“Climate change is real. The flooding that has followed torrential downpours in towns and villages in Nigeria—like other places around the globe, confirms this.
“The damage that has been occasioned on account of the floods are troubling. Public social facilities like schools and hospitals have been impacted. It may be safe to say, however, that no one carries the burden of these floods like our farmers.
“Media reports abound of swathes of farmlands and food crops being washed away.
“The consequence of these losses by our farmers will be felt by all of us. Any hope of a bumper harvest is now diminished. This will further add to misery in our towns and villages, and our cities as food prices continue to soar.
“I share the pains of the victims of these flooding incidents, including communities where their local healthcare centres, markets and schools have been destroyed. Or even individuals who have been displaced. I also sympathise with those who have lost their loved ones.
“Therefore, I urge governments at all levels to unveil a special humanitarian assistance programme to provide immediate succour to the affected communities,” Atiku stated.
According to him, these unfortunate incidents should be a wake-up call to the urgency of everyone’s responsiveness to the issues of climate change and global warming.
He said it is a clarion call that non-governmental organisations must equally harken to and place the focus of their advocacy on sensitising the vulnerable public on how to manage and mitigate disasters of global warming.
California ruled Thursday that all new cars sold in America’s most populous state must be zero emission from 2035, in what was billed as a nation-leading step to slash the pollutants that cause global warming.
The widely touted move has been hailed by environmentalists, who hope it will prod other parts of the United States to quicken the adoption of electric vehicles.
The rules demand an ever-increasing percentage of new cars sold to California’s 40 million inhabitants produce no tailpipe pollutants, until their total ban in 13 years’ time.
“The timeline is ambitious but achievable: by the time a child born this year is ready to enter middle school, only zero-emission vehicles or a limited number of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) will be offered for sale new in California,” the California Air Resources Board said.
The board, which was tasked with finding a way to implement Governor Gavin Newsom’s order to transition the state’s automotive sector, said the health benefits would be significant.
“By 2037, the regulation delivers a 25 percent reduction in smog-causing pollution from light-duty vehicles.
“This benefits all Californians but especially the state’s most environmentally and economically burdened communities along freeways and other heavily traveled thoroughfares.”
From 2026 through 2040 the regulation is expected to result in 1,290 fewer cardiopulmonary deaths, 460 fewer hospital admissions for cardiovascular or respiratory illness, and 650 fewer emergency room visits for asthma, it said.
California already accounts for the lion’s share of electric vehicles in the United States, with 1.13 million of them on the state’s roads — 43 percent of the nation’s total.
Their popularity has mushroomed in the years since they were seen as little more than novelty golf carts for tree-huggers content to drive no more than a few dozen miles (kilometers).
Ten years ago only two percent of new cars sold in the state were electric; that figure is now 16 percent, and Teslas and other premium offerings with a range of hundreds of miles are a common sight on roads around Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Still, the vehicles remain more expensive than their fossil fuel-powered equivalents and critics say only federal subsidies of up to $7,500 make them viable for many buyers.
But supporters say the incentives are necessary short-term supports that will fade away as increased adoption boosts economies of scale and drives down prices.
As the biggest auto market in the United States, one manufacturers cannot ignore, California has an outsized influence in effectively setting national standards.
Thursday’s ruling comes on the heels of a climate law signed last week by US President Joe Biden, which sets aside hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives for clean energy programs.
Biden and his Democratic Party are rushing to make up climate policy ground they feel was lost under former president Donald Trump, who yanked the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord and reversed what many environmentalists viewed as already-weak progress in reducing the fossil fuel emissions that drive global warming.
Newsom, a leading light in the Democratic Party, who is rumored to have presidential ambitions, welcomed the ruling.
“California now has a groundbreaking, world-leading… roadmap to reducing dangerous carbon emissions and moving away from fossil fuels,” he said.
The reduction in the number of petrol and diesel-powered cars on the roads is equivalent to “915 million oil barrels’ worth of emissions that won’t pollute our communities.”
“With the historic $10 billion we’re investing to accelerate the transition… we’re making it easier and cheaper for all Californians to purchase electric cars.”
In recent years jurisdictions around the world, notably in Europe, have set their sights on the polluting automobile sector.
Norway is aiming to have all new cars produce zero tailpipe emissions by 2025.
The UK, Singapore and Israel are eyeing 2030, while the European Union wants to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035.
Human-caused global warming has already raised average temperatures around the planet, affecting weather patterns and worsening natural hazards like wildfires and storms.
Scientists say dramatic action is required to limit the damage, and point to curbing emissions from fossil fuels as key to the battle.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its latest report has warned that the world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Scientists say human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks.
The report released on Monday by the IPCC says people and ecosystems least able to cope are hardest hit.
To avoid mounting loss of life, biodiversity, and infrastructure, the scientists advised that ambitious, accelerated action is required to adapt to climate change, at the same time as making rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
The Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group II report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability were approved on Sunday, February 27, 2022, by 195 member governments of the IPCC, through a virtual approval session that was held over two weeks starting on February 14.
The Working Group II report examines the impacts of climate change on nature and people around the globe. It explores future impacts at different levels of warming and the resulting risks and offers options to strengthen nature’s and society’s resilience to ongoing climate change, to fight hunger, poverty, and inequality, and keep Earth a place worth living on – for current as well as for future generations.
– Urgent action required –
Increased heatwaves, droughts, and floods are already exceeding plants’ and animals’ tolerance thresholds, driving mass mortalities in species such as trees and corals. These weather extremes are occurring simultaneously, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage. They have exposed millions of people to acute food and water insecurity, especially in Africa, Asia, Central, and South America, on Small Islands, and in the Arctic.
So far, progress on adaptation is uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks, the new report finds. These gaps are largest among lower-income populations. The Working Group II report is the second installment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed this year
“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.
“This report recognises the interdependence of climate, biodiversity, and people and integrates natural, social, and economic sciences more strongly than earlier IPCC assessments,” said Hoesung Lee. “It emphasizes the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option.”
– Safeguarding and strengthening nature –
There are options to adapt to a changing climate. This report provides new insights into nature’s potential not only to reduce climate risks but also to improve people’s lives.
“Healthy ecosystems are more resilient to climate change and provide life-critical services such as food and clean water”, said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Hans-Otto Pörtner. “By restoring degraded ecosystems and effectively and equitably conserving 30 to 50 percent of Earth’s land, freshwater, and ocean habitats, society can benefit from nature’s capacity to absorb and store carbon, and we can accelerate progress towards sustainable development, but adequate finance and political support are essential.”
Scientists point out that climate change interacts with global trends such as unsustainable use of natural resources, growing urbanization, social inequalities, losses and damages from extreme events, and a pandemic, jeopardizing future development. “Our assessment clearly shows that tackling all these different challenges involves everyone – governments, the private sector, civil society – working together to prioritize risk reduction, as well as equity and justice, in decision-making and investment,” said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Debra Roberts.
“In this way, different interests, values, and world views can be reconciled. By bringing together scientific and technological know-how as well as Indigenous and local knowledge, solutions will be more effective. Failure to achieve climate-resilient and sustainable development will result in a sub-optimal future for people and nature.”
– Cities: Hotspots of impacts and risks –
This report provides a detailed assessment of climate change impacts, risks, and adaptation in cities, where more than half the world’s population lives. People’s health, lives, and livelihoods, as well as property and critical infrastructure, including energy and transportation systems, are being increasingly adversely affected by hazards from heatwaves, storms, drought, and flooding as well as slow-onset changes, including sea-level rise.
“Together, growing urbanization and climate change create complex risks, especially for those cities that already experience poorly planned urban growth, high levels of poverty and unemployment, and a lack of basic services,” Debra Roberts said.
“But cities also provide opportunities for climate action – green buildings, reliable supplies of clean water and renewable energy, and sustainable transport systems that connect urban and rural areas can all lead to a more inclusive, fairer society.”
There is increasing evidence of adaptation that has caused unintended consequences, for example destroying nature, putting peoples’ lives at risk or increasing greenhouse gas emissions. This can be avoided by involving everyone in planning, attention to equity and justice, and drawing on Indigenous and local knowledge.
A narrowing window for action
Climate change is a global challenge that requires local solutions and that’s why the Working Group II contribution to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) provides extensive regional information to enable Climate Resilient Development.
The report clearly states Climate Resilient Development is already challenging at current warming levels. It will become more limited if global warming exceeds 1.5°C (2.7°F). In some regions, it will be impossible if global warming exceeds 2°C (3.6°F). This key finding underlines the urgency for climate action, focusing on equity and justice. Adequate funding, technology transfer, political commitment, and partnership lead to more effective climate change adaptation and emissions reductions.
“The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner.
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.
The findings, published in Nature Climate Change, were stark: data from 732 locations in 43 countries spread across every inhabited continent revealed that, on average, 37 percent of all heat-related deaths can be attributed directly to global warming.
“Climate change is not something in the distant future,” senior author Antonio Gasparrini, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told AFP.
“We can already measure negative impacts on health, in addition to the known environmental and ecological effects.”
The authors said their methods — if extended worldwide — would add up to more than 100,000 heat-related deaths per year laid squarely at the feet of manmade climate change.
– Differences across countries –
That number could be an underestimate because two of the regions for which data was largely missing — south Asia and central Africa — are known to be especially vulnerable to extreme heat deaths.
The 100,000 figure is consistent with a recent analysis from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations (IHME), published in The Lancet.
Th IHME calculated just over 300,000 heat-related deaths worldwide from all causes in 2019. If just over a third of those deaths are due to climate change, as Gasparrini’s team reported, the global total would indeed be more than 100,000.
India accounted for more than a third of the total in the IHME tally, and four of the five worst-hit countries were in South Asia and Central Africa.
The share of heat-related deaths attributable to global warming in the new study varied widely from country to country.
In the United States, Australia, France, Britain, and Spain, for example, that percentage was roughly in line with the average across all countries, between 35 and 39 percent.
For Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, and Chile, the figure rose above 40 percent.
And for half-a-dozen countries — Brazil, Peru, Colombia, the Philippines, Kuwait, and Guatemala — the percentage of heat-related mortality caused by climate change was 60 percent or more.
A complex methodology combining health data and temperature records from 1991 to 2018, coupled with climate modelling, allowed researchers to contrast the actual number of heat-related deaths with how many fewer deaths there would have been without manmade warming.
– Adapt or die –
The researchers found that it is not the increase in average summer temperature — up 1.5C since 1991 in the locations examined — that boosted death rates, but heatwaves: how long they last, nighttime temperatures, and humidity levels.
Also crucial is the ability of the population to adapt.
If 95 percent of the population has air conditioning, mortality will be lower. But if they don’t, or if farmers must work outside in 45C (113F) heat to feed their families, the impacts can be catastrophic.
Even wealthy nations remain vulnerable: in 2003, a relentless heatwave in western Europe claimed 70,000 lives.
Deadly heatwaves that might have occurred once a century before climate change kicked in could, by mid-century, happen far more frequently, scientists warn.
The burgeoning field of attribution climate science measures by how much, for example, a typhoon’s intensity, a drought’s duration, or a storm surge’s destruction has been amplified by global warming.
But little research has tried to do the same for human health, notes Dan Mitchell, a researcher at the Cabot Institute for the Environment at the University of Bristol.
“This shift in thinking is essential … so that global leaders can understand the risks,” he said in a comment in Nature Climate Change.
The world is on course for a “catastrophic” temperature rise this century, the United Nations said Thursday as it confirmed that 2020 rivalled 2016 as the hottest year on record.
The relentless pace of climate change is destroying lives, said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as the UN’s World Meteorological Organization said 2011-2020 had been the warmest decade recorded.
2020 “rivalled 2016 for the top spot”, according to the WMO’s consolidation of five leading international datasets.
The La Nina cool phase of the Pacific Ocean surface temperatures cycle “put a brake on the heat only at the very end of the year,” the WMO said.
The UN weather agency said the warmest three years on record were 2016, 2019 and 2020, and the differences between them in average global temperatures were “indistinguishably small”.
It said the average global temperature in 2020 was about 14.9 degrees Celsius — a figure 1.2 C above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level.
The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change calls for capping global warming at well below 2 C above the pre-industrial level, while countries will pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 C.
The WMO believes there is at least a one in five chance of the average global temperature temporarily exceeding the 1.5 C mark by 2024.
Peace with nature task
“The confirmation by the WMO that 2020 was one of the warmest years on record is yet another stark reminder of the relentless pace of climate change, which is destroying lives and livelihoods across our planet,” said UN chief Guterres.
“We are headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of 3-5 C this century.
“Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top priority.”
The WMO said the standout weather features of 2020 were the sustained heat and wildfires in Siberia and the low Arctic sea ice extent, plus the record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season.
“The global signal from human-induced climate change is now as powerful as the force of nature,” said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas.
“Heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere remain at record levels and the long lifetime of carbon dioxide, the most important gas, commits the planet to future warming.”
La Nina’s 2021 impact
La Nina is expected to continue into early to mid-2021.
The effects of La Nina — and El Nino at the opposite end of the cycle — upon average global temperatures are typically strongest in the second year of the event, said the WMO.
The extent to which La Nina’s cooling effects in 2021 may temporarily diminish the overall long-term warming trend remains to be seen, the organisation said.
The WMO will publish its State of the Climate in 2020 final report in March.
In figures from the US space agency NASA — one of the five datasets consolidated by the WMO — 2020 was hotter than 2016 by less then a tenth of a degree.
Last year was “a very striking example of what it’s like to live under some of the most severe effects of climate change”, said NASA research meteorologist Lesley Ott.
Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, added: “The natural processes Earth has for absorbing carbon dioxide released by human activities — plants and the ocean — just aren’t enough to keep up with how much carbon dioxide we’re putting into the atmosphere.”
UN climate negotiations in Madrid remained bogged down Monday in the fine print of the Paris treaty rulebook, out-of-sync with a world demanding action to forestall the ravages of global warming.
The 196-nation talks should kick into high-gear Tuesday with the arrival of ministers, but on the most crucial issue of all — slashing the greenhouse gas emissions overheating the planet — major emitters have made it clear they have nothing to say.
Only the European Union is dangling the prospect of enhanced carbon-cutting ambitions, to be laid out this week in its European Green New Deal.
The arrival Tuesday of Michael Bloomberg, who has thrown his hat — and a ton of money — into the US presidential contest, will underscore how much easier the task might be with a Democrat rather than a climate denier in the White House.
“I’m going to #COP25 in Madrid because President Trump won’t,” Bloomberg tweeted.
Observers say the case for a global Marshall Plan on global warming has become overwhelming.
A quartet of recent UN science reports catalogued a crescendo of deadly heatwave, flooding and superstorms made more destructive by rising seas, and projected far worse impacts just over the horizon.
Every year that CO2 and methane emissions continue to rise — as they have for decades — compresses the task of drawing them down fast enough to avoid catastrophic warming into an impossibly narrow time frame.
A youth-led movement, meanwhile, led by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg — a magnet for climate hope and fear — has seen millions of protesters spill into the streets, with tens of thousands in Madrid on Friday.
Even forward-looking businesses and corporations are pushing for a rapid and well-ordered transition to a low-carbon world.
Fossil Fuel Taboo
On Monday 631 institutional investors managing $37 trillion — a third of the world’s monetary assets — called for a price on carbon and end to fossil fuel subsidies.
But governments are waiting until next year’s deadline to unveil revised emissions reduction commitments.
“Negotiations, by their nature, are ‘I’ll give you this, if you give me that’,” said Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based climate policy think tank.
“So we are standing and watching our house on fire. I’ve got a hose, you’ve got a hose, but I’m not going to turn mine on until you do.”
At the same time, the rising tide of urgency has clearly permeated the “climate bubble” of diplomats, policy wonks, NGOs and business leaders that gather in a new city each year.
“Delegates are finally saying the ‘F’ words — Fossil Fuels,” said Catherine Abreu, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada, an umbrella organisation of activists.
For 25 years, she noted, it has been more-or-less taboo to point an accusing finger within the UN negotiations directly at the cause of global warming — the burning of fossil fuels.
It is no coincidence that the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement — which calls for capping the rise in temperatures to “well below” two degrees Celsius — does not mention “fossil fuel”, “oil”, “coal” or “natural gas”.
Last month, however, a United Nations report showed for the first time that fossil fuel production planned or in the pipeline will overwhelm efforts to hold warming to levels consistent with a liveable planet.
Negotiators are addressing a trio of politically-charged technical issues before the Paris Agreement becomes operational at the end of next year.
One is reworking rules for largely dysfunctional carbon markets.
Another is so-called “loss and damage”.
Under the bedrock UN climate treaty, rich nations agreed to shoulder more responsibility for curbing global warming, and to help developing countries prepare for unavoidable future impacts — the twin pillars of “mitigation” and “adaptation”.
But there was no provision for helping countries already reeling in a climate-addled world, such as Mozambique — recently hit by devastating cyclones — and small island states disappearing under the waves.
“There must be a path forward that ensures vulnerable countries will see finance and capacity-building support substantially scaled-up to address the loss and damage they are already experiencing,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Even fixing a timetable for periodic reviews of carbon-cutting pledges has proven too contentious for frontline climate negotiators to resolve.
“We must stop our war against nature,” UN chief Antonio Guterres said Sunday in Madrid ahead of a key climate conference, warning against the devastating impacts of global warming.
“For many decades the human species has been at war with the planet, and now the planet is fighting back,” he said, decrying the “utterly inadequate” efforts of the world’s major economies to curb carbon pollution.
“We must stop our war against nature, and science tells us we can do it.”
Not everyone needs to become a vegetarian, much less vegan, to keep the planet from overheating, but it would surely make things easier if they did.
That’s the ambiguous and — for many on either side of this meaty issue — unsatisfying conclusion of the most comprehensive report ever compiled on the link between climate change and how we feed ourselves, released Thursday by the United Nations.
The core findings are crystal clear: climate change is threatening the world’s food supply, even as the way we produce food fuels global warming.
Rising temperatures in tropical zones are starting to shrink yields, displace staple crops, and sap essential nutrients from food plants.
At the same time, the global food system — from farm to food court — accounts for at least a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.
With two billion more mouths to feed by mid-century, it cannot simply be scaled up without pushing Earth’s thermometer deep into the red zone, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “special report”.
More than a quarter of today’s food-related emissions come from cattle and sheep.
“Today’s IPCC report identifies the enormous impact that our dietary choices have on the environment,” commented Alan Dangour, nutrition and global health expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
“It is clear that reducing the demand for meat in diets is an important approach to lowering the environmental impact of the food system.”
Double climate threat
The livestock industry is a double climate threat: it replaces CO2-absorbing forests — notably in sub-tropical Brazil — with land for grazing and soy crops for cattle feed. The animals also belch huge amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
On average, beef requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gases per unit of edible protein than basic plant proteins, notes the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based policy think tank.
For all these reasons, the IPCC concludes, gravitating towards “balanced diets, featuring plant-based foods” would hugely help the climate change cause.
This may sound like a ringing endorsement of vegetarianism, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the world must, or should, eschew meat altogether, the IPCC said.
Besides “coarse grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds,” that “balanced diet” also includes “animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-greenhouse gas emission systems,” the report concluded.
There are likely several reasons the 100-plus authors stopped short of calling for a ban on carbon-intensive red meat.
To begin with, calling for anything is not part of their brief.
“The IPCC does not recommend people’s diets,” co-chair Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy, tweeted in reaction to misleading media stories.
“What we’ve pointed out on the basis of scientific evidence is that there are certain diets that have a lower carbon footprint.”
Observers privy to the week-long meeting, which vets the report summary line-by-line, also note that some scientific findings align better than others with the interests of beef-producing nations.
IPCC reports are based entirely on published, peer-reviewed research, and this one included thousands of data points.
But the final step in a years-long process is approval by diplomats who tussle over how key passages are formulated, including what gets left in or out.
Another compelling reason not to espouse a purely plant-based diet is that billions of poor people around the world depend on fish, and to a lesser extent meat, for protein and nutrients that may not be readily available elsewhere.
“More than 800 million people have insufficient food,” noted Harvard University’s Walter Willett, co-commissioner of a landmark study earlier this year in The Lancet proposing a “reference diet” for optimal health that is long on veggies, legumes and nuts, and short on meat, dairy and sugar.
That diet, The Lancet study found, could feed a world of 10 billion people in 2050 — but only barely.
“We are suggesting a more balanced diet that has roughly 100 grammes per person per week of red meat — a single serving once a week rather than ever day,” co-author Johan Rockstrom, former director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impacts, told AFP.
Meat consumption has levelled off in rich nations, where fast food chains — including Burger King, McDonald’s, and this week Subway — are rushing to offer faux meat alternatives.
But globally, consumption of all four major meats — beef, pork, chicken and lamb — are projected to rise slightly over the next five year, according to industry analysts.
The world’s oceans are heating up at an accelerating pace as global warming threatens a diverse range of marine life and a major food supply for the planet, researchers said.
The findings in the US journal Science, led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, debunk previous reports that suggested a so-called pause in global warming in recent years.
The latest technology shows no such hiatus ever existed, raising new concerns about the pace of climate change and its effect on the planet’s main buffer – the oceans.
“Ocean heating is a very important indicator of climate change, and we have robust evidence that it is warming more rapidly than we thought,” said co-author Zeke Hausfather, a graduate student in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley.
About 93 per cent of excess heat — trapped around the Earth by greenhouse gases that come from the burning of fossil fuels — accumulates in the world’s oceans.
The latest report relied on four studies, published between 2014 and 2017, that gave more precise estimates of past trends in ocean heat, allowing scientists to update past research and hone predictions for the future.
A key factor in the more accurate numbers is an ocean monitoring fleet called Argo, which includes nearly 4,000 floating robots that “drift throughout the world’s oceans, every few days diving to a depth of 2,000 meters (yards) and measuring the ocean’s temperature, pH, salinity and other bits of information as they rise back up,” said the report.
Argo “has provided consistent and widespread data on ocean heat content since the mid-2000s,” it said.
The new analysis shows warming in the oceans is on pace with measurements of rising air temperature.
And if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gases, “models predict that the temperature of the top 2,000 meters of the world’s oceans will rise 0.78 degrees Celsius by the end of the century,” it said.
The thermal expansion — water swelling as it warms — would raise sea level 12 inches (30 centimetres), above any sea level rise from melting glaciers and ice sheets.
“While 2018 will be the fourth warmest year on record on the surface, it will most certainly be the warmest year on record in the oceans, as was 2017 and 2016 before that,” Hausfather said.
“The global warming signal is a lot easier to detect if it is changing in the oceans than on the surface.”
“If the ocean wasn’t absorbing as much heat, the surface of the land would heat up much faster than it is right now,” Malin Pinsky, an associate professor in the department of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers University, told The New York Times. “In fact, the ocean is saving us from massive warming right now.”
Laure Zanna, an associate professor of climate physics at the University of Oxford and who was not involved in the study, told the Times the new research was “a very nice summary of what we know of the ocean and how far the new estimates have come together.”
“We are warming the planet but the ocean is not warming evenly, so different places warm more than others,” Zanna said, according to the paper. “And so the first consequence will be that sea level will be different in different places depending on the warming.”
Researchers have found a new way that global warming is bad for the planet: more hungry bugs.
Rising temperatures will stimulate insects’ appetites — and make some prone to reproducing more quickly — spelling danger for key staples like wheat, corn and rice which feed billions of people, researchers said Thursday.
And since these three crops account for 42 per cent of the calories people eat worldwide, any uptick in scarcity could give rise to food insecurity and conflict, particularly in poorer parts of the globe.
“When it gets warmer, pest metabolism increases,” said Scott Merrill, a researcher at the University of Vermont and co-author of the study in the journal Science.
“And when pest metabolism increases, insect pests eat more food, which is not good for crops.”
Prior studies have already warned of climate change’s harmful effects on food staples, whether by making water scarce for irrigation or sapping nutritious content from cereal grains.
The latest study adds to that body of research by focusing on the boosted appetites of pests like aphids and borers.
To find out just how bad it could get, researchers ran simulations to track temperature-driven changes in metabolism and growth rates for 38 insect species from different latitudes.
Results varied by region, with cooler zones more likely to see a boost in voracious pests, and tropical areas expected to see some relief.
Overall, “global yield losses of these grains are projected to increase by 10 to 25 per cent per degree of global mean surface warming,” said the report.
“In France or the northern United States, most of those insects will have a faster population growth if the temperature warms up a bit,” lead author Curtis Deutsch told AFP.
“In Brazil or Vietnam or a very warm place, then it might be the opposite,” said Deutsch, a researcher at the University of Washington.
France stands to lose about 9.4 per cent of its maize to pests in a world that is 2 C warmer, compared to about 6.6 per cent of yield losses today due to pests.
In Europe, currently the most productive wheat producing region in the world, annual pest-induced yield losses could reach 16 million tons.
Eleven European countries are predicted to see 75 per cent or higher losses in wheat from pests, compared to current pest damage.
In the United States, the world’s largest maize producer, insect-induced maize losses could rise 40 per cent under current climate warming trajectories, meaning 20 fewer tons of maize per year.
China, home to one-third of the world’s rice production, could see losses of 27 million tons annually.
The study did not account for any anticipated increase in pesticide use or other methods of stemming the expected crop loss.
‘Insane’ aphid population
Consider the case of a particularly dangerous pest, the Russian wheat aphid.
Though tiny, these bugs are a major threat in North America, where they are considered an invasive species after first being detected in the 1980s.
Merrill said no aphid males have been found in Canada or the United States. The females, it seems, are reproducing clonally, essentially “giving birth to live clones of themselves,” he told AFP.
“These insects are born alive. They are born pregnant. Not only that, their granddaughters are developing inside them when they are born. It is crazy,” he added.
“They can reproduce under ideal temperatures very quickly,” on the order of eight daughters a day.
“You can imagine how quicky a very small population, even one aphid, can just explode over a whole field season. One or two aphids could turn into a trillion under ideal conditions. It is insane how quickly these populations could grow.”
Until now, most research on crop effects from global warming has focused on the plants themselves.
But researchers hope their findings will spark a hunt for more local solutions, like selecting heat and pest resistant crops and rotating plantings rather than simply dumping more pesticides into the environment.
“We have to start thinking about how are we going to short-circuit some of those things before they actually happen,” Merrill said.
Pope Francis asked Saturday that major oil and gas companies respect the 2015 Paris climate agreement to help protect the poor from global warming.
The Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015 by 196 nations resolving to limit warming to no more than two degrees centigrade.
In a meeting with industry executives at the Vatican, the Pope said it was “disturbing” that two-and-a-half years after the deal was struck, carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gas levels “remain very high”.
“Yet even more worrying is the continued search for new fossil fuel reserves, whereas the Paris Agreement clearly urged keeping most fossil fuels underground,” Francis told the Energy Transition and Care for Our Common Home conference.
“Civilisation requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilisation!”
The pope met officials from major oil and gas firms such as ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Norway’s state oil company Equinor.
He has long considered climate change as one of the key themes of his papacy. In 2015, his second encyclical was dedicated to the issue, describing it as “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day”.
Francis implored the industry to halt prospection as climate change will have a disproportionate impact on the poor.
“The effects of climate change are not evenly distributed. It is the poor who suffer most from the ravages of global warming, with increasing disruption in the agricultural sector, water insecurity, and exposure to severe weather events,” he said.
“Many of those who can least afford it are already being forced to leave their homes and migrate to other places that may or may not prove welcoming.”
However, with US president Donald Trump announcing America’s exit from the Paris deal, ExxonMobil has announced plans to increase oil production in the US and start dozens of projects around the world.
An estimated one billion people have no access to electricity, and the US Energy Information Administration says energy demand is set to rise 28 per cent between 2015 and 2040.