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Environmental impact
Air pollution and C virus

During the lockdown owing to the coronavirus, road traffic in the UK dropped by up to 73%. The deserted streets have resulted in corresponding large decreases in air pollution, which is likely to reduce early deaths from lung and heart conditions.

The reduction in air pollution is also likely to decrease the likelihood of catching the coronavirus if persons have pre-existing respiratory diseases.

Now that many people have learnt to work from home, it is unlikely that traffic volumes will ever increase to their former levels. Towns and cities are helping to initiate this change by decreasing road space in favour of cycle lanes and wider pavements.

Rises in sea levels
Sea levels are rising faster than previously estimated and could reach 1 metre by the year 2100 unless global emissions are reduced rapidly. Based on new knowledge of climate sensitivity and polar ice melt, scientists believe that coastal cities should prepare for an impact sooner than predicted by UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Bleaching of coral reefs
Coral reefs are important marine reservoirs of biodiversity being homes to myriads of species. However rising ocean temperatures could push the world’s tropical coral reefs over a tipping point so that they undergo bleaching each year which can kill the coral and the home for many species.

Oceans could be restored to former health
Available evidence suggests that it will be possible to restore the biodiversity of the oceans if we are able to introduce sustainable fishing, protect the oceans from acidification by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and eliminate the destruction of habitats such as sea grass meadows and mangrove swamps. But it will require pro-active policies by Governments and global cooperation amongst nations.

2020 hottest ever?

This year is likely to be the hottest ever world wide according to meteorologists as heat records have been broken from the Antarctic to Greenland since January. For example Europe recorded its warmest winter ever with an average rise in long term temperature of 1.4 C only 0.1 C below the limit temperature to avoid irreversible changes in climate.

Though yearly CO2 emissions will decrease this year due to lockdowns, the concentration of greenhouse gases will continue to rise and so will the average global temperature.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is now a window of opportunity for introducing more sustainable means of transport and energy production by switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

Rise in temperature and humidity
The vast majority of humanity has lived in regions where the average annual temperature lies between 6 C and 28 C which is ideal for human health and food production. Humanity is particularly sensitive to any temperature rise as the land warms faster than the ocean. A study by the University of Exeter suggests that there could be more change in temperature in the next 50 years than in the past 6000 years and that actions are needed now to accelerate cuts in emissions.

If addition, if periods of extreme heat are accompanied by high humidity then the chances of survival are reduced as the human body may not be able to sweat out excess heat through the skin from where it evaporates. Available evidence indicates that incidence of such events is increasing and has doubled over a 40 year time period.

All the available evidence indicates that global warming is increasing and it will be up to each to use less energy and to change energy sources from fossil fuels to renewable sources where ever possible.

All texts from articles in the Guardian newspaper

UN warns unprecedented cuts in emissions needed

Countries must make increased efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade to avoid climate chaos reports the UN Environmental Programme. Their report concludes that “to stay within the 1.5C limit, global emissions must fall by 7.6% each and every year from now until 2030”. “postponing action is no longer an option and without large scale intervention, the world’s fate would be sealed in the next few years as carbon would rise to such a level as to make dangerous levels of heating inevitable”.

Violent storms cross France, Italy and Greece

Violent storms causing severe damage crossed these 3 countries over weekend of 23/24 November. This resulted in flash floods and landslides and deaths of at least 7 people. In one region of France 3 months’ worth of rain had fallen in less than 48 hours.
[Guardian newspaper 26/11/2019]

Venice suffers its worst floods in 50 years

Most of Venice is 1.1m to 1.4m above sea level and yet on 12 November flooding hit 1.87m resulting the second highest tide ever recorded. More than 85% of the city was flooded with St Marks Square under more than 1 metre of water.

Flooding in UK

Severe flooding has also been recorded in the north of Britain primarily in South Yorkshire. Nearly 70 flood warnings were in place at any one time with a further 140 weather alert warnings that flooding was possible. The Metereological Office warned that there was also a danger to life in large parts of the Midlands, Nottingham and Lincolnshire. These events coincide with predictions of climate models that severe weather events are much more likely to occur in future.

Fossil link acidification of oceans to mass extinctions

The oceans along with the atmosphere are a major absorber (sink) for carbon emissions resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels. This will result in the seas getting more acidic so affecting species in the food chain.

Researchers at a German research institute have analysed small seashells in sediment laid down just after a giant meteorite hit the earth 66 million years ago. This resulted in the oceans becoming more acidic resulting in the dissolution of the chalky shells of many animals and led to an ecological collapse.

Current modelling predicts a decrease in pH of the oceans by 0.4 pH units if carbon emissions are not stopped and 0.15 if the average global temperature rise is limited to 20C. The researchers concluded that if a decrease of 0.25 pH units was enough to precipitate a mass extinction then it will be vital to limit emissions of greenhouse gases as soon as possible.
Guardian newspaper dated 22/10/2019



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