China, under fire for approving new coal power stations as other countries try to curb greenhouse gases, has completed the first 1,000-megawatt unit of the Shanghaimiao plant, the biggest of its kind under construction in the country.
A report published this month by researchers at China’s State Grid Corporation said energy security concerns mean the country is likely to build as much as 150 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired power capacity over the 2021-2025 period, bringing the [country’s] total to 1,230 GW.
Deforestation last year rose to the highest level since 2015 in Brazil’s Cerrado, prompting scientists on Monday to raise alarm over the state of the world’s most species-rich savanna and a major carbon sink that helps to stave off climate change.
The Cerrado, the world’s largest savanna spread across several states of Brazil, is often called an “upside-down forest” because of the deep roots its plants sink into the ground to survive seasonal droughts and fires.
Deforestation and other clearances of native vegetation in the Cerrado rose 8% to 8,531 sqkm (2.1 million acres) in the 12 months through July. That is more than 10 times the size of New York City’s land area.
“It’s extremely worrying,” said Mercedes Bustamante, an ecologist at the University of Brasilia. Bustamante also criticized the government for a lack of transparency for announcing the deforestation data on New Year’s Eve.
The added destruction is particularly concerning, scientists say, when considering that roughly half of the Cerrado has been destroyed since the 1970s, mostly for farming and ranching.
“You’re transforming thousands of square kilometers annually,” said Manuel Ferreira, a geographer at the Federal University of Goias. “Few other places on earth have seen that rapid of a transformation.”
Queensland landholders are clearing the equivalent of about 1,000 Melbourne Cricket Grounds a day, including endangered ecological regions, according to state government data that raises new doubts about the accuracy of Australia’s carbon emissions claims.
The Statewide Landcover and Trees Study for 2018-19 showed landholders cleared 680,688 hectares (1.7 million acres) of woody vegetation, or about 0.7% of Queensland’s total.
About 84% of 2018-19 land clearing destroyed vegetation that was at least 15 years old, the new report said. The great bulk of the deforestation, or 88%, involved land with less than 50% tree cover.
Stuart Blanch, a WWF Australia conservation scientist, said the figures were “a real shocker”, deliberately released ahead of New Year’s Eve to stir up the least attention. The data also suggests Australia’s carbon emissions are worse than reported, he said. “We’re a massive land-clearing nation. Queensland has got the vast majority of it, and the vast majority of that is for beef.”
Glenn Walker, a senior campaigner for Greenpeace, said the Slats data was “extraordinary, horrifying figures” that showed Australia remained one of the world’s fastest deforesting nations.
“Behind these figures are millions of killed and maimed native animals like koalas and huge amounts of carbon emissions from burning and rotting trees,” Walker said. “Clearly the current laws aren’t working and the beef sector isn’t taking this issue seriously. This should be a huge wake-up call to act fast before we lose more precious bushland and wildlife.”
After falling in 2019 and 2020, global power generation from coal is expected to jump by 9% in 2021 to an all-time high.
Depending on weather patterns and economic growth, overall coal demand could reach new all-time highs as soon as 2022 and remain at that level for the following two years.
The rebound is being driven by 2021’s rapid economic recovery, which has pushed up electricity demand much faster than low-carbon supplies can keep up. The steep rise in natural gas prices has also increased demand for coal power by making it more cost-competitive.
Overall coal demand worldwide – including uses beyond power generation, such as cement and steel production – is forecast to grow by 6% in 2021. Coal prices reached all-time highs in early October 2021.
“Coal is the single largest source of global carbon emissions, and this year’s historically high level of coal power generation is a worrying sign of how far off track the world is in its efforts to put emissions into decline towards net-zero,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Without strong and immediate actions by governments to tackle coal emissions – in a way that is fair, affordable and secure for those affected – we will have little chance, if any at all, of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.”
In China, where more than half of global coal power generation takes place, it is expected to grow by 9% in 2021. In India, it is forecast to grow by 12%. This would set new all-time highs in both countries, even as they roll out impressive amounts of solar and wind capacity.
“Asia dominates the global coal market, with China and India accounting for two-thirds of overall demand.” said Keisuke Sadamori, Director of Energy Markets and Security at the IEA. “These two economies – dependent on coal and with a combined population of almost 3 billion people – hold the key to future coal demand.”
A few days before Christmas, Super-typhoon Rai – known locally as Odette – ravaged the Philippines. Lost lives continue to climb two weeks on. Vast numbers of buildings were destroyed – from houses to schools; food crops lost to flooding.
On average, 20 storms and typhoons hit the Philippines each year and they are growing progressively more destructive. The culprit is greenhouse-gas emissions from human activities. The Philippines contributes less than 0.4% to the climate crisis; the global north is responsible for 92%. The Philippines pays the price for problems produced in the north.
Despite the Philippines’ small part in the worsening climate crisis, the threat to the country is huge. Rising sea levels from global heating will submerge parts of the country, creating thousands of climate refugees. Drought and flooding will hit agricultural production and destroy ecosystems. The risk and intensity of health emergencies, such as dengue and diarrhoea, will increase.
Natural defences have not been protected. Dams have been built on ecologically important rivers; dolomite mining continues, and new coal-powered plants are still being built. A few days after the typhoon, a four-year ban on open-pit mining was lifted to help economic recovery, disregarding the contribution of mining to the typhoons and rainfall that are battering the economy in the first place.
The accelerating melting of the Himalayan glaciers threatens the water supply of millions of people in Asia, new research warns.
Himalayan glaciers have lost ice ten times more quickly over the last few decades than on average since the last major glacier expansion 400-700 years ago.
The Himalayan mountain range is home to the world’s third-largest amount of glacier ice, after Antarctica and the Arctic and is often referred to as ‘the Third Pole’.
The acceleration of melting of Himalayan glaciers has significant implications for hundreds of millions of people who depend on Asia’s major river systems for food and energy. These rivers include the Brahmaputra, Ganges and Indus.
“People in the region are already seeing changes that are beyond anything witnessed for centuries. This research is just the latest confirmation that those changes are accelerating and that they will have a significant impact on entire nations and regions.”
Coal combustion for power generation made up 30% of global CO2 emissions in 2018. To achieve the goal of the Paris Agreement to keep global average temperatures below 2°C, power generation must be decarbonized globally by mid-century. This requires a rapid phase-out of coal-fired power generation. However, global coal power expansion continues, mostly in developing countries where electricity demand continues to increase. Since the early 2010s, Southeast Asia’s coal power capacity expansion has been among the fastest in the world, following China and India, but its implications for the global climate and regional energy transition remain understudied. Here we examine Southeast Asia’s power generation pipeline as of mid-2020 and evaluate its implications for the region’s CO2 emissions over the plant lifetime as well as projected electricity generation between 2020-2030 in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. We find that power plants under construction and planned in Southeast Asia as of 2020 will more than double the region’s fossil fuel power generation capacity. If all fossil fuel plants under development are built, Southeast Asia’s power sector CO2 emissions will increase by 72% from 2020 to 2030 and long-term committed emissions will double. Moreover, in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, projected electricity generation from fossil fuel plants under development, combined with generation from renewable capacity targets and existing power capacity, will exceed future national electricity demand. As a result, fossil fuel plants will likely be underutilized and/or become stranded assets while also potentially crowding out renewable energy deployment.
The last time carbon dioxide levels were where they are today, at more than 415 parts per million, was 4 million years ago, and the result of the associated warming due to greenhouse gas was melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and several meters of sea level rise. Unless we can bring our present atmospheric carbon dioxide level down, the eventual outcome will again be substantial loss of ice and open seas across West Antarctica.
Antarctic glaciers are melting in specific regions of West Antarctica in a mode that can’t be stopped. Ocean heat and the reverse slope of the marine continental shelf beneath the Thwaites Glacier, for example, is a runaway train, and large volumes of ice of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will continue to enter the sea through this outlet.
Scientists from the United Kingdom and the United States are working together in this region to better understand the processes involved, to determine the rate and timing of changes, but this glacial system is in full-scale retreat.
Land-clearing for crops in the Murray-Darling basin, the main winter breeding ground for the moths,
Severe drought in the breeding grounds,
Increased use of pesticides such as neonicotinoids in Australia (some of which are banned in other countries),
Increased light pollution, which disrupts the moths’ migration,
Destruction of habitat and flowering plants on their migration routes, and
A climate that is becoming warmer and drier.
The moths provide a necessary feast for mountain pygmy-possums awakening from hibernation, and are also a key food source for birds, other mammals, reptiles and frogs, many of which are endangered in alpine regions.
“Even other invertebrates, such as ants and spiders, are seen feasting on the moths. The nutrients left every year by the moths are also important to the alpine soil and plants.”
“Given the sheer number of moths and the number of flowers they would visit, there should be strong concern about this”
While driving an electric car has fewer environmental impacts than gasoline-powered cars, the production of the parts necessary for these green technologies can have dire effects on human well-being.
After studying the impacts of mining cobalt—a common ingredient in lithium-ion batteries—on communities in Africa’s Democratic Republic of the Congo, an interdisciplinary team of researchers led by Northwestern University is calling for more data into how emerging technologies affect human health and livelihoods.
For years, researchers have been conducting environmental life cycle assessments (E-LCA), in which they calculate the environmental impacts of a product all the way from the extraction of raw materials required to make it, to its use and ultimate disposal. More recently, researchers have attempted to develop similar frameworks to evaluate social life cycle assessments (S-LCA), which can be used to understand how emerging technologies affect human health and well-being.
What researchers discovered was deeply troubling. They found cobalt mining was associated with increases in violence, substance abuse, food and water insecurity, and physical and mental health challenges. Community members reported losing communal land, farmland and homes, which miners literally dug up in order to extract cobalt. Without farmland, Congolese people were sometimes forced to cross international borders into Zambia just to purchase food.
“You might think of mining as just digging something up,” Young said. “But they are not digging on vacant land. Homelands are dug up. People are literally digging holes in their living room floors. The repercussions of mining can touch almost every aspect of life.”
Waste generated from mining cobalt and other metals can pollute water, air and soil, leading to decreased crop yields, contaminated food and water, and respiratory and reproductive health issues. Miners reported that working conditions were unsafe, unfair and stressful. Several workers noted that they feared mineshaft collapses.
The world likely will generate more electricity from the dirtiest source this year than ever before, indicating just how far the energy transition still needs to run in the fight against climate change.
Coal-fueled generation is set to jump 9% from last year, according to an International Energy Agency report released Friday.
The U.S. and European Union had the biggest increases in coal use at about 20% each, followed by India at 12% and China—the world’s largest consumer—at 9%, the IEA estimated. The comeback is being driven by economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, which is outpacing the ability of low-carbon energy sources to maintain supply.
The Arctic continues to warm more than twice as fast as the rest of the globe.
Summer 2021 saw the second-lowest amount of older, multi-year ice since 1985, and the post-winter sea ice volume in April 2021 was the lowest since records began in 2010.
Seven of the nine Arctic regions observed showed higher ocean primary productivity in 2021 than the long-term average (2003-20). All regions continue to exhibit positive trends over the 2003-21 period, with the strongest trends in the Eurasian Arctic and the Barents Sea.
Terrestrial snow cover in the Eurasian Arctic in June 2021 was the 3rd lowest since records began in 1967. In the North American Arctic, snow cover has been below average for 15 consecutive years.
The Greenland Ice Sheet experienced three extreme melt episodes in late July and August. On August 14, 2021, rainfall was directly observed at the 10,500-foot Summit Station for the first time ever.
Exceptionally high midsummer productivity was observed in 2021 across the tundra. Satellites provide unequivocal evidence of widespread tundra greening, but extreme events and other drivers of local-scale “browning” have also become more frequent, highlighting regional disruption as an increasing component of Arctic change.
Beavers are colonizing the Arctic tundra of western Alaska, transforming lowland tundra ecosystems and degrading permafrost by increasing the amount of unfrozen surface water on the landscape in winter.
The long-term observations for Eurasian and North American Arctic river discharges demonstrate an upward trend, providing evidence for the intensification of the Arctic hydrologic cycle. In 2020, the combined discharge of the eight largest Arctic rivers was ~12% greater than the average over the 1981-2010 reference period.
Retreating glaciers and thawing permafrost are causing local to regional-scale hazards that threaten lives and livelihoods, infrastructure, sustainable development, and national security. There is an urgent need for broad-scale hazard identification and assessment across the Arctic.
During 2020, the Bering Strait region of Alaska experienced a marine debris event that brought garbage ashore that was different from the types and amounts typically observed, most associated with foreign ship traffic through the region.
Arctic shipping traffic between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans continues to increase and with it, ambient marine noise levels are increasing in the frequency bands used by marine mammals.
Scientists have discovered a series of worrying weaknesses in the ice shelf holding back one of Antarctica’s most dangerous glaciers, suggesting that this important buttress against sea level rise could shatter within the next three to five years.
Until recently, the ice shelf was seen as the most stable part of Thwaites Glacier (shown on the left of the image above). Because of this brace, the eastern portion of Thwaites flowed more slowly than the rest.
Satellite images show several large, diagonal cracks extending across the floating ice wedge.
These weak spots are like cracks in a windshield, said Oregon State University glaciologist Erin Pettit. One more blow and they could spiderweb across the entire ice shelf surface. “This eastern ice shelf is likely to shatter into hundreds of icebergs,” she said. “Suddenly the whole thing would collapse.”
Even if the fractures don’t cause the shelf to disintegrate, it is likely to become completely unmoored from the seafloor within the next decade.
But when the shelf fails, the eastern third of Thwaites Glacier will triple in speed, spitting formerly landlocked ice into the sea. Total collapse of Thwaites could result in several feet of sea level rise, scientists say, endangering millions of people in coastal areas.
Without its protective ice shelf, scientists fear that Thwaites may become vulnerable to ice cliff collapse, a process in which towering walls of ice that directly overlook the ocean start to crumble into the sea. This process hasn’t been observed in Antarctica.
Almost two-thirds of the hundreds of mollusc species that live in the deep sea are at risk of extinction, according to a new study that rings another alarm bell over the impact on biodiversity of mining the seabed.
More than 80% of the ocean remains unmapped, unobserved and unexplored, and there is increasing opposition to deep-sea mining from governments, civil society groups and scientists, who say loss of biodiversity is inevitable, and likely to be permanent if it goes ahead.
The International Seabed Authority (ISA), a UN body, is meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, to agree a route for finalising regulations by July 2023 that would allow the undersea mining of cobalt, nickel and other metals to go ahead.
“The species we studied are extremely reliant on the unique ecosystem of hydrothermal vents for their survival,” said Elin Thomas, the lead researcher. “If deep-sea mining companies want all the metals that form at the vents, they would remove all the habitat that the vent species come from. But the species have nowhere else to go.”
There are at least 600 known hydrothermal vents worldwide, at depths of 2,000-4,000 metres, and each are roughly a third of the size of a football pitch. They act as natural plumbing systems, transporting heat and chemicals from the Earth’s interior in massive geysers, and they also help regulate ocean chemistry. In doing so, vast – and valuable – mineral deposits accumulate at the fissures. The heat from them, on the otherwise cold seabed, also makes them biodiversity hotspots, akin to coral reefs or tropical rainforests.
The extinction threat was worst in the Indian Ocean, where every species was listed as threatened and 60% as critically endangered, and where many mining exploration licences have been issued by the ISA.
Scientists have detected steady declines in numbers of bogong moths since the 1980s. But in 2017 and 2018 that crashed to numbers so low the species was described as “undetectable” in the alpine regions where it used to arrive in spring in numbers as high as 4.4 billion.
The ecologist, Ken Green, has been monitoring bogong moths for 40 years.
He and other researchers were consulted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as part of the assessment and asked if they could quantify the size of the declines.
“They said are we talking 60%? Or 40%? And we said no. Three years ago we had a decline of about 99.5%.”
Green recalls one set of surveys in the Canberra and Kosciuszko region in 2017 and viewing one cave that would typically house 17,000 moths a square metre. He said they could see just three moths inside.
Factors including pesticides and urban light pollution have been considered in relation to the decline in the species.
Green said Australia’s drought through 2017, 2018 and 2019 was likely the largest contributor. He said last summer recorded a slight improvement in populations but numbers were, at best, 5% of what they used to be.
A record manatee die-off in Florida this year has become so dire that federal officials are taking a once unthinkable step — feeding the wild marine mammals to help them survive the winter.
More than 1,000 manatees, about 15% of the state’s total population, have died this year. But even with a supplemental feeding program — delivering heads of lettuce and cabbage as the manatees gather in their traditional warm-water wintering spots — biologists predict that hundreds more of the iconic species are likely to perish.
Manatees rely mainly on sea grass, beds of which have been smothered by pollutants along with outbreaks of toxic algae blooms intensified by climate change.
While boat strikes have ranked as the main cause of death among Florida manatees, starvation has outpaced boating accidents this year.
“You shouldn’t be able to see their bones. They’re supposed to be chubby, not emaciated.”
Scientists and monitoring groups are growing increasingly alarmed at the slew of vague net-zero pledges that appear to privilege offsets and future technological breakthroughs over short-term emissions cuts.
“They’re not fit for purpose, any of them,” Myles Allen, director of Oxford Net Zero at the University of Oxford said of today’s carbon neutrality plans.
“You can’t offset continued fossil fuel use by planting trees for very long. Nobody has even acknowledged that in their net-zero plans, even the really ambitious countries,” he told AFP.
According to Net Zero Tracker (NZT), 90 percent of global GDP is now covered by some sort of net-zero plan. But it said that the vast majority remain ill-defined.
Take offsets. These are when countries or companies deploy measures—such as tree planting or direct CO2 capture—to compensate for the emissions they produce. NZT found that 91% of country targets, and 48% of public company targets, failed to even specify whether offsets feature in their net-zero plans.
The UN climate change body, UNFCCC, analysed the latest national emissions cutting plans during COP26. It found that they would see emissions increase 13.7% by 2030.
Many countries and businesses plan to deploy mass reforestation as part of net-zero plans. Experts say this is problematic for two reasons.
The first is simple science: Earth’s plants and soil already absorb enormous amounts of manmade CO2 and there are signs that carbon sinks such as tropical forests are reaching saturation point.
“The concern is that the biosphere is turning from a sink to a source by warming itself,” said Allen. “So relying on the biosphere to store fossil carbon is really daft when we may well need all the nature-based solutions we can find just to keep the carbon content of the biosphere stable.”
And because humans have already burned through most of the carbon budget—that is, how much total carbon pollution we can produce before 1.5˚C is breached—there simply isn’t time to delay.
“We need to be very sceptical of any target that doesn’t have clear milestones in terms of how the company is going to halve emissions by 2030,” he said. “Any net-zero target without a 2030 milestone is just unbelievable, basically.”
While southern Australia experienced a wet winter and a soggy spring, northern Australia has seen the opposite. Extreme fire weather in October and November led to bushfires across 120,000 square kilometers of southern savanna regions.
Significant fires continue to burn in the Kimberley, the Top End, Cape York and the northern deserts. And while recent rain across the central deserts has reduced the current fire risk, it will significantly increase fuel loads which creates the potential for large wildfires in summer.
The scale of burning we’re now seeing astounds us – almost as much as the lack of interest they generate.
The warming of the planet is taking a deadly toll on seabirds that are suffering population declines from starvation, inability to reproduce, heat waves and extreme weather.
One estimate by researchers from University of British Columbia stated that seabird populations have fallen 70% since the mid-20th century.
Researchers from the University of Washington and other institutions who studied dozens of worldwide seabird species found some were having success breeding at only 10% of historical levels.
Warming seas, coupled with die-off events that kill thousands of birds by starvation, are making it harder for some species to maintain stable populations, said P. Dee Boersma, a University of Washington biology professor.
The seabirds, such as penguins that have declined by nearly three-quarters in South Africa since 1991, are a harbinger of what will happen to wildlife with global warming, Boersma said.
One of the most serious threats to seabirds is a reduction of plankton and small fish in cold northern waters. Forage fish and plankton loss has led to mass die-offs of birds.
Rising sea levels are another concern. Albatross colonies in the central Pacific and Hawaiian islands depend on low-lying areas that face inundation and bigger storms, said Don Lyons, director of conservation science at Audubon Society’s Seabird Institute. “People are really concerned about a couple decades out” Lyons said.
“Seabirds are one of the most visible indicators of the health of our oceans,” said Shaye Wolf climate science director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “These escalations of seabird die offs are big red flags that the rising temperature of the ocean is wreaking havoc.”
The drought and heatwaves that seared eastern Australia in the lead-up to the 2019-20 black summer bushfires killed as much as 60% of the trees in some areas that escaped the fires.
While Australian species are typically hardened to extreme conditions, the record heat and dryness of 2019 pushed some common tree varieties beyond their thresholds, potentially threatening whole ecosystems if they don’t grow back.
The widespread loss of often common species could trigger the transformation of ecosystems from forests to woodlands, or woodlands to scrublands.
The potential change of tree species could have far-reaching effects because such shifts would alter the availability and seasonality of food resources for insects, birds and other species.
The red list of Britain’s most endangered birds has increased to 70 species. Birds are placed on the red list either because their populations have severely declined in Britain, or because they are considered under threat of global extinction.
The red list now accounts for more than a quarter of Britain’s 245 bird species, almost double the 36 species given the status of “highest conservation concern” in the first review 25 years ago.
The Black Summer forest fires of 2019–2020 in Australia burned more than 24 million hectares (59 million acres), directly causing 33 deaths and almost 450 more from smoke inhalation. Nearly 3 billion animals (mammals, reptiles, birds, and frogs) were killed or displaced.
A study has found:
The annual area burned by fire across Australia’s forests has been increasing by about 48,000 hectares (119,000 acres) per year over the last three decades. After 5 years, that would be roughly the size of the entire Australian Capital Territory.
In the past 90 years, there were four megafire years (defined as a year in which more than one million hectares burn). The first was 1939, and the subsequent three all occurred after 2001.
The fire season is growing, spreading out of spring and summer into autumn and winter.
Climate change and warming waters are pushing black-browed albatross break-up rates higher. Typically after choosing a partner, only 1-3% would separate in search of greener romantic pastures.
But in the years with unusually warm water temperatures, that average consistently rose, with up to 8% of couples splitting up. The study looked at a wild population of 15,500 breeding pairs in the Falkland Islands over 15 years.
After the natural warming that followed the last Ice Age, there were repeated periods when masses of icebergs broke off from Antarctica into the Southern Ocean. A new data-model study led by the University of Bonn (Germany) now shows that it took only a decade to initiate this tipping point in the climate system, and that ice mass loss then continued for many centuries. Accompanying modeling studies suggest that today’s accelerating Antarctic ice mass loss also represents such a tipping point, which could lead to irreversible and long-lasting ice retreat and global sea level rise.
Sequoias are the largest trees by volume and are native in only about 70 groves scattered along the western side of the Sierra Nevada range. They were once considered nearly fire-proof.
Fires tore through more than a third of groves in California and torched an estimated 2,261 to 3,637 sequoias. Fires in the same area last year killed an unprecedented 7,500 to 10,400 of the 75,000 trees.
Three of British Columbia’s worst wildfire years have taken place in the last four years, and the widespread floods and mudslides last week took place after roughly a month’s worth of rain fell in a matter of days, leading to slides that tore apart highways and homes.
Biodiversity of insects is threatened worldwide. Our work reveals dramatic rates of decline that may lead to the extinction of 40% of the world’s insect species over the next few decades.
The main drivers of species declines appear to be in order of importance: i) habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanisation; ii) pollution, mainly that by synthetic pesticides and fertilisers; iii) biological factors, including pathogens and introduced species; and iv) climate change. The latter factor is particularly important in tropical regions, but only affects a minority of species in colder climes and mountain settings of temperate zones.
A rethinking of current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices, is urgently needed to slow or reverse current trends, allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide.
Las Tablas de Daimiel is a unique wetland in the vast, almost treeless plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain, but the park has had the life sucked out of it to slake intensive agriculture’s insatiable thirst.
3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) of Las Tablas wetland are all that remain of what, according to the World Wildlife Fund, was once a system of 50,000 hectares.
The park has been dry for three years and where there were once aquatic species such as ducks, herons, egrets and freshwater crayfish, as well as tree frogs and the European polecat, now the wildlife has mostly vanished.
Climate change has resulted in Spain’s periods of drought getting longer. The Guadiana river is drying up, while agriculture has depleted the aquifer and polluted the groundwater with phosphates and other chemical fertilisers. In 2009, the wetland was so dry that subterranean peat fires broke out.
One of every six birds – a net loss of 600 million breeding birds in total – have disappeared over less than four decades.
The study by scientists from the RSPB, BirdLife International and the Czech Society for Ornithology analysed data for 378 of 445 bird species native to countries in the EU and UK, finding that the overall abundance of breeding birds declined by between 17% and 19% between 1980 and 2017 (1 in 6 = 17%).
“Our study is a wake-up call to the very real threat of extinctions and of a Silent Spring,” said Fiona Burns, lead author of the study and a senior conservation scientist for the RSPB.
“Common birds are becoming less and less common, largely because the spaces they depend on are being wiped out by humans. Nature has been eradicated from our farmland, sea and cities.”
The US and Canada have lost more than one in four birds – a total of three billion – between 1970 and 2019, culminating in what scientists who published a new study are calling a “widespread ecological crisis”.
Researchers observed a 29% decline in bird populations across diverse groups and habitats.
The study did not analyze the reason for the drop. But around the world, birds are thought to be dying more and having less success breeding largely because their habitats are being damaged and destroyed by agriculture and urbanization.
Domestic cats, collisions with glass and buildings, and a decline in the insects birds eat – probably because of widespread pesticide use – also contribute to the dwindling bird numbers. And climate change compounds those problems by altering bird habitats.
TotalEnergies & China’s CNOOC will drill more than 431 wells in Uganda and pump the crude in a pipeline heated to 50˚C 1,450km (900 miles) to a port in Tanzania.
The pipeline will deliver 1.7bn barrels of crude (270,300 million litres).
Road and pipeline construction will devastate habitat of giraffes, pangolins, hyenas, lions, chimpanzees, buffaloes, hippos, hartebeests, waterbucks, warthogs, oribis, Uganda kobs and grey duikers, elephants, hippos and lions.
If global warming is kept to 1.5˚C, the mix of corals on the Barrier Reef will change but it could still thrive, said the study’s lead author Professor Terry Hughes, of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
“If we go to 3, 4˚C of global average warming which is tragically the trajectory we are currently on, then there won’t be much left of the Great Barrier Reef or any other coral reefs throughout the tropics,” Hughes told Reuters.
A study released on Friday by an Australian university looking at multiple catastrophes hitting the Great Barrier Reef has found for the first time that only 2% of its area has escaped bleaching since 1998, then the world’s hottest year on record.
The World Meteorological Organization reported Monday that greenhouse gas concentrations hit a new record high last year and increased at a faster rate than the annual average for the last decade despite a temporary reduction during pandemic-related lockdowns.
In its annual report on heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the U.N. weather agency also pointed to signs of a worrying new development: Parts of the Amazon rainforest have gone from being a carbon “sink” that sucks CO₂ from the air to a source of CO₂ due to deforestation and reduced humidity in the region, it said.
“At the current rate of increase in greenhouse gas concentrations, we will see a temperature increase by the end of this century far in excess of the Paris agreement targets of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “We are way off track.”
Concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most important greenhouse gas, reached 413.2 parts per million in 2020 and is 149% of the pre-industrial level. Methane (CH4) is 262% and nitrous oxide (N2O) is 123% of the levels in 1750 when human activities started disrupting Earth’s natural equilibrium. The economic slowdown from COVID-19 did not have any discernible impact on the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases and their growth rates, although there was a temporary decline in new emissions.
The severity of possible future temperature extremes poses serious challenges for preparedness for future climatic change. The modelled Victoria and NSW extremes indicate the possibility that sites within major Australian cities, such Sydney or Melbourne, could incur unprecedented temperatures of 50°C under 2°C of global mean warming.
Germany’s Garzweiler coal mine has already swallowed more than a dozen villages. Centuries-old churches and family homes have been razed and the land they were built on torn away. Farmland has disappeared, graveyards have been emptied.
“All destroyed for coal,” said Eckhardt Heukamp, surveying the vast pit that drops away from the edge of his fields, 20 miles west of Cologne.
But there’s still more under his feet to be mined: Six more villages are threatened.
In the European Union, Germany is the second-largest consumer of hard coal, and the biggest consumer of the less-energy-efficient lignite, or brown coal.
With its last black coal mines closed, Germany is the biggest producer of brown coal in the world.
Germany has pledged to stop burning coal by 2038. This appears increasingly out of step with Europe’s larger economies. Britain says it is phasing out coal by 2024, France by 2022 and Italy by 2025.
Making it more difficult for Germany is its decision to phase out nuclear by 2022 in the wake of Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster, plus its large manufacturing industry. Experts say Germany needs to rapidly ramp up renewables to fill the gap, but soaring gas prices could complicate efforts for that transition, with fears it could increase electricity bills even further.
“We need drastic, radical emissions reductions, and on top of that we need some CDR,” said Glen Peters, research director at the Centre for International Climate Research.
There are basically two ways to extract CO₂ from air.
One is to boost nature’s capacity to absorb and stockpile carbon. Healing degraded forests, restoring mangroves, industrial-scale tree planting, boosting carbon uptake in rocks or the ocean—all fall under the hotly debated category of “nature-based solutions”.
The second way—called direct air capture—uses chemical processes to strip out CO₂, then recycles it for industrial use or locks it away in porous rock formations, unused coal beds or saline aquifers.
A variation known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS, combines elements from both approaches.
CO₂ removal will be required for two reasons. Firstly, even if the world begins drawing down carbon pollution by 3, 4 or 5% per year—and that is a very big “if”—some sectors like cement and steel production, long-haul aviation and agriculture are expected to maintain emission levels for decades.
Secondly, the August report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it alarmingly clear that the 1.5˚C threshold will be breached in the coming decades no matter how aggressively greenhouse gases are drawn down. CO₂ lingers in the atmosphere for centuries, which means that the only way to bring warming back to 1.5˚C by 2100, is to suck some of it out of the air.
BECCS was pencilled into IPCC climate models more than a decade ago as the theoretically cheapest form of negative emissions, but has barely developed since.
A peer-reviewed proposal in 2019 to draw down excess CO₂ by planting a trillion trees sparked huge excitement in the media and among gas and oil companies that have made afforestation offsets a central pillar of their attempts to align with Paris treaty goals. But the idea was sharply criticised by experts, who pointed out that it would require converting twice the area of India into mono-culture tree farms.
Also, planting trees to soak up CO₂ is fine until the forests burn down in climate-enhanced wildfires.
Among all the carbon dioxide removal methods, direct air capture (DAC) is among the least developed but the most talked about. Assuming investment of a trillion dollars a year starting now, DAC knocked off some two billion tonnes of CO₂ annually from global emissions by 2050 in models. But only when coupled with the most ambitious carbon-cutting scenario laid out by the IPCC was that enough to bring temperatures back down—after rising to 2˚C—to around 1.7˚C by 2100.
For David King, chair of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, “Net-zero by 2050 is no longer enough. We must revise global targets beyond net zero and commit to net negative strategies”.
Earth now faces a global extinction crisis never witnessed by humankind. Scientists predict that more than 1 million species are on track for extinction in the coming decades. Every taxon is in trouble –
Amphibians: More than 33% of the known 6,300 species are at risk of extinction.
Birds: 12% of known 9,865 species are considered threatened, with 2% facing an “extremely high risk” of extinction in the wild.
Fish: 21% of 8,814 species evaluated in 2010 were at risk of extinction, including more than a third of sharks and rays.
Invertebrates: 1.3 million known species. 30% of 9,526 species evaluated are at risk of extinction.
Mammals: 50% of the 5,491 species are declining in population and 20% are clearly at risk of disappearing. No less than 1,131 species are classified as endangered, threatened, or vulnerable.
Reptiles: 21% of species evaluated are endangered or vulnerable to extinction.
Insects: Dramatic rates of decline that may lead to the extinction of 40% of the world’s insect species over the next few decades.
Plants: Of the more than 300,000 known species of plants, 68% of the 12,914 species evaluated are threatened with extinction.
Total Energies is leaving it to others to meet the carbon reduction goals in the Paris agreement, after the Paris-based colossal fossil predicted the world will hit peak oil demand around 2030 but still produce 40 to 64 million barrels per day in 2050.
At Total’s annual Investor Day Monday and Tuesday, CEO Patrick Pouyanné said the company expects virtually no decrease in oil consumption by 2030.
“According to our trajectory, by 2030 we are more around 90 million barrels per day, and that means that we need to continue to invest in some oil and gas fields” Pouyanné said.
According to data from BP, the world extracted just under 95 million barrels per day of oil in 2019. This dropped slightly in 2020 to 88 million barrels per day, due to the Covid pandemic.
A minority coalition of the Labour Party and the rural Centre Party will take power after defeating the Conservative-led government in last month’s election.
“The Norwegian petroleum industry will be developed, not dismantled,” the two parties said in a joint policy document, adding that it will maintain the existing system of handing out exploration licences.
The oil industry welcomed the new government’s plans.
“Giving access to attractive acreage is the most important measure authorities have to ensure continued development and value creation from oil and gas, but also to finance a green transition,” said Norwegian Oil and Gas, a lobby group.
Hopes for a cleaner future have been fired by pledges from top coal consumer China and other countries to go carbon neutral, but much of the region is making a painfully slow transition to renewable sources.
The challenge is illustrated by the enormous Suralaya coal plant on Indonesia’s Java island, one of the biggest in Southeast Asia, which can power about 14 million homes a year.
Indonesia has committed to be carbon neutral by 2060, and to stop building new coal-fired plants from 2023, but despite this—the facility is undergoing a $3.5 billion expansion that will boost its capacity.
Nearly 60% of China’s economy is still powered by the fossil fuel and in a sign of the difficulties ahead, this month authorities even ordered mines to expand production to cope with a nationwide energy crunch.
Japan, another major Asian financier of coal overseas, has also pledged to tighten rules for investment in foreign power stations but will not end government funding.
New Delhi has so far resisted pressure to set a target date for its emissions to reach net zero, and is even pushing ahead with new investments in coal mining.
The death toll from days of flooding and landslides in India and Nepal crossed 100 on Wednesday, including several families swept away or crushed in their homes by avalanches of mud and rocks.
Experts say that they were victims of ever-more unpredictable and extreme weather across South Asia in recent years caused by climate change and exacerbated by deforestation, damming and excessive development.
Uttarakhand reported 178 mm rain in the first 18 days of October—almost 500% more than the average. And the state’s Mukteshwar area reported 340 mm rainfall in the 24 hours until Tuesday morning, the most since the weather station was set up there in 1897.
After Venice suffered the second-worst flood in its history in November 2019, it was inundated with four more exceptional tides within six weeks, shocking Venetians and triggering fears about the worsening impact of climate change.
“I can only say that in August, a month when this never used to happen, we had tides over a meter five times.
Venice’s worse-case scenario for sea level rise by the end of the century is a startling 120 centimeters (3 feet, 11 inches).
In the last two decades, there have been nearly as many inundations in Venice over 1.1 meters as during the previous 100 years: 163 vs. 166, according to city data.
Venice’s defense has been entrusted to the Moses system of moveable underwater barriers, a project costing around 6 billion euros (nearly $7 billion) and which, after decades of cost overruns, delays and a bribery scandal, is still officially in the testing phase.
Following the devastation of the 2019 floods, the Rome government put the project under ministry control to speed its completion, and last year start activating the barriers when floods of 1.3 meters (4 feet, 3 inches) are imminent.
The barriers have been raised 20 times since October 2020, sparing the city a season of serious flooding but not from the lower-level tides that are becoming more frequent.
In the largest city of Nicaragua’s sugar cane-growing region, agricultural workers – who have scant labour protection and usually come from poor families – see little option but to risk their health working in extreme heat, being made more intense and frequent by climate change. Exposure is causing cases of damaged and failing kidneys. This is complicated by consequential anxiety and depression.
“You shouldn’t work if your kidneys are failing; you shouldn’t risk dehydration, exposing yourself to high temperatures or straining yourself physically, but people can’t afford not to work, and some of the only work available around here is in the fields.”
Nearly 21,000 monitored populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians, encompassing almost 4,400 species around the world, have declined an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report 2020.
Species in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as global freshwater habitats, were disproportionately impacted, declining, on average, 94% and 84%, respectively.
The report blames humans alone for the “dire” state of the planet. It points to the exponential growth of human consumption, population, global trade and urbanization over the last 50 years as key reasons for the unprecedented decline of Earth’s resources — which it says the planet is incapable of replenishing.
The report points to land-use change — in particular, the destruction of habitats like rainforests for farming — as the key driver for loss of biodiversity, accounting for more than half of the loss in Europe, Central Asia, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Much of that land is being used for agriculture, which is responsible for 80% of global deforestation. Around the world, an estimated one-third of all food produced for humans is lost or wasted. If current habitats remain the same, researchers predict that cropland areas may have to be 10-25% larger in 2050 than in 2005, just to accommodate increased food demand.
To feed 10 billion people by 2050, humans will need to adopt a healthier way of eating. Experts recommend humans adopt a diet that consists of a balanced proportion of whole grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, beans and pulses, with animal-derived products like fish, eggs, dairy and meat consumed in moderation.
Across the region, the price of historic dryness is being measured in lost crops, a slowdown in mining, surging transportation costs and shortages of energy in a region heavily dependent on hydropower.
Chile, is caught in the vortex of a 13-year drought, its longest and most severe in 1,000 years. The government has declared an agricultural emergency in 8 of its 16 regions and is offering aid to stricken farmers. Some regions are registering rainfall losses of between 62 and 80%.
Bolivia’s drought is lingering after two brutally dry years that saw millions of acres burned by wildfires.
The worst drought in nearly a century is forming in parts of Brazil. The Paraná River — one of the principal trade routes in South America’s Southern Cone, second on the continent only to the Amazon in length and flow — has been reduced in some stretches to a stream.
Total cereal output in Argentina was 12.7 million tons in 2020. The number is expected to fall to 11.4 million in 2021 and 10.9 million in 2022, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. In the longer term, the World Bank warns, changes in weather patterns could cause corn and wheat yields in some parts of the country to fall by 80%.
Analysts fear the droughts are a harbinger of a new normal, portending consistently lower crop yields in the future.
Nature is being destroyed at a rate never before seen in human history, that rate is accelerating and almost all of the destruction is caused by humans.
Australia is ranked third in the world for the most species extinction, and number one when it comes to extinctions of mammals. More than a third of all mammal extinctions since industrialisation have occurred in Australia.
A study this year found that 19 ecosystems in Australia are now “collapsing” — including the crucial Murray-Darling Basin and the Great Barrier Reef.
Australia has cut funding for nature protection and restoration by about 40% since 2013.
“Over 90 countries have signed the leaders pledge to reverse biodiversity loss. Sadly, Australia isn’t one of them,”
Today’s emission reduction pledges cover less than 20% of the gap that needs to be closed by 2030 to keep a 1.5 °C path within reach.
For all the advances being made by renewables and electric mobility, 2021 is seeing a large rebound in coal and oil use. Largely for this reason, it is also seeing the second-largest annual increase in CO2 emissions in history.
Public spending on sustainable energy in economic recovery packages has only mobilised around one-third of the investment required to jolt the energy system onto a new set of rails, with the largest shortfall in developing economies that continue to face a pressing public health crisis.
An international team of researchers has created a model that estimates the effects on the world’s oceans over the past century by fish and their excrement.
The model showed that the amount of fecal matter dropped by fish globally is approximately half of what it once was, which suggests only half as much carbon is being sequestered. The remainder is likely entering the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
Around approximately year 1900, humans began commercializing fishing—an event that signified a massive increase in the numbers of fish that were caught every year. That increase has led to decreased numbers of fish in the world’s oceans. The entire biomass of fish globally has dropped by approximately 47% over the past century.
Protecting trees is key to meeting ambitious climate goals, with tropical rainforest loss accounting for about eight percent of annual carbon dioxide emissions, according to monitoring platform Global Forest Watch.
Indonesia, home to the world’s third-largest expanse of tropical forest, walked away from the $1-billion deal with Norway, having received only a tiny fraction of the money.
While figures show forest loss slowed in Indonesia in the past five years, authorities say they did not receive the expected first payment of $56 million for this success. Indonesian officials told the Jakarta Post they terminated the deal because Norway had shown “no goodwill” and set additional requirements such as documentation on how the cash would be spent.
Globally deforestation has only escalated in recent years—destruction of pristine rainforest was 12% higher in 2020 than the year before despite a global economic slowdown.
Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi, recorded rainfall of 185mm, about seven times the pre-2010 average for October. Shanxi is a land-locked province SW of Beijing.
About 1.75 million people have been affected in total. Flooding has forced more than 120,000 people to leave their homes, destroyed 17,000 homes, forced the suspension of operations of hundreds of mines and damaged 190,000 hectares (470,000 acres) of farmland.
What the US Forest Service once characterized as a four-month-long fire season starting in late summer and early autumn now stretches into six to eight months of the year. Wildfires are starting earlier, burning more intensely and scorching swaths of land larger than ever before.
More than half of the 20 largest fires in California history burned in just the last four years.
More than 95% of the west remains mired in drought, with more than half of the region classified in extreme or exceptional conditions. It’s the most “expansive and intense” drought seen in this century, according to the US Drought Monitor.
“We are really concerned about what the fall is going to look like,” said AccuWeather’s chief meteorologist, Johnathan Porter. “It is hard to imagine it being any drier than it is now in southern California – it is a real extreme.”
“The trends that are driving this increase in fire risk, fire size, fire severity over time are continuing – that’s climate change.”
Almost half of Britain’s natural biodiversity has disappeared over the centuries, with farming and urban spread triggered by the industrial and agricultural revolutions being blamed as major factors for this loss.
Across the nation, woods and grassland have been ripped up and fields of single crops planted in their place. Over two-thirds of the UK is now used for agriculture and 8% has been built on, leaving little room for nature.
Unusually powerful sandstorms have left at least six people dead in Sao Paulo in recent weeks, local media said, as southeastern Brazil grapples with severe drought.
Scenes of huge orange dust clouds rumbling across the countryside—with winds of up to 100 kph (62mph)—have been seen at least three times since the end of September, terrifying residents in urban and rural areas of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais states.
Brazil is facing its worst drought in 91 years, which has led to a critically low water level in hydroelectric reserves in the central-western and southern parts of the country, driving up electricity costs.
“In this century, every year has had record temperatures. There is more heat in the atmosphere, which has just been transformed into energy for extreme (weather) events: rain, storms, floods, but also drought, cold and heat, what has just been unleashed with events like these dust storms”.
China’s promise to stop financing coal power abroad is a positive step, but researchers say the emissions savings pale in comparison to those from its domestic coal use.
“China is a long way from phasing out coal altogether.”
Despite the country’s plans to become carbon neutral by 2060, its domestic coal production has nearly tripled since 2001. By contrast, the amount of coal produced in the United States and Europe has roughly halved over this time. China accounted for more than half of the 7.7 billion tonnes of coal produced globally in 2020, dwarfing the contributions of the next biggest producers.
China commissioned 38.4 GW of new coal plants last year, 76% of the global total of new coal-fired power plants, according to the non-profit organization Global Energy Monitor.
Experts say that halting the financing of overseas coal-power projects is a good start, but add that the emissions they produce are dwarfed by those generated by the 1,000 GW of coal-power that China generates domestically. This is more than four times the capacity of either India or the United States, which are the next biggest generators of coal power.
The almost 2,500 coal-power stations operating in the world today might still emit more than 200 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over their lifetimes, making it hard to rein in global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial temperatures.
“The 1.5 °C goal is out of reach if coal-fired plants aren’t replaced by cleaner energy technologies very soon,”
Up to 14½ inches (368mm) fell in Al Khaburah, which is just to the west of where the storm came ashore. The city of about 40,000 people averages between three and four inches (75 to 100mm) of rain per year.
Shaheen was the first tropical cyclone to make landfall along Oman’s northern coast since 1890 and only the third on record. None have been observed in the era of weather satellites (since the 1960s) or during the month of October. According to meteorologists Bob Henson and Jeff Masters, writing for Yale Climate Connections, it struck farther west in Oman than any previous tropical cyclone.
Henson and Masters wrote that Shaheen fed off the very warm waters of the Gulf of Oman, which were several degrees warmer than normal. Ocean temperatures have been rising worldwide because of human-caused climate change.
In the nearly half-century since the U.S. Endangered Species Act came into force, only 11 other species have ever been delisted because they disappeared.
A million plants and animals are in danger of disappearing, many within decades. The newly extinct species are the casualties of climate change and habitat destruction, dying out sooner than any new protections can save them.
The species pushed over the brink include 9 birds, 1 bat and 1 plant found only on Pacific islands, as well as 8 types of freshwater mussels that once inhabited riverbeds from Illinois to Georgia.
The ivory-billed woodpecker, above, suffered a precipitous drop in numbers due to marksmen gunning them down for private collectors and hat makers, while loggers felled the old-growth stands of forest in the south east where the birds roosted and foraged for grub.
Rivers once teeming with mussels — which clean streams by filtering them — have been transformed by industrial pollution, dam construction and rising water temperatures linked to climate change. The invertebrates often can’t escape.
8 Hawaiian birds were officially declared extinct, and like so many island-bound creatures, have succumbed to wave after wave of invasive species, including feral hogs that root up native seed-bearing plants and mosquitoes that spread an avian form of malaria. Rising temperatures allow disease-carrying mosquitoes to reach elevations once too cool for them to tolerate, going deeper into birds’ territories.
Russia has endured its worst forest fire season in the country’s modern history.
Fires have destroyed more than 18.16 million hectares (45 million acres) of Russian forest in 2021, setting an absolute record since the country began monitoring forest fires using satellites in 2001. The previous record was set in 2012, when fires covered 18.11 million hectares of forest.
The statistics do not record other types of fires taking place outside Russia’s forests. The total area could be as high as 30 million hectares (74 million acres), an area the size of Italy or Poland.
Single-use plastics formed the majority of litter in this study. And in general, litter hotspots were associated with socioeconomic factors such as a concentration of built infrastructure, less national wealth, and a high level of lighting at night.
The best solution is to stop the waste problem long before it reaches the sea.
A severe drought, coupled with extreme temperatures, have sustained several major fires for much of August. As of 14 September, more than 7,000 wildfires have been recorded, burning over 900,000 hectares (2.2 million acres) across the state.
As the fires continue to burn, hot and dry conditions and forecasted thunderstorms have prompted officials to issue warnings through part of the state’s northwest coast.
Climate change is considered a key driver of this trend. In a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists concluded that that there is an unequivocal link between human activity and global warming. The report pointed to observations showing increases in drought and fires in the western United States, expecting this trend to continue in the future.
Over the past 25 years, the transition to solid-state LED lighting has been accompanied by rapid increases in light pollution, by up to 270% globally, and 400% in some regions.
“Without concerted action to reverse this trend, the impact on the natural environment will accelerate, further exacerbating the biodiversity crisis, wasting energy, and meaning a whole generation will grow up in perpetual twilight.”
The world’s coral reef cover has halved since the 1950s, ravaged by global heating, overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction, a trend that is projected to continue as the planet continues to heat in the 21st century.
Diversity of species on reefs has dropped by more than 60% and total reef cover had approximately halved.
“Marine heatwaves are rapidly intensifying, leading to more frequent and severe bleaching events, including on some of the world’s most isolated and pristine coral reefs”.
“Over the last few years, Caribbean reefs have been clobbered by hurricanes and new diseases, both linked to ocean warming. Frankly, the global picture for coral reefs is pretty grim”.
The world’s oceans absorbed more than 90% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases and average water temperatures have continued to rise as the planet heats.
National net zero emission targets could, if fully implemented, reduce best estimates of projected global average temperature increase to 2.0–2.4 °C by 2100, bringing the Paris Agreement temperature goal within reach.
A total of 131 countries are discussing, have announced or have adopted net zero targets, covering 72% of global emissions.
Currently implemented policies will increase warming by 2.9–3.2 °C, and pledges submitted to the Paris Agreement will increase warming by 2.4–2.9 °C.
260 Spanish troops are assisting firefighters battling a raging blaze that has emptied out villages and burned through forestland for days.
“We have talked for a long time about the consequences of abandoning the environment, or climate change. Today, we are living them,” Juan Sánchez, director of the operations center at Andalusia’s forest–fire agency, told reporters.
Efforts to halt decline of population & diversity of animals & plants have largely failed.
28% of the 138,000 species assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are now at risk of extinction, including 37% of sharks & rays.
In 2019 the UN’s biodiversity experts warned that a million species are on the brink of extinction—raising the spectre that the planet is on the verge of its sixth mass extinction event in 500 million years.
The pollution, emissions and clean-up costs of plastic produced in 2019 alone exceeded the annual GDP of India.
It estimated that unless there is concerted international action, this cost will double by 2040.
Since the 1950s, roughly 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced with around 60% of that tossed into landfills or the natural environment.
The debris is estimated to cause the deaths of more than a million seabirds and over 100,000 marine mammals each year.
“Tragically, the plastic pollution crisis is showing no signs of slowing down, but the commitment to tackle it has reached an unprecedented level,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.
France’s minister in charge of biodiversity, Berangere Abba, said if the world failed to act there would be “more plastic in the oceans than fish” by 2050.
Climate change-induced warming in the Gulf of Maine has resulted in the population of the North Atlantic right whale to plummet, leaving the species critically endangered.
Right whales have long been known for foraging fatty crustaceans in the Gulf of Maine. But in the past decade the water there has been warming and the whale’s main food source, which thrives in cold water, has deteriorated.
The result was that the species now travels north-east to the Gulf of St Lawrence in Canada to forage for food, and there is a major decline in the number of female whales reproducing.
“When they can’t build those thick layers of blubber, they’re not able to successfully get pregnant, carry the pregnancy and nurse the calf”
In the past decade, the population has decreased by about 26%, leaving only 356 North Atlantic right whales on Earth.
Trillions of polymetallic nodules litter Earth’s ocean floors. Each is rich in manganese, nickel, cobalt and copper; some of the most important metals for manufacturing low carbon technology.
Mining companies claim the nodules are desperately needed to manufacture the technology to lower carbon emissions, and to prevent significant environmental impact on land.
Researchers state that mining deep-sea nodules would be catastrophic for oceans. Ocean biodiversity would be obliterated by dredging, and plumes of sediments, laced with toxic metals, would be sent spiralling upwards to poison marine food-chains.
Plants with red spikes are the world’s ten biggest polluters (all of which rely primarily on coal).
Findings suggest that instead of relying on sweeping environmental initiatives, substantial environmental progress can be made through selectively targeting nations’ hyper-polluters—the worst-of-the-worst—that are responsible for the lion’s share of their carbon pollution. As the fossil-fuel-burning energy infrastructure continues to expand and the urgency of combating climate change grows, nations will likely need to consider more expedient strategies of this sort.
Russia’s forestry agency says fires this year have torn through more than 50 million acres (173,000 square kilometres, 67,000 square miles), making it the second-worst season since the turn of the century.
Carbon dioxide emissions from the global electric power sector rebounded in the first half of 2021 to above pre-pandemic levels, according to an analysis, signalling that the world has failed to engineer a “green recovery” and shift decisively away from fossil fuels.
“Catapulting emissions in 2021 should send alarm bells across the world. We are not building back better, we are building back badly,”
The Energy Information Administration, part of the Energy Department, forecast that the U.S. economic recovery and a changing fuel mix would lead to a “significant increase in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions this year.”
It is a worrying sign that China, the world’s largest [greenhouse gas] emitter’s focus on a fossil-fuelled industrial recovery is at odds with its long-term goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2060.
“There is no place in the United States where you shouldn’t be resetting your expectations about Mother Nature disrupting your life,” said Roy Wright, president of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety and former head of FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. “Climate change has come barging through the front doors of America.”
The flooding in Waverly, Tennessee has no precedent in the historic record. Retired National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hydrologist Geoffrey Bonnin said the chance of so much rain falling in such a short period is less than 1 in 1,000.
The wildfires in the American West are burning vast expanses of specially protected forests — those that are part of carbon-offset projects meant to counterbalance the carbon dioxide pollution being pumped into the atmosphere by human activity.
It’s all part of an effort that started in 2015, when Imran Khan — then a provincial politician and now Pakistan’s prime minister — backed a program dubbed a “Billion Tree Tsunami.” The initiative reached its province-wide target in 2018 and was so successful that federal officials expanded the drive nationally in 2019 with a new goal of 10 billion trees — or, the “Ten Billion Tree Tsunami.”
Direct planting accounts for about 40% of the program’s new trees.
The other 60% come from assisted regeneration, in which community members are paid to protect existing forests so that trees can propagate and thrive.
Rain has fallen on the summit of Greenland’s huge ice cap for the first time on record. Temperatures are normally well below freezing on the 3,216-metre (10,551ft) peak, and the precipitation is a stark sign of the climate crisis.
The rain fell during an exceptionally hot three days in Greenland when temperatures were 18˚C (32˚F) higher than average in places.
John Battles, a professor of forest ecology at the University of California, Berkeley, said the fires are behaving in ways not seen in the past as flames churn through trees and brush desiccated by a megadrought in the West and exacerbated by climate change.
“These are reburning areas that have burned what we thought were big fires 10 years ago,” Battles said. “They’re reburning that landscape.”
The fire is burning along the U.S. Route 50 corridor, one of two highways between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. The highway through the canyon along the South Fork of the American River has been the focus of a decades-long effort to protect homes by preventing the spread of fires through a combination of fuel breaks, prescribed burns and logging.
“All of that is being tested as we speak,” Porter said. “When fire is jumping outside of its perimeter, sometimes miles … those fuel projects won’t stop a fire. Sometimes they’re just used to slow it enough to get people out of the way.”
The Dixie Fire has scorched more than 940 square miles (2,434 square kilometers, 602,000 acres) in the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades since it ignited on July 13 and eventually merged with a smaller blaze called the Fly Fire. It’s less than a third contained.
Investigations are continuing, but PG&E has notified utility regulators that the Dixie and Fly fires may have been caused by trees falling into its power lines. The Dixie Fire began near the town of Paradise, which was devastated by a 2018 wildfire ignited by PG&E equipment during strong winds. Eighty-five people died.
Friday August 12: The heavy rainfall, expected to continue through Friday night, has brought about 20 inches (510mm) of rain to areas of Hubei since Wednesday, officials said. Four people were missing in addition to the 21 deaths in the township of Liulin, according to local news reports.
The Dixie fire raging through northern California has destroyed another 550 homes, becoming one of the most destructive in state history.
The fire, the largest wildfire burning in the US, has all but leveled the town of Greenville and is still threatening a dozen small towns in the Sierra Nevada.
It has already burned more than 2,000 sq km (790 sq miles, 500,000 acres), officials said on Wednesday, and has destroyed more than 1,000 single-family homes since erupting in mid-July. It is 30% contained.
The fire is one of 11 burning across California.
California’s five largest wildfires in history have all occurred in the last three years, burning more than 2.5 million acres and destroying 3,700 structures.
The southern Murray-Darling Basin occupies the southern half of NSW and northern Victoria. It receives most of its water from rain in the cooler months that fills dams, with any overflow spilling into the floodplains.
The Murrumbidgee River catchment is approximately 84,000 square kilometres, or about 8% of the basin. It encompasses a complex series of wetlands and floodplains.
The height of the Murrumbidgee River—the third longest in Australia and highly valued for irrigation and hydro-electricity—has dropped by about 30% during the growing season. This is a loss of approximately 300 million litres per day.
The findings follow a major report the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released on Monday, which found much of Australia will become more arid as the world warms. This will bring reduced river flows, mass tree deaths, more droughts and drier soils.
Given this drop is associated with the wettest months from April to September, the outlook for the warmer months between October and March is dismal. The number of days when the river ceases to flow will certainly increase.
Dam building and excessive irrigation are often behind decreased river flows across the Murray-Darling Basin. But in this case, we can point to decreased rainfall from climate change as the reason the Murrumbidgee River catchment is losing water.
Under climate change, we can expect further drying of wetlands and major losses of wildlife habitat. For farmers and communities, we can expect huge reductions in the amount of water allocated for irrigation. The ability for communities to survive these severe decreases in agricultural productivity will be tested.
Global greenhouse gas emissions must peak in the next four years, coal and gas-fired power plants must close in the next decade and lifestyle and behavioural changes will be needed to avoid climate breakdown, according to the leaked draft of a report from the world’s leading authority on climate science.
Rich people in every country are overwhelmingly more responsible for global heating than the poor, with SUVs and meat-eating singled out for blame, and the high-carbon basis for future economic growth is also questioned.
The top 10% of emitters globally, who are the wealthiest 10%, contribute between 36 and 45% of emissions, which is 10 times as much as the poorest 10%, who are responsible for only about three to 5%, the report finds. “The consumption patterns of higher income consumers are associated with large carbon footprints. Top emitters dominate emissions in key sectors, for example the top 1% account for 50% of emissions from aviation,” the summary says.
The report underlines the lifestyle changes that will be necessary, particularly in rich countries and among the wealthy globally. Refraining from over-heating or over-cooling homes, walking and cycling, cutting air travel and using energy-consuming appliances less can all contribute significantly to the reductions in emissions needed, the report finds.
Eating patterns in many parts of the rich world will also need to change. “A shift to diets with a higher share of plant-based protein in regions with excess consumption of calories and animal-source food can lead to substantial reductions in emissions, while also providing health benefits … Plant-based diets can reduce emissions by up to 50% compared to the average emission intensive western diet,” the report says.
The investment needed to shift the global economy to a low-carbon footing is also missing. Current investment falls below what is needed “by a factor of five”, even to hold warming to the higher limit of 2˚C, according to the report.
Rising sea levels and climate change are posing serious threats to the population and economy of several Asian coastal cities—Bangkok, Dhaka, Jakarta, Manila and Shanghai, among them.
Threats come from a combination of tropical cyclones, storm surges, high tides and sea-level rise that increase risk of serious flooding by 2030. Some 600 million people worldwide—the majority in Asia—will be affected by rising sea levels in flood-prone coastal regions, some of them economic centers.
Vietnam is in a class by itself with a high coastal plain population. By 2040, it is expected to experience a relatively high land loss due to submergence forcing people to migrate.
Jakarta reportedly holds the record for the world’s fastest sinking city, at a rate of around 25.4cm (1 inch) per year. Around 40% of the city now lies below current sea levels. Over half of its 10.6 million people lack access to piped water and surface water is heavily polluted, so they dig illegal wells to extract groundwater. Rains are not enough to replenish water in the soils because over 97% of Jakarta is covered in asphalt and concrete. The Indonesian government announced that they are planning to develop a new capital at an estimated cost of US$33 billion. The new city will relocate some 1.5 million people mostly civil servants and their families and economic actors. However, it seems that there is no commitment on the poor coastal folks in North Jakarta which will be left to deal with the unsolved land subsidence and rising seas.
Bangkok with its 9.6 million population is also vulnerable to rising sea levels. In 2015, its government published a report that said the city could be underwater in 15 years. The city, now only around 1.5 meters above sea level, is sinking at a rate of about 2cm (0.8 inches) per year. The city has about 700 buildings with 20 floors or more, and 4,000 buildings with 8—20 floors, putting considerable pressure on the land on which they sit.
Manila with its core city population of 13.3 million people is sinking at around 10cm (4 inches) per year. Since the city has an average elevation of around five meters (16 feet) it is living on borrowed time. The sinking increases the risk of floods and cause high tides to penetrate further inland and water to recede more slowly. Unless there is intervention, much of the land area bordering Greater Manila Bay—Pasay to Manila to Malabon to most of Bulacan province north of Manila—will go under several centimetres of water by 2050.
Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka, population 18.9 million, is another low-lying, riverside city in Asia beset by sinking caused by unsustainable groundwater extraction. The city is sinking at a rate of about 1.4 cm (0.6 inches) per year, with most urbanized areas a mere 6–8 meters above sea level. Sea level rise appears to be happening at a rate ten times greater than the global average in the Bay of Bengal, southwest of the city.
Certainly, a managed retreat should be inclusive for all, especially the most vulnerable and impoverished.
“If we do not halt our emissions soon, our future climate could well become some kind of hell on Earth,” says Prof Tim Palmer at the University of Oxford.
Governments that continue to fail to take action have nowhere left to hide – the crystal-clear report has bust all of their alibis. “Too many ‘net-zero’ climate plans have been used to greenwash pollution and business as usual,” says Teresa Anderson at ActionAid International.
The gravity of the situation laid out in the report blows away blustering over the supposed costs of climate action. In any case, not acting will cost far more. “It’s suicidal, and economically irrational to keep procrastinating,” says Prof Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh.
The IPCC’s report means all the evidence that will ever be needed is now in place. “The continued dithering to address climate change is no longer about the lack of scientific evidence, but directly tied to a lack of political will,” says Kristina Dahl of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The comprehensive assessment of climate science published on Monday, the sixth such report from the IPCC since 1988, has been eight years in the making. It represents the world’s full knowledge to date of the physical basis of climate change. [This] will be followed next year by two further instalments: part two will focus on the impacts of the climate crisis; and the third will detail the potential solutions.
António Guterres, the UN secretary general: “[This report] is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.”
Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK: “The increasing frequency, scale and intensity of climate disasters that have scorched and flooded many parts of the world in recent months is the result of past inaction. Unless world leaders finally start to act on these warnings, things will get much, much worse.”
Joeri Rogelj, director of research at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, and an IPCC lead author: “This report is likely to be the last report from the IPCC while there is still time to stay below 1.5˚C”. “It shows we can stay within 1.5˚C but only just – only if we cut emissions in the next decade,” he said. “If we don’t, by the time of the next IPCC report at the end of this decade, 1.5˚C will be out the window.”
As of Friday, more than 100 large fires were burning across 14 states. Smoke from Oregon’s Bootleg Fire, one of the nation’s largest at more than 413,000 acres burned, has already traveled to New York City and Washington, D.C. In recent days, the smoke over Minnesota and the Dakotas has pushed air quality into hazardous territory.
In Winthrop, two massive wildfires — the Cedar Creek and Cub Creek 2 — have been burning for much of the past month on either side of town. They have consumed more than 113,000 acres of forest.
Even though it’s only midsummer, Washington state has already had more than 1,200 wildfires. It’s a record for this time of year and nearly twice the average number over the past decade.
The Paraná River, one of the main commercial waterways in South America, has reached its lowest level in nearly 80 years due to a prolonged drought in Brazil that scientists attribute to climate change.
The Paraná waterway and its aquifers supply fresh water to some 40 million people in countries including Brazil and Argentina. In turn, it receives water from the Paraguay River, which has among its main sources the Pantanal area, a huge wetland located in the Mato Grosso region of southern Brazil.
The drought of the river is impacting the transport of goods. Vessels have had to reduce their tonnage by approximately 20% to continue moving. In 2019, 79 million tons of grain, flour and oil were exported from Rosario, according to the city’s stock exchange, making it one of the biggest agricultural export hubs in the world.
Earth’s temperature is projected to hit 1.5˚C or 1.6˚C around 2030 in all five scenarios—a full decade earlier than a similar prediction the IPCC made less than three years ago.
The news gets worse.
By mid-century, the 1.5C threshold has 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.
The glimmer of hope for 1.5˚C is that by century’s end Earth’s surface will have cooled a notch to 1.4˚C under the most optimistic “if-we-do-everything-right” storyline.
A brief overshoot does not mean the target has been missed, scientists caution.
But long-term trajectories do not look promising in the other four scenarios.
Temperature increases by 2090 forecast range from a hugely challenging 1.8˚C to a catastrophic 4.4˚C.
“There is definitely a difference of opinion among scientists about whether the 1.5C target is reachable,” Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter and an authority on climate tipping points, told AFP.
Some experts who think 1.5C is mission impossible simply avoid the subject to avoid casting a pall over efforts to ramp up climate action, he added. “They don’t discuss it.”
The Mediterranean will be hit by ever fiercer heatwaves, drought and fires supercharged by rising temperatures, according to a draft United Nations assessment that warns the region is a “climate change hotspot”.
“Reasons for concern include sea-level rise related risks, land and marine biodiversity losses, risks related to drought, wildfire, alterations of water cycle, endangered food production, health risks in both urban and rural settlements from heat, and altered disease vectors,” is its grim assessment.
The draft predicts that temperatures across the Mediterranean are likely to rise faster than the global average in the decades to come, threatening the region’s vital agriculture, fisheries and tourism sectors. Some Mediterranean regions could see rain-fed crop yields decrease by 64%.
The fire is one of 100 active large blazes in the United States, mostly torching parts of Western states that have been plagued by exceptional heat and drought, exacerbated by climate change. Those tinderbox conditions have fueled historically large wildfires in what’s anticipated to be a severe fire season in California.
“These are not the normal fires anymore,” Jake Cagle, an operations section chief.
Since 28 July, 180 fires have broken out in Turkey, while more than 100 were still burning in Greece.
In Italy, the number of large wildfires is estimated to have tripled this summer compared to the yearly average. At the same time, the north of the country has been plagued by severe flooding and landslides.
In Greece, Athens’ first chief heat officer described “apocalyptic” scenes after villages burned down as a result of wildfires amid a protracted heatwave, during which temperatures reached 45˚C.
The Klamath Basin in the western U.S. was once a string of pristine wetlands but in the middle of the 19th century settlers began diverting the three big rivers feeding the system for their own needs. All the wetlands were drained, the streams were straightened, the trees were cut down and cows were put on the land. Water diverted to the basin is now dwindling.
Some young farmers trying to find a path forward said it does feel like it’s not just the weather that’s against them – but the government and the courts too. With the only water left to them in the ground, and only for those with wells to pump it from, frustration has hit a peak.
“It’s costing us an absolute fortune”
The cost of pumping water compounds the already challenging cost of farming. There are mortgages, land leases, labor. And farmers are also required to pay fees to maintain the irrigation systems, even those that turn into dusty ditches. Those costs all favor scale, forcing smaller operations to shutter and pave way for large farms to buy up land.
“You don’t want to think about what’s coming. You want to just keep going and hope it gets better”.
“I guarantee if we have another year of drought, this Klamath Basin scenario is going to be in every irrigation district across the west.”
If climate change continues at its current rate, more than 98% of emperor penguin colonies are expected to become quasi-extinct by the turn of the century. Scientists’ near-term predictions were equally grim: they estimated at least two-thirds of colonies would be quasi-extinct by 2050.
An emperor penguin colony in the Antarctic’s Weddell Sea was effectively wiped out in 2016 because of record-low sea ice and early ice breakup. More than 10,000 chicks are thought to have drowned when the sea ice broke up before they were ready to swim.
“We find that there is a substantial mismatch between likely warming rates and research coverage. 1.5 °C and 2 °C scenarios are substantially overrepresented. More likely higher end warming scenarios of 3 °C and above, despite potential catastrophic impacts, are severely neglected.“
The Great Barrier Reef, the size of Italy or Japan, is where global heating is a present-day catastrophe. It has suffered three mass coral bleaching events since 2015, killing up to 50% of its shallow water coral, with no reprieve in sight.
That conclusion prompted a push to have Unesco add the reef to its “in danger” list. But after a global campaign, ranging from a snorkelling jaunt for ambassadors to an eight-day lobbying trip taking in Hungary, Oman and the Maldives, the 21-country World Heritage Committee ignored Unesco’s scientific assessment.
Climate change is warming the Arabian Sea. The higher water temperatures are causing the air above to become warmer and hold more moisture.
“We are seeing a three-fold rise in widespread extreme rainfall events since 1950”. A hill station south of Mumbai, Mahabaleshwar, reported 594 millimetres of rain on Friday—the highest since the start of records a century ago.
To meet an ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2045, California’s policymakers are relying in part on forests and shrublands to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere, but researchers warn that future climate change may limit the ecosystem’s ability to perform this service.
Studies have estimated that the 2012-2015 drought killed more than 40% of ponderosa pines in the Sierra Nevada range. Another issue is the loss of trees from California’s worsening wildfire situation.
British Columbia declared a state of emergency on Monday, with more than 5,700 people under an evacuation order.
“I have been living here in Ashcroft for almost 25 years now and I have never seen anything like this before,” said Mayor Barbara Roden. “The most frightening thing in a lot of ways is that we’re all looking at the calendar and this is only half way through July,”.
The Siberian Times reported the first fire in the beginning of May outside Oymyakon in north-east Yakutia, which is known as “the pole of cold” for its record low temperatures.
“Little by little, people are beginning to understand that the climate is really changing, and the consequences are really catastrophic. But the majority of society and the majority of politicians are still very far from understanding the real scale of the problem.”
“We saw damage almost everywhere, from the Bahamas to the Great Barrier Reef.“
Corals can become stressed when temperatures around them rise just 1˚C (1.8˚F) above their tolerance level. With water temperature elevated from global warming, even a minor heat wave can become devastating.
If global temperatures rise by 2˚C (3.6˚F) or more, only about 1% will still exist.
Carbon emissions are set to hit an all-time high by 2023 as just two percent of pandemic recovery finance is being spent on clean energy.
“Not only is clean energy investment still far from what’s needed to put the world on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century, it’s not even enough to prevent global emissions from surging to a new record”.
This backing for coal, oil and gas is “reckless” in the face of the escalating climate emergency, according to the report’s authors, and urgent action is needed to phase out the support. The $3.3tn could have built solar plants equivalent to three times the US electricity grid.
60% of the fossil fuel subsidies went to the companies producing fossil fuels and 40% to cutting prices for energy consumers.
“This is not a localised freak event, it is definitely part of a coherent global pattern.”
Lapland and parts of Siberia also sweltered in record-breaking June heat, and cities in India, Pakistan and Libya have endured unusually high temperatures in recent weeks. Suburbs of Tokyo have been drenched in the heaviest rainfall since measurements began and a usual month’s worth of July rain fell on London in a day. Events that were once in 100 years are becoming commonplace. Freak weather is increasingly normal.
Some experts fear the recent jolts indicate the climate system may have crossed a dangerous threshold. Instead of smoothly rising temperatures and steadily increasing extremes, they are examining whether the trend may be increasingly “nonlinear” or bumpy as a result of knock-on effects from drought or ice melt in the Arctic. This theory is contentious, but recent events have prompted more discussion about this possibility and the reliability of models based on past observations.
“The positive feedback, where deforestation and climate change drive a release of carbon from the remaining forest that reinforces additional warming and more carbon loss is what scientists have feared would happen. Now we have good evidence this is happening.”
Fires produced about 1.5 billion tonnes of CO₂ a year, with forest growth removing 0.5 billion tonnes. The 1 billion tonnes left in the atmosphere is equivalent to the annual emissions of Japan, the world’s fifth-biggest polluter.
Even without fires, hotter temperatures and droughts mean the south-eastern Amazon has become a source of CO₂, rather than a sink.
In Siberia, 2 million acres of forest has been destroyed. The city of Yakutsk hit 35˚C at one point; and the region’s city of Verkhoyansk, seen as one of the coldest places on Earth, saw temperatures of over 30˚C.
The Siberian fires have raised fears about the permafrost and peatlands thawing, releasing carbon long stored in the frozen tundra.
The French government said that it would drop its plans to enshrine the fight against climate change in the Constitution, effectively giving up on what was seen as a major step in the country’s environmental commitments.
Kelp are essentially the ocean’s equivalent of trees, capturing up to 20 times more carbon per acre than land forests. They also provide a vital habitat for a broad range of marine life; without them, entire ocean ecosystems would crumble.
Five of the world’s leading reef and climate scientists have thanked Unesco for recommending the Great Barrier Reef be listed as world heritage “in danger”, saying it was the right decision in part because Australia had not “pulled its weight” in reducing emissions.
Chair of CCAG, Sir David King said: “I believe we have five years left to get on top of this global problem. We began talking seriously about climate change in 1992, yet we are now in a worse position with growing emissions and rising risks—watching greenhouse gases increase year after year.”
“But we’ve also let this problem get to the point where rapid emission reductions alone won’t be enough—we also need to develop ways to remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and to preserve critical parts of the Earth system while we still can.”
Species extinction, more widespread disease, unliveable heat, ecosystem collapse, cities menaced by rising seas—these and other devastating climate impacts are accelerating and bound to become painfully obvious before a child born today turns 30.
On current trends, we’re heading for 3˚C at best.
Prolonged warming even beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius could produce “progressively serious, centuries’ long and, in some cases, irreversible consequences” the report notes.
The world must face up to this reality and prepare for the onslaught — a second major takeaway of the report.
“Current levels of adaptation will be inadequate to respond to future climate risks”
Mid-century projections—even under an optimistic scenario of 2˚C of warming—make this an understatement.
Tens of millions more people are likely to face chronic hunger by 2050, and 130 million more could experience extreme poverty within a decade if inequality is allowed to deepen.
In 2050, coastal cities on the “frontline” of the climate crisis will see hundreds of millions of people at risk from floods and increasingly frequent storm surges made more deadly by rising seas.
Some 350 million more people living in urban areas will be exposed to water scarcity from severe droughts at 1.5˚C of warming — 410 million at 2˚C.
That extra half-a-degree will also mean 420 million more people exposed to extreme and potentially lethal heatwaves.
Thirdly, the report outlines the danger of compound and cascading impacts, along with point-of-no-return thresholds in the climate system known as tipping points, which scientists have barely begun to measure and understand.
Recent research has shown that warming of 2˚C could push the melting of ice sheets atop Greenland and the West Antarctic—with enough frozen water to lift oceans 13 metres (43 feet)—past a point of no return.
Other tipping points could see the Amazon basin morph from tropical forest to savannah, and billions of tonnes of carbon leech from Siberia’s permafrost, fuelling further warming.
“But simply swapping a gas guzzler for a Tesla or planting billions of trees to offset business-as-usual isn’t going to cut it“
“We need transformational change operating on processes and behaviours at all levels: individual, communities, business, institutions and governments”
“We must redefine our way of life and consumption.”
“Carbon dioxide going up in a few decades like that is extremely unusual”. “For example, when the Earth climbed out of the last ice age, carbon dioxide increased by about 80 parts per million and it took the Earth system, the natural system, 6,000 years.”
By comparison, it has taken only 42 years, from 1979 to 2021, to increase carbon dioxide by that same amount.
“The world is approaching the point where exceeding the Paris targets and entering a climate danger zone becomes almost inevitable,”
“In the past, we may have had one fire in the summer that was notable. Now 50% of our fires are notable—and what I mean by notable is something that really, really exceeded our expectations on growth and intensity.”
“If we allow fossil fuel burning to continue to grow, our grandchildren may experience CO₂ levels that haven’t been seen on Earth for around 50 million years, a time when crocodiles roamed the Arctic.”
“While 63% of reefs are projected to continue to accrete by 2100 under the low-impact pathway, 94% will be eroding by 2050 under the worse-case scenario,” Dr Cornwall said. “And no reef will continue to accrete at rates matching projected sea-level rise under the medium and high-impact scenarios by 2100.”
Year 2100, the nightmare scenario: → Massive frequent wildfires → Dead coral reefs → Frequent prolonged droughts → Increased air pollution → Ice-free Arctic summers → Rapid sea level rise → Abandoned small island nations → Billions of people suffering water stress → Stronger cyclones → More frequent mega-cyclones causing devastation → More intense & unpredictable monsoons affecting 3 billion people → Half of the land devoted to agriculture in the past now unusable → Plummeting crop yields → Collapsed fish stocks → Deaths from tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, diarrhoea and respiratory illnesses at their highest levels in human history.
Populations of migratory freshwater fish have plummeted by 76% since 1970, and large fish – those weighing more than 30kg – have been all but wiped out in most rivers. The global population of megafish down by 94%, and 16 freshwater fish species were declared extinct last year.