Top Oil Exporter Saudi Arabia Targets Zero Carbon Emissions By 2060

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman delivering a speech addressing the Saudi Green Initiative opening ceremony in the capital Riyadh on October 23, 2021. BANDAR AL-JALOUD / AFP / Saudi Royal Palace
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman delivering a speech addressing the Saudi Green Initiative opening ceremony in the capital Riyadh on October 23, 2021. BANDAR AL-JALOUD / AFP / Saudi Royal Palace

 

Top crude exporter Saudi Arabia will aim to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2060, its de facto ruler said on Saturday, days before the COP26 global climate summit.

The kingdom, one of the world’s biggest polluters, said it would also join a global effort to cut methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

The UN says more than 130 countries have set or are considering a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, an objective it says is “imperative” to safeguard a liveable climate.

“I announce today Saudi Arabia’s target to reach net zero emissions by 2060,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the “Saudi Green Initiative” forum.

READ ALSO: Climate Change Threatens More Than 100 Million People In Africa, Says UN

“I am pleased to launch initiatives in the energy sector that will reduce carbon emissions by 278 million tonnes annually by 2030, thus voluntarily more than doubling the target announced,” Prince Mohammed said.

“We also announce the kingdom’s accession to the Global Methane Pledge.”

A statement said Saudi Arabia would “contribute to cutting global methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030, as part of its commitment to deliver a cleaner, greener future”.

The 2060 target would “enable us to have a smooth and viable transition, without risking economic or social impacts”, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said.

COP26 President Alok Sharma welcomed the announcement.

“I hope this landmark announcement… will galvanise ambition from others ahead of #COP26,” Sharma tweeted, adding he was looking forward to seeing more details on the Saudi plan.

Aramco 2050 target

Shortly after, energy giant Saudi Aramco said it committed to being a net zero enterprise by 2050.

“Saudi Aramco will achieve an ambition of being also a net zero from our operation by 2050,” Aramco chief executive Amin Nasser said at the forum.

“We understand that the road will be complex, the transition will have its challenges, but we are confident we can meet them and accelerate our efforts to a low emission future.”

Saudi Arabia is estimated to emit about 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year — more than France and slightly less than Germany.

The year 2050 has become a focus for carbon neutrality, defined as achieving a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.

As COP26 approaches, a string of countries have pledged to aim for net zero emissions by 2050, and global airlines and banks are also targeting the mid-century goal.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said Friday the current climate situation was “a one-way ticket for disaster”, stressing the need to “avoid a failure” at COP26 in Glasgow.

Held between October 31 and November 12, the gathering is seen as a crucial step in setting worldwide emission targets to slow global warming.

Tree-planting drive

In March, Saudi Arabia unveiled a campaign to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions, including a plan to plant billions of trees in the coming decades.

The OPEC kingpin aims to reduce emissions by generating half of its energy from renewables by 2030, Prince Mohammed said at the time.

The prince announced on Saturday that the first phase would include planting more than 450 million trees and the rehabilitation of eight million hectares (nearly 20 million acres) of degraded land.

Saudi Arabia also said it would designate new “protected areas”.

The move brings “the total protected areas in the kingdom to more than 30 percent of its total area”, Prince Mohammed said, adding the first set of green initiatives would cost more than 700 billion riyals ($186.6 billion).

Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, said the land conservation move was critical.

“We want to diversify our economy. Hospitality and tourism are key to that, but so is preserving our environment,” she said at the forum.

Saudi Arabia currently draws on oil and natural gas to both meet its own fast-growing power demand and desalinate its water — which consumes huge quantities of oil.

The initiatives come as energy giant Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s cash cow, faces scrutiny from investors over its emissions.

In January, Bloomberg News reported that Aramco excluded emissions generated from many of its refineries and petrochemical plants in its overall carbon disclosures to investors.

It added that if those facilities are included, the company’s self-reported carbon footprint could nearly double, adding as much as 55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to its annual tally –- roughly the emissions produced by Portugal.

AFP

UN Security Council To Demand Civilian Power In Mali

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The UN voiced alarm July 19, 2021. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

Members of the UN Security Council will travel to the Sahel this weekend to push Mali to return to civilian power after two military coups in nine months in a region plagued by jihadist violence.

“The Sahel region is exposed to all kinds of challenges,” Niger’s ambassador to the United Nations Abdou Abarry told AFP.

“This is where the stakes are in the fight against terrorism, humanitarian issues, the impact of climate change and good governance,” said Abarry.

“The situation in the Sahel remains very fragile”, said French ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Riviere, who is leading the trip to Mali together with Abarry.

Riviere spoke of the need to stabilize Mali and “discuss how to support the efforts of the G5 Sahel countries to ensure their security”.

In Mali, thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced, while swathes of the country have little or no state presence in the face of a jihadist insurgency.

For the 15 members of the Security Council, traveling to a country ruled by a military junta is not tantamount to endorsing its two recent coups d’etat, several Western and African diplomats told AFP.

The UN Security Council is heading to the region to support regional organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States and “insist on respecting electoral deadlines and, if this is not possible, at least have a realistic timetable,” one of the diplomats told AFP.

Climate Change Threatens More Than 100 Million People In Africa, Says UN

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019, the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

More than 100 million extremely poor people in Africa are threatened by accelerating climate change that could also melt away the continent’s few glaciers within two decades, a UN report warned on Tuesday.

In a report ahead of the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow, the UN highlighted Africa’s “disproportionate vulnerability” last year from food insecurity, poverty, and population displacement.

“By 2030, it is estimated that up to 118 million extremely poor people will be exposed to drought, floods, and extreme heat in Africa if adequate response measures are not put in place,” said Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for rural economy and agriculture at the African Union Commission.

The extremely poor are those who live on less than $1.90 per day, according to the report coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

“In sub-Saharan Africa, climate change could further lower gross domestic product by up to 3% by 2050,” Sacko said.

“Not only are physical conditions getting worse, but also the number of people being affected is increasing,” she said in the foreword.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said that last year Africa saw temperatures continue to increase, “accelerating sea-level rise” as well as extreme weather events like floods, landslides, and droughts, all indicators of climate change.

 

Disappearing Glaciers

“The rapid shrinking of the last remaining glaciers in eastern Africa, which are expected to melt entirely in the near future, signals the threat of imminent and irreversible change to the Earth system,” Taalas said.

Last year Africa’s landmass and waters warmed more rapidly than the world average, the report said.

The 30-year warming trend from 1991-2020 was above that of the 1961-1990 period in all of Africa’s regions.

The rate of sea-level rise along the tropical coasts and the South Atlantic, as well as along the Indian Ocean was higher than the world average.

Though too small to serve as significant water reserves, Africa’s glaciers have high tourism and scientific value and yet are retreating at a rate higher than the global average.

“If this continues, it will lead to total deglaciation by the 2040s,” the report said.

“Mount Kenya is expected to be deglaciated a decade sooner, which will make it one of the first entire mountain ranges to lose glaciers due to human-induced climate change.”

The other glaciers in Africa are on the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

To avoid even higher costs of disaster relief, the WMO urged African countries to invest in “hydrometeorological infrastructure and early warning systems to prepare for escalating high-impact hazardous events.”

It backed broadening access to early warning systems and to information on food prices and weather, including with simple text or voice messages informing farmers when to plant, irrigate or fertilize.

“Rapid implementation of African adaptation strategies will spur economic development and generate more jobs in support of economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report said.

The report involved the WMO, the African Union Commission, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) through the Africa Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), international and regional scientific organisations, and United Nations agencies.

Osinbajo Demands ‘Just’ Climate Change Policies For Developing Countries

Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo attended a UN Energy meeting in London on October 8, 2021.
Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (First Right) attended a UN Energy meeting in London on October 8, 2021.

 

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has argued that climate change policies must reflect “the different realities of various economies” to be successful.

Osinbajo is currently in the United Kingdom to participate in a series of high-level United Nations Energy Transition in Africa events.

The meetings are being held ahead of the October UN Climate Conference to be hosted in Glasgow.

In a note posted on his Facebook page on Saturday, Mr Osinbajo said Nigeria is committed to the Paris agreement on climate change “and has resolutely compiled all of our national determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, and updated those commitments in our new Energy Transition Plan.”

READ ALSO: Greta Thunberg Slams 30 Years Of Climate ‘Empty Words’

However, he noted that energy consumption is growing in developing countries and capital is required to meet the demands sustainably.

“Nigeria’s Federal Government is already making efforts to use large shares of clean energy sources, but the development of gas projects pose a dire challenge,” Osinbajo said.

“The ultimate goal of the global energy transition should be to achieve reliable net-zero-energy systems to power prosperous and inclusive economies.

“In 2018, 15% of the world’s population, high income countries received 40% of global energy investment. Conversely, developing countries with 40% of the world’s population received just 15% of global energy investments.

“Energy transition must be equitable, inclusive and just with a planet and people approach to the transition. As a practical matter that means transition plans must take into account the different realities of various economies and accommodate various pathways to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“The energy access element of the transition must be linked with the emission reduction aspect of the transition. For too long we have considered these to be parallel tracks.

A file photo of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

 

“However, pathways to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 have to include first ending energy poverty by 2030. If energy access issues are left unaddressed, we will continue to see growing energy demand being addressed with high polluting and deforesting fuels such as diesel, kerosene and firewood.

“Efforts are already underway in my country, and in countries across the continent, to include large sheets of clean energy sources to fuel that growth. Renewables are the fastest-growing segment of energy today and will certainly be a key economic driver well into the future.

“Nigeria is committed to the process and strongly believe the process has to be strong, fair, just and supported not just for Nigeria, but for most African countries and for many developing countries who have the same concerns that we have. Nigeria is about the first African country that has developed an energy transition plan that seeks to demonstrate its commitment to the global net -zero emissions.”

Google Lets Users Factor Climate Change Into Life

A handout picture released by the UNDP (United Nations Development programme). Benjamin LARROQUETTE / UNDP / AFP.

 

Google on Wednesday said it is tweaking widely used tools for getting around, shopping and more to let users factor climate change into daily routines.

Google is among the Big Tech firms that have made pledges and investments to reduce the environmental impact of their operations with moves such as making power-hungry data centers carbon neutral.

New features unveiled on Wednesday provide users with ways to help in the effort, whether it be driving routes that result in less exhaust being spewed from cars or shopping online for energy-efficient appliances.

“In all these efforts, our goal is to make the sustainable choice an easier choice,” Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said while briefing journalists on the latest features.

Artificial intelligence was put to work in Google’s free Maps service in the United States to show people the most fuel-efficient routes to destinations even if they are not the quickest.

“It defaults to the route that uses less fuel when the estimated time of arrival is similar,” Pichai said.

“We believe the feature will have the same impact in the next year as taking over 200,000 cars off the road.”

The feature is to be rolled out in Europe in 2022.

Google has also started work on a project to use AI to optimize the efficiency of traffic in cities to reduce the time vehicles spend idling at intersections.

Carbon dioxide emission information is being added to a Flights service for booking travel by air.

“We’re putting these numbers in context by labeling flights that have significantly higher emissions, and adding a green badge to flights with significantly lower emissions,” Google said in a post.

The metrics will also show how much more CO2 is attributed to business or first-class seats, which give passengers more room.

In the coming months, Google will start adding details about how eco-friendly hotels are so people can opt for lodging that is kinder to the planet.

Google moves include weaving environmental impact information into its services for financial investing or shopping for appliances and providing more insights into the cost-benefits of electric vehicles.

“Individually, these choices might feel small but when you multiply them together across our products, they equal big transformations for the planet,” Pichai said.

“It’s going to take all of that to avert the worst consequences of climate change and there’s no time to waste.”

AFP

Greta Thunberg Slams 30 Years Of Climate ‘Empty Words’

In this file photo Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg speaks during a “Youth Strike 4 Climate” protest march on March 6, 2020, in Brussels. Environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg assailed powerful politicians in biting remarks to a US congressional panel on April 22, 2021, accusing them of “ignoring” the climate crisis and demanding an end to fossil fuel subsidies

 

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg opened a youth climate summit on Tuesday by lambasting three decades of government inaction, accusing world leaders of having “drowned” future generations with “empty words and promises”.

Speaking weeks ahead of a crunch UN climate summit in Glasgow, Thunberg accused governments of “shamelessly congratulating themselves” for insufficient pledges to cut emissions and promises of financing.

Hurling leaders’ own words back at them, the 18-year-old laid bare to delegates at the Youth4Climate event in Milan the gap between words and action.

“There is no Planet B, there is no planet blah, blah, blah,” Thunberg said to warm applause.

Echoing a speech by COP26 summit host Boris Johnson in April, she continued: “This is not about some expensive politically correct dream of bunny hugging, or build back better, blah blah blah, green economy, blah blah blah, net-zero by 2050, blah blah blah, climate-neutral blah blah blah.

“This is all we hear from our so-called leaders: words, words that sound great but so far have led to no action, our hopes and dreams drowned in their empty words and promises,” said Thunberg.

The three-day event in Milan gathers some 400 youth activists from nearly 200 countries, who will submit a joint declaration to a ministerial meeting at the end of the week as a lead-in to COP26 in November in Glasgow.

“Our leaders’ intentional lack of action is a betrayal of all present and future generations,” said Thunberg.

She said governments had been “shamelessly congratulating themselves while still failing to come up with the long-overdue funding” for developing nations.

COP26 is being billed as vital for the continued viability of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which saw countries commit to limit global temperature rises to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius.

The landmark deal aims for a safer warming cap of 1.5C.

But six years after the accord was struck, countries still haven’t agreed on how it will work in practice.

Among long-overdue issues still outstanding for COP26 is how each country’s carbon cuts will be counted, as well as how the fight against climate change is financed.

Nations already suffering from extreme floods, droughts and storms supercharged by rising seas have called on developed countries at COP26 to make good on a decade-old promise to provide $100 billion each year to help them recover and adapt.

Host Britain says it wants the Glasgow summit to keep the 1.5C temperature goal in play, specifically by seeking a global agreement to phase out coal power.

However, the United Nations this month said that the latest round of country emissions reductions plans still puts Earth on course for a “catastrophic” 2.7C of warming.

Biden Warns Of Climate Change During Visit To Storm-Damaged New York, New Jersey

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 07: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to the media as he departs the White House on September 07, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden is traveling to New Jersey and New York to tour storm damage from Hurricane Ida. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Kevin Dietsch / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

President Joe Biden flew Tuesday to storm-ravaged New York and New Jersey, just days after inspecting the damage caused by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana — a trail of destruction the Democrat blames on climate change.

Biden — who is pushing a giant infrastructure spending bill, including major funding for the green economy — argues that extreme weather across the United States this summer is a harbinger of worse to come.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters aboard Air Force One that Biden believes the latest devastation shows “the average costs of extreme weather are getting bigger and no one is immune from climate change.”

Ida struck the US Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing major flooding and knocking out power to large parts of the heavily populated region, which is also a main hub for the oil industry.

The departing remnants of the hurricane then caught authorities in the New York region by surprise, with ferocious rainfall triggering flash flooding.

The final blast of the storm killed at least 47 people in the US Northeast as it turned streets into raging rivers, inundated basements and shut down the New York subway.

And while one part of the country buckles under hurricane fallout, California and other parts of the west are struggling to combat ever fiercer wildfires.

Biden was to tour Manville, New Jersey and the New York borough of Queens before making remarks at 4:00 pm (2000 GMT).

With his presidency straining from the aftermath of the Afghanistan pullout and surging Covid infections at home, Biden faces a difficult coming few weeks, including a struggle to get his infrastructure plans through the narrowly divided Congress.

The White House hopes that the dramatic impact from Hurricane Ida in two different parts of the country will galvanize action on the spending bills.

“It’s so imperative that we act on addressing the climate crisis and investing… through his ‘Build Back Better’ agenda, which is working its way through Congress,” Psaki said.

Biden is due to “highlight how one in three Americans live in counties that have been impacted by severe weather events in recent months,” she said.

“Just over the summer, 100 million Americans have been impacted by extreme weather — obviously in the northeast, out west with wildfires, and then in the Gulf Coast.”

AFP

Time Running Out As Global Warming Accelerates – UN Report

A local resident gestures as he holds n empty water hose during an attempt to extinguish forest fires approaching the village of Pefki on Evia (Euboea) island, Greece's second largest island, on August 8, 2021. ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP
A local resident gestures as he holds an empty water hose during an attempt to extinguish forest fires approaching the village of Pefki on Evia (Euboea) island, Greece’s second largest island, on August 8, 2021. ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP

 

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s first major scientific assessment since 2014, released Monday, shows unequivocally that global warming is unfolding more quickly than feared and that humanity is almost entirely to blame.

Here is a rundown of some of its key findings from the IPCC Working Group 1 report on physical science:

Goodbye 1.5C, hello overshoot

Earth’s average surface temperature is projected to hit 1.5 or 1.6 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels around 2030 in all five of the greenhouse gas emissions scenarios  — ranging from highly optimistic to reckless — considered by the report. That’s a full decade earlier than the IPCC predicted just three years ago.

By mid-century, the 1.5C threshold will have been breached across the board, by a tenth of a degree along the most ambitious pathway, and by nearly a full degree at the opposite extreme.

There is a silver lining: in the most ambitious if-we-do-everything-right scenario, global temperatures — after “overshooting” the 1.5C target — fall back to 1.4C by 2100.

Natural climate allies weakening

Since about 1960, forests, soil and oceans have absorbed 56 percent of all the CO2 humanity has chucked into the atmosphere — even as those emissions have increased by half. Without nature’s help, Earth would already be a much hotter and less hospitable place.

But these allies in our fight against global heating — known in this role as carbon sinks — are showing signs of becoming saturated, and the percentage of human-induced carbon they soak up is likely to decline as the century unfolds.

Yes, climate change is to blame

The report highlights the stunning progress of a new field, attribution science, in quantifying the extent to which human-induced global heating increases the intensity and/or likelihood of a specific extreme weather event such as a heatwave, a hurricane or a wildfire.

Within weeks, for example, scientists established that the record-shattering heatwave that devastated British Columbia in June would have been “virtually impossible” without the influence of climate change.

More generally, the 2021 IPCC report includes many more findings reached with “high confidence” than before.

Sea rising higher, more quickly

Global oceans have risen about 20 centimetres (eight inches) since 1900, and the rate of increase has nearly tripled in the last decade. Crumbling and melting ice sheets atop Antarctica and especially Greenland have replaced glacier melt as the main driver.

If global warming is capped at 2C, the ocean watermark will go up about half a metre over the 21st century. It will continue rising to nearly two metres by 2300 — twice the amount predicted by the IPCC in 2019.

Because of uncertainty over ice sheets, scientists cannot rule out a total rise of two metres by 2100 in a worst-case emissions scenario.

Dire warnings from the deep past

Major advances in palaeoclimatology — the science of natural climate in Earth’s past — have delivered sobering warnings.

For example, the last time the planet’s atmosphere was as warm as today, about 125,000 years ago, global sea levels were likely 5-10 metres higher — a level that would put many major coastal cities under water.

Three million years ago, when atmospheric CO2 concentrations matched today’s levels and temperatures were 2.5C to 4C higher, sea levels were up to 25 metres higher.

Methane in the spotlight

The report includes more data than ever before on methane (CH4), the second most important greenhouse gas after CO2, and warns that failure to curb emissions could undermine Paris Agreement goals.

Human-induced sources are roughly divided between leaks from natural gas production, coal mining and landfills on one side, and livestock and manure handling on the other.

CH4 lingers in the atmosphere only a fraction as long as CO2, but is far more efficient at trapping heat. CH4 levels are their highest in at least 800,000 years.

A focus on regional differences

Although all parts of the planet — from the oceans to the land to the air we breathe — are warming, some areas are heating faster than others. In the Arctic, for example, the average temperature of the coldest days is projected to increase at about triple the rate of global warming across the planet as a whole.

Sea levels are rising everywhere, but will likely increase up to 20 percent above the global average along many coastlines.

Tipping points = abrupt change

The IPCC warns against abrupt, “low likelihood, high impact” shifts in the climate system that, when irreversible, are called tipping points. Disintegrating ice sheets holding enough water to raise seas a dozen metres; the melting of permafrost laden with billions of tons of carbon; the transition of the Amazon from tropical forest to savannah — are all examples.

“Abrupt responses and tipping points of the climate system… cannot be ruled out,” the report says.

Global ocean ‘conveyor belt’

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) — a large system of ocean currents that regulates the global transfer of heat from the tropics into the northern hemisphere — is slowing down, a trend “very likely” to continue throughout the 21st century.

Scientists have only “medium confidence” that the AMOC will not stall altogether, as it has in the past. If it did, European winters would become much harsher, monsoon seasons would likely be disrupted, and sea levels in the north Atlantic basin could rise substantially.

Greek Villagers Abandon Island Over Raging Fires

A local uses a megaphone as others observe a large forest fire approaching the village of Pefki on Evia (Euboea) island, Greece's second largest island, on August 8, 2021. ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP
A local uses a megaphone as others observe a large forest fire approaching the village of Pefki on Evia (Euboea) island, Greece’s second largest island, on August 8, 2021. ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP

 

A police car siren calls for the last residents of the village of Gouves on the Greek island of Evia to evacuate as fire rages down a mountainside and engulfs the first houses.  

“I don’t want to, I don’t want to,” repeats in sobs a woman on her porch who cannot find the strength to flee even as the approaching inferno turns the sky orange.

The fires remained out of control over large swathes of Evia island on Sunday, as evacuations were continuing, pushing hundreds of people towards the beach.

Many villagers joined the battle, and around 10 men were busy digging, cutting and pulling out branches in an effort to slow the raging fire despite the repeated urging of police to leave.

Forming a human chain, they unrolled water hoses fed by agricultural pick-ups, desperate to save their livelihood.

“If people leave, the villages will burn for sure,” says Yannis Selimis, a young man from Gouves. “We are in the hands of God.”

Tempers flared over a lack of government response.

“Which authorities? Which firefighters? Do you see anybody here?” exclaims one local.

“They burnt our paradise,” says Triantafyllos Konstantinos, 46. “We are done,” he sighs.

“It’s tragic. We are all going to the sea,” says Nikos Papaioannou as the fire steadily encroaches on residential areas near the island’s northern coasts.

Refugees in their own country

At Gouves, cars pass through a vast cloud of smoke as they try to go towards the beach.

Some kilometres away, at the beach of Pefki, a ferry boat docked on the beach and a warship off the coast are waiting to rescue these people who have become refugees in their own country.

They wait without knowing whether they will reach the mainland Sunday evening.

“Evia is finished”, says Cleopatra Plapouta. “People are fighting all by themselves. Not a single firefighter inside the villages,” she complains, wearing a scarf and a mask against the thick smoke and ash.

This picture taken on August 9, 2021 shows burnt trees trunk during a wildfire at the village of Pefki on Evia (Euboea) island, Greece's second largest island. ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP
This picture taken on August 9, 2021 shows burnt trees trunk during a wildfire at the village of Pefki on Evia (Euboea) island, Greece’s second largest island. ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP

 

“We are burning for a week now!” her husband exclaims. “The fire started 60 kilometres away! 60 kilometres!”

Shirtless, the greying man gesticulates with despair. “It’s unbelievable! It was a heaven, they burnt it down!”

Maria Moushogianni, who owns a beach hotel where she is shelterin two families who have abandoned their homes, says that Sunday was the first day that airplanes appeared.

“They abandoned us, they lied to us! I’m going to close the hotel and leave,” adds the 66-year-old woman, holding her white cat. “This evening if possible”.

 

AFP

UN Set To Unveil Landmark Report As Climate Impacts Multiply

 Aerial file photo taken on August 28, 2019 of deforestation in Nascentes da Serra do Cachimbo Biological Reserve in Altamira, Para state, Brazil, in the Amazon basin. Joao LAET / AFP
Aerial file photo taken on August 28, 2019 of deforestation in Nascentes da Serra do Cachimbo Biological Reserve in Altamira, Para state, Brazil, in the Amazon basin. Joao LAET / AFP

 

As heart-stopping images of fires and floods dominate news cycles worldwide, the UN’s climate science panel will unveil on Monday its much-anticipated projections for temperature and sea-level rises less than three months before a crucial climate summit in Scotland.

After two weeks of virtual negotiations, 195 nations approved the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) comprehensive assessment of past and future warming on Friday in the form of a “summary for policymakers”.

The text — vetted and approved line by line, word by word — is likely to paint a grim picture of accelerating climate change and dire threats on the horizon.

On the heels of deadly floods in India, China and northern Europe as well as asphalt-melting heatwaves in North America and southern Europe, the IPCC’s report is the first so-called assessment report since 2014.

Both the world and the science have changed a lot since then.

With increasingly sophisticated technology allowing scientists to measure climate change and predict its future path, the report will project global temperature changes until the end of the century under different emissions scenarios.

Based almost entirely on published research, it could forecast — even under optimistic scenarios — a temporary “overshoot” of the 1.5 degrees Celsius target of the Paris Agreement, and revise upwards its estimates for long-term sea-level rise.

It is also expected to reflect huge progress in so-called attribution science, which allows experts to link individual extreme weather events directly to man-made climate change.

While the underlying IPCC report is purely scientific, the summary for policymakers is negotiated by national representatives, and therefore subject to competing priorities.

Belgian climate physicist and former IPCC co-chair Jean-Pascal Ypersele, who was party to the negotiations, said the talks were guided by the underlying science.

“I can testify that the authors of the #ClimateReport had the last word on every sentence in the SPM, which really was a Summary FOR (and not BY) policymakers,” he said on Twitter.

The report comes less than three months before the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, which are seen as vital for humanity’s chance of limiting the worst impacts of global warming.

“This is going to be the starkest warning yet that human behaviour is alarmingly accelerating global warming and this is why COP26 has to be the moment we get this right,” COP26 President Alok Sharma said over the weekend.

“We can’t afford to wait two years, five years, 10 years -– this is the moment,” he told a British newspaper.

French climatologist Corinne Le Quere congratulated the delegates on Friday for finalising “the text of what I think will be one of the most important scientific reports ever published”.

There will be two further parts to the IPCC’s latest round of climate assessments, known as AR6.

A working group report on climate impacts, a draft of which was exclusively obtained by AFP, is set for release in February 2022.

Another report focusing on solutions for reducing emissions and adapting to climate change will be out the following month.

 

AFP

Climate ‘Mysteries’ Still Puzzle Scientists, Despite Progress

Military personnel on an inflatable boat ship past a destroyed house on the Ahr river in Rech, Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany, on July 21, 2021, after devastating floods hit the region. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

 

 

What worries one of the world’s leading climate scientists the most?

Heatwaves — and particularly the tendency of current models to underestimate the intensity of these bursts of deadly, searing temperature.

This is one of the “major mysteries” science still has to unravel, climatologist Robert Vautard told AFP, even as researchers are able to pinpoint with increasing accuracy exactly how human fossil fuel pollution is warming the planet and altering the climate.

“Today we have better climate projection models, and longer observations with a much clearer signal of climate change,” said Vautard, one of the authors of an upcoming assessment by the United Nations’ panel of climate experts.

“It was already clear, but it is even clearer and more indisputable today.”

The assessment, the first part of a trio of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will be released on August 9 at the end of meetings starting Monday.

It focuses on the science underpinning our understanding of things like temperature increases, rising ocean levels and extreme weather events.

This has progressed considerably since the last assessment in 2014, but so has climate change itself, with effects being felt ever more forcefully across the planet.

– ‘Phenomenal’ heat –
Scientists now have a greater understanding of the mechanisms behind “extreme phenomena, which now occur almost every week around the world”, said Vautard, adding that this helps better quantify how these events will play out in the future.

In almost real time, researchers can pinpoint the role of climate change in a given disaster, something they were unable to do at all until very recently.

Now, so-called “attribution” science means we can say how probable an extreme weather event would have been had the climate not been changing at all.

For example, within days of the extraordinary “heat dome” that scorched the western United States and Canada at the end of June, scientists from the World Weather Attribution calculated that the heatwave would have been “almost impossible” without warming.

Despite these advances, Vautard said “major mysteries remain”.

Scientists are still unsure what part clouds play “in the energy balance of the planet” and their influence on the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases, he said.

But it is “phenomenal temperatures”, like those recorded in June in Canada or in Europe in 2019, that preoccupy the climatologist.

“What worries me the most are the heat waves” and the “thousands of deaths” they cause, said Vautard, who is director of France’s Pierre-Simon Laplace Institute, a climate research and teaching centre.

With rainfall, scientists have a physical law that says water vapour increases by seven percent for every degree of warming, he said, with intense precipitation increasing by about the same amount.

But extreme heat is harder to predict.

“We know that heatwaves are more frequent, but we also know that our models underestimate the increasing intensity of these heatwaves, particularly in Europe, by a factor of two,” he said.

Climate models have come a long way, even since 2014, but there is still room for improvement to reduce these uncertainties.

“Before we had models that represented the major phenomena in the atmosphere, in the oceans,” said Vautard.

Today the models divide the planet’s surface into grids, with each square around 10 kilometres (six miles).

But even now he said the “resolution of the models is not sufficient” for very localised phenomena.

The next generation of models should be able to add even more detail, going down to an area of about a kilometre.

That would give researchers a much better understanding of “small scale” events, like tornadoes, hail or storm systems that bring intense rain like those seen in parts of the Mediterranean in 2020.

– Tipping points –
Even on a global scale, some fundamental questions remain.

Perhaps one of the most ominous climate concepts to have become better understood in recent years is that of “tipping points”.

These could be triggered for example by the melting of the ice caps or the decline of the Amazon rainforest, potentially swinging the climate system into dramatic and irreversible changes.

There are still “a lot of uncertainties and mysteries” about tipping points, Vautard said, including what level of temperature rise might set them off.

Currently, they are seen as low probability events, but he said that it is still crucial to know more about them given the “irreversible consequences on the scale of millennia” that they could cause.

Another crucial uncertainty is the state of the world’s forests and oceans, which absorb about half of the CO2 emitted by humans.

“Will this carbon sink function continue to be effective or not?” Vautard said.

If they stop absorbing carbon — as has been found in areas of the Amazon, for example — then more C02 will accumulate in the atmosphere, raising temperatures even further.

“It is a concern,” said Vautard.

Greta Thunberg Criticises World Leaders For Climate Crisis ‘Role-Playing’

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg attends a session at the Congres center during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 21, 2020. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
FILE: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg attends a session at the Congres center during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 21, 2020.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg launched a new broadside Thursday against “role-playing” by political and economic leaders over the climate crisis, accusing them of using it as a business opportunity.

Appearing via video-link at the Austrian World Summit on climate policy hosted by former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, she described the reaction of those in power to the groundswell of climate activism.

“Eventually the public pressure was too much. So you started to act,” Thunberg said.

“But acting as in role-playing. Playing politics, playing with words, playing with our future.”

Thunberg, 18, derided wealthy nations’ climate commitments as “vastly insufficient” in the face of “more and more extreme weather events… raging all around us”.

This week a heat wave in western Canada and the north-western United States smashed temperature records and has been linked to dozens of excess deaths.

Thunberg said net zero emissions targets announced by major economies “could be a great start, if they weren’t full of gaps and loopholes” such as “leaving out emissions from imported goods, international aviation and shipping”.

In addition they rely on “baseline manipulation” and the use of unproven technology, according to the activist, who rose to prominence by mounting a series of school strikes for the climate which inspired a global movement.

“The climate crisis is today — at best — being treated only as a business opportunity to create green new jobs, new green businesses and technologies,” she said.

The summit, launched five years ago by Schwarzenegger, aims to highlight “concrete solutions and measures from global decision-makers” in response to the challenge of climate change.

In his opening message, Schwarzenegger stressed the need for “encouragement, not just threat and despair”.

Making a tongue-in-cheek reference to his most famous role, he added: “We can terminate pollution, let’s get our message together and let’s work together.”

Among those participating in the event are Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans — who is leading the Commission’s work on its European Green Deal — and high-ranking representatives from multinational giants Ford and Apple.

Thunberg’s address was cut short for technical reasons.

 

AFP