Climate Change & Locust Infestations

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    • Recently, experts at COP-26 stated that infestation of desert locusts, which has plagued a vast swathe from eastern Africa to India in recent years, is closely linked to climate change.

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    • Plans to mitigate climate change must include action against pests and diseases, iterated by panelists at the Global Landscapes Forum Climate hybrid conference.
      • The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) is the world’s largest knowledge-led platform on integrated land use, dedicated to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement.
    • Locusts have been a bane especially to farmers in several countries, including India, Pakistan and Iran.

    Climate Change and Locusts

    • Locusts:
      • They are related to grasshoppers.
      • These insects form enormous swarms that spread across regions, devouring crops and leaving serious agricultural damage in their wake. 
      • Plagues of locusts have devastated societies since the Pharaohs led ancient Egypt, and they still wreak havoc today.
      • Locust swarms are typically in motion and can cover vast distances—some species may travel 81 miles or more a day. 

    Image Courtesy: BBC 

    • Desert locusts:
      • The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is a notorious species. 
      • Found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, this species inhabits an area of about six million square miles, or 30 countries, during a quiet period. 
    • Impact: 
      • Locust infestations can harm livelihoods and be a threat to regional investments in ensuring food security.
      • According to the World Bank: In East Africa and Yemen alone, damages and losses in 2020 due to locusts could amount to as much as $8.5 billion.
      • According to the World Food Program: The long-term response and recovery costs could top $1billion if swarm growth is not controlled.

    Image Courtesy: Maps of India 

    Challenges

    • Area of spread: 
      • There are many reasons why it’s difficult to control or prevent a plague of locusts, including the remoteness and breadth of the areas across which they’re spread and limited resources in some of the affected countries. 
    • Climate change: 
      • Some experts worry that locust plagues will worsen in a warming world. 
      • Rising sea temperatures are causing prolonged bouts of wet weather, including a surge of rare cyclones in eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula where desert locusts thrive.
    • Pesticides can not be foolproof:
      • Some of the pesticides used are considered highly toxic by the Pesticide Action Network. 
      • Organophosphate pesticides such as Malathion and Chlorpyrifos, for instance, are highly toxic to humans and animals.
      • Heavy use of a broad-spectrum pesticide may slow down the desert locust invasion but they also exert significant external costs on the environment and human health.
      • By March 2021, 1.8 million litres of pesticides were used to control locusts in East Africa. This may increase to over two million litres by the end of 2021, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 

     Way Ahead

    • Robust early warning system and governance with secured funding needed
    • Experts can look at past weather patterns and historical records to identify the areas where swarms might occur and spray those areas with chemicals.
    • TMG called for a paradigm shift including the following measures: 
      • A well-functioning early warning system
      • Counting the environmental and human costs through True Cost Accounting
      • Developing an efficient governance model 
    • True Cost Accounting: 
      • Counting the environmental and human costs through True Cost Accounting.
      • True Cost Accounting is a new type of bookkeeping that does not just look at the usual financial values within a company, but also calculates the impacts on natural and social capital.

    Source: DTE