On Thursday the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global emergency. The number of cases has multiplied nearly ten times during the week. As at now globally around 8,000 cases have been reported. While most of the cases are reported in China, and other countries are taking additional measures to stop further spreading of the virus. WHO laid out seven steps to be taken into consideration and implement in their press briefing earlier today.

“We are all in this together, we can stop this together” a panel member declared. 

Chair of the emergency committee also spoke and claimed that the committee unanimously decided today to suggest to the Director-General of the WHO that the novel Coronavirus is a public emergency of international concern. 

“On the vaccine, we have already started, we will inform when we have more information” 

The panel declared.

Now to the current contagion, Ralph Baric, who studies emerging viruses at the University of North Carolina. “So it sounds to me like it’s something that’s jumped from animals to humans, slaughtering of wild animals and preparation of their meat can lead to the transmission of disease. The SARS virus came to humans from civet cats, eaten as a delicacy in southern China. Ebola outbreaks — there is no belief this is one — are often linked to bushmeat preparation”. The MRISA virus which was predominantly in the Middle East may have stemmed from animals like Camels. Both SARS and the current epidemic are Coronaviruses. 

Coronaviruses represent a wide variety of viruses present in animals that can in certain circumstances jump to humans. Contact with meat from various animals sold in Huanan Wholesale animal food Market in Wuhan has been established as the likely cause of the first reported human infections. This outbreak is caused by a virus — currently known as 2019-nCoV — that belongs to the same family as the viruses that caused the SARS outbreak and which cause sporadic flare-ups of cases of MERS on the Arabian Peninsula.

There was a 23-day gap between the 1st patient presenting and the Chinese authorities informing the WHO of the outbreak. As of Jan 28, confirmed infections within China climbed to nearly 2,750 and the death toll rose to 80.

Wuhan is one of the ports along China’s Yangtze River (6397km) with ships connecting it to Shanghai & Chongqing. It is also a major hub in China’s high-speed passenger train network. With a population of Wuhan more than that of London or New York, and the latest news being that China has confirmed that this newly identified coronavirus is also transmitted from person to person- there is cause for concern. Fact that the world's largest annual human migration now being underway in China in the form of the Chinese New Year does not help. Last year, close to 7 million Chinese tourists traveled abroad for Lunar New Year, according to state media. Currently, there are several verified cases reported in international media in countries other than China. However, all governments and supporting agencies are taking possible measures to contain the situation and ensure public safety. 

As precautions, there are a few basic steps you can take. Wash your hands and keep yourself clean, avoid public spaces as much as possible, buy a mask and follow correct direction HERE on how to use them if you do go to the public (there were some reports with wrong information on how to use a mask), don't panic and make sure your family members also get this message.

Useful links: 

Centers for disease control USA

Updated WHO advice for international traffic in relation to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV


The climate negotiations are becoming more and more important in order to come up with an action plan for the Climate Agenda which came into being in 2015. The knowledge on scientific aspects of climate shifts are important when determining the action required across different places on earth. This is of course in addition to the action that is much needed regardless of the location. Therefore, we have recently been looking into the IPCC publications and the report recently published by Annual Reviews titled, “Recent Progress and Emerging Topics on Weather and Climate Extremes Since the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”. This article focuses on discussing the precipitation extremes based on the facts highlighted in the above report.

The report indicates that the confidence level for the precipitation extremes not high enough to be satisfactory in regions of Central and South America, Asia, and Africa. Therefore, the uncertainties that come with this might lead to inaccurate and insufficient understanding of changes in monsoon behaviors. This indicates that there is a need for more reliable monsoon modelling. Institutions like University of Nevada are looking in to integrate machine learning techniques for the climate models to better understand monsoon circulations.

Intermittent behavior of precipitation extremes is another concern and is studied to understand the nature of high precipitation events. Sri Lanka seems to observe  high precipitation events in each year in recent years and specifically in 2011, 2014, 2015. 2016 and 2017 significant damages were reported. Another point to note is despite the 2018 precipitation was relatively less damaging for Sri Lanka, south-western Indian provinces were severely affected. More data extractions during these events through gauge observations, radar, and satellites would be highly useful for further research and modelling.

Another aspect to consider is  sub daily precipitation extremes, the report claims that this was “insufficiently assessed in AR5 and SREX”.  There are statistical studies from countries like Singapore and would be useful to incorporate. In Singapore's case,  precipitation activity is influenced by the El Niño Southern Oscillation, but not during the North-East Monsoon season. During the La Niña phase, the precipitation is shifted towards the morning.

Post-AR5 there has been research into changes in extreme snowfall, which exhibit an overall tendency toward decreases in several metrics at both regional and continental scales. It would be interesting to look at the current winter in the Southern hemisphere and  coming winter season in the northern hemisphere for further analysis. By observation we could state that in states like Colorado in USA, the snowfall has decreased over the years.

With the climate negotiations kicking off in Bangkok last week, there was much attention on producing an agreed basis for negotiations for all PAWP(Paris Agreement Work Programme) items. PAWP needs to be finalized by COP 24 which has lead to these added meetings on the process. PAWP shall be an effective toolset for implementation of climate agenda. In the light of this the technology mechanism of UNFCCC becomes an important factor as well. Within the UN Climate Change process, countries have confirmed the importance of enhancing technology development and transfer to developing countries. To facilitate this, in 2010 the Conference of the Parties established the Technology Mechanism. The Technology Executive Committee is the Technology Mechanism’s policy body and analyses issues and provides policy recommendations that support country efforts to enhance climate technology development and transfer.

The Technology Mechanism consists of two bodies: the Technology Executive Committee and the Climate Technology Centre and Network(CTCN). The implementation body of the Technology Mechanism is the CTCN. UN Environment hosts this entity  in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization(UNIDO), and is further supported by several knowledge partners based in different locations across the world.

Asian Institute of Technology(Thailand)  

Bariloche Foundation(Argentina)

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research(South Africa)

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit(Germany)

DNV GL(Norway)

Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands(Netherlands)

Environment and Development Action in the Third World(Senegal)  

External consultant(USA)

The Energy and Resources Institute(India)  

Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center(Costa Rica)  

UNEP DTU Partnership(Denmark)  

UNEP-DHI Partnership – Centre on Water and Environment(Denmark)  

United Nations Environment Programme(Kenya)

United Nations Industrial Development Organization(Austria)

World Agroforestry Centre(Kenya)  

Therefore, we have institutions from Africa(4), Asia and Pacific(2), Europe(6), South America(2), North America(1). While there should be more partners coming together in Asia and Pacific region, CTCN contributes with the following services to speed up the development and transfer of technologies.

Providing technical assistance at the request of developing countries on technology issues

Creating access to information and knowledge on climate technologies

Fostering collaboration among climate technology stakeholders via its network of regional and sectoral experts

It should be interesting to look at how young practitioners are included in these platforms. It is encouraging to see AIT being an academic institution included in the list of partners.  In a following article we will discuss the contribution of these entities in different sectors of implementation.