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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Top 1% of EU households have carbon footprints 22 times larger than climate targets allow

from Diana Ivanova and Richard Wood, writing for The Conversation:

https://theconversation.com/top-1-of-eu-households-have-carbon-footprints-22-times-larger-than-climate-targets-allow-142357

Image result for Europe from Space

To keep global warming below 1.5°C, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 2.5 tonnes of CO₂ per person per year by 2030. But we recently analysed more than 275,000 household budget surveys from 26 countries for an academic study, and we found that only about 5% of EU households live within these limits.

Scientists aren’t certain exactly how much fossil fuel we can use and still remain below 1.5°C – that is, how big the world’s remaining carbon budget is – but it’s clear the vast majority of EU citizens are using far more than their fair share. In the EU, the average carbon footprint is equivalent to about eight tonnes of CO₂ per person, which must fall to about a third of that level over the next decade.

Consumption patterns of the top polluters

So who are these top emitters? We know they’re relatively wealthy, though perhaps not private-jet wealthy. Their annual net income is around €40,000 per person on average.

But some people place even greater pressure on the environment. Households in the top 1% of polluters in the EU have carbon footprints that are 22 times larger than the safe limit of 2.5 tonnes. On average, people in this group emit greenhouse gases equivalent to 55 tonnes of CO₂ per person per year.

Meanwhile, the top 10% of polluters in the EU account for 27% of the total EU carbon footprint, a greater contribution than that of the bottom 50%. These stark differences in carbon footprints are rooted in the things people buy and consume.

What do the top emitters consume that produces so much waste? One of the biggest culprits in our analysis is air travel. Regular flights are responsible for 41% of the carbon footprint of the top 1% of emitters, and almost all flights taken in the EU are by the top 10% of polluters. Air travel is very unequally distributed across the population, while it is also very carbon intensive.

But air travel largely isn’t the focus of climate policies. Airlines rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic have received bailouts, while kerosene tax exemptions effectively subsidise flying, making it relatively cheap compared to other transport options.

Car travel also makes up close to a third of the carbon footprint among the top 10% of EU emitters. At the same time, poorer people spend a larger share of their wages on transport, including fuel, road tax and car insurance. Policies that increase the price of car travel, such as fuel duty rises, could hurt the poorest most if they aren’t accompanied by support for switching to cleaner alternatives such as public transport.

Traffic jam in countryside.
Too many Europeans still depend on their cars. Marian Weyo / shutterstock

But as households get richer, travel emissions grow faster than the growth in wealth. At one end of the income divide, there’s a structural reliance on cars for travelling to work and other necessities, while at the other end, people buy new cars they don’t need and travel more as they get richer. Policymakers need to stop incentivising luxuries like air travel and better address the car dependency that is most pronounced for people with lower incomes.

To reduce the need for cars, governments should provide adequate public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure. They should also help to redesign cities, increase urban density of residents and jobs and actively target social practices and business models that reinforce car reliance.

Avoiding flying, living car-free and eating a vegan diet can reduce personal carbon footprints. But the reductions are generally insufficient to meet the 2.5 tonnes carbon targets. This is largely because of fossil-fuel dependence throughout the economy.

Carbon footprints and wellbeing

As things stand, living within climate limits most often means living in inadequate conditions, with fewer opportunities to travel or buy things. This is especially true in EU countries that rely heavily on coal to generate energy, such as Estonia and Bulgaria.

But the link between carbon footprints and income is highly complex. While the wealthiest are clearly responsible for the highest emissions, Denmark and France have much lower carbon footprints for the same level of income compared with other European countries. This could be because they generate more of their electricity from nuclear and renewables. Both countries also have comparably robust welfare states, with expansive public services and public transport. This could ensure that people there have more of their basic needs met and aren’t as compelled to buy lots of stuff, as in other countries.

If 95% of EU households live beyond planetary limits, we need ambitious and radical change. Reducing the carbon intensity of global supply chains could ensure that everyone can have adequate nutrition, shelter, education, healthcare and mobility within planetary limits. Airport expansions, motorway extensions and fossil fuel subsidies are locking us into a future with less opportunity to achieve climate targets and a good standard of living for all in Europe and around the world.


This article was updated on August 28, 2020 to make it clear EU carbon footprints must fall “to” a third of their previous level, not “by a third” as previously stated.

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Climate change and health

The impacts of climate change on people’s health around the world, including deaths due to heatwaves and the consequences of food insecurity, are at their “most worrying” since an international initiative began tracking them five years ago.

All 16 indicators of the health impacts of a warming world are worsening, the recent Lancet Countdown report shows. “Climate change-induced shocks are claiming lives, damaging health and disrupting livelihoods in all parts of the world right now. That means no continent or community remains untouched,” says Ian Hamilton at University College London.
Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2261184-health-impacts-of-climate-change-have-reached-worrying-levels/#ixzz6gc4fszs5

And: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32290-X/fulltext

The Lancet, world's most credible medical journal whose trust has been hit  by HCQ scandal

Here is the Executive Summary from the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change:

Executive summary

The Lancet Countdown is an international collaboration established to provide an independent, global monitoring system dedicated to tracking the emerging health profile of the changing climate.The 2020 report presents 43 indicators across five sections: climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerabilities; adaptation, planning, and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement. This report represents the findings and consensus of the 35 leading academic institutions and UN agencies that make up The Lancet Countdown, and draws on the expertise of climate scientists, geographers, engineers, experts in energy, food, and transport, economists, social, and political scientists, data scientists, public health professionals, and doctors.

 The emerging health profile of the changing climate

5 years ago, countries committed to limit global warming to “well below 2°C” as part of the landmark Paris Agreement. 5 years on, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions continue to rise steadily, with no convincing or sustained abatement, resulting in a rise in the global average temperature of 1·2°C. Indeed, the five hottest years on record have occurred since 2015.The changing climate has already produced considerable shifts in the underlying social and environmental determinants of health at the global level. Indicators in all domains of section 1 (climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerabilities) are worsening. Concerning, and often accelerating, trends were seen for each of the human symptoms of climate change monitored, with the 2020 indicators presenting the most worrying outlook reported since The Lancet Countdown was first established.These effects are often unequal, disproportionately impacting populations who have contributed the least to the problem. This fact reveals a deeper question of justice, whereby climate change interacts with existing social and economic inequalities and exacerbates longstanding trends within and between countries. An examination of the causes of climate change revealed similar issues, and many carbon-intensive practices and policies lead to poor air quality, poor food quality, and poor housing quality, which disproportionately harm the health of disadvantaged populations.Vulnerable populations were exposed to an additional 475 million heatwave events globally in 2019, which was, in turn, reflected in excess morbidity and mortality (indicator 1.1.2). During the past 20 years, there has been a 53·7% increase in heat-related mortality in people older than 65 years, reaching a total of 296 000 deaths in 2018 (indicator 1.1.3). The high cost in terms of human lives and suffering is associated with effects on economic output, with 302 billion h of potential labour capacity lost in 2019 (indicator 1.1.4). India and Indonesia were among the worst affected countries, seeing losses of potential labour capacity equivalent to 4–6% of their annual gross domestic product (indicator 4.1.3). In Europe in 2018, the monetised cost of heat-related mortality was equivalent to 1·2% of regional gross national income, or the average income of 11 million European citizens (indicator 4.1.2).Turning to extremes of weather, advancements in climate science allow for greater accuracy and certainty in attribution; studies from 2015 to 2020 have shown the fingerprints of climate change in 76 floods, droughts, storms, and temperature anomalies (indicator 1.2.3). Furthermore, there was an increase in the number of days people were exposed to a very high or extremely high risk of wildfire between 2001–04 and 2016–19 in 114 countries (indicator 1.2.1). Correspondingly, 67% of global cities surveyed expected climate change to seriously compromise their public health assets and infrastructure (indicator 2.1.3).The changing climate has downstream effects, impacting broader environmental systems, which in turn harm human health. Global food security is threatened by rising temperatures and increases in the frequency of extreme events; global yield potential for major crops declined by 1·8–5·6% between 1981 and 2019 (indicator 1.4.1). The climate suitability for infectious disease transmission has been growing rapidly since the 1950s, with a 15·0% increase for dengue caused by Aedes albopictus in 2018, and regional increases for malaria and Vibrio bacteria (indicator 1.3.1). Projecting forward, based on current populations, between 145 million people and 565 million people face potential inundation from rising sea levels (indicator 1.5).Despite these clear and escalating signs, the global response to climate change has been muted and national efforts continue to fall short of the commitments made in the Paris Agreement. The carbon intensity of the global energy system has remained almost flat for 30 years, with global coal use increasing by 74% during this time (indicators 3.1.1 and 3.1.2). The reduction in global coal use that had been observed since 2013 has now reversed for the past 2 consecutive years: coal use rose by 1·7% from 2016 to 2018. The health burden is substantial—more than 1 million deaths occur every year as a result of air pollution from coal-fired power, and some 390 000 of these deaths were a result of particulate pollution in 2018 (indicator 3.3). The response in the food and agricultural sector has been similarly concerning. Emissions from livestock grew by 16% from 2000 to 2017, with 93% of emissions coming from ruminant animals (indicator 3.5.1). Likewise, increasingly unhealthy diets are becoming more common worldwide, with excess red meat consumption contributing to some 990 000 deaths in 2017 (indicator 3.5.2). 5 years on from when countries reached an agreement in Paris, a concerning number of indicators are showing an early, but sustained, reversal of previously positive trends identified in past reports (indicators 1.3.2, 3.1.2, and 4.2.3).

 A growing response from health professionals

Despite little economy-wide improvement, relative gains have been made in several key sectors: from 2010 to 2017, the average annual growth rate in renewable energy capacity was 21%, and low-carbon electricity was responsible for 28% of capacity in China in 2017 (indicator 3.1.3). However, the indicators presented in the 2020 report of The Lancet Countdown suggest that some of the most considerable progress was seen in the growing momentum of the health profession’s engagement with climate change globally. Doctors, nurses, and the broader profession have a central role in health system adaptation and mitigation, in understanding and maximising the health benefits of any intervention, and in communicating the need for an accelerated response.In the case of adaptation in national health systems, this change is underway. Impressively, health services in 86 countries are now connected with their equivalent meteorological services to assist in health adaptation planning (indicator 2.2). At least 51 countries have developed plans for national health adaptation, and global spending in health adaptation rose to 5·3% of all adaptation spending in 2018–19, reaching US$18·4 billion in 2019 (indicators 2.1.1 and 2.4).The health-care sector, which was responsible for 4·6% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2017, is taking early but important steps to reduce its own emissions (indicator 3.6). In the UK, the National Health Service has declared an ambition to deliver a net-zero health service as soon as possible, building on a decade of impressive progress in reducing delivery of care emissions by 57% since 1990, and by 22% when considering the service’s supply chain and broader responsibilities. Elsewhere, the Western Australian Department of Health used its 2016 Public Health Act to conduct Australia’s first climate and health inquiry, and the German Federal Ministry of Health has established a dedicated department on health protection and sustainability responsible for climate-related matters. This progress is becoming more evenly distributed around the world, with 73% of countries making explicit references to health and wellbeing in their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, and 100% of countries in the South-East Asia and Eastern Mediterranean regions doing so (indicator 5.4). Similarly, least-developed countries and small island developing states are providing increasing global leadership within the UN General Debate on the connections between health and climate change (indicator 5.4).Individual health professionals and their associations are also responding well, with health institutions committing to divest more than $42 billion worth of assets from fossil fuels (indicator 4.2.4). In academia, the publication of original research on health and climate changed has increased by a factor of eight from 2007 to 2019 (indicator 5.3).These shifts are being translated into the broader public discourse. From 2018 to 2019, the coverage of health and climate change in the media increased by 96% worldwide, outpacing the increased coverage of climate change overall, and reaching the highest observed point to date (indicator 5.1). Just as it did with advancements in sanitation and hygiene and with tobacco control, growing and sustained engagement from the health profession during the past 5 years is now beginning to fill a crucial gap in the global response to climate change.

 The next 5 years: a joint response to two public health crises

Dec 12, 2020, will mark the anniversary of the 2015 Paris Agreement, with countries set to update their national commitments and review these commitments every 5 years. These next 5 years will be pivotal. To reach the 1·5°C target and limit temperature rise to “well below 2°C”, the 56 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) currently emitted annually will need to drop to 25 GtCO2e within only 10 years (by 2030). In effect, this decrease will require a 7·6% reduction every year, representing an increase in current levels of national government ambition of a factor of five. Without further intervention during the next 5 years, the reductions required to achieve this target increase to 15·4% every year, moving the 1·5°C target out of reach.The need for accelerated efforts to tackle climate change during the next 5 years will be contextualised by the impacts of, and the global response to, the COVID-19 pandemic. With the loss of life from the pandemic and from climate change measured in the hundreds of thousands, the potential economic costs measured in the trillions, and the broader consequences expected to continue for years to come, the measures taken to address both of these public health crises must be carefully examined and closely linked. Health professionals are well placed to act as a bridge between the two issues, and analogically considering the clinical approach to managing a patient with COVID-19 might be useful in understanding the ways in which these two public health crises should be jointly addressed.First, in an acute setting, a high priority is placed on rapidly diagnosing and comprehensively assessing the situation. Likewise, further work is required to understand the problem, including: which populations are vulnerable to both the pandemic and to climate change; how global and national economies have reacted and adapted, and the health and environmental consequences of these actions; and which aspects of these shifts should be retained to support longer term, sustainable development. Second, appropriate resuscitation and treatment options are reviewed and administered, with careful consideration of any potential side-effects, the goals of care, and the life-long health of the patient. Economic recovery packages that prioritise outdated forms of energy and transport that are fossil fuel intensive will have unintended side-effects, unnecessarily adding to the 7 million people that die every year from air pollution. Instead, investments in health imperatives, such as renewable energy and clean air, active travel infrastructure and physical activity, and resilient and climate-smart health care, will ultimately be more effective than these outdated methods.Finally, attention turns to secondary prevention and long-term recovery, seeking to minimise the permanent effects of the disease and prevent recurrence. Many of the steps taken to prepare for unexpected shocks, such as a pandemic, are similar to those required to adapt to the extremes of weather and new threats expected from climate change. These steps include the need to identify vulnerable populations, assess the capacity of public health systems, develop and invest in preparedness measures, and emphasise community resilience and equity. Indeed, without considering the current and future impacts of climate change, efforts to prepare for future pandemics are likely to be undermined.At every step and in both cases, acting with a level of urgency proportionate to the scale of the threat, adhering to the best available science, and practising clear and consistent communications, are paramount. The consequences of the pandemic will contextualise the economic, social, and environmental policies of governments during the next 5 years, a period that is crucial in determining whether temperatures will remain “well below 2°C”. Unless the global COVID-19 recovery is aligned with the response to climate change, the world will fail to meet the target laid out in the Paris Agreement, damaging public health in the short term and long term.


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Fourteen nations commit to protect the oceans

National Geographic 7th December 2020 by Laura Parker.

Schools of sweetlips swim the Great Barrier Reef. Australia is one of the nations committing to ...
Schools of sweetlips swim the Great Barrier Reef. Australia is one of the nations committing to protect 100 percent of its ocean waters from overfishing, plastic pollution, and agricultural runoff.
Photograph by David Doubilet, National Geographic

When the heads of state of 14 nations sat down together in late 2018 to discuss the grim condition of the world’s oceans, there was no certainty that anything consequential would result. The leaders planned 14 gatherings, but met only twice before the pandemic upended their talks.

So when the group announced this week the world’s most far-reaching pact to protect and sustain ocean health, it signalled rather more than a noteworthy achievement in a complicated time. The agreement, negotiated via the nuance-free tool of video conferencing, also offered hope of a renewed era of global accord on climate, where issues grounded in science might finally trump political posturing.

Overall, the 14 leaders agreed to sustainably manage 100 percent of the oceans under their national jurisdictions by 2025—an area of ocean roughly the size of Africa. Additionally, they vowed to set aside 30 percent of the seas as marine protected areas by 2030, in keeping with the United Nations’ campaign known as “30 by 30.” (Read more about 30 by 30 here.)

Both of those large commitments, the leaders say, will help end overfishing and illegal fishing, rebuild declining fish stocks, halt the flow of plastic waste into the seas, and clean up “dead zones” created by runoff from farm waste.

“What I find really interesting is that 14 nations spent the last two years talking to each other in an experiment you’d like to see more of in the future,” says Nancy Knowlton, a marine scientist emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution, who was not involved in the project. “They are working together as a team. Starting with countries on the same page provides a mechanism for actually achieving success.”

Not the usual gang of suspects

The group of 14 looks nothing like the usual assemblage of international leaders recruited for global initiatives. France, with its vast array of overseas territories that gives it one of the planet’s largest ocean footprints, was not invited. Nor were the powerhouse players of Russia, China, or the United States.

“Negotiation with that category of country isn’t all that easy,” says Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s former Minister of Climate and Environment and the driving force behind the project. “We decided to get a group where high politics wouldn’t get in the way and we could be focused on the task.”

The idea, Helgesen says, was to gather a coalition of the willing—a like-minded group of countries with the ocean deeply embedded in their culture and history—to conduct discussions that would be underpinned by science.

Consequently, the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy includes nations large and small, rich and poor, spread across all ocean basins. All are economically dependent, to varying degrees, on the seas. The 14 members are Australia, Canada, Chile, Ghana, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Portugal, and the island nations of Fiji, Jamaica, and Palau.

Combined, they represent 40 percent of the world’s coastlines, 30 percent of the offshore exclusive economic zones, 20 percent of the world’s fisheries, and 20 percent of the world’s shipping fleet.

The 14 leaders are now inviting other nations to join the effort.

Pacific saury is in short supply off the coast of Japan. The plan toward sustainability includes ...

Pacific saury is in short supply off the coast of Japan. The plan toward sustainability includes recovering depleted fish stocks, something the world has never been able to do. Photograph by The Yomiuri Shimbun, AP

New science supports the plan

The effort was backed up by a team of 253 scientists that conducted new ocean research and published 16 authoritative papers on topics ranging from an assessment of stemming the flow of plastic waste to combating climate change. At least nine of them are being published in Nature.

“The scientific process was very rigorous,” says Boris Worm, a marine scientist at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia who served as a science advisor to the Canada delegation. “When you get together with people with diverging interests and you look at the available data together, there is less to haggle about. The data is the data. You can act together.”

The members of the High Level Panel also were willing to turn conventional thinking on its ear. Instead of considering the ocean as merely a victim of climate change—which it undoubtedly is, as it’s both warming and acidifying—the leaders say the seas should be harnessed to become part of the global solution. The key to that is to take an all-in approach—sustainably manage 100 percent of the ocean, not just the protected areas. Properly managed, the panel says, the ocean economy, including fishing, can expand.

Additionally, actions such as restoration of mangroves, kelp beds, and seagrasses that absorb carbon could help offset global emissions by as much as a fifth, and help hold global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degree Celsius), the leaders say.

“We have acted as if we had to choose between protecting the ocean or using it,” says Jane Lubchenco, who headed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the Obama Administration and co-chaired the High Level Panel’s experts committee. “That’s a false choice. We are discovering smarter ways to use the ocean without using it up. The secret lies in protecting the health of ocean ecosystems…”

She says the solutions offered by the panel could generate 40 times more renewable energy, through development of offshore wind energy production and wave and tidal power, and lift millions of people out of poverty. The panel’s economists forecast that every $1 (75p) invested in a sustainable ocean would return $5 (£3.75) in economic, social, and environmental benefits.

The solutions involve a range of 74 actions, some already in progress. New technology, for example, enables Ghana to track foreign fishing vessels lurking off its coast and crack down on illegal fishing. While the panel’s call for investment in sewage and waste management infrastructure to curb the flow of plastic waste into the seas is prohibitively expensive and unlikely to happen on a large scale in the coming decades, many developing nations have banned various single-use plastic products and others are deploying catchment systems on major rivers in Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia to capture plastic waste before it is disgorged into the seas.

Ambitious goals are hard to achieve

If the approach sounds to some like just another blue ribbon exercise in futility, the leaders say the time for small steps has passed. The ocean, which covers 70 percent of the globe and produces more than half the oxygen on Earth, has reached such a dire point of decline that more drastic action is needed. The world’s decades-long inability to rebuild dwindling fish stocks to feed a growing world population offers a timeline that strikingly illustrates the point.

Fishing reached peak catch in the mid-1990s, marking the beginning of a long decline. Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau was wrapping up his undergraduate days at McGill University in Montreal. Now, more than half his life later, 82 percent of the world’s fish stocks are considered overfished and new research shows that just 27 percent of Canada’s are considered healthy. (Last year, Canada strengthened its fisheries law, making the rebuilding of fish stocks mandatory.)

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in a special 2019 report on fragile ocean health that without action, fish could decrease by 25 percent by 2100. Only Norway and the United States have managed to rebuild fish stocks.

“No way is applying more effort to fishing going to get us more fish,” says Enric Sala, marine scientist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence.

Likewise, setting aside small slivers of ocean for protection—just seven percent of the seas are designated marine protected areas—will not restore ocean health. Even 30 percent is not considered enough.

“The goal is not to just protect a small fraction of the ocean and trash the rest, so to speak, but to be ambitious in saying 100 percent of our ocean needs to be managed so it’s not deteriorating any further,” Worm says. “And, a lot needs to be rebuilt and recovered and restored. That’s the real question here.”ReadA ‘self-destructing’ plastic has helped define a new British …Read StoryReadMicroplastics found near Everest’s peak, highest ever detecte…Read StoryReadWhere does your plastic waste end up? Read Story

What does sustainable really mean?

At the same time, the phrase “sustainably managed” is such a broad, elusive term that it opens the door wide for skepticism. Daniel Pauly, a world-renowned fisheries expert at the University of British Columbia, who was not associated with the project, praised the effort. But he remains dubious of the notion that the term “sustainably managed” has any meaningful impact.

“Most of the public doesn’t know that sustainable doesn’t mean abundant,” he says. “You can sustain any level, including low levels. You can sustain a stock that is overfished.”

On the other hand, lest skeptics dismiss the idea that just 14 of the world’s 192 coastal nations could make an impact, consider that Japan, a powerful influence in the Asian Pacific, signed on to the agreement to set aside 30 percent of the oceans in marine protected areas. The fact that Japan, which has long signalled reluctance to create protected areas, has changed course is “a big deal,”Sala says.

Now, when the UN meets next year in China to continue work on a global marine protections treaty that still eludes adoption, having Japan on board in support of marine protected areas may ease the way for other nations, including China, to reconsider. So far, China has committed to protecting 30 percent of its land, but has remained silent on ocean protections. China’s support would all but assure the 30 percent goal is met.

https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/environment-and-conservation/2020/12/in-rare-show-of-solidarity-14-key-nations-commit-to-protect

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Are the north and south poles linked?

Polar link unites far extremes of north and south

From the Climate News Network:

They are different worlds, one an ocean, the other a continent. But a polar link keeps them in touch with each other.
By Tim Radford
 
LONDON, 30 November, 2020 − The Arctic and Antarctica are literally a world apart, but for an unlikely polar link. Change in the mass of ice in the north can and does precipitate change in the furthest reaches of the southern hemisphere. According to 40,000 years of geological evidence, when the Arctic Ocean ice retreats, global sea levels rise to start washing away the sea ice around the shelf of the vast frozen continent at the other extreme of the planet, whose two hemispheres are in a kind of conversation.
 
Read the full article

 


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Pacific islands and climate change II

A while ago, I wrote a post on this website on “The effects of rising sea levels on island nations” and have regularly added more information to it, as I found information on new island groups.

I get a regular number of “hits” to the posting from Pacific Island nations and have been pleased about this as the plight of such nations is often overlooked in our modern western-focused world. Whilst doing a search to add more island nations to the posting, I came across a disturbing article by Laray Polk in the Asia-Pacific Journal:

https://apjjf.org/2018/01/Polk.html

Kili Island has suffered heavy flooding yearly since 2011.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Niedenthal)

Laray Polk’s article is entitled “American Polynesia, Rising Seas and Relocation” and concentrates on American Polynesia and the Guano islands. Shockingly, these beautiful island groups were heavily exploited by the US and UK for nuclear testing over many decades and further detail of this can be found in a book, co-authored with Noam Chomsky Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe (Seven Stories Press).

However, the Asia-Pacific Journal article provides detail on the effects of rising sea levels and climate change on these islands. Because of its importance, I will quote directly from parts of it. Here is the abstract:

Abstract: In the next 30 to 50 years, rising sea levels caused by global warming will subsume low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean. Inhabitants will have to relocate, but there are few choices. Among nations (with the exception of Fiji and New Zealand) there is little preparation for the inevitable migration of Pacific Islanders. Which nations should commit to the processes of equitable relocation? The following article will address this question through historical context and colonial occupation; current legal debates surrounding climate change and maritime migration; and the potential rights of “deterritorialized” states, such as retention of exclusive economic zones. Historical context includes an examination of U.S. insular territories in the Pacific and the continued exercise of presidential authority over island possessions.

In 1859, German geographer E. Behm named the U.S. territorial realm in the Pacific, “American Polynesia.” The term appeared in his article on guano island claims, published in Petermanns Mitteilungen.Two maps accompanied the article. (courtesy Gotha Research Library of the University of Erfurt, SPA 4° 000100 005)

Further quote:

Rate of Rising Seas

Pacific island nations and territories are at different stages of addressing the pressing issues of sea-level rise. Discussions involving retention of EEZs—and the rights and financial security maritime zones confer—represent the long game, and enters into a conceptual realm of “What is nationhood, if a nation no longer exists?” Legitimate answers to questions of this magnitude would require changes in international law, a notoriously slow process. As scientific data on climate change feedbacks demonstrate, island nations and territories need answers now.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts the oceans will rise by between 11 and 38 inches by the end of the century, with the potential to submerge low-lying islands. A report from 2016, written by former NASA scientist James Hansen and 16 co-authors, predicts that without serious mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, global sea level is likely to increase “several meters over a timescale of 50 to 150 years.”34 If less than one meter of sea-level rise has the potential to cause an island to disappear by 2100, then Hansen’s numbers portend something more urgent. The question, then, is not when will islands be submerged, but when will sea-level rise make life on low-lying islands impossible.

The answer to that question is close at hand for a number of Pacific islands. Sea-level rise increases both the frequency and magnitude of flooding caused by high tides and storms; saltwater intrusion destroys freshwater sources and the prospect of productive agriculture. Writer and filmmaker Jack Niedenthal, who lives in the Marshall Islands, says that on the island of Kili, “there have been huge changes since about 2011.” That was the first year the island was heavily flooded, and he says it’s happened every year since. Kili, which averages an elevation of 6 feet, is home to many displaced families originally from Bikini Atoll.35

The population there, he says, is trying to raise awareness of climate change with the rest of the world, but it’s challenging. “I find it stunning that there are still so many climate change deniers out there. In the Marshall Islands, we are building numerous seawalls, some very large, others are just building them with old tires and broken down cars.”

A man stands outside his home on Kili Island after a flood event in 2015. (Photo courtesy of Jack Niedenthal)
At an average elevation of 6 feet above sea level, Kili Island is frequently inundated. (Photo courtesy of Jack Niedenthal)
Mattresses stacked on a dining table during a flood event in 2015. (Photo courtesy of Jack Niedenthal)

At a climate change symposium in 2015, Fiji’s Foreign Affairs secretary Esala Nayasi explained the dilemma of Islanders succinctly: “These are people who are on the verge of losing their land that they call home, losing their critical basic necessities and infrastructure, culture, identity and traditional knowledge. This is no longer a news story, it is happening now.”

Nayasi’s sense of urgency is reflected in policy. Among nations, the Republic of Fiji is in the vanguard of relocation efforts. In 2014, the government’s climate change program assisted the village of Vunidogolo in moving to higher ground and provided the means for economic transition. The new village includes “30 houses, fish ponds and copra drier, farms and other projects.” There are 34 more villages slated for relocation within in its territory.39 Because Fiji is a combination of high and low islands, it’s geographically advantaged (though not immune to climate disruption). For other nations such as Tuvalu, comprised of nine coral atolls with a mean elevation of 2 meters, all choices look the same.

Options for relocation are limited in other ways, such as the exclusion of “climate change refugees” from the 1951 Refugee Convention. Under the convention, there are five grounds to qualify for refugee status and fleeing the catastrophic conditions caused by climate change is not one of them. It hasn’t stopped legal challenge in several recent cases in New Zealand. Asylum-seeker Ioane Teitiota from Kiribati lost his case, and was deported in 2015. Sigeo Alesana from Tuvalu had his asylum application declined, but he won his immigration case based partially on the “vulnerability of the couple’s children to illnesses as a result of poor water quality.” According to Radio New Zealand, it’s the first time climate change has been successfully used in an immigration case.40

Perhaps the biggest legal stride in New Zealand is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s recent announcement of plans for a special refugee visa for Pacific Islanders, starting with 100 places annually. “We are anchored in the Pacific,” Ardern told reporters. “Surrounding us are a number of nations, not least ourselves, who will be dramatically impacted by the effects of climate change. I see it as a personal and national responsibility to do our part.”

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Guam

I have also come across an important piece about the island of Guam, written in August 2016 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “What Climate Change means for Guam”

“In the coming decades, changes in the earth’s atmosphere are
likely to alter several aspects of life in Guam. The air and ocean are
warming, sea level is rising, and the ocean is becoming more acidic.
These changes are likely to damage or destroy much of Guam’s coral
reef ecosystems, increase damages from flooding and typhoons,
reduce the availability of fresh water during the dry season, and make
air temperatures uncomfortably hot more often than they are today.
Our planet is warming and the climate is changing. People have
increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by 40 percent
since the late 1700s. Other heat-trapping greenhouse gases are also
increasing. These gases have warmed the surface and lower atmosphere of the earth about one degree (F) during the last 50 years.
Evaporation increases as the atmosphere warms, which increases
humidity, average rainfall, and the frequency of heavy rainstorms in
many places—but contributes to drought in others.
Greenhouse gases are also changing the world’s oceans and ice
cover. Carbon dioxide reacts with water to form carbonic acid, so
the oceans are becoming more acidic. Worldwide, the surface of
the ocean has warmed about one degree during the last 80 years.
Mountain glaciers are retreating and even the great ice sheets on
Greenland and Antarctica are shrinking. Thus the sea is rising at an
increasing rate.
Climate Change and Coral Loss
Warming waters are likely to damage much of the coral around Guam.
Average water temperatures around Guam have risen more than one
degree over the last century, in addition to the year-to-year changes
associated with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (“El Niño”). Rising water
temperatures harm the algae that live inside corals and provide food for
them. The loss of algae weakens corals and can eventually kill them. This
process is commonly known as “coral bleaching” because the loss of the
algae also causes the corals to turn white. Coral bleaching is becoming
more common around Guam, including record-breaking bleaching that
has occurred throughout the western Pacific since 2013. Elevated water
temperatures also cause outbreaks of diseases that can harm or kill corals.
Increasing ocean acidity also damages corals. By changing the balance
of minerals in sea water, higher acidity decreases the ability of corals
to produce calcium carbonate, which is the primary component of their
skeletons. The Pacific Ocean has become about 25 percent more acidic in
the past three centuries, and acidity is likely to increase another
40 to 50 percent by 2100. Over the next 50 to 60 years, warming and
acidification are likely to harm coral reefs around Guam and throughout the world, and widespread loss of coral is likely.
Warming and acidification could result in widespread damage to marine
ecosystems. Guam is home to a diverse array of fish species. Sharks, rays,
grouper, snapper, and hundreds of other fish species rely on healthy coral
reefs for habitat. Reefs also protect nearshore fish nurseries and feeding
grounds. A significant fraction of reef-dwelling fish are likely to lose their
habitats by 2100. Increasing acidity would also reduce populations of
shellfish and other organisms that depend on minerals in the water to build
their skeletons and shells.
Bleached corals in the Tumon Bay Marine Preserve in 2007. Credit: Dave Burdick,
Change in sea surface temperature (°F)

Rising sea surface temperatures since 1901. The waters around Guam have
warmed by more than one degree. Source: EPA, Climate Change Indicators in the United States.
Tropical Storms
As the climate changes, typhoons may cause more damage. Guam lies
in one of the world’s most active regions for tropical storms. In 2002,
Typhoon Pongsona caused $700 million in damages, destroyed 1,300
homes, and left the island without power. In just the last few years,
neighboring islands have suffered from some of the strongest and most
damaging tropical cyclones ever recorded, including Super Typhoons
Haiyan (2013), Maysak (2015), and Soudelor (2015). Although warming
oceans provide typhoons with more potential energy, scientists are not
yet sure whether typhoons have become stronger or more frequent.
Nevertheless, wind speeds and rainfall rates during typhoons are likely to
increase as the climate continues to warm. Higher wind speeds and the
resulting damages can make insurance for wind damage more expensive
or difficult to obtain.

Rising Sea Level and Coastal Flooding
Sea level has risen by about four inches relative to Guam’s shoreline since 1993. If the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, sea level around
Guam is likely to rise one to three feet in the next century. Sea level rise
submerges low-lying areas, erodes beaches, and exacerbates coastal
flooding from typhoons and tsunamis. Coastal homes and infrastructure
will flood more often as sea level rises because storm surges will become
higher as well. Homes, businesses, roads, and the Port of Guam are
vulnerable to the impacts of storms and sea level rise.
The loss of coral reefs compounds this problem because reefs help
protect the shore from waves and storm damage. As reefs die, they lose
their structural integrity and provide less protection to the shore. If larger
waves strike the shore, beaches will erode more rapidly.
Rainfall and Water Supplies
Average rainfall in Guam has increased slightly since 1950, but scientists
are not sure whether total rainfall here will increase in the future. Nevertheless, Guam’s wet season may become wetter, while dry periods may become drier. Warmer temperatures tend to make both rainstorms and droughts more intense. Moreover, Guam’s climate tends to be dry during El Niño years and wet during La Niña years, and scientists generally
expect the differences between El Niño and La Niña years to become
greater in most places.
Inland flooding in Guam may increase as the climate changes. Heavy
rainstorms occasionally overwhelm Guam’s rivers, streams, and urban
storm drains, leading to damaging floods. Flooding is most common in the
southern part of Guam, where the local bedrock is less permeable than
the limestone in the north. This means that rainfall in the south runs off
into rivers and streams instead of filtering into the ground. Flooding during
the wet season could become worse as rainstorms become more intense.
Conversely, water may be less available in the dry season. Less rainfall
occurs during El Niño years, such as during the drought that affected the
island in 2015–2016. Thus, if the El Niño cycle becomes more intense,
less rain might fall during the dry season. Moreover, rising temperatures
increase the rate at which water evaporates (or transpires) into the air
from soils, plants, and reservoirs, which would further exacerbate drought
conditions.
During droughts, rising sea level could make fresh water less available—
particularly groundwater, which provides 80 percent of Guam’s water
supply. Most of Guam’s fresh water comes from the northern part of the
island, which has a “lens” of fresh groundwater floating on top of the
heavier, saltier water. Some wells already produce salty water during dry
periods when the freshwater lens becomes thinner; prolonged drought
could make more of Guam’s wells salty. Rising sea level could also cause
salt water to infiltrate farther into the island’s groundwater.
Inland Plants and Animals
Warmer temperatures and changes in rainfall could expand, shrink, or
shift the ranges of various plants and animals in Guam’s forests, depending on the conditions that each species requires. Many tropical plants
and animals could be threatened by warming, as they are accustomed to
the temperatures that currently prevail in Guam, which are fairly steady
year-round. It is unclear whether species could tolerate the weather often
being warmer than it ever is today. Some native species could be crowded
out by invasive species better adapted to the changing climate, and some
could face extinction.
Human Health
Hot days can be unhealthy—even dangerous. Rising temperatures will increase the frequency of hot days and warm nights. High air temperatures
can cause heat stroke and dehydration and affect people’s cardiovascular
and nervous systems. Warm nights are especially dangerous because
they prevent the human body from cooling off after a hot day. Certain people are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor. Military personnel also face a higher risk of heat-related illness because they perform intense physical activities outdoors, they often wear layers of protective equipment, and many are from cooler climates and not acclimated to Guam’s warm and humid climate.
The sources of information about climate and the impacts of climate change in this publication are: the national climate assessments by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, synthesis and assessment products by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the United States. Mention of a particular season, location, species, or any other aspect of an impact does not imply anything about the likelihood or importance of aspects that are not mentioned.

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Nationwide initiative to restore nature in England set for launch

The UK government website describes a new initiative, led by Natural England to restore biodiversity and improve access to the countryside.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/biggest-ever-nationwide-initiative-to-restore-nature-in-england-set-for-launch

A scenic image of a lake in the Lake District in Cumbria. With twisted roots in the foreground belonging to a tree, and a calm, still waterfront of the lake in the background with dramatic fells looming behind,

In the first of its kind, an England-wide initiative was launched yesterday (5 November 2020) and will recover nature across the length and breadth of the country, and help everybody access and enjoy it.

The Nature Recovery Network (NRN) Delivery Partnership, led by Natural England, brings together representatives from over 600 organisations to drive forward the restoration of protected sites and landscapes and help provide at least 500,000 hectares of new wildlife-rich habitat across England from doorstep to landscape, as set out in the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. The Network will link together our very best nature rich places, restore landscapes in towns and the countryside and create new habitats for everybody to enjoy. It is the biggest initiative to restore nature ever to be launched in England.

The partners, including the Council for Sustainable Business, Wildlife and Countryside Link, National Parks England, RSPB and the Country Land and Business Association, alongside Defra, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission, will be providing a wide range of support including funding and land to be restored. Today Natural England is calling for even more organisations to be part of the initiative, organisations already giving their support include Coca-Cola, Network Rail and Severn Trent Water.

As well as making sure our existing protected sites are in the best possible condition, the Nature Recovery Network programme will recover threatened animal and plant species and create and connect new green and blue spaces such as wetlands, ponds, meadows, woodlands, and peatlands. It will engage conservation rangers and environmentally focused community-based projects and put lost features like hedgerows and trees back into our landscapes. These restored habitats will help address climate change through capturing carbon, while improving the quality of our air, water, and soil, and provide natural flood protection. They will also provide us all with places to enjoy and connect with nature and helping to improve our health and wellbeing.

The Nature Recovery Network will:

  • Restore 75% of protected sites to favourable condition so nature can thrive.
  • Create or restore at least 500,000 additional hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside of protected sites.
  • Recover our threatened and iconic animal and plant species by providing more habitat and wildlife corridors to help species move in response to climate change.
  • Support the planting of 180,000 ha of woodland.
  • Deliver a range of wider benefits, including carbon capture, flood management, clean water, pollination and recreation.
  • Bring nature much closer to people, where they live, work, and play, boosting health and wellbeing.

As part of the Nature Recovery Network, the government is exploring the creation of large scale nature recovery areas to significantly expand wildlife habitat and deliver wide ranging benefits. This visionary approach to restoring nature was recently demonstrated by Natural England with seven leading partners designating the first ever ‘super’ National Nature Reserve (NNR) at Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve in Dorset. The super NNR – which is the size of Blackpool – knits together 11 types of priority habitat across the landscape, giving rare and varied wildlife, including the sand lizard, the Dartford warbler, and the silver studded blue butterfly, a better chance of adapting and thriving in light of the current climate crisis. It also provides enhanced experience for 2.5m people who visit Purbeck every year.

The ambitious plans were launched in a virtual conference, where Chair Tony Juniper and CEO Marian Spain called for even more organisations, businesses, and charities to pledge to take action to help deliver the Nature Recovery Network.

Launching the Nature Recovery Network initiative, Natural England chair Tony Juniper said:

We are firing the starting gun on England’s Nature Recovery Network, backed by the biggest ever collaboration between government, business and charities to drive forward the biggest programme for nature recovery in England’s history. The natural world upon which we all depend has for far too long been in decline, and now is the moment when we must change our approach, to move beyond preserving what little remains and to embark on restoration at scale.

Achieving nature recovery is a complex task that can only be realised through partnerships. These are needed to bring together the people who manage land and sea, the different sources of investment and knowledge that we need to make progress, the variety of official policies we have, and to make the most of the passion of the many leaders who are ready to step up to deliver action on the ground. Our vision is for that network of organisations and people to create a network of places that will bring huge benefits for wildlife, landscapes and people. It is an ambitious idea, but the fact is that in different parts of the country it’s already happening, and we should take great encouragement from that.

International Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith, also speaking at the event, said:

Our country’s rich biodiversity and ecosystems are under threat, and that is true all around the world. Last month at the UN, seventy five leaders registered their support for our ambitious Leader’s Pledge for Nature to put nature and biodiversity on the road to recovery by 2030. Our duty now is to turn those words into meaningful action.

I am thrilled that we are launching a partnership to help deliver the biggest nature recovery project in England’s history, which will restore our depleted ecosystems and habitats as we continue to build back greener.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, speaking about the launch of the partnership, said:

Delivering a Nature Recovery Network is fundamental for achieving our goals for nature – enhancing the quality of our existing areas for nature, restoring and creating new habitats, and linking all of these together. It is only with bigger, better, well-connected habitats that we can recover our beloved species and address the greatest challenges we face – from climate change to declines in mental health.

We cannot deliver the Nature Recovery Network alone. We are providing new legislation, tools and funding, but it is together that we will deliver the network of wildlife-rich places that allow nature and people to flourish

Mark Bridgeman, President of the Country Land and Business Association, speaking about the launch of the partnership, said:

As a partner of the Nature Recovery Network Partnership we recognise there is no time to lose. The public can see the impact of biodiversity loss and climate change with their own eyes, and quite rightly they expect us to act.

As stewards of the countryside, landowners are uniquely placed to deliver meaningful programmes that will drive environmental recovery, and we are determined to play our part in meeting the challenges ahead.

Liz Lowe, Head of Sustainability at Coca-Cola Great Britain, speaking about the launch of the partnership, said:

We welcome the launch of the Nature Recovery Network, especially as this exciting new partnership will help encourage more businesses to understand and play their part in the active restoration of nature and to invest in it for the long-term: without thriving natural ecosystems, we can’t have thriving businesses and communities.

Emma Marsh, Director, RSPB England, speaking about the launch of the partnership, said:

This is a once in a generation opportunity to make a step-change in how we protect nature in England. The public wants this. The experience, skills, and ambition are there. We all stand ready to play our part to level up and deliver a wildlife-rich country for the benefit of all. Together, we can leave the natural world in a better condition than we inherited.

The Nature Recovery Network is a major commitment in the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. It is underpinned by ‘Local Nature Recovery Strategies’ (LNRS), established through our landmark Environment Bill, which will provide the spatial mapping and planning tools to inform nature recovery. Additional funding of over £650m, including the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund and Nature for Climate Fund will help drive the Nature Recovery Network forward.

Earlier this year Natural England and Defra announced that five local authorities will receive a share of a £1 million fund to pilot how LNRS can drive the recovery of England’s landscapes and wildlife locally.

The Nature Recovery Network will also be key to England’s recovery from coronavirus. The Natural England people survey revealed that the nation’s gardens, parks, woodlands and rivers have played a huge part in helping maintain their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, with almost nine in ten adults in England reporting that access to nature boosts their mood.

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This sounds like a good initiative though I am a little hesitant to applaud it too enthusiastically because the present government has not shown much interest in climate action up till now. Natural England was set up by the Labour Party in 2005 and this is part of its Action Plan.

A colleague gave the following comments:

  • Restore 75% of protected sites to favourable condition so nature can thrive. While building HS2 and destroying woodlands hundreds of years old?
  • Create or restore at least 500,000 additional hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside of protected sites. Nice idea. I am not holding my breath
  • Recover our threatened and iconic animal and plant species by providing more habitat and wildlife corridors to help species move in response to climate change. Nice idea. How many houses are planned to built on greenfield sites in the next decade?
  • Support the planting of 180,000 ha of woodland. Having destroyed hundreds
  • Deliver a range of wider benefits, including carbon capture, flood management, clean water, pollination and recreation. Good. If it happens
  • Bring nature much closer to people, where they live, work, and play, boosting health and wellbeing. By building on playing greenfield sites? I don’t think so.

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Another colleague wrote the following:

“Of course, we all agree with tree planting, but it makes absolutely no sense to tear down ancient woodlands to build yet more roads. The one you mention is an over-expensive, over- priced, over- budget vanity project.
Building houses on greenfield sites makes no sense anyway when there are so many brownfield sites available. There are also many empty business premises and office blocks which could be converted into affordable housing at much lower cost.
The plans to build 400+ new houses in this greenbelt area where I live are certainly not affordable to most young families and first time buyers. However, it is cheaper and more attractive for developers than to clear and build on brownfield sites.”

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Joint statement on the US Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

https://unfccc.int/news/joint-statement-on-the-us-withdrawal-from-the-paris-agreement

Joint statement by Chile, France, Italy, UK and UN Climate Change:

There is no greater responsibility than protecting our planet and people from the threat of climate change. The science is clear that we must urgently scale up action and work together to reduce the impacts of global warming and to ensure a greener, more resilient future for us all. The Paris Agreement provides the right framework to achieve this. Our efforts must include support for those countries and communities at the frontline of climate change. It is vital that we take renewed action to hold the temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and take best efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.

On 12 December we will be celebrating the five year anniversary of the Paris Agreement. We must ensure that it is implemented in full. We note with regret that the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has formally come into effect today. As we look towards COP26 in Glasgow, we remain committed to working with all US stakeholders and partners around the world to accelerate climate action, and with all signatories to ensure the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.

4th November 2020

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Report finds ‘Dramatic’ plunge in London air pollution since 2016

From The Guardian 3rd October 2020, written by Damian Carrington

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/03/dramatic-plunge-in-london-air-pollution-since-2016-report-finds

Air pollution in London has plunged since Sadiq Khan became mayor, with a 94% reduction in the number of people living in areas with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide. The number of schools in such areas has fallen by 97%, from 455 in 2016 to 14 in 2019.

Experts described the reductions as dramatic and said they showed the air pollution crisis was not intractable. More than 9,000 people in the capital were dying early each year due to dirty air in 2015.

The report from the mayor of London, reviewed by scientists, shows that more than 2 million people in the capital lived with polluted air in 2016, but this fell to 119,000 in 2019. The report, which does not include the further falls in pollution seen after the Covid-19 lockdown began in March, shows levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) by roads in central London fell by 44% between early 2017 and early 2020.

The pollution cuts have been achieved by charges that have deterred dirty vehicles from entering the city centre and have driven up the use of cleaner vehicles. Putting low-emission buses on the dirtiest routes, ending the licensing of new diesel taxis and extending the amount of protected space for cycling have also contributed.

However, Khan said there was still a long way to go, particularly as 99% of London had particle pollution levels above the World Health Organization’s recommended limits, which are much tighter than the UK limit.

Almost a quarter of roads in inner London – between the north and south circular roads – still exceed the legal limit for (NO2), which is mostly produced by diesels. But the ultralow emission zone (Ulez), in which charges are levied for polluting vehicles, is to be expanded to cover all of inner London from October 2021.

Air pollution is the biggest environmental risk to health, according to the WHO, and it may be damaging every organ in the body, a comprehensive global review concluded in 2019. Most urban areas in the UK have had illegal levels of NO2 since 2010 and the government has repeatedly been defeated in the high court over the adequacy of its plans.

There is also growing evidence that dirty air worsens infection and death rates from coronavirus, and that people from minority ethnic communities fare the worst. Those people are more likely to live in areas with high air pollution.

“Today’s report confirms the transformative impact that my policies have had on our toxic air crisis,” said Khan, who was elected in May 2016. “I’m pleased that Londoners are breathing cleaner air and that we’re saving the NHS billions of pounds.”

“However, air pollution remains a major public health challenge and it’s time for the government to step up,. We can’t sleepwalk from the health crisis of Covid back into complacency over the major impact of toxic air on everyone’s health.”

He said the stricter WHO limits should be included in the forthcoming environment bill as a legally binding target for 2030.

Boris Johnson was mayor of London from 2008 to 2016 and a study by King’s College London looking at the rate of improvement in NO2 levels during that time found it would have taken 193 years to reach legal compliance. Khan said the city was now on track to meet legal levels everywhere by 2025.

“Breathing bad air has had an intolerable impact on Londoners’ health for far too long [but], starting around 2016, London’s air pollution underwent a dramatic change,” said Dr Gary Fuller, an air pollution expert at Imperial College London.

“The changes in NO2 in central London and along main bus routes were some of the fastest that we’ve ever measured” in 30 years of monitoring, he said. “These successes show that our city’s air pollution is not an intractable problem.”

Prof Stephen Holgate, a special adviser on air quality to the Royal College of Physicians, said: “Air pollution is a scourge on society, especially harming the young and old. What the mayor of London has shown in his first term is that major reductions in toxic pollutants can be achieved and that businesses and the public are willing to make the necessary changes to deliver this.” He said the pollution cuts would have enormous benefits for Londoners.

The report shows there are 44,000 fewer dirty vehicles being driven in central London every day compared with 2017, when charges for polluting vehicles were confirmed. “I am looking forward to seeing the Ulez cover a far greater area with the knowledge that so many more people will benefit,” Holgate said.

Khan has been criticised for backing a new four-lane road tunnel under the Thames at Silvertown. Victoria Rance, of the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition, said using the funding for public transport, cycling and walking offers far better environmental outcomes. In June a report from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies said the tunnel was incompatible with the Greater London Authority’s aim to become carbon neutral by 2030.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said: “The combination of introducing tolls on both the Blackwall tunnel and at Silvertown – and the extension of the Ulez from 2021 so that Silvertown will be within the area covered – will play a crucial role in tackling congestion and improving air quality.”

However, Khan said there was still a long way to go, particularly as 99% of London had particle pollution levels above the World Health Organization’s recommended limits, which are much tighter than the UK limit.

Almost a quarter of roads in inner London – between the north and south circular roads – still exceed the legal limit for (NO2), which is mostly produced by diesels. But the ultralow emission zone (Ulez), in which charges are levied for polluting vehicles, is to be expanded to cover all of inner London from October 2021.

Air pollution is the biggest environmental risk to health, according to the WHO, and it may be damaging every organ in the body, a comprehensive global review concluded in 2019. Most urban areas in the UK have had illegal levels of NO2 since 2010 and the government has repeatedly been defeated in the high court over the adequacy of its plans.

There is also growing evidence that dirty air worsens infection and death rates from coronavirus, and that people from minority ethnic communities fare the worst. Those people are more likely to live in areas with high air pollution.

“Today’s report confirms the transformative impact that my policies have had on our toxic air crisis,” said Khan, who was elected in May 2016. “I’m pleased that Londoners are breathing cleaner air and that we’re saving the NHS billions of pounds.”

“However, air pollution remains a major public health challenge and it’s time for the government to step up,. We can’t sleepwalk from the health crisis of Covid back into complacency over the major impact of toxic air on everyone’s health.”

He said the stricter WHO limits should be included in the forthcoming environment bill as a legally binding target for 2030.

Boris Johnson was mayor of London from 2008 to 2016 and a study by King’s College London looking at the rate of improvement in NO2 levels during that time found it would have taken 193 years to reach legal compliance. Khan said the city was now on track to meet legal levels everywhere by 2025.

“Breathing bad air has had an intolerable impact on Londoners’ health for far too long [but], starting around 2016, London’s air pollution underwent a dramatic change,” said Dr Gary Fuller, an air pollution expert at Imperial College London.

“The changes in NO2 in central London and along main bus routes were some of the fastest that we’ve ever measured” in 30 years of monitoring, he said. “These successes show that our city’s air pollution is not an intractable problem.”

Prof Stephen Holgate, a special adviser on air quality to the Royal College of Physicians, said: “Air pollution is a scourge on society, especially harming the young and old. What the mayor of London has shown in his first term is that major reductions in toxic pollutants can be achieved and that businesses and the public are willing to make the necessary changes to deliver this.” He said the pollution cuts would have enormous benefits for Londoners.

The report shows there are 44,000 fewer dirty vehicles being driven in central London every day compared with 2017, when charges for polluting vehicles were confirmed. “I am looking forward to seeing the Ulez cover a far greater area with the knowledge that so many more people will benefit,” Holgate said.

By 2021 the London ultra-low emission zone will extend to the North Circular and South Circular roads.

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More innovation needed to meet net zero carbon goals for UK livestock

Current climate mitigation measures can only deliver one fifth of proposed reductions, according to new report

A new report assessing the carbon intensity of all UK livestock production systems has identified that currently available technologies cannot deliver the industry’s 2050 carbon emissions reduction goal.

Commissioned by CIEL (Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock) , and written by environmental, climate and livestock scientists from eight renowned UK research institutions, including Rothamsted Research, the Net Zero Carbon & UK Livestock Report will be used to inform the debate about climate change and the role livestock can play to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming.

The report drew upon data collected by Rothamsted’s North Wyke Farm Platform. This unique “Farm Lab” is the most instrumented livestock site in the UK and is providing new insights into the challenges farmers will face in meeting climate change targets.

Rothamsted’s Dr Graham McAuliffe, one of the report’s lead authors said, “Our detailed studies on grazing beef systems at Rothamsted, in addition to research on other animal species carried out by our consortium partners, have shown that we need to consider all aspects of livestock farming to be able to make informed judgements on how the sector can become better-equipped in terms of reducing greenhouse gas losses. That means looking at nutrient cycles from soil to slurry, different sward mixes, the welfare and health of animals, as well as livestock efficiency metrics such as feed conversion ratios, growth rates and milk yields. The good news is that as a result of our collective ongoing research, we are able to pinpoint where interventions in husbandry, technology and land management can be most effective in delivering practical climate solutions.”

The need for innovation

The report reviews current knowledge and identifies areas where there are gaps in our ability to measure or achieve the target reductions in emissions set for UK agriculture. It also aims to provide approximate benchmarks for the carbon footprint of farmed livestock, hotspots where the greatest emissions occur and where there are opportunities to focus future efforts to reduce emissions, all based on best available data.

Lead scientist, Professor Bob Rees, from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), stressed the need for new innovations to further reduce emissions beyond the levels that currently known mitigation strategies will deliver.

“Even if all known methods for mitigation of carbon emissions were taken up rapidly, the industry could only deliver 19% of the aspirational carbon reduction target by 2035.

“Livestock farming is an integral part of UK agriculture, our landscape and food systems, but it’s a complex system involving flows of carbon, nitrogen, water and atmospheric gases.

“In order to help balance the reduction in emissions with the production of high-quality nutritious food, a combination of strategies is needed. These must consider all dimensions of sustainable agriculture including carbon efficiency, soil health, animal health and welfare, and much more.

“And for that we need more innovation, collaboration and widespread adoption,” he said.

Ambition is not enough

Dr Elizabeth Magowan, from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), coordinated the report, and says the intention is for it to be used as a baseline to drive change throughout the livestock supply chain.

“This report is a call to action. While the industry is making steps in the right direction, the ambition to achieve the UK’s target is huge and known technologies and practices can only get us part of the way. A combination of greater investment, improved carbon accounting and education resulting in adoption, are required for the UK livestock industry to achieve its net zero carbon goal within the next 30 years.”

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£50m Earthshot Prize

https://earthshotprize.org

Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, has launched a £50 million global environmental prize to help convert climate change doom-mongering into the optimism he believes can save the planet.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge –

The Duke, whose Earthshot Prize will award one million pounds to five winning innovators each year from now until 2030, said the public needs a “bit of hope, a bit of positivity” that the deep challenges facing the environment can be solved.

Saying he hopes to harness optimism alongside the urgent need to make progress in a “crucial decade” for the planet, he has announced details of “the most prestigious environmental prize in history”, likened to a green Nobel Prize.

The Duke and his team have spent two years consulting leading experts in the field, including those at the Nobel Prize, to develop the format of the award, described as the only truly global prize of its kind.

The Duke said,

“I felt very much that there’s a lot of people wanting to do many good things for the environment and what they need is a bit of a catalyst, a bit of hope, a bit of positivity that we can actually fix what’s being presented.

“And I think that urgency with optimism really creates action.

“And so The Earthshot Prize is really about harnessing that optimism and that urgency to find solutions to some of the world’s greatest environmental problems.

“We believe that this decade is one of the most crucial decades for the environment and by 2030 we really hope to have made huge strides in fixing some of the biggest problems the Earth faces.”

Jason Knauf, CEO of the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, added that the “sheer scale of the urgent situation”, at a time when people are enduring enough immediate problems of their own, had run the risk of making challenges feel so insurmountable the public “feel little choice to look the other way”.

But “the Duke wanted to turn the pessimism into the optimism and hope that will lead to real action,” he said.

From now, a panel of nominators will seek out the best new ideas, technologies, policies or solutions across five categories: ‘Protect and restore nature’, ‘Clean our air’, ‘Revive our oceans’, ‘Build a waste-free world’, and ‘Fix our climate’.

Each has £1 million in prize money per year which will support environmental and conservation projects agreed with the winners, who could be individuals, a group of scientists or activists, businesses, governments and even a city or country.

The Earthshot Prize takes its inspiration from the Apollo moon landings, nicknamed Moonshot, which helped advance mankind’s technological achievements.

The project is expected to be seen as the duke’s career-defining project, like his father’s Prince’s Trust or grandfather’s Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, and reflects his growing confidence and aim to play a global leadership role on the issue.

It will see him work with the Prince of Wales, a long-term environmental campaigner, and Sir David Attenborough, with organisations from Greenpeace to the UN forming a global alliance to share its message .

“The plan is to really galvanise and bring together the best minds, the best possible solutions, to fixing and tackling some of the world’s greatest environmental challenges,” said the Duke.

“We’ve got to harness our ingenuity and our ability to invent. The next ten years are a critical decade for change.

“Time is of the essence, which is why we believe that this very ambitious global prize is the only way forward.”

The £50 million prize fund will be provided by the project’s global alliance founding partners, including the Paul G Allen Family Foundation, created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and the Jack Ma Foundation, the charitable body of the founder of the Chinese online retail giant Alibaba.

Key contributors also include the Aga Khan Development Network, Bloomberg Philanthropies, DP World in partnership with Dubai EXPO 2020, and US internet entrepreneur Marc and Lynne Benioff.

Every year an Ipsos Mori poll will be conducted to measure whether the public feel more optimistic about humanity’s ability to solve the big issues.  

Nominations for the prize open on November 1 with an annual global awards ceremony to be held in a different city each year, starting with London in autumn 2021.