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Archive

Insects: you will miss them once they gone

80% of all different kinds of animals are insects. They maintain the world as we know it for without their ability to pollinate plants, our environment and our food supplies will collapse. It is therefore alarming that wherever scientists have looked, insect numbers and species are declining.

Yet insects were the first animals to colonise the land some 400 million years ago. Their decline is almost certainly due to loss of habitat in cutting down forests , converting grass lands to growing crops and above all, a changing climate.

To prevent further loss of species we have to reverse the loss in biodiversity by creating more habitats and limiting further changes in climate as quickly as possible.
[National Geographic Magazine, May 2020]

Loss of biodiversity and likely economic consequences

The loss of biodiversity is due to many factors including increasing population, increasing land use for growing crops, cutting down of forests, over fishing the oceans and changes in climate.

An in depth review led by Partha Dasgupta, University of Cambridge, has for the first time evaluated economically the benefits of biodiversity in its widest sense. In the past 20 years there has been a 40% reduction in the stocks of natural capital which include soil, air, water and all living things.

The reason for this reduction in natural capital is that almost all Governments have encouraged people to exploit nature rather protect it and this could result in collapse of entire eco systems thereby endangering both current and future generations.

Reversing the loss in biodiversity will require a shared understanding of how these systems work and a shared endeavour to reverse these losses

[Economics of Biodiversity – the Dasgupta review]


State of the Planet

On Tuesday 2nd December, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General, in a speech at Columbia University, New York, described the ‘The state of our planet as broken’. He continued that ‘humanity is waging war on nature and this is suicidal. Nature always strikes back and is now doing so with increasing force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing, ecosystems are disappearing, deserts are spread and oceans are choking with plastic waste. Making peace with nature will be the defining task of the 21st century. The central objective of the UN in 2021 will be to build a truly global coalition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Every country, city, town and company should adopt plans for the transition to net zero emissions. He urged everyone to take decisive action now and to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 compared with 2010 which would require a year on year reduction of 6%.
[webtv.un.org]

On the same day, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) released reports to which Guterres referred.

State of the global climate (WMO)

In spite of the C virus pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise, not only carbon dioxide, but also concentrations of methane and nitrous oxides. Amongst other indicators of the changing climate were –

  • 2020 was one of the 3 hottest years ever recorded
  • The warmest six years have all been since 2014
  • The past decade was the hottest in human history
  • Ocean heat was at record levels inflicting harm on marine ecosystems
  • Parts of the Artic experienced exceptional warmth some 5 C above the long term average
  • Oceans were becoming more acidic

Petteri Taalas, Secretary General, WMO observed that the over riding concern is that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the ocean, even longer. The last time the Earth experienced such carbon dioxide concentrations was 3 – 5 million years ago when the average global temperature was 2 -3 C hotter and sea levels some 10 – 20 metres higher.
[public.wmo.int]

State of knowledge on soil biodiversity (FAO)

A quarter of all species live in the ground beneath our feet and provide nutrients for all our food. The FAO authors observe that ‘soil organisms play a crucial role in our everyday life by working to sustain life on Earth. The available evidence indicates that a large proportion of the Earth’s surface has been degraded as the result of human activity. The main causes of damage are intensive agriculture, destruction of natural habitats and changes in climate. There was an ever increasing need to protect existing healthy soils and restore degraded soils.
[www.fao.org]


Release of methane deposits

Methane is a gas which is 80X more powerful than carbon dioxide, in absorbing infra red rays of sunlight which are reflected from the earth’s surface. It is the presence of these greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere which are leading to global warming.

The continent slope sediments in the Artic Ocean in eastern Siberia contain a vast quantity of frozen methane in the form of hydrates. Measurements made by scientists on board a Russian research vessel have found that bubbles of gas emerging from these sediments contain 4 to 8 times the normal methane levels. What seems to be triggering this release is that average temperature in the first 6 months of 2020 was 5 C higher than the long term average.

If such outcomes are confirmed next year then such releases on a much larger scale could accelerate global warming
[Guardian news 28/10/2020]

Possible ecosystem collapse

Biodiversity of species and preservation of their ecosystems form the basis not only of our food chain, but also impact on our climate in numerous ways. Human activities which result in the loss of biodiversity can lead to collapse of ecosystems, loss of wildlife and their habitats

A report commissioned by Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers, has concluded that one fifth of countries globally are at risk of their ecosystems collapsing due to a decline in biodiversity and their related beneficial services.

Moreover in September at the UN Biodiversity Summit, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guteres observed that ‘none of 2020 biodiversity targets agreed in Aichi in 2010 will be achieved and that “Biodiversity and sustainable ecosystems are central to achieving our Sustainable Development Goals but too often environmental health is down played’.
[Guardian news 13/10/20]

Restoring degraded landscapes

If land that has been degraded by human exploitation can be restored to its previous level of biodiversity then this could be one of the quickest and cheapest ways of limiting climate change and enabling plant species and wildlife to be restored.

This increase in biodiversity would result in storing substantial amounts of carbon dioxide through photosynthesis , the most abundant of the greenhouse gases.
[Guardian news 15/10/2020]

Carbon capture and storage

BP, a major oil company which has exploited the oil deposits under the North Sea for 40 years, is now leading two multi-national partnerships to transport million tonnes of carbon dioxide yearly from carbon capture projects in the Teesside and Humber regions of the UK and to store this gas in salt caverns under North Sea. This should result in storing almost half of the UK’s industrial emissions from 2026 onwards.

Carbon capture and storage is considered a vital measure in attaining the UK’s legally binding target of zero carbon emissions by 2050.
[Guardian news 27/10/2020]


Is nuclear power needed to meet future demand?

On 16 September, Hitachi abandoned its plan to build a new nuclear power station in North Wales. Because of the high cost and length of time of building such a station, it raises the question as to whether any other nuclear power plants will be built in the UK other than Hinckley Point C in Somerset which has been under construction since 2014.

The advantage of renewable electricity sources that they are now much cheaper and much quicker to bring on line so installation can occur if demand increases.

As renewables can vary in intensity, there is an increased need for storage and the intriguing suggestion is whether the increase in electric vehicles with their batteries could be used to reinforce the grid.

Impact of climate crisis on UK weather is increasing

More extreme heat, less frost and snow with trees losing their leaves later in the autumn and coming into leaf earlier in the spring were amongst the signs last year of the climate crisis having an increased impact on the UK according to the Metrological Office’s annual report. New records were set for both the highest summer and winter temperatures

The Central England Temperature Series is the longest instrumental record in the world dating back to 1659. It reveals that the average temperature so far this century is 10.3C that is 1.6C higher than for 1659-1700.
[Guardian newspaper 31/07/2020]

Active travel England

On 27 July, this new Government Department was created to oversee the expenditure of £2 billion over the next 5 years, which local councils will be able to use to construct pavements and dedicated cycle paths. Painting a line on the road way to identify a lane for cyclists will no longer be allowed.

The rationale is not only to reduce motorised traffic, but also to reduce pollution and increase physical fitness and safety of cyclist and pedestrians.

Similar initiatives are being undertaken in other European countries as part of their green Covid 19 recovery package.

Carbon capture and storage

The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes that carbon capture, utilisation and storage should be one of the key technologies in reducing carbon emissions to the atmosphere. The technology works by injecting emissions from power stations or factories into an absorber containing a solvent which captures the CO2. The solvent can subsequently be heated to release the carbon which can then be safely stored while the solvent can be reused.

The technology has been slow to emerge and to date there are only 20 carbon capture projects in commercial use world wide at an average cost of ca $1 billion each.
[Guardian newspaper 24/09/2020]


May was the greenest month ever in UK

May 2020 was the greenest ever for the UK electricity supply as 28% of the UK’s electricity was supplied by renewables and for 54 consecutive days no coal fired plants were used at all. The result was that the average carbon intensity per unit of electricity decreased to 143 grams carbon dioxide from the 2019 average of 250 grams. On 24 May, the lowest carbon intensity ever was recorded of 46 grams. Decarbonising the electricity grid will significantly reduce the average carbon footprint per person. [Guardian 3 June]

However the UK’s Committee for Climate Change in its annual report to Parliament observed that the UK was falling behind in its target to cut greenhouse gas emissions and that the recovery from Covid 19 pandemic created an opportunity for creating green jobs like insulating buildings, switching to electric vehicles and improving broad band coverage so more people could work from home. [Guardian 26 June]

New record temperatures in Siberia

While the average global temperature rise since 1750 (start of Industrial Revolution) was just above 1.0 C, a prolonged heat wave in Siberia has seen a temperature rise by up to 30 C. This increase is primarily due to ocean currents carrying heat towards the polar regions and melting of ice and snow which reflects radiation rather than absorbs it. Apart from other impacts, thawing of the permafrost could release pockets of methane gas which is a strong greenhouse gas.

World has only six months to reduce its carbon emissions

In the annual report of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, its executive director, warned that the world has only six months in which to begin reducing its carbon emissions permanently to prevent irreversible changes in climate. He stated that ‘This year is the last time we have if we are not to see a carbon rebound (after the Covid 19 pandemic)’.

In its first global blueprint for a green recovery, the Agency suggested focussing on wind and solar power together with energy efficiency improvements to buildings and industries and modernisation of electricity grids to better manage distributed renewable power sources. The Agency observed that targeting green jobs was more effective than pouring money into a high carbon economy [Guardian 18 June]

Air pollution below normal despite increase in traffic

Analysis of recent air pollution data in the UK has shown that air pollution has decreased even though traffic flows are near normal. One possible reason in that even a small decrease in traffic results in a significant decrease in air pollution because of the reduction in congestion in urban areas. As air pollution can result in respiratory illnesses, reducing pollution may also decrease the impact of Covid 19 virus as it is also affects the respiratory system. [Guardian 14 July]


Coronavirus, environmental impact and climate change

One unexpected impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been the improvement in the quality of the environment. Due to lockdown, the amount of industrial activity and vehicular traffic, particularly road and air, has decreased very significantly and the benefits have included reductions in -

  • Air pollution
  • Noise pollution
  • Greenhouse gas emissions

The reduction in road traffic has encouraged more people to reclaim the road space for walking and cycling in many towns and cities thereby improving air quality.

A number of well known people have observed that once the pandemic is over – “ the outbreak has proven that society in its present form is not sustainable and we need to choose a new way forward”. Greta Thunberg also noted “that the global response demonstrated how quickly change could happen when humanity united and acted on the advice of scientists”.

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, observed in a message for Earth Day (22 April) “that the pandemic was the biggest threat that the world had faced since 1945 but that the environmental emergency was deeper. He believed that the post pandemic recovery should include –

  • Creation of green jobs whose activities would have little or no environmental impact
  • Taxpayer support for sustainable growth
  • End to fossil fuel subsidies

Impact of habitat loss
Pope Francis observed that “ the coronavirus has put a spotlight on values. Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and learn to understand and contemplate the natural world”. He added “ this is the time to take the decisive step and move from misusing nature to contemplating it”.

The world’s leading biodiversity experts have warned that “the coronavirus is likely to be followed by outbreaks of even more deadly diseases unless their root cause – the rampant destruction of the natural world – is rapidly halted. Some 70% of emerging diseases in humans originate from close contact of people with animals ”.

“Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development as well as exploitation of wild species have created a perfect storm for the spill over of diseases.”

They conclude that “the health of people is intimately connected to the health of wildlife, livestock and the health of the environment” [Preparatory remarks to a new draft by the International Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and and Ecosystems Services]

All texts from articles in the Guardian newspaper.


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.

Weather
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


UK climate modelling predictions

The UK Meteorological Office has published the results of its climate change modelling in a report called Climate Prediction (CP18). This report conatins a set of predictions for various areas of the UK. In general there will likely be warmer, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters and this could affect the yield of agricultural crops if the moisture in the soil decreased significantly.

The other major prediction is that if the current rate of emissions of greenhouse gases is not reduced then the average temperature in Reading, UK could increase by 60C by 2070 whereas decreasing emissions to zero within the next 20 years could limit the average global temperature rise to 20C. UK CP 18 report can be downloaded from https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research

Droughts and floods leave 100 million people needing disaster relief

Two million people each week need humanitarian aid because the changing climate is leading to increasing numbers of extreme weather conditions including droughts, flooding and hurricanes.

According to a recent report by the Red Cross, this number of people could double in the next three decades as climate changes became more severe unless Governments acted collectively to reduce global carbon emissions as per the 2015 Paris agreement. Like the UN Secretary General’s comments, the report concluded that the cost of doing nothing was high it was the most vulnerable people who would suffer the most.

Timely adaptations to the likely impacts of climate change and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically could reduce the numbers of affected persons significantly. Many of the necessary measures were low cost including early warning systems, improved weather forecasts and restoring natural features like mangrove swamps and wet lands
Guardian newspaper 23/09/2019

Market funding 4C rise

Mark Carney, governor of the UK’s central bank has warned that the multibillion dollar capital markets were still financing carbon producing activities related to exploiting fossil fuel resources which could result in an increase in average global temperature rise of 4C. If however the Paris climate change agreement was carried through this could lead to stranded assets with sever financial implications for such firms and their investors.
Guardian newspaper 16/10/2019


World demands as Amazon burns

At the recent G7 summit of World leaders, talks were held and money offered to help Brazil change its deforestation policies of the Amazon tropical rain forests. The large number of fires started illegally are to clear and prepare land for crops, cattle and property speculation and has prompted the state of Amazonas to declare an emergency.

Giant smoke clouds have drifted across hundreds of miles and the crisis has raised global concerns about the destruction of a global carbon sink as these forests are responsible for acting as a sink for up to 25% of the world’s CO2 emissions.

Guardian newspaper 24/08/2019

Impact of global heating on land poses threat to civilisation

‘The climate crisis is damaging the ability of the land to sustain humanity with cascading risks becoming increasingly severe as global temperatures rise’ according to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Global heating is increasing droughts, soil erosion and wildfires while reducing crop yields in the tropics and thawing permafrost within the Polar regions. Moreover further heating will lead to unprecedented climate conditions at lower latitudes with potential growth in hunger, migration and conflicts and increased damage to the great northern forests.

And the scientists also concluded that ‘the burning of fossil fuels must end to avoid irreversible loss in land ecosystem services required for food, health and habitable settlements’

https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/
Guardian newspaper 09/08/2019

Switch fossil fuel subsidies to fund a clean energy revolution

Switching just some of the huge subsidies supporting fossil fuels to renewables would unlock a very rapid transition to clean energy and significantly reduce carbon emissions driving the climate crisis. Coal, oil and gas receive more than $370 billion annually in support compared with $100 billion for renewable energy sources the International Institute for Sustainable Development has found.

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, attacked such subsidies saying ‘what we are doing is using taxpayers’ money to boost hurricanes, to spread droughts, to melt glaciers and to bleach coral reefs ….. to destroy the world’s biosystems’.

Guardian newspaper 02/08/2019


Planting billions of trees is best way to save planet

Planting billions of trees could be by far the greatest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis according to Swiss researchers as trees are able to absorb carbon dioxide and store carbon in their trunks. Their analysis indicates that there are 1.7 bn hectares of land without any trees upon which 1.2tn native tree saplings would grow naturally at an estimated cost of $300bn.

Guardian newspaper 05/07/2019  https://www.theguardian.com/uk/environment

Climatic extremes will require resilience planning

Climatic extremes are increasing and are now occurring at the rate of one per week according to the UN’s Secretary General Special Representative in disaster risk reduction Mami Mitzutori.
Catastrophes like Cyclone Idai which hit the northern coast of Mozambique in March and the on going drought in areas of India are occurring much faster than predicted.

Many of the lower impact climate disasters could be prevented if people had early warning, better infrastructure like flood defences and access to water in drought stricken areas. This will require investment now in order to build resilience to a changing climate. Nature based solutions such as mangrove swamps, forests and wetlands that could form natural barriers should be a priority.

Guardian Newspaper 08/07/2019

Climate change has made heatwaves more likely

The month of June was the hottest since 1880 world wide. Such heatwaves are about 30C hotter than the June average in Europe a century ago and are occurring more frequently. In France the highest temperature was recorded near Nimes in the south of the country at 45.90C. Both observations and models show a strong trend towards stronger heat waves; however the observed trend is stronger model predict.

Guardian newspaper 03/07/2019

Antarctic sea ice is now rapidly receding

The vast expense of sea ice around Antarctica has undergone a significant decrease since 2014 and has fallen at a faster rate than seen in the Arctic reversing a 40 year trend. The cause of the sharp fall is not as yet known and only time will tell whether the ice continues to decline or recover.
Sea ice spreads over millions of square kilometres and has major impacts on the global climate system with losses in the Artic strongly linked to extreme weather conditions at lower latitudes such as heatwaves in Europe.

Guardian newspaper 02/07/2019


Hope is contagious

In a dialogue between Greta Thunberg (a young climate change activist) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (US Congress) published in the Guardian on 29 June they agreed that –

  • many people were unaware of the climate crisis
  • there was a need to act now
  • even small changes in energy usage by each person could make a difference

In response to the query why young people have been so powerful and persuasive on the issue of climate change, Greta simply replied “because our future is at risk – why should we study for a future that no longer exists”.
Alexandria considered hope in limiting climate change as “ something you create with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world and once one person has hope, it can be contagious and other people starting acting in a similar way. Greta replied “that I know so many people who feel hopeless and they ask me ‘what should I do’ and I reply ‘act - do something.’

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/environment
No one is too small to make a difference by Greta Thunberg (Penguin, London) 2019


Planting billions of trees is best way to save planet

Planting billions of trees could be by far the greatest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis according to Swiss researchers as trees are able to absorb carbon dioxide and store carbon in their trunks. Their analysis indicates that there are 1.7 bn hectares of land without any trees upon which 1.2tn native tree saplings would grow naturally at an estimated cost of $300bn.

Guardian newspaper 05/07/2019  https://www.theguardian.com/uk/environment

Climatic extremes will require resilience planning

Climatic extremes are increasing and are now occurring at the rate of one per week according to the UN’s Secretary General Special Representative in disaster risk reduction Mami Mitzutori.
Catastrophes like Cyclone Idai which hit the northern coast of Mozambique in March and the on going drought in areas of India are occurring much faster than predicted.

Many of the lower impact climate disasters could be prevented if people had early warning, better infrastructure like flood defences and access to water in drought stricken areas. This will require investment now in order to build resilience to a changing climate. Nature based solutions such as mangrove swamps, forests and wetlands that could form natural barriers should be a priority.

Guardian Newspaper 08/07/2019

Climate change has made heatwaves more likely

The month of June was the hottest since 1880 world wide. Such heatwaves are about 30C hotter than the June average in Europe a century ago and are occurring more frequently. In France the highest temperature was recorded near Nimes in the south of the country at 45.90C. Both observations and models show a strong trend towards stronger heat waves; however the observed trend is stronger model predict.

Guardian newspaper 03/07/2019

Antarctic sea ice is now rapidly receding

The vast expense of sea ice around Antarctica has undergone a significant decrease since 2014 and has fallen at a faster rate than seen in the Arctic reversing a 40 year trend. The cause of the sharp fall is not as yet known and only time will tell whether the ice continues to decline or recover.
Sea ice spreads over millions of square kilometres and has major impacts on the global climate system with losses in the Artic strongly linked to extreme weather conditions at lower latitudes such as heatwaves in Europe.

Guardian newspaper 02/07/2019


Hope is contagious

In a dialogue between Greta Thunberg (a young climate change activist) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (US Congress) published in the Guardian on 29 June they agreed that –

  • many people were unaware of the climate crisis
  • there was a need to act now
  • even small changes in energy usage by each person could make a difference

In response to the query why young people have been so powerful and persuasive on the issue of climate change, Greta simply replied “because our future is at risk – why should we study for a future that no longer exists”.
Alexandria considered hope in limiting climate change as “ something you create with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world and once one person has hope, it can be contagious and other people starting acting in a similar way. Greta replied “that I know so many people who feel hopeless and they ask me ‘what should I do’ and I reply ‘act - do something.’

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/environment
No one is too small to make a difference by Greta Thunberg (Penguin, London) 2019

Climate apartheid protects rich

The world is increasingly at risk of ‘climate apartheid’ where the rich can afford to escape heat and hunger caused by an escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers” according to Philip Alsthon, UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. “Moreover the impact of global warming is likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, but also for many people (access to) democracy and the rule of the law”.

He presented his report to the UN’s Human Rights Council on 28 June in Geneva and stated that “ the greatest impact would be on those living in poverty with many losing access to adequate food and water. Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health and poverty reduction”.

He added that “even if the 2015 Paris accord on limiting climate change is realised, it still leaves the world on course for a catastrophic 30 C of heating without further action”.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/25/climate-apartheid-united-nations-expert-says-human-rights-may-not-survive-crisis

This report updates the plea of the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mary Robinson, in 2015 in the 8th Grantham Lecture who called for ‘climate justice’ and explained that under article 28 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, “every country has a right to exist”.

https://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

Global climate emergency – Pope Francis’s plea

Pope Francis has declared a global climate change emergency, warning of the dangers of global warming and that a failure to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.50C would be - “a brutual act of injustice towards the poor and future generations which stand to inherit a world greatly different to what our present generation enjoy. Our children and grandchildren should not have to pay the cost of our generation’s irresponsibility”.

The pope’s plea was addressed to the leaders of some of the world’s largest oil company executives in the Vatican. He impressed upon them the urgency and scale of the challenge and the central role that they could play in tackling the emission’s crisis.
[Guardian newspaper 15/06/2019]


Deforestation continues of world’s forests – analysis by Greenpeace

Greenpeace have analysed the amount of forests that have been cleared over the past 10 years. This clearing has been undertaken to increase the area available for growing soya beans and palm oil, to manufacture paper and wood pulp and to feed cattle. They point out that not only does clearance reduce carbon dioxide captured by trees, but also the CO2 emissions associated with the disposal of this wood. By 2020 some 50 million hectacres are likely to have been destroyed, equivalent to twice the area of the United Kingdom.

Greenpeace called upon members of the Consumer Goods Forum to renew their pledge only to obtain such products through sustainable sources.
[Guardian newspaper 11/06/2019]

Cleaning up the UK’s nuclear power stations will be very costly

Nuclear power has helped to initiate the transition from fossil fuel generation to renewable energy sources. However in the UK their operation has resulted in the accumulation of 4.9 million tonnes of nuclear waste. Safe disposal of this waste using current technology will take 120 years and a total cost estimated at £234 billion.

Many of these nuclear reactors were not designed to be easily decommissioned. Not was much thought given as to how the nuclear waste, much of which is highly radioactive could be safely managed until the radioactivity had died.

The advantages of renewable energy sources like photovoltaic cells or wind turbines is that they are not radioactive. In addition these sources can be renewed by replacing the solar panels or reblading the turbines so that their life time cost is very much lower than that of nuclear power.
[Eureka magazine June 2019 p12-16]

Young people are fighting for our future but we need your help

Greta Thunberg and her collaborators have called for a week of climate action starting Friday 20 September with a world wide strike for climate action. The idea is that “we should walk out of our work places and homes to spend the day demanding action on the climate crisis, the greatest existential threat that all of us face”

In her article in the Guardian on Friday, May 24, Greta wrote –“ Last year’s UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on global warming was clear about the unprecedented dangers of going beyond 1.5 C of global heating. Emissions must drop rapidly so that by the time we are in our mid- and late-20s, we are living in a completely transformed world. But to change everything, we need everyone. It is time for all of us to unleash mass resistance – we have shown that collective action does work”.

Decline in biodiversity ‘threatens food crisis’

The world’s capacity to produce food is being undermined by humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity according to the first UN study of the plants, animals and micro-organisms that help to put meals on our plates.

This stark warning was issued by the Food and Agricultural Organisation after scientists found evidence that that the natural support systems underpinning the human diet are deteriorating globally as farms, cities and factories convert land to social use and a range of pollutants are emitted which interfere with world wide food web.

Over the past two decades the report noted about 20% of the Earth’s vegetated surface became less productive.

Reference-The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture-https://www.fao.org/state-of-biodiversity-for-food-agriculture/en


Biodiversity and Ecosystem services

This Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform has recently published its first report to answer questions like “what are humans doing to the world’s species, its biodiversity, its ecosystems and its natural resources and what are the consequences for human life as well as the natural world”.

Its findings include that at least one million species are at risk of extinction and nearly one third of the world’s coral reefs and more than one third of marine mammals are also threatened. For domesticated plants and animals, the lack of biodiversity in genes is providing les protection against diseases and fewer options for breeding plants and animals that will be better adapted to a changing climate.

Reference-Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services-https://www.ipbes.net/

Scouts for SDGs

The World Scout Movement hosted an event at the United Nations headquarters in November 2018 to launch Scouts for SDGs – a mobilisation of 50 million Scouts to make the world’s largest coordinated youth contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. 

Scouting has made an extraordinary contribution over the years to improve the sustainability of our planet, promote peace, and tackle inequality. Earlier this year Scouts surpassed an incredible milestone by giving more than one billion hours towards sustainable development through local projects under World Scouting’s programmes, including the flagship Messengers of Peace initiative.

Now, as a global Movement, Scouting is taking that commitment one step further with Scouts for SDGs. By 2030, this unprecedented activation aims to engage 50 million young people in a coordinated effort to deliver two million local projects and an additional three billion hours of service for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Scouts for SDGs features a newly launched online SDG hub and a range of resources to support National Scout Organizations to raise awareness and take action for the SDGs. The initiative also leverages financial and in-kind contributions from the World Scout Foundation and a wide network of partners, including United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations, to support local projects led by Scouts.

For further information consult www.sgs.scouts.org. Inspire others by sharing your project!


 

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