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Humanity’s broken risk perception is reversing global progress in a spiral of self-destruction
by UNDRR, UNCCD, World Resources Institute, agencies
 
18 May 2022 (WMO)
 
Four key climate change indicators – greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification – set new records in 2021. This is yet another clear sign that human activities are causing planetary scale changes on land, in the ocean, and in the atmosphere, with harmful and long-lasting ramifications for sustainable development and ecosystems, reports the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
 
Extreme weather – the day-to-day “face” of climate change – led to hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses and wreaked a heavy toll on human lives and well-being and triggered shocks for food and water security and displacement that have accentuated in 2022.
 
The WMO State of the Global Climate in 2021 report confirmed that the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record.
 
Criticizing “the dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres used the publication of the WMO flagship report to call for urgent action to transform energy systems away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
 
Mr Guterres proposes five critical actions to jump-start the renewable energy transition. They include greater access to renewable energy technology and supplies, a tripling of private and public investments in renewables and an end to subsidies on fossil fuels which amount to roughly $11 million per minute.
 
“Renewables are the only path to real energy security, stable power prices and sustainable employment opportunities. If we act together, the renewable energy transformation can be the peace project of the 21st century,” said Mr Guterres.
 
The world must act in this decade to prevent ever worsening climate impacts and to keep temperature increase to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, he said.
 
“It is just a matter of time before we see another warmest year on record,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “Our climate is changing before our eyes. The heat trapped by human-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come. Sea level rise, ocean heat and acidification will continue for hundreds of years. Some glaciers have reached the point of no return and this will have long-term repercussions in a world in which more than 2 billion people already experience water stress.”
 
“Extreme weather has a immediate impact on our daily lives, as we are seeing with the drought emergency unfolding in the Horn of Africa, the recent deadly flooding in South Africa and the extreme heat in India and Pakistan.
 
http://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/four-key-climate-change-indicators-break-records-2021 http://news.un.org/en/story/2022/05/1118452
 
17 May 2022
 
Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reach the highest levels in recorded history.
 
New data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that the weekly average CO² concentration at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii reached 421.13 parts per million (ppm) from May 8 to May 14—the highest in recorded history and up from 418.34 ppm one year ago and 397.38 ppm one decade ago.
 
According to NOAA, the daily average CO² concentration at Mauna Loa hit 422.04 ppm on May 14, just slightly below the agency's all-time record of 422.06 ppm observed on April 26. Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, meanwhile, measured 421.68 ppm of CO² at Mauna Loa on May 13, which they consider the daily record as of Monday.
 
Those record-breaking daily and weekly measurements came after the monthly average CO² concentration at Mauna Loa surpassed 420 ppm for the first time in human history, with NOAA observing 420.23 ppm in April compared with Scripps at 420.02 ppm.
 
Twenty years ago, the highest monthly average CO² concentration was 375.93 ppm, according to NOAA. In 1958, the first year scientists began collecting data at Mauna Loa, it was 317.51 ppm.
 
Climate scientist James Hansen, who alerted congressional lawmakers to the life-threatening dangers of the climate crisis in 1988, has long called for reducing atmospheric CO² to below 350 ppm, and there is now a scientific consensus that the livability of the planet decreases beyond such a concentration.
 
Nevertheless, the annual rate of increase in CO² levels over the past six decades is now roughly 100 times faster than earlier increases that occurred naturally thousands of years ago.
 
"The world effectively has made no serious progress compared to what is required," Pieter Tans, a senior scientist at NOAA said earlier this month. "We really need to focus on decreasing emissions and we haven't had much success globally because the rate of increase of CO² remains as high as it has been in the last decade."
 
"CO² has a longevity of hundreds to thousands of years," he noted, "so we are really making a very long-term climate commitment." Tans added that "we are going in the wrong direction, at maximum speed."
 
* Temperatures in India and Pakistan this week exceeeded 50 degrees celsius - 122 fahrenheit.
 
http://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/ http://gml.noaa.gov/ccgg/trends/mlo.html#mlo
 
12 May 2022
 
Humanity is “at a crossroads” when it comes to managing drought and accelerating actions must be undertaken “urgently, using every tool we can,” says a new report from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
 
“The facts and figures of this publication all point in the same direction: an upward trajectory in the duration of droughts and the severity of impacts, not only affecting human societies but also the ecological systems upon which the survival of all life depends, including that of our own species.” says Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.
 
“We are at a crossroads,” says Mr. Thiaw. “We need to steer toward the solutions rather than continuing with destructive actions, believing that marginal change can heal systemic failure.”
 
“One of the best, most comprehensive solutions is land restoration, which addresses many of the underlying factors of degraded water cycles and the loss of soil fertility. We must build and rebuild our landscapes better, mimicking nature wherever possible and creating functional ecological systems.”
 
Beyond restoration, he adds, is the need for a paradigm shift from ‘reactive’ and ‘crisis-based’ approaches to ‘proactive’ and ‘risk-based’ drought management approaches involving coordination, communication and cooperation, driven by sufficient finance and political will.
 
“We all must live up to our responsibility to ensure the health of present and future generations, wholeheartedly and without delay.”
 
Unless action is stepped up:
 
By 2030, an estimated 700 million people will be at risk of being displaced by drought. By 2040, an estimated one in four children will live in areas with extreme water shortages.
 
By 2050, droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population, and an estimated 4.8-5.7 billion people will live in areas that are water-scarce for at least one month each year, up from 3.6 billion today. And up to 216 million people could be forced to migrate by 2050, largely due to drought in combination with other factors including water scarcity, declining crop productivity and sea-level rise.
 
http://www.unccd.int/news-stories/press-releases/world-crossroads-drought-management-29-generation-and-worsening-says-un
 
26 Apr. 2022
 
Humanity’s broken risk perception is reversing global progress in a ‘spiral of self-destruction’ - United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
 
Human activity and behaviour is contributing to an increasing number of disasters across the world, putting millions of lives and every social and economic gain in danger, warns a new UN report.
 
The Global Assessment Report (GAR2022), released by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) ahead of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in May, reveals that between 350 and 500 medium- to large-scale disasters took place every year over the past two decades. The number of disaster events is projected to reach 560 a year – or 1.5 disasters a day – by 2030.
 
The GAR2022 blames these disasters on a broken perception of risk based on “optimism, underestimation and invincibility,” which leads to policy, finance and development decisions that exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and put people in danger.
 
“The world needs to do more to incorporate disaster risk in how we live, build and invest, which is setting humanity on a spiral of self-destruction,” said Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.
 
“We must turn our collective complacency to action. Together we can slow the rate of preventable disasters as we work to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals for everyone, everywhere.”
 
The report entitled “Our World at Risk: Transforming Governance for a Resilient Future,” found that the implementation of disaster risk reduction strategies, as called for in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, had reduced both the number of people impacted and killed by disasters in the last decade.
 
However, the scale and intensity of disasters are increasing, with more people killed or affected by disasters in the last five years than in the previous five.
 
Disasters disproportionately impact developing countries, which lose an average of one percent of GDP a year to disasters, compared to 0.1-0.3 per cent in developed countries. The highest cost is borne by the Asia-Pacific region, which loses an average 1.6 percent of GDP to disasters every year, while the poorest also suffer the most within developing countries.
 
Adding to the long term impacts of disasters is the lack of insurance to aid in recovery efforts to build back better. Since 1980, just 40 percent of disaster-related losses were insured while insurance coverage rates in developing countries were often below 10 percent, and sometimes close to zero, the report said.
 
“Disasters can be prevented, but only if countries invest the time and resources to understand and reduce their risks,” said Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of UNDRR.
 
“By deliberately ignoring risk and failing to integrate it in decision making, the world is effectively bankrolling its own destruction. Critical sectors, from government to development and financial services, must urgently rethink how they perceive and address disaster risk.”
 
A growing area of risk is around more extreme weather events as a result of climate change. GAR2022 builds on the calls to accelerate adaptation efforts made at COP26 by showcasing how policymakers can climate-proof development and investments. This includes reforming national budget planning to consider risk and uncertainty, while also reconfiguring legal and financial systems to incentivize risk reduction.
 
It also offers examples that countries can learn from, such as Costa Rica’s innovative carbon tax on fuel launched in 1997, which helped to reverse deforestation, a major driver of disaster risks, while benefiting the economy. In 2018, 98 percent of the electricity in Costa Rica came from renewable energy sources.
 
GAR2022 was drafted by a group of experts from around the world as a reflection of the various areas of expertise required to understand and reduce complex risks. The findings of the report will feed into the Midterm Review of the implementation of the Sendai Framework, which includes national consultations and reviews of how countries are performing against the goal, targets and priorities for action of the Sendai Framework.
 
“As the Midterm Review of the Sendai Framework is underway, this report should be a wake-up call that countries need to accelerate action across the Framework’s four priorities to stop the spiral of increasing disasters,” said Mizutori.
 
“The good news is that human decisions are the largest contributors to disaster risk, so we have the power to substantially reduce the threats posed to humanity, and especially the most vulnerable among us.”
 
http://www.undrr.org/news/humanitys-broken-risk-perception-reversing-global-progress-spiral-self-destruction-finds-new http://news.un.org/en/story/2022/05/1117842
 
Apr. 2022
 
Chronic land degradation: UN report offers stark warnings - 40 % of the planet’s land is degraded, directly affecting half of humanity
 
The way land resources – soil, water and biodiversity – are currently mismanaged and misused threatens the health and continued survival of many species on Earth, including our own, warns a stark new report from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
 
UNCCD’s evidence-based flagship Global Land Outlook 2 (GLO2) report, five years in development with 21 partner organizations, and with over 1,000 references, is the most comprehensive consolidation of information on the topic ever assembled.
 
It offers an overview of unprecedented breadth and projects the planetary consequences of three scenarios through 2050: business as usual, restoration of 50 million square km of land, and restoration measures augmented by the conservation of natural areas important for specific ecosystem functions.
 
It also assesses the potential contributions of land restoration investments to climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, poverty reduction, human health and other key sustainable development goals.
 
Warns the report: “At no other point in modern history has humanity faced such an array of familiar and unfamiliar risks and hazards, interacting in a hyper-connected and rapidly changing world. We cannot afford to underestimate the scale and impact of these existential threats.”
 
“Conserving, restoring, and using our land resources sustainably is a global imperative, one that requires action on a crisis footing…Business as usual is not a viable pathway for our continued survival and prosperity.”
 
GLO2 offers hundreds of examples from around the world that demonstrate the potential of land restoration. It is being released before the UNCCD’s 15th session of the Conference of Parties to be held in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (COP15, 9-20 May).
 
Says Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD: “Modern agriculture has altered the face of the planet more than any other human activity. We need to urgently rethink our global food systems, which are responsible for 80% of deforestation, 70% of freshwater use, and the single greatest cause of terrestrial biodiversity loss.”
 
“Investing in large-scale land restoration is a powerful, cost-effective tool to combat desertification, soil erosion, and loss of agricultural production. As a finite resource and our most valuable natural asset, we cannot afford to continue taking land for granted.”
 
Up to 40 % of the planet’s land is degraded, directly affecting half of humanity, threatening roughly half of global GDP (US$44 trillion). If business as usual continued through to 2050, the report projects additional degradation of an area almost the size of South America.
 
Nations’ current pledge to restore 1 billion degraded hectares by 2030 requires $US 1.6 trillion this decade – a fraction of annual $700 billion in fossil fuel and agricultural subsidies.
 
As food prices soar amid rapid climate and other planetary changes, “crisis footing” is needed to conserve, restore and use land sustainably.
 
http://www.unccd.int/news-stories/press-releases/chronic-land-degradation-un-offers-stark-warnings-and-practical http://www.ipsnews.net/2022/04/landmark-un-report-issues-stark-call-sustainable-land-management-save-human-health/
 
Apr. 2022
 
‘Relentless’ destruction of rainforest continuing despite Cop26 pledge - World Resources Institute
 
The Tropics lost 11.1m hectares of tree cover in 2021, including forest critical to limiting global heating and biodiversity loss, finds World Resources Institute.
 
Pristine rainforests were once again destroyed at a relentless rate in 2021, according to new figures, prompting concerns governments will not meet a Cop26 deal to halt and reverse deforestation by the end of the decade.
 
From the Brazilian Amazon to the Congo basin, the tropics lost 11.1m hectares of tree cover last year, including 3.75m ha of primary forest critical to limiting global heating and biodiversity loss.
 
Boreal forests, mainly in Russia, experienced a record loss in 2021 driven by the worst wildfire season in Siberia since records began, according to new data from the University of Maryland released via Global Forest Watch.
 
Experts called the continued forest loss a disaster for action on global heating and said the 143 governments that pledged to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030 at Cop26 held in Glasgow, had to urgently make good on their commitment.
 
Of the primary rainforest that was lost in 2021 – releasing the equivalent of India’s annual fossil fuel emissions – 40% disappeared in Brazil, with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bolivia, Indonesia and Peru making up the rest of the top five.
 
Despite the persistent loss of forests, experts pointed to glimmers of hope in the new figures. Indonesia reduced primary forest loss for a fifth straight year following government action on palm oil, fire management and an updated national climate plan which committed the country to becoming a carbon sink by 2030. Malaysia has also reduced primary forest lost in recent years, and experts pointed to the examples of Gabon and the Guyanas, that have had very low rates of forest loss over the last two decades.
 
Rod Taylor, the global director of the forests programme at the World Resources Institute (WRI), which compiled the report, said while the global rates of forest loss appeared to be flatlining, they needed to dramatically decrease for the world to meet climate targets.
 
“When you look at unchanging year-on-year statistics, you could conclude that they don’t really offer a newsworthy headline. But when it comes to the loss of primary tropical forests, stubbornly persistent rates relate to the climate, the extinction crisis and the fate of many first peoples. High rates of loss continue despite pledges from countries and companies,” Taylor said.
 
Wildfires, rising temperatures and land clearances are affecting the resilience of forests around the world. Warnings point to parts of the Amazon being in danger of converting from rainforest to savannah. According to the figures there was a particularly worrying spike in deforestation in the western Brazilian Amazon, linked to large-scale clearing for cattle pastures along existing roads.
 
The expansion of small-scale agriculture and harvesting of trees to meet energy demands drove forest loss in the DRC last year, while Bolivia experienced record primary forest loss due to agriculture and fires, including in protected areas.
 
Frances Seymour, a senior fellow at the WRI, said the 2021 figures had to be taken as a baseline for assessing the Cop26 pledges, but underscored that dramatic action was needed, warning that countries that were taking action were not receiving enough financial support.
 
Seymour said: “We’ve got 20 years of data showing the persistent annual loss of millions of hectares of primary tropical forests alone. But we don’t run out of fingers counting the number of years we have left to bring that number down to zero. We already knew that such losses are a disaster for the climate. They’re a disaster for biodiversity. They’re a disaster for Indigenous peoples and local communities..
 
“We have to dramatically reduce emissions from all sources. No one should even think any more about planting trees instead of reducing emissions from fossil fuels. It’s got to be both and it’s got to be now before it’s too late".
 
http://research.wri.org/gfr/latest-analysis-deforestation-trends http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/28/destruction-of-pristine-rainforest-globe-relentless-rate-aoe
 
Apr. 2022
 
Global warming risks most cataclysmic extinction of marine life in 250m years. (Guardian News)
 
Global heating is causing such a drastic change to the world’s oceans that it risks a mass extinction event of marine species that rivals anything that’s happened in the Earth’s history over tens of millions of years, new research has warned.
 
Accelerating climate change is causing a “profound” impact upon ocean ecosystems that is “driving extinction risk higher and marine biological richness lower than has been seen in Earth’s history for the past tens of millions of years”, according to the study.
 
The world’s seawater is steadily climbing in temperature due to the extra heat produced from the burning of fossil fuels, while oxygen levels in the ocean are plunging and the water is acidifying from the soaking up of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
 
This means the oceans are overheated, increasingly gasping for breath – the volume of ocean waters completely depleted of oxygen has quadrupled since the 1960s – and becoming more hostile to life. Aquatic creatures such as clams, mussels and shrimp are unable to properly form shells due to the acidification of seawater.
 
All of this means the planet could slip into a “mass extinction rivaling those in Earth’s past”, states the new research, published in Science. The pressures of rising heat and loss of oxygen are, researchers said, uncomfortably reminiscent of the mass extinction event that occurred at the end of the Permian period about 250m years ago. This cataclysm, known as the “great dying”, led to the demise of up to 96% of the planet’s marine animals.
 
“Even if the magnitude of species loss is not the same level as this, the mechanism of the species loss would be the same,” said Justin Penn, a climate scientist at Princeton University who co-authored the new research.
 
“The future of life in the oceans rests strongly on what we decide to do with greenhouse gases today. There are two vastly different oceans we could be seeing, one devoid of a lot of life we see today, depending on what we see with CO2 emissions moving forward.”
 
Truly catastrophic extinction levels may be reached should the world emit planet-heating gases in an unrestrained way, leading to more than 4C of average warming above pre-industrial times by the end of this century, the research found. This would trigger extinctions that would reshape ocean life for several more centuries as temperatures continue to climb.
 
But even in the better case scenarios, the world is still set to lose a significant chunk of its marine life.
 
The threat of climate change is amplifying the other major dangers faced by aquatic life, such as over-fishing and pollution. Between 10% and 15% of marine species are already at risk of extinction because of these various threats, the study found, drawing upon International Union for Conservation of Nature data.
 
John Bruno, a marine ecologist at the University of North Carolina who was not involved in the study, said that while mass extinctions are likely from extreme heating in the future, the current impacts from climate change and other threats should be concerning enough for policymakers and the public.
 
“Personally, I’m a lot more worried about the ecosystem degradation we’re already seeing after less than 1C of warming,” he said.
 
“We don’t need to look to a world so warmed over humanity has been wiped out – we’re already losing untold biodiversity and ecosystem functioning with even the relatively modest warming of the last 50 years.”
 
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/28/global-warming-risks-cataclysmic-mass-extinction-marine-life http://www.ipsnews.net/2022/04/big-business-depletes-nature-big-business-supplants-nature-synthetic-food/


 


Heatwaves at both of Earth’s poles alarm climate scientists
by WMO, Guardian News
 
20 Mar. 2022
 
Heatwaves at both of Earth’s poles alarm climate scientists. (Guardian News)
 
Startling heatwaves at both of Earth’s poles are causing alarm among climate scientists, who have warned the “unprecedented” events could signal faster and abrupt climate breakdown.
 
Temperatures in Antarctica reached record levels at the weekend, an astonishing 40C above normal in places.
 
At the same time, weather stations near the north pole also showed signs of melting, with some temperatures 30C above normal, hitting levels normally attained far later in the year.
 
At this time of year, the Antarctic should be rapidly cooling after its summer, and the Arctic only slowly emerging from its winter, as days lengthen. For both poles to show such heating at once is unprecedented.
 
The rapid rise in temperatures at the poles is a warning of disruption in Earth’s climate systems. Last year, in the first chapter of a comprehensive review of climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of unprecedented warming signals already occurring, resulting in some changes – such as polar melt – that could rapidly become irreversible.
 
The danger is twofold: heatwaves at the poles are a strong signal of the damage humanity is wreaking on the climate; and the melting could also trigger further cascading changes that will accelerate climate breakdown.
 
As polar sea ice melts, particularly in the Arctic, it reveals dark sea that absorbs more heat than reflective ice, warming the planet further. Much of the Antarctic ice covers land, and its melting raises sea levels.
 
Scientists warned that the events unfolding were “historic”, “unprecedented” and “dramatic”.
 
Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Centre at Pennsylvania State University, said the extreme weather being recorded was exceeding predictions to a worrying extent.
 
“The warming of the Arctic and Antarctic is cause for concern, and the increase in extreme weather events – of which these are an example – is a cause for concern as well,” he said. “The models have done a good job projecting the overall warming, but we’ve argued that extreme events are exceeding model projections. These events drive home the urgency of action.”
 
The latest unprecedented weather patterns follow a series of alarming heatwaves in 2021, most notably in the US Pacific north-west, where previous records were shattered by several degrees as temperatures climbed close to 50C.
 
Mark Maslin, professor of earth system science at University College London, said: “I and colleagues were shocked by the number and severity of the extreme weather events in 2021 – which were unexpected at a warming of 1.2C. Now we have record temperatures in the Arctic which, for me, show we have entered a new extreme phase of climate change much earlier than we had expected.”
 
The Associated Press reported that one weather station in Antarctica beat its all-time record by 15C, while another coastal station used to deep freezes at this time of year was 7C above freezing. In the Arctic, meanwhile, some parts were 30C warmer than average.
 
James Hansen, former NASA chief scientist and one of the first to warn governments of global heating more than three decades ago, told the Guardian the heating of the poles was “concerning” and that sea ice in the Arctic this year could shrink far enough to break a decade-old record on its lowest extent.
 
“The average sea ice thickness has been declining, so it’s ripe for large sea ice loss,” he warned. “The effect of reduced sea ice cover is to amplify Earth’s energy imbalance that’s caused by increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) -- the GHGs reduce outgoing heat radiation, thus causing a net imbalance that’s heating the planet.
 
“Reduced sea ice cover increases the planetary energy imbalance, as a dark ocean reflects less sunlight than sea ice does.”
 
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/20/heatwaves-at-both-of-earth-poles-alarm-climate-scientists http://public.wmo.int/en/media/news/antarctic-heat-rain-and-ice-prompt-concern


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