17 June, 2021
The next pandemic’: drought is a hidden global crisis, UN says - The Guardian link here
Countries urged to take urgent action on managing water and land and tackling the climate emergency
"Drought is a hidden global crisis that risks becoming “the next pandemic” if countries do not take urgent action on water and land management and tackling the climate emergency, the UN has said. At least 1.5 billion people have been directly affected by drought this century, and the economic cost over roughly that time has been estimated at $124bn (£89bn). The true cost is likely to be many times higher because such estimates do not include much of the impact in developing countries, according to a report published on Thursday.
Mami Mizutori, the UN secretary general’s special representative for disaster risk reduction, said: “Drought is on the verge of becoming the next pandemic and there is no vaccine to cure it. Most of the world will be living with water stress in the next few years. Demand will outstrip supply during certain periods. Drought is a major factor in land degradation and the decline of yields for major crops.” She said many people had an image of drought as affecting desert regions in Africa, but that this was not the case. Drought is now widespread, and by the end of the century all but a handful of countries will experience it in some form, according to the report. “People have been living with drought for 5,000 years, but what we are seeing now is very different,” Mizutori said. “Human activities are exacerbating drought and increasing the impact”, threatening to derail progress on lifting people from poverty."
31 May, 2021
China allows three children in major policy shift - BBC News link here
China has announced that it will allow couples to have up to three children, after census data showed a steep decline in birth rates.
"China scrapped its decades-old one-child policy in 2016, replacing it with a two-child limit which has failed to lead to a sustained upsurge in births. The cost of raising children in cities has deterred many Chinese couples. The latest move was approved by President Xi Jinping at a meeting of top Communist Party officials. It will come with "supportive measures, which will be conducive to improving our country's population structure, fulfilling the country's strategy of actively coping with an ageing population and maintaining the advantage, endowment of human resources", according to Xinhua news agency"
28 May, 2021
Climate: World at risk of hitting temperature limit soon - BBC News link here
It's becoming more likely that a key global temperature limit will be reached in one of the next five years.
"A major study says by 2025 there's a 40% chance of at least one year being 1.5C hotter than the pre-industrial level.That's the lower of two temperature limits set by the Paris Agreement on climate change. The conclusion comes in a report published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The analysis is based on modelling by the UK Met Office and climate researchers in 10 countries including the US and China.
In the last decade, it was estimated that the chance of any one year reaching the 1.5C threshold was only 20%. This new assessment puts that risk at 40%. Leon Hermanson, a senior Met Office scientist, told BBC News that comparing projected temperatures with those of 1850-1900 shows a clear rise. "What it means is that we're approaching 1.5C - we're not there yet but we're getting close," he said. "Time is running out for the strong action which we need now."
The researchers point out that even if one of the next five years is 1.5C above the pre-industrial level, it'll be a temporary situation. Natural variability will mean the following few years may be slightly cooler and it could be another decade or two or more before the 1.5C limit is crossed permanently. The Paris Agreement established the goal of keeping the increase in the global average temperature to no more than 2C and to try not to surpass 1.5C - and that's understood to mean over a long period rather than a single year.
... A landmark report by the UN climate panel in 2018 highlighted how the impacts of climate change are far more severe when the increase is greater than 1.5C. At the moment, projections suggest that even with recent pledges to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, the world is on course to heat up by up to 3C.
The WMO's secretary-general, Prof Petteri Taalas, said the results of the new research were "more than mere statistics". "This study shows - with a high level of scientific skill - that we are getting measurably and inexorably closer to the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change," he explained. "It is yet another wake up call that the world needs to fast-track commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality.""
28 May, 2021
Shell: Netherlands court orders oil giant to cut emissions - BBC News link here
A court in the Netherlands has ruled in a landmark case that the oil giant Shell must reduce its emissions.
"By 2030, Shell must cut its CO2 emissions by 45% compared to 2019 levels, the civil court ruled. The Shell group is responsible for its own CO2 emissions and those of its suppliers, the verdict said. It is the first time a company has been legally obliged to align its policies with the Paris climate accords, says Friends of the Earth (FoE).
The environmental group brought the case to court in 2019, alongside six other bodies and more than 17,000 Dutch citizens.Though the decision only applies in the Netherlands, it could have wider effects elsewhere. BBC Netherlands correspondent Anna Holligan tweeted that it was a "precedent-setting judgement".
A Shell spokesperson said they "fully expect to appeal today's disappointing court decision" and added that they are stepping up efforts to cut emissions."
22 May, 2021
Climate scientists: concept of net zero is a dangerous trap - The Conversation link here
"... Collectively we three authors of this article must have spent more than 80 years thinking about climate change. Why has it taken us so long to speak out about the obvious dangers of the concept of net zero? In our defence, the premise of net zero is deceptively simple – and we admit that it deceived us.
The threats of climate change are the direct result of there being too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So it follows that we must stop emitting more and even remove some of it. This idea is central to the world’s current plan to avoid catastrophe. In fact, there are many suggestions as to how to actually do this, from mass tree planting, to high tech direct air capture devices that suck out carbon dioxide from the air. The current consensus is that if we deploy these and other so-called “carbon dioxide removal” techniques at the same time as reducing our burning of fossil fuels, we can more rapidly halt global warming. Hopefully around the middle of this century we will achieve “net zero”. This is the point at which any residual emissions of greenhouse gases are balanced by technologies removing them from the atmosphere. This is a great idea, in principle. Unfortunately, in practice it helps perpetuate a belief in technological salvation and diminishes the sense of urgency surrounding the need to curb emissions now.
We have arrived at the painful realisation that the idea of net zero has licensed a recklessly cavalier “burn now, pay later” approach which has seen carbon emissions continue to soar. It has also hastened the destruction of the natural world by increasing deforestation today, and greatly increases the risk of further devastation in the future.
... Difficult truths
In principle there is nothing wrong or dangerous about carbon dioxide removal proposals. In fact developing ways of reducing concentrations of carbon dioxide can feel tremendously exciting. You are using science and engineering to save humanity from disaster. What you are doing is important. There is also the realisation that carbon removal will be needed to mop up some of the emissions from sectors such as aviation and cement production. So there will be some small role for a number of different carbon dioxide removal approaches. The problems come when it is assumed that these can be deployed at vast scale. This effectively serves as a blank cheque for the continued burning of fossil fuels and the acceleration of habitat destruction.
Carbon reduction technologies and geoengineering should be seen as a sort of ejector seat that could propel humanity away from rapid and catastrophic environmental change. Just like an ejector seat in a jet aircraft, it should only be used as the very last resort. However, policymakers and businesses appear to be entirely serious about deploying highly speculative technologies as a way to land our civilisation at a sustainable destination. In fact, these are no more than fairy tales. The only way to keep humanity safe is the immediate and sustained radical cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in a socially just way.
... In private, scientists express significant scepticism about the Paris Agreement, BECCS, offsetting, geoengineering and net zero. Apart from some notable exceptions, in public we quietly go about our work, apply for funding, publish papers and teach. The path to disastrous climate change is paved with feasibility studies and impact assessments. Rather than acknowledge the seriousness of our situation, we instead continue to participate in the fantasy of net zero. What will we do when reality bites? What will we say to our friends and loved ones about our failure to speak out now? The time has come to voice our fears and be honest with wider society. Current net zero policies will not keep warming to within 1.5°C because they were never intended to. They were and still are driven by a need to protect business as usual, not the climate. If we want to keep people safe then large and sustained cuts to carbon emissions need to happen now. That is the very simple acid test that must be applied to all climate policies. The time for wishful thinking is over."
18 May, 2021
No new oil, gas or coal development if world is to reach net zero by 2050, says world energy body - The Guardian link here
Governments must close gap between net zero rhetoric and reality, says International Energy Agency head
"Exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must stop this year and no new coal-fired power stations can be built if the world is to stay within safe limits of global heating and meet the goal of net zero emissions by 2050, the world’s leading energy organisation has said. In its strongest warning yet on the need to drastically scale back fossil fuels, the International Energy Agency (IEA) also called for no new fossil-fuel cars to be sold beyond 2035, and for global investment in energy to more than double from $2tn (£1.42tn) a year to $5tn (£3.54tn) The result would not be an economic burden, as some have claimed, but a net benefit to the economy.
Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director and one of the world’s foremost energy economists, told the Guardian: “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year.” He said strong new policies were needed from governments around the world: “More and more countries are coming up with net zero commitments, which is very good, but I see a huge and growing gap between the rhetoric [from governments] and the reality.”"
15 May, 2021
Record metals boom may threaten transition to green energy - The Guardian link here
Demand and prices are soaring for minerals essential to the construction of low-carbon infrastructure
"The commodities boom ignited by China’s post-Covid recovery, and stoked by the global move to green energy, broke price records last week even as fears about inflation stalked the markets. But it also risks triggering a rush on metals and minerals that could derail climate action.
... The world’s rising appetite for electric cars, solar panels, batteries and energy infrastructure to reduce reliance on fossil fuels requires metals such as copper and nickel, key materials in most electrical products.
... If the world hopes to keep pace with the trajectory set out in the Paris climate agreement – to keep the global rise in temperature lower than 2C – this could mean demand for lithium alone would climb 40 times higher in the next 20 years because of its use in batteries, according to the IEA. Left unaddressed, these potential vulnerabilities could make progress towards a clean energy future slower
… But forecasts vary widely. At its most demanding, the pace of the “green rush” could outstrip the output of all existing mines and projects under construction, which would be able to meet only half of projected lithium and cobalt requirements and 80% of the world’s copper needs. There are also concerns about the production of these raw materials, which is highly concentrated in a handful of countries. The IEA warns that the world’s top three producers account for more than three-quarters of global supplies. The Democratic Republic of the Congo produced 70% of cobalt and rare earth elements in 2019, according to IEA data, and China was responsible for refining nearly 90% of rare earths used globally. Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said: “Left unaddressed, these potential vulnerabilities could make global progress towards a clean energy future slower and more costly, and therefore hamper international efforts to tackle climate change.”
14 May, 2021
Third of global food production at risk from climate crisis - The Guardian link here
Food-growing areas will see drastic changes to rainfall and temperatures if global heating continues at current rate
"A third of global food production will be at risk by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at their current rate, new research suggests. Many of the world’s most important food-growing areas will see temperatures increase and rainfall patterns alter drastically if temperatures rise by about 3.7C, the forecast increase if emissions stay high. Researchers at Aalto University in Finland have calculated that about 95% of current crop production takes place in areas they define as “safe climatic space”, or conditions where temperature, rainfall and aridity fall within certain bounds. If temperatures were to rise by 3.7C or thereabouts by the century’s end, that safe area would shrink drastically, mostly affecting south and south-eastern Asia and Africa’s Sudano-Sahelian zone, according to a paper published in the journal One Earth on Friday. However, if greenhouse gases are reduced and the world meets the goals of the Paris agreement, in limiting temperature rises to 1.5C or 2C above pre-industrial levels, then only about 5%–8% of global food production would be at risk."
06 May, 2021
Global Assessment: Urgent steps must be taken to reduce methane emissions this decade - United Nations Environment Programme website link here
"Washington DC, 6 May 2021 - A Global Methane Assessment released today by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that human-caused methane emissions can be reduced by up to 45 per cent this decade. Such reductions would avoid nearly 0.3°C of global warming by 2045 and would be consistent with keeping the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5˚C) within reach.
The assessment, for the first time, integrates the climate and air pollution costs and benefits from methane mitigation. Because methane is a key ingredient in the formation of ground-level ozone (smog), a powerful climate forcer and dangerous air pollutant, a 45 per cent reduction would prevent 260 000 premature deaths, 775 000 asthma-related hospital visits, 73 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat, and 25 million tonnes of crop losses annually.
“Cutting methane is the strongest lever we have to slow climate change over the next 25 years and complements necessary efforts to reduce carbon dioxide. The benefits to society, economies, and the environment are numerous and far outweigh the cost. We need international cooperation to urgently reduce methane emissions as much as possible this decade” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.
Rick Duke, Senior Advisor to the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy on Climate Change, said: “Methane accounts for nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions and, now that the world is acting to phase down hydrofluorocarbons through the Montreal Protocol, it is by far the top priority short-lived climate pollutant that we need to tackle to keep 1.5˚C within reach. … We must tackle emissions not only from the energy sector, but also from landfills, agriculture, and abandoned coal mines."
… The need for action is urgent. Human-caused methane emissions are increasing faster than any time since record keeping began in the 1980s. Despite a COVID-19 induced economic slowdown in 2020 that prevented another record year for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the amount of methane in the atmosphere shot up to record levels according to data recently released by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA ).
… The report notes that most human-caused methane emissions come from three sectors: fossil fuels, waste, and agriculture. In the fossil fuel sector, oil and gas extraction, processing, and distribution account for 23 per cent, and coal mining accounts for 12 per cent of emissions. In the waste sector, landfills and wastewater make up about 20 per cent of emissions. In the agricultural sector, livestock emissions from manure and enteric fermentation represent roughly 32 per cent, and rice cultivation 8 per cent of emissions.
… But targeted measures alone are not enough. Additional measures that do not specifically target methane, like a shift to renewable energy, residential and commercial energy efficiency, and a reduction in food loss and waste, can reduce methane emissions by a further 15 per cent by 2030."
23 April, 2021
Biden: This will be 'decisive decade' for tackling climate change - BBC News link here
US President Joe Biden has told a major summit that we are in a "decisive decade" for tackling climate change.
"The US has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by the year 2030. This new target, which was unveiled at a virtual summit of 40 global leaders, essentially doubles their previous promise. But the leaders of India and China, two of the world's biggest emitters, made no new commitments.
"Scientists tell us that this is the decisive decade - this is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis," President Biden said at the summit's opening address. "We must try to keep the Earth's temperature to an increase of 1.5C. The world beyond 1.5 degrees means more frequent and intense fires, floods, droughts, heatwaves and hurricanes - tearing through communities, ripping away lives and livelihoods." He said there was a moral and economic imperative to immediately act on climate change. Referring to America's new carbon-cutting pledge, President Biden added: "The signs are unmistakable, the science is undeniable, and the cost of inaction keeps mounting. "The US isn't waiting, we are resolving to take action.""
15 April, 2021
Humans ingesting airborne microplastic particles on daily basis, scientists warn - TVNZ link here
"Airborne microplastic particles from broken-down rubbish have become so widespread that humans are breathing, drinking and eating them on a daily basis. The near-invisible, dust-like pieces leach chemicals and can cause inflammation and internal scarring in animals and people, with fears they could be linked to some cancers.
Scientists are sounding the alarm and say more research is needed to fully understand the extent of the problem. "We've been using plastics since before the Second World War and it's an industry that's allowed to produce products they're largely not responsible for after they're used," ecologist Mark Browne told AAP. "When you wear or wash clothes or discard plastic packaging, tiny particles can break off and enter the atmosphere or wash into the ocean and then we can start ingesting them by breathing them or by the food we eat and drink."
Scientists are concerned about the ecological impacts the vast quantities of plastic in the environment are having on plants, animals and humans. "We don't treat our plastics very well and we don't have good information on where it all goes and the problems it causes," Dr Browne said. "It gets everywhere, the dust in your house, on the streets, and it's transported by wind and water so when it rains or it's windy, the material disperses into the environment." He said more research was urgently needed to help quantify the scale of the problem, the effects the particles had on humans, and what could be done to reduce the impact of microplastics on the environment. It comes as a US study found billions of tonnes of discarded plastic is disintegrating into tiny particles and spiralling around the globe through the earth's atmosphere, oceans, waterways, plants and wildlife."
01 April, 2021
Rapid global heating is hurting farm productivity, study finds - The Guardian link here
Research shows rising temperatures since 1960s have acted as handbrake to agricultural yield of crops and livestock
"The climate crisis is already eating into the output of the world’s agricultural systems, with productivity much lower than it would have been if humans hadn’t rapidly heated the planet, new research has found. Advances in technology, fertilizer use and global trade have allowed food production to keep pace with a booming global population since the 1960s, albeit with gross inequities that still leave millions of people suffering from malnutrition. But rising temperatures in this time have acted as a handbrake to farming productivity of crops and livestock, according to the new research, published in Nature Climate Change. Productivity has actually slumped by 21% since 1961, compared to if the world hadn’t been subjected to human-induced heating. With the global population set to rise to more than 9 billion by 2050, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that food production will have to increase by about 70%, with annual crop production increasing by almost one 1bn tonnes and meat production soaring by more than 200m tonnes a year by this point. Meanwhile, global temperatures are rising at a rate that scientists warn is extremely dangerous for human civilization.
... While farming has generally become far more efficient in recent decades, it is increasingly menaced by heatwaves that exhaust farm workers and wither certain crops. Extreme weather events and drought can also affect the output of a farm, particularly smaller operations in poorer countries. In 2019, scientists who analyzed the top 10 global crops that provide the majority of our food calories found that climate change is reducing the worldwide production of staples such as rice and wheat. Again, less affluent countries are suffering worst from this situation. The intensification of farming to boost output has in itself caused major environmental damage, through the deforestation of grazing land, loss of valuable topsoil, pollution from pesticides and the release of vast amounts of greenhouse gases that contribute to global heating."
26 February, 2021
CO2 emissions: nations' pledges 'far away' from Paris target, says UN - The Guardian link here
Secretary general António Guterres says first assessment of promises amounts to ‘red alert for our planet’
"The first assessment of countries’ pledges to cut their greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade, a vital component of the Paris climate agreement, has found they are only a fraction of the effort needed to avoid climate breakdown.
If all of the national pledges submitted so far were fulfilled, global emissions would be reduced by only 1% by 2030, compared with 2010 levels. Scientists have said a 45% reduction is needed in the next 10 years to keep global heating to no more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, in line with the Paris agreement.
Patricia Espinosa, the executive secretary of UN Climate Change, said: “We are very far away from a pathway that will meet the Paris agreement goal. We are collectively walking into a minefield blindfolded. The next step could be disaster.”
The assessment, published by the UN on Friday, covers countries responsible for only about a third of global emissions. Only 75 of the 197 signatories to the Paris accord submitted their national action plans for reducing emissions between now and 2030 – known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – in time to be assessed.
Some of the world’s biggest emitters, including China, the US and India, have still to formulate NDCs. They face renewed pressure to do so urgently. The UN has said that without them, the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November will fail.
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said: “2021 is a make-or-break year to confront the global climate emergency. Today’s interim report is a red alert for our planet. It shows governments are nowhere close to the level of ambition needed to meet the goals of the Paris agreement. The major emitters must step up with much more ambitious reduction targets for 2030 in their NDCs well before the November conference in Glasgow.”"
25 January, 2021
Global ice loss accelerating at record rate, study finds - The Guardian link here
Rate of loss now in line with worst-case scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
"The melting of ice across the planet is accelerating at a record rate, with the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets speeding up the fastest, research has found. The rate of loss is now in line with the worst-case scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on the climate, according to a paper published on Monday in the journal The Cryosphere.
Thomas Slater, lead author and research fellow at the centre for polar observation and modelling at the University of Leeds, warned that the consequences would be felt around the world. “Sea level rise on this scale will have very serious impacts on coastal communities this century,” he said. About 28tn tonnes of ice was lost between 1994 and 2017, which the authors of the paper calculate would be enough to put an ice sheet 100 metres thick across the UK. About two thirds of the ice loss was caused by the warming of the atmosphere, with about a third caused by the warming of the seas.
Over the period studied, the rate of ice loss accelerated by 65%, the paper found, from 0.8tn tonnes a year in the 1990s to 1.3 trillion tonnes a year by 2017. About half of all the ice lost was from land, which contributes directly to global sea level rises. The ice loss over the study period, from 1994 to 2017, is estimated to have raised sea levels by 35 millimetres. The greatest quantities of ice were lost from floating ice in the polar regions, raising the risk of a feedback mechanism known as albedo loss. White ice reflects solar radiation back into space – the albedo effect – but when floating sea ice melts it uncovers dark water which absorbs more heat, speeding up the warming further in a feedback loop.
Glaciers showed the next biggest loss of ice volume, with more than 6tn tonnes lost between 1994 and 2017, about a quarter of global ice loss over the period. The shrinking of glaciers threatens to cause both flooding and water shortages in some regions, because as large volumes melt they can overwhelm downstream areas, then shrunken glaciers produce less of the steady water flow needed for agriculture.
Inès Otosaka, report co-author and a PhD researcher at the University of Leeds centre for polar observation and modelling, said: “As well as contributing to global mean sea level rise, mountain glaciers are also critical as a freshwater resource for local communities. The retreat of glaciers around the world is therefore of crucial importance, at both local and global scales.” The study, titled Earth’s Ice Imbalance, used satellite observations over the 23-year period to assess ice all over the globe. Previous studies have examined parts of the world rather than making a comprehensive assessment of the data. The research team included the University of Edinburgh, University College London and Earthwave, a data science organisation, and was funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council."
21 January, 2021
Biden returns US to Paris climate accord hours after becoming president - The Guardian link here
Joe Biden kicks off his new administration with orders to restore the United States to the Paris climate accord.
"Joe Biden has moved to reinstate the US to the Paris climate agreement just hours after being sworn in as president, as his administration rolls out a cavalcade of executive orders aimed at tackling the climate crisis.
Biden’s executive action, signed in the White House on Wednesday, will see the US rejoin the international effort curb the dangerous heating of the planet, following a 30-day notice period. The world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases was withdrawn from the Paris deal under Donald Trump.
Biden is also set to block the Keystone XL pipeline, a bitterly contested project that would bring huge quantities of oil from Canada to the US to be refined, and halt oil and gas drilling at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, two vast national monuments in Utah, and the Arctic national wildlife refuge wilderness. The Trump administration’s decision to shrink the protected areas of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante will also be reviewed.
The flurry of first-day action on the climate crisis came after Biden, in his inauguration speech, said America needed to respond to a “climate in crisis”. The change in direction from the Trump era was profound and immediate – on the White House website, where all mentions of climate were scrubbed out in 2017, a new list of priorities now puts the climate crisis second only behind the Covid pandemic. Biden has previously warned that climate change poses the “greatest threat” to the country, which was battered by record climate-fueled wildfires, hurricanes and heat last year.
The re-entry to the Paris agreement ends a period where the US became a near-pariah on the international stage with Trump’s refusal to address the unfolding disaster of rising global temperatures. Countries are struggling to meet commitments, made in Paris in 2015, to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C above the pre-industrial era, with 2020 setting another record for extreme heat."
13 January, 2021
Earth to reach temperature tipping point in next 20 to 30 years, new study finds – Science Daily link here
An international team looked at 20 years of data from throughout the world and found that record-breaking temperatures are contributing to a significant decrease in plants' ability to absorb human-caused carbon emissions.
“Earth's ability to absorb nearly a third of human-caused carbon emissions through plants could be halved within the next two decades at the current rate of warming, according to a new study in Science Advances by researchers at Northern Arizona University, the Woodwell Climate Research Center and the University of Waikato, New Zealand. Using more than two decades of data from measurement towers in every major biome across the globe, the team identified a critical temperature tipping point beyond which plants' ability to capture and store atmospheric carbon -- a cumulative effect referred to as the "land carbon sink" -- decreases as temperatures continue to rise.
The terrestrial biosphere -- the activity of land plants and soil microbes -- does much of Earth's "breathing," exchanging carbon dioxide and oxygen. Ecosystems across the globe pull in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and release it back to the atmosphere via the respiration of microbes and plants. Over the past few decades, the biosphere has generally taken in more carbon than it has released, mitigating climate change. But as record-breaking temperatures continue to spread across the globe, this may not continue; the NAU, Woodwell Climate and Waikato researchers have detected a temperature threshold beyond which plant carbon uptake slows and carbon release accelerates.
… The researchers found that temperature "peaks" for carbon uptake -- 18 degrees C for the more widespread C3 plants and 28 degrees C for C4 plants -- are already being exceeded in nature, but saw no temperature check on respiration. This means that in many biomes, continued warming will cause photosynthesis to decline while respiration rates rise exponentially, tipping the balance of ecosystems from carbon sink to carbon source and accelerating climate change. "Different types of plants vary in the details of their temperature responses, but all show declines in photosynthesis when it gets too warm," said NAU co-author George Koch.
Right now, less than 10 percent of the terrestrial biosphere experiences temperatures beyond this photosynthetic maximum. But at the current rate of emissions, up to half the terrestrial biosphere could experience temperatures beyond that productivity threshold by mid-century -- and some of the most carbon-rich biomes in the world, including tropical rainforests in the Amazon and Southeast Asia and the Taiga in Russia and Canada, will be among the first to hit that tipping point.
"The most striking thing our analysis showed is that the temperature optima for photosynthesis in all ecosystems were so low," said Vic Arcus, a biologist at the University of Waikato and co-author of the study. "Combined with the increased rate of ecosystem respiration across the temperatures we observed, our findings suggest that any temperature increase above 18 degrees C is potentially detrimental to the terrestrial carbon sink. Without curbing warming to remain at or below the levels established in the Paris Climate Accord, the land carbon sink will not continue to offset our emissions and buy us time.""
02 December, 2020
World’s governments must wind down fossil fuel production by 6% per year to limit catastrophic warming – Stockholm Environment Institute Press Release link here
A special issue of the Production Gap Report – from leading research organizations and the UN – finds that the COVID-19 recovery marks a potential turning point, where countries must change course to avoid locking in levels of coal, oil, and gas production far higher than consistent with a 1.5°C limit.
"Countries plan to increase their fossil fuel production over the next decade, even as research shows that the world needs to decrease production by 6% per year to limit global warming to 1.5°C, according to the 2020 Production Gap Report.
...The report’s main findings include:
• To follow a 1.5°C-consistent pathway, the world will need to decrease fossil fuel production by roughly 6% per year between 2020 and 2030. Countries are instead planning and projecting an average annual increase of 2%, which by 2030 would result in more than double the production consistent with the 1.5°C limit.
• Between 2020 and 2030, global coal, oil, and gas production would have to decline annually by 11%, 4%, and 3%, respectively, to be consistent with the 1.5°C pathway.
• The COVID-19 pandemic – and the “lockdown” measures to halt its spread – have led to short-term drops in coal, oil, and gas production in 2020. But pre-COVID plans and post-COVID stimulus measures point to a continuation of the growing global fossil fuel production gap, risking severe climate disruption.
• To date, G20 governments have committed over US$230 billion in COVID-19 measures to sectors responsible for fossil fuel production and consumption, far more than to clean energy (roughly US$150 billion). Policymakers must reverse this trend to meet climate goals."
08 November, 2020
Joe Biden wins US election after four tumultuous years of Trump presidency – The Guardian link here
Democrat voted 46th president after election marked by vast turnout amid pandemic and social upheaval
“Joe Biden has been elected the 46th president of the United States, achieving a decades-long political ambition and denying Donald Trump a second term after a deeply divisive presidency defined by a once-in-a-century pandemic, economic turmoil and social unrest. Biden won the presidency by clinching Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes, after several days of painstaking vote counting following record turnout across the country. The win in Pennsylvania, which the Associated Press called at 11:25am EST on Saturday with 99% of the votes counted, took Biden’s electoral college vote to 284, surpassing the 270 needed to win the White House.
… Biden’s victory was celebrated by millions of Americans across the country as a repudiation of a president who shattered democratic norms and stoked racial and cultural division. Cheers, honking and dancing erupted in major cities, including the nation’s capital, where Biden would be sworn into office on 20 January. But nation’s deep divisions were laid bare as pro-Trump protesters continued to claim that the election had been stolen from the president. With turnout projected to reach its highest point in a century, a fearful and anxious nation elected a candidate who promised to govern not as a Democrat but as an “American president” and vowed to be a unifying force after four years of upheaval. The result also marked the historic rise of Kamala Harris, who will be the first woman and the first woman of color to serve as vice-president in American history.
… The election unfolded against a public health crisis that has left millions more out of work. While Biden made the pandemic a central theme of his campaign, framing the contest as a referendum on Trump’s management of the Covid crisis, Trump sought to downplay and dismiss it. In the final days of the campaign, Trump held large rallies without regard to social distancing or mask-wearing, where he falsely claimed the United State was “rounding the corner” even as infections rose dramatically across the country. Biden, by contrast, resisted public events for several months in an effort to demonstrate that he would be a serious and sober leader in the face of national crisis.”
04 November, 2020
Fate of climate crisis hangs on election as US exits Paris agreement - The Guardian link here
Trump administration set US withdrawal in motion a year ago but it didn’t take effect until 4 November
"The United States on Wednesday officially became the only country in the world refusing to participate in global climate efforts, with the fate of the crisis hanging on the still uncalled presidential election.
Donald Trump as of Wednesday has withdrawn the US from the Paris climate agreement, an international pact to try to avert dangerous temperature increases that are already leading to more extreme weather and threaten to shrink world food supplies, force millions to flee their homes and deprive many of basic human rights. Trump’s administration set the US exit in motion a year ago, but it didn’t automatically take effect until 4 November.
The deal was meant to keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5C to 2C above the average before industrialization. Already, the Earth is more than 1C hotter than it was before industrialization, largely because of humans burning fossil fuels. This last year has demonstrated how the climate crisis will touch the lives of every American, with more heatwaves, intense wildfires, record hurricanes, rising seas, floods and droughts.
Trump’s challenger, Joe Biden, would immediately rejoin the agreement and push lawmakers to spend big on green infrastructure to try to reverse the economic downturn from the pandemic.
Should he win, however, Biden’s ambitions may well be stunted by the US Senate, which as of Wednesday morning appeared to be leaning towards remaining in Republican control.
Trump would intensify his quest to expand fossil fuels, undermine climate science and rescind environmental protections. A second Trump term would be a stunning loss to the climate movement and would reverberate around the world.
A Trump win would be a “huge uphill battle” for US climate action, said Kate Larsen, a director at the independent research firm the Rhodium Group.
“It would mean that any progress we will see will come from states and cities and companies that are trying to pick up the slack,” Larsen said. “It will come nowhere close to what is needed, to what we will be able to do with a mobilized federal government.”
Pete Betts, the former lead climate negotiator for the EU and the UK, said global action will continue, albeit at a slower pace without the US.
“The big picture is that Paris will continue, come what may,” Betts said. “Although I don’t think anyone will follow Trump, if you’ve got the world’s biggest economy and second-biggest emitter saying it doesn’t want to take action itself – it is a little bit of a dampener on ambition.”
A re-engaged US, however, could pressure allies like Japan, Canada and Australia to step up, Betts said. A Biden administration could work with the EU and China to agree on bigger targets. Last month, China announced it would try to zero out its climate emissions by 2060. While China is the biggest current emitter, the US has contributed more climate pollution historically than any other country. A handful of countries have not ratified the Paris agreement, but the US is the only one to formally leave the deal.
Should Trump get re-elected, climate advocates will be going all in to help states, cities and businesses do more, to get them international recognition and to help them in legal battles against the administration, said Andrew Light, a former US climate negotiator. The “We Are Still In” coalition of non-federal actors committed to climate action believes it could step in where a Trump government would be absent, cutting climate pollution up to 37% below 2005 levels by 2030.
“If Trump gets re-elected and he continues in this direction, the rest of the world’s got to rally around,” Light added. The first test of that will be at a climate conference in Scotland next November.
Biden’s ambitions could be hamstrung if Republicans maintain control of the Senate or even if they hold a strong minority. And even if Biden takes the White House and Democrats control both the House and the Senate, it’s unclear how aggressive US climate policies might be, said Julian Brave Noisecat, director of Green New Deal strategy at the group Data for Progress.
“Climate needs to be seen as part of a political winner for Democrats, rather than a liability,” Noisecat said. If the Senate is nearly evenly divided and the key vote ends up being a moderate Democrat from a fossil fuel state, that lawmaker’s constituents will have outsized influence, he said.
Green spending will be easier to pass than a comprehensive climate bill, but further legislation depends on how the economy fares and what happens in the 2022 midterm elections, he said.
Before the pandemic, the US was nowhere near on track to meet the climate goals it promised other countries. Now, because of depressed demand for gasoline and power, it could cut climate pollution at least 20% below 2005 levels by 2025, according to Rhodium Group. But that is still far from the 26% to 28% cuts the country promised.
Beyond encouraging green infrastructure, Biden could also curb climate pollution through agency regulations. Those rules would be challenged, however, and the now firmly conservative-leaning supreme court could have the last say on whether they are legal.
Phil Duffy, president and executive director of the Woodwell Climate Research Center, said the election is also critical to the science the US government conducts and how its experts are perceived, since there has been “an erosion of trust” under Trump.
The one certainty is that we can expect a continuation of a “seemingly unending series of climate-related natural disasters – hurricanes, wildfires and floods that are essentially irreversible”, Duffy said. “But the policies we put in place now will determine how much worse those things get.” "
05 October, 2020
Amazon near tipping point of switching from rainforest to savannah – study - The Guardian link here
Climate crisis and logging is leading to shift from canopy rainforest to open grassland
"Much of the Amazon could be on the verge of losing its distinct nature and switching from a closed canopy rainforest to an open savannah with far fewer trees as a result of the climate crisis, researchers have warned.
Rainforests are highly sensitive to changes in rainfall and moisture levels, and fires and prolonged droughts can result in areas losing trees and shifting to a savannah-like mix of woodland and grassland. In the Amazon, such changes were known to be possible but thought to be many decades away.
New research shows that this tipping point could be much closer than previously thought. As much as 40% of the existing Amazon rainforest is now at a point where it could exist as a savannah instead of as rainforest, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.
Any shift from rainforest to savannah would still take decades to take full effect, but once under way the process is hard to reverse. Rainforests support a vastly greater range of species than savannah and play a much greater role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Parts of the Amazon are receiving much less rain than they used to because of the changing climate. Rainfall in about 40% of the forest is now at a level where the rainforest could be expected to exist as savannah instead, according to the study, led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, based on computer models and data analysis."
15 September, 2020
World fails to meet a single target to stop destruction of nature – UN report - The Guardian link here
‘Humanity at a crossroads’ after a decade in which all of the 2010 Aichi goals to protect wildlife and ecosystems have been missed
"The world has failed to meet a single target to stem the destruction of wildlife and life-sustaining ecosystems in the last decade, according to a devastating new report from the UN on the state of nature.
From tackling pollution to protecting coral reefs, the international community did not fully achieve any of the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets agreed in Japan in 2010 to slow the loss of the natural world. It is the second consecutive decade that governments have failed to meet targets.
The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5, published before a key UN summit on the issue later this month, found that despite progress in some areas, natural habitats have continued to disappear, vast numbers of species remain threatened by extinction from human activities, and $500bn (£388bn) of environmentally damaging government subsidies have not been eliminated.
Six targets have been partially achieved, including those on protected areas and invasive species. While governments did not manage to protect 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of marine habitats, 44% of vital biodiverse areas are now under protection, an increase from 29% in 2000. About 200 successful eradications of invasive species on islands have also taken place.
The UN said the natural world was deteriorating and failure to act could undermine the goals of the Paris agreement on the climate crisis and the sustainable development goals."
10 September, 2020
Humans exploiting and destroying nature on unprecedented scale – report - The Guardian link here
Animal populations have plunged an average of 68% since 1970, as humanity pushes the planet’s life support systems to the edge
"Wildlife populations are in freefall around the world, driven by human overconsumption, population growth and intensive agriculture, according to a major new assessment of the abundance of life on Earth.
On average, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles plunged by 68% between 1970 and 2016, according to the WWF and Zoological Society of London (ZSL)’s biennial Living Planet Report 2020. Two years ago, the figure stood at 60%.
The research is one of the most comprehensive assessments of global biodiversity available and was complied by 134 experts from around the world. It found that from the rainforests of central America to the Pacific Ocean, nature is being exploited and destroyed by humans on a scale never previously recorded.
… To form the Living Planet Index (LPI), akin to a stock market index of wildlife, more biodiverse parts of the world, such as tropical regions, are given more weighting.
Experts said the LPI was further evidence of the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, with one million species at risk because of human activity, according to the UN’s global assessment report in 2019. Deforestation and the conversion of wild spaces for human food production have largely been blamed for the destruction of Earth’s web of life.
The report highlights that 75% of the Earth’s ice-free land has been significantly altered by human activity, and almost 90% of global wetlands have been lost since 1700."
18 June, 2020
World has six months to avert climate crisis, says energy expert - The Guardian link here
International Energy Agency chief warns of need to prevent post-lockdown surge in emissions
"The world has only six months in which to change the course of the climate crisis and prevent a post-lockdown rebound in greenhouse gas emissions that would overwhelm efforts to stave off climate catastrophe, one of the world’s foremost energy experts has warned.
“This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.
Governments are planning to spend $9tn (£7.2tn) globally in the next few months on rescuing their economies from the coronavirus crisis, the IEA has calculated. The stimulus packages created this year will determine the shape of the global economy for the next three years, according to Birol, and within that time emissions must start to fall sharply and permanently, or climate targets will be out of reach.
“The next three years will determine the course of the next 30 years and beyond,” Birol told the Guardian. “If we do not [take action] we will surely see a rebound in emissions. If emissions rebound, it is very difficult to see how they will be brought down in future. This is why we are urging governments to have sustainable recovery packages.”
Carbon dioxide emissions plunged by a global average of 17% in April, compared with last year, but have since surged again to within about 5% of last year’s levels.
In a report published on Thursday, the IEA – the world’s gold standard for energy analysis - set out the first global blueprint for a green recovery, focusing on reforms to energy generation and consumption. Wind and solar power should be a top focus, the report advised, alongside energy efficiency improvements to buildings and industries, and the modernisation of electricity grids.
Creating jobs must be the priority for countries where millions have been thrown into unemployment by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns. The IEA’s analysis shows that targeting green jobs – such as retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient, putting up solar panels and constructing wind farms – is more effective than pouring money into the high-carbon economy."
13 June, 2020
Climate worst-case scenarios may not go far enough, cloud data shows - The Guardian link here
Modelling suggests climate is considerably more sensitive to carbon emissions than thought
Worst-case global heating scenarios may need to be revised upwards in light of a better understanding of the role of clouds, scientists have said.
Recent modelling data suggests the climate is considerably more sensitive to carbon emissions than previously believed, and experts said the projections had the potential to be “incredibly alarming”, though they stressed further research would be needed to validate the new numbers.
Modelling results from more than 20 institutions are being compiled for the sixth assessment by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is due to be released next year.
Compared with the last assessment in 2014, 25% of them show a sharp upward shift from 3C to 5C in climate sensitivity – the amount of warming projected from a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide from the preindustrial level of 280 parts per million. This has shocked many veteran observers, because assumptions about climate sensitivity have been relatively unchanged since the 1980s.
“That is a very deep concern,” Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said. “Climate sensitivity is the holy grail of climate science. It is the prime indicator of climate risk. For 40 years, it has been around 3C. Now, we are suddenly starting to see big climate models on the best supercomputers showing things could be worse than we thought.”
He said climate sensitivity above 5C would reduce the scope for human action to reduce the worst impacts of global heating. “We would have no more space for a soft landing of 1.5C [above preindustrial levels]. The best we could aim for is 2C,” he said.
Worst-case projections in excess of 5C have been generated by several of the world’s leading climate research bodies, including the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre and the EU’s Community Earth System Model.
,,, The role of clouds is one of the most uncertain areas in climate science because they are hard to measure and, depending on altitude, droplet temperature and other factors, can play either a warming or a cooling role. For decades, this has been the focus of fierce academic disputes.
Previous IPCC reports tended to assume that clouds would have a neutral impact because the warming and cooling feedbacks would cancel each other out. But in the past year and a half, a body of evidence has been growing showing that the net effect will be warming. This is based on finer resolution computer models and advanced cloud microphysics.
“Clouds will determine humanity’s fate – whether climate is an existential threat or an inconvenience that we will learn to live with,” said Palmer. “Most recent models suggest clouds will make matters worse.”
… The IPCC is expected to include the 5+C climate sensitivity figure in its next report on the range of possible outcomes. Scientists caution that this is a work in progress and that doubts remain because such a high figure does not fit with historical records.
Catherine Senior, head of understanding climate change at the Met Office Hadley Centre, said more studies and more data were needed to fully understand the role of clouds and aerosols.
“This figure has the potential to be incredibly alarming if it is right,” she said. “But as a scientist, my first response is: why has the model done that? We are still in the stage of evaluating the processes driving the different response.”
While acknowledging the continued uncertainty, Rockström said climate models might still be underestimating the problem because they did not fully take into account tipping points in the biosphere.
“The more we learn, the more fragile the Earth system seems to be and the faster we need to move,” he said. “It gives even stronger argument to step out of this Covid-19 crisis and move full speed towards decarbonising the economy.”
11 May, 2020
Geoengineers test risky planetary engineering scheme in Australia - ETC Group website link here
Experiment defies 193-country UN moratorium
"In a shocking move, a small group of Australian geoengineers have defied an international moratorium on the deployment of geoengineering technologies. To accomplish this, the project rebranded a risky geoengineering technology – in this case, brightening clouds to reflect solar energy back into space – as a plan to save the Great Barrier Reef.
The experiment, led by researchers from Southern Cross University in New South Wales, claimed to be an attempt to lower local ocean temperatures and slow the bleaching of the coral reefs. Though small in scale, their actions set a dangerous precedent for the deployment of solar geoengineering technologies, which could have profoundly damaging and unpredictable effects on the climate.
… testing geoengineering technology like this is part of a global push to implement technological climate modification. Project leader Daniel Harrison has been promoting geoengineering schemes for close to a decade. The experiment has been funded by governmental sources, and more trials have been scheduled, also with public funding.
… “Their spin about helping coral reefs is totally unproven and the data they may gather with this experiment is minimal, but the story they’re telling is that there is a technofix for climate change that could let fossil fuel companies keep extracting and even create new opportunities for them to profit.”
The technique tested in Australia is called Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB). It is based on the idea that sea water mist sprayed into clouds will increase the amount of light they reflect back into space. If deployed on a massive scale, the technique would in theory reduce temperature, but could also have many negative local, regional and global effects.
Solar geoengineering techniques, also known as Solar Radiation Management (SRM), could cause droughts and other climate disruption in other regions of the world if deployed at large scale. Modelling studies show that, for example, if MCB was deployed in California, where another testing project is in the works, it could cause droughts in the Amazon. This, among other reasons, is why 193 countries which are party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed, in 2010, to a moratorium on geoengineering.
24 March, 2020
Delay is deadly: what Covid-19 tells us about tackling the climate crisis - The Guardian link here
Rightwing governments have denied the problem and been slow to act. With coronavirus and the climate, this costs lives
"The coronavirus pandemic has brought urgency to the defining political question of our age: how to distribute risk. As with the climate crisis, neoliberal capitalism is proving particularly ill-suited to this. Like global warming, but in close-up and fast-forward, the Covid-19 outbreak shows how lives are lost or saved depending on a government’s propensity to acknowledge risk, act rapidly to contain it, and share the consequences. On these matters, competence and ideology overlap. Governments willing to intervene have been more effective at stemming the virus than laissez-faire capitalists. The further right the government, the more inclined it is to delay action and offload blame elsewhere. International comparisons suggest this could be making infection and death rates steeper.
... If state intervention and scientific advice is effective in dealing with the virus, the same principles should be applied more aggressively towards the still more apocalyptic threats of climate disruption and the collapse of nature. Until now, the left has recognised these dangers, but done little to act on them because economic growth has always taken precedence.
The pandemic has proved that delays are deadly and expensive. If we are to avoid a cascade of future crises, governments must think beyond a return to business as usual. Our conception of what is “normal” will have to change. We’ll need to invest in natural life-supporting systems such as a stable climate, fresh air and clean water. In the past, those goals have been dismissed as unrealistic or expensive, but recent weeks have shown how quickly the political compass can shift.
First though, we need to accept – and share – risk. Instead of deferring risks to future generations, weaker populations and natural systems, governments need to transform risks into responsibilities we all bear. The longer we hesitate, the fewer resources we will have at our disposal, and the more risk we will have to divide."
04 March, 2020
Tropical forests losing their ability to absorb carbon, study finds - The Guardian link here
Amazon could turn into source of CO2 in atmosphere by next decade, research suggests
"Tropical forests are taking up less carbon dioxide from the air, reducing their ability to act as “carbon sinks” and bringing closer the prospect of accelerating climate breakdown.
The Amazon could turn into a source of carbon in the atmosphere, instead of one of the biggest absorbers of the gas, as soon as the next decade, owing to the damage caused by loggers and farming interests and the impacts of the climate crisis, new research has found.
If that happens, climate breakdown is likely to become much more severe in its impacts, and the world will have to cut down much faster on carbon-producing activities to counteract the loss of the carbon sinks.
... For the last three decades, the amount of carbon absorbed by the world’s intact tropical forests has fallen, according to the study from nearly 100 scientific institutions. They are now taking up a third less carbon than they did in the 1990s, owing to the impacts of higher temperatures, droughts and deforestation. That downward trend is likely to continue, as forests come under increasing threat from climate change and exploitation. The typical tropical forest may become a carbon source by the 2060s, according to Lewis.
... This research shows that relying on tropical forests is unlikely to be enough to offset large-scale emissions. “There is a lot of talk about offsetting, but the reality is that every country and every sector needs to reach zero emissions, with any small amount of residual emissions needing to be removed from the atmosphere,” said Lewis. “The use of forests as an offset is largely a marketing tool for companies to try to continue with business as usual.
... Climate scientists have long feared the existence of “tipping points” in the climate system, which when passed will condemn the world to runaway global heating. There are many known feedback mechanisms: for instance, the melting of Arctic ice leaves more of the sea uncovered, and, as it is darker than the reflective ice, it absorbs more heat, thus leading to more melting.
These feedback mechanisms have the potential to accelerate the climate crisis far ahead of what current projections suggest. If forests start to become sources of carbon rather than absorbers of it, that would be a powerful positive feedback leading to much greater warming that would be hard to stop.
... The study, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, tracked 300,000 trees over 30 years, providing the first large-scale evidence of the decline in carbon uptake by the world’s tropical forests. The researchers combined data from two large research networks of forest observations in Africa and the Amazon, as well as years spent travelling to remote field sites, including a week spent in a dug-out canoe to reach Salonga national park in the troubled Democratic Republic of the Congo.
They used aluminium nails to tag individual trees, measuring the diameter and estimating the height of every tree within 565 patches of forest, and returning every few years to repeat the process. This enabled them to calculate the carbon stored in the trees that survived and those that died. They found that the Amazon sink started weakening first, but that African forests are now rapidly following. Amazonian forests are exposed to higher temperatures, faster temperature increases, and more frequent and severe droughts, than African forests.
Their projection that the Amazonian forest will turn into a carbon source in the mid-2030s is based on their observations and a statistical model and trends in emissions, temperature and rainfall to forecast changes in how forests will store carbon up to 2040."
15 January, 2020
Climate crisis fills top five places of World Economic Forum’s risks report - The Guardian link here
For first time, environment is at top of list of issues worrying world’s elite
"A year of extreme weather events and mounting evidence of global heating have catapulted the climate emergency to the top of the list of issues worrying the world’s elite. The World Economic Forum’s annual risks report found that, for the first time in its 15-year history, the environment filled the top five places in the list of concerns likely to have a major impact over the next decade.
Børge Brende, the president of the World Economic Forum, said: “The political landscape is polarised, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks.” After a month in which bushfires have raged out of control in Australia, Brende said there was a need for urgent action. “We have only a very small window and if we don’t use that window in the next 10 years we will be moving around the deckchairs on the Titanic.”
The WEF report said the retreat from the multilateral approach that helped cope with the 2008 financial crisis made it more difficult to tackle shared global risks. It said the top five risks in terms of likelihood in the next 10 years were:
Extreme weather events with major damage to property, infrastructure and loss of human life.
Failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation by governments and businesses.
Human-made environmental damage and disasters, including environmental crime, such as oil spills and radioactive contamination.
Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse with irreversible consequences for the environment, resulting in severely depleted resources for humankind as well as industries.
Major natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and geomagnetic storms."
03 January, 2020
Climate crisis fuels year of record temperatures in UK, says Met Office - The Guardian link here
Global heating blamed as summer and winter records tumble in 2019
"A series of high temperature records were broken in the UK in 2019 as a consequence of the climate crisis, the Met Office has said. The hottest temperature ever recorded in the UK was exceeded on 25 July in Cambridge, where the thermometer hit 38.7C (101F). The record for the hottest February day was also broken, with Kew Gardens in London recording 21.2C on the 26th.
... “It is notable how many of these extreme records have been set in the most recent decade and how many more of them are reflecting high rather than low-temperature extremes, a consequence of our warming climate,” said Mark McCarthy, the head of the Met Office’s national climate information centre.
... Globally, 2019 is expected to be the second or third hottest year since 1850. It was the hottest ever in Australia, where huge wildfires are burning, and in Russia. The global average temperature for the last decade is also expected to be the highest recorded, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
... The UK climate is warming, the Met Office said, but this does not mean every decade will be significantly warmer than the one preceding it. The 2010s were the second hottest and second wettest decade in 100 years, slightly behind the 2000s. This is partly the result of a cold year in 2010, but the Met Office said such years occur much less frequently now than in the past.
... A recent comprehensive expert analysis concluded that the world was on a path to climate disaster, with three-quarters of the commitments countries made under the 2015 Paris climate agreement rated as “totally inadequate”. Nations agreed to limit global heating to 2C above pre-industrial levels, or 1.5C if possible. Each country made a voluntary pledge of climate action, but to date these would result in global temperatures rising by a disastrous 3-4C."
03 January, 2020
Australian bushfire crisis: authorities plead for last-ditch evacuation, with terrible conditions ahead - The Guardian link here
Firefighters warn they may have to abandon homes, and even whole towns, as bushfire crisis threatens to overwhelm resources in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia
"Australian authorities have made a final plea for people to flee bushfire-affected areas in three states before the onset of extreme conditions so dangerous that firefighters may be unable to defend entire towns. On Friday, authorities in New South Wales urged people still in a 14,000 square kilometre area of the state’s south coast, and in other high risk areas in the Snowy Valley, to leave overnight. In Victoria – where there are grave fears for 28 people still missing in the East Gippsland region – authorities have sent 250,000 text messages to people in affected shires and urged them to evacuate. Late on Friday, authorities said 3.5% of the Victorian landmass had been affected by fire. Both NSW and Victoria have enacted emergency measures that give firefighting authorities the power to forcibly relocate people if necessary.
... Forecasters have predicted temperatures in the mid-40Cs on Saturday for some parts of south-east Australia. The fire danger will be increased by strong winds. On Friday, the military continued evacuations of the Victorian inlet of Mallacoota, where about 4,000 people were trapped by a fire that reached the edge of the township and blocked their exit. Most were being taken on a 17-hour voyage by ship to the HMAS Cerberus naval base at Western Port. The defence forces have also been dropping supplies to communities isolated by active firegrounds.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, toured an evacuation centre in Victoria on Friday as he faced heavy criticism for his response to the escalating and unprecedented bushfire crisis. On Thursday night, Morrison was given a hostile reception in the NSW town of Cobargo, where he was heckled by people who had lost their homes. On Friday, the former NSW fire commissioner Greg Mullins compared the prime minister’s response to the bushfires to Donald Trump’s response to mass shootings.
... NSW authorities have warned some towns, including the apple-growing hub of Batlow, may be “undefendable” in the extreme conditions and that in those circumstances firefighters may allow properties to burn rather than risk attempting to contain the fire.“We are unfortunately very likely to lose homes tomorrow but we will be very happy and call it a success if there are no lives lost,” the NSW rural fire service deputy commissioner, Rob Rogers, said.
... NSW authorities have warned some towns, including the apple-growing hub of Batlow, may be “undefendable” in the extreme conditions and that in those circumstances firefighters may allow properties to burn rather than risk attempting to contain the fire. “We are unfortunately very likely to lose homes tomorrow but we will be very happy and call it a success if there are no lives lost,” the NSW rural fire service deputy commissioner, Rob Rogers, said. “That is a single focus tomorrow and we need the community to have the focus as well.” “There is a window until tonight, for people to get out and we encourage them to do so, please do not stay in the area unless you absolutely have to,” she said.
People on the south coast continued to report heavy delays in leaving the area, and long queues to buy petrol and other supplies. There are additional concerns for mountainous areas in NSW and Victoria, where people in the Kosciuszko national park and the Victorian alpine region have been told to evacuate. Fires continued to burn uncontrolled and bushfire smoke continues to shroud a massive area. Air quality in Canberra again ranked among the poorest in the world on Friday, thanks to smoke from the bushfires. The national fire season has claimed at least 19 lives and destroyed more than 1,500 homes. The land mass burned is now above 5m hectares – an area larger than the Netherlands or Denmark."
15 December, 2019
UN climate talks end with limited progress on emissions targets - The Guardian link here
Partial agreement at COP25 that countries must be more ambitious to fulfil Paris goals
"Climate talks in Madrid have ended with a partial agreement to ask countries to come up with more ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet the terms of the 2015 Paris accord. Few countries came to this year’s talks with updated plans to reach the Paris goals, though the EU finally agreed its long-term target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Experts say more ambitious emissions cuts are needed globally if the Paris pledge to hold global heating to no more than 2C is to be met.
This year’s round of annual UN talks focused on narrow technical issues such as the workings of the global carbon markets, a means by which countries can trade their successes in cutting emissions with other countries that have not cut their own emissions fast enough. By midday on Sunday, more than 40 hours after the talks deadline, agreement on that was still far off and the issue will have to be resolved next year.
... In the final hours, weary negotiators wrangled over the wording of provisions for “loss and damage”, by which developing countries are hoping to receive financial assistance for the ravages they face from climate breakdown. The US was blamed for refusing to agree to developing countries’ demands under what is known in the UN jargon as the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM).
... Brazil held up agreement over a provision allowing governments to trade in carbon credits. It insisted that its carbon sinks – mainly forests, including the Amazon – should count towards its emissions-cutting goals, while also selling carbon credits derived from preserving forests to other countries to count towards their emissions targets. Other countries said this was double counting and would undermine the carbon trading system. Governments discussed these points for two weeks with little official attention paid to the broader and more urgent issue of how countries can accelerate their plans to cut carbon in the next decade.
... Jamie Henn, the strategy director at the pressure group 350.org, said: “The level of disconnect between what this COP should have delivered and what it’s on track to deliver is appalling and is a sign that the very foundations of the Paris agreement are being shaken up. A handful of loud countries has hijacked the process and is keeping the rest of the planet hostage.”"
15 December, 2019
Longest UN climate talks end with no deal on carbon markets - Al Jazeera link here
After two weeks of negotiations, delegates from almost 200 nations passed declarations that were criticised as too weak.
"... After two weeks of negotiations on tackling global warming, delegates from almost 200 nations passed declarations calling for greater ambition in cutting planet-heating greenhouse gases and in helping poor countries suffering the effects of climate change. But despite holding the longest climate talks ever in 25 nearly annual editions, they left one of the thorniest issues for the next summit in Glasgow in a year's time - how to deal with carbon emissions.
... Brazil, China, Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United States had led resistance to bolder action, delegates said.
... Scientists say greenhouse gas emissions must start dropping sharply as soon as possible to prevent global temperatures rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. Sunday's agreement fell well short of what science says is needed to tackle the climate emergency."
12 December, 2019
European Green Deal will change economy to solve climate crisis, says EU - The Guardian link here
Eerything from travel to air quality has been looked at in order to create ‘a growth that gives back
"Nearly every major aspect of the European economy is to be re-evaluated in light of the imperatives of the climate and ecological emergency, according to sweeping new plans set out by the European commission on Wednesday.
The comprehensive nature of the European Green Deal – which encompasses the air we breathe to how food is grown, from how we travel to the buildings we inhabit – was set out in a flurry of documents as Ursula von der Leyen, the new commission president, made her appeal to member states and parliamentarians in Brussels to back the proposals, which would represent the biggest overhaul of policy since the foundation of the modern EU.
Von der Leyen said the package was aimed at economic growth and increasing prosperity. “[This] is our new growth strategy, for a growth that gives back more than it takes away,” she said. “It shows how to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming, so that we live healthier [lives] and make our businesses innovate. We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast.”
12 December, 2019
Greta Thunberg named 2019 Time Person of the Year - Al Jazeera link here
The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist is known for her blunt addresses to world leaders
"Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has been named Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2019, NBC's Today show announced on Wednesday. Thunberg, who turns 17 in January and who is known for her blunt, straightforward addresses to world leaders, has urged immediate action to address what she describes as the global climate crisis.
... Earlier this year,Thunberg had been nominated for a Nobel peace prize, recognised for her mobilisation of students in her "Fridays for Future" weekly school strikes. The movement officially began in August of 2018, after Thunberg spent three weeks sitting in front of the Swedish parliament demanding action on climate change during school days. Her actions, which she posted on social media, went viral and morphed into a weekly Friday protest. The nomination came after the number of students taking part in the school strikes broke two million across 135 countries.
Thunberg was also named one of the world's most influential people by Time magazine in May. Anand Giridharadas, the Time Magazine editor at large, said that one of the most "powerful things" about Thunberg is that she "doesn't believe in the 'win-win'". "She is telling us that real change is costly, real change requires giving things up, the loss of power and privilege, new systems, new ways of life," Giridharadas tweeted shortly after the announcement.
The recognition garnered praise from rights groups and environmental organisations. The National Resources Defence Council tweeted congratulations to Thunberg and "all the youth climate activists making change in communities across the world"."
12 December, 2019
On brink of 'man-made' starvation, Zimbabweans struggling to cope - Al Jazeera link here
Shifting policies on land reform and food subsidies by successive governments have contributed to the dire situation.
"... Zimbabwe is in the grip of its worst economic crisis in 10 years, with inflation soaring to 300 percent and the population suffering fuel shortages, power rationing and currency woes. Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Robert Mugabe after a military intervention forced the longtime president to resign, has struggled to revive the economy while the long-standing financial troubles have been worsened by extreme weather shocks.
And now Zimbabwe is facing major food insecurity as many people do not have enough food to eat or they cannot afford it. According to Hilal Elver, the United Nations' special rapporteur on the right to food, the country is on the verge of "man-made starvation", with close to 60 percent of its 14-million population being food insecure.
After an 11-day visit last month to areas hit by the El Nino-induced drought, Elver said the crisis affected a "staggering" 5.5 million people in rural areas and a further 2.2 million in cities."
04 December, 2019
Don't pursue economic growth at expense of environment - The Guardian link here
Europe’s environmental watchdog gives warning as climate crisis continues
"Pursuing economic growth at the expense of the environment is no longer an option as Europe faces “unprecedented” challenges from climate chaos, pollution, biodiversity loss and the overconsumption of natural resources, according to a report from Europe’s environmental watchdog.
Europe was reaching the limits of what could be achieved by gradual means, by making efficiencies and small cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, with “transformational” change now necessary to stave off the impacts of global heating and environmental collapse, warned Hans Bruyninckx, executive director of the European Environment Agency.
“Marginal efficiency gains are not enough – they are not working to bring down emissions,” he said. “There is also a higher cost to marginal efficiency gains, if we keep investing in that. If we focus on making current technologies more efficient, there are limits. If we stick to what we know, it may seem easy but it doesn’t work in the long term.”
... “Incremental changes have resulted in progress in some areas but not nearly enough to meet our long-term goals,” said Bruyninckx. Further marginal changes would grow only more expensive, he predicted, making large-scale change necessary. “We already have the knowledge, technologies and tools we need to make key production and consumption systems such as food, mobility and energy sustainable.”
Wholesale changes could include banning internal combustion engines and scaling up public transport, abandoning fossil fuels in favour of 100% renewable energy, stipulating that products must be designed and manufactured to create no waste, and changes to our diets and agricultural production. Environmental goals could not be seen as separate to or lesser than economic goals, and accepting environmental damage as an inevitable cost would lead to ecological collapse, Bruyninckx warned.
The old system – of “continuing to promote economic growth and seeking to manage the environmental and social impacts” – would not deliver the EU’s long-term vision of “living well, within the limits of the planet”, the report warned."
27 November, 2019
Step up climate action or face catastrophe, says UN report - Aljazeera link here
Global emissions need to be more than halved if we are to save the planet, world's top scientists agree.
"The world's countries have to cut their greenhouse gas emissions well beyond current pledges to make up for lost time - or face catastrophic climate changes, says a United Nations report released on Tuesday. The annual Emissions Gap Report paints a grim picture of the rise in global warming, and points the finger at G20 countries, especially China and the United States, the two top greenhouse gas emitters, along with Russia and the European Union, which are doing too little to tackle the climate crisis. "Emissions need to go down by 55 percent by 2030," said the report's colead author, John Christensen. "There is no way we are going to make it if we don't step up action as of next year with ambitious plans."
... Tuesday's report, compiled by some of the world's leading scientists, says that even if all commitments made in Paris were to be implemented, temperatures would likely rise - because of previous inaction - between 3.4-3.9C this century, bringing destructive climate change. This means countries are now obliged to increase their joint commitments by more than fivefold, or the 1.5C goal will be out of reach before 2030. "Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions, over 7 percent each year," said Inger Andersen, the UN Environment Program's executive director.
... Limiting warming to 1.5C is possible, says the report, but doing so requires radical changes in our economic systems as well as in our social habits. The solutions proposed by the report depict a new world that would have to be transformed within just one generation for a reversal of the climate crisis.
... Electricity should become the main energy source by 2050, with renewables making up at least 85 percent of global consumption. Coal production should be phased out; transport and industry should be decarbonised; energy efficiency should be improved."
05 November, 2019
Most countries' climate plans 'totally inadequate' – experts - The Guardian link here
US and Brazil unlikely to meet Paris agreement pledges - while Russia has not even made one
" "The world is on a path to climate disaster, with three-quarters of the commitments made by countries under the Paris agreement “totally inadequate”, according to a comprehensive expert analysis. Four nations produce half of all carbon emissions but the US has gone into reverse in tackling the climate emergency under Donald Trump while Russia has failed to make any commitment at all. Other major oil-producing nations, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have set no targets to reduce emissions. China and India are cleaning up their energy systems but their surging economies mean emissions will continue to grow for a decade.
Under the 2015 Paris deal, countries agreed to limit global heating to 2C, or 1.5C if possible. Each country makes a voluntary pledge of climate action, but to date these would result in global temperatures rising by a disastrous 3-4C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in 2018 that emissions, which are still rising, must fall by 50% by 2030 to be on track for 1.5C. Only the 28 countries of the European Union and a few others including Norway, Switzerland and Ukraine are on track. Of the 184 national Paris pledges made, 136 are judged insufficient in the report, published by the Universal Ecological Fund
Another problem is many pledges are unlikely to be met, due to the US withdrawing from the Paris agreement, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, reversing environmental policies, or because poorer nations do not get the funding they need – the US and Australia have stopped making such contributions. “The current pledges made under the Paris agreement are totally inadequate to put us on a pathway to meet either the 1.5C or the 2C goal,” said the report’s author, Prof Sir Robert Watson, a former IPCC chair and scientific adviser to the UK and US governments. “With just 1C warming so far, we are already seeing some very significant effects. The effects at 3-4C will be very profound on people around the world.” “When you see a country like Russia not even putting a pledge on the table, it is extremely disturbing,” he said. “Saudi Arabia and Russia rely heavily on their fossil fuels but that is no excuse. Those that have not effectively made any pledges yet really should be shamed into being part of the solution.”
Harvard University’s James McCarthy, a co-author of the report, said: “Failing to reduce emissions drastically and rapidly will result in an environmental and economic disaster from human-induced climate change.” Failing to halve emissions by 2030 means the number of hurricanes, severe storms, wildfires and droughts are likely double in number and intensity, the scientists said, costing $2bn (£1,55bn) a day within a decade. To avoid this, the scale of climate change action must double or triple, they said.
The Paris agreement does allow for nations to ratchet up their commitments. “This report demonstrates we need to ratchet badly, and as quickly as possible,” said Watson. China and India should be applauded for improving their energy systems, he said, but their emissions must peak. However, Watson said it was difficult to expect leadership from these nations when those with the biggest historical emissions, like the US, were not doing so." "
05 November, 2019
Climate crisis: 11,000 scientists warn of ‘untold suffering’ - The Guardian link here
Statement sets out ‘vital signs’ as indicators of magnitude of the climate emergency
"The world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society, according to a stark warning from more than 11,000 scientists. “We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” it states. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.” There is no time to lose, the scientists say: “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”
The statement is published in the journal BioScience on the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference, which was held in Geneva in 1979. The statement was a collaboration of dozens of scientists and endorsed by further 11,000 from 153 nations. The scientists say the urgent changes needed include ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction and slashing meat eating. Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University and the lead author of the statement, said he was driven to initiate it by the increase in extreme weather he was seeing. A key aim of the warning is to set out a full range of “vital sign” indicators of the causes and effects of climate breakdown, rather than only carbon emissions and surface temperature rise.
“A broader set of indicators should be monitored, including human population growth, meat consumption, tree-cover loss, energy consumption, fossil-fuel subsidies and annual economic losses to extreme weather events,” said co-author Thomas Newsome, of the University of Sydney. Other “profoundly troubling signs from human activities” selected by the scientists include booming air passenger numbers and world GDP growth. “The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle,” they said. As a result of these human activities, there are “especially disturbing” trends of increasing land and ocean temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather events, the scientists said: “Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have have largely failed to address this predicament. Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable.”
“We urge widespread use of the vital signs [to] allow policymakers and the public to understand the magnitude of the crisis, realign priorities and track progress,” the scientists said. “You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to look at the graphs and know things are going wrong,” said Newsome. “But it is not too late.” The scientists identify some encouraging signs, including decreasing global birth rates, increasing solar and wind power and fossil fuel divestment. Rates of forest destruction in the Amazon had also been falling until a recent increase under new president Jair Bolsonaro.
They set out a series of urgently needed actions:
Use energy far more efficiently and apply strong carbon taxes to cut fossil fuel use.
Stabilise global population – currently growing by 200,000 people a day – using ethical approaches such as longer education for girls.
End the destruction of nature and restore forests and mangroves to absorb CO2.
Eat mostly plants and less meat, and reduce food waste.
Shift economic goals away from GDP growth.
“The good news is that such transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual,” the scientists said. The recent surge of concern was encouraging, they added, from the global school strikes to lawsuits against polluters and some nations and businesses starting to respond.
A warning of the dangers of pollution and a looming mass extinction of wildlife on Earth, also led by Ripple, was published in 2017. It was supported by more than 15,000 scientists and read out in parliaments from Canada to Israel. It came 25 years after the original “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” in 1992, which said: “A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” Ripple said scientists have a moral obligation to issue warnings of catastrophic threats: “It is more important than ever that we speak out, based on evidence. It is time to go beyond just research and publishing, and to go directly to the citizens and policymakers.”
05 November, 2019
US tells UN it is pulling out of Paris climate deal - Aljazeera link here
The Trump administration's move marks the first formal step in the year-long process to exit the global pact.
"The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations that it will withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the first formal step in a one-year process to exit the global pact to fight climate change, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday.
The US, one of the world's biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, would become the only country to leave the pact, a decision Trump promised to boost US oil, gas and coal industries.
Pompeo's statement touted the US's carbon pollution cuts and called the Paris deal an "unfair economic burden" to the US economy.
The State Department letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres started the clock on a process that would be completed one day after the 2020 US presidential election, on November 4, 2020."
02 November, 2019
Fracking halted in England in major government U-turn -The Guardian link here
Victory for green groups follows damning scientific study and criticism from spending watchdog
"The government has halted fracking in England with immediate effect in a watershed moment for environmentalists and community activists. Ministers also warned shale gas companies it would not support future fracking projects, in a crushing blow to companies that had been hoping to capitalise on one of the new frontiers of growth in the fossil fuel industry. The decision draws a line under years of bitter opposition to the controversial extraction process in a major victory for green groups and local communities.
The decision was taken after a new scientific study warned it was not possible to rule out “unacceptable” consequences for those living near fracking sites. The report, undertaken by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), also warned it was not possible to predict the magnitude of earthquakes fracking might trigger.
... The government said it would not agree to any future fracking “until compelling new evidence is provided” that proves fracking could be safe. The UK’s only active fracking site at Preston New Road in Lancashire was brought to an immediate halt this summer after fracking triggered multiple earth tremors that breached the government’s earthquake limits.
... The decision has been welcomed as a “victory for common sense” by green groups and campaigners who have fought for almost a decade against the controversial fossil fuel extraction process.
... Rebecca Long Bailey MP, the shadow business and energy secretary, said the moratorium was a victory for local people and the government owed them an apology. She said: “When the Tory government overruled local democratic decisions to halt fracking, communities did not give up. When fracking protesters went to jail, communities did not give up. And now they have forced the government to U-turn.
... The government revealed its fracking moratium alongside plans for a major review of the UK’s transition to a green economy. The Treasury said it will assess how the UK can make the most of the economic green shoots which are expected to emerge while moving towards a carbon neutral economy by 2050. Sajid Javid, the chancellor, said the review was a vital next step” in delivering the government’s 2050 climate target while “supporting growth and lancing costs” to avoid “placing unfair burdens on families or businesses”. “We must all play a part in protecting the planet for future generations,” he added."
23 October, 2019
Amazon rainforest 'close to irreversible tipping point' - The Guardian link here
Forecast suggests rainforest could stop producing enough rain to sustain itself by 2021
"Soaring deforestation coupled with the destructive policies of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, could push the Amazon rainforest dangerously to an irreversible “tipping point” within two years, a prominent economist has said. After this point the rainforest would stop producing enough rain to sustain itself and start slowly degrading into a drier savannah, releasing billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, which would exacerbate global heating and disrupt weather across South America. The warning came in a policy brief published this week by Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington DC.
The report sparked controversy among climate scientists. Some believe the tipping point is still 15 to 20 years away, while others say the warning accurately reflects the danger that Bolsonaro and global heating pose to the Amazon’s survival. “It’s a stock, so like any stock you run it down, run it down – then suddenly you don’t have any more of it,” said de Bolle, whose brief also recommended solutions to the current crisis.
Bolsonaro has vowed to develop the Amazon, and his government plans to allow mining on protected indigenous reserves. Amazon farmers support his attacks on environmental protection agencies. His business-friendly environment minister, Ricardo Salles, has met loggers and wildcat miners, while deforestation and Amazon fires have soared since he assumed office in January.
The policy brief noted that Brazil’s space research institute, INPE, reported that deforestation in August was 222% higher than in August 2018. Maintaining the current rate of increase INPE reported between January and August this year would bring the Amazon “dangerously close to the estimated tipping point as soon as 2021 … beyond which the rainforest can no longer generate enough rain to sustain itself”, de Bolle wrote.
De Bolle is also head of the Latin American studies programme at Johns Hopkins University and last month addressed a US Congress committee on preserving the Amazon. She called her prediction a “provocation”. “If Bolsonaro is serious about developing the Amazon without paying any attention to sustainability or maintaining the forest’s standing, these rates would happen within his mandate,” she said."
15 October, 2019
Concerns as EU bank balks at plan to halt fossil fuel investments - The Guardian link here
Last-minute lobbying forces delay to ambitious move by European Investment Bank
"The European Investment Bank (EIB) has balked at a proposal to halt new investments in fossil fuels, raising concerns that Germany and other nations are plotting to water down what would be one of the financial sector’s most ambitious climate moves.
The EIB, the largest public bank in the world, announced this year that it would end lending to new gas projects, having already curtailed funding for coal and oil. This would free up more money for renewable energy developments. The details of the plan were expected to be confirmed by a board meeting of EU finance ministers on Tuesday but last-minute lobbying has forced a postponement. Executives of the bank, which is owned by EU member states, said the plan was still on course and would probably be approved next month.
“The new energy lending policy is a milestone on the EIB’s road to transform itself into the EU Climate Bank. I am pleased about the important progress made today and am confident of securing a final approval in November,” said Andrew McDowell, the EIB vice-president responsible for energy. But climate campaigners fear the measures will be delayed further and weakened. “This delay is a direct result of Germany and the European commission pushing to add more fossil fuels back into the policy. This is the opposite of the leadership demanded by millions of climate strikers and activists around the world,” said Alex Doukas of the NGO Oil Change International. “We are in the middle of a climate emergency, so it shouldn’t be hard to say no to more public money for fossil fuels.”
... EU leaders plan to describe global heating as an “existential threat”, according to a leaked copy of a summit communique, but there are divisions over the speed of action. Poland and Hungary are among a handful of countries that oppose the setting of an EU-wide zero-carbon target by 2050. Germany reportedly believes gas is necessary for energy security, at least on an interim basis as it moves away from coal and nuclear power.
The clamour for urgent action is increasingly loud, spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, student climate strikers, Extinction Rebellion protesters and influential establishment voices such as David Attenborough and the Church of England. Scientists warned last year there was little over a decade to transform energy systems if the world was to have any chance of keeping global heating to a relatively safe level.
Yet the world of finance continues to move in the opposite direction, particularly in the private sector. In a weeklong investigation, the Guardian revealed the world’s largest investment banks and asset management companies had aggressively expanded into new coal, oil and gas projects since the 2016 Paris climate agreement. The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has warned that many of these assets will be left stranded, leading to bankruptcies and a growing risk of a global financial crash"
15 October, 2019
Shell has 'no choice' but to invest in oil, CEO says - Aljazeera link here
Defying climate change activists, Shell CEO warns of the consequences of rejecting oil and gas too quickly.
"The protests against government inaction over climate change may be growing around the world, but at least one man is still betting the future of his company on fossil fuels. Ben van Beurden, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell says he sees abundant opportunity to make money from oil and gas in the coming decades despite the growing pressure on investors and governments to shift to cleaner energy sources. But in an interview with the Reuters news agency, van Beurden expressed concern that some shareholders could abandon the world's second-largest listed energy company due partly to what he called the "demonisation" of oil and gas and "unjustified" worries that its business model was unsustainable.
The 61-year-old Dutch executive in recent years became one of the sector's most prominent voices advocating action over global warming in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Shell, which supplies around three percent of the world's energy, set out in 2017 a plan to halve the intensity of its greenhouse emissions by the middle of the century, based in large part on building one of the world's biggest power businesses. Still, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from Shell's operations and the products it sells rose by 2.5 percent between 2017 and 2018.
A defiant van Beurden rejected a rising chorus from climate activists and parts of the investor community to transform radically the 112-year-old Anglo-Dutch company's traditional business model. "Despite what a lot of activists say, it is entirely legitimate to invest in oil and gas because the world demands it," van Beurden said. "We have no choice" but to invest in long-life projects, he added.
Shell and its peers have long insisted that switching away from oil and gas to cleaner sources of energy will take decades as demand for transport and plastics continues to grow. Investors have warned, however, that oil companies often rely on forecasts that underestimate the pace of change. Shell plans to greenlight more than 35 new oil and gas projects by 2025, according to an investor presentation from June.
... Van Beurden put the onus for achieving a transformation to low-carbon economies on governments, warning that not enough progress had been made to reach the Paris climate goal of limiting global warming to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. "Can that happen? I think it can ... Increasingly society is not putting up with the fact we are not making enough progress." Delaying implementation of the right climate policies could result in "knee-jerk" political responses that might be very disruptive to society, he said. "Let the air out of the balloon as soon as you can before the balloon actually bursts," van Beurden said."
14 October, 2019
Typhoon Hagibis: 110,000 join rescue effort as survivors tell of 'incredible' storm - The Guardian link here
Nations counts its losses after deadly storm dumped 40% of average annual rainfall in some areas
"More than 110,000 rescuers were searching for survivors in Japan in the wake of super-typhoon Hagibis, which has already claimed 40 lives.
The storm, which over the weekend dumped 40% of average annual rainfall on some areas, caused at least 25 rivers across the country to burst their banks, leading to vast tracts of land being flooded. By Monday at least 16 people were still missing and 200 were confirmed injured. Tens of thousands of personnel from the Self-Defence Forces, Coast Guard, police and fire departments were deployed as emergency crews attempted to rescue some people still trapped on the upper floors of homes and other buildings in the worst affected areas. Teams were also digging through mud and landslides, as well as searching swollen rivers for the missing.
... Nagano Prefecture in central Japan was one of the worst-hit areas. Both the Chikuma and Abukuma rivers burst their banks and floodwaters topped four metres in places, according to the Japan Geospatial Information Authority. A five-kilometre stretch near the Chikuma River was flooded. Evacuation orders and advisories went out to tens of millions across Japan, but some tried to tough the storm out.
... Tens of thousands of homes were still without electricity, while thousands more had lost running water. At lunchtime on Monday, rain was still falling across many of the affected areas, bringing the danger of more flooding and landslides.The operators of seven dams across Japan took the unprecedented step of discharging water due to the risk of them overflowing."
09 October, 2019
Hagibis is the longest-lived super typhoon this year - CNN News link here
"Hagibis has been a super typhoon for more than 60 hours, making it the longest-lived super typhoon this year. It is spinning in the Western Pacific with a 55 kilometer (35 mile) wide eye and wind speeds comparable to a Category 5 hurricane. The storm is now on track to have a direct impact on Japan this weekend."
09 October, 2019
Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions - The Guardian link here
New data shows how fossil fuel companies have driven climate crisis despite industry knowing dangers
"The Guardian today reveals the 20 fossil fuel companies whose relentless exploitation of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves can be directly linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era. New data from world-renowned researchers reveals how this cohort of state-owned and multinational firms are driving the climate emergency that threatens the future of humanity, and details how they have continued to expand their operations despite being aware of the industry’s devastating impact on the planet.
The analysis, by Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in the US, the world’s leading authority on big oil’s role in the escalating climate emergency, evaluates what the global corporations have extracted from the ground, and the subsequent emissions these fossil fuels are responsible for since 1965 – the point at which experts say the environmental impact of fossil fuels was known by both industry leaders and politicians.
The top 20 companies on the list have contributed to 35% of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane worldwide, totalling 480bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) since 1965. Those identified range from investor-owned firms – household names such as Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell – to state-owned companies including Saudi Aramco and Gazprom. Chevron topped the list of the eight investor-owned corporations, followed closely by Exxon, BP and Shell. Together these four global businesses are behind more than 10% of the world’s carbon emissions since 1965. Twelve of the top 20 companies are state-owned and together their extractions are responsible for 20% of total emissions in the same period. The leading state-owned polluter is Saudi Aramco, which has produced 4.38% of the global total on its own.
... The companies’ replies can be read in full here.
... Heede said 1965 was chosen as the start point for this new data because recent research had revealed that by that stage the environmental impact of fossil fuels was known by industry leaders and politicians, particularly in the US. In November 1965, the president, Lyndon Johnson, released a report authored by the Environmental Pollution Panel of the President’s Science Advisory Committee, which set out the likely impact of continued fossil fuel production on global heating. In the same year, the president of the American Petroleum Institute told its annual gathering: “One of the most important predictions of the [president’s report] is that carbon dioxide is being added to the Earth’s atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas at such a rate by the year 2000 the heat balance will be so modified as possibly to cause marked changes in climate beyond local or even national efforts.” Heede added: “Leading companies and industry associations were aware of, or wilfully ignored, the threat of climate change from continued use of their products since the late 1950s.
The research aims to hold to account those companies most responsible for carbon emissions, and shift public and political debate away from a focus just on individual responsibility. It follows a warning from the UN in 2018 that the world has just 12 years to avoid the worst consequences of runaway global heating and restrict temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. The study shows that many of the worst offenders are investor-owned companies that are household names around the world and spend billions of pounds on lobbying governments and portraying themselves as environmentally responsible."
04 October, 2019
The many faces of global hunger – in pictures - The Guardian link here
"Lack of proper nutrition affects more than 150 million children worldwide, contributing to 3m deaths each year. In a series of images from Central African Republic, South Sudan and Liberia, part of a new exhibition in London, a trio of award-winning photographers set out to depict the issue in their own way."
26 September, 2019
IPCC urges emissions cut to avert disastrous sea level rise - Aljazeera link here
Landmark IPCC study calls for radical action to avert some of the worst possible outcomes of global warming.
"Slash carbon emissions or watch cities vanish under rising seas, rivers run dry and marine life collapse - that is the stark warning delivered to the world by scientists behind a landmark climate study. In its new report examining the links between oceans, glaciers, ice caps and the climate, the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that radical action may yet avert some of the worst possible outcomes of global warming.
"The more decisively and the earlier we act, the more able we will be to address unavoidable changes," Debra Robert, cochair of the IPCC, said at a news conference on Wednesday. But the study also said that allowing carbon emissions to rise would upset the balance of the geophysical systems governing oceans and the frozen regions of the Earth so profoundly that nobody would escape untouched. "The oceans and the icy parts of the world are in big trouble and that means we're all in big trouble too," said one of the report's lead authors, Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University. "The changes are accelerating."
25 September, 2019
Climate change: UN panel signals red alert on 'Blue Planet' - BBC News link here
"Climate change is devastating our seas and frozen regions as never before, a major new United Nations report warns. According to a UN panel of scientists, waters are rising, the ice is melting, and species are moving habitat due to human activities. And the loss of permanently frozen lands threatens to unleash even more carbon, hastening the decline. There is some guarded hope that the worst impacts can be avoided, with deep and immediate cuts to carbon emissions.
... One of the key messages is the way that the warming of the oceans and cryosphere (the icy bits on land) is part of a chain of poor outcomes that will affect millions of people well into the future.
... The ways in which you may be affected are vast - flood damage could increase by two or three orders of magnitude. The acidification of the oceans thanks to increased levels of CO2 is threatening corals, to such an extent that even at 1.5C of warming, some 90% will disappear. When CO2 is dissolved in water it forms carbonic acid. So, the more carbon dioxide that dissolves in our oceans, the more acidic the water gets. Species of fish will move as ocean temperatures rise. Seafood safety could even be compromised because humans could be exposed to increased levels of mercury and persistent organic pollutants in marine plants and animals. These pollutants are released from the same fossil fuel burning that release the climate warming gas CO2. Even our ability to generate electricity will be impaired as warming melts the glaciers, altering the availability of water for hydropower.
Permafrost not so permanent
Huge amounts of carbon are stored in the permanently frozen regions of the world such as in Siberia and Northern Canada. These are likely to change dramatically, with around 70% of the near surface permafrost set to thaw if emissions continue to rise. The big worry is that this could free up "tens to hundreds of billions of tonnes" of CO2 and methane to the atmosphere by 2100. This would be a significant limitation on our ability to limit global warming in the centuries to come.
So what happens in the long term?
That's a key question and much depends on what we do in the near term to limit emissions. However, there are some warnings in the report that some changes may not be easily undone. Data from Antarctica suggests the onset of "irreversible ice sheet instability" which could see sea level rise by several metres within centuries.
Does the report offer some guarded hope?
Definitely. The report makes a strong play of the fact that the future of our oceans is still in our hands. The formula is well worn at this stage - deep, rapid cuts in carbon emissions in line with the IPCC report last year that required 45% reductions by 2030. "If we reduce emissions sharply, consequences for people and their livelihoods will still be challenging, but potentially more manageable for those who are most vulnerable," said Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC. Indeed, some of the scientists involved in the report believe that public pressure on politicians is a crucial part of increasing ambition. "After the demonstrations of young people last week, I think they are the best chance for us,," said Dr Jean-Pierre Gattuso. "They are dynamic, they are active I am hopeful they will continue their actions and they will make society change." "
24 September, 2019
The UN Climate Action Summit was a disappointment - Vox link here
The biggest emitters — China, the US, and India — aren’t doing enough to reduce their contributions to climate change.
"The largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world — China, the United States, and India — offered either nothing or very little about their commitments to curb emissions on Monday at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, a gathering explicitly convened to push countries to do more to fight climate change.
“What we’ve seen so far is not the kind of leadership we need from the major economies,” said Helen Mountford, vice president for climate and economics at the World Resources Institute, during a call with reporters.
Even after one of the largest environmental protests ever in more than 150 countries on Friday and a fiery speech from 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, the commitments from other big emitters still fell short of the level necessary to hit the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius or ideally 1.5 degrees.
Under the Paris climate agreement, countries are expected to commit by 2020 to more aggressive climate plans, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), than those they set in 2015 when the agreement was signed. However, many countries are struggling to meet their (already weak) targets, and global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising.
More than 60 world leaders took the stage Monday to talk about their revised contributions to the fight against greenhouse gas emissions, many of them from small countries with relatively low emissions. They promised to deploy more clean energy and retire fossil fuel power plants, and wealthier ones pledged international assistance for countries dealing with the most severe consequences of warming.
There were also some encouraging surprises: Groups of investors, including insurance giant Allianz, promised to divest from fossil fuels, and new funding was announced for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
But for activists, the momentum built in the streets didn’t yield enough concrete action in the General Assembly hall, as the countries responsible for the largest share of emissions remained reluctant to sign on tougher climate targets.
The Climate Action Summit did lead to some significant new announcements of efforts to fight climate change. The best news UN Secretary-General António Guterres had to share was the announcement that there are now 70 countries planning to come up with tougher NDCs in 2020. The enhancers include Norway, Argentina, Ethiopia, and Turkey. That’s up from just 23 countries before the summit. These countries put together represent 6.8 percent of global emissions."
At U.N. Climate Summit, Few Commitments and U.S. Silence - New York Times 23 September 2019 link here
22 September, 2019
Ahead of UN summit, leading scientists warn climate change ‘hitting harder and sooner’ than forecast - UN News link here
Top climate scientists issued a report on Sunday showing that over the last several years, sea-level rise, planetary warming, shrinking ice sheets and carbon pollution have accelerated; a sobering call to action for political leaders headed to New York for summit-level climate change talks tomorrow at the United Nations.
"The landmark new report, which will be presented to the UN Climate Action Summit, underlines the glaring – and growing – gap between agreed targets to tackle global warming and the actual reality.
Compiled by the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the report, United in Science, includes details on the state of the climate and presents trends in the emissions and atmospheric concentrations of the main greenhouse gases.
Among other findings, the report says that accelerating climate impacts from melting ice caps to sea-level rise and extreme weather were to blame for the record as the global average temperature increased by 1.1°C above pre-industrial (1850-1900) times and 0.2°C warmer than 2011-2015.
It highlights the urgency of fundamental socio-economic transformations and carbon-curbing actions in key sectors such as land use and energy to avert dangerous global temperature increase, with potentially irreversible impacts. It also examines tools to support both mitigation and adaptation."
22 September, 2019
Youth leaders at UN demand bold climate change action - Aljazeera link here
Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg opens the first ever Youth Summit on climate change at the UN headquarters.
"A day after climate strikes convulsed cities across the globe, with hundreds of thousands of young people opting to skip school and take to the streets instead, youth leaders have gathered at the United Nations to demand radical action on climate change. The UN invited 500 young activists and entrepreneurs to take part in Saturday's meeting - the first of its kind - at the body's headquarters in New York. It came days before a climate action summit scheduled to begin on Monday, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called to seek greater commitments from world leaders on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris accord to avert runaway global warming.
Among those in attendance on Saturday was 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who started the climate strike movement with her lone protest in front of her country's parliament. "We showed we are united and young people are unstoppable," she said. Fellow activist Bruno Rodriguez, 19, who led school strikes in his native Argentina, warned that "climate and ecological crisis" was the "political, economic and cultural crisis of our time".
... The pair's comments came after masses of children skipped school on Friday to join global strikes that Thunberg said were "only the beginning" of the movement. Some four million people filled city streets around the world, organisers said, in what was billed as the biggest-ever protest against the threat posed to the planet by rising temperatures.
... Strike organisers 350.org said Friday's rallies were the start of 5,800 protests across 163 countries over the next week. The protests will coincide with a landmark UN report due to be unveiled next week which will warn global warming and pollution are ravaging Earth's oceans and icy regions in ways that could unleash misery on a global scale."
21 September, 2019
Global Climate Strike: Tens of thousands rally across the US - Aljazeera link here
At least 60,000 join teen activist Greta Thunberg's campaign in New York City, other US cities before UN summits
"New York City - Greta Thunberg arrived in the United States by sea three weeks ago after a rough journey across the Atlantic Ocean on a zero-emissions boat. Since then the Swedish teen activist has marched with the Fridays for Future demonstrators in New York City, testified before the US Congress and met former US President Barack Obama in Washington, DC.
On Friday, the fearless young Scandinavian warrior shepherded tens of thousands of students striking from school in New York with a loud refrain not just for their teachers, but for world leaders gathering at the UN Climate Action Summit next week.
"Fossil fuel CEOs will stop at nothing to squeeze every last drop of money from the earth," said Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement, the US youth-led coalition calling for action on climate change. "[We] will strike again and again until we win."
Billed as the largest climate action in history, the New York marchers followed some 4,500 global rallies that began hours before in cities such as Kiribati, Sydney, New Delhi, Islamabad, Nairobi and London. Early unofficial estimates put the global total at more than three million participants."
15 September, 2019
'Americans are waking up': two thirds say climate crisis must be addressed - The Guardian link here
Major CBS News poll released as part of Covering Climate Now, a collaboration of more than 250 news outlets around the world to strengthen coverage of the climate story
"Two-thirds of Americans believe climate change is either a crisis or a serious problem, with a majority wanting immediate action to address global heating and its damaging consequences, major new polling has found. Amid a Democratic primary shaped by unprecedented alarm over the climate crisis and an insurgent youth climate movement that is sweeping the world, the polling shows substantial if uneven support for tackling the issue.
... “Americans are finally beginning waking up to the existential threat that the climate emergency poses to our society,” said Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Climate Mobilization Project. “This is huge progress for our movement – and it’s young people that have been primarily responsible for that.” But while nearly all of those questioned accept that the climate is changing, there appears to be lingering confusion over why and scientists’ confidence over the causes.
There is a consensus among climate scientists that the world is heating up due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels for electricity generation and transportation, as well as cutting down forests. However, just 44% of poll respondents said human activity was a major contributor to climate change. More than a quarter said our impact was minor or nonexistent.
There is an even starker split on the findings of climate scientists. According to the CBS poll, 52% of Americans say “scientists agree that humans are a main cause” of the climate crisis, with 48% claiming there is disagreement among experts.
“This remains a vitally important misunderstanding – if you believe global warming is just a natural cycle, you’re unlikely to support policies intended to reduce carbon pollution, like regulations and taxes,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which has made similar findings in its own, long-running polling.
“These results also again confirm a long-standing problem, which is that many Americans still believe scientists themselves are uncertain whether human-caused global warming is happening.
“Our own and others’ research has repeatedly found that this is a critical misunderstanding, promoted by the fossil fuel industry for decades, in order to sow doubt, increase public uncertainty and thus keep people stuck in the status quo, in a ‘wait and see’ mode.”
Similar to previous polls, the CBS research finds sharp ideological differences in attitudes to the climate crisis. While nearly seven in 10 Democratic voters understand that humans significantly influence the climate and 80% want immediate action, just 20% of Republicans think humans are a primary cause and barely a quarter want rapid action."
13 September, 2019
'Our land is no use any more': India's struggle to save its farms - Aljazeera link here
Land degradation and climate change are posing major threats to India's economy and farmers.
"... Land degradation is a phenomenon that Pappu, a labourer who brings his cattle to graze on what vegetation remains on the outskirts of Gurugram, knows all too well. He first came here several years ago from the neighbouring state of Rajasthan, forced to move when yields on his farm fell because of the rising salinity of the water supply. "Everything was fine and our yields were enough to sustain the family until this happened," Pappu, who's 50 and goes by one name, told Al Jazeera. He said most of the farmers in his village in Rajasthan gave up agriculture and migrated to Gurugram where they took up jobs as security guards, construction workers and day labourers.
... According to government data, nearly 30 percent of the land in India, or about 97 million hectares, is degraded. That's an area about the size of northern Europe. A major cause of land degradation is human activity. The World Health Organization cites "increasing and combined pressures of agricultural and livestock production (over-cultivation, overgrazing, forest conversion), urbanization [and] deforestation" as leading causes. Construction activity and the overuse of pesticides and chemical fertilisers for farming are also seen as contributors. Following famines in the late 1940s, fertilisers and pesticides helped India transform its agriculture sector by the early 1960s, a development that has come to be known as the Green Revolution. Ironically, the same chemicals have also had damaging effects on the soil. "We have reached a state where fertilisers have been used so much that it has led to a degradation of land quality," Saudamini Das, an economist at the Institute of Economic Growth in New Delhi, told Al Jazeera.
,,, The loss of land productivity can, in turn, contribute to climate change as the loss of plants makes it harder to draw excess carbon dioxide from the air. "Land degradation is a driver of climate change through emission of greenhouse gases and reduced rates of carbon uptake," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a report published last month.
,,, So what can governments and individuals do to restore their lands to health? Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government would commit to restoring 5 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, in addition to a previous commitment of 21 million hectares. But the UN says that won't be enough. It says India needs to restore at least 30 million hectares in the next decade to reverse land degradation by 2030."
12 September, 2019
World losing area of forest the size of the UK each year, report finds - The Guardian link here
Chance of ending deforestation by 2030 seems lower than when pledge was made five years ago
"An area of forest the size of the UK is being lost every year around the world, the vast majority of it tropical rainforest, with dire effects on the climate emergency and wildlife. The rate of loss has reached 26m hectares (64m acres) a year, a report has found, having grown rapidly in the past five years despite pledges made by governments in 2014 to reverse deforestation and restore trees.
,,, The New York declaration on forests was signed at the UN in 2014, requiring countries to halve deforestation by 2020 and restore 150m hectares of deforested or degraded forest land. But the rate of tree cover loss has gone up by 43% since the declaration was adopted, while the most valuable and irreplaceable tropical primary forests have been cut down at a rate of 4.3m hectares a year. The ultimate goal of the declaration, to halt deforestation by 2030 – potentially saving as much carbon as taking all the world’s cars off the roads – now looks further away than when the commitment was made.
... The report uses data up to 2018 in most cases, so the figures do not include the impact of the most recent burning in the Amazon. The report’s authors note that in June, deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon rose by 88% compared with the same month last year.
... Jo House, a reader in environmental science and policy at the University of Bristol, said: “Deforestation, mostly for agriculture, contributes around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. At the same time, forests naturally take up around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. “This natural sink provided by forests is at risk from the duel compounding threats of further deforestation and future climate change.
... One of the difficulties highlighted by the report is that of gaining private sector support and investment for keeping forests standing. While there are clear economic benefits to cutting down forests, in the form of timber production and expanded agriculture, there are few investments being made in keeping existing forests healthy. Another complicating factor is that many governments offer subsidies to agriculture, which provide perverse incentives for deforestation."
04 September, 2019
After bronze and iron, welcome to the plastic age, say scientists - The guardian link here
Plastic pollution has entered the fossil record, research shows
"Plastic pollution is being deposited into the fossil record, research has found, with contamination increasing exponentially since 1945. Scientists suggest the plastic layers could be used to mark the start of the Anthropocene, the proposed geological epoch in which human activities have come to dominate the planet. They say after the bronze and iron ages, the current period may become known as the plastic age.
The study, the first detailed analysis of the rise in plastic pollution in sediments, examined annual layers off the coast of California back to 1834. They discovered the plastic in the layers mirrors precisely the exponential rise in plastic production over the past 70 years. Most of the plastic particles were fibres from synthetic fabrics used in clothes, indicating that plastics are flowing freely into the ocean through waste water.
“Our love of plastic is being left behind in our fossil record,” said Jennifer Brandon, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, who led the study. “It is bad for the animals that live at the bottom of the ocean: coral reefs, mussels, oysters and so on. But the fact that it is getting into our fossil record is more of an existential question.
... A study in 2016 showed a single clothes wash could release 700,000 microplastic fibres. “They are definitely not being disposed of properly,” Brandon said. “We are not filtering them out properly at household or waste treatment plant level. I think that is the next big frontier: what are we doing about our waste water and what we make our clothes out of, because clearly [the plastic] is washing straight into the ocean?”
Research is limited but eating plastic is known to harm marine creatures. Humans are believed to consume at least 50,000 microplastic particles a year through food and water. The health impact is unknown but microplastics can release toxic substances and may penetrate tissues."
04 September, 2019
UK facing EU outrage over ‘timebomb’ of North Sea oil rigs The Guardian link here
"Germany leads complaint against plan to leave polluted remains of Shell rigs in place
The British government is facing growing outrage from the European commission and five EU member states over its plans to leave some decommissioned oil rigs in the North Sea, with one senior German official describing the UK’s proposal as a “grotesque idea” that amounts to a “ticking timebomb”.
Several hundred oil drilling platforms in the North Sea are due to be decommissioned over the next three decades as they approach the end of their operational lifetime.
Disassembling the enormous pieces of infrastructure, each of which can be as tall as the Eiffel Tower, is a costly undertaking, and this year the UK government is intending to endorse plans by Shell to leave behind one steel jacket and the concrete bases beneath three of the platforms of its Brent oilfield installation.
The plans have raised alarm in Germany over the estimated 11,000 tonnes of raw oil and toxins remaining in the base of the three Brent installations, Bravo, Charlie and Delta, all erected in the East Shetland basin in the 1970s."
03 September, 2019
Hurricane Dorian: Catastrophic storm slams the Bahamas - Aljazeera link here
"Second-strongest Atlantic storm on record expected to continue to pound the Bahamas before moving northwest towards US.
In a slow, relentless advance, a catastrophic Hurricane Dorian kept pounding the northern Bahamas early on Monday, as one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded left wrecked homes, shredded roofs, tumbled cars and toppled power poles in its wake.
The storm was stalled over Grand Bahama Island, packing maximum sustained winds of 249 kilometres per hour (155 mph) and moving at 2 km/h, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an advisory at 11am (16:00 GMT). Dorian was expected to pound Grand Bahama for much of the day.
... On Sunday, Dorian's maximum sustained winds reached 297 km/h (185 mph), with gusts up to 354 km/h (220 mph), tying the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane to ever make landfall. That equalled the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, before storms were named. The only recorded storm that was more powerful was Hurricane Allen in 1980, with 305 km/h (190 mph) winds, though it did not make landfall at that strength.
... South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster issued an order on Sunday for the mandatory evacuation of his state's entire coast. The order, which covers about 830,000 people, was to take effect at noon on Monday, at which point state troopers were to make all lanes on major coastal highways one-way heading inland."
30 August, 2019
Great Barrier Reef outlook now 'very poor', Australian government review says - The Guardian link here
Five-yearly report says climate change is escalating the threat and window of opportunity for action is now.
"The outlook for the Great Barrier Reef has deteriorated from poor to very poor according to an exhaustive government report that warns the window of opportunity to improve the natural wonder’s future “is now”.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s outlook report, published every five years, finds coral reefs have declined to a very poor condition and there is widespread habitat loss and degradation affecting fish, turtles and seabirds.
It warns the plight of the reef will not improve unless there is urgent national and global action to address the climate crisis, which it described as its greatest threat."
22 August, 2019
The Amazon Is Burning at a Record Rate, And The Devastation Can Be Seen From Space - Science Alert website link here
"The "lungs of the planet" are burning. As thousands of fiery infernos rage across the Amazon rainforest, tropical vegetation, trees, and the fauna they house are being razed. Since August 15, more than 9,500 new forest fires have started across Brazil, primarily in the Amazon basin.
This year so far, scientists have recorded more than 74,000 fires in Brazil. That's nearly double 2018's total of about 40,000 fires. The surge marks an 83 percent increase in wildfires over the same period of 2018, Brazil's National Institute for Space Research reported. The largest state in Brazil, Amazonas, declared a state of emergency on Monday.Already, 2019 has the highest number of fires observed in a single year since researchers began keeping track in 2013 – and there are still four months to go.
As the world's largest rainforest, the Amazon plays a crucial role in keeping our planet's carbon-dioxide levels in check. Plants and trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the air in their process of photosynthesis. This is why the Amazon, which covers 2.1 million square miles, is often referred to as the "lungs of the planet": The forest produces 20 percent of the oxygen in our planet's atmosphere.
Typically, the Amazonian dry season runs from July to October, peaking in late September. Wetter weather during the rest of the year minimizes the risk of fires at other times. But during the dry season, blazes can spark from natural sources, like lightning strikes. Farmers and loggers also purposefully set fire to the rainforest to clear swaths of the Amazon for industrial or agricultural use.
The fires raging in the Amazon now have widespread effects on the rest of Brazil. The smoke plumes from the blazes spread from the state of Amazonas to the nearby states of Pará and Mato Grosso, and even blotted out the sun in São Paulo – a city more than 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) away. On Monday, people in São Paulo reported on social media that the sky had gone dark between 3 and 4 pm local time."
14 August, 2019
Microplastics ‘significantly contaminating the air’, scientists warn - The Guardian link here
"Discovery of pollution in snowfall from the Arctic to the Alps leads to call for urgent research on potential human health impacts
Abundant levels of microplastic pollution have been found in snow from the Arctic to the Alps, according to a study that has prompted scientists to warn of significant contamination of the atmosphere and demand urgent research into the potential health impacts on people.
Snow captures particles from the air as it falls and samples from ice floes on the ocean between Greenland and Svalbard contained an average of 1,760 microplastic particles per litre, the research found. Even more – 24,600 per litre on average – were found at European locations. The work shows transport by winds is a key factor in microplastics contamination across the globe.
The scientists called for research on the effect of airborne microplastics on human health, pointing to an earlier study that found the particles in cancerous human lung tissue. In June, another study showed people eat at least 50,000 microplastic particles per year.
Many millions of tonnes of plastic are discarded into the environment every year and are broken down into small particles and fibres that do not biodegrade. These particles, known as microplastics, have now been found everywhere from high mountains to deep oceans and can carry toxic chemicals and harmful microbes. ..."
12 August, 2019
Arctic wildfires spew soot and smoke cloud bigger than EU. Plume from unprecedented blazes forecast to reach Alaska as fires rage for third month. - The Guardian link here
"A cloud of smoke and soot bigger than the European Union is billowing across Siberia as wildfires in the Arctic Circle rage into an unprecedented third month.The normally frozen region, which is a crucial part of the planet’s cooling system, is spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and worsening the manmade climate disruption that created the tinderbox conditions.
A spate of huge fires in northern Russia, Alaska, Greenland and Canada discharged 50 megatonnes of CO2 in June and 79 megatonnes in July, far exceeding the previous record for the Arctic. The intensity of the blazes continues with 25 megatonnes in the first 11 days of August – extending the duration beyond even the most persistent fires in the 17-year dataset of Europe’s satellite monitoring system.
Mark Parrington, a scientist in the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, said the previous record was just a few weeks. “We haven’t seen this before,” he said. “The fire intensity is still well above average.” He said the affected regions previously registered unusually high temperatures and a low level of soil moisture, which created the perfect conditions for ignition. Globally, June and July were the hottest months ever measured."
08 August, 2019
Climate change could trigger an international food crisis, UN panel warns - CNBC link here
• The United Nations' scientific panel on climate change warns that it will be impossible to keep worldwide temperatures at safe levels unless humans change the way they produce food and use land.
• The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said global warming is already exacerbating food insecurity by destroying crop yields, decreasing livestock productivity and increasing pests and diseases on farmland.
• It says warming starting at 2 degrees Celsius could trigger an international food crisis.
• If greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, in roughly 20 years the atmosphere will warm up by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
A report from the United Nations scientific panel on climate change warns that it will be impossible to keep worldwide temperatures at safe levels unless humans change the way they produce food and use land. Simply cutting carbon emissions from automobiles and factories alone won't be enough to avert a worldwide food crisis.
The report, released Thursday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, describes how global warming is already exacerbating food insecurity by destroying crop yields, decreasing livestock productivity and increasing pests and diseases on farmland."
08 August, 2019
Toxic fish: Is climate change making cod & tuna dangerous to eat? - Aljazeera link here
"Harvard scientists say climate change is making fish toxic, and warn that eating tainted fish can cause brain damage. Climate change and overfishing are increasing levels of toxic mercury in cod and tuna - and this can cause neurological disorders in children and babies whose mothers eat fish while pregnant, a study by Harvard scientists said on Wednesday.
The concentration of methylmercury - an organic compound which can cause severe damage to the brain and nervous system - rose by 23 percent in cod and by 27 percent in bluefin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean's Gulf of Maine over about three decades, the study said. "Methylmercury is ... particularly harmful during the third trimester of pregnancy when the brain is developing most rapidly and for young children," said Elsie Sunderland, co-author of the paper, which was published in the journal Nature
... "It's not that everyone should be terrified after reading our paper and stop eating seafood, which is very healthy, nutritious food," said Sunderland, a professor of environmental chemistry at Harvard University's School of Public Health. "We wanted to show people that [climate change] can have a direct impact on what you're eating today, that these things can affect your health ... not just things like severe weather and flooding and sea-level rise."
... A 2018 Harvard study found coal-fired power plants are the top source of mercury emissions in the US, as burning coal releases pollution into the air, which then falls into soil and water where it is eaten by aquatic organisms and fish. "We need to reduce human emissions (of mercury) and the largest source in the United States presently, accounting for about 40 percent of emissions, is coal-fired utilities," Sunderland told the Thomson Reuters Foundation."
04 August, 2019
We must change food production to save the world, says leaked report - The Guardian link here
"Attempts to solve the climate crisis by cutting carbon emissions from only cars, factories and power plants are doomed to failure, scientists will warn this week.
A leaked draft of a report on climate change and land use, which is now being debated in Geneva by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), states that it will be impossible to keep global temperatures at safe levels unless there is also a transformation in the way the world produces food and manages land.
Humans now exploit 72% of the planet’s ice-free surface to feed, clothe and support Earth’s growing population, the report warns. At the same time, agriculture, forestry and other land use produces almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, about half of all emissions of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, come from cattle and rice fields, while deforestation and the removal of peat lands cause further significant levels of carbon emissions. The impact of intensive agriculture – which has helped the world’s population soar from 1.9 billion a century ago to 7.7 billion – has also increased soil erosion and reduced amounts of organic material in the ground.
... The new IPCC report emphasises that land will have to be managed more sustainably so that it releases much less carbon than at present. Peat lands will need to be restored by halting drainage schemes; meat consumption will have to be cut to reduce methane production; while food waste will have to be reduced."
29 July, 2019
'People are dying': how the climate crisis has sparked an exodus to the US - The Guardian link here
"As part of the Running Dry series, the Guardian looks at how drought and famine are forcing Guatemalan families to choose between starvation and migration.
... amid a deepening global climate crisis, drought, famine and the battle for dwindling natural resources are increasingly being recognized as major factors in the exodus.
... “Over the past six years, the lack of rainfall has been our biggest problem, causing crops to fail and widespread famine,” said the climate scientist Edwin Castellanos, the dean of the research institute at Guatemala’s Universidad del Valle.
... As a result, entire families have been migrating in record numbers: since October 2018, more than 167,000 Guatemalans travelling in family groups have been apprehended at the US border, compared with 23,000 in 2016.
Those who remain, often depend on money sent home by emigres, especially in rural areas, which received more than half the $9.2bn of remittances sent to Guatemala in 2018.
... Local political factors are also important. Water shortages and poverty are causally linked to the country’s skewed land distribution: roughly 2% of the population control 70% of all productive farmland. In Chiquimula, 71% of people live in poverty, and 40% in extreme poverty.
... Guatemala has the sixth-highest malnutrition rate in the world with at least 47% of children suffering chronic malnourishment. Malnutrition rates are even higher among the country’s 24 indigenous communities, rising to over 60% in Camotán.
... “This isn’t poverty – or even extreme poverty: this is a famine, and people are dying,” said Rodimiro Lantán from Comundich, a grassroots Ch’orti’ organisation helping communities reforest ancestral lands in an effort to prevent forced migration.
Families face an impossible choice: stay and risk starvation, or gamble everything on the perilous migrant trail. “They risk their lives if they stay – and if they go,” said Lantán.
One local who took that chance was Juan de Léon Gutiérrez, a 16-year old boy from a nearby village. In April, he died at a Texas children’s hospital just days after he was taken into US immigration custody – one of at least eight Guatemalan children to have died shortly after crossing the US border since May 2018."
29 July, 2019
Today is Overshoot Day: Earth Overshoot Day website link here
“Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. We maintain this deficit by liquidating stocks of ecological resources and accumulating waste, primarily carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Earth Overshoot Day is hosted and calculated by Global Footprint Network, an international think tank that coordinates research, develops methodological standards and provides decision-makers with a menu of tools to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits.
To determine the date of Earth Overshoot Day for each year, Global Footprint Network calculates the number of days of that year that Earth’s biocapacity suffices to provide for humanity’s Ecological Footprint. The remainder of the year corresponds to global overshoot. Earth Overshoot Day is computed by dividing the planet’s biocapacity (the amount of ecological resources Earth is able to generate that year), by humanity’s Ecological Footprint (humanity’s demand for that year), and multiplying by 365, the number of days in a year:”
27 July, 2019
Arctic wildfires: What's caused huge swathes of flames to spread? - BBC News link here
"Wildfires are ravaging the Arctic, with areas of northern Siberia, northern Scandinavia, Alaska and Greenland engulfed in flames.
Lightning frequently triggers fires in the region but this year they have been worsened by summer temperatures that are higher than average because of climate change. Plumes of smoke from the fires can be seen from space.
Mark Parrington, a wildfires expert at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams), described them as "unprecedented". How bad is it? There are hundreds of fires covering mostly uninhabited regions across eastern Russia, northern Scandinavia, Greenland and Alaska.
But smoke is affecting wider surrounding areas, engulfing some places completely. Cities in eastern Russia have noted a significant decrease in air quality since the fires started. The smoke has reportedly reached Russia's Tyumen region in western Siberia, six time zones away from the fires on the east coast.
In June, the fires released an estimated 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide - the equivalent of Sweden's annual carbon output, according to Cams. How unuasual is this? Arctic fires are common between May and October and wildfires are a natural part of an ecosystem, offering some benefits for the environment, according to the Alaska Centers website. But the intensity of these fires, as well as the large area they have taken up, make these unusual. It is unusual to see fires of this scale and duration at such high latitudes in June," said Mr Parrington.
"But temperatures in the Arctic have been increasing at a much faster rate than the global average, and warmer conditions encourage fires to grow and persist once they have been ignited." Extremely dry ground and hotter than average temperatures, combined with heat lightning and strong winds, have caused the fires to spread aggressively. The burning has been sustained by the forest ground, which consists of exposed, thawed, dried peat - a substance with high carbon content.
Global satellites are now tracking a swathe of new and ongoing wildfires within the Arctic Circle. The conditions were laid in June, the hottest June for the planet yet observed in the instrumented era. The fires are releasing copious volumes of previously stored carbon dioxide and methane - carbon stocks that have in some cases been held in the ground for thousands of years.
Scientists say what we're seeing is evidence of the kind of feedbacks we should expect in a warmer world, where increased concentrations of greenhouse gases drive more warming, which then begets the conditions that release yet more carbon into the atmosphere. A lot of the particulate matter from these fires will eventually come to settle on ice surfaces further north, darkening them and thus accelerating melting. It's all part of a process of amplification."
27 July, 2019
Europe heatwave could 'enhance melting of Greenland ice sheet' - Aljazeera link here
"Ice has been melting at high levels over the last few weeks in Greenland, World Meteorological Organization says.
The United Nations weather agency has voiced "concern" that hot air producing a record-breaking heatwave across much of Western Europe is headed towards Greenland and that it could lead to a faster ice melt.
Heat records in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany tumbled in recent days as hot air surged northwards from North Africa and Spain, sending the mercury soaring upwards of 40C.
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) spokesperson Clare Nullis said in the Swiss city of Geneva on Friday that forecasts suggest the air is heading towards Greenland.
This would result in "high temperatures and consequently enhanced melting of the Greenland ice sheet", Nullis said.
Ice has been melting at high levels over the last few weeks in Greenland, according to WMO.
Nullis cited data from Denmark's Polar Portal, which measures the daily gains and losses in surface mass of the Greenland ice sheet.
"In July alone, it lost 160 billion tonnes of ice through surface melting. That's roughly the equivalent of 64 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Just in July. Just surface melt - it's not including ocean melt as well," Nullis said.
The Greenland Ice Sheet covers 80 percent of the island and has developed over many thousands of years, with layers of snow compressed into ice.
The dome of ice rises to a height of 3,000 metres and the total volume of the ice sheet is approximately 2.9 million cubic kilometres, which would raise global sea levels by seven metres if it melted entirely, according to the Polar Portal website.
25 July, 2019
Climate fears as the UK has second hottest day on record - The Guardian link here
"Cambridge was hottest spot at 38.1C, as Met Office issues storm and flood warnings overnight
Britain has experienced its hottest July day and second hottest day on record as the mercury hit 38.1C, the Met Office said.
The highest temperature recorded on Thursday was in Cambridge, which is only the second time temperatures over 100F have been recorded in the UK, according to the Met Office. Thursday’s record temperature surpassed the previous high for the month of 36.7C (98.06F) set at Heathrow in July 2015.
Sweltering temperatures could spark thundery downpours, with a yellow warning for thunderstorms issued for most of England except the south-west, and parts of Scotland, until 4am on Friday. The storms could lead to flash flooding, disruption of train and bus services and even power cuts.
Experts at the Met Office say the current weather pattern is driving hot air from the south, but there is “no doubt” the climate crisis is playing a role in driving what could be unprecedented temperature highs."
24 July, 2019
Climate change: Current warming 'unparalleled' in 2,000 years - BBC News link here
"The speed and extent of current global warming exceeds any similar event in the past 2,000 years, researchers say. ... The scientists say it shows many of the arguments used by climate sceptics are no longer valid.
When scientists have surveyed the climactic history of our world over the past centuries a number of key eras have stood out. These ranged from the "Roman Warm Period", which ran from AD 250 to AD 400, and saw unusually warm weather across Europe, to the famed Little Ice Age, which saw temperatures drop for centuries from the 1300s.
The events were seen by some as evidence that the world has warmed and cooled many times over the centuries and that the warming seen in the world since the industrial revolution was part of that pattern and therefore nothing to be alarmed about. Three new research papers show that argument is on shaky ground.
The science teams reconstructed the climate conditions that existed over the past 2,000 years using 700 proxy records of temperature changes, including tree rings, corals and lake sediments. They determined that none of these climate events occurred on a global scale. The researchers say that, for example, the Little Ice Age was at its strongest in the Pacific Ocean in the 15th Century, while in Europe it was the 17th Century. Generally, any longer-term peaks or troughs in temperature could be detected in no more than half the globe at any one time, The "Medieval Warm Period", which ran between AD 950 and AD 1250 only saw significant temperature rises across 40% of the Earth's surface.
Today's warming, by contrast, impacts the vast majority of the world. "We find that the warmest period of the past two millennia occurred during the 20th Century for more than 98% of the globe," one of the papers states. "This provides strong evidence that anthropogenic (human induced) global warming is not only unparalleled in terms of absolute temperatures but also unprecedented in spatial consistency within the context of the past 2,000 years."
What the researchers saw is that prior to the modern industrial era, the most significant influence on climate was volcanoes. They found no indication that variations in the Sun's radiation impacted mean global temperatures.
The current period, say the authors, significantly exceeds natural variability. "We see from the instrumental data and also from our reconstruction that in the recent past the warming rate clearly exceeds the natural warming rates that we calculated - that's another view to look at the extraordinary nature of the present warming," said Dr Raphael Neukom, from the University of Bern, Switzerland.
While the researchers did not set out to test whether humans were the chief influence on the current climate, their findings indicate clearly that this is the case. "We do not focus on looking at what's causing the most recent warming as this has been done many times and the evidence is always agreeing that it is the anthropogenic cause," said Dr Neukom. "We do not explicitly test this; we can only show that natural causes are not sufficient from our data to actually cause the spatial pattern and the warming rate that we are observing now."
Other scientists have been impressed with the quality of the new studies. "They have done this across the globe with more than 700 records over the past 2,000 years; they have corals and lakes and also instrumental data," said Prof Daniela Schmidt from the University of Bristol, UK, who was not involved with the studies. "And they have been very careful in assessing the data and the inherent bias that any data has, so the quality of this data and the coverage of this data is the real major advance here; it is amazing."
Many experts say that this new work debunks many of the claims made by climate sceptics in recent decades. "This paper should finally stop climate change deniers claiming that the recent observed coherent global warming is part of a natural climate cycle," said Prof Mark Maslin, from University College London, UK, who wasn't part of the studies. "This paper shows the truly stark difference between regional and localised changes in climate of the past and the truly global effect of anthropogenic greenhouse emissions."
The three papers have been published in the journals Nature (1) and Nature Geoscience (2), (3)."
15 July, 2019
World hunger on the rise as 820m at risk, UN report finds - The Guardian link here
Eliminating hunger by 2030 is an immense challenge, say heads of UN agencies
More than 820 million people worldwide are still going hungry, according to a UN report that says reaching the target of zero hunger by 2030 is “an immense challenge”.
The number of people with not enough to eat has risen for the third year in a row as the population increases, after a decade when real progress was made. The underlying trend is stabilisation, when global agencies had hoped it would fall.
Millions of children are not getting the nutrition they need. The UN says the pace of progress in halving child stunting and reducing the number of low birthweight babies is too slow, which jeopardises the chances of achieving another of the sustainable development goals.
Nearly half of all child deaths in Africa stem from hunger, study shows
The report is from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef), the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.
While hunger remains widespread, obesity – also related to malnutrition – continues to rise in all regions. There are 338 million school-age children and adolescents who are overweight and 672 million obese adults. Asia and Africa, which have nine out of 10 of all stunted children and more than nine out of 10 of all wasted children worldwide, are also home to nearly three-quarters of all overweight children worldwide, largely driven by unhealthy diets.
One in seven babies around the world were born with low birthweight in 2015, the report says, many of them to adolescent mothers. That puts them at risk of poor development.
The world’s population has steadily grown, with most people living in urban areas. Technology has “evolved at a dizzying pace, while the economy has become increasingly interconnected and globalised”, say the heads of the UN agencies in a foreword to the report.
“Many countries, however, have not witnessed sustained growth as part of this new economy. The world economy as a whole is not growing as much as expected.”
Climate breakdown is affecting agriculture and the number of farmers has declined. “All of this has led to major shifts in the way in which food is produced, distributed and consumed worldwide – and to new food security, nutrition and health challenges.”
Hunger is increasing in countries where economic growth is lagging and there is income inequality.
“Our actions to tackle these troubling trends will have to be bolder,” the UN leaders say. “We must foster pro-poor and inclusive structural transformation focusing on people and placing communities at the centre to reduce economic vulnerabilities and set ourselves on track to ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition.”
12 July, 2019
Indian water train arrives with desperately needed relief for Chennai - CNN link here
"A train carrying millions of liters of water rolled into the southern Indian city of Chennai for the first time on Friday, providing desperately needed relief to residents who have been facing an acute water shortage for the past month.
The city, Tamil Nadu's state capital and one of India's biggest metropolitan areas, has been crippled by the shortage brought on by poor water management, last year's disappointing monsoon and continuous population growth.
... Harmandar Singh, a senior official for state services, officially greeted the service. He said there had been no significant rains for 180 to 190 days, and that last year's failed monsoon had contributed to the problem.
... For the past several months, city residents have been forced to rely on government and privately run water tankers that sweep through the streets throughout the day.
The new train service -- a regular supply that aims to bring in 10 million liters of water daily from a dam located about 360 kilometers (224 miles) away in Jolarpettai -- is expected to reduce the pressure on the strained city resources.
The arrangement "is likely to continue till the water situation improves in Chennai area," Indian Railways said in a statement.
Chennai's water problem is the latest reminder of India's impending water crisis.
Unpredictable weather patterns, brought on by climate change, coupled with shrinking groundwater levels caused by years of unregulated use have resulted in widespread droughts across the country.
Chennai is the first of India's major cities to try to combat this problem.
... Millions of city residents line up every morning in their neighborhoods to fill smalls pots of water from the water tankers provided by the state. Some get a daily ration, while others, such as residents from low-income neighborhoods, wait longer for their share due to an unsteady supply.
... Around 600 million of India's 1.3 billion people are currently facing an acute water shortage, according to a 2018 report released by Niti Aayog, a government-run think tank.
"This crisis is further driven by a poorly defined legal framework for groundwater that rests ownership with landowners and leads to unchecked extraction. This crisis is most acute in the Indian agriculture sector, where groundwater accounts for 63% of all irrigation water," the report said."
11 July, 2019
Fossil fuels increasingly offer a poor return on energy investment - Tech Explore website link here
"... Previously, the estimated ratios for energy return on investment (EROI) have favoured fossil fuels over renewable energy sources. Oil, coal and gas are typically calculated to have ratios above 25:1, this means roughly one barrel of oil used yields 25 barrels to put back into the energy economy. Renewable energy sources often have much lower estimated ratios, below 10:1.
However, these fossil fuel ratios are measured at the extraction stage, when oil, coal or gas is removed from the ground. These ratios do not take into account the energy required to transform oil, coal and gas into finished fuels such as petrol used in cars, or electricity used by households.
A new study, co-authored by scientists from the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds, has calculated the EROI for fossil fuels over a 16 year period and found that at the finished fuel stage, the ratios are much closer to those of renewable energy sources—roughly 6:1, and potentially as low as 3:1 in the case of electricity.
The study, undertaken as part of the UK Energy Research Centre programme and published today in Nature Energy, warns that the increasing energy costs of extracting fossil fuels will cause the ratios to continue to decline, pushing energy resources towards a "net energy cliff". This is when net energy available to society declines rapidly due to the increasing amounts of "parasitical" energy required in the energy production.
The researchers emphasise that these findings make a strong case for rapidly stepping up investment in renewable energy sources and that the renewables transition may actually halt—or reverse—the decline in global EROI at the finished fuel stage.
Study co-author Dr. Paul Brockway, an expert in energy-economy modelling at the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds, said: "Measuring energy return on investment of fossil fuels at the extraction stage gives the misleading impression that we have plenty of time for a renewable energy transition before energy constraints are a concern.
"Those measurements are essentially predicating the potential energy output of newly-extracted sources like crude oil. But crude oil isn't used to heat our homes or power our cars. It makes more sense for calculations to consider where energy enters the economy, and that puts us much closer to the precipice.
"The ratios will only continue to decline because we are swiftly reaching the point where all the easilyaccessible fossil fuel sources are becoming exhausted. By stepping up investment in renewable energy sources we can help ensure that we don't tip over the edge."
Study co-author Dr. Lina Brand-Correa, an expert in the social aspects of energy use on the Living Well within Limits (LiLi) project at Leeds said: "There is too much focus on the initial economic costs of transitioning to renewable energy.
"Renewable infrastructure, such as wind farms and solar panels, do require a large initial investment, which is one of the reasons why their energy return on investment ratios have been so low until now.
"But the average energy return on investment for all fossil fuels at the finished fuel stage declined by roughly 23 per cent in the 16 year period we considered. This decline will lead to constraints on the energy available to society in the not-so-distant future, and these constraints might unfold in rapid and unexpected ways.
"Once the renewable infrastructure is built and dependency on fossil fuel decreases, the energy return- on-investment for renewable sources should go up. This must be considered for future policy and energy infrastructure investments decisions, not only to meet climate change mitigation commitments but to ensure society continues to have access to the energy it needs."
More information: Estimation of global finalstage energy-return-on-investment for fossil fuels with comparison to renewable energy sources, Nature Energy (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41560-019-0425-z , https://www.nature.com/articles/s41560-019-0425-z"
07 July, 2019
One climate crisis disaster happening every week, UN warns - The Guardian link here
Developing countries must prepare now for profound impact, disaster representative says
"Climate crisis disasters are happening at the rate of one a week, though most draw little international attention and work is urgently needed to prepare developing countries for the profound impacts, the UN has warned.
Catastrophes such as cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique and the drought afflicting India make headlines around the world. But large numbers of “lower impact events” that are causing death, displacement and suffering are occurring much faster than predicted, said Mami Mizutori, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on disaster risk reduction. “This is not about the future, this is about today.”
This means that adapting to the climate crisis could no longer be seen as a long-term problem, but one that needed investment now, she said. “People need to talk more about adaptation and resilience.”
Estimates put the cost of climate-related disasters at $520bn a year, while the additional cost of building infrastructure that is resistant to the effects of global heating is only about 3%, or $2.7tn in total over the next 20 years."
04 July, 2019
Japan orders over a million to evacuate amid torrential rains - Aljazeera link here
"A total of 1.1 million people in Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures have been ordered to shelters, authorities say.
Authorities in Japan have issued evacuation orders for more than one million people in southern parts of the country hit by heavy rains, a year after deadly floods killed more than 200 people.
Small landslides were already being reported in parts of the affected area, public broadcaster NHK reported.
It said a total of 1.1 million people in Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures on the island of Kyushu had been ordered to shelters.
Landslides swept away several cars and buried a house in Kagoshima, the broadcaster said.
At least four people have been hurt, NHK reported later on its Twitter account, citing police and firefighters. In one case a car flipped onto its side in a mudslide, injuring a woman and her child, NHK said.
There were no official details on how many people had heeded the warnings to leave their homes.
At an evacuation centre in Kagoshima, elderly residents sat on the floor eating with their bedding and other belongings spread out around them.
The evacuation order is issued when a natural disaster is highly likely to occur and municipalities repeatedly urge residents to leave their homes, although the instruction is frequently ignored.
It is the most serious warning issued before a disaster actually occurs. The scale's highest level is activated once a disaster is declared and orders people to take measures to protect their lives.
About 868,000 people in Kagoshima, Kumamoto and Miyazaki prefectures are under a lower-level warning advising them to evacuate, according to NHK."
04 July, 2019
June was hottest ever recorded on Earth, European satellite agency announces - Independent link here
"Experts say climate change contributed to record-breaking temperatures across Europe
Last month was the hottest June ever recorded, the EU‘s satellite agency has announced.
Data provided by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the EU, showed that the global average temperature for June 2019 was the highest on record for the month.
The data showed European average temperatures were more than 2C above normal and temperatures were 6-10C above normal over most of France, Germany and northern Spain during the final days of the month, according to C3S.
The global average temperature was about 0.1C higher than during the previous warmest June in 2016.
Experts have said climate change made last week’s record-breaking European heatwave at least five times as likely to happen, according to recent analysis.
Rapid assessment of average temperatures in France between 26-28 June showed a “substantial” increase in the likelihood of the heatwave happening as a result of human-caused global warming, experts at the World Weather
Attribution group said.
The recent heatwave saw France record the hottest temperature in the country’s history (45.9C) and major wildfires across Spain, where temperatures exceeded 40C.
Germany, Poland and Czech Republic also recorded their highest temperatures for June last week."
18 June, 2019
India reels under worst drought in decades, heat kills dozens - Aljazeera link here
"Western state of Maharashtra witnesses worst drought in 47 years, while intense heat kills dozens in impoverished Bihar.
Almost half of India - an area home to more than 500 million people - is facing drought-like conditions while a blistering heatwave has killed dozens of people in the impoverished eastern state of Bihar.
As the country suffers its lowest rainfall ahead of a monsoon season in more than six decades, the western state of Maharashtra witnesses its worst drought in 47 years, forcing many to leave their lands and take shelter in relief camps, as they wait for monsoon rains.
India's hot season has been particularly harsh this year, with temperatures rising above 50 degrees Celsius in the western state of Rajasthan.
In Bihar, severe heat during the weekend killed at least 76 people, according to the dpa news agency.
Most deaths occurred in three districts of Bihar - Aurangabad, Gaya and Nawada - where temperatures hovered around 45 degrees Celsius as India entered the third week of searing heat.
On Sunday, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced a compensation of 400,000 rupees ($5,700) for the family of each heatwave victim, while federal Health Minister Harsh Vardhan asked people to not leave their homes until temperatures fell.
"Intense heat affects brain and leads to various health issues," he said.
A heatwave in 2015 left more than 3,500 dead in India and Pakistan."
16 June, 2019
Millions across South America hit by massive power cut - The Guardian link here
"Failure leaves people in Argentina and Uruguay without electricity
Tens of millions of people across South America were without electricity early on Sunday after a massive power failure left Argentina and Uruguay almost completely in the dark.
The Argentine newspaper Clarín said the “gigantic” power collapse – which it called the worst in Argentina’s recent history – had struck at just after 7am local time, affecting virtually the entire country as well as Uruguay, Paraguay and some cities in Chile.
“This is an unprecedented situation that will be thoroughly investigated,” the Argentine president, Mauricio Macri, vowed as authorities fought to restore electricity supply to the country’s 44 million residents.
Argentina’s energy secretariat blamed the blackout on a failure in the transmission of electricity from the Yacyretá hydroelectric dam on the Paraná River and said it was working towards a “complete restoration” of power. The reason for the breakdown was not immediately clear.
By Sunday afternoon Macri claimed electricity had been restored to about half of the country’s users. However, authorities admitted they still could not explain what had gone wrong.
The energy secretary, Gustavo Lopetegui, described the “very serious” outage as “extraordinary” but admitted it could take up to a fortnight to understand exactly why the country had suffered a “complete disconnection” and who might be to blame.
...Clarín said Sunday’s outage paralysed part of the transport system in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, stopping trains from circulating and knocking out traffic lights. Video footage showed heavy rain beating down on the city’s eerily quiet streets.
...Buenos Aires water company AySA asked residents to conserve water because the outage meant its distribution system was not functioning.
...The incident comes just over three months after a series of historic blackouts began to blight crisis-stricken Venezuela, plunging millions of its citizens into the darkness for days at a time.
Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, blamed those failures on US-backed saboteurs he claimed were waging “an electrical war” against his administration. But Maduro’s opponents and most specialists said corruption and poor maintenance of Venezuela’s electrical grid were the true explanations.
Millions of Brazilians were affected by a massive blackout in 2009 that authorities said was caused by a failure in the transmission of electricity from the Itaipu hydroelectric dam."
12 June, 2019
PM Theresa May: We will end UK contribution to climate change by 2050 GOV.UK link here
Legislation laid today puts the UK on the path to become the first major economy to set net zero emissions target in law.
The Prime Minister has today announced that the UK will eradicate its net contribution to climate change by 2050.
The statutory instrument to implement this will be laid in Parliament today, Wednesday 12 June. This will amend the Climate Change Act 2008.
04 June, 2019
The climate crisis is our third world war. It needs a bold response. Joseph Stiglitz - The Guardian link here
"Critics of the Green New Deal ask if we can afford it. But we can’t afford not to: our civilisation is at stake.
Advocates of the Green New Deal say there is great urgency in dealing with the climate crisis and highlight the scale and scope of what is required to combat it. They are right. They use the term “New Deal” to evoke the massive response by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the United States government to the Great Depression. An even better analogy would be the country’s mobilization to fight World War II.
Critics ask, “Can we afford it?” and complain that Green New Deal proponents confound the fight to preserve the planet, to which all right-minded individuals should agree, with a more controversial agenda for societal transformation. On both accounts the critics are wrong.
Yes, we can afford it, with the right fiscal policies and collective will. But more importantly, we must afford it. The climate emergency is our third world war. Our lives and civilization as we know it are at stake, just as they were in the second world war."
30 May, 2019
The world needs topsoil to grow 95% of its food – but it's rapidly disappearing - The Guardian link here
Without efforts to rebuild soil health, we could lose our ability to grow enough nutritious food to feed the planet’s population.
The world grows 95% of its food in the uppermost layer of soil, making topsoil one of the most important components of our food system. But thanks to conventional farming practices, nearly half of the most productive soil has disappeared in the world in the last 150 years, threatening crop yields and contributing to nutrient pollution, dead zones and erosion. In the US alone, soil on cropland is eroding 10 times faster than it can be replenished.
If we continue to degrade the soil at the rate we are now, the world could run out of topsoil in about 60 years, according to Maria-Helena Semedo of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Without topsoil, the earth’s ability to filter water, absorb carbon, and feed people plunges. Not only that, but the food we do grow will probably be lower in vital nutrients.
The modern combination of intensive tilling, lack of cover crops, synthetic fertilizers and pesticide use has left farmland stripped of the nutrients, minerals and microbes that support healthy plant life. But some farmers are attempting to buck the trend and save their lands along with their livelihoods.
17 May, 2019
Why the Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment - The Guardian link here
"From now, house style guide recommends terms such as ‘climate crisis’ and ‘global heating’
The Guardian has updated its style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world.
Instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” is favoured over “global warming”, although the original terms are not banned.
“We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” said the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner. “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”
“Increasingly, climate scientists and organisations from the UN to the Met Office are changing their terminology, and using stronger language to describe the situation we’re in,” she said.
The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, talked of the “climate crisis” in September, adding: “We face a direct existential threat.” The climate scientist Prof Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a former adviser to Angela Merkel, the EU and the pope, also uses “climate crisis”.
In December, Prof Richard Betts, who leads the Met Office’s climate research, said “global heating” was a more accurate term than “global warming” to describe the changes taking place to the world’s climate. In the political world, UK MPs recently endorsed the Labour party’s declaration of a “climate emergency”.
The scale of the climate and wildlife crises has been laid bare by two landmark reports from the world’s scientists. In October, they said carbon emissions must halve by 2030 to avoid even greater risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. In May, global scientists said human society was in jeopardy from the accelerating annihilation of wildlife and destruction of the ecosystems that support all life on Earth."
13 May, 2019
Australia faces 'world-first' climate change human rights case - Aljazeera link here
"Torres Strait Islanders say Australia's failure to tackle climate change puts their homeland and culture in danger.
Indigenous people from the low-lying Torres Strait Islands off Australia's northeast coast will file a landmark complaint with the United Nations on Monday, accusing the government of breaching their human rights by failing to tackle climate change.
The eight Torres Strait Islanders will tell the UN Human Rights Committee in the Swiss city of Geneva that rising seas caused by global warming are threatening their homelands and culture, according to lawyers representing the group.
ClientEarth, an environmental law non-profit organisation that is backing the case, said it was the first to be lodged with the UN linking alleged government inaction on climate change to the violation of human rights."
13 May, 2019
Mariana Trench: Deepest-ever sub dive finds plastic bag - BBC News link here
"An American explorer has found plastic waste on the seafloor while breaking the record for the deepest ever dive.
Victor Vescovo descended nearly 11km (seven miles) to the deepest place in the ocean - the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench.
He spent four hours exploring the bottom of the trench in his submersible, built to withstand the immense pressure of the deep.
He found sea creatures, but also found a plastic bag and sweet wrappers.
... Humanity's impact on the planet was also evident with the discovery of plastic pollution. It's something that other expeditions using landers have seen before.
Millions of tonnes of plastic enter the oceans each year, but little is known about where a lot of it ends up.
The scientists now plan to test the creatures they collected to see if they contain microplastics - a recent study found this was a widespread problem, even for animals living in the deep."
09 May, 2019
India's pollution is killing millions, yet it's not a poll agenda - Aljazeera link here
"Climate change appears in poll manifestos of leading parties for the first time, but experts say it's not enough
...India, the world's fastest growing economy, is currently holding its seven-phase general elections. Over 900 million eligible voters are expected to cast their votes in the elections, which end on May 19.
While a number of national issues, including issues of national security and economy, have been in the headlines throughout the ongoing elections, there is barely any discussion over the country's pollution crisis in the campaigns.
India's toxic air claimed 1.24 million lives in 2017 - 12.5 percent of total deaths recorded that year in the country, according to a study published in Lancet Planetary Health. The study said more Indians died due to pollution than cancer, tuberculosis, AIDS and diabetes put together.
The 2018 Global Environmental Performance Index placed India at 177 out of 180 countries, down more than 20 spots from 155 in 2014.
In March this year, another study showed that India is home to 15 of the world's 20 most polluted cities. All four satellite cities surrounding New Delhi - Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Noida - figured in the top six while the national capital itself, home to nearly 30 million people, was placed at 11 out of 20.
Yet, Indian politicians seeking a place in India's 543-member lower house of parliament hardly ever talk about the deadly pollution around them in their campaign speeches.
"Pollution is not an issue for political parties because these leaders are not affected by it. The prime minister's residence is spread across hectares and is full of greenery. What problem is he facing due to air pollution?" asked Priya, who goes by her first name."
08 May, 2019
Only a third of world’s great rivers remain free flowing, analysis finds - The Guardian link here
"Dams, levees, hydropower and habitat degradation behind fragmentation on huge scale, finds global assessment.
Only a third of the world’s great rivers remain free flowing, due to the impact of dams that are drastically reducing the benefits healthy rivers provide people and nature, according to a global analysis.
Billions of people rely on rivers for water, food and irrigation, but from the Danube to the Yangtze most large rivers are fragmented and degraded. Untouched rivers are largely confined to remote places such as the Arctic and Amazonia.
The assessment, the first to tackle the subject on a worldwide level, examined 12m kilometres of rivers and found that just 90 of the 246 rivers more than 1,000km (621 miles) long flowed without interruption."
06 May, 2019
Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth's natural life - The Guardian link here
"Scientists reveal 1 million species at risk of extinction in damning UN report
Human society is in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems, the world’s leading scientists have warned, as they announced the results of the most thorough planetary health check ever undertaken.
From coral reefs flickering out beneath the oceans to rainforests desiccating into savannahs, nature is being destroyed at a rate tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10m years, according to the UN global assessment report.
The biomass of wild mammals has fallen by 82%, natural ecosystems have lost about half their area and a million species are at risk of extinction – all largely as a result of human actions, said the study, compiled over three years by more than 450 scientists and diplomats.
Two in five amphibian species are at risk of extinction, as are one-third of reef-forming corals, and close to one-third of other marine species. The picture for insects – which are crucial to plant pollination – is less clear, but conservative estimates suggest at least one in 10 are threatened with extinction and, in some regions, populations have crashed. In economic terms, the losses are jaw-dropping. Pollinator loss has put up to $577bn (£440bn) of crop output at risk, while land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of global land.
The knock-on impacts on humankind, including freshwater shortages and climate instability, are already “ominous” and will worsen without drastic remedial action, the authors said.
“The health of the ecosystems on which we and other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” said Robert Watson, the chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Ibpes). “We have lost time. We must act now.”"
04 May, 2019
Cyclone Fani: 3 dead in India and Bangladesh, millions evacuated - Aljazeera News link here
"One of the biggest storms to hit the Indian Ocean tears down trees, cuts off power and water amid a massive evacuation.
A powerful cyclone has lashed coastal areas of eastern India with torrential rain and winds gusting up to 200km an hour, killing at least three people and forcing a million others to look for safe shelters.
...The state evacuated more than a million people from the most vulnerable communities along the low-lying coast during the past 24 hours, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said on Twitter."
03 May, 2019
'Low rains, a heatwave. Then floods': Bad harvest pushes North Korea to the brink - The Guardian link here
"Millions of North Koreans are being forced to rely on meagre rations after the nation's worst harvest in a decade.
The country is 1.36m tonnes of food short following a series of weather disasters, compounded by longstanding international sanctions.
A UN assessment found North Koreans had been surviving on just 300g (10.5 oz) of food a day so far this year.
In previous years rations have been cut so low only during the "lean season" - the last few months before harvest.
About 70% of the North Korean population rely on food rations, according to UN figures. They have fallen from 550g in early January to 300g per person. There are fears they could be cut further before the next harvest, which is still six months away.
"It used to be they only reached this low level in July, August, and September," said Mario Zappacosta, a senior economist at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), who visited North Korea last month.
"If the international community does not take action somehow, and quickly, there are some social groups who will suffer - the kids, the pregnant women, lactating mothers," he said."
03 May, 2019
'Biodiversity crisis is about to put humanity at risk, UN scientists to warn' - The Guardian link here
"‘We are in trouble if we don’t act,’ say experts, with up to 1m species at risk of annihilation
The world’s leading scientists will warn the planet’s life-support systems are approaching a danger zone for humanity when they release the results of the most comprehensive study of life on Earth ever undertaken.
Up to 1m species are at risk of annihilation, many within decades, according to a leaked draft of the global assessment report, which has been compiled over three years by the UN’s leading research body on nature.
The 1,800-page study will show people living today, as well as wildlife and future generations, are at risk unless urgent action is taken to reverse the loss of plants, insects and other creatures on which humanity depends for food, pollination, clean water and a stable climate."
02 May, 2019
‘Do it now’: UK must set zero-carbon target for 2050, say official advisers - The Guardian link here
"Committee says legally binding target is necessary, achievable and could spur global action.
The UK government must immediately set a legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, its official advisers have said, signalling an end to the nation’s role in driving climate change.
Doing so will be challenging, said the Committee on Climate Change, meaning the end of petrol and diesel cars and gas boilers, less meat on plates, quadrupling clean electricity generation and planting an estimated 1.5bn trees.
It will require tens of billions of pounds of investment every year, the CCC said – about 1-2% of Britain’s GDP. But not acting would be far more costly and the changes would deliver a cleaner and healthier society, the advisers said, as well as potentially bolstering the UK economy and jobs.
The CCC’s request for urgent action comes after Labour, Scottish National party and the Welsh assembly declared a climate emergency. It also follows a week of high-profile protests by the Extinction Rebellion group and Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who inspired the global school strikes, telling the UK government that its support for fossil fuels and airport expansion is “beyond absurd”.
The UK is forecast to miss existing carbon targets in 2025 and 2030. Hitting zero emissions in 2050 will require a leap in the ambition of government policy, particularly on heating and transport.
The zero emissions goal would fulfil the pledge made by the UK when it signed the Paris agreement in 2015 to limit the rise in global temperature to as close to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels as possible. In October, the world’s scientists warned of severe global impacts above this rise.
The CCC target includes flying and shipping and all greenhouse gases, and allows no offsetting of emissions abroad, making it the toughest of any major economy. The CCC said it could prove a vital catalyst in unlocking matching pledges from other countries. The current plans of the world’s nations would lead to 3C of warming and catastrophic damage.
The CCC’s recommendation was welcomed by many politicians, business leaders, energy and water companies, doctors and farmers. Some green groups, including WWF, called for zero emissions by 2045, while Extinction Rebellion activists have said 2025. The CCC said the 2050 date could be brought forward if good progress was made.
The former environment secretary John Gummer, now Lord Deben, the chair of the CCC, said the zero emissions target for 2050 must be passed into law immediately. “We [must] do it now. The urgency is not just a matter of a shortness of time, but the quicker you do it, the cheaper it is.”
Referring to the climate protests, he added: “Recent events have shown how strongly people feel.”
Chris Stark, the chief executive of the CCC, said planning to cut emissions rapidly could begin as soon as the zero emissions target was set. “I would like to see it happen as soon as possible, preferably before the big UN summit in September,” he added.
António Guterres, the UN secretary general, is demanding nations bring ambitious pledges to that summit to deliver the action needed.
01 May, 2019
UK Parliament declares climate change emergency -BBC News link here
"MPs have approved a motion to declare an environment and climate emergency.
This proposal, which demonstrates the will of the Commons on the issue but does not legally compel the government to act, was approved without a vote.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who tabled the motion, said it was "a huge step forward".
Environment Secretary Michael Gove acknowledged there was a climate "emergency" but did not back Labour's demands to declare one.
The declaration of an emergency was one of the key demands put to the government by environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion, in a series of protests over recent weeks.
Addressing climate protesters from the top of a fire engine in Parliament Square earlier, Mr Corbyn said: "This can set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the globe.
"We pledge to work as closely as possible with countries that are serious about ending the climate catastrophe and make clear to US President Donald Trump that he cannot ignore international agreements and action on the climate crisis." "
06 April, 2019
'Toxic air will shorten children's lives by 20 months, study reveals ' - The Guardian link here
"The life expectancy of children born today will be shortened by 20 months on average by breathing the toxic air that is widespread across the globe, with the greatest toll in south Asia, according to a major study.
Air pollution contributed to nearly one in every 10 deaths in 2017, making it a bigger killer than malaria and road accidents and comparable to smoking, according to the State of Global Air (SOGA) 2019 study published on Wednesday."
21 February, 2019
'Climate change 'cause of most under-reported humanitarian crises' Report says few headlines sparked by food crises that ravaged Madagascar, Ethiopia and Haiti' - The Guardian link here
"Climate change was responsible for the majority of under-reported humanitarian disasters last year, according to analysis of more than a million online news stories.
Whole populations were affected by food crises in countries ravaged by by drought and hurricanes such as Ethiopia and Haiti, yet neither crisis generated more than 1,000 global news stories each.
In Madagascar, more than a million people went hungry as corn, cassava and rice fields withered under drought and severe El Niño conditions. Almost half the country’s children have been stunted, but their suffering sparked few headlines.
Sven Harmeling, the climate change lead for Care International, which commissioned the report, said: “Not only are the people who live in the world’s poorest countries most vulnerable to climate change, but they are also the least equipped to address its increasing impacts. Media must not turn a blind eye to such crises and the role of climate change.”
Asad Rehman, the executive director of War on Want, blamed a “climate change reporting that prefers pictures of polar bears to those we are killing with our inaction"
10 February, 2019
'Plummeting insect numbers 'threaten collapse of nature' - The Guardian link here
“The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.
More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.”
02 February, 2019
Skeptics Are Being Recruited for an "Adversarial" Review of Climate Science - Scientific American link here
A proposed presidential committee would scrutinize research showing climate change is a national security risk
"The White House is recruiting researchers who reject the scientific consensus on climate change for its “adversarial” review of the issue. The proposal to form a “Presidential Committee on Climate Security” at the National Security Council has shifted, into an ad-hoc group that will review climate science out of the public eye. Those involved in the preliminary discussions said it is focused on recruiting academics to conduct a review of the science that shows climate change presents a national security risk. William Happer, a senior director at the NSC and an emeritus Princeton University physics professor not trained in climate science, is leading the effort.
Among those who have been contacted are the relatively small number of researchers with legitimate academic credentials who question the notion that humans are warming the planet at a rapid pace through the burning of fossil fuels. A number of the names the White House is targeting are those frequently invited by Republicans to testify at congressional hearings on climate change where uncertainty is emphasized. The stated goal of the committee, according to a leaked White House memo, is to conduct “adversarial scientific peer review” of climate science.
... On Friday, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway would not comment on why the administration was challenging the science of its own agencies. “Do you have an articulate, competent question?” she said—and then refused to answer any questions about the meeting."
22 January, 2019
'World's richest 1% get 82% of the wealth', says Oxfam - BBC News link here
The gap between the super rich and the rest of the world widened last year as wealth continued to be owned by a small minority, Oxfam has claimed.
Some 82% of money generated last year went to the richest 1% of the global population while the poorest half saw no increase at all, the charity said.
Oxfam said its figures - which critics have queried - showed a failing system.
It blamed tax evasion, firms' influence on policy, erosion of workers' rights, and cost cutting for the widening gap.
Oxfam has produced similar reports for the past five years. In 2017 it calculated that the world's eight richest individuals had as much wealth as the poorest half of the world.
This year, it said 42 people now had as much wealth as the poorest half, but it revised last year's figure to 61. Oxfam said the revision was due to improved data and said the trend of "widening inequality" remained."
11 December, 2018
‘More Glaciers in East Antarctica Are Waking Up’ - NASA Earth Observatory link here
“If the thick ice cover over East Antarctica were to melt, it would reshape coastlines around the world through rising sea levels. But scientists have long considered the eastern half of the continent to be more stable than West Antarctica. Now new maps of ice velocity and elevation show that a group of glaciers spanning one-eighth of the East Antarctic coast have been losing some ice over the past decade.
Glaciologists have warned in recent years that Totten Glacier—the fastest moving ice in East Antarctica—appears to be retreating due to warming ocean waters. Totten contains enough ice to raise sea level by at least 3.4 meters (11 feet). Researchers have now found that four glaciers to the west of Totten, plus a handful of smaller glaciers farther east, are also losing ice.”
28 November, 2018
'Global food system is broken, say world’s science academies' - The Guardian link here
“Radical overhaul in farming and consumption, with less meat eating, needed to avoid hunger and climate catastrophe. The global food system is broken, leaving billions of people either underfed or overweight and driving the planet towards climate catastrophe, according to 130 national academies of science and medicine across the world. Providing a healthy, affordable, and environmentally friendly diet for all people will require a radical transformation of the system, says the report by the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP). This will depend on better farming methods, wealthy nations consuming less meat and countries valuing food which is nutritious rather than cheap. The report, which was peer reviewed and took three years to compile, sets out the scale of the problems as well as evidence-driven solutions. The global food system is responsible for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all emissions from transport, heating, lighting and air conditioning combined. The global warming this is causing is now damaging food production through extreme weather events such as floods and droughts.”
28 November, 2018
'Climate change already a health emergency, say experts' - The Guardian link here
“People’s health is being damaged today by climate change through effects ranging from deadly heatwaves in Europe to rising dengue fever in the tropics, according to a report. Billions of hours of farmwork has been lost during high temperatures and global warming has damaged the ability to grow crops, it said.
The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change was produced by 150 experts from 27 universities and institutions including the World Health Organization and the World Bank. “The findings are clear and the stakes could not be higher,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general. “We cannot delay action on climate change. We cannot sleepwalk through this health emergency any longer.”
14 November, 2018
'Is An Oil Supply Crunch Inevitable?' - NASDAQ link here
"Global oil demand will peak by 2040, according to a new report, although oil supply shortages could emerge before then.
... On the supply side, the U.S. accounts for about three-quarters of the increase in global oil production through 2025, an astounding figure. But shale starts to fade in terms of importance after that date, with OPEC regaining its position as the main source of supply growth.
In fact, the IEA said that even as U.S. shale continues to grow, there is a danger in the oil market becoming overly dependent on shale. After the oil price crash in 2014, the oil industry severely cut back on spending. That has translated it into fewer discoveries and fewer new projects being developed.
... Overall, the IEA’s message is that oil demand will grow in the medium-term before flattening out and ultimately hitting a peak by 2040. But in the interim, the shortfall in spending by oil companies could translate into a supply shortage in the mid-2020s."
13 November, 2018
'Oil Market Reliance on U.S. Shale Potential Is Risky, IEA Says' - Blombergy link here
"There’s a risk the world is becoming too reliant on the rapid growth of U.S. shale oil, its foremost energy adviser has warned.
Without a raft of new approvals for non-shale projects, oil production from U.S. shale plays must more than triple by 2025, to an eye-popping 15 million barrels a day, to satisfy global demand, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest World Energy Outlook.
That’s as upstream projects, including large deepwater developments and those targeting sandstone reservoirs onshore, have been affected by the industry only just emerging from a worst-in-a-generation slump.
The trouble is, it’s unlikely shale can grow to that extent. Even if producers are able to overcome infrastructure bottlenecks that have muted growth this year, they’d need to invest far more and bring in a higher number of rigs than they did when oil prices peaked at $115 a barrel in 2014."
13 November, 2018
'World has no capacity to absorb new fossil fuel plants, warns IEA' - The Guardian link here
30 October, 2018
‘Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds’ - The Guardian link here
"Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilisation. The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by WWF and involving 59 scientists from across the globe. It finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else."
08 October, 2018
‘Little-noticed treaty could help delay climate catastrophe’ - The Guardian link here
“2016 Kigali amendment on hydrofluorocarbons could reduce warming by a small but crucial 0.5C.”
08 October, 2018
‘Australian government backs coal in defiance of IPCC climate warning’ - The Guardian link here
“The Australian government has rejected the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report’s call to phase out coal power by 2050, claiming renewable energy cannot replace baseload coal power.
The deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, said Australia should “absolutely” continue to use and exploit its coal reserves, despite the IPCC’s dire warnings the world has just 12 years to avoid climate change catastrophe.”
08 October, 2018
‘We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN’ - The Guardian link here
“The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.”
17 August, 2018
'New Arctic Lakes Could Soon Be a Major Source of Atmospheric Methane' - NASA link here
“For centuries, a massive store of carbon has been locked underground in the Arctic's permanently frozen soil known as permafrost. As Earth's climate continues to warm, that carbon has begun to leach into the atmosphere, the result of microbes waking up and digesting once-frozen organic materials.
A new NASA-funded study focuses on a mechanism that could accelerate the release of this atmospheric carbon, the result of thermokarst lakes. These lakes form when thawing permafrost causes the ground to slump, creating a depression that collects rain and snowmelt and perpetuates a cycle of further permafrost thaw.”
30 July, 2018
‘America spends over $20bn per year on fossil fuel subsidies. Abolish them’ - The Guardian link here
12 July, 2018
‘Ireland set to sell off €318 million investments in fossil fuels’ - The Irish Times link here
"New bill will see State become first country in the world to divest from fossil fuel assets. Ireland is set to become the first country in the world to divest public money from fossil fuel assets following a landmark vote in the Dáil on Thursday. The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill, introduced by independent TD Thomas Pringle, will compel the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) to sell off its investments in the global fossil fuel industry, which as of June 2017, stood at €318 million, across 150 companies worldwide."
14 June, 2018
‘Antarctica had lost three trillion tonnes of ice in less than three decades’ - NZ Herald link here
13 June, 2018
‘Sea level rise due to Antarctic ice melt has ‘tripled over past five years’ - CarbonBrief link here
The rate of sea level rise resulting from the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet has tripled over the past five years, according to new research from a global team of scientists. The study, published in Nature, finds that ice loss from Antarctica has caused sea levels to rise by 7.6mm from 1992-2017, with two fifths of this increase occurring since 2012. At a press conference held in London, scientists said the results suggest that Antarctica has become “one of the largest contributors to sea level rise”. A glaciologist not involved in the paper tells Carbon Brief that the findings show “there now should be no doubt that Antarctica is losing ice due to regional climate change, likely linked to global warming”.
05 April, 2018
‘EA accused of undermining global shift from fossil fuels’ - The Guardian link here
“Highly critical study warns projections used by the organisation tasked with leading the switch to clean energy remain skewed towards oil and gas and may break climate targets of Paris agreement.”
02 April, 2018
‘EPA Moves To Weaken Landmark Fuel Efficiency Rules’ - National Public Radio (NPR) link here
"The Trump Administration today moved to weaken fuel economy standards for automobiles, saying the current ones are inappropriate and wrong. The long-anticipated move is a win for auto manufacturers, which had lobbied for lower fuel-economy standards. It's also a rejection of one of former President Barack Obama's biggest efforts to combat climate change by curbing greenhouse gas emissions. In making the announcement, Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, accused Obama of making incorrect assumptions when setting the standards, which led to them being set "too high." The Obama administration, working with California, aimed to nearly double the fleet wide average fuel economy for passenger cars and SUVs to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025."
27 March, 2018
'Arctic warming: scientists alarmed by 'crazy' temperature rises' - The Guardian link here
“Record warmth in the Arctic this month could yet prove to be a freak occurrence, but experts warn the warming event is unprecedented.
An alarming heatwave in the sunless winter Arctic is causing blizzards in Europe and forcing scientists to reconsider even their most pessimistic forecasts of climate change. Although it could yet prove to be a freak event, the primary concern is that global warming is eroding the polar vortex, the powerful winds that once insulated the frozen north.”
12 March, 2018
'Hotter, Drier, Hungrier: How Global Warming Punishes the World’s Poorest' - New York Times link here
12 February, 2018
'The EPA debunked Administrator Pruitt’s latest climate misinformation' - The Guardian link here
“Last week, a Las Vegas news station interviewed Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. The interviewer brought up the topic of climate change, and virtually everything Pruitt said in response was wrong, and was often refuted on his own agency’s website, until he started deleting it.”
16 January, 2018
‘Huge oil spill left after burning tanker sinks off China’ - BBC News link here
“Chinese ships are racing to clean up a giant oil spill after an Iranian tanker sank in the East China Sea. The 120 sq km (46 sq mile) oil slick is thought to be made up of heavy fuel that was used to power the vessel. The Sanchi oil tanker sank on Sunday and officials say all its crew members are dead. It was carrying 136,000 tonnes of ultra-light crude oil from Iran which generates a toxic underwater slick that would be invisible from the surface. Both the fuel and the ultra-light oil could cause devastating damage to marine life. The Sanchi and a cargo ship collided 260km (160 miles) off Shanghai on 6 January, with the tanker then drifting south-east towards Japan. It caught fire after the collision and burnt for more than a week before sinking off China's east coast.”
01 December, 2017
'History in the making': World's biggest battery launched in Australia as Elon Musk beats 100-day deadline' - NZ Herald link here
01 December, 2017
'Zero tolerance' plan eyed for plastic pollution’ - BBC News link here
29 November, 2017
‘New study uncovers the 'keystone domino' strategy of climate denial: How climate denial blogs misinform so many people with such poor scientific arguments' - The Guardian link here
21 November, 2017
'Drowning in Garbage: The world produces more than 3.5 million tons of garbage a day — and that figure is growing' - The Washington Post link here
19 November, 2017
‘US general says he would resist 'illegal’ Trump nuclear strike order’ - The Guardian link here
24 October, 2017
UK is 30-40 years away from 'eradication of soil fertility', warns Gove - The Guardian link here
Farmers must be incentivised to tackle decline in biodiversity, says environment secretary at launch of parliamentary soil body
"The UK is 30 to 40 years away from “the fundamental eradication of soil fertility” in parts of the country, the environment secretary Michael Gove has warned.
“We have encouraged a type of farming which has damaged the earth,” Gove told the parliamentary launch of the Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA). “Countries can withstand coups d’état, wars and conflict, even leaving the EU, but no country can withstand the loss of its soil and fertility.
“If you have heavy machines churning the soil and impacting it, if you drench it in chemicals that improve yields but in the long term undercut the future fertility of that soil, you can increase yields year on year but ultimately you really are cutting the ground away from beneath your own feet. Farmers know that.”
... There has been a spike in awareness of the impact that intensive farming techniques are having on the world’s soils and its biodiversity. In 2014 Sheffield University researchers said that UK farm soils only had 100 harvests left in them, and a year later a UN spokesperson warned that at current rates of degradation, the world’s topsoil could be gone within 60 years. “It feels as if soil is now a hot topic,” said Helen Browning, head of the Soil Association. Meanwhile a new German study has revealed that numbers of flying insects have fallen by up to three quarters. Intensive farming techniques that encourage the heavy use of fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides are believed to be major factors in these problems.
The UK has a poor record in this area. The government has not been conducting regular soil monitoring since the last Countryside Survey in 2007, and in 2012 UK ministers helped block a critical EU soil health directive. Even a year ago, experts such as Peter Stevenson at Compassion in World Farming felt there was no real appetite for reform of intensive farming."
13 October, 2017
‘Ozone layer recovery could be delayed by 30 years’ - BBC News link here
"Rising global emissions of some chlorine-containing chemicals could slow the progress made in healing the ozone layer. A study found the substances, widely used for paint stripping and in the manufacture of PVC, are increasing much faster than previously thought. Mainly produced in China, these compounds are not currently regulated. Experts say their continued use could set back the closing of the ozone hole by up to 30 years."
19 September, 2017
'Category 5 Hurricane Maria is a disaster scenario for Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands; Jose to brush by New England' - The Washington Post link here
12 September, 2017
‘Hurricane Irma: Pope Francis condemns climate change sceptics’ - BBC News link here
“Pope Francis has warned history will judge world leaders who do not act as he blasted climate change sceptics in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
The pontiff said the recent storms meant the effects of climate change could be seen "with your own eyes".
There have been four major Atlantic hurricanes in less than three weeks.
But US Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt said it was an inappropriate time to discuss what role climate change may have played.
Mr Pruitt - who has previously said he "would not agree" carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming - told CNN current speculation "on the cause and effect of the storm... is misplaced".
Instead, Mr Pruitt said the conversation should be focused on the clean up effort.”
10 September, 2017
‘China to ban petrol and diesel cars, state media reports’ - The Guardian link here
06 September, 2017
‘Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals’ - The Guardian link here
05 September, 2017
'Eye of a monster: Terrifying images of Hurricane Irma, 2017’s strongest storm on Earth' - Washington Post link here
29 August, 2017
‘Why did we use leaded petrol for so long?’ - BBC News link here
21 August, 2017
'Coal Mining Health Study Is Halted by Interior Department' - New York Times link here
“The Interior Department has ordered a halt to a scientific study begun under President Obama of the public health risks of mountaintop-removal coal mining.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which was conducting the study, said in a statement Monday that they were ordered to stop work because the Interior Department is conducting an agencywide budgetary review.”
07 August, 2017
'US federal department is censoring use of term 'climate change', emails reveal' The Guardian link here
25 July, 2017
'Britain to ban sale of all diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040' - The Guardian link here
19 July, 2017
‘Plastic pollution risks 'near permanent contamination of natural environment' - The Guardian link here
06 July, 2017
‘France to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040’ - The Guardian link here
20 June, 2017
‘Fisticuffs Over the Route to a Clean-Energy Future’ - New York Times link here
07 June, 2017
Germany’s highest court rules nuclear fuel tax unconstitutional - World Nuclear News link here
02 June, 2017
Responses to Donald Trump quitting Paris Climate Agreement
‘Top CEOs to Trump: You're wrong on climate change’ - YouTube link here
EU to bypass Trump administration after Paris climate agreement pullout - The Guardian link here
“The European Union has rejected Donald Trump’s offer to renegotiate the Paris climate agreement and pledged instead to bypass Washington to work with US business leaders and state governors to implement the historic accord’s commitments. ...”
Trump got climate change almost entirely wrong in his Paris speech - Vice News link here
01 June, 2017
Donald Trump confirms US will quit Paris climate agreement - The Guardian link here
23 May, 2017
Family planning and educating girls would reduce CO2 emissions by 120 gigatons by 2050 - more than onshore and offshore wind power combined - Population Matters website link here
“Analysis undertaken for a comprehensive new plan to reverse global warming, Drawdown, has identified family planning and educating girls as among the top 10 workable solutions available today. Together, they would reduce CO2 emissions by 120 gigatons by 2050 — more than onshore and offshore wind power combined.
Drawdown is the point in time when greenhouse gas concentrations peak in the atmosphere and begin to go down on a year-to-year basis. The Drawdown project is an international effort, involving 70 research fellows from 22 countries and six continents. The nonprofit organisation is a coalition of scholars, scientists and advocates from across the globe that is modeling, and communicating about a collective array of substantive solutions to global warming, with the goal of reaching drawdown.”
17 March, 2017
Carbon dioxide emissions from energy have not increased for three years in a row even as the global economy grew according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) - The Guardian link here
08 March, 2017
The South African government has lost the country’s first climate change lawsuit after the hight court ruled against its plans for a coal-fired power station, the latest in a rising tide of international climate litigation - The Guardian link here
07 March, 2017
London's toxic smog triggers business action against illegal air - Bloomberg link here
06 March, 2017
China vows new steel, coal capacity cuts to make sky blue - Reuters link here
13 February, 2017
'Extraordinary' levels of pollutants found in 10km deep Mariana trench - The Guardian link here
"Presence of manmade chemicals in most remote place on planet shows nowhere is safe from human impact, say scientists,
Scientists have discovered “extraordinary” levels of toxic pollution in the most remote and inaccessible place on the planet – the 10km deep Mariana trench in the Pacific Ocean.
Small crustaceans that live in the pitch-black waters of the trench, captured by a robotic submarine, were contaminated with 50 times more toxic chemicals than crabs that survive in heavily polluted rivers in China.
“We still think of the deep ocean as being this remote and pristine realm, safe from human impact, but our research shows that, sadly, this could not be further from the truth,” said Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University in the UK, who led the research.
“The fact that we found such extraordinary levels of these pollutants really brings home the long-term, devastating impact that mankind is having on the planet,” he said.
Jamieson’s team identified two key types of severely toxic industrial chemicals that were banned in the late 1970s, but do not break down in the environment, known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These chemicals have previously been found at high levels in Inuit people in the Canadian Arctic and in killer whales and dolphins in western Europe."
22 November, 2016
Open Letter to President-elect Donald Trump on Climate Change from Mayors of 71 small and large American cities - Medium link here
“Dear President-elect Trump,
As Mayors, we have taken it upon ourselves to take bold action within our cities to tackle the climate crisis head-on. We write today to ask for your partnership in our work to clean our air, strengthen our economy, and ensure that our children inherit a nation healthier and better prepared for the future than it is today.
We lead 71 small and large American cities, comprising over 38 million Americans in both blue and red states. We have joined together in the U.S. Mayors’ National Climate Action Agenda (MNCAA), or the #ClimateMayors, in addressing the greatest challenge of our time, climate change. Each of our cities is committing to ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, set climate action, regularly report on our progress, share lessons and hold each other accountable. Around the globe, cities are working together through organizations like C40 as well. ...”
19 November, 2016
Climate vs. Donald Trump - Chatham House: The Royal Institute of International Affairs News link here
24 June, 2015
Dutch court orders state to reduce emissions by 25% within five years to protect its citizens from climate change in world’s first climate liability suit - The Guardian link here
14 March, 2014
NASA-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for irreversible collapse? - The Guardian link here
31 March, 2011
Sustainable Development Commission, UK Government's independent adviser on sustainable development, held the Government to account to ensure the needs of society, the economy and the environment were properly balanced in the decisions it made and the way it ran itself. The Commission was closed on 31 March 2011 - Link to archived website here
08 March, 2008
'Fear of Fallowing: The Spectre of a no-growth world' by Steven Stoll in Harpers Magazine with quote from Robert Solow, Nobel Prize in economics in 1987 for innovations in growth theory - Harper Magazine link here
"There is no reason at all why capitalism could not survive without slow or even no growth.... I think it's perfectly possible that economic growth cannot go on at its current rate forever. This does not mean that productivity will cease to increase our quality of life; it means that people might find it increasingly costly to tum productivity into the kinds of things they are now accustomed to buying with their earnings. ..It is possible that the United States and Europe will find that, as the decades go by, either continued growth will be too destructive to the environment and they are too dependent on scarce natural resources, or that they would rather use increasing productivity in the form of leisure .... There is nothing intrinsic in the system that says it cannot exist happily in a stationary state"