi-stakeholder organisations that come together to “articulate, endorse and promote practical, actionable programmes and activities to further sustainable agricultural development worldwide” have produced a whole range of infographics on: Agriculture and the Green Economy; the Female Face of Farming; and the Story of Agriculture and Climate Change. Aside from their awareness raising and policy influencing work, Farming First have amassed over 100 case studies from around the world, which demonstrate best practices in sustainable agricultural development. They also list the food and nutrition security initiatives occurring across the globe and in one of their recent blogs discuss whether social media can change the world.

For policy advocates they have also produced a Guide to the UNFCCC negotiations on agriculture, to help communicate and campaign on the importance of agriculture.

Given the outcomes of COP19, we have much work left to do if agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are to be curbed and smallholder farmers supported in adapting to climate change. Although infographics alone are unlikely to be a driver of change, their images can be powerful and they can raise awareness, communicating important information quickly and ultimately driving societal pressure for decision makers to take notice.

Here are some other infographics that caught our eye:

Hungry Planet: Consumption around the globe, International Business Guide

Business is Booming – in Africa, International Business Guide

You Are What You Eat, and You Eat What You Earn, Businessweek

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Agriculture ‘neglected’ at UN climate talks – again, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Why Have Farmers Yet Again Been Forgotten at the UN Climate Talks?, Huffington Post

The adaptation advantage: the economic benefits of preparing small-scale farmers for climate change, IFAD

Ensuring food security for the future, SciDev.Net

Mega farms create mega problems, The Guardian

Bill Gates: Here’s My Plan to Improve Our World — And How You Can Help, Wired

Purdue researcher: Income to become dominant driver of global food system, Purdue University

Farmer’s Diary: How science is vital for future farmers, Daily Monitor

China and US can use biotechnology to end scourge of global hunger, Global Times

Climate-smart agriculture success stories, CGIAR

Playing the field: Corn likes to sleep around — and that makes it hard to control GMOs, Grist

Apprehension over GM crops misleading – African scientists, Nigerian Pilot

Researchers develop new approach to identify possible ecological effects of releasing genetically engineered insects, University of Minnesota

Not too late to get agriculture into 2015 climate deal – World Bank expert, Thomson Reuters Foundation

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Global map of seeds, food and biodiversity launched, SciDev.Net

CAADP 10 Years Out: How Have Countries Fared in Agricultural Development?, IFPRI

Next generation of biofuels is still years away, CTV News

Empowering people and shaping policies for resilient agriculture and food systems, Wilton Park

Transformation of food systems needed for better nutrition, FAO

Changing the Global Food Narrative, Ensia

No-till farming is on the rise. That’s actually a big deal, The Washington Post

What does ‘big business’ say about Africa when it’s off the record?, From Poverty to Power, Duncan Green

Emissions of CO2 driving rapid oceans ‘acid trip’, BBC

Environmental pressures driven by EU consumption but faced by other countries, EC Science for Environment Policy

An Accidental Cattle Ranch Points the Way in Sustainable Farming, The New York Times

Bringing perennial grain crops to Africa is aim of new Gates Foundation-funded project, Michigan State University

Warsaw climate talks expected to deliver loss and damage mechanism, Thomson Reuters Foundation



Where are we on climate change?

ID-100103034 (2)Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and advisor to the UK government through the Committee on Climate Change, recently gave a talk at Imperial College London on the latest research and actions around climate change.

Global CO2 levels are currently at 397ppm (parts per million), a level not seen for 4.5 million years. We have increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere by 40% since the Industrial Revolution. While there has been a clear and significant increase in global temperatures since 1850, we have seen a hiatus on temperature rises in the last decade. While sceptics may use this as evidence to support their claims, a decade of cooler temperatures is not outside the range of predictions from climate models.

Global sea levels are rising 3mm per year. While the melting of the Western Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets is contributing around 1mm of this increase, it is unknown how likely this is to accelerate if we reach a threshold point of destabilisation. In the Arctic, recent pictures of the ice cap in mid-September (when it is at its minimum size) show it is half the average size it was in the last century. By 2050-2060 we would expect the arctic ice cap to have vanished come September.

We have seen some significant heat extremes in the past decade: the 2003 European heatwave, 2010 Russian heatwave and more recently the 2012 US drought. Work by NASA scientists Dr James Hansen and colleagues indicates a shift to more frequent and severe bouts of high temperatures. But it is not just heat extremes, as the climate changes we are also seeing cold extremes in certain locations despite remarkable warmth elsewhere. This indicates our ability to predict regional trends is much more limited than our ability to predict global averages and while we may, in the past have viewed climate change as a warming of the planet, now we are trying to understand it as a disruption of our climate systems, one that will have severe and varied results. [Read more…]