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10 Science must knows on Climate Change
by The Earth League, Future Earth, agencies
Nov. 2017
The UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement on climate change set the world on a new course towards a science-based target for maintaining a manageable and just climate future. Meeting this target of keeping global temperature rise below 2 °C while aiming for stabilising at 1.5 °C will not be easy. But it must be done. Climate change caused by humans is no longer a future threat: it has arrived, it is dangerous and it will get worse.
It is critical for all parties in the climate negotiations to stay on top of the latest science in order to understand new and emerging risks and options to mitigate risk. It is in this context that we share with you and the delegates of COP23 a brief summary of the latest science, prepared by Future Earth and the Earth League, which sets out The 10 Science ‘Must Knows’ on Climate Change. This draws from and builds on numerous international science assessments and reports, for example, from the IPCC, WMO, and UN Environment, as well as the most recent analyses coming out of the scientific literature.
Today, the Global Carbon Project, sponsored by Future Earth and the World Climate Research Programme, published the 2017 global carbon budget. Following three years of almost no growth, In 2017, CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry are projected to grow by 2.0% (+0.8 to +3.0%). This news is deeply concerning. The world has not reached peak emissions yet. There is no room for complacency.
The science is clear; achieving the Paris Agreement is not only necessary, it is possible. But it is also clear that for society to develop and prosper in a near-to 2 °C world there must be a transformation to global sustainable development. Decarbonising the world economy by 2050-2070 is not enough. We also need to safeguard the resilience of all ecosystems on Earth, and transition to healthy and equitable societies for all world citizens, as expressed by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
In short, a safe climate future depends on a transition to global sustainability, but global sustainability is also the only path to a safe climate future. This places COP23 centrally on the global stage of world development. Thank you for your leadership on this critical issue for humanity. We hope these “10 Science Must Knows” will provide support to all delegates in the COP23 climate negotiations.
As global temperatures climb higher, Earth is approaching tipping points that threaten human security, warn scientists in a new statement to national representatives meeting in Bonn for the annual climate talks. Their warning comes as global emissions are projected to rise after three stable years.
Professor Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Chair of the Earth League, an international network of scientists that co-produced the statement says: “There is no room for complacency. Climate change is here. It is dangerous. And it is about to get much worse.”
”In the last two years evidence has accumulated that we are now on a collision course with tipping points in the Earth system,” he says, underscoring the need for rapid action.
Dr. Amy Luers executive director of Future Earth says, “The news that emissions are rising after the three year hiatus is a giant leap backwards for humankind.”
“Pushing Earth closer to tipping points is deeply concerning. Emissions need to peak soon and approach zero by 2050. Fortunately, we now have the tools to transition to a low carbon world while increasing energy security, improving human health, and strengthening economies,” Luers adds.
Earth League member and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Hans Joachim Schellnhuber says: "Some crucial climate-change facts tend to get lost in the noise of daily deliberations - even at an event such as the UN climate summit. So it is important to remind everyone of the very reason why ten thousands of people meet in Bonn: unprecedented risk to humanity due to global warming, as revealed by science. This must be the starting point for re-thinking what in the past 70 years has become our culture of short-term convenience and consumption, a culture which eventually comes at the cost of the well-being of present and futures generations across the world."
Summary of “The 10 Science Must-Knows”
1. Much evidence suggests that the planet has entered a new geologic epoch—called the Anthropocene. The rate of change of the Earth system is accelerating as a result of humans’ impact on the planet’s biology, chemistry, and physics. Earth’s climate has been remarkably stable since before the dawn of civilization. This stability is at risk.
2. Earth is approaching critical “tipping points”. By crossing these thresholds, the planet may see abrupt, and possibly irreversible, shifts in the workings of the Arctic, Amazon, and other parts of the globe.
3. The record-breaking 2017 Atlantic hurricane season provides a glimpse at the increased risks of extreme weather events that the planet may experience in the future. These events include severe flooding, heat waves and droughts.
4. Changes are occurring quickly in the ocean, with accelerating sea-level rise and ocean acidification.
5. The economic costs of climate change are already being felt, and some of the world’s poorest nations are bearing the heaviest burden.
6. Climate change will have a profound impact on human health by placing new pressures on the food and water security in nations around the world.
7. Climate change is likely to exacerbate migration, civil unrest and even conflict. In 2015, more than 19 million people globally were displaced by natural disasters and extreme weather events, and climate change will likely cause that number to grow.
8. The world needs to act fast: If humans continue to emit greenhouse gases at current rates, the remaining carbon budget to reduce risk of exceeding the 2 degrees Celsius target will be exhausted in around 20 years. Emissions should peak by 2020 and approach zero by around 2050 if the world is serious about reducing risk. As a simple rule of thumb, this means halving global emissions every decade.
9. A fossil-fuel free society is economically attractive: renewable energy sources increasingly compete with fossil fuels, even when these are priced at historic lows. Moreover, the estimated costs of inaction range from 2-10% of GDP by 2100 by some estimates, to a fall in projected global output by 23% in 2100 in others.
10. Even if the world meets the Paris Agreement targets, communities across the globe will still need to build resilience and adapt to the changes already under way.
* Access the full report via the links below:
* Global Carbon Project report:

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The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change 2017
by The Lancet Medical Journal
30 Oct. 2017
The Lancet Countdown tracks progress on health and climate change and provides an independent assessment of the health effects of climate change, the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and the health implications of these actions. It follows on from the work of the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, which concluded that anthropogenic climate change threatens to undermine the past 50 years of gains in public health, and conversely, that a comprehensive response to climate change could be “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.
The Lancet Countdown is a collaboration between 24 academic institutions and intergovernmental organisations based in every continent and with representation from a wide range of disciplines. The collaboration includes climate scientists, ecologists, economists, engineers, experts in energy, food, and transport systems, geographers, mathematicians, social and political scientists, public health professionals, and doctors.
It reports annual indicators across five sections: climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerability; adaptation planning and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement.
The key messages from the 40 indicators in the Lancet Countdown''s 2017 report are summarised below.
The human symptoms of climate change are unequivocal and potentially irreversible—affecting the health of populations around the world today
The impacts of climate change are disproportionately affecting the health of vulnerable populations and people in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). By undermining the social and environmental determinants that underpin good health, climate change exacerbates social, economic, and demographic inequalities, with the impacts eventually felt by all populations.
The evidence is clear that exposure to more frequent and intense heatwaves is increasing, with an estimated 125 million additional vulnerable adults exposed to heatwaves between 2000 and 2016. During this time, increasing ambient temperatures have resulted in an estimated reduction of 5·3% in outdoor manual labour productivity worldwide. As a whole, the frequency of weather-related disasters has increased by 46% since 2000.
The impacts of climate change are projected to worsen with time, and current levels of adaptation will become insufficient in the future. The total value of economic losses resulting from climate-related events has been increasing since 1990, totalling US$129 billion in 2016. 99% of these economic losses in low-income countries were uninsured. Additionally, in the longer term, altered climatic conditions are contributing to growing vectorial capacity for the transmission of dengue fever by Aedes aegypti, reflecting an estimated 9·4% increase since 1950.
If governments and the global health community do not learn from the past experiences of HIV/AIDS and the recent outbreaks of Ebola and Zika viruses, another slow response will result in an irreversible and unacceptable cost to human health.
The delayed response to climate change over the past 25 years has jeopardised human life and livelihoods
Since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) commenced global efforts to tackle climate change in 1992, most of the indicators tracked by the Lancet Countdown have either shown limited progress, particularly with regards to adaptation, or moved in the wrong direction, particularly in relation to mitigation. Most fundamentally, carbon emissions and global temperatures have continued to increase.
An increasing number of countries are assessing their vulnerabilities to climate change, developing adaptation and emergency preparedness plans, and providing climate information to health services. The same is seen at the city level, with more than 449 cities around the world reporting having undertaken a climate change risk assessment. However, the coverage and adequacy of such measures in protecting against the growing risks of climate change to health remain uncertain.
Indeed, health and health-related adaptation funding accounts for only 4·6% and 13·3% of total global adaptation spending, respectively.
Although there has been some recent progress in strengthening health resilience to climate impacts, it is clear that adaptation to new climatic conditions can only protect up to a point; an analogy to human physiology is useful here.
The human body can adapt to insults caused by a self-limiting minor illness with relative ease. However, when disease steadily worsens, positive feedback cycles and limits to adaptation are quickly reached. This is particularly true when many systems are affected and when the failure of one system affects the function of another, as is the case for multiorgan system failure or when the body has already been weakened through repeated diseases or exposures.
The same is true for the health consequences of climate change. It acts as a threat multiplier, compounding many of the issues communities already face and strengthening the correlation between multiple health risks, making them more likely to occur simultaneously.
Indeed, climate change is not a single-system disease but instead often compounds existing pressures on housing, food and water security, poverty, and many determinants of good health. Adaptation has limits, and prevention is better than cure to avert potentially irreversible effects of climate change.
Progress in mitigating climate change since the signing of the UNFCCC has been limited across all sectors, with only modest improvements in carbon emission reduction from electricity generation. Although sustainable travel has increased in Europe and some evidence suggests a decrease in dependence on private motor vehicles in cities in the USA and Australia, the situation is generally less favourable in cities within emerging economies. In addition to a slow transition away from highly polluting forms of electricity generation, this change has yielded a modest improvement in air pollution in some urban centres.
However, global population-weighted fine particular matter (PM2·5) exposure has increased by 11·2% since 1990, and about 71% of the 2971 cities in the WHO air pollution database exceed guideline annual PM2·5 exposure.
The strength and coverage of carbon pricing covers only 13·1% of global anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, with the weighted average carbon price of these instruments at $8·81 per tonne of emitted CO2 in 2017.
Furthermore, responses to climate change have yet to fully take advantage of the health co-benefits of mitigation and adaptation interventions, with action taken to date only yielding modest improvements in human wellbeing. In part, this reflects a need for further evidence and research on these ancillary effects and the available cost savings. However, it also reflects a need for more joined-up policy making by health and non-health ministries of national governments.
This delayed mitigation response puts the world on a high-end emissions trajectory that will result in global warming of 2·6–4·8°C by the end of the century.
Following in the footsteps of previous Lancet Commissions, we argue that the health profession not only has the ability but the responsibility to act as public health advocates by communicating the threats and opportunities to the public and policy makers and ensuring climate change is understood as being central to human wellbeing.
Climate change has serious implications for our health, wellbeing, livelihoods, and the structure of organised society. Its direct effects result from rising temperatures and changes in the frequency and strength of storms, floods, droughts, and heatwaves—with physical and mental health consequences. The impacts of climate change will also be mediated through less direct pathways, including changes in crop yields, the burden and distribution of infectious disease, and in climate-induced population displacement and violent conflict.
Although many of these effects are already seen, their progression in the absence of climate change mitigation will greatly amplify existing global health challenges and inequalities. The effects also threaten to undermine many of the social, economic, and environmental drivers of health that have contributed greatly to human progress.
Urgent and substantial climate change mitigation will help protect human health from the worst of these effects, and a comprehensive and ambitious response to climate change could transform the health of the world''s populations. The potential benefits and opportunities are enormous, including cleaning the air of polluted cities, delivering more nutritious diets, ensuring energy, food, and water security, and alleviating poverty and social and economic inequalities.
Monitoring this transition, from threat to opportunity, is the central role of the Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change.
* Access the full report via the link below.

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