Category Archives: Health

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

Olympic cauldron awaits 2021’s Tokyo competitors

Despite a recent Covid spike Japan is going ahead with its plans, involving a veritable Olympic cauldron for competitors.

LONDON, 9 June, 2021 − Athletes, spectators and the many thousands of officials and members of the media attending the events due to start in late July might be concerned about Covid. But they will also have to deal with the impacts of climate change, and the Olympic cauldron that is heating up to receive them.

With daytime temperatures likely to reach 37°C or more, and humidity levels of 80%, the Tokyo Olympics is likely to set its own Olympic record – as the hottest and most humid games ever held. The Paralympics, due to begin later in August, will also have to endure the heat.

Makoto Yokohari, professor of environment and urban planning at the University of Tokyo, told the Reuters news agency that the Olympics – originally scheduled for July last year but postponed because of the Covid pandemic – could turn into what he calls a nightmare.

Professor Yokohari has been studying climate conditions at past Olympics.
“When it comes to heat stress or heat stroke, the problem is not only the temperature but also the humidity,” he says. “When you combine the two…Tokyo is the worst in history.”

Far-reaching effects

Heat exhaustion will be an ever-present danger for athletes. Mara Yamauchi, who competed for the UK in the marathon at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, says sporting events are increasingly affected by climate change.

Writing in a special report, Rings of Fire, on the impact of climate change on athletic performance, produced by the British Association for Sustainable Sport (Basis), Yamauchi says rising temperatures have an obvious effect on outdoor sports, not only on the athletes but on officials, broadcasters and spectators too.

“Nothing stirs up passion, motivation and fascination quite like sport. In one way or another, most of us love it. But we risk potentially far-reaching consequences for sport as we know it if climate change continues apace.”

Tokyo last staged the Olympics in 1964: that year the games were held in October, when it was much cooler.

“The problem is not only the temperature but also the humidity. When you combine the two…Tokyo is the worst in history”

The International Olympic Committee, the body that supervises the games, has said that because of various multi-million dollar TV deals and the staging of other major sporting events, there is no alternative to holding the Olympics at the height of the Japanese summer.

Paloma Trascasa-Castro is a researcher at the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds in the UK.

Writing in the Basis report, she says the mean average temperature in Tokyo has increased by 2.86°C since 1900, more than three times as fast as the global average rise. Periods of extreme heat in Tokyo, she says, have become more common, particularly since the 1990s.

“ On top of the global and Japanese trends, changes in land use and urbanisation in Tokyo enhance the urban heat effect, which traps heat in the surface and impacts on thermo-regulation, effectively impairing a city’s ability to breathe.”

Record heat stress

Professor Mike Tipton of the University of Portsmouth in the UK, who helped put together the Basis study, says Tokyo is likely to be the most “thermally stressful Olympics” ever held in recent times. He also says that conditions will impair the performances of many athletes.

Alistair Brownlee is a British triathlete. In the Basis study he explains what it’s like competing in high temperatures. At one event in London held in the heat, he could not recall anything between running toward the finish and waking up on an intensive care ward.

The study describes events at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha in Qatar: because of the heat and humidity in the Gulf state – venue of next year’s soccer world cup – 28 of the 68 competitors in the women’s marathon failed to finish.

The organisers of the Tokyo Olympics have moved the marathons and long distance walking events to Sapporo in northern Japan, where temperatures are considerably lower. The rest of the athletes – along with spectators, officials and media – will have to sweat it out in Tokyo’s Olympic cauldron. − Climate News Network

Despite a recent Covid spike Japan is going ahead with its plans, involving a veritable Olympic cauldron for competitors.

LONDON, 9 June, 2021 − Athletes, spectators and the many thousands of officials and members of the media attending the events due to start in late July might be concerned about Covid. But they will also have to deal with the impacts of climate change, and the Olympic cauldron that is heating up to receive them.

With daytime temperatures likely to reach 37°C or more, and humidity levels of 80%, the Tokyo Olympics is likely to set its own Olympic record – as the hottest and most humid games ever held. The Paralympics, due to begin later in August, will also have to endure the heat.

Makoto Yokohari, professor of environment and urban planning at the University of Tokyo, told the Reuters news agency that the Olympics – originally scheduled for July last year but postponed because of the Covid pandemic – could turn into what he calls a nightmare.

Professor Yokohari has been studying climate conditions at past Olympics.
“When it comes to heat stress or heat stroke, the problem is not only the temperature but also the humidity,” he says. “When you combine the two…Tokyo is the worst in history.”

Far-reaching effects

Heat exhaustion will be an ever-present danger for athletes. Mara Yamauchi, who competed for the UK in the marathon at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, says sporting events are increasingly affected by climate change.

Writing in a special report, Rings of Fire, on the impact of climate change on athletic performance, produced by the British Association for Sustainable Sport (Basis), Yamauchi says rising temperatures have an obvious effect on outdoor sports, not only on the athletes but on officials, broadcasters and spectators too.

“Nothing stirs up passion, motivation and fascination quite like sport. In one way or another, most of us love it. But we risk potentially far-reaching consequences for sport as we know it if climate change continues apace.”

Tokyo last staged the Olympics in 1964: that year the games were held in October, when it was much cooler.

“The problem is not only the temperature but also the humidity. When you combine the two…Tokyo is the worst in history”

The International Olympic Committee, the body that supervises the games, has said that because of various multi-million dollar TV deals and the staging of other major sporting events, there is no alternative to holding the Olympics at the height of the Japanese summer.

Paloma Trascasa-Castro is a researcher at the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds in the UK.

Writing in the Basis report, she says the mean average temperature in Tokyo has increased by 2.86°C since 1900, more than three times as fast as the global average rise. Periods of extreme heat in Tokyo, she says, have become more common, particularly since the 1990s.

“ On top of the global and Japanese trends, changes in land use and urbanisation in Tokyo enhance the urban heat effect, which traps heat in the surface and impacts on thermo-regulation, effectively impairing a city’s ability to breathe.”

Record heat stress

Professor Mike Tipton of the University of Portsmouth in the UK, who helped put together the Basis study, says Tokyo is likely to be the most “thermally stressful Olympics” ever held in recent times. He also says that conditions will impair the performances of many athletes.

Alistair Brownlee is a British triathlete. In the Basis study he explains what it’s like competing in high temperatures. At one event in London held in the heat, he could not recall anything between running toward the finish and waking up on an intensive care ward.

The study describes events at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha in Qatar: because of the heat and humidity in the Gulf state – venue of next year’s soccer world cup – 28 of the 68 competitors in the women’s marathon failed to finish.

The organisers of the Tokyo Olympics have moved the marathons and long distance walking events to Sapporo in northern Japan, where temperatures are considerably lower. The rest of the athletes – along with spectators, officials and media – will have to sweat it out in Tokyo’s Olympic cauldron. − Climate News Network

Funeral smoke adds to South Asia’s woes

With the sub-continent battling a vicious Covid onslaught, the worst fires in years are adding to South Asia’s woes.

LONDON, 10 May, 2021 − A thick pall of smoke hangs over much of northern India. For weeks residents of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, have not seen the sun. Smoke blankets areas of Bangladesh and the mountain kingdom of Bhutan. The pandemic has spread South Asia’s woes far and wide.

Forest fires sweep across the north Indian states of Uttarakhand – the country’s most forested state – and Himachal Pradesh. Further north in Nepal, fire is destroying thousands of hectares of forest. The fires, most of them out of control, are blamed in part on farmers burning stubble in their fields in order to plant crops.

But climate change is also a factor: over the past two years the level of rainfall across northern India has been considerably less than usual, while average temperatures have increased. Snowfall in the Himalayas has been well below average. As a result, say officials, much of the area has become tinder dry and fires have been spreading at lightning speed, leaving several people dead.

The conflagrations lead to the release of vast amounts of climate-changing greenhouse gases, the air pollution causes widespread health problems, and biodiversity is lost.

“On average about 10 million funeral pyres are lit each year in South Asia, the majority in India”

Smoke from the fires also causes fundamental changes high up in the Himalayas. Glaciers in the world’s highest mountain range are melting at considerable speed. This can lead to flooding in the short term and, in the long term, water shortages.

Higher temperatures are one reason for the melting, but soot from fires and other pollution is another important factor. When smoke particles fall on snow and ice they form a dark blanket which causes the absorption of more sunlight which, in turn, leads to further melting.

The Himalayas are particularly prone to such soot pollution. The Indo-Gangetic Plain to the south of the world’s highest and biggest mountain range is one of the most densely populated areas on Earth.

Winds carry the smoke from millions of household fires – many of them burning animal dung – high up into the mountains. Particulates from industrial pollution are also deposited on the snow and ice. Hindus burn the bodies of their dead on funeral pyres, and the smoke from these fires is also carried up into the Himalayas.

Role of rituals

Shamsh Pervez, a researcher at the Pandit Ravishankar Shukla University in India, says that on average about 10 million funeral pyres are lit each year in South Asia, the majority in India.

Organic carbon released during funerals and in the course of other religious rituals contains a number of light-absorbing compounds, many of them toxic, Pervez says.

In a study carried out some years ago by academics in India and at the Desert Research Institute in Nevada, it was found that smoke from various religious rituals makes a significant contribution to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere: it also causes further melting of glaciers in the Himalayas.

In the present Covid pandemic – hitting India and Nepal in particular – the number of such funerals is increasing. It’s estimated that wood from more than 50 million trees is used to fuel funeral pyres in South Asia each year. − Climate News Network

With the sub-continent battling a vicious Covid onslaught, the worst fires in years are adding to South Asia’s woes.

LONDON, 10 May, 2021 − A thick pall of smoke hangs over much of northern India. For weeks residents of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, have not seen the sun. Smoke blankets areas of Bangladesh and the mountain kingdom of Bhutan. The pandemic has spread South Asia’s woes far and wide.

Forest fires sweep across the north Indian states of Uttarakhand – the country’s most forested state – and Himachal Pradesh. Further north in Nepal, fire is destroying thousands of hectares of forest. The fires, most of them out of control, are blamed in part on farmers burning stubble in their fields in order to plant crops.

But climate change is also a factor: over the past two years the level of rainfall across northern India has been considerably less than usual, while average temperatures have increased. Snowfall in the Himalayas has been well below average. As a result, say officials, much of the area has become tinder dry and fires have been spreading at lightning speed, leaving several people dead.

The conflagrations lead to the release of vast amounts of climate-changing greenhouse gases, the air pollution causes widespread health problems, and biodiversity is lost.

“On average about 10 million funeral pyres are lit each year in South Asia, the majority in India”

Smoke from the fires also causes fundamental changes high up in the Himalayas. Glaciers in the world’s highest mountain range are melting at considerable speed. This can lead to flooding in the short term and, in the long term, water shortages.

Higher temperatures are one reason for the melting, but soot from fires and other pollution is another important factor. When smoke particles fall on snow and ice they form a dark blanket which causes the absorption of more sunlight which, in turn, leads to further melting.

The Himalayas are particularly prone to such soot pollution. The Indo-Gangetic Plain to the south of the world’s highest and biggest mountain range is one of the most densely populated areas on Earth.

Winds carry the smoke from millions of household fires – many of them burning animal dung – high up into the mountains. Particulates from industrial pollution are also deposited on the snow and ice. Hindus burn the bodies of their dead on funeral pyres, and the smoke from these fires is also carried up into the Himalayas.

Role of rituals

Shamsh Pervez, a researcher at the Pandit Ravishankar Shukla University in India, says that on average about 10 million funeral pyres are lit each year in South Asia, the majority in India.

Organic carbon released during funerals and in the course of other religious rituals contains a number of light-absorbing compounds, many of them toxic, Pervez says.

In a study carried out some years ago by academics in India and at the Desert Research Institute in Nevada, it was found that smoke from various religious rituals makes a significant contribution to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere: it also causes further melting of glaciers in the Himalayas.

In the present Covid pandemic – hitting India and Nepal in particular – the number of such funerals is increasing. It’s estimated that wood from more than 50 million trees is used to fuel funeral pyres in South Asia each year. − Climate News Network

Advert ban tries to wean the Dutch off fossil fuels

How do you wean the Dutch off fossil fuels? Well, you could always start by banning advertisements that promote them.

LONDON, 6 May, 2021 − Three days ago Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, “Venice of the North” (and destination of many travellers who appreciate a little something extra with their coffee), took a serious step into the future. It sought to wean the Dutch off fossil fuels by banning many advertisements for the pollutants.

The ban isn’t total − yet. But this prohibition of what are described as “fossil fuel products”, including air travel as well as fossil-fuelled cars, means the adverts will no longer be seen in Amsterdam’s subway stations.

The city says it’s the first in the world determined to keep fossil fuel advertising off its streets. Never before has a city decided to ban advertising solely on the basis of climate change, it insists.

The agreement about advertisements in its metro stations is the municipality’s first step towards making advertising everywhere in Amsterdam fossil-free. The Dutch capital is still investigating a wider ban on advertising, and on marketing festivals by fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil and Shell (or, to give it its original name, Royal Dutch Shell).

“We don’t have any time to waste. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption”

Ban Fossil Advertising (Reclame Fossielvrij) is a Dutch citizens’ group working for a nationwide ban on advertising by the fossil fuel industry and on adverts for polluting transport. Its co-ordinator, Femke Sleegers, said: “The decision to ban fossil fuel advertising from subway stations comes at a crucial moment in the fight against climate change.

“We don’t have any time to waste in working towards the Paris climate goals. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption and have no place in a city − or a country − that has complied with Paris.”

The decision by Amsterdam’s city council to start banning fossil fuel adverts followed pressure by Ban Fossil Advertising and 51 other local groups. The city’s public transport company, GVB, had already decided to sharpen up its advertising policy in order to keep greenwashing advertisements (when polluters falsely present themselves as environmentally responsible) out of its vehicles, after a call by Extinction Rebellion Amsterdam.

Ban Fossil Advertising is working for a nationwide law to cover the fossil fuel industry, modelled on the Dutch advertising ban on the tobacco industry, which is regarded by campaigners as an indispensable step in the fight against smoking. It is seen not only as a step which changed social norms, but as one that removed temptation. Today’s campaigners say an identical approach is needed towards fossil fuels.

Global pressure

Three more cities in the Netherlands − The Hague, Utrecht and Nijmegen − say they are open to a ban on fossil fuel ads. Similar moves are under way in a number of other countries in Europe, North America and Australia, some at national level and some in individual cities, with media backing in several cases.

A Canadian group, for example, the Citizens’ Initiative for a fossil fuel advertisement-free Canada,  urges Parliament “to demand accountability from the fossil industry and legislate a ‘tobacco law’ for oil, gas and petrochemical companies; a ‘fossil law’”.

This would ban adverts for Big Oil, air travel and cars with fossil fuel engines, with fossil fuel money used for marketing redirected into “an unbranded fund that helps the transition.” A similar initiative is under way in France.

In the US, the city of New York is suing three major oil companies and the top industry trade group, arguing that the companies are misrepresenting themselves by selling fuels as “cleaner” and advertising themselves as leaders in fighting climate change.

In the UK the Badvertising campaign is seeking to stop adverts from fuelling the climate emergency, and the environmental lawyers ClientEarth are urging policymakers to ban all fossil fuel company ads unless they come with tobacco-style health warnings about the risks of global heating to people and the planet. − Climate News Network

How do you wean the Dutch off fossil fuels? Well, you could always start by banning advertisements that promote them.

LONDON, 6 May, 2021 − Three days ago Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, “Venice of the North” (and destination of many travellers who appreciate a little something extra with their coffee), took a serious step into the future. It sought to wean the Dutch off fossil fuels by banning many advertisements for the pollutants.

The ban isn’t total − yet. But this prohibition of what are described as “fossil fuel products”, including air travel as well as fossil-fuelled cars, means the adverts will no longer be seen in Amsterdam’s subway stations.

The city says it’s the first in the world determined to keep fossil fuel advertising off its streets. Never before has a city decided to ban advertising solely on the basis of climate change, it insists.

The agreement about advertisements in its metro stations is the municipality’s first step towards making advertising everywhere in Amsterdam fossil-free. The Dutch capital is still investigating a wider ban on advertising, and on marketing festivals by fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil and Shell (or, to give it its original name, Royal Dutch Shell).

“We don’t have any time to waste. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption”

Ban Fossil Advertising (Reclame Fossielvrij) is a Dutch citizens’ group working for a nationwide ban on advertising by the fossil fuel industry and on adverts for polluting transport. Its co-ordinator, Femke Sleegers, said: “The decision to ban fossil fuel advertising from subway stations comes at a crucial moment in the fight against climate change.

“We don’t have any time to waste in working towards the Paris climate goals. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption and have no place in a city − or a country − that has complied with Paris.”

The decision by Amsterdam’s city council to start banning fossil fuel adverts followed pressure by Ban Fossil Advertising and 51 other local groups. The city’s public transport company, GVB, had already decided to sharpen up its advertising policy in order to keep greenwashing advertisements (when polluters falsely present themselves as environmentally responsible) out of its vehicles, after a call by Extinction Rebellion Amsterdam.

Ban Fossil Advertising is working for a nationwide law to cover the fossil fuel industry, modelled on the Dutch advertising ban on the tobacco industry, which is regarded by campaigners as an indispensable step in the fight against smoking. It is seen not only as a step which changed social norms, but as one that removed temptation. Today’s campaigners say an identical approach is needed towards fossil fuels.

Global pressure

Three more cities in the Netherlands − The Hague, Utrecht and Nijmegen − say they are open to a ban on fossil fuel ads. Similar moves are under way in a number of other countries in Europe, North America and Australia, some at national level and some in individual cities, with media backing in several cases.

A Canadian group, for example, the Citizens’ Initiative for a fossil fuel advertisement-free Canada,  urges Parliament “to demand accountability from the fossil industry and legislate a ‘tobacco law’ for oil, gas and petrochemical companies; a ‘fossil law’”.

This would ban adverts for Big Oil, air travel and cars with fossil fuel engines, with fossil fuel money used for marketing redirected into “an unbranded fund that helps the transition.” A similar initiative is under way in France.

In the US, the city of New York is suing three major oil companies and the top industry trade group, arguing that the companies are misrepresenting themselves by selling fuels as “cleaner” and advertising themselves as leaders in fighting climate change.

In the UK the Badvertising campaign is seeking to stop adverts from fuelling the climate emergency, and the environmental lawyers ClientEarth are urging policymakers to ban all fossil fuel company ads unless they come with tobacco-style health warnings about the risks of global heating to people and the planet. − Climate News Network

Now ticks flee the heat by taking to the mountains

Higher temperatures are driving more creatures to climb higher for comfort. Now ticks flee the heat to stay cool.

LONDON, 30 April, 2021 – A warming climate means many fish species swim polewards in search of cooler waters. Warming can cause birds to change migration patterns, and the growing season of plants and trees also alters as temperatures rise. The latest refugees? Now ticks flee the heat by heading higher.

There’s mounting evidence that ticks – those bothersome blood-sucking creatures which take up residence on animals and humans – are changing their ways and spreading to new regions, encouraged by global warming.

Nicolas De Pelsmaeker of the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) has been leading a team of researchers tracking the spread of ticks in the mountains of southern Norway. He and his colleagues have found ticks at altitudes of 1,000 metres.

“Before this discovery ticks had not been found at altitudes higher than 583m above sea level,” De Pelsmaeker says in an article on the Science Nordic website.

“An increase of ticks at greater heights will increase the risk of being bitten and the transmission of tick-borne diseases”

“A dramatic development has taken place over a short period of time and we do not know where it will stop. Further studies can tell us if ticks are present even higher up in the mountains.”

Ticks – there are believed to be 900 different species in the world – are amazingly resilient and tenacious. Experiments have shown that female ticks – they out-tough the males – can live without air, completely immersed in water, for up to 13 days with no sign of weakening.

Ticks can also adapt to different temperatures, and are at their most energetic in warmth. Some can live for seven years, while others have been found to go on drinking the blood of animals – and humans – for up to 20 years.

“They hibernate when the temperature falls below five or six degrees Celsius,” says De Pelsmaeker, who uses his fridge to monitor tick behaviour.

Risk to humans

“They virtually stop all their bodily functions. As soon as the temperature rises, they become active again.”

In the course of its fieldwork, the USN team captured 3500 small rodents in Norway’s southern mountains. More than 15,000 tick larvae were found on the animals.

Tick bites can be fatal for livestock. They can also spread disease among humans, causing borreliosis or Lyme disease, a debilitating condition.

“Many Norwegians spend a lot of time in the mountains,” says De Pelsmaeker. “An increase of ticks at greater heights will increase the risk of being bitten and therefore also the transmission of tick-borne diseases.”

Potential uses

As temperatures rise in various parts of the world, the incidence of Lyme disease is increasing, as is evident particularly in parts of the US.

In Norway there are signs that more tick species are arriving in the country, hitching a ride on birds migrating from warmer parts of the world. In the past these ticks from more southern regions would not have survived, but as the climate in Norway warms the chances of their survival increase.

Ticks are not all bad. Scientists are analysing whether the substance which ticks use to glue themselves to their hosts could be used to bind human skin after operations, or on wounds and injuries.

Tick saliva might be used to treat skin diseases. “Because ticks often drink blood over the course of several days, they do not want to be detected by the host,” says De Pelsmaeker. “Therefore special molecules are also present in the saliva that prevent skin irritation and itching.” – Climate News Network

Higher temperatures are driving more creatures to climb higher for comfort. Now ticks flee the heat to stay cool.

LONDON, 30 April, 2021 – A warming climate means many fish species swim polewards in search of cooler waters. Warming can cause birds to change migration patterns, and the growing season of plants and trees also alters as temperatures rise. The latest refugees? Now ticks flee the heat by heading higher.

There’s mounting evidence that ticks – those bothersome blood-sucking creatures which take up residence on animals and humans – are changing their ways and spreading to new regions, encouraged by global warming.

Nicolas De Pelsmaeker of the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) has been leading a team of researchers tracking the spread of ticks in the mountains of southern Norway. He and his colleagues have found ticks at altitudes of 1,000 metres.

“Before this discovery ticks had not been found at altitudes higher than 583m above sea level,” De Pelsmaeker says in an article on the Science Nordic website.

“An increase of ticks at greater heights will increase the risk of being bitten and the transmission of tick-borne diseases”

“A dramatic development has taken place over a short period of time and we do not know where it will stop. Further studies can tell us if ticks are present even higher up in the mountains.”

Ticks – there are believed to be 900 different species in the world – are amazingly resilient and tenacious. Experiments have shown that female ticks – they out-tough the males – can live without air, completely immersed in water, for up to 13 days with no sign of weakening.

Ticks can also adapt to different temperatures, and are at their most energetic in warmth. Some can live for seven years, while others have been found to go on drinking the blood of animals – and humans – for up to 20 years.

“They hibernate when the temperature falls below five or six degrees Celsius,” says De Pelsmaeker, who uses his fridge to monitor tick behaviour.

Risk to humans

“They virtually stop all their bodily functions. As soon as the temperature rises, they become active again.”

In the course of its fieldwork, the USN team captured 3500 small rodents in Norway’s southern mountains. More than 15,000 tick larvae were found on the animals.

Tick bites can be fatal for livestock. They can also spread disease among humans, causing borreliosis or Lyme disease, a debilitating condition.

“Many Norwegians spend a lot of time in the mountains,” says De Pelsmaeker. “An increase of ticks at greater heights will increase the risk of being bitten and therefore also the transmission of tick-borne diseases.”

Potential uses

As temperatures rise in various parts of the world, the incidence of Lyme disease is increasing, as is evident particularly in parts of the US.

In Norway there are signs that more tick species are arriving in the country, hitching a ride on birds migrating from warmer parts of the world. In the past these ticks from more southern regions would not have survived, but as the climate in Norway warms the chances of their survival increase.

Ticks are not all bad. Scientists are analysing whether the substance which ticks use to glue themselves to their hosts could be used to bind human skin after operations, or on wounds and injuries.

Tick saliva might be used to treat skin diseases. “Because ticks often drink blood over the course of several days, they do not want to be detected by the host,” says De Pelsmaeker. “Therefore special molecules are also present in the saliva that prevent skin irritation and itching.” – Climate News Network

City motorists in UK buy most off-road cars

Most UK buyers of off-road cars designed for rural use are urban motorists, worsening city congestion and air pollution.


LONDON, 7 April, 2021 − Three-quarters of all sports utility vehicles (SUVs) sold in the UK are bought by people living in towns and cities, new analysis shows. The largest SUVs, off-road vehicles designed to appeal to farmers and other country dwellers, are most popular in some of the wealthiest parts of London, where they aggravate existing problems of air pollution and heavy traffic.

Campaigners say this trend is the result of psychological techniques and dishonest messaging used by the vehicles’ advertisers.

Research commissioned by a think-tank, the New Weather Institute, and a climate charity, Possible, shows that 75% of all SUVs sold in the UK in 2019 and 2020 were registered to urban households. It found that the largest, most polluting SUVs followed a similar pattern, with two-thirds sold to people living in towns and cities.

These findings follow recent claims by carmakers and advertisers that SUVs are needed by people living in rural areas. One motoring guide describes the supposedly seductive vehicles in glowing terms: “The SUV is the fastest-growing car type in the UK, with more and more customers being seduced by their high driving position, practicality, and sense of security.”

Tempting urbanites

One motorist’s surrender to seduction, though, may come at a high price to others who are obliged to share the roads with them and their off-road cars, both those in smaller vehicles squeezed for space and cyclists and pedestrians forced to breathe more polluted air.

Or, as the research puts it, quoting Theodor Adorno, the post-war German philosopher and social critic, “Which auto-driver has not felt the temptation, in the power of the motor, to run over the vermin of the street – passers-by, children, bicyclists?”

The research is detailed in a report, Mindgames on wheels, published by the Badvertising campaign, which aims to stop adverts fuelling the climate crisis.

Rather than large SUVs being most popular in the areas for which they are most suited, Britain’s remote farming regions, the report says, six of the top ten areas in the UK for new sales are urban or suburban districts.

“One of advertising’s biggest manipulations has persuaded urban families that it’s perfectly ‘normal’ to go shopping in a two-tonne truck”

Although these vehicles have four-wheel-drive and off-road capability, the top districts for large SUV sales are three wealthy inner London boroughs: Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, and Hammersmith & Fulham. On average, one in three new private cars bought in these areas is a large SUV.

Areas where the largest new cars are most popular also correspond closely with places where road space is most scarce and where the highest proportion of cars are parked on the street. The report points out that many of these cars are too big to fit into a standard UK parking space.

It includes an analysis of what it says is the history of car makers’ marketing messages around SUVs, for instance “get back to nature” and “help the environment”. The team behind the report argues that car makers have spent decades working with advertisers to develop persuasive but dishonest messaging.

It says this has created consumer demand for far bigger cars than buyers need, and calls for an end to SUV advertising, renewed commitments to tackle climate change by the Advertising Standards Authority, and for advertising agencies to reject future work from polluting SUV companies.

Status symbols

The report’s authors have written to the UK advertising agency Spark44,  which runs multiple SUV campaigns, asking it to outline its plans for meeting the requirements of the UK government’s climate targets.

Andrew Simms, co-director of the New Weather Institute and one of the report’s co-authors, said: “One of advertising’s biggest manipulations has persuaded urban families that it’s perfectly ‘normal’ to go shopping in a two-tonne truck. The human health and climate damage done by SUVs is huge and needs to be undone.

“Just as tobacco advertising was successfully ended, it’s time to stop promoting polluting SUVs. The climate emergency and a new awareness of air pollution’s lethal impact calls on regulators to update our advertising codes.”

Robbie Gillett, campaigner at the climate charity Possible and the report’s other co-author, said: “Car companies have promoted SUVs as a luxury status symbol for far too long. And now our city streets are full of them.

Global price

“Advertisers lured us into focusing on the safety and spaciousness of these vehicles. and to overlook that these benefits come at the cost of other road users who consequently are less safe and have less space.”

The researchers say SUVs are a global and not a uniquely British problem. As larger, heavier vehicles, they are significantly more lethal in road accidents. The World Health Organisation says about 1.3 million people die each year on the world’s roads, with between 20 and 50 million more sustaining non-fatal injuries.

Especially in the global south, where car ownership is lower, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists make up almost half of those dying on the roads.

Research by the International Energy Agency has found that increasing demand for SUVs added significantly to global CO2 emissions from 2010 to 2018. Around 40% of annual car sales today are SUVs, more than double the figure a decade ago. The lure of the off-road car continues to spread. − Climate News Network

Most UK buyers of off-road cars designed for rural use are urban motorists, worsening city congestion and air pollution.


LONDON, 7 April, 2021 − Three-quarters of all sports utility vehicles (SUVs) sold in the UK are bought by people living in towns and cities, new analysis shows. The largest SUVs, off-road vehicles designed to appeal to farmers and other country dwellers, are most popular in some of the wealthiest parts of London, where they aggravate existing problems of air pollution and heavy traffic.

Campaigners say this trend is the result of psychological techniques and dishonest messaging used by the vehicles’ advertisers.

Research commissioned by a think-tank, the New Weather Institute, and a climate charity, Possible, shows that 75% of all SUVs sold in the UK in 2019 and 2020 were registered to urban households. It found that the largest, most polluting SUVs followed a similar pattern, with two-thirds sold to people living in towns and cities.

These findings follow recent claims by carmakers and advertisers that SUVs are needed by people living in rural areas. One motoring guide describes the supposedly seductive vehicles in glowing terms: “The SUV is the fastest-growing car type in the UK, with more and more customers being seduced by their high driving position, practicality, and sense of security.”

Tempting urbanites

One motorist’s surrender to seduction, though, may come at a high price to others who are obliged to share the roads with them and their off-road cars, both those in smaller vehicles squeezed for space and cyclists and pedestrians forced to breathe more polluted air.

Or, as the research puts it, quoting Theodor Adorno, the post-war German philosopher and social critic, “Which auto-driver has not felt the temptation, in the power of the motor, to run over the vermin of the street – passers-by, children, bicyclists?”

The research is detailed in a report, Mindgames on wheels, published by the Badvertising campaign, which aims to stop adverts fuelling the climate crisis.

Rather than large SUVs being most popular in the areas for which they are most suited, Britain’s remote farming regions, the report says, six of the top ten areas in the UK for new sales are urban or suburban districts.

“One of advertising’s biggest manipulations has persuaded urban families that it’s perfectly ‘normal’ to go shopping in a two-tonne truck”

Although these vehicles have four-wheel-drive and off-road capability, the top districts for large SUV sales are three wealthy inner London boroughs: Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, and Hammersmith & Fulham. On average, one in three new private cars bought in these areas is a large SUV.

Areas where the largest new cars are most popular also correspond closely with places where road space is most scarce and where the highest proportion of cars are parked on the street. The report points out that many of these cars are too big to fit into a standard UK parking space.

It includes an analysis of what it says is the history of car makers’ marketing messages around SUVs, for instance “get back to nature” and “help the environment”. The team behind the report argues that car makers have spent decades working with advertisers to develop persuasive but dishonest messaging.

It says this has created consumer demand for far bigger cars than buyers need, and calls for an end to SUV advertising, renewed commitments to tackle climate change by the Advertising Standards Authority, and for advertising agencies to reject future work from polluting SUV companies.

Status symbols

The report’s authors have written to the UK advertising agency Spark44,  which runs multiple SUV campaigns, asking it to outline its plans for meeting the requirements of the UK government’s climate targets.

Andrew Simms, co-director of the New Weather Institute and one of the report’s co-authors, said: “One of advertising’s biggest manipulations has persuaded urban families that it’s perfectly ‘normal’ to go shopping in a two-tonne truck. The human health and climate damage done by SUVs is huge and needs to be undone.

“Just as tobacco advertising was successfully ended, it’s time to stop promoting polluting SUVs. The climate emergency and a new awareness of air pollution’s lethal impact calls on regulators to update our advertising codes.”

Robbie Gillett, campaigner at the climate charity Possible and the report’s other co-author, said: “Car companies have promoted SUVs as a luxury status symbol for far too long. And now our city streets are full of them.

Global price

“Advertisers lured us into focusing on the safety and spaciousness of these vehicles. and to overlook that these benefits come at the cost of other road users who consequently are less safe and have less space.”

The researchers say SUVs are a global and not a uniquely British problem. As larger, heavier vehicles, they are significantly more lethal in road accidents. The World Health Organisation says about 1.3 million people die each year on the world’s roads, with between 20 and 50 million more sustaining non-fatal injuries.

Especially in the global south, where car ownership is lower, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists make up almost half of those dying on the roads.

Research by the International Energy Agency has found that increasing demand for SUVs added significantly to global CO2 emissions from 2010 to 2018. Around 40% of annual car sales today are SUVs, more than double the figure a decade ago. The lure of the off-road car continues to spread. − Climate News Network

Japanese nuclear power station leaves toxic legacy

Ten years ago, the Japanese nuclear power station at Fukushima was devastated by a tsunami. Its baleful ruins remain today.

LONDON, 10 March, 2021 − Almost a decade ago, on 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake created a 14 metre-high tsunami wave which destroyed the reactors of a Japanese nuclear power station at the town of Fukushima. Ten years on, the clean-up has barely begun.

Large areas of farmland and towns near the plant are still highly contaminated, too dangerous to inhabit. Constant vigilance is needed to prevent the stricken reactors causing further danger. It will be at least another 20 years before they can be made safe.

At first the gravity of the accident was overshadowed by the other damage the tsunami had caused, particularly the loss of nearly 20,000 people from communities along the coast who were swept to their deaths as their towns and villages were ruined.

Heart-rending scenes filled television screens across the world for days as rescue teams hunted for survivors and parents separated from their children searched evacuation centres.

Damage downplayed

As with the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster, the true extent of the damage to Fukushima’s six reactors was not fully grasped. When it was, the authorities tried to play it down.

Because the wave had overwhelmed the cooling system three reactors had suffered a meltdown, but for some this was not public knowledge. The damage had meant that overheated uranium fuel had melted, turning to liquid and dissolving its cladding. The cladding contained zirconium, which reacted with the cooling water to make hydrogen; by 14 March this had caused three explosions at the plant.

Downwind the danger from the radiation spewing from the plant was so great that 164,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Many will never return, because the houses are too contaminated.

In an attempt to get people to return to the villages and towns in the less affected areas the government spent US$28 billion (£20bn) and created 17 million tonnes of nuclear waste. This has proved only partially successful because of widespread mistrust of the government, and measurements by independent groups, including Greenpeace − which show that levels of radiation are well above internationally agreed safe limits for members of the public.

“The government of Japan is on a mission to erase from public memory the triple reactor meltdown and radioactive contamination … they have failed to impose their atomic amnesia on the people of Japan”

But the knock-on effects of the disaster, both in Japan and in the rest of the world, are still being felt. Japan’s nuclear industry shut down its 54 operational reactors, and both the nuclear companies and the government are still trying to persuade local people to allow most of them to reopen.

This year there are 33 reactors that could still be restored to use, but only nine (in five power plants) that are actually operating.

Across the world some countries decided to close down their reactors as soon as possible, and not to build any more. Among them was Germany.
Even in countries like France, where nuclear power dominates the electricity system, there were demands for the country’s reactors to fit far tighter safety measures.

The net effect of the accident has been to turn public opinion against nuclear power in many countries. Even in those still interested in building new stations, the higher safety standards now demanded have made nuclear power more expensive.

Opting for close-down

In Japan itself the Fukushima crisis is far from over. The government is still facing compensation claims from citizens, and the bill for the clean-up keeps mounting.

One of the most critical current problems is the 1.25 million tonnes of cooling water used to prevent the stricken reactors from further meltdown. It is now stored in tanks on site.

In October 2020 the government announced plans to release it into the Pacific Ocean, because it could think of no other way of getting rid of it. This idea has caused outrage among fishermen along the coast, who fear that no one will buy their catch for fear of the radiation.

Longer-term technical problems also remain unresolved. With the reactor cores too dangerous to approach, special robots have been developed to dismantle them. This is perhaps one of the most difficult engineering tasks it is possible to envisage, because intense radioactivity attacks electrical equipment and can destroy the expensive robots.

Forced to return

The government continues to reassure citizens that it has the situation under control, although it expects it will take decades to make the area completely safe.

But there continues to be criticism among environmental groups about the government’s handling of the situation, both at the plant and in the surrounding countryside.

The Greenpeace report details moves to coerce local people into returning to their homes, even though they remain well above international safety levels.

The report said the result of a November 2020 survey showed that in some areas which the government had designated as safe, Greenpeace’s measurements found radiation remains too high for normal life to be considered possible without increased health risks to returning citizens, particularly children and women of child-bearing age.

‘False narrative’

It says: “One decade after March 2011, we are in the early stages of the impact of this disaster. This is not the official narrative. For the government of Shinzo Abe, in power for most of the last 10 years, and his successor Yoshihide Suga, the communication to the people of Japan and the wider world is that decontamination has been effective, completed and that radiation levels are safe. This is clearly false.

“The government of Japan is on a mission to erase from public memory the triple reactor meltdown and radioactive contamination of a large part of Japan. However, they have failed to impose their atomic amnesia on the people of Japan.”

Greenpeace says this failure is largely due to active citizens and their lawyers holding the Tokyo Electric Power Company to account for the accident and asking for compensation.

It pledges that, together with scientists and various United Nations agencies that monitor the plant, it will ensure that the “ongoing nuclear disaster, its effects and consequences will continue to be better understood and explained in the years and decades ahead.” − Climate News Network

Ten years ago, the Japanese nuclear power station at Fukushima was devastated by a tsunami. Its baleful ruins remain today.

LONDON, 10 March, 2021 − Almost a decade ago, on 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake created a 14 metre-high tsunami wave which destroyed the reactors of a Japanese nuclear power station at the town of Fukushima. Ten years on, the clean-up has barely begun.

Large areas of farmland and towns near the plant are still highly contaminated, too dangerous to inhabit. Constant vigilance is needed to prevent the stricken reactors causing further danger. It will be at least another 20 years before they can be made safe.

At first the gravity of the accident was overshadowed by the other damage the tsunami had caused, particularly the loss of nearly 20,000 people from communities along the coast who were swept to their deaths as their towns and villages were ruined.

Heart-rending scenes filled television screens across the world for days as rescue teams hunted for survivors and parents separated from their children searched evacuation centres.

Damage downplayed

As with the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster, the true extent of the damage to Fukushima’s six reactors was not fully grasped. When it was, the authorities tried to play it down.

Because the wave had overwhelmed the cooling system three reactors had suffered a meltdown, but for some this was not public knowledge. The damage had meant that overheated uranium fuel had melted, turning to liquid and dissolving its cladding. The cladding contained zirconium, which reacted with the cooling water to make hydrogen; by 14 March this had caused three explosions at the plant.

Downwind the danger from the radiation spewing from the plant was so great that 164,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Many will never return, because the houses are too contaminated.

In an attempt to get people to return to the villages and towns in the less affected areas the government spent US$28 billion (£20bn) and created 17 million tonnes of nuclear waste. This has proved only partially successful because of widespread mistrust of the government, and measurements by independent groups, including Greenpeace − which show that levels of radiation are well above internationally agreed safe limits for members of the public.

“The government of Japan is on a mission to erase from public memory the triple reactor meltdown and radioactive contamination … they have failed to impose their atomic amnesia on the people of Japan”

But the knock-on effects of the disaster, both in Japan and in the rest of the world, are still being felt. Japan’s nuclear industry shut down its 54 operational reactors, and both the nuclear companies and the government are still trying to persuade local people to allow most of them to reopen.

This year there are 33 reactors that could still be restored to use, but only nine (in five power plants) that are actually operating.

Across the world some countries decided to close down their reactors as soon as possible, and not to build any more. Among them was Germany.
Even in countries like France, where nuclear power dominates the electricity system, there were demands for the country’s reactors to fit far tighter safety measures.

The net effect of the accident has been to turn public opinion against nuclear power in many countries. Even in those still interested in building new stations, the higher safety standards now demanded have made nuclear power more expensive.

Opting for close-down

In Japan itself the Fukushima crisis is far from over. The government is still facing compensation claims from citizens, and the bill for the clean-up keeps mounting.

One of the most critical current problems is the 1.25 million tonnes of cooling water used to prevent the stricken reactors from further meltdown. It is now stored in tanks on site.

In October 2020 the government announced plans to release it into the Pacific Ocean, because it could think of no other way of getting rid of it. This idea has caused outrage among fishermen along the coast, who fear that no one will buy their catch for fear of the radiation.

Longer-term technical problems also remain unresolved. With the reactor cores too dangerous to approach, special robots have been developed to dismantle them. This is perhaps one of the most difficult engineering tasks it is possible to envisage, because intense radioactivity attacks electrical equipment and can destroy the expensive robots.

Forced to return

The government continues to reassure citizens that it has the situation under control, although it expects it will take decades to make the area completely safe.

But there continues to be criticism among environmental groups about the government’s handling of the situation, both at the plant and in the surrounding countryside.

The Greenpeace report details moves to coerce local people into returning to their homes, even though they remain well above international safety levels.

The report said the result of a November 2020 survey showed that in some areas which the government had designated as safe, Greenpeace’s measurements found radiation remains too high for normal life to be considered possible without increased health risks to returning citizens, particularly children and women of child-bearing age.

‘False narrative’

It says: “One decade after March 2011, we are in the early stages of the impact of this disaster. This is not the official narrative. For the government of Shinzo Abe, in power for most of the last 10 years, and his successor Yoshihide Suga, the communication to the people of Japan and the wider world is that decontamination has been effective, completed and that radiation levels are safe. This is clearly false.

“The government of Japan is on a mission to erase from public memory the triple reactor meltdown and radioactive contamination of a large part of Japan. However, they have failed to impose their atomic amnesia on the people of Japan.”

Greenpeace says this failure is largely due to active citizens and their lawyers holding the Tokyo Electric Power Company to account for the accident and asking for compensation.

It pledges that, together with scientists and various United Nations agencies that monitor the plant, it will ensure that the “ongoing nuclear disaster, its effects and consequences will continue to be better understood and explained in the years and decades ahead.” − Climate News Network

Millions will die if world fails on climate promises

Action to keep climate promises could prevent millions of deaths each year. Unless nations try harder, that won’t happen.

LONDON, 16 February, 2021 − Scientists have looked at conditions in just nine of the world’s 200 nations and found that − if the world keeps its Paris climate promises, of containing global heating to “well below” 2°C by 2100 − millions of lives could be saved.

And another team has looked at what nations actually propose to do so far to hit the Paris targets and found that it is not enough: that everybody will have to be 80% more ambitious.

But, though costly, such ambitions would deliver direct rewards. For a start, the consequences of embarking on policies that would seriously reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel potentially catastrophic climate change could lead to better diets in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, the UK and the US: that alone could save 6.1 million lives.

Thanks to the cleaner air that would come with a drastic reduction in fossil fuel combustion, another 1.6 million people could expect to breathe freely for another year. And the shift from private cars to public transport and foot or bicycle journeys would mean another 2.1 million of us could expect to go on benefiting from the additional exercise for another year, every year.

The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change says in the journal Lancet Planetary Health that it selected the nine nations because they embraced around half the global population and accounted for seven-tenths of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“The message is stark. Not only does delivering on Paris prevent millions dying prematurely each year; the quality of life for millions more will be improved through better health”

The Countdown also looked at a range of scenarios for action. And the researchers also considered what, so far, those nine nations had promised to do to contain climate change − the international bureaucratic language calls such promises nationally determined contributions, or NDCs − and found them far short of the effective target: right now, the world is heading for a global temperature rise by 2100 of 3°C or more.

And with these higher global average temperatures there will be more devastating and possibly lethal heat waves, more intense and more frequent storms, protracted drought, torrential rain and flooding, and rising sea levels that will intensify erosion and coastal flooding.

The damage that these threaten alone delivers a long-term economic case for concerted global action to shift agricultural emphasis, save natural ecosystems and switch to renewable fuel sources. But the right choice of action could make lives a great deal better as well.

“The message is stark,” said Ian Hamilton, executive director of the Lancet Countdown. “Not only does delivering on Paris prevent millions dying prematurely each year; the quality of life for millions more will be improved through better health. We have an opportunity now to place health in the forefront of climate change policies to save even more lives.”

On the same day, a US team published the results of a look at what nations had to do to actually meet the goal chosen at a global conference in Paris in 2015 to contain global heating to no more than 2°C above what had been the long-term average for most of human history.

Avoiding despair

In the last century alone the planet has warmed by more than 1°C, and the last six years have been the warmest six years since records began. The promises made in Paris, if kept, could mean a 1% drop in greenhouse gas emissions every year.

But, scientists say in the journal Communications Earth and Environment, that will not contain global heating to 2°C. To deliver on the promise, the world must reduce emissions by 1.8% a year. That is, the global community will have to try 80% harder.

Some nations are nearer the more ambitious target: China’s declared plans so far would require only a 7% boost. The UK would have to raise its game by 17%. The US − which abandoned the Paris Agreement under former President Trump − has 38% more work to do.

“If you say ‘Everything’s a disaster and we need to radically overhaul society’ there’s a feeling of hopelessness,” said Adrian Raftery of the University of Washington, one of the authors.

“But if we say ‘We need to reduce emissions by 1.8% a year’ that’s a different mindset.” − Climate News Network

Action to keep climate promises could prevent millions of deaths each year. Unless nations try harder, that won’t happen.

LONDON, 16 February, 2021 − Scientists have looked at conditions in just nine of the world’s 200 nations and found that − if the world keeps its Paris climate promises, of containing global heating to “well below” 2°C by 2100 − millions of lives could be saved.

And another team has looked at what nations actually propose to do so far to hit the Paris targets and found that it is not enough: that everybody will have to be 80% more ambitious.

But, though costly, such ambitions would deliver direct rewards. For a start, the consequences of embarking on policies that would seriously reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel potentially catastrophic climate change could lead to better diets in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, the UK and the US: that alone could save 6.1 million lives.

Thanks to the cleaner air that would come with a drastic reduction in fossil fuel combustion, another 1.6 million people could expect to breathe freely for another year. And the shift from private cars to public transport and foot or bicycle journeys would mean another 2.1 million of us could expect to go on benefiting from the additional exercise for another year, every year.

The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change says in the journal Lancet Planetary Health that it selected the nine nations because they embraced around half the global population and accounted for seven-tenths of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“The message is stark. Not only does delivering on Paris prevent millions dying prematurely each year; the quality of life for millions more will be improved through better health”

The Countdown also looked at a range of scenarios for action. And the researchers also considered what, so far, those nine nations had promised to do to contain climate change − the international bureaucratic language calls such promises nationally determined contributions, or NDCs − and found them far short of the effective target: right now, the world is heading for a global temperature rise by 2100 of 3°C or more.

And with these higher global average temperatures there will be more devastating and possibly lethal heat waves, more intense and more frequent storms, protracted drought, torrential rain and flooding, and rising sea levels that will intensify erosion and coastal flooding.

The damage that these threaten alone delivers a long-term economic case for concerted global action to shift agricultural emphasis, save natural ecosystems and switch to renewable fuel sources. But the right choice of action could make lives a great deal better as well.

“The message is stark,” said Ian Hamilton, executive director of the Lancet Countdown. “Not only does delivering on Paris prevent millions dying prematurely each year; the quality of life for millions more will be improved through better health. We have an opportunity now to place health in the forefront of climate change policies to save even more lives.”

On the same day, a US team published the results of a look at what nations had to do to actually meet the goal chosen at a global conference in Paris in 2015 to contain global heating to no more than 2°C above what had been the long-term average for most of human history.

Avoiding despair

In the last century alone the planet has warmed by more than 1°C, and the last six years have been the warmest six years since records began. The promises made in Paris, if kept, could mean a 1% drop in greenhouse gas emissions every year.

But, scientists say in the journal Communications Earth and Environment, that will not contain global heating to 2°C. To deliver on the promise, the world must reduce emissions by 1.8% a year. That is, the global community will have to try 80% harder.

Some nations are nearer the more ambitious target: China’s declared plans so far would require only a 7% boost. The UK would have to raise its game by 17%. The US − which abandoned the Paris Agreement under former President Trump − has 38% more work to do.

“If you say ‘Everything’s a disaster and we need to radically overhaul society’ there’s a feeling of hopelessness,” said Adrian Raftery of the University of Washington, one of the authors.

“But if we say ‘We need to reduce emissions by 1.8% a year’ that’s a different mindset.” − Climate News Network

Science suggests possible climate link to Covid-19

Researchers think there could be a climate link to Covid-19. In which case, worse could yet happen.

LONDON, 5 February, 2021 − British and US scientists think there may be a connection between global heating driven by profligate fossil fuel use, and the emergence of the bat-borne virus that has triggered a global pandemic and has so far claimed more than two million lives worldwide − in short, a possible climate link to Covid-19.

The connection is possibly quite simple. Rising average temperatures encouraged a change in the natural vegetation of the forests of Yunnan, the southern Chinese province, close to the forests of Laos and Myanmar.

What had been tropical shrubland shifted to tropical savannah and deciduous woodland: the province became a suitable habitat for many bat species. It is also home to the scaly anteater known as the pangolin, and the masked palm civet: both of these have been also proposed as intermediate carriers of the virus. 

And, researchers say, in the last century an additional 40 bat species moved into Yunnan: these may have delivered 100 more types of bat coronavirus to the pool of potential infection.

Magnet for bats

And this “global hotspot” − far from the city where the first human cases were first confirmed − is where all the genetic data suggest that the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 may have arisen, says a study in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

“Climate change over the last century has made the habitat in Yunnan province suitable for more bat species,” said Robert Beyer of the University of Cambridge, now at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who led the research.

“Understanding how the global distribution of bat species has shifted as a result of climate change may be an important step in reconstructing the origin of the Covid-19 outbreak.”

That animals carry viruses which can infect other species is well established: the HIV-Aids pandemic, the Ebola outbreaks in Africa and many other infections have all been linked to animal-to-human transmission.

For decades, scientists have been recording new “zoonotic” or animal-borne diseases in humans at the rate of two a year. An estimated 80% of all the viruses linked to human disease are of animal origin, including rabies.

“The fact that climate change can accelerate the transmission of wildlife pathogens to humans should be an urgent wake-up call to reduce global emissions”

The link between human disturbance of wilderness and disease outbreak has been made before, and more than once. A study by Cambridge scientists last year identified 161 steps humankind could take to reduce the ever-growing risks of zoonotic infection that could lead to even more devastating pandemics.

The case for bat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 driven by climate change remains circumstantial. It identifies a suspect and a set of possibly incriminating connections, but does not deliver the evidence for a secure conviction.

Using global records of temperature, rainfall and cloud cover, the scientists behind the latest study mapped global vegetation as it must have been a century ago. Then they used what they knew of the ecology of the world’s bat species to estimate the global distribution of each species 100 years ago. And then they matched this with records of species distribution in the last decade.

“As climate change altered habitats, species left some areas and moved into others − taking their viruses with them. This not only altered the regions where viruses are present, but most likely allowed for new interactions between animals and viruses, causing more harmful viruses to be transmitted or evolve,” Dr Beyer said.

There are more than 1,400 species of bat worldwide: these carry around 3,000 kinds of coronavirus, in ways that are mostly harmless to the host.

Risk increases

If the number of bat species increases, in a region also occupied by humans, then the risk of the infection of a new host, via bat urine, faeces, saliva or other transmission, also increases.

Bat viruses have been linked to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Cov-1 and CoV-2.

The region of Yunnan identified as now richer in bat species is also home to the pangolin, and one theory is that the virus jumped from bat to pangolin, or bat to masked palm civet, and then to humans when a pangolin was sold at a wildlife market in Wuhan, in Hubei province, more than 1200 kilometres away, where the first cases of Covid-19 were detected..

The implication of such a research finding is that, if human disturbance of the natural world increases the chance of such animal-to-human infection, then it will happen again. And it could happen with even greater potential loss of life.

That is why the discovery of this possible climate link to Covid-19 will now attract the minutest attention not only of scientists but of policymakers across the world.

“The fact that climate change can accelerate the transmission of wildlife pathogens to humans should be an urgent wake-up call to reduce global emissions,” said Camilo Mora, of the University of Hawaii, another of the research team. − Climate News Network

Researchers think there could be a climate link to Covid-19. In which case, worse could yet happen.

LONDON, 5 February, 2021 − British and US scientists think there may be a connection between global heating driven by profligate fossil fuel use, and the emergence of the bat-borne virus that has triggered a global pandemic and has so far claimed more than two million lives worldwide − in short, a possible climate link to Covid-19.

The connection is possibly quite simple. Rising average temperatures encouraged a change in the natural vegetation of the forests of Yunnan, the southern Chinese province, close to the forests of Laos and Myanmar.

What had been tropical shrubland shifted to tropical savannah and deciduous woodland: the province became a suitable habitat for many bat species. It is also home to the scaly anteater known as the pangolin, and the masked palm civet: both of these have been also proposed as intermediate carriers of the virus. 

And, researchers say, in the last century an additional 40 bat species moved into Yunnan: these may have delivered 100 more types of bat coronavirus to the pool of potential infection.

Magnet for bats

And this “global hotspot” − far from the city where the first human cases were first confirmed − is where all the genetic data suggest that the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 may have arisen, says a study in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

“Climate change over the last century has made the habitat in Yunnan province suitable for more bat species,” said Robert Beyer of the University of Cambridge, now at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who led the research.

“Understanding how the global distribution of bat species has shifted as a result of climate change may be an important step in reconstructing the origin of the Covid-19 outbreak.”

That animals carry viruses which can infect other species is well established: the HIV-Aids pandemic, the Ebola outbreaks in Africa and many other infections have all been linked to animal-to-human transmission.

For decades, scientists have been recording new “zoonotic” or animal-borne diseases in humans at the rate of two a year. An estimated 80% of all the viruses linked to human disease are of animal origin, including rabies.

“The fact that climate change can accelerate the transmission of wildlife pathogens to humans should be an urgent wake-up call to reduce global emissions”

The link between human disturbance of wilderness and disease outbreak has been made before, and more than once. A study by Cambridge scientists last year identified 161 steps humankind could take to reduce the ever-growing risks of zoonotic infection that could lead to even more devastating pandemics.

The case for bat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 driven by climate change remains circumstantial. It identifies a suspect and a set of possibly incriminating connections, but does not deliver the evidence for a secure conviction.

Using global records of temperature, rainfall and cloud cover, the scientists behind the latest study mapped global vegetation as it must have been a century ago. Then they used what they knew of the ecology of the world’s bat species to estimate the global distribution of each species 100 years ago. And then they matched this with records of species distribution in the last decade.

“As climate change altered habitats, species left some areas and moved into others − taking their viruses with them. This not only altered the regions where viruses are present, but most likely allowed for new interactions between animals and viruses, causing more harmful viruses to be transmitted or evolve,” Dr Beyer said.

There are more than 1,400 species of bat worldwide: these carry around 3,000 kinds of coronavirus, in ways that are mostly harmless to the host.

Risk increases

If the number of bat species increases, in a region also occupied by humans, then the risk of the infection of a new host, via bat urine, faeces, saliva or other transmission, also increases.

Bat viruses have been linked to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Cov-1 and CoV-2.

The region of Yunnan identified as now richer in bat species is also home to the pangolin, and one theory is that the virus jumped from bat to pangolin, or bat to masked palm civet, and then to humans when a pangolin was sold at a wildlife market in Wuhan, in Hubei province, more than 1200 kilometres away, where the first cases of Covid-19 were detected..

The implication of such a research finding is that, if human disturbance of the natural world increases the chance of such animal-to-human infection, then it will happen again. And it could happen with even greater potential loss of life.

That is why the discovery of this possible climate link to Covid-19 will now attract the minutest attention not only of scientists but of policymakers across the world.

“The fact that climate change can accelerate the transmission of wildlife pathogens to humans should be an urgent wake-up call to reduce global emissions,” said Camilo Mora, of the University of Hawaii, another of the research team. − Climate News Network