Category Archives: Health

Change of diet could help tackle climate change

Food causes climate problems, and offers solutions too. New research examines what change of diet could do.

LONDON, 17 September, 2021 − Once again, scientists have confirmed that humankind could be grazing the planet to death. Food-based agriculture accounts for more than a third of all the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change, and farming for an animal-based diet adds up to at least 57% of that. Could a change of diet be useful?

The implication − long ago backed up by many other studies − is that a global difference in diet could help contain climate change, conserve the world’s natural biodiversity and feed a growing population all at the same time.

And the strength of the latest study is that it could help governments, civic authorities, communities and famers identify where best to start.

US and European researchers report, in the journal Nature Food, that they looked at the big picture to apportion the contribution to global heating from the 171 crops and 16 animal products in more than 200 countries around the world in the year 2010.

“Developing climate mitigation strategies must rely on accurate estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from all sources, including plant- and animal-based foods”

Plant-based foods account for 19% of the carbon dioxide, 6% of the methane and 4% of the nitrous oxide emissions into the atmosphere. Animal-based food processes surrender 32% of the carbon dioxide, 20% of the methane and 6% of the nitrous oxide. Farming for fabrics rather than food products − think of cotton, rubber and so on − accounts for 14% of all emissions.

“Although CO2 is the most important and most frequently discussed of greenhouse gas emissions, methane generated by rice cultivation and animals, and nitrous oxide from fertilisers, are 34 and 298 times more powerful than CO2, respectively, when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere,” said Xiaoming Xu, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the lead author.

Food is part of the machinery that drives potentially catastrophic climate change. Researchers have again and again demonstrated that global food security is also likely to be put at serious risk by climate change, in the form of massive harvest failure as a consequence of extremes of temperature and drought, of the slowness of change in the agricultural sector, and of the impact of climate change on the nutritional value of the food that can be harvested in a hotter world.

Humans waste food. They demand foods that precipitate the loss of natural ecosystems that might otherwise help limit climate change. And, by fuelling climate change, humans have even put at risk those genetic resources from which human diet has, over at least 10,000 years, evolved.

Planetary diet change

But in the next 30 years, farmers will have to increase food output by 70% to meet the demands of a swelling global population. Once again, other groups have looked at the challenge and proposed ways to deliver more while emitting lower levels of greenhouse gases, and while protecting vital rainforests and grassland from further devastation.

But that means a change of diet on a planetary scale. The latest study shows that China now leads the world with emissions from animal-based foods at 8%, ahead of Brazil (6%) and the US (5%). China also leads the world with plant-based emissions at 7%, followed by India at 4% and Indonesia at 2%.

“We estimate that population growth will drive the expansion of food sub-sectors, including crop cultivation and livestock production, as well as product transportation and processing, irrigation, and materials like fertiliser and pesticides,” said Atul Jain, who heads atmospheric sciences research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

“Developing climate mitigation strategies must rely on accurate estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from all sources, including those from the production and consumption of total and individual plant- and animal-based foods.” − Climate News Network

Food causes climate problems, and offers solutions too. New research examines what change of diet could do.

LONDON, 17 September, 2021 − Once again, scientists have confirmed that humankind could be grazing the planet to death. Food-based agriculture accounts for more than a third of all the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change, and farming for an animal-based diet adds up to at least 57% of that. Could a change of diet be useful?

The implication − long ago backed up by many other studies − is that a global difference in diet could help contain climate change, conserve the world’s natural biodiversity and feed a growing population all at the same time.

And the strength of the latest study is that it could help governments, civic authorities, communities and famers identify where best to start.

US and European researchers report, in the journal Nature Food, that they looked at the big picture to apportion the contribution to global heating from the 171 crops and 16 animal products in more than 200 countries around the world in the year 2010.

“Developing climate mitigation strategies must rely on accurate estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from all sources, including plant- and animal-based foods”

Plant-based foods account for 19% of the carbon dioxide, 6% of the methane and 4% of the nitrous oxide emissions into the atmosphere. Animal-based food processes surrender 32% of the carbon dioxide, 20% of the methane and 6% of the nitrous oxide. Farming for fabrics rather than food products − think of cotton, rubber and so on − accounts for 14% of all emissions.

“Although CO2 is the most important and most frequently discussed of greenhouse gas emissions, methane generated by rice cultivation and animals, and nitrous oxide from fertilisers, are 34 and 298 times more powerful than CO2, respectively, when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere,” said Xiaoming Xu, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the lead author.

Food is part of the machinery that drives potentially catastrophic climate change. Researchers have again and again demonstrated that global food security is also likely to be put at serious risk by climate change, in the form of massive harvest failure as a consequence of extremes of temperature and drought, of the slowness of change in the agricultural sector, and of the impact of climate change on the nutritional value of the food that can be harvested in a hotter world.

Humans waste food. They demand foods that precipitate the loss of natural ecosystems that might otherwise help limit climate change. And, by fuelling climate change, humans have even put at risk those genetic resources from which human diet has, over at least 10,000 years, evolved.

Planetary diet change

But in the next 30 years, farmers will have to increase food output by 70% to meet the demands of a swelling global population. Once again, other groups have looked at the challenge and proposed ways to deliver more while emitting lower levels of greenhouse gases, and while protecting vital rainforests and grassland from further devastation.

But that means a change of diet on a planetary scale. The latest study shows that China now leads the world with emissions from animal-based foods at 8%, ahead of Brazil (6%) and the US (5%). China also leads the world with plant-based emissions at 7%, followed by India at 4% and Indonesia at 2%.

“We estimate that population growth will drive the expansion of food sub-sectors, including crop cultivation and livestock production, as well as product transportation and processing, irrigation, and materials like fertiliser and pesticides,” said Atul Jain, who heads atmospheric sciences research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

“Developing climate mitigation strategies must rely on accurate estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from all sources, including those from the production and consumption of total and individual plant- and animal-based foods.” − Climate News Network

To save the planet, cut down on milk as well as meat

Eating less meat is key to slowing the climate crisis. But if you want to cool the Earth, cut down on milk as well.

LONDON, 15 September, 2021 − The prospect of life without bacon doesn’t appeal to many people used to a Western diet. And forgoing a steak or a lamb chop sounds like a heavy price to pay to cut carbon emissions and combat the climate emergency. Well, there’s worse news to come if you’re a committed consumer of a diet based not just on meat but on dairy products as well: to tame the galloping pace of global heating, you also need to give up milk and all it provides.

That’s the bad news. The better news is that “milk” refers simply to animal products. And there are other sorts, called milk but very different, and in some ways much better for the planet.

Some variations on milk from animals − cattle, sheep, camels or whatever − are becoming more familiar. It’s no surprise nowadays to be able to choose oat, soya or almond milk in many outlets. But that’s not all: hemp and peas, walnuts, hazelnuts and tiger nuts are all reaching the market now as acceptable milk alternatives, and more are on the way.

The UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA) argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change). It thinks alternatives to dairy milk could help.

The RTA says using animals to produce milk for human consumption is not only a massive industry, but a very inefficient, polluting one as well, which takes up far more land and water than non-dairy alternatives and creates three times as much pollution that fuels climate breakdown as rivals like oat and soya milk.

Drying out

“But the good news is that over the past five years, non-dairy milk alternatives have gone rapidly from being a fringe dietary substitute to a mainstream, ethical and sustainable staple”, the RTA argues. “Nearly half of all shoppers in the US are now buying it.”

Oat milk, especially, it says, is enjoying a meteoric rise and is one of the most sustainable milk alternatives currently available in terms of emissions and its use of water and land. Oatly, the Swedish manufacturer founded in the 1990s, saw its global sales increase by 106% in 2020 and, as a result, is having to increase production fast.

In 2023 Oatly plans to open the world’s biggest alternative milk factory in eastern England, turning out 450 million litres of oat milk a day and creating hundreds of jobs in the process.

The Alliance argues that the growth of the milk alternatives market is happening because the products “speak to a range of concerns surrounding animal welfare, human health and the climate crisis. By connecting to all of these concerns, milk alternatives have created a broad-based coalition of consumers that are making new markets and challenging old ones.”

But changing to non-dairy milk isn’t all plain sailing, as the RTA acknowledges. For instance, the high demand for almonds is using up huge amounts of water in places like California, accelerating the growth of deserts. And in some parts of the world old-growth forests are being cleared to farm dairy alternatives and keep up with global demand.

“Non-dairy milk alternatives have gone rapidly from being a fringe dietary substitute to a mainstream, ethical and sustainable staple”

There is real concern that the growing demand for more sustainable milk alternatives will be met through unsustainable means. Intensive farming of alternatives can create monocultures that blight biodiversity, need large amounts of water and can release more carbon into the atmosphere. An exponential rise in alternatives may also mean more food miles are generated in transporting them to markets.

There will certainly be losers. In the UK, for instance, falling prices and reduced demand have already led to the closure of 1,000 dairy farms between 2013 and 2016 − roughly one in ten. It’s predicted that by 2025 there will be fewer than 5,000 dairy farms in the UK, down from 13,000 in 2010.

But dairy milk is not to everyone’s taste anyway. Estimates vary, but over 75% of the global population is believed to be unable to digest milk and dairy. So producing less may not mean a long-term global loss. And there’s also the health of traditional consumers to reckon with.

One recent long-term study linked levels of dairy milk consumption with increased rates of bone fracture and mortality. Research has also suggested that various components of dairy products may be responsible for higher rates of ovarian and prostate cancer. Dairy products are high in saturated fats too, which drive up cholesterol, raising the risk of heart disease.

There are clear benefits from cutting dairy milk use, and clear snags as well, with consumer resistance perhaps one of the greatest. Nobody said solving the climate crisis would be easy. But giving up cheese? Try telling that to the French. − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Eating less meat is key to slowing the climate crisis. But if you want to cool the Earth, cut down on milk as well.

LONDON, 15 September, 2021 − The prospect of life without bacon doesn’t appeal to many people used to a Western diet. And forgoing a steak or a lamb chop sounds like a heavy price to pay to cut carbon emissions and combat the climate emergency. Well, there’s worse news to come if you’re a committed consumer of a diet based not just on meat but on dairy products as well: to tame the galloping pace of global heating, you also need to give up milk and all it provides.

That’s the bad news. The better news is that “milk” refers simply to animal products. And there are other sorts, called milk but very different, and in some ways much better for the planet.

Some variations on milk from animals − cattle, sheep, camels or whatever − are becoming more familiar. It’s no surprise nowadays to be able to choose oat, soya or almond milk in many outlets. But that’s not all: hemp and peas, walnuts, hazelnuts and tiger nuts are all reaching the market now as acceptable milk alternatives, and more are on the way.

The UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA) argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change). It thinks alternatives to dairy milk could help.

The RTA says using animals to produce milk for human consumption is not only a massive industry, but a very inefficient, polluting one as well, which takes up far more land and water than non-dairy alternatives and creates three times as much pollution that fuels climate breakdown as rivals like oat and soya milk.

Drying out

“But the good news is that over the past five years, non-dairy milk alternatives have gone rapidly from being a fringe dietary substitute to a mainstream, ethical and sustainable staple”, the RTA argues. “Nearly half of all shoppers in the US are now buying it.”

Oat milk, especially, it says, is enjoying a meteoric rise and is one of the most sustainable milk alternatives currently available in terms of emissions and its use of water and land. Oatly, the Swedish manufacturer founded in the 1990s, saw its global sales increase by 106% in 2020 and, as a result, is having to increase production fast.

In 2023 Oatly plans to open the world’s biggest alternative milk factory in eastern England, turning out 450 million litres of oat milk a day and creating hundreds of jobs in the process.

The Alliance argues that the growth of the milk alternatives market is happening because the products “speak to a range of concerns surrounding animal welfare, human health and the climate crisis. By connecting to all of these concerns, milk alternatives have created a broad-based coalition of consumers that are making new markets and challenging old ones.”

But changing to non-dairy milk isn’t all plain sailing, as the RTA acknowledges. For instance, the high demand for almonds is using up huge amounts of water in places like California, accelerating the growth of deserts. And in some parts of the world old-growth forests are being cleared to farm dairy alternatives and keep up with global demand.

“Non-dairy milk alternatives have gone rapidly from being a fringe dietary substitute to a mainstream, ethical and sustainable staple”

There is real concern that the growing demand for more sustainable milk alternatives will be met through unsustainable means. Intensive farming of alternatives can create monocultures that blight biodiversity, need large amounts of water and can release more carbon into the atmosphere. An exponential rise in alternatives may also mean more food miles are generated in transporting them to markets.

There will certainly be losers. In the UK, for instance, falling prices and reduced demand have already led to the closure of 1,000 dairy farms between 2013 and 2016 − roughly one in ten. It’s predicted that by 2025 there will be fewer than 5,000 dairy farms in the UK, down from 13,000 in 2010.

But dairy milk is not to everyone’s taste anyway. Estimates vary, but over 75% of the global population is believed to be unable to digest milk and dairy. So producing less may not mean a long-term global loss. And there’s also the health of traditional consumers to reckon with.

One recent long-term study linked levels of dairy milk consumption with increased rates of bone fracture and mortality. Research has also suggested that various components of dairy products may be responsible for higher rates of ovarian and prostate cancer. Dairy products are high in saturated fats too, which drive up cholesterol, raising the risk of heart disease.

There are clear benefits from cutting dairy milk use, and clear snags as well, with consumer resistance perhaps one of the greatest. Nobody said solving the climate crisis would be easy. But giving up cheese? Try telling that to the French. − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Smoke from wildfires kills thousands annually

Smoke from wildfires, linked to climate, grows daily more of a threat. Now science can see the direct human health cost.

LONDON, 14 September, 2021− Smoke from wildfires in burning forest vegetation now claims at least 33,500 lives a year worldwide. And that’s based on data from just 749 cities in 43 countries during the years 2000 to 2016.

The true cost to humankind of wildfire pollution from tiny particles of incinerated vegetation in cardiovascular and respiratory deaths will inevitably be much larger.

And a separate study finds that the fires now blazing every year in the Brazilian Amazon send more than 48,000 Brazilians to hospital. In the same timespan − the first 15 years of this century − an estimated 755,091 Brazilians have been admitted to hospitals with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions triggered by wildfire pollution.

Both findings are based on the use of subtle statistical techniques to tease out from public records the direct causes of hospitalisation and death. In the first study, researchers report in the journal Lancet Planetary Health that they combed through records of more than 66 million deaths from all causes in a selection of cities from 43 nations and regions, and then applied sophisticated mathematics to calculate which cases would have been triggered by the inhalation of what health scientists called “fine particulate matter” − fine enough to enter the lungs, cross the walls of the lung tissue and enter the blood circulation.

Wildfire smoke is deadlier than most forms of atmospheric pollution: it’s made up of smaller particles of a different chemical composition forged in higher temperatures. It can also travel further, up to 1,000 kms (625 miles), and still be potentially sickening.

Urban penalty

And, in a world in which planetary temperatures are soaring, droughts are becoming more intense and more frequent, and human destruction of the forests more devastating, the potential dangers are increasing.

California in 2020 recorded more than 46,000 outbreaks of wildfire. In the 2019-2020 burning season, Australia lost more than 100,000 sq kms of bush, forest and parkland to wildfire.

Brazil’s Amazon forest, disfigured by an accelerating number of fire outbreaks in the last two years, has lost more than 33,000 sq kms of canopy to fire every year since 2003.

A second study in the same journal identifies the cost across the decades to the nation with the largest and most important tropical forest on the planet: Brazil.

The fires may burn in distant regions now being converted to cattle ranches, soy plantations or mining operations, but the price is paid in crowded cities.

“In a world in which planetary temperatures are soaring and human destruction of the forests more devastating, the potential dangers are increasing”

Toxic smoke from these wildfires in the Amazon region can rise to enormous heights and travel colossal distances to trigger asthma, heart attack, stroke, respiratory conditions, hospitalisation and death, in young children and the elderly in particular.

The Lancet is one of the world’s oldest and most prestige-laden medical journals: it has also paid close attention to the health costs linked in any way to climate change driven by profligate greenhouse gas emissions, as the use of fossil fuels continues to expand.

It and its sister publications have examined the global hazard to new-born children in a fast-warming world; the massive global death toll of ever-increasing extremes of heat and cold; the health costs in terms of hunger and malnutrition that will follow as harvests wither, and as energy, protein and mineral levels in staple foods begin to change with ever-higher temperatures; and even to the direct consequences to the workforce and the economy as extreme temperatures begin to rise to unprecedented levels.

So the latest finding is in part a warning to governments, municipalities, nations and above all health professionals to be prepared for greater levels of hospitalisation and death.

Although one study is a worldwide look, the second a closer look at the costs to just one nation, the problem is truly worldwide: Japan, according to data from 47 cities, loses 7,000 people a year to wildfire pollution; Mexico (10 cities) more than 3,000; and the US records more than 3,200 deaths in 210 cities each year. − Climate News Network

Smoke from wildfires, linked to climate, grows daily more of a threat. Now science can see the direct human health cost.

LONDON, 14 September, 2021− Smoke from wildfires in burning forest vegetation now claims at least 33,500 lives a year worldwide. And that’s based on data from just 749 cities in 43 countries during the years 2000 to 2016.

The true cost to humankind of wildfire pollution from tiny particles of incinerated vegetation in cardiovascular and respiratory deaths will inevitably be much larger.

And a separate study finds that the fires now blazing every year in the Brazilian Amazon send more than 48,000 Brazilians to hospital. In the same timespan − the first 15 years of this century − an estimated 755,091 Brazilians have been admitted to hospitals with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions triggered by wildfire pollution.

Both findings are based on the use of subtle statistical techniques to tease out from public records the direct causes of hospitalisation and death. In the first study, researchers report in the journal Lancet Planetary Health that they combed through records of more than 66 million deaths from all causes in a selection of cities from 43 nations and regions, and then applied sophisticated mathematics to calculate which cases would have been triggered by the inhalation of what health scientists called “fine particulate matter” − fine enough to enter the lungs, cross the walls of the lung tissue and enter the blood circulation.

Wildfire smoke is deadlier than most forms of atmospheric pollution: it’s made up of smaller particles of a different chemical composition forged in higher temperatures. It can also travel further, up to 1,000 kms (625 miles), and still be potentially sickening.

Urban penalty

And, in a world in which planetary temperatures are soaring, droughts are becoming more intense and more frequent, and human destruction of the forests more devastating, the potential dangers are increasing.

California in 2020 recorded more than 46,000 outbreaks of wildfire. In the 2019-2020 burning season, Australia lost more than 100,000 sq kms of bush, forest and parkland to wildfire.

Brazil’s Amazon forest, disfigured by an accelerating number of fire outbreaks in the last two years, has lost more than 33,000 sq kms of canopy to fire every year since 2003.

A second study in the same journal identifies the cost across the decades to the nation with the largest and most important tropical forest on the planet: Brazil.

The fires may burn in distant regions now being converted to cattle ranches, soy plantations or mining operations, but the price is paid in crowded cities.

“In a world in which planetary temperatures are soaring and human destruction of the forests more devastating, the potential dangers are increasing”

Toxic smoke from these wildfires in the Amazon region can rise to enormous heights and travel colossal distances to trigger asthma, heart attack, stroke, respiratory conditions, hospitalisation and death, in young children and the elderly in particular.

The Lancet is one of the world’s oldest and most prestige-laden medical journals: it has also paid close attention to the health costs linked in any way to climate change driven by profligate greenhouse gas emissions, as the use of fossil fuels continues to expand.

It and its sister publications have examined the global hazard to new-born children in a fast-warming world; the massive global death toll of ever-increasing extremes of heat and cold; the health costs in terms of hunger and malnutrition that will follow as harvests wither, and as energy, protein and mineral levels in staple foods begin to change with ever-higher temperatures; and even to the direct consequences to the workforce and the economy as extreme temperatures begin to rise to unprecedented levels.

So the latest finding is in part a warning to governments, municipalities, nations and above all health professionals to be prepared for greater levels of hospitalisation and death.

Although one study is a worldwide look, the second a closer look at the costs to just one nation, the problem is truly worldwide: Japan, according to data from 47 cities, loses 7,000 people a year to wildfire pollution; Mexico (10 cities) more than 3,000; and the US records more than 3,200 deaths in 210 cities each year. − Climate News Network

Global health journals warn on climate and nature

The world’s major health journals say the climate and nature crisis is an emergency demanding we transform our societies.

LONDON, 6 September, 2021 − Two months from now the annual United Nations climate conference will have begun, this year in the Scottish city of Glasgow. Campaign groups are already limbering up for the talks, COP-26, publishing the action they think is vital. Few are likely to be more compelling − and stark − than the declaration by more than 220 leading medical, nursing and public health journals: the climate and nature crisis is the biggest threat to the future health of the world.

The authors do not mince their words. “The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1.5°C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse”, they write in an unprecedented joint editorial.

“Despite the world’s necessary preoccupation with Covid-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.”

The crisis is an emergency which requires world leaders to transform societies and limit climate change, the editorial says. Their continued failure to do enough to keep the global temperature rise from exceeding 1.5°C above historic levels, and to restore nature, is the greatest threat to global public health.

In the United Kingdom the editorial is being published in one of the world’s oldest and most distinguished medical journals, The Lancet, and in the British Medical Journal. Other publishers include the East African Medical Journal, the Chinese Science Bulletin, the New England Journal of Medicine, titles in Brazil, India and Australia, and elsewhere. Never have so many journals combined to publish the same editorial.

“Temperature increases are likely to be well in excess of 2°C, a catastrophic outcome for health and environmental stability”

Heat-related mortality, the health impacts of destructive weather, and widespread damage to ecosystems essential to human health are just a few of the impacts that a changing climate is causing to happen more often, the authors say. These impacts disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, including children and the elderly, ethnic minorities, poorer communities and those with underlying health conditions.

The editorial scorns recent targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions and protect nature: “These promises are not enough. Targets are easy to set and hard to achieve.” Significantly, it prescribes some hard-headed realism in attempts to limit temperature rise, describing plans to cut emissions to net zero by mid-century through removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere − a still unproven technology − as “implausible”.

Throughout the editorial there echoes an insistence on the need for equity, for confronting the crisis without reliance on the failed nostrums of the past. “Equity must be at the centre of the global response … Wealthier countries will have to cut emissions more quickly, making reductions by 2030 beyond those currently proposed and reaching net-zero emissions before 2050. Similar targets and emergency action are needed for biodiversity loss and the wider destruction of the natural world.”

Governments must transform societies and economies, it says, by for example supporting the redesign of transport systems, cities, food production and distribution systems and financial investments markets, as well as health systems.

No to austerity

This would create high-quality jobs, reduce air pollution and increase physical activity, and improve housing and diet. Better air quality alone would lead to health benefits that easily offset the global costs of emissions cuts.

These measures, the editorial says, will also improve the social and economic factors which determine health; the poor state of these may have made populations more vulnerable to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But these changes “cannot be achieved through a return to damaging austerity policies or the continuation of the large inequalities of wealth and power within and between countries.” Rich countries should provide more generous funding for poorer ones − and it should take the form not of loans, but of grants,

The world is heading for a double disaster, the authors conclude: “Temperature increases are likely to be well in excess of 2°C, a catastrophic outcome for health and environmental stability.” And that’s far from all: “The destruction of nature does not have parity of esteem with the climate element of the crisis, and every single global target to restore biodiversity loss by 2020 was missed. This is an overall environmental crisis.” − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

The editorial was co-ordinated by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, a coalition of leading UK health bodies.

The world’s major health journals say the climate and nature crisis is an emergency demanding we transform our societies.

LONDON, 6 September, 2021 − Two months from now the annual United Nations climate conference will have begun, this year in the Scottish city of Glasgow. Campaign groups are already limbering up for the talks, COP-26, publishing the action they think is vital. Few are likely to be more compelling − and stark − than the declaration by more than 220 leading medical, nursing and public health journals: the climate and nature crisis is the biggest threat to the future health of the world.

The authors do not mince their words. “The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1.5°C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse”, they write in an unprecedented joint editorial.

“Despite the world’s necessary preoccupation with Covid-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.”

The crisis is an emergency which requires world leaders to transform societies and limit climate change, the editorial says. Their continued failure to do enough to keep the global temperature rise from exceeding 1.5°C above historic levels, and to restore nature, is the greatest threat to global public health.

In the United Kingdom the editorial is being published in one of the world’s oldest and most distinguished medical journals, The Lancet, and in the British Medical Journal. Other publishers include the East African Medical Journal, the Chinese Science Bulletin, the New England Journal of Medicine, titles in Brazil, India and Australia, and elsewhere. Never have so many journals combined to publish the same editorial.

“Temperature increases are likely to be well in excess of 2°C, a catastrophic outcome for health and environmental stability”

Heat-related mortality, the health impacts of destructive weather, and widespread damage to ecosystems essential to human health are just a few of the impacts that a changing climate is causing to happen more often, the authors say. These impacts disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, including children and the elderly, ethnic minorities, poorer communities and those with underlying health conditions.

The editorial scorns recent targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions and protect nature: “These promises are not enough. Targets are easy to set and hard to achieve.” Significantly, it prescribes some hard-headed realism in attempts to limit temperature rise, describing plans to cut emissions to net zero by mid-century through removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere − a still unproven technology − as “implausible”.

Throughout the editorial there echoes an insistence on the need for equity, for confronting the crisis without reliance on the failed nostrums of the past. “Equity must be at the centre of the global response … Wealthier countries will have to cut emissions more quickly, making reductions by 2030 beyond those currently proposed and reaching net-zero emissions before 2050. Similar targets and emergency action are needed for biodiversity loss and the wider destruction of the natural world.”

Governments must transform societies and economies, it says, by for example supporting the redesign of transport systems, cities, food production and distribution systems and financial investments markets, as well as health systems.

No to austerity

This would create high-quality jobs, reduce air pollution and increase physical activity, and improve housing and diet. Better air quality alone would lead to health benefits that easily offset the global costs of emissions cuts.

These measures, the editorial says, will also improve the social and economic factors which determine health; the poor state of these may have made populations more vulnerable to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But these changes “cannot be achieved through a return to damaging austerity policies or the continuation of the large inequalities of wealth and power within and between countries.” Rich countries should provide more generous funding for poorer ones − and it should take the form not of loans, but of grants,

The world is heading for a double disaster, the authors conclude: “Temperature increases are likely to be well in excess of 2°C, a catastrophic outcome for health and environmental stability.” And that’s far from all: “The destruction of nature does not have parity of esteem with the climate element of the crisis, and every single global target to restore biodiversity loss by 2020 was missed. This is an overall environmental crisis.” − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

The editorial was co-ordinated by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, a coalition of leading UK health bodies.

More people face greater risk from extreme heat

In a hotter world, periods of extreme heat are on the increase. And that presents a massive threat to life and health.

LONDON, 27 August, 2021 − In 2019, extreme heat claimed almost a thousand lives a day worldwide. And that number will grow. If the world cannot limit planetary temperature increase by just 1.5°C by 2100 − a target agreed by 195 countries − then deaths in heat waves will become substantial.

That’s the verdict of a careful study in one of the world’s oldest and most distinguished medical journals, The Lancet, which warns that almost half the world’s population and more than one billion workers are already exposed to episodes of extreme heat: more than a third of those workers already have what the scientists called “negative health effects.”

Helpfully, the researchers list these effects. They include “an increased risk of hyperthermia and cardiovascular failure or collapse, and increased risk of acute kidney disease.”

The researchers also looked at almost 65 million records of causes of death in nine nations to identify at least 17 conditions linked to heat-related death: ischaemic heart disease, stroke, cardiomyopathy and myocarditis, hypertensive heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, lower respiratory infection and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Homicide, suicide, drowning and unintentional injury also increased with temperature. Yes, in 2019, more people died from extreme cold − an estimated 1.3 million − and 356,000 from extreme heat. But since 1990, cold-related deaths have increased by 31%. Deaths attributable to extreme heat have gone up by 74%.

“Urgent investment in research and measures to combat the risks of extreme heat is critical if society is not only to survive but thrive”

So besides taking global and concerted action to limit global heating to the 1.5°C target set in Paris in 2015, nations will need to start thinking of sustainable ways to keep populations cool in dangerous temperatures.

“Extremely hot days or heat waves that were experienced approximately every 20 years are now being seen more frequently and could even occur every year by the end of the century if current greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated,” said Kristie Ebi, of the University of Washington in the US, who led the study. “These rising temperatures combined with a larger and older population mean that even more people will be at risk for heat-related health effects.”

Extreme heat is on the way. One recent study in Nature Climate Change calculated that, as humans go on putting more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the number of week-long record-breaking extremes of heat will become between two and seven times more probable by 2050. By 2080, the probability increases by between three and 21 times.

The Lancet study says that steps to limit global heating and to mitigate the impact of heat extremes could save lives: at the same time global numbers are growing, so ever more people are likely to be at risk, especially in crowded cities.

In 1950, the number of urban dwellers was around 751 million. By 2018, this had grown to 4.2 billion. By 2030, six out of every 10 humans will be living in cities and the number of megacities − metropolitan areas with more than 10 million people − will have grown, from 31 in 2016 to 43.

Olympics ruled out

And air conditioning is unlikely to help. Between 1990 and 2016, the volume of carbon dioxide emitted by air conditioning units actually doubled, to make global heating even more intense. In 2019, space cooling systems added up to one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere: this is 3% of the entire sum of global emissions that year.

Although more frequent, more prolonged and more intense extremes of heat are likely to hit hardest at the poorest, and at outdoor workers in many countries, such extremes will damage national economies and will diminish life for everybody.

By 2085, the researchers warn, very few of the world’s great cities will be able to host the summer Olympic Games because of the risk to athletes. One study in West Australia calculated that by 2070 the number of days on which it might not be safe to undertake even mild physical activity could increase by a factor of eight, or even 50-fold.

“As a result of human activity, it is inevitable that much of the planet’s population will be at greater risk of exposure to extreme heat than they are today,” said Ollie Jay of the University of Sydney in Australia, another of the authors.

“Amid stark projections about the increasing effects of climate change, urgent investment in research and measures to combat the risks of extreme heat is critical if society is not only to survive, but thrive, in a hotter, future world.” − Climate News Network

In a hotter world, periods of extreme heat are on the increase. And that presents a massive threat to life and health.

LONDON, 27 August, 2021 − In 2019, extreme heat claimed almost a thousand lives a day worldwide. And that number will grow. If the world cannot limit planetary temperature increase by just 1.5°C by 2100 − a target agreed by 195 countries − then deaths in heat waves will become substantial.

That’s the verdict of a careful study in one of the world’s oldest and most distinguished medical journals, The Lancet, which warns that almost half the world’s population and more than one billion workers are already exposed to episodes of extreme heat: more than a third of those workers already have what the scientists called “negative health effects.”

Helpfully, the researchers list these effects. They include “an increased risk of hyperthermia and cardiovascular failure or collapse, and increased risk of acute kidney disease.”

The researchers also looked at almost 65 million records of causes of death in nine nations to identify at least 17 conditions linked to heat-related death: ischaemic heart disease, stroke, cardiomyopathy and myocarditis, hypertensive heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, lower respiratory infection and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Homicide, suicide, drowning and unintentional injury also increased with temperature. Yes, in 2019, more people died from extreme cold − an estimated 1.3 million − and 356,000 from extreme heat. But since 1990, cold-related deaths have increased by 31%. Deaths attributable to extreme heat have gone up by 74%.

“Urgent investment in research and measures to combat the risks of extreme heat is critical if society is not only to survive but thrive”

So besides taking global and concerted action to limit global heating to the 1.5°C target set in Paris in 2015, nations will need to start thinking of sustainable ways to keep populations cool in dangerous temperatures.

“Extremely hot days or heat waves that were experienced approximately every 20 years are now being seen more frequently and could even occur every year by the end of the century if current greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated,” said Kristie Ebi, of the University of Washington in the US, who led the study. “These rising temperatures combined with a larger and older population mean that even more people will be at risk for heat-related health effects.”

Extreme heat is on the way. One recent study in Nature Climate Change calculated that, as humans go on putting more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the number of week-long record-breaking extremes of heat will become between two and seven times more probable by 2050. By 2080, the probability increases by between three and 21 times.

The Lancet study says that steps to limit global heating and to mitigate the impact of heat extremes could save lives: at the same time global numbers are growing, so ever more people are likely to be at risk, especially in crowded cities.

In 1950, the number of urban dwellers was around 751 million. By 2018, this had grown to 4.2 billion. By 2030, six out of every 10 humans will be living in cities and the number of megacities − metropolitan areas with more than 10 million people − will have grown, from 31 in 2016 to 43.

Olympics ruled out

And air conditioning is unlikely to help. Between 1990 and 2016, the volume of carbon dioxide emitted by air conditioning units actually doubled, to make global heating even more intense. In 2019, space cooling systems added up to one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere: this is 3% of the entire sum of global emissions that year.

Although more frequent, more prolonged and more intense extremes of heat are likely to hit hardest at the poorest, and at outdoor workers in many countries, such extremes will damage national economies and will diminish life for everybody.

By 2085, the researchers warn, very few of the world’s great cities will be able to host the summer Olympic Games because of the risk to athletes. One study in West Australia calculated that by 2070 the number of days on which it might not be safe to undertake even mild physical activity could increase by a factor of eight, or even 50-fold.

“As a result of human activity, it is inevitable that much of the planet’s population will be at greater risk of exposure to extreme heat than they are today,” said Ollie Jay of the University of Sydney in Australia, another of the authors.

“Amid stark projections about the increasing effects of climate change, urgent investment in research and measures to combat the risks of extreme heat is critical if society is not only to survive, but thrive, in a hotter, future world.” − Climate News Network

Cargo bikes offer new way to deliver goods in town

Moving goods − and even people − around towns and cities is becoming easier and healthier. Enter the cargo bikes.

LONDON, 25 August, 2021 − Don’t be too surprised if you come across an unwieldy-looking contraption trundling across a European city − and even a few North American ones too. It’s probably just one of the new cargo bikes, a mega-version of a much older technology. And it could be the answer to a range of urban problems.

Cargo bikes come in two versions, manual (or rather pedal) and electric. Either is ideal for tackling that bane of urban living, air pollution. Globally, air pollution kills an estimated seven million people annually; in the UK alone, it is responsible for approximately 40,000 deaths a year. Cargo bikes, where they work (obviously there are places where they don’t) cut the pollution drastically.

One study by scientists at the University of Cambridge said they had found an association between living in parts of England with high levels of air pollution and Covid-19 severity.

A member of the research team, Marco Travaglio, a PhD student at the MRC Toxicology Unit, said: “Our results provide the first evidence that SARS-CoV-2 case fatality is associated with increased nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide levels in England.”

The UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA) argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change).

Faster and cheaper

The Alliance has published a report, Large-tired and tested: how Europe’s cargo bike roll-out is delivering, which argues for the widest possible uptake of the vehicles, for a range of reasons. It’s urging readers not to dismiss them as an example of “old, unglamorous technologies”, but rather something which represents a move “from a niche transport option to a mainstream delivery choice”.

A recent study from Possible, a climate charity and member of the RTA, found that cargo bikes cut emissions by 90% compared with diesel vans, and by a third when compared with electric vans. The study also concluded that electric cargo bikes are 60% faster than vans at making deliveries in urban centres, achieving higher average speeds and dropping off ten parcels an hour compared with just six for a van.

Cargo bikes are essentially a new and larger form of something that used to be a familiar sight on the streets of many countries: the modest delivery bicycles used to take meat and groceries from retailers’ shops to customers’ homes.

In that guise they are still often seen, at least in the UK, their riders racing to get comestibles, often ready meals, into the hands of waiting diners. The main difference from 50 years ago is simple: the sheer scale and greater capacity of the behemoths now plying the streets.

The RTA is full of praise for the way simple butchers’ bikes have morphed into their (relatively) sleek successors: “Cargo bikes offer a win-win solution for cities, residents, safer streets, the environment and businesses alike. Greening growing industries early is vital to meeting climate targets: With spending habits shifting during the Covid-19 pandemic, providing low-impact and low-emissions solutions for new, expanding markets is essential.”

“Our results provide the first evidence that SARS-CoV-2 case fatality is associated with increased nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide levels in England”

The Alliance says the new bikes present businesses with a way to increase urban deliveries, improving their speed and reliability, and have also revolutionised the urban school run, some of them able to hold up to eight children.

“The result”, it says. “is less congested roads, more breathable air, fewer road traffic accidents, a radical drop in carbon emissions and a flourishing ecosystem of businesses that can go direct to their customers without harming the environment.”

In Germany nearly 100,000 e-cargo bikes are sold every year and in France around 50,000. The UK managed only 2,000 sales for commercial use in 2020, but sales are expected to grow by 60% this year, with market size set to increase15-fold within the next five years. European sales are also expected to increase by 50% year on year, reaching an estimated total by 2030 of a million cargo bikes for commercial use and a million more for families to enjoy.

There’s money to be made from mega-bikes too. Some estimates of the financial benefits to businesses range from 70-90% cost savings compared with reliance on delivery vans. The leading UK-based bike manufacturer, Raleigh, saw sales increase by 75% last year at its main British factory. Happy pedalling! − Climate News Network

*********

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Moving goods − and even people − around towns and cities is becoming easier and healthier. Enter the cargo bikes.

LONDON, 25 August, 2021 − Don’t be too surprised if you come across an unwieldy-looking contraption trundling across a European city − and even a few North American ones too. It’s probably just one of the new cargo bikes, a mega-version of a much older technology. And it could be the answer to a range of urban problems.

Cargo bikes come in two versions, manual (or rather pedal) and electric. Either is ideal for tackling that bane of urban living, air pollution. Globally, air pollution kills an estimated seven million people annually; in the UK alone, it is responsible for approximately 40,000 deaths a year. Cargo bikes, where they work (obviously there are places where they don’t) cut the pollution drastically.

One study by scientists at the University of Cambridge said they had found an association between living in parts of England with high levels of air pollution and Covid-19 severity.

A member of the research team, Marco Travaglio, a PhD student at the MRC Toxicology Unit, said: “Our results provide the first evidence that SARS-CoV-2 case fatality is associated with increased nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide levels in England.”

The UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA) argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change).

Faster and cheaper

The Alliance has published a report, Large-tired and tested: how Europe’s cargo bike roll-out is delivering, which argues for the widest possible uptake of the vehicles, for a range of reasons. It’s urging readers not to dismiss them as an example of “old, unglamorous technologies”, but rather something which represents a move “from a niche transport option to a mainstream delivery choice”.

A recent study from Possible, a climate charity and member of the RTA, found that cargo bikes cut emissions by 90% compared with diesel vans, and by a third when compared with electric vans. The study also concluded that electric cargo bikes are 60% faster than vans at making deliveries in urban centres, achieving higher average speeds and dropping off ten parcels an hour compared with just six for a van.

Cargo bikes are essentially a new and larger form of something that used to be a familiar sight on the streets of many countries: the modest delivery bicycles used to take meat and groceries from retailers’ shops to customers’ homes.

In that guise they are still often seen, at least in the UK, their riders racing to get comestibles, often ready meals, into the hands of waiting diners. The main difference from 50 years ago is simple: the sheer scale and greater capacity of the behemoths now plying the streets.

The RTA is full of praise for the way simple butchers’ bikes have morphed into their (relatively) sleek successors: “Cargo bikes offer a win-win solution for cities, residents, safer streets, the environment and businesses alike. Greening growing industries early is vital to meeting climate targets: With spending habits shifting during the Covid-19 pandemic, providing low-impact and low-emissions solutions for new, expanding markets is essential.”

“Our results provide the first evidence that SARS-CoV-2 case fatality is associated with increased nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide levels in England”

The Alliance says the new bikes present businesses with a way to increase urban deliveries, improving their speed and reliability, and have also revolutionised the urban school run, some of them able to hold up to eight children.

“The result”, it says. “is less congested roads, more breathable air, fewer road traffic accidents, a radical drop in carbon emissions and a flourishing ecosystem of businesses that can go direct to their customers without harming the environment.”

In Germany nearly 100,000 e-cargo bikes are sold every year and in France around 50,000. The UK managed only 2,000 sales for commercial use in 2020, but sales are expected to grow by 60% this year, with market size set to increase15-fold within the next five years. European sales are also expected to increase by 50% year on year, reaching an estimated total by 2030 of a million cargo bikes for commercial use and a million more for families to enjoy.

There’s money to be made from mega-bikes too. Some estimates of the financial benefits to businesses range from 70-90% cost savings compared with reliance on delivery vans. The leading UK-based bike manufacturer, Raleigh, saw sales increase by 75% last year at its main British factory. Happy pedalling! − Climate News Network

*********

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Extreme heat and cold kill five million every year

Five million people die annually of ever more extreme temperatures. And this is happening now on five continents.

LONDON, 9 July, 2021 − Extremes of hot and cold weather now claim around five million lives a year worldwide. Deaths related to heatwaves have been on the increase this century, and global heating driven by fossil fuel combustion will make things worse, according to new research.

A second study in the same journal warns that, even in Europe, there will be a rapid increase in heat-related mortality − unless mitigation measures are introduced immediately.

In the first study, scientists in China, Australia, the UK and Moldova report in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health that they looked at death statistics and temperature readings from 570 locations in 43 nations on five continents between the years 2000 and 2019, a period when average global temperatures rose by 0.26°C a decade.

They found that 9.43% of global deaths could be attributed to either very hot or very cold temperatures: that means 74 excess deaths for every 100,000 people. During that time, cold-related deaths fell by 0.51%; heat-related deaths increased by 0.21%. Worldwide, they estimate, the statistics translate to 5,083,173 deaths per year.

“The total number of temperature-attributable deaths will stabilise in the coming years, but … this will be followed by a very sharp increase”

The last 20 years have been the hottest since records began. The news comes close upon lethal heat extremes in Canada, and Oregon and Utah,  and other parts of the US southwest.

High temperatures can and do kill: one group counted 27 ways to die of rising temperatures. Nor should such calculations come as a surprise: researchers have repeatedly warned of potentially murderous extremes linked to global heating driven by ever-rising ratios of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

These extremes will last longer, extend over wider regions and reach more intense temperatures in the coming decades.

More than half of all deaths linked to abnormal temperatures were in Asia, but Europe had the highest excess death rates per 100,000 people due to heat exposure.

Mediterranean at risk

A second study in The Lancet Planetary Health confirms the hazard even in a climate zone usually considered temperate. Researchers from Spain, France and Switzerland looked at death and temperature data for 16 European countries between 1998 and 2012, to conclude that more than 7% of all deaths registered during this period could be linked to temperature: extreme cold was 10 times more likely to kill than extreme heat.

But, the scientists warn, by mid-century this trend could be reversed. A disproportionate number of people in the Mediterranean basin could be especially at risk, according to projections based on three different climate scenarios.

“All of the models show a progressive increase in temperatures and, consequently, a decrease in cold-attributable mortality and an increase in heat-attributable deaths,” said Èrica Martínez, of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, who led the research.

“The difference between the scenarios lies in the rate at which heat-related deaths increase. The data suggest that the total number of temperature-attributable deaths will stabilise and even decrease in the coming years, but that this will be followed by a very sharp increase, which could occur some time between the middle and the end of the century, depending on greenhouse gas emissions.” − Climate News Network

Five million people die annually of ever more extreme temperatures. And this is happening now on five continents.

LONDON, 9 July, 2021 − Extremes of hot and cold weather now claim around five million lives a year worldwide. Deaths related to heatwaves have been on the increase this century, and global heating driven by fossil fuel combustion will make things worse, according to new research.

A second study in the same journal warns that, even in Europe, there will be a rapid increase in heat-related mortality − unless mitigation measures are introduced immediately.

In the first study, scientists in China, Australia, the UK and Moldova report in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health that they looked at death statistics and temperature readings from 570 locations in 43 nations on five continents between the years 2000 and 2019, a period when average global temperatures rose by 0.26°C a decade.

They found that 9.43% of global deaths could be attributed to either very hot or very cold temperatures: that means 74 excess deaths for every 100,000 people. During that time, cold-related deaths fell by 0.51%; heat-related deaths increased by 0.21%. Worldwide, they estimate, the statistics translate to 5,083,173 deaths per year.

“The total number of temperature-attributable deaths will stabilise in the coming years, but … this will be followed by a very sharp increase”

The last 20 years have been the hottest since records began. The news comes close upon lethal heat extremes in Canada, and Oregon and Utah,  and other parts of the US southwest.

High temperatures can and do kill: one group counted 27 ways to die of rising temperatures. Nor should such calculations come as a surprise: researchers have repeatedly warned of potentially murderous extremes linked to global heating driven by ever-rising ratios of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

These extremes will last longer, extend over wider regions and reach more intense temperatures in the coming decades.

More than half of all deaths linked to abnormal temperatures were in Asia, but Europe had the highest excess death rates per 100,000 people due to heat exposure.

Mediterranean at risk

A second study in The Lancet Planetary Health confirms the hazard even in a climate zone usually considered temperate. Researchers from Spain, France and Switzerland looked at death and temperature data for 16 European countries between 1998 and 2012, to conclude that more than 7% of all deaths registered during this period could be linked to temperature: extreme cold was 10 times more likely to kill than extreme heat.

But, the scientists warn, by mid-century this trend could be reversed. A disproportionate number of people in the Mediterranean basin could be especially at risk, according to projections based on three different climate scenarios.

“All of the models show a progressive increase in temperatures and, consequently, a decrease in cold-attributable mortality and an increase in heat-attributable deaths,” said Èrica Martínez, of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, who led the research.

“The difference between the scenarios lies in the rate at which heat-related deaths increase. The data suggest that the total number of temperature-attributable deaths will stabilise and even decrease in the coming years, but that this will be followed by a very sharp increase, which could occur some time between the middle and the end of the century, depending on greenhouse gas emissions.” − Climate News Network

Drought and famine stalk desperate Madagascar

Erratic rainfall, locusts and cyclones are causing havoc in desperate Madagascar. Now the climate crisis adds to the misery.

LONDON, 23 June, 2021 – Dense swarms of locusts ravage croplands. Starved of food, local people are forced to eat the locusts and other insects. Changes in climate threaten famine across large areas of increasingly desperate Madagascar, an island nation of 27 million people off the east coast of Africa.

The outlook is stark. Amer Daoudi, a senior director of the UN’s World Food Programme, (WFP) says people are desperate, particularly in the semi-arid south of the country, where there’s been a prolonged drought.

“Famine looms in southern Madagascar as communities witness an almost total disappearance of food sources, which has created a full-blown nutrition emergency”, says Daoudi.

“People have had to resort to desperate survival measures, such as eating locusts, raw red cactus fruits and wild leaves.”

Single day’s rain

Daoudi, a veteran aid worker, says that on a fact-finding tour of villages across southern Madagascar, he came across horrific scenes. “They are on the periphery of famine; these are images I haven’t seen for quite some time across the globe.”

For years droughts have been a regular occurrence for the people of understandably desperate Madagascar, particularly in the south. The World Bank says climate change is exacerbating the area’s problems.

“Now climate change poses potential risks and has already increased average temperatures in the region, combined with erratic rainfall patterns which have compounded the effects of droughts, cyclones and the influence of plagues of locusts.”

The annual rains have failed to arrive in several recent years. In southern Madagascar the rainy season occurs in November and December. Last year it rained for only one day over those months.

“They are on the periphery of famine; these are images I haven’t seen for quite some time across the globe”

As a result the local crops – mainly maize, manioc and beans – failed. Cattle and goats died for lack of water. Farmers have no seeds to plant fresh crops.

WFP and other aid organisations estimate that more than 1.3 million people are in danger of running out of food. Many living in the south migrate around the country at various times of the year in search of work. The Covid pandemic has shut down this valuable source of cash. The drought, combined with Covid, has meant most services have halted.

“Children have abandoned schools”, says the WFP. “75% of children in this area are either begging or foraging for food.”

Apart from the drought, rising temperatures and locusts, farmers in southern Madagascar have had to cope with another climate phenomenon – an increase in both the number and ferocity of dust storms, locally called tiomena.

The next pandemic

These storms have blown in regularly over the last few months, covering farmlands with a thick layer of dust. Aid agencies, starved of cash, have struggled to cope, though some progress has been made.

UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, together with Madagascar’s central government, opened a new 180 km water pipeline to the south in 2019. Women do most of the water fetching and carrying duties in Madagascar, often having to go more than 15 km for supplies.

The new pipeline has brought relief to some, but many thousands of households in the area are still without readily accessible water supplies.

Drought is a growing problem worldwide as the climate undergoes often dramatic change. In a recent report the UN likened drought to the Covid pandemic. “Drought is on the verge of becoming the next pandemic and there is no vaccine to cure it”, it said. – Climate News Network

Erratic rainfall, locusts and cyclones are causing havoc in desperate Madagascar. Now the climate crisis adds to the misery.

LONDON, 23 June, 2021 – Dense swarms of locusts ravage croplands. Starved of food, local people are forced to eat the locusts and other insects. Changes in climate threaten famine across large areas of increasingly desperate Madagascar, an island nation of 27 million people off the east coast of Africa.

The outlook is stark. Amer Daoudi, a senior director of the UN’s World Food Programme, (WFP) says people are desperate, particularly in the semi-arid south of the country, where there’s been a prolonged drought.

“Famine looms in southern Madagascar as communities witness an almost total disappearance of food sources, which has created a full-blown nutrition emergency”, says Daoudi.

“People have had to resort to desperate survival measures, such as eating locusts, raw red cactus fruits and wild leaves.”

Single day’s rain

Daoudi, a veteran aid worker, says that on a fact-finding tour of villages across southern Madagascar, he came across horrific scenes. “They are on the periphery of famine; these are images I haven’t seen for quite some time across the globe.”

For years droughts have been a regular occurrence for the people of understandably desperate Madagascar, particularly in the south. The World Bank says climate change is exacerbating the area’s problems.

“Now climate change poses potential risks and has already increased average temperatures in the region, combined with erratic rainfall patterns which have compounded the effects of droughts, cyclones and the influence of plagues of locusts.”

The annual rains have failed to arrive in several recent years. In southern Madagascar the rainy season occurs in November and December. Last year it rained for only one day over those months.

“They are on the periphery of famine; these are images I haven’t seen for quite some time across the globe”

As a result the local crops – mainly maize, manioc and beans – failed. Cattle and goats died for lack of water. Farmers have no seeds to plant fresh crops.

WFP and other aid organisations estimate that more than 1.3 million people are in danger of running out of food. Many living in the south migrate around the country at various times of the year in search of work. The Covid pandemic has shut down this valuable source of cash. The drought, combined with Covid, has meant most services have halted.

“Children have abandoned schools”, says the WFP. “75% of children in this area are either begging or foraging for food.”

Apart from the drought, rising temperatures and locusts, farmers in southern Madagascar have had to cope with another climate phenomenon – an increase in both the number and ferocity of dust storms, locally called tiomena.

The next pandemic

These storms have blown in regularly over the last few months, covering farmlands with a thick layer of dust. Aid agencies, starved of cash, have struggled to cope, though some progress has been made.

UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, together with Madagascar’s central government, opened a new 180 km water pipeline to the south in 2019. Women do most of the water fetching and carrying duties in Madagascar, often having to go more than 15 km for supplies.

The new pipeline has brought relief to some, but many thousands of households in the area are still without readily accessible water supplies.

Drought is a growing problem worldwide as the climate undergoes often dramatic change. In a recent report the UN likened drought to the Covid pandemic. “Drought is on the verge of becoming the next pandemic and there is no vaccine to cure it”, it said. – Climate News Network

Maggot burgers can help to solve world hunger

Fancy maggot burgers for dinner? Eating animals and plants which revolt many of us could cut hunger caused by climate change.

LONDON, 14 June, 2021 − A diet of maggot burgers, green slime and seaweed may not appeal to most people, but scientists say it will be essential if the world is to avoid widespread malnutrition.

These “novel foods”, as the researchers beguilingly call them, may sound disgusting to some cultures, but the idea behind them is strictly serious. It does not recommend eating the ingredients raw, or even cooked, but processed into more familiar foods.

It has been developed by a team at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) at the University of Cambridge, UK, who accept that knowing what a recipe contains is a potential barrier to novel foods, so “consideration must be given to (people’s) gastronomic preferences.” Their research is published in the journal Nature Food.

One way to sidestep the problem of repugnance could be to make pasta, burgers, energy bars and similar foods to look and taste just as they always do, while containing insect larvae or micro- and macro-algae.

“Foods like sugar kelp, flies, mealworms and single-celled algae such as chlorella, have the potential to provide healthy, risk-resilient diets that can address malnutrition around the world,” said Dr Asaf Tzachor, first author of the report.

Millions at risk

“Our current food system is vulnerable. It’s exposed to a litany of risks − floods and frosts, droughts and dry spells, pathogens and parasites − which marginal improvements in productivity won’t change. To future-proof our food supply we need to integrate completely new ways of farming into the current system.”

The team says the recent shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with wildfires and droughts in North America, outbreaks of African swine fever affecting pigs in Asia and Europe, and swarms of desert locusts in East Africa, has shown how vulnerable the world’s harvests and distribution networks are to events beyond human control – and how increasing millions of people will suffer unless we adopt novel foods. The problem will only grow as climate heating intensifies.

These new foods can be grown in controlled environments in huge quantities almost anywhere, because they are not weather-dependent. This means they could be produced where malnutrition is already prevalent, improving the diet of children who suffer stunted growth.

Currently two billion people endure food insecurity, with 690 million more undernourished, among them 340 million children fed a poor diet.

Algae, seaweed and the larvae of soldier flies, mealworms and houseflies can be grown in closed environments in containers stacked one on another. Although each species has slightly different needs insect and algae farms, once established, could use multiple containers and automatic systems. They would also offer the added benefit of using organic waste as a food stock for both flies and algae.

“Our current food system is vulnerable. It’s exposed to a litany of risks”

They would avoid the problems of adverse weather suffered by other farming systems, and would eliminate food poisoning like salmonella. Proper management would let growers adjust production to meet changing demand.

One other advantage is that these systems could operate in any climate, so could be used in parts of the world where the food was to be consumed, cutting down the need for long supply chains. This would be particularly important in places like the Pacific islands where, the researchers say, “feeble agriculture and consumption of nutrient-poor foods contribute to stunting in children, and iron-deficiency anaemia in women of reproductive age.”

However, even though these new systems do not depend on weather or even light, they do need other stable conditions, particularly good electricity supplies. So it would be important to make sure that the novel food factories were set up in places where management was protected from sudden outside shocks and interruptions of supply. They would also have to be shielded from potential contamination.

The researchers urge “scientists, engineers, investors and policymakers to consider future foods as a malnutrition mitigation pathway.” Catherine Richards, a doctoral researcher at CSER, said: “Advances in technology open up many possibilities for alternative food supply systems that are more risk-resilient, and can efficiently supply sustainable nutrition to billions of people.

“The coronavirus pandemic is just one example of increasing threats to our globalised food system. Diversifying our diet with these future foods will be important in achieving food security for all.” − Climate News Network

Fancy maggot burgers for dinner? Eating animals and plants which revolt many of us could cut hunger caused by climate change.

LONDON, 14 June, 2021 − A diet of maggot burgers, green slime and seaweed may not appeal to most people, but scientists say it will be essential if the world is to avoid widespread malnutrition.

These “novel foods”, as the researchers beguilingly call them, may sound disgusting to some cultures, but the idea behind them is strictly serious. It does not recommend eating the ingredients raw, or even cooked, but processed into more familiar foods.

It has been developed by a team at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) at the University of Cambridge, UK, who accept that knowing what a recipe contains is a potential barrier to novel foods, so “consideration must be given to (people’s) gastronomic preferences.” Their research is published in the journal Nature Food.

One way to sidestep the problem of repugnance could be to make pasta, burgers, energy bars and similar foods to look and taste just as they always do, while containing insect larvae or micro- and macro-algae.

“Foods like sugar kelp, flies, mealworms and single-celled algae such as chlorella, have the potential to provide healthy, risk-resilient diets that can address malnutrition around the world,” said Dr Asaf Tzachor, first author of the report.

Millions at risk

“Our current food system is vulnerable. It’s exposed to a litany of risks − floods and frosts, droughts and dry spells, pathogens and parasites − which marginal improvements in productivity won’t change. To future-proof our food supply we need to integrate completely new ways of farming into the current system.”

The team says the recent shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with wildfires and droughts in North America, outbreaks of African swine fever affecting pigs in Asia and Europe, and swarms of desert locusts in East Africa, has shown how vulnerable the world’s harvests and distribution networks are to events beyond human control – and how increasing millions of people will suffer unless we adopt novel foods. The problem will only grow as climate heating intensifies.

These new foods can be grown in controlled environments in huge quantities almost anywhere, because they are not weather-dependent. This means they could be produced where malnutrition is already prevalent, improving the diet of children who suffer stunted growth.

Currently two billion people endure food insecurity, with 690 million more undernourished, among them 340 million children fed a poor diet.

Algae, seaweed and the larvae of soldier flies, mealworms and houseflies can be grown in closed environments in containers stacked one on another. Although each species has slightly different needs insect and algae farms, once established, could use multiple containers and automatic systems. They would also offer the added benefit of using organic waste as a food stock for both flies and algae.

“Our current food system is vulnerable. It’s exposed to a litany of risks”

They would avoid the problems of adverse weather suffered by other farming systems, and would eliminate food poisoning like salmonella. Proper management would let growers adjust production to meet changing demand.

One other advantage is that these systems could operate in any climate, so could be used in parts of the world where the food was to be consumed, cutting down the need for long supply chains. This would be particularly important in places like the Pacific islands where, the researchers say, “feeble agriculture and consumption of nutrient-poor foods contribute to stunting in children, and iron-deficiency anaemia in women of reproductive age.”

However, even though these new systems do not depend on weather or even light, they do need other stable conditions, particularly good electricity supplies. So it would be important to make sure that the novel food factories were set up in places where management was protected from sudden outside shocks and interruptions of supply. They would also have to be shielded from potential contamination.

The researchers urge “scientists, engineers, investors and policymakers to consider future foods as a malnutrition mitigation pathway.” Catherine Richards, a doctoral researcher at CSER, said: “Advances in technology open up many possibilities for alternative food supply systems that are more risk-resilient, and can efficiently supply sustainable nutrition to billions of people.

“The coronavirus pandemic is just one example of increasing threats to our globalised food system. Diversifying our diet with these future foods will be important in achieving food security for all.” − Climate News Network

Fish supplies face rising threat from algal blooms

Fish farms, and the protein supply of over three billion people, are at increasing risk from algal blooms.

LONDON, 10 June, 2021 – Toxic algal blooms that can kill fish and sometimes humans cause severe economic losses and are an increasing danger to food supplies.

The threat has increased dramatically, not because the quantity of algae is necessarily increasing, but because humankind is relying more and more on aquaculture to provide fish. There has been a 16-fold increase in fish farming since 1985.

Around 3.3 billion people rely on seafood for a fifth of their animal protein, and it is an increasingly important source as land-based agriculture faces great strains because of climate change.

An international team of scientists who carried out a statistical analysis of three sources, notably HAEDAT, the Harmful Algal Event Database, covering the years from 1985 to 2018, report their findings in the journal Nature Communications: Earth & Environment.

Their analysis, the first of its kind, was undertaken because of a widespread belief that the problem is worsening. They say it may only appear to be more acute because wild fish, unlike those in fish farms, can swim safely away from algal blooms. So it is possible the blooms have simply not been reported as often because fish have managed to avoid them.

Climate heating implicated

They write: “Global trends in the occurrence, toxicity and risk posed by harmful algal blooms to natural systems, human health and coastal economies are poorly constrained, but are widely thought to be increasing due to climate change and nutrient pollution. . .

“We find no uniform global trend in the number of harmful algal events and their distribution over time, once data were adjusted for regional variations in monitoring effort.”

However, a new factor that may be increasing the danger of algae to aquaculture is climate change. This is because harmful blooms have occurred in temperature increase hotspots in the Asia Pacific region and off the coasts of Chile and south-east Australia. Other climatic factors such as ocean acidification, nutrient alterations and lower oxygen levels are also playing a role.

The researchers did though discover wide variations across the world in the incidence of harmful blooms, with some areas having reduced human poisoning and fish kills and others increasing occurrences. The reason is not known.

The use of coastal waters for aquaculture has been the key driver for the reporting of blooms, because the mass fish mortality has led occasionally to disastrous long-lasting economic impacts. This in turn has driven awareness of new harmful algal species and new toxin types.

“Global trends in the risk posed by harmful algal blooms are widely thought to be increasing”

There are about 5,000 species of marine phytoplankton, of which 200 can harm humans through the production of toxins that either make them ill or kill the fish or shellfish they would otherwise eat. Some toxins also kill marine mammals, particularly their calves.

By December 2019 a total of 9,503 events of harmful algae had been recorded from across the world. Nearly half were of toxins in seafood; 43% of blooms caused water discolouration or surface scum, producing other impacts, for example on tourism. Around 70 incidents caused mass animal or plant mortality.

The researchers say shellfish toxin outbreaks are now well-managed in developed countries and economies can recover swiftly, although  aquaculture industries can take many years to rebuild after mass mortality. The problem is becoming more acute because of the increasing reliance of an ever-larger human population on fish protein for survival.

Examples of severe economic losses from fish farms are a US$71 million loss in Japan in 1972, with $70m in Korea in 1995, $290m in China in 2012 and $100m in Norway in 2019. The worst was the 2016 Chilean salmon farm mortality that created a record $800m loss and caused major social unrest.

The scientists conclude that algal blooms are an increasing threat to the world’s food supply because of humans’ ever-growing reliance on aquaculture for protein. They recommend a worldwide sharing of knowledge and data in order to keep a check on the problem and how to control it. – Climate News Network

Fish farms, and the protein supply of over three billion people, are at increasing risk from algal blooms.

LONDON, 10 June, 2021 – Toxic algal blooms that can kill fish and sometimes humans cause severe economic losses and are an increasing danger to food supplies.

The threat has increased dramatically, not because the quantity of algae is necessarily increasing, but because humankind is relying more and more on aquaculture to provide fish. There has been a 16-fold increase in fish farming since 1985.

Around 3.3 billion people rely on seafood for a fifth of their animal protein, and it is an increasingly important source as land-based agriculture faces great strains because of climate change.

An international team of scientists who carried out a statistical analysis of three sources, notably HAEDAT, the Harmful Algal Event Database, covering the years from 1985 to 2018, report their findings in the journal Nature Communications: Earth & Environment.

Their analysis, the first of its kind, was undertaken because of a widespread belief that the problem is worsening. They say it may only appear to be more acute because wild fish, unlike those in fish farms, can swim safely away from algal blooms. So it is possible the blooms have simply not been reported as often because fish have managed to avoid them.

Climate heating implicated

They write: “Global trends in the occurrence, toxicity and risk posed by harmful algal blooms to natural systems, human health and coastal economies are poorly constrained, but are widely thought to be increasing due to climate change and nutrient pollution. . .

“We find no uniform global trend in the number of harmful algal events and their distribution over time, once data were adjusted for regional variations in monitoring effort.”

However, a new factor that may be increasing the danger of algae to aquaculture is climate change. This is because harmful blooms have occurred in temperature increase hotspots in the Asia Pacific region and off the coasts of Chile and south-east Australia. Other climatic factors such as ocean acidification, nutrient alterations and lower oxygen levels are also playing a role.

The researchers did though discover wide variations across the world in the incidence of harmful blooms, with some areas having reduced human poisoning and fish kills and others increasing occurrences. The reason is not known.

The use of coastal waters for aquaculture has been the key driver for the reporting of blooms, because the mass fish mortality has led occasionally to disastrous long-lasting economic impacts. This in turn has driven awareness of new harmful algal species and new toxin types.

“Global trends in the risk posed by harmful algal blooms are widely thought to be increasing”

There are about 5,000 species of marine phytoplankton, of which 200 can harm humans through the production of toxins that either make them ill or kill the fish or shellfish they would otherwise eat. Some toxins also kill marine mammals, particularly their calves.

By December 2019 a total of 9,503 events of harmful algae had been recorded from across the world. Nearly half were of toxins in seafood; 43% of blooms caused water discolouration or surface scum, producing other impacts, for example on tourism. Around 70 incidents caused mass animal or plant mortality.

The researchers say shellfish toxin outbreaks are now well-managed in developed countries and economies can recover swiftly, although  aquaculture industries can take many years to rebuild after mass mortality. The problem is becoming more acute because of the increasing reliance of an ever-larger human population on fish protein for survival.

Examples of severe economic losses from fish farms are a US$71 million loss in Japan in 1972, with $70m in Korea in 1995, $290m in China in 2012 and $100m in Norway in 2019. The worst was the 2016 Chilean salmon farm mortality that created a record $800m loss and caused major social unrest.

The scientists conclude that algal blooms are an increasing threat to the world’s food supply because of humans’ ever-growing reliance on aquaculture for protein. They recommend a worldwide sharing of knowledge and data in order to keep a check on the problem and how to control it. – Climate News Network