threegenerationsleft

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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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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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.


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Global Ocean Alliance: 30 countries are now calling for greater ocean protection

Published 3 October 2020 From: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and The Rt Hon Lord Zac Goldsmith

30 countries have now joined the Global Ocean Alliance championing an international commitment for a minimum 30% of the global ocean to be protected through Marine Protected Areas by 2030.

At the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, the UK again reiterated its commitment to protecting the environment and halting biodiversity loss.

The UK’s global leadership on ocean protection has seen it on track to establish a ‘Blue Belt’ of marine protected areas spanning 4 million square kilometres across its Overseas Territories and a £500 million Blue Planet Fund, to be launched next year, that will protect marine resources from key human-generated impacts, including climate change, plastic pollution, overfishing and habitat loss.

The UK is celebrating 30 countries joining the Global Ocean Alliance in support of the UK-led 30 by 30 initiative, an international commitment to protect at least 30% of the global ocean in Marine Protected Areas by 2030, through the UN Convention on Biodiversity in 2021.

The Global Ocean Alliance has grown from 10 to 30 members in just 12 months, and the countries which alongside the UK have committed to trebling existing targets are: Belize, Belgium, Cabo Verde, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Finland, Fiji, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Kenya, Luxembourg, Maldives, Monaco, Nigeria, Palau, Portugal, Seychelles, Senegal, St Kitts, Sweden, Spain, United Arab Emirates and Vanuatu.

International Marine Minister, Zac Goldsmith, said:

I thank and commend the 30 countries that have now joined the Global Ocean Alliance. Our shared ocean is facing unprecedented pressures, and together we are making a powerful case for increased protection.

I encourage other nations to join us in this campaign. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we have an opportunity to make sustainability and resilience the lens through which we map our respective recoveries, and that is what we should commit ourselves to doing.

Without a healthy ocean there would be no life as we know it. The ocean generates 50% of Earth’s oxygen and it is our planet’s climate regulator, absorbing 93% of the additional global heat as well as 25% of human-driven CO2 emissions.

With 12 million tonnes of plastics entering the ocean every year, the UK Government is also working to tackle the scourge of plastic waste globally and through the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance and the Commonwealth Litter Programme, which are driving forward ambitious action to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean in support of meeting Sustainable Development Goal 14: ‘Life Below Water’.

The UK is also taking action to protect the ocean with 36% of UK waters protected in a network of marine protected sites; a ban on plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds which has come into force in England this week; a pioneering ban on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products; and the 5p single use bag charge extended to all retailers from April 2021 with the charge increasing to 10p – taking over 15 billion plastic bags out of circulation.

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Covid-19, population profiles and climate change

As we face 1 million Covid-19 deaths, can some climate change benefits come out of the pandemic?

In a previous posting, I discussed some of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that occurred during lockdown and how these were very temporary.  In this post, I want to look at population statistics and how these might be influenced by coronavirus deaths.

We have known for many years that human population growth has been in exponential territory for many years and is rapidly approaching 8 billion worldwide, as shown in the graph below, which shows the world population increasing ever since the industrial revolution began.  

Many people have written at length about population growth; for example, the eugenicists love to speculate on how we might improve the genetic make-up of the entire human population, usually by ethnic cleansing. I believe this to be a distraction from the real issues associated with population growth.

However, human population growth does need to be addressed. The more people that live on the earth, the more crowded the planet becomes and the less food there is for everyone.  With increases in consumerism, fuelled by big business and rampant advertising, there is also more waste and fewer places to dispose of it safely, so that we are filling oceans with junk, affecting marine life, as well as contaminating the countryside with land-fill sites. Over-crowding is also causing increases in migrants, seeking a better life elsewhere, where they think food and jobs will be more available. Over-crowding also means that humans are encroaching on the habitats of the creatures we share this planet with, leading to their extinction and possibly also, the release of killer viruses like Covid-19, as we come into closer territorial contact with wildlife.

The Chinese addressed their high population increases in recent years, by limiting each family to the birth of one child. However, this policy created other problems, such as an age imbalance in the country and a shrinking work force. So it was abandoned but the birth rate there has continued to decline (see the yellow line in the graph below).

The relationship between human population size and climate change is discussed in chapters 5 and 9 of my book, where I include population growth as one of 10 interrelated factors which are working together to exacerbate climate change and the consequent destruction of all life on the planet.

So, if there are too many people already living on this planet, should we not embrace a reduction in numbers caused by deaths from the coronavirus, however tragic that might be for the families and communities who have lost their loved ones? The saddening fact is that the loss of one million people to the virus, is not enough to make a significant impact on the overall numbers of humans on the planet.  The tragic loss of 20 million people during World War I had little impact on the overall population number, which soon continued on its relentless upward trend.

So, the reality is that 1 million Covid-19 deaths, will have little impact on human numbers, unless of course the pandemic cannot be controlled and the coronavirus continues to wipe out huge numbers of people worldwide. Statisticians are already predicting that there will be 2 million deaths before a vaccine becomes available.

In a related way, the lockdown introduced by many countries to control the virus, did, for a short period, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in industrial areas, but these too have continued on their upward trend, as lockdown is eased.  As we rebuild the economy, there needs to be a determined effort to stop using fossil fuels, alongside properly thought-out strategies to reduce the other factors which work together to exacerbate climate change, shown in the graphic above.

One of the things that the pandemic is demonstrating is the Darwinian principle of “Survival of the Fittest”, for it is the old and frail and those with underlying health conditions, that are most likely to succumb to the virus. Some people are advocating that we allow “herd immunity” to develop, even though there is evidence that people who contract the virus do not develop immunity and may catch it again later. The herd immunity idea is a corollary to the “survival of the fittest” principle, though relying on it shows little compassion for those in society who are not fit and who succumb to the virus.

So, there are a number of issues here and questions that need to be answered. Over the last century, there have been huge breakthroughs in medical care, surgical and intensive care practices and the production of antibiotics and other life-saving drugs.  These have allowed us to keep people alive for longer, with more and more people living into their 90s and 100s, whatever their quality of life may be. This has all contributed to the surging population numbers. And so, we have created a society in which the age balance has changed and the financial burden of caring for the frail elderly has become phenomenal. Is Covid-19 bringing that balance back to what it was in the last century? Should we be keeping people alive in care homes and hospitals beyond their normal life expectancy, especially if dementia has taken hold and they lose their dignity and no longer know who they are or even where they are? No, I am not supporting the “right to die” or “assisted dying” movements – the arguments for this are very different and the movement already has its vocal advocates.

But, in a way, the coronavirus has created an irony where, to a large extent, children and the youngest members of society are hardly affected by it and the old are disproportionately targeted. So, gradually it is moving the age profile downwards to a younger society. There is evidence that younger people are very aware of climate issues, as the “Fridays for the Future” movement takes off across the globe. So, one good thing may have come out of this terrible pandemic – that the ardent young will be able to bring about the changes needed to address climate change and the sustenance of all life on this planet.


Fridays for the Future demonstration

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CBI says that Britain must become a global leader in tackling climate crisis

Carolyn Fairbairn, the director-general of the CBI, is launching its ‘green recovery roadmap’. She says that Britain needs to step up and become a global leader in climate action, creating a number of green jobs and boosting productivity to help the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/sep/14/uk-must-become-global-leader-in-tackling-climate-crisis-says-cbi-carolyn-fairbairn-covid-19


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New solar and lighting technology could propel a renewable energy transformation

This article was published in The Conversation on September 1, 2020 and written by Simon Stranks, a lecturer in Energy and Royal Society and University Research Fellow, University of Cambridge. He is also a co-founder of Swift Solar Inc.

https://theconversation.com/how-a-new-solar-and-lighting-technology-could-propel-a-renewable-energy-transformation-133658

The demand for cheaper, greener electricity means that the energy landscape is changing faster than at any other point in history. This is particularly true of solar-powered electricity and battery storage. The cost of both has dropped at unprecedented rates over the past decade and energy efficient technologies such as LED lighting have also expanded.

Access to cheap and ubiquitous solar power and storage will transform the way we produce and use power, allowing electrification of the transport sector. There is potential for new chemical-based economies in which we store renewable energy as fuels, and support new devices making up an “internet of things”.

But our current energy technologies won’t lead us to this future: we will soon hit efficiency and cost limits. The potential for future reductions in the cost of electricity from silicon solar, for example, is limited. The manufacture of each panel demands a fair amount of energy and factories are expensive to build. And although the cost of production can be squeezed a little further, the costs of a solar installation are now dominated by the extras – installation, wiring, the electronics and so on.

This means that current solar power systems are unlikely to meet the required fraction of our 30 TeraWatt (TW) global power requirements (they produce less than 1 TW today) fast enough to address issues such as climate change.

Likewise, our current LED lighting and display technologies are too expensive and not of good enough colour quality to realistically replace traditional lighting in a short enough time frame. This is a problem, as lighting currently accounts for 5% of the world’s carbon emissions. New technologies are needed to fill this gap, and quickly.

The article then goes on to describe a new family of materials being developed in a laboratory in Cambridge. These are called Halide Perovskites, which are semi-conductors, which conduct charges when stimulated with light.

Coloured perovskite light-emitting inks that can be cast down into thin films

There are still challenges to developing this technology commercially but the author sets out the way forward. Please see the article for a full description.

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