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.
A total of 131 countries are discussing, have announced or have adopted net zero targets, covering 72% of global emissions. If fully implemented, estimates of projected global average temperature increase to 2.0–2.4 °C by 2100, with respect to pre-industrial.
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.
Researchers analysed the use of the technology at eight locations worldwide: Chile, Greece, Jordan, Mexico, Spain, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. For each location, they calculated the overall greenhouse gas emissions over the entire life cycle of a plant.
With respect to efficiency, the results show an enormous range, from 9 to 97%, in terms of actual greenhouse-gas removal through the use of DACCS (Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage).
“The technologies for CO2 capture are merely complementary to an overall decarbonisation strategy—that is, for the reduction of CO2 emissions—and cannot replace it” stresses Christian Bauer, a scientist at the Laboratory for Energy Systems Analysis and a co-author of the study.
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.
The [UK] government claims that it is doing enough to comply legally with the Paris Agreement, concluded six years ago in the French capital. Even if it is not, it argues, there are no grounds for the courts to intervene: it is for it alone to weigh the economic and environmental arguments.
In its reply to the claimants’ case, it says of its climate policies: “Any inadvertent and indirect discriminatory impacts would fall well within the UK’s margin of appreciation, and be objectively and reasonably justified, if they could be established by the claimants.”
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.”
This page summarises prominent news articles about the Anthropocene; the current geological age that is a product of our activities and technology, fuelled by world energy. The consequence is degradation that has become the dominant influence on earth’s climate and environment.
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.