Tag Archives: Human health

Extreme heatwaves pose spreading threat

heatwaves

Rising temperatures mean that heatwaves will become hotter, more frequent, last longer and will cover much wider areas.

LONDON, October 14, 2019 – Scientists in the US have added a new dimension to the growing hazard of extreme heat. As global average temperatures rise, so do the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves.

And that’s not the only factor to worry about. By mid-century, the area straddled by those bands of extreme heat could increase by 50% – if nations attempt seriously to contain climate change.

But if humans carry on burning fossil fuels in ever-greater quantities and felling more and more reaches of tropical forests, the most dangerous and extreme heatwaves in future could cover areas 80% bigger than at present.

“As the physical size of these regions increases, more people will be exposed to heat stress,” warns Bradfield Lyon, associate research professor in the Climate Change Institute and School of Earth and Climate at the University of Maine, US.

“Larger heatwaves would also increase electrical loads and peak energy demand on the electricity grid”

Lyon, lead author of a new study in the Environmental Research Letters journal, says: “Larger heatwaves would also increase electrical loads and peak energy demand on the electricity grid as more people and businesses turn on air conditioning as a response.”

Climate scientists have warned repeatedly that higher average temperatures must mean ever hotter extremes.

By the century’s end, under some climate projections, three out of four people on the planet could be exposed to potentially dangerous heatwaves.

Double punch

In some regions, the double punch of high heat and very high humidity could make conditions intolerable, and scientists in the US recently counted 27 ways in which high temperatures could claim lives.

In principle, extremes of heat are already a threat not just to public health, but also to national economies. Researchers in Australia have already started to count the cost.

Until now, the interest has focused on the highest temperatures by day and by night, the number of days of sustained heat, and the frequency with which extremes might return.

But the new dimension – the increased area oppressed by extreme heat – presents unexpected challenges for city authorities and energy utilities.

“If you have a large contiguous heatwave over a highly populated area, it would be harder for that area to meet peak electric demand than it would be for several areas with smaller heatwaves that, when combined, are the same size,” says one of the report’s other authors, Anthony Barnston, chief forecaster at Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society. – Climate News Network

Rising temperatures mean that heatwaves will become hotter, more frequent, last longer and will cover much wider areas.

LONDON, October 14, 2019 – Scientists in the US have added a new dimension to the growing hazard of extreme heat. As global average temperatures rise, so do the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves.

And that’s not the only factor to worry about. By mid-century, the area straddled by those bands of extreme heat could increase by 50% – if nations attempt seriously to contain climate change.

But if humans carry on burning fossil fuels in ever-greater quantities and felling more and more reaches of tropical forests, the most dangerous and extreme heatwaves in future could cover areas 80% bigger than at present.

“As the physical size of these regions increases, more people will be exposed to heat stress,” warns Bradfield Lyon, associate research professor in the Climate Change Institute and School of Earth and Climate at the University of Maine, US.

“Larger heatwaves would also increase electrical loads and peak energy demand on the electricity grid”

Lyon, lead author of a new study in the Environmental Research Letters journal, says: “Larger heatwaves would also increase electrical loads and peak energy demand on the electricity grid as more people and businesses turn on air conditioning as a response.”

Climate scientists have warned repeatedly that higher average temperatures must mean ever hotter extremes.

By the century’s end, under some climate projections, three out of four people on the planet could be exposed to potentially dangerous heatwaves.

Double punch

In some regions, the double punch of high heat and very high humidity could make conditions intolerable, and scientists in the US recently counted 27 ways in which high temperatures could claim lives.

In principle, extremes of heat are already a threat not just to public health, but also to national economies. Researchers in Australia have already started to count the cost.

Until now, the interest has focused on the highest temperatures by day and by night, the number of days of sustained heat, and the frequency with which extremes might return.

But the new dimension – the increased area oppressed by extreme heat – presents unexpected challenges for city authorities and energy utilities.

“If you have a large contiguous heatwave over a highly populated area, it would be harder for that area to meet peak electric demand than it would be for several areas with smaller heatwaves that, when combined, are the same size,” says one of the report’s other authors, Anthony Barnston, chief forecaster at Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society. – Climate News Network

Extremes of global heat bring tipping points closer

It makes good business sense to contain planetary warming to 1.5°C. Passing the Paris target spells disaster, with more extremes of global heat.

LONDON, 23 September, 2019 – Urgent action on climate change will be costly. But inaction could be four or five times more expensive, according to new climate accounting: extremes of global heat are on the increase.

Submarine heatwaves happen three times more often that they did in 1980. Ocean warming events can devastate coral reefs and trigger even more damage from more intense acidification and oxygen loss in the seas, with disastrous consequences for fishery and seafood.

The ecosystems on which all living things – including humans – depend are shifting away from the tropics at up to 40kms a year. Extremes of torrential rainfall, drought and tropical cyclones are becoming measurably more intense.

And all this has happened because global mean surface temperatures have risen in the last century by about 1°C, thanks to ever more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a consequence of profligate use of fossil fuels to drive human expansion.

“People from small island states and low-lying countries are in the immediate crosshairs of climate change. I am very concerned about the future for these people”

Forecasts suggest humans could tip the planet to a rise of 1.5°C as early as 2030. This is the limit proposed by 195 nations in Paris in 2015 when they promised to keep global heating to “well below” 2°C by the end of the century.

And now researchers once again warn in the journal Science that even the seemingly small gap between 1.5°C and 2°C could spell a colossal difference in long-term outcomes. Right now, the planet is on track to hit or surpass 3°C by 2100. The case for drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is now more compelling and urgent than ever.

“First, we have under-estimated the sensitivity of natural and human systems to climate change and the speed at which these things are happening. Second, we have under-appreciated the synergistic nature of climate threats – with outcomes tending to be worse than the sum of the parts,” said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland in Australia, who led the study.

“This is resulting in rapid and comprehensive climate impacts, with growing damage to people, ecosystems and livelihoods.”

Harder to forecast

And Daniela Jacob, who directs Germany’s Climate Service Centre, added: “We are already in new territory. The ‘novelty’ of the weather is making our ability to forecast and respond to weather-related phenomena very difficult.”

The two scientists were part of a much larger world-wide team of researchers who looked at the risks that arrive with rapid change: damage to forests, farms and wildlife; to coastal communities as sea levels rise and storms multiply.

Their message is clear. There would be huge benefits to containing average global temperature rise to no more than 1.5C above the long-term average for most of human history.

“This is not an academic issue, it is a matter of life and death for people everywhere.” said Michael Taylor, dean of science at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.

Weak commitments

“That said, people from small island states and low-lying countries are in the immediate crosshairs of climate change. I am very concerned about the future for these people.”

So far, the commitments made by most nations are simply too feeble. That risks condemning many nations to chaos and harm, and, as usual, those most vulnerable would be the poorest.

“To avoid this, we must accelerate action and tighten emission reduction targets so that they fall in line with the Paris Agreement. As we show, this is much less costly than suffering the impacts of 2°C or more of climate change,” said Professor Hoegh-Guldberg.

“Tackling climate change is a tall order. However, there is no alternative from the perspective of human well-being − and too much at stake not to act urgently on this issue.” − Climate News Network

It makes good business sense to contain planetary warming to 1.5°C. Passing the Paris target spells disaster, with more extremes of global heat.

LONDON, 23 September, 2019 – Urgent action on climate change will be costly. But inaction could be four or five times more expensive, according to new climate accounting: extremes of global heat are on the increase.

Submarine heatwaves happen three times more often that they did in 1980. Ocean warming events can devastate coral reefs and trigger even more damage from more intense acidification and oxygen loss in the seas, with disastrous consequences for fishery and seafood.

The ecosystems on which all living things – including humans – depend are shifting away from the tropics at up to 40kms a year. Extremes of torrential rainfall, drought and tropical cyclones are becoming measurably more intense.

And all this has happened because global mean surface temperatures have risen in the last century by about 1°C, thanks to ever more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a consequence of profligate use of fossil fuels to drive human expansion.

“People from small island states and low-lying countries are in the immediate crosshairs of climate change. I am very concerned about the future for these people”

Forecasts suggest humans could tip the planet to a rise of 1.5°C as early as 2030. This is the limit proposed by 195 nations in Paris in 2015 when they promised to keep global heating to “well below” 2°C by the end of the century.

And now researchers once again warn in the journal Science that even the seemingly small gap between 1.5°C and 2°C could spell a colossal difference in long-term outcomes. Right now, the planet is on track to hit or surpass 3°C by 2100. The case for drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is now more compelling and urgent than ever.

“First, we have under-estimated the sensitivity of natural and human systems to climate change and the speed at which these things are happening. Second, we have under-appreciated the synergistic nature of climate threats – with outcomes tending to be worse than the sum of the parts,” said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland in Australia, who led the study.

“This is resulting in rapid and comprehensive climate impacts, with growing damage to people, ecosystems and livelihoods.”

Harder to forecast

And Daniela Jacob, who directs Germany’s Climate Service Centre, added: “We are already in new territory. The ‘novelty’ of the weather is making our ability to forecast and respond to weather-related phenomena very difficult.”

The two scientists were part of a much larger world-wide team of researchers who looked at the risks that arrive with rapid change: damage to forests, farms and wildlife; to coastal communities as sea levels rise and storms multiply.

Their message is clear. There would be huge benefits to containing average global temperature rise to no more than 1.5C above the long-term average for most of human history.

“This is not an academic issue, it is a matter of life and death for people everywhere.” said Michael Taylor, dean of science at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.

Weak commitments

“That said, people from small island states and low-lying countries are in the immediate crosshairs of climate change. I am very concerned about the future for these people.”

So far, the commitments made by most nations are simply too feeble. That risks condemning many nations to chaos and harm, and, as usual, those most vulnerable would be the poorest.

“To avoid this, we must accelerate action and tighten emission reduction targets so that they fall in line with the Paris Agreement. As we show, this is much less costly than suffering the impacts of 2°C or more of climate change,” said Professor Hoegh-Guldberg.

“Tackling climate change is a tall order. However, there is no alternative from the perspective of human well-being − and too much at stake not to act urgently on this issue.” − Climate News Network

Less meat for rich can cut heat and hunger

Eating less meat can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But if everyone tries it, starvation will continue to climb.

LONDON, 17 September, 2019 − Eating less meat is not the way everyone should aim to tackle the climate crisis, a new study says. It is an essential step for many of us, the researchers argue, but in a world racked by malnutrition and hunger it can be only part of the answer to rising temperatures.

But many people in high-income countries will need to make more ambitious cuts in the amount of meat, eggs and dairy products they consume. The reason? People who are under-nourished will need to eat more of these foods to have a hope of healthy lives.

Agriculture and food production produce significant quantities of global carbon emissions, which must fall if we are to meet the UN climate goal of no more than 1.5°C of warming. That means meat consumption must fall.

But US scientists warn that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to the twin challenges of diet and climate. They do not argue against reductions in overall meat consumption. They simply suggest that those who are already well-fed could make the biggest cuts.

Many scientists have concluded that vegetable-rich diets are the healthy option for the planet, although some doubt that the world can provide enough vegetables to feed a growing global population.  A lively debate is the probable outcome.

“In high-income countries, where people generally have enough to eat, the shift towards more plant-forward diets and away from carbon- and water-intensive consumption patterns has to happen faster”

Martin Bloem is director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) and co-author of a study it has produced, published in the journal Global Environmental Change.

For any diet-related climate change solution to be sustainable, he says, it must also address the problems of under-nutrition, obesity, poverty, and economic development. Different countries have different priorities and are at different stages of development, meaning they have different imperatives.

“In many low-and-middle-income countries, the imperative is to ensure people have adequate nutrition”, he writes. “Today, more than 820m people around the world don’t have enough to eat, a number that has risen in recent years (in part due to climate change, as well as conflict).

“Meanwhile, more than a third of all children under five in low-income countries such as India and Malawi are stunted. This means their physical and mental development are impaired because of poor nutrition, with consequences that stretch far into adulthood.”

The World Bank has shown that poor nutrition directly affects countries’ development prospects, not least as a result of the reduced capabilities of working populations, known as “human capital”.

Emissions will rise

Obviously poor countries also need to develop policies to tackle the climate emergency. But, Professor Bloem writes, “a top-down diktat that recommends a plant-based diet without taking into account the nutritional needs of vulnerable populations or the availability of certain foodstuffs is neither helpful nor appropriate.

“The fact is that in low-income countries, some people, especially young children, will need to eat more animal products, particularly dairy and eggs, to get adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals. Consequently the diet-related emissions and use of freshwater in these places will have to rise.

“This means that in high-income countries, where people generally have enough to eat (although are not necessarily healthy) the shift towards more plant-forward diets and away from carbon- and water-intensive consumption patterns has to happen faster.”

The authors of the CLF report say that, even in high-income countries, a “one-size-fits all” approach is not necessary. They modelled the climate and freshwater impact of the “typical” diet in 140 countries, and compared it to what they describe as a “healthy baseline” diet and nine “plant-forward” diets, including vegan, vegetarian, and a meat-free day.

They found that a diet where the animal protein comes mainly from low down the food chain, such as insects, small fish and molluscs, has as low an environmental impact as a vegan diet, but generally has more easily digestible micronutrients and proteins.

No silver bullet

And eating animal products only once a day (being a “two-thirds vegan”) is in most cases less carbon-intensive than following a traditional vegetarian diet involving dairy products.

The authors say a food’s country of origin can have enormous consequences for climate. For example, one pound of beef produced in Paraguay contributes nearly 17 times more greenhouse gases than one pound of beef produced in Denmark. Often, this disparity is a consequence of the deforestation of land for grazing.

Nutrition and climate change are the subject of two of the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals, which address the full spectrum of development challenges the world faces. Success in attaining these goals by 2030, Professor Bloem says, will require reconciling trade-offs, clashes and compromises.

“There is, sadly, no silver bullet, but our research gives policymakers a tool to address health, economic, and environmental challenges … for example, by setting national dietary guidelines that support efforts to tackle malnutrition, while also charting a sustainable course in terms of emissions and freshwater use.

“There will always be trade-offs. Environmental impact alone cannot be a guide for what people eat; countries need to consider the totality of the nutritional needs, access, and cultural preferences of their residents.” − Climate News Network

Eating less meat can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But if everyone tries it, starvation will continue to climb.

LONDON, 17 September, 2019 − Eating less meat is not the way everyone should aim to tackle the climate crisis, a new study says. It is an essential step for many of us, the researchers argue, but in a world racked by malnutrition and hunger it can be only part of the answer to rising temperatures.

But many people in high-income countries will need to make more ambitious cuts in the amount of meat, eggs and dairy products they consume. The reason? People who are under-nourished will need to eat more of these foods to have a hope of healthy lives.

Agriculture and food production produce significant quantities of global carbon emissions, which must fall if we are to meet the UN climate goal of no more than 1.5°C of warming. That means meat consumption must fall.

But US scientists warn that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to the twin challenges of diet and climate. They do not argue against reductions in overall meat consumption. They simply suggest that those who are already well-fed could make the biggest cuts.

Many scientists have concluded that vegetable-rich diets are the healthy option for the planet, although some doubt that the world can provide enough vegetables to feed a growing global population.  A lively debate is the probable outcome.

“In high-income countries, where people generally have enough to eat, the shift towards more plant-forward diets and away from carbon- and water-intensive consumption patterns has to happen faster”

Martin Bloem is director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) and co-author of a study it has produced, published in the journal Global Environmental Change.

For any diet-related climate change solution to be sustainable, he says, it must also address the problems of under-nutrition, obesity, poverty, and economic development. Different countries have different priorities and are at different stages of development, meaning they have different imperatives.

“In many low-and-middle-income countries, the imperative is to ensure people have adequate nutrition”, he writes. “Today, more than 820m people around the world don’t have enough to eat, a number that has risen in recent years (in part due to climate change, as well as conflict).

“Meanwhile, more than a third of all children under five in low-income countries such as India and Malawi are stunted. This means their physical and mental development are impaired because of poor nutrition, with consequences that stretch far into adulthood.”

The World Bank has shown that poor nutrition directly affects countries’ development prospects, not least as a result of the reduced capabilities of working populations, known as “human capital”.

Emissions will rise

Obviously poor countries also need to develop policies to tackle the climate emergency. But, Professor Bloem writes, “a top-down diktat that recommends a plant-based diet without taking into account the nutritional needs of vulnerable populations or the availability of certain foodstuffs is neither helpful nor appropriate.

“The fact is that in low-income countries, some people, especially young children, will need to eat more animal products, particularly dairy and eggs, to get adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals. Consequently the diet-related emissions and use of freshwater in these places will have to rise.

“This means that in high-income countries, where people generally have enough to eat (although are not necessarily healthy) the shift towards more plant-forward diets and away from carbon- and water-intensive consumption patterns has to happen faster.”

The authors of the CLF report say that, even in high-income countries, a “one-size-fits all” approach is not necessary. They modelled the climate and freshwater impact of the “typical” diet in 140 countries, and compared it to what they describe as a “healthy baseline” diet and nine “plant-forward” diets, including vegan, vegetarian, and a meat-free day.

They found that a diet where the animal protein comes mainly from low down the food chain, such as insects, small fish and molluscs, has as low an environmental impact as a vegan diet, but generally has more easily digestible micronutrients and proteins.

No silver bullet

And eating animal products only once a day (being a “two-thirds vegan”) is in most cases less carbon-intensive than following a traditional vegetarian diet involving dairy products.

The authors say a food’s country of origin can have enormous consequences for climate. For example, one pound of beef produced in Paraguay contributes nearly 17 times more greenhouse gases than one pound of beef produced in Denmark. Often, this disparity is a consequence of the deforestation of land for grazing.

Nutrition and climate change are the subject of two of the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals, which address the full spectrum of development challenges the world faces. Success in attaining these goals by 2030, Professor Bloem says, will require reconciling trade-offs, clashes and compromises.

“There is, sadly, no silver bullet, but our research gives policymakers a tool to address health, economic, and environmental challenges … for example, by setting national dietary guidelines that support efforts to tackle malnutrition, while also charting a sustainable course in terms of emissions and freshwater use.

“There will always be trade-offs. Environmental impact alone cannot be a guide for what people eat; countries need to consider the totality of the nutritional needs, access, and cultural preferences of their residents.” − Climate News Network

Healthcare can worsen global climate crisis

Healthcare workers urging zero carbon emissions say chemicals used increasingly to anaesthetise patients are potent greenhouse gases.

LONDON, 11 September, 2019 − If the global healthcare sector were a country, it would be the fifth-largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter on the planet, according to a new report. Its authors, who argue for zero carbon emissions, say it is the first-ever estimate of healthcare’s global climate footprint.

While fossil fuel burning is responsible for more than half of the footprint, the report says there are several other causes, including the gases used to ensure that patients undergoing surgery feel no pain.

It is produced by Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), an international NGO seeking to change healthcare worldwide so that it reduces its environmental footprint and works for environmental health and justice globally. It was produced in collaboration with Arup.

The report says the European Union healthcare sector is the third largest emitter, accounting for 12% of the global healthcare climate footprint. More than half of healthcare’s worldwide emissions come from the top three emitters – the EU, the US and China. The report includes a breakdown for each EU member state.

An earlier report, published in May this year in the journal Environmental Research Letters, said the health care sectors of the 36 countries sampled were together responsible in 2014 for 1.6 GtCO2e (gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent), or 4.4% of the total emissions from these nations, and 4.4% is the total used in the HCWH report.

(Carbon dioxide equivalency is a simplified way to put emissions of various GHGs on a common footing by expressing them in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same global warming effect, usually over a century.)

“Places of healing should be leading the way, not contributing to the burden of disease”

HCWH says well over half of healthcare’s global climate footprint comes from fossil fuel combustion. But it identifies several other causes for concern as well. One is the range of gases used in anaesthesia to ensure  patients remain unconscious during surgery.

These are powerful greenhouse gases. Commonly used anaesthetics include nitrous oxide, sometimes known as laughing gas, and three fluorinated gases: sevoflurane, isoflurane, and desflurane. At present, the greater part of these gases enter the atmosphere after use.

Research by the UK National Health Service (NHS) Sustainable Development Unit shows the country’s anaesthetic gas footprint is 1.7%, most of it attributable to nitrous oxide use.

The UN climate change convention (UNFCCC) found that in 2014 a group of developed nations with 15% of the global population, 57% of the global GDP and 73% of global health expenditure was also responsible for 7 MtCO2e of medical nitrous oxide use. (“MtCO2e” means “million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent”.)

The UNFCCC concluded that the full impact of the gas’s global use in anaesthesia “can be expected to be substantially greater”.

Use is growing

For fluorinated gases used in anaesthesia, global emissions to the  atmosphere in 2014 were estimated to add 0.2% to the global health care footprint. Because of the growing use of these gases, increasingly chosen  in preference to nitrous oxide, the footprint from anaesthetic gases is also likely to increase.

In measured tones, HCWH says: “Wider adoption of waste anaesthetic capture systems has the potential to be a high impact health care-specific climate mitigation measure” – or in other words, trap them and dispose of them carefully before they can just escape through an open window to join the other GHGs already in the atmosphere.

But HCWH adds a warning: “For many individual health facilities and systems of hospitals the proportion of the contribution of both nitrous oxide and fluorinated anaesthetic gases to their climate footprint can be significantly higher.

“For instance, Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil found that GHG emissions from nitrous oxide contributed to nearly 35% of their total reported GHG emissions in 2013.”

Its report said choosing to use desflurane instead of nitrous oxide meant a ten-fold increase in anaesthetic gas emissions.

Other remedies available

The HCWH report also sounds the alert about metered-dose inhalers (MDIs), devices which are typically used for the treatment of asthma and other respiratory conditions, and which use hydrofluorocarbons as propellants. These are also highly potent greenhouse gases, with warming potentials between 1,480 and 2,900 times that of carbon dioxide.

Again, though, the report says the full global emissions from MDIs will probably be much greater than today’s figure. Alternative ways of using MDIs, such as dry powder -based inhalers, it says, are available and provide the same medicines without the high global warming potential propellants.

The report argues for the transformation of the healthcare sector so that it meets the Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise attributable to climate change to 1.5°C.

HCWH says hospitals and health systems should follow the example of the thousands of hospitals already moving toward climate-smart healthcare via the Health Care Climate Challenge and other initiatives.

Welcoming the report, the director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said hospitals and other health sector facilities were a source of carbon emissions, contributing to climate change: “Places of healing should be leading the way, not contributing to the burden of disease.”− Climate News Network

Healthcare workers urging zero carbon emissions say chemicals used increasingly to anaesthetise patients are potent greenhouse gases.

LONDON, 11 September, 2019 − If the global healthcare sector were a country, it would be the fifth-largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter on the planet, according to a new report. Its authors, who argue for zero carbon emissions, say it is the first-ever estimate of healthcare’s global climate footprint.

While fossil fuel burning is responsible for more than half of the footprint, the report says there are several other causes, including the gases used to ensure that patients undergoing surgery feel no pain.

It is produced by Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), an international NGO seeking to change healthcare worldwide so that it reduces its environmental footprint and works for environmental health and justice globally. It was produced in collaboration with Arup.

The report says the European Union healthcare sector is the third largest emitter, accounting for 12% of the global healthcare climate footprint. More than half of healthcare’s worldwide emissions come from the top three emitters – the EU, the US and China. The report includes a breakdown for each EU member state.

An earlier report, published in May this year in the journal Environmental Research Letters, said the health care sectors of the 36 countries sampled were together responsible in 2014 for 1.6 GtCO2e (gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent), or 4.4% of the total emissions from these nations, and 4.4% is the total used in the HCWH report.

(Carbon dioxide equivalency is a simplified way to put emissions of various GHGs on a common footing by expressing them in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same global warming effect, usually over a century.)

“Places of healing should be leading the way, not contributing to the burden of disease”

HCWH says well over half of healthcare’s global climate footprint comes from fossil fuel combustion. But it identifies several other causes for concern as well. One is the range of gases used in anaesthesia to ensure  patients remain unconscious during surgery.

These are powerful greenhouse gases. Commonly used anaesthetics include nitrous oxide, sometimes known as laughing gas, and three fluorinated gases: sevoflurane, isoflurane, and desflurane. At present, the greater part of these gases enter the atmosphere after use.

Research by the UK National Health Service (NHS) Sustainable Development Unit shows the country’s anaesthetic gas footprint is 1.7%, most of it attributable to nitrous oxide use.

The UN climate change convention (UNFCCC) found that in 2014 a group of developed nations with 15% of the global population, 57% of the global GDP and 73% of global health expenditure was also responsible for 7 MtCO2e of medical nitrous oxide use. (“MtCO2e” means “million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent”.)

The UNFCCC concluded that the full impact of the gas’s global use in anaesthesia “can be expected to be substantially greater”.

Use is growing

For fluorinated gases used in anaesthesia, global emissions to the  atmosphere in 2014 were estimated to add 0.2% to the global health care footprint. Because of the growing use of these gases, increasingly chosen  in preference to nitrous oxide, the footprint from anaesthetic gases is also likely to increase.

In measured tones, HCWH says: “Wider adoption of waste anaesthetic capture systems has the potential to be a high impact health care-specific climate mitigation measure” – or in other words, trap them and dispose of them carefully before they can just escape through an open window to join the other GHGs already in the atmosphere.

But HCWH adds a warning: “For many individual health facilities and systems of hospitals the proportion of the contribution of both nitrous oxide and fluorinated anaesthetic gases to their climate footprint can be significantly higher.

“For instance, Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil found that GHG emissions from nitrous oxide contributed to nearly 35% of their total reported GHG emissions in 2013.”

Its report said choosing to use desflurane instead of nitrous oxide meant a ten-fold increase in anaesthetic gas emissions.

Other remedies available

The HCWH report also sounds the alert about metered-dose inhalers (MDIs), devices which are typically used for the treatment of asthma and other respiratory conditions, and which use hydrofluorocarbons as propellants. These are also highly potent greenhouse gases, with warming potentials between 1,480 and 2,900 times that of carbon dioxide.

Again, though, the report says the full global emissions from MDIs will probably be much greater than today’s figure. Alternative ways of using MDIs, such as dry powder -based inhalers, it says, are available and provide the same medicines without the high global warming potential propellants.

The report argues for the transformation of the healthcare sector so that it meets the Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise attributable to climate change to 1.5°C.

HCWH says hospitals and health systems should follow the example of the thousands of hospitals already moving toward climate-smart healthcare via the Health Care Climate Challenge and other initiatives.

Welcoming the report, the director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said hospitals and other health sector facilities were a source of carbon emissions, contributing to climate change: “Places of healing should be leading the way, not contributing to the burden of disease.”− Climate News Network

University ends red meat meals and cuts carbon

A sustainable food policy which ends red meat meals has improved student diets and boosted a university catering service’s profits.

LONDON, 10 September, 2019 − Cambridge University in England, one of the richest and most famous universities in the world, has ended red meat meals in its outlets.

Beef and lamb are off the menu in its cafes and canteens, to educate staff and students about how to change their diets so as to help avoid dangerous climate change.

At the same time, the university says the decision will go a long way to reducing the carbon footprint of the University Catering Service (UCS) and cutting the amount of land needed to feed the students and administrators.

In a report on its decision to cut out red meat, known also as ruminant meat, the university says it has also greatly improved the variety of meals in its restaurants, particularly of vegetarian and vegan alternatives.

This has lowered the amount of land the UCS needs to grow food by over a quarter and its carbon footprint by over a third, while at the same time increasing profits.

“For us it was about making the right choice easy for our customers”

The change of policy by catering managers has also meant that, over the last 12 months, the catering staff have lowered food waste from the university’s canteens and eliminated unsustainably harvested fish from their menus.

Andrew Balmford, Cambridge’s professor of conservation science, said: “It is hard to imagine any other interventions that could yield such dramatic benefits in so short a span of time.”

UCS, which provides food for 1,500 events a year and runs 14 cafes and canteens, has also introduced other environmental improvements; cutting plastic waste by using Vegware compostable packaging and disposables; providing discounts for customers to keep their cups for re-use; and recycling cooking oil.

The changes, introduced in October 2016, required considerable re-education of the university’s chefs and help from its experts in the Department of Environment and Energy to create a sustainable food policy.

Promoting well-being

Nick White, head of operations at UCS, said: “I knew that we should be doing more to actively promote the consumption of more sustainable food to reduce our damage to the environment and to help encourage positive lifestyle changes, which would lead to a positive impact on the health and well-being of our students and staff.

“For us it was about making the right choice easy for our customers. I felt a big responsibility to do something about it.”

Catering staff, many of whom had been trained principally to cook meat as the centrepiece of a meal, had to be inspired to change menus and think of new dishes. They were told for example that switching diets to non-ruminant meats results in emitting 85% less greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide and methane) and using 60% less water and 85% less farmland.

Chefs were provided with vegan cooking classes and went to Borough Market in London, a centre of international cuisine where in some specialist outlets vegetarian and vegan dishes from all over the world are cooked for tourists and the cosmopolitan community.

The result of the changes is that the catering service has the same number of customers as before but has increased profitability by 2%, despite increased food costs.

Long road to change

As well as changing diets, the UCS has stopped selling single use plastic bottles and has replaced them with glass bottles, cans or biodegradable plastic bottles, saving 30,000 plastic bottles from going to landfill annually.

“This report demonstrates how achievable, environmentally effective, and professionally rewarding these bold actions can be”, Professor Balmford said.

But the battle to change the feeding habits of the 21,000 students and almost equal number of academic staff and administrators in Cambridge has a long way to go.

Most of the Cambridge colleges which make up the university and are spread across the city have their own dining halls and restaurants and provide meals for students and staff independently of the catering service. They are the next to be targeted for change. − Climate News Network

A sustainable food policy which ends red meat meals has improved student diets and boosted a university catering service’s profits.

LONDON, 10 September, 2019 − Cambridge University in England, one of the richest and most famous universities in the world, has ended red meat meals in its outlets.

Beef and lamb are off the menu in its cafes and canteens, to educate staff and students about how to change their diets so as to help avoid dangerous climate change.

At the same time, the university says the decision will go a long way to reducing the carbon footprint of the University Catering Service (UCS) and cutting the amount of land needed to feed the students and administrators.

In a report on its decision to cut out red meat, known also as ruminant meat, the university says it has also greatly improved the variety of meals in its restaurants, particularly of vegetarian and vegan alternatives.

This has lowered the amount of land the UCS needs to grow food by over a quarter and its carbon footprint by over a third, while at the same time increasing profits.

“For us it was about making the right choice easy for our customers”

The change of policy by catering managers has also meant that, over the last 12 months, the catering staff have lowered food waste from the university’s canteens and eliminated unsustainably harvested fish from their menus.

Andrew Balmford, Cambridge’s professor of conservation science, said: “It is hard to imagine any other interventions that could yield such dramatic benefits in so short a span of time.”

UCS, which provides food for 1,500 events a year and runs 14 cafes and canteens, has also introduced other environmental improvements; cutting plastic waste by using Vegware compostable packaging and disposables; providing discounts for customers to keep their cups for re-use; and recycling cooking oil.

The changes, introduced in October 2016, required considerable re-education of the university’s chefs and help from its experts in the Department of Environment and Energy to create a sustainable food policy.

Promoting well-being

Nick White, head of operations at UCS, said: “I knew that we should be doing more to actively promote the consumption of more sustainable food to reduce our damage to the environment and to help encourage positive lifestyle changes, which would lead to a positive impact on the health and well-being of our students and staff.

“For us it was about making the right choice easy for our customers. I felt a big responsibility to do something about it.”

Catering staff, many of whom had been trained principally to cook meat as the centrepiece of a meal, had to be inspired to change menus and think of new dishes. They were told for example that switching diets to non-ruminant meats results in emitting 85% less greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide and methane) and using 60% less water and 85% less farmland.

Chefs were provided with vegan cooking classes and went to Borough Market in London, a centre of international cuisine where in some specialist outlets vegetarian and vegan dishes from all over the world are cooked for tourists and the cosmopolitan community.

The result of the changes is that the catering service has the same number of customers as before but has increased profitability by 2%, despite increased food costs.

Long road to change

As well as changing diets, the UCS has stopped selling single use plastic bottles and has replaced them with glass bottles, cans or biodegradable plastic bottles, saving 30,000 plastic bottles from going to landfill annually.

“This report demonstrates how achievable, environmentally effective, and professionally rewarding these bold actions can be”, Professor Balmford said.

But the battle to change the feeding habits of the 21,000 students and almost equal number of academic staff and administrators in Cambridge has a long way to go.

Most of the Cambridge colleges which make up the university and are spread across the city have their own dining halls and restaurants and provide meals for students and staff independently of the catering service. They are the next to be targeted for change. − Climate News Network

Jakarta’s sea level prompts a move – at a price

For its people, Jakarta’s sea level is a nagging anxiety. But moving the Indonesian capital 1,000 kms to safety will be horribly costly.

LONDON, 9 September, 2019 – Spare a thought for the poorer residents of Jakarta, Indonesia’s sprawling capital city.

If your house on the Indonesian coast is threatened by the ocean because of climate change, then maybe – if you’re lucky and wealthy enough – a move to higher ground further inland may be possible.

But what happens when a whole city, with millions of people, is threatened by rising seas?

Jakarta has a population of more than 10 million. Established as the capital of what was the Dutch East Indies in the 17th century, the city is built on swamp land on the north-west coast of the island of Java.

But not only is Jakarta threatened by rising sea levels: rapid, largely unplanned expansion and building work has resulted in the city becoming, according to experts, one of the fastest-sinking urban areas in the world.

It’s estimated that up to 40% of the area of Jakarta is now below sea level. In northern districts of the city bordering the sea, rising sea levels are threatening many neighbourhoods, and flooding is common.

“This huge project will need to be done quickly to prevent Jakarta from sinking into the sea”

Attempts at tackling the issue have so far made little impact. A scheme designed to keep seawater out involving the construction of a 32 kilometre-long outer sea wall called the Great Garuda and 17 artificial islands straddling Jakarta Bay has been subject to long delays and finance problems.

“This huge project will need to be done quickly to prevent Jakarta from sinking into the sea”, says Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s president.

Ongoing extraction of groundwater from beneath the city is another serious problem, leading to frequent land subsidence.

Parts of Jakarta are sinking by as much as 25 cms each year. Experts say that in some areas the land has sunk by 2.5 metres over the last 10 years.

Now the Indonesian government is taking radical action. It’s announced plans to move the country’s capital elsewhere – to more than 1,000 kms away in East Kalimantan, on the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo.

Five years to completion

Officials talk of creating a “smart and forest” city; the project, which has an initial price tag of US$33 billion (466,650 bn Rupiah), will involve the foundation of a new administrative capital, with up to 1.5 million civil servants being relocated.

Jakarta will retain its role as Indonesia’s commercial and financial hub. The government says work on the new city is due to begin in two years’ time and to be completed by 2024.

The construction of the new capital might go some way to settle one set of problems, but is likely to give birth to others.

The island of Borneo – shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and the small state of Brunei – contains one of the world’s largest remaining rain forests, a carbon sink which soaks up vast amounts of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

In the early 1970s three quarters of Borneo was covered in rainforest. By 2010, the forests had shrunk by more than 30%, with huge areas logged or given over to palm oil plantations.

Orangutans killed

Large areas of peat – another vital repository for hundreds of thousands of tonnes of climate-changing carbon – have also been destroyed. Indonesia has undertaken several coal-mining projects in its part of the island.

As the forests have been chopped down, wildlife has suffered. Numbers of orangutan have dropped by an estimated 100,000 over the past 20 years.

Despite pledges by the Indonesian government to build a sustainable “green” city and carry out various environmental surveys, many are sceptical about the building of the new capital.

Experts point out that many environmentally important areas of Borneo have already been destroyed by haphazard, badly planned development projects. They say the new plans, including the construction of a whole city, are only going to make the situation worse.

The daunting prospect facing Jakarta is likely to confront many other countries within the next few decades. Last month US researchers said the rising threat of flooding caused by climate change meant Americans should prepare for managed retreat from their own coasts. – Climate News Network

For its people, Jakarta’s sea level is a nagging anxiety. But moving the Indonesian capital 1,000 kms to safety will be horribly costly.

LONDON, 9 September, 2019 – Spare a thought for the poorer residents of Jakarta, Indonesia’s sprawling capital city.

If your house on the Indonesian coast is threatened by the ocean because of climate change, then maybe – if you’re lucky and wealthy enough – a move to higher ground further inland may be possible.

But what happens when a whole city, with millions of people, is threatened by rising seas?

Jakarta has a population of more than 10 million. Established as the capital of what was the Dutch East Indies in the 17th century, the city is built on swamp land on the north-west coast of the island of Java.

But not only is Jakarta threatened by rising sea levels: rapid, largely unplanned expansion and building work has resulted in the city becoming, according to experts, one of the fastest-sinking urban areas in the world.

It’s estimated that up to 40% of the area of Jakarta is now below sea level. In northern districts of the city bordering the sea, rising sea levels are threatening many neighbourhoods, and flooding is common.

“This huge project will need to be done quickly to prevent Jakarta from sinking into the sea”

Attempts at tackling the issue have so far made little impact. A scheme designed to keep seawater out involving the construction of a 32 kilometre-long outer sea wall called the Great Garuda and 17 artificial islands straddling Jakarta Bay has been subject to long delays and finance problems.

“This huge project will need to be done quickly to prevent Jakarta from sinking into the sea”, says Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s president.

Ongoing extraction of groundwater from beneath the city is another serious problem, leading to frequent land subsidence.

Parts of Jakarta are sinking by as much as 25 cms each year. Experts say that in some areas the land has sunk by 2.5 metres over the last 10 years.

Now the Indonesian government is taking radical action. It’s announced plans to move the country’s capital elsewhere – to more than 1,000 kms away in East Kalimantan, on the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo.

Five years to completion

Officials talk of creating a “smart and forest” city; the project, which has an initial price tag of US$33 billion (466,650 bn Rupiah), will involve the foundation of a new administrative capital, with up to 1.5 million civil servants being relocated.

Jakarta will retain its role as Indonesia’s commercial and financial hub. The government says work on the new city is due to begin in two years’ time and to be completed by 2024.

The construction of the new capital might go some way to settle one set of problems, but is likely to give birth to others.

The island of Borneo – shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and the small state of Brunei – contains one of the world’s largest remaining rain forests, a carbon sink which soaks up vast amounts of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

In the early 1970s three quarters of Borneo was covered in rainforest. By 2010, the forests had shrunk by more than 30%, with huge areas logged or given over to palm oil plantations.

Orangutans killed

Large areas of peat – another vital repository for hundreds of thousands of tonnes of climate-changing carbon – have also been destroyed. Indonesia has undertaken several coal-mining projects in its part of the island.

As the forests have been chopped down, wildlife has suffered. Numbers of orangutan have dropped by an estimated 100,000 over the past 20 years.

Despite pledges by the Indonesian government to build a sustainable “green” city and carry out various environmental surveys, many are sceptical about the building of the new capital.

Experts point out that many environmentally important areas of Borneo have already been destroyed by haphazard, badly planned development projects. They say the new plans, including the construction of a whole city, are only going to make the situation worse.

The daunting prospect facing Jakarta is likely to confront many other countries within the next few decades. Last month US researchers said the rising threat of flooding caused by climate change meant Americans should prepare for managed retreat from their own coasts. – Climate News Network

Muslim pilgrims risk being killed by heat

Even with climate mitigation measures, the summer heat in Mecca will threaten the lives of many thousands of Muslim pilgrims visiting the city.

LONDON, 28 August, 2019 − Many of the nearly two million Muslim pilgrims who journey to Saudi Arabia annually will soon be in severe danger of death from the extreme heat in years when the Hajj takes place in mid-summer, scientists say.

For 1.8 billion Muslims, around a quarter of the world’s population, a pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the Hajj, is an obligation to be undertaken once in their lifetime. But the city is in one of the hottest places in the world, where the temperature already tops 45°C (113°F) in summer, enough to damage the heart, brain and kidneys.

According to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), when climate change drives temperatures even higher it will threaten the lives of thousands of people who typically spend more than a week on the pilgrimage in unrelenting heat.

The dates for the Hajj are fixed by the lunar cycle, and arrive 11 days earlier each year. This year the pilgrimage ended on 14 August in temperatures over 40°C (104°F), already close to the danger threshold for human life. The scientists warn that next year’s mid-summer Hajj could be even more dangerous for pilgrims.

It is not just the temperature but also the humidity that is important. Scientists use what is known as the wet bulb temperature, measured by attaching a wet cloth to a thermometer bulb to indicate how effective perspiration is at cooling off the body. The higher the humidity, the greater the danger of health problems, because the body cannot effectively cool itself down.

“If you have crowding in a location, the harsher the weather conditions are, the more likely it is that crowding would lead to incidents”

At an actual temperature of just 32.2°C (90°F) and a humidity of 95%, the wet bulb temperature is calculated as 51.1°C (124°F). At a lower humidity of 45%, more typical of Saudi Arabia, the 51.1°C wet bulb temperature would not be reached until the actual temperature climbed to 40°C (104°F)

But the scientists warn that with anything above a wet bulb temperature of 39.4°C (102.9°F), the body can no longer cool itself. Such temperatures are classified as “dangerous” by the US National Weather Service. Above 51.1°C (124°F) is classified as “extreme danger”, when the body’s vital organs begin to be badly affected.

There have been earlier warnings of the risks posed by this lethal combination, some coupled with suggestions that a wider part of the region surrounding Saudi Arabia could possibly become uninhabitable.

Elfatih Eltahir, MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering, and his colleagues, writing in the journal Geophysical Review Letters, said there had already been signs of the risk becoming a reality. Although details of the events are scant, there have been deadly stampedes during the Hajj in recent decades: one in 1990 that killed 1,462 people, and one in 2015 that left 769 dead and 934 injured.

Unhappy coincidence

Eltahir says that both of these years coincided with peaks in the combined temperature and humidity in the region, as measured by the wet bulb temperature, and the stress of elevated temperatures may have contributed to the deadly events.

“If you have crowding in a location,” Eltahir says, “the harsher the weather conditions are, the more likely it is that crowding would lead to incidents” like these.

In Saudi Arabia climate change will significantly increase the number of days each summer that will exceed this “extreme danger” limit. In the years 2047 to 2052 and 2079 to 2086, when the Hajj again takes place at the hottest time of year, it will probably be too dangerous for pilgrims, the researchers say.

This will happen even if substantial measures are taken to limit the impact of climate change, the study finds, and without those measures the dangers would be even greater. Planning for counter-measures or restrictions on participation in the pilgrimage may therefore be needed, Professor Eltahir concluded. − Climate News Network

Even with climate mitigation measures, the summer heat in Mecca will threaten the lives of many thousands of Muslim pilgrims visiting the city.

LONDON, 28 August, 2019 − Many of the nearly two million Muslim pilgrims who journey to Saudi Arabia annually will soon be in severe danger of death from the extreme heat in years when the Hajj takes place in mid-summer, scientists say.

For 1.8 billion Muslims, around a quarter of the world’s population, a pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the Hajj, is an obligation to be undertaken once in their lifetime. But the city is in one of the hottest places in the world, where the temperature already tops 45°C (113°F) in summer, enough to damage the heart, brain and kidneys.

According to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), when climate change drives temperatures even higher it will threaten the lives of thousands of people who typically spend more than a week on the pilgrimage in unrelenting heat.

The dates for the Hajj are fixed by the lunar cycle, and arrive 11 days earlier each year. This year the pilgrimage ended on 14 August in temperatures over 40°C (104°F), already close to the danger threshold for human life. The scientists warn that next year’s mid-summer Hajj could be even more dangerous for pilgrims.

It is not just the temperature but also the humidity that is important. Scientists use what is known as the wet bulb temperature, measured by attaching a wet cloth to a thermometer bulb to indicate how effective perspiration is at cooling off the body. The higher the humidity, the greater the danger of health problems, because the body cannot effectively cool itself down.

“If you have crowding in a location, the harsher the weather conditions are, the more likely it is that crowding would lead to incidents”

At an actual temperature of just 32.2°C (90°F) and a humidity of 95%, the wet bulb temperature is calculated as 51.1°C (124°F). At a lower humidity of 45%, more typical of Saudi Arabia, the 51.1°C wet bulb temperature would not be reached until the actual temperature climbed to 40°C (104°F)

But the scientists warn that with anything above a wet bulb temperature of 39.4°C (102.9°F), the body can no longer cool itself. Such temperatures are classified as “dangerous” by the US National Weather Service. Above 51.1°C (124°F) is classified as “extreme danger”, when the body’s vital organs begin to be badly affected.

There have been earlier warnings of the risks posed by this lethal combination, some coupled with suggestions that a wider part of the region surrounding Saudi Arabia could possibly become uninhabitable.

Elfatih Eltahir, MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering, and his colleagues, writing in the journal Geophysical Review Letters, said there had already been signs of the risk becoming a reality. Although details of the events are scant, there have been deadly stampedes during the Hajj in recent decades: one in 1990 that killed 1,462 people, and one in 2015 that left 769 dead and 934 injured.

Unhappy coincidence

Eltahir says that both of these years coincided with peaks in the combined temperature and humidity in the region, as measured by the wet bulb temperature, and the stress of elevated temperatures may have contributed to the deadly events.

“If you have crowding in a location,” Eltahir says, “the harsher the weather conditions are, the more likely it is that crowding would lead to incidents” like these.

In Saudi Arabia climate change will significantly increase the number of days each summer that will exceed this “extreme danger” limit. In the years 2047 to 2052 and 2079 to 2086, when the Hajj again takes place at the hottest time of year, it will probably be too dangerous for pilgrims, the researchers say.

This will happen even if substantial measures are taken to limit the impact of climate change, the study finds, and without those measures the dangers would be even greater. Planning for counter-measures or restrictions on participation in the pilgrimage may therefore be needed, Professor Eltahir concluded. − Climate News Network

‘Small’ nuclear war could bring global cooling

Smoke from Canadian forest fires was so vast it bore comparison with a nuclear bomb’s mushroom cloud – and the global cooling that might unleash.

LONDON, 21 August, 2019 − If a nuclear war should ever break out, any survivors could have to cope not just with the immediate effects of blast and radioactivity, but with climate mayhem as well: global cooling with unknowable consequences.

The wildfires in the Canadian province of British Columbia in the summer of 2017 were the worst the region had ever seen. They were so bad that the smoke from the sustained blaze rose 23 kms into the upper stratosphere and stayed there for eight months.

And that has given US scientists the chance once again to model the consequences of a nuclear winter after thermonuclear war.

“This process of injecting soot into the stratosphere and seeing it extend its lifetime by self-lofting was previously modelled as a consequence of nuclear winter in the case of an all-out war between the United States and Russia, in which smoke from burning cities would change the global climate,” said Alan Robock, an environmental scientist at Rutgers University.

“Even a relatively small nuclear war between India and Pakistan could cause climate change unprecedented in recorded human history, and global food crises.”

“The observed rapid plume, latitudinal spread, and photochemical reactions provided new insight into potential global climate impacts from nuclear war”

Professor Robock and colleagues report in the journal Science that they used computer simulations and satellite observations to test an old worry: what happens when black carbon or other obstructions get into the stratosphere. Sulphate aerosols discharged to stratospheric heights from volcanoes have been observed to lower global average temperatures.

The eruption of Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 blasted 20 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere and lowered global temperatures by around 0.5°C, and the same observations have prompted scientists to propose an untested and potentially dangerous solution to runaway global heating, by spraying aerosols into the upper atmosphere.

The unprecedented fires in British Columbia that began in July 2017 provided them with experimental evidence: the devastation was so bad that 40,000 people were evacuated from their homes and the provincial government declared a state of emergency that lasted 10 weeks. Altogether the fires destroyed 1.2 million hectares of forest and caused $564m worth of damage.

What interested the US scientists was the smoke. It formed a pyrocumulonimbus cloud larger than any ever observed before and rose 12 kilometres. There was hardly enough mass in the plume to cool the planet in any measurable way, but it had bulk enough to provide information on how the cloud dispersed and how it lingered.

The soot in the cloud absorbed solar radiation and the air around each particle became hotter, which made it rise even further. Within two months, it had reached 23kms. The stratosphere is above the rain clouds, so there was nothing to wash the soot down again. The stratosphere is also home to the jet stream, and high winds took the soot around the whole hemisphere.

Future unpredictable

And that gave Professor Robock and his colleagues the chance to test models of what might happen if, instead of forest fires, the smoke had come from cities reduced to ash by a thermonuclear exchange.

The smoke from British Columbia held 300,000 tonnes of soot. A nuclear war between India and Pakistan however could put 15 million tonnes into the upper atmosphere, and a war between the US and Russia could generate 150 million tonnes.

Nobody knows what then might happen. More than 30 years ago, US scientists raised the spectre of nuclear winter: a world in which sunlight was weakened, summers were cancelled, and harvests failed.

The hypothesis was, thankfully, never put to the test, and in any case was challenged by other scientists. The Canadian fires, themselves perhaps made more devastating by global warming, delivered some vital clues. The next step is to apply the evidence from 2017 to see whether, after a nuclear war, the much-feared enduring winter would follow.

“The observed rapid plume, latitudinal spread, and photochemical reactions provided new insight into potential global climate impacts from nuclear war,” the scientists write. − Climate News Network

Smoke from Canadian forest fires was so vast it bore comparison with a nuclear bomb’s mushroom cloud – and the global cooling that might unleash.

LONDON, 21 August, 2019 − If a nuclear war should ever break out, any survivors could have to cope not just with the immediate effects of blast and radioactivity, but with climate mayhem as well: global cooling with unknowable consequences.

The wildfires in the Canadian province of British Columbia in the summer of 2017 were the worst the region had ever seen. They were so bad that the smoke from the sustained blaze rose 23 kms into the upper stratosphere and stayed there for eight months.

And that has given US scientists the chance once again to model the consequences of a nuclear winter after thermonuclear war.

“This process of injecting soot into the stratosphere and seeing it extend its lifetime by self-lofting was previously modelled as a consequence of nuclear winter in the case of an all-out war between the United States and Russia, in which smoke from burning cities would change the global climate,” said Alan Robock, an environmental scientist at Rutgers University.

“Even a relatively small nuclear war between India and Pakistan could cause climate change unprecedented in recorded human history, and global food crises.”

“The observed rapid plume, latitudinal spread, and photochemical reactions provided new insight into potential global climate impacts from nuclear war”

Professor Robock and colleagues report in the journal Science that they used computer simulations and satellite observations to test an old worry: what happens when black carbon or other obstructions get into the stratosphere. Sulphate aerosols discharged to stratospheric heights from volcanoes have been observed to lower global average temperatures.

The eruption of Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 blasted 20 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere and lowered global temperatures by around 0.5°C, and the same observations have prompted scientists to propose an untested and potentially dangerous solution to runaway global heating, by spraying aerosols into the upper atmosphere.

The unprecedented fires in British Columbia that began in July 2017 provided them with experimental evidence: the devastation was so bad that 40,000 people were evacuated from their homes and the provincial government declared a state of emergency that lasted 10 weeks. Altogether the fires destroyed 1.2 million hectares of forest and caused $564m worth of damage.

What interested the US scientists was the smoke. It formed a pyrocumulonimbus cloud larger than any ever observed before and rose 12 kilometres. There was hardly enough mass in the plume to cool the planet in any measurable way, but it had bulk enough to provide information on how the cloud dispersed and how it lingered.

The soot in the cloud absorbed solar radiation and the air around each particle became hotter, which made it rise even further. Within two months, it had reached 23kms. The stratosphere is above the rain clouds, so there was nothing to wash the soot down again. The stratosphere is also home to the jet stream, and high winds took the soot around the whole hemisphere.

Future unpredictable

And that gave Professor Robock and his colleagues the chance to test models of what might happen if, instead of forest fires, the smoke had come from cities reduced to ash by a thermonuclear exchange.

The smoke from British Columbia held 300,000 tonnes of soot. A nuclear war between India and Pakistan however could put 15 million tonnes into the upper atmosphere, and a war between the US and Russia could generate 150 million tonnes.

Nobody knows what then might happen. More than 30 years ago, US scientists raised the spectre of nuclear winter: a world in which sunlight was weakened, summers were cancelled, and harvests failed.

The hypothesis was, thankfully, never put to the test, and in any case was challenged by other scientists. The Canadian fires, themselves perhaps made more devastating by global warming, delivered some vital clues. The next step is to apply the evidence from 2017 to see whether, after a nuclear war, the much-feared enduring winter would follow.

“The observed rapid plume, latitudinal spread, and photochemical reactions provided new insight into potential global climate impacts from nuclear war,” the scientists write. − Climate News Network

Cheap renewables will price out oil on roads

Petrol- and diesel-driven cars will soon vanish, as oil-based fuel already costs three times more than cheap renewables.

LONDON, 16 August, 2019 − The days of oil as a fuel for cars, whether petrol or diesel, are numbered − because the economies offered by wind and solar energy and other cheap renewables, combined with electric vehicles, are irresistible, a French bank says.

BNP Paribas Asset Management calculates that oil majors like Exxon, BP and Shell will have to produce petrol from oil at $10 a barrel (the current price is $58) to compete with electricity on price, while for diesel, it says, oil can cost no more than $19 a barrel.

“The oil industry has never before in its history faced the kind of threat that renewable electricity in tandem with electric vehicles poses to its business model,” the bank says. Electric vehicles (EVs) could easily replace 40% of the current market for crude oil.

The far lower cost of driving electric vehicles, plus the environmental benefits of cleaner air and the reduction in carbon emissions, will make it overwhelmingly attractive to governments to switch from fossil fuels to renewables for powering the world’s light vehicles.

“The economics of oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles versus wind- and solar-powered EVs are now in relentless and irreversible decline”

Warnings that Big Oil’s position is precarious have been sounding for several years. Some see the global industry reaching its peak within the next decade. In several countries car plants are being converted to all-electric production, a move perhaps prompted by a wish to regain market share after a less than happy episode in consumer relations.

But the bank’s report for professional investors, Wells, Wires, and Wheels, will certainly make bleak reading for the oil industry. Its conclusions are based on the bank’s calculations of how much it costs to get energy to the car wheels.

Its analysis concludes that “after adjusting for all of the costs and all of the energy losses of delivering oil from the well to the wheels on the one hand, and renewable electricity to the wheels of EVs on the other, new wind and solar projects combined with EVs would deliver 6.2 to 7 times more useful energy than petrol”.

This is with oil at its current market price of $60 a barrel. Renewables would also provide 3.2 to 3.6 times more power than diesel for the same cost.

Rising efficiency

The report says: “Moreover, this is on the basis of the costs and efficiency rates of the renewable electricity technologies as they exist today. Yet, over time, the costs of renewables will only continue to fall, while their efficiency rates will continue to rise.”

The report concedes that at the moment the oil industry has huge advantages of scale, because it is already servicing the world’s vehicle fleet. To take its business away, renewables have to scale up and provide the quantity of electricity and the number of charging points required for a mass electric vehicle market.

It argues, however, that oil has a major disadvantage. For every dollar spent at the pump on petrol, nearly half that cost has already gone on refining the oil, transporting it to the pump, marketing and tax. Electricity on the other hand is delivered to cars along wires at only a tiny fraction of the cost of oil-based fuels.

The bank concludes that the oil industry also has another huge disadvantage. It has to decide on future investments in new oil fields without knowing in advance the occasional wild fluctuations in oil price.

Declining oil yield

Each year the oil majors have to make such decisions about fields which need to be added to production to replace the 10% annual decline in the yield from old fields, leaving them working 10 years in advance.

By the bank’s calculations, unless the new oil can be brought on stream at $10 a barrel or less, the oil companies will have to sell petrol and diesel at a loss to compete on price with electric cars running on renewables.

Investment decisions made now on the basis of an oil price of $60 a barrel risk creating assets that cannot be sold profitably and would have to be left in the ground.

The report says: “We conclude that the economics of oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles versus wind- and solar-powered EVs are now in relentless and irreversible decline, with far-reaching implications for both policymakers and the oil majors.” − Climate News Network

Petrol- and diesel-driven cars will soon vanish, as oil-based fuel already costs three times more than cheap renewables.

LONDON, 16 August, 2019 − The days of oil as a fuel for cars, whether petrol or diesel, are numbered − because the economies offered by wind and solar energy and other cheap renewables, combined with electric vehicles, are irresistible, a French bank says.

BNP Paribas Asset Management calculates that oil majors like Exxon, BP and Shell will have to produce petrol from oil at $10 a barrel (the current price is $58) to compete with electricity on price, while for diesel, it says, oil can cost no more than $19 a barrel.

“The oil industry has never before in its history faced the kind of threat that renewable electricity in tandem with electric vehicles poses to its business model,” the bank says. Electric vehicles (EVs) could easily replace 40% of the current market for crude oil.

The far lower cost of driving electric vehicles, plus the environmental benefits of cleaner air and the reduction in carbon emissions, will make it overwhelmingly attractive to governments to switch from fossil fuels to renewables for powering the world’s light vehicles.

“The economics of oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles versus wind- and solar-powered EVs are now in relentless and irreversible decline”

Warnings that Big Oil’s position is precarious have been sounding for several years. Some see the global industry reaching its peak within the next decade. In several countries car plants are being converted to all-electric production, a move perhaps prompted by a wish to regain market share after a less than happy episode in consumer relations.

But the bank’s report for professional investors, Wells, Wires, and Wheels, will certainly make bleak reading for the oil industry. Its conclusions are based on the bank’s calculations of how much it costs to get energy to the car wheels.

Its analysis concludes that “after adjusting for all of the costs and all of the energy losses of delivering oil from the well to the wheels on the one hand, and renewable electricity to the wheels of EVs on the other, new wind and solar projects combined with EVs would deliver 6.2 to 7 times more useful energy than petrol”.

This is with oil at its current market price of $60 a barrel. Renewables would also provide 3.2 to 3.6 times more power than diesel for the same cost.

Rising efficiency

The report says: “Moreover, this is on the basis of the costs and efficiency rates of the renewable electricity technologies as they exist today. Yet, over time, the costs of renewables will only continue to fall, while their efficiency rates will continue to rise.”

The report concedes that at the moment the oil industry has huge advantages of scale, because it is already servicing the world’s vehicle fleet. To take its business away, renewables have to scale up and provide the quantity of electricity and the number of charging points required for a mass electric vehicle market.

It argues, however, that oil has a major disadvantage. For every dollar spent at the pump on petrol, nearly half that cost has already gone on refining the oil, transporting it to the pump, marketing and tax. Electricity on the other hand is delivered to cars along wires at only a tiny fraction of the cost of oil-based fuels.

The bank concludes that the oil industry also has another huge disadvantage. It has to decide on future investments in new oil fields without knowing in advance the occasional wild fluctuations in oil price.

Declining oil yield

Each year the oil majors have to make such decisions about fields which need to be added to production to replace the 10% annual decline in the yield from old fields, leaving them working 10 years in advance.

By the bank’s calculations, unless the new oil can be brought on stream at $10 a barrel or less, the oil companies will have to sell petrol and diesel at a loss to compete on price with electric cars running on renewables.

Investment decisions made now on the basis of an oil price of $60 a barrel risk creating assets that cannot be sold profitably and would have to be left in the ground.

The report says: “We conclude that the economics of oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles versus wind- and solar-powered EVs are now in relentless and irreversible decline, with far-reaching implications for both policymakers and the oil majors.” − Climate News Network

Hot future prompts new ideas for cool cities

Higher temperatures must mean more energy just to cool cities – which means even more heat. But ingenuity is already proposing answers.

LONDON, 15 August, 2019 − The world could need a quarter more energy by 2050, to cool cities and survive the global heating expected by then. And that assumes that nations will have taken steps to control greenhouse gas emissions and that the rise in temperature will be moderate.

If, on the other hand, the world goes on burning fossil fuels under the notorious “business as usual” scenario, then according to new research the people of the planet could demand up to 58% more energy, just to drive the extra air conditioning and refrigeration in ever more frequent and ever more intense extremes of heat.

The latest study, by researchers based in Boston, Massachusetts and Venice in Italy, helps to settle one of the more intricate questions that accompany climate projections and energy demand: yes, there will be more people and bigger cities which demand more power anyway, and yes, warm zones will get hotter and demand more expense on keeping cool. But chilly and temperate nations will enjoy milder winters and spend less on staying warm. Which wins?

The new paper, in the journal Nature Communications, either settles the matter or provides fellow scientists with a methodology and a set of results to examine more closely.

Risky faster heating

A warmer world will also be vastly more energy-expensive. And if nations invest in coal, oil or natural gas to provide the extra electricity to provide the air-conditioning, drive the electric fans and refrigerate food and medical supplies, then global heating would accelerate to ever more dangerous levels.

“At this point, we don’t know. To cool my house, I could buy a bigger air-conditioner. Or if higher demand makes electricity more expensive, I could choose to open my window or run a fan,” said Ian Sue Wing, an earth and environment scientist at Boston University, who led the study.

“We could use coal or we could use renewable sources, and those two choices mean very different things for our future. With coal, it will mean more greenhouse gas emissions. That’s what keeps me up at night.”

By 2050, there could be between 8.4bn and 10bn people on the planet. Gross domestic product per person (an economist’s measure of income and spending) could have all but doubled or even in some places more than trebled. Tropical and mid-latitude zones could, if warming is only moderate, experience as many as an extra 50 uncomfortably hot days each year. If the warming is vigorous, the number could soar to 75.

“We could use coal or we could use renewable sources. With coal, it will mean more greenhouse gas emissions. That’s what keeps me up at night”

Researchers have warned, consistently and repeatedly, that even a modest rise in average planetary temperatures will take the form of longer and more intense heat waves. By 2100 three out of four people on the planet could be exposed to heat extremes, and those most at hazard will be living in the tropical and subtropical megacities.

Extremes of heat can kill – one group has already identified 27 ways in which to die of rising temperatures – and scientists began warning years ago that ever more needed investment in air-conditioning equipment would only make energy demand, and perhaps greenhouse gas emissions, worse, while also contributing to ever greater outdoor temperatures.

So researchers have been looking at other approaches. The puzzle has already tested the levels of ingenuity and fresh thinking in the world’s energy laboratories. Researchers have cheerfully proposed reflector roofs that could send 97% of the sunlight back into space.

They have explored nature’s answer to the unforgiving sun: more trees in cities could take temperatures down by as much as 5°C and even make cities wealthier and healthier. And already this month, scientists and engineers have suggested two new ways to address the challenge of the overheating cities.

One US team at the University of Buffalo, working with the King Abdullah University in Saudi Arabia, has devised an inexpensive polymer-aluminium film that keeps itself cool, packed in a specially designed solar shelter. The film absorbs heat from the air and converts it to thermal radiation that can be beamed back into space.

Deep cuts possible

The researchers report, in the journal Nature Sustainability, that in the laboratory temperatures could be lowered by up to 11°C. On a clear, sunny day in New York state, they achieved outdoor all-day temperature reductions of 2°C to 9°C.

This exercise in entirely passive cooling – no electricity, just rooftop boxes – is in its infancy. But there are other approaches to the “heat island effect” that already makes modern cities uncomfortable.

Researchers at the University of Rutgers in the US simply looked at the ground beneath their feet. Pavement and road surfaces made of concrete or asphalt cover 30% of most cities and in high summer these surfaces can reach 60°C.

So, the Rutgers engineers report in the Journal of Cleaner Production,  roads could be made of permeable concrete, through which water could drain. It might give off more heat on sunny days, but after rainfall the water could run through, and evaporate through the pores, to reduce pavement heat by up to 30%.

And in addition, their concrete treated with fly ash and steel slag would make a huge difference to stormwater management and reduce the risk of urban flash floods. − Climate News Network

Higher temperatures must mean more energy just to cool cities – which means even more heat. But ingenuity is already proposing answers.

LONDON, 15 August, 2019 − The world could need a quarter more energy by 2050, to cool cities and survive the global heating expected by then. And that assumes that nations will have taken steps to control greenhouse gas emissions and that the rise in temperature will be moderate.

If, on the other hand, the world goes on burning fossil fuels under the notorious “business as usual” scenario, then according to new research the people of the planet could demand up to 58% more energy, just to drive the extra air conditioning and refrigeration in ever more frequent and ever more intense extremes of heat.

The latest study, by researchers based in Boston, Massachusetts and Venice in Italy, helps to settle one of the more intricate questions that accompany climate projections and energy demand: yes, there will be more people and bigger cities which demand more power anyway, and yes, warm zones will get hotter and demand more expense on keeping cool. But chilly and temperate nations will enjoy milder winters and spend less on staying warm. Which wins?

The new paper, in the journal Nature Communications, either settles the matter or provides fellow scientists with a methodology and a set of results to examine more closely.

Risky faster heating

A warmer world will also be vastly more energy-expensive. And if nations invest in coal, oil or natural gas to provide the extra electricity to provide the air-conditioning, drive the electric fans and refrigerate food and medical supplies, then global heating would accelerate to ever more dangerous levels.

“At this point, we don’t know. To cool my house, I could buy a bigger air-conditioner. Or if higher demand makes electricity more expensive, I could choose to open my window or run a fan,” said Ian Sue Wing, an earth and environment scientist at Boston University, who led the study.

“We could use coal or we could use renewable sources, and those two choices mean very different things for our future. With coal, it will mean more greenhouse gas emissions. That’s what keeps me up at night.”

By 2050, there could be between 8.4bn and 10bn people on the planet. Gross domestic product per person (an economist’s measure of income and spending) could have all but doubled or even in some places more than trebled. Tropical and mid-latitude zones could, if warming is only moderate, experience as many as an extra 50 uncomfortably hot days each year. If the warming is vigorous, the number could soar to 75.

“We could use coal or we could use renewable sources. With coal, it will mean more greenhouse gas emissions. That’s what keeps me up at night”

Researchers have warned, consistently and repeatedly, that even a modest rise in average planetary temperatures will take the form of longer and more intense heat waves. By 2100 three out of four people on the planet could be exposed to heat extremes, and those most at hazard will be living in the tropical and subtropical megacities.

Extremes of heat can kill – one group has already identified 27 ways in which to die of rising temperatures – and scientists began warning years ago that ever more needed investment in air-conditioning equipment would only make energy demand, and perhaps greenhouse gas emissions, worse, while also contributing to ever greater outdoor temperatures.

So researchers have been looking at other approaches. The puzzle has already tested the levels of ingenuity and fresh thinking in the world’s energy laboratories. Researchers have cheerfully proposed reflector roofs that could send 97% of the sunlight back into space.

They have explored nature’s answer to the unforgiving sun: more trees in cities could take temperatures down by as much as 5°C and even make cities wealthier and healthier. And already this month, scientists and engineers have suggested two new ways to address the challenge of the overheating cities.

One US team at the University of Buffalo, working with the King Abdullah University in Saudi Arabia, has devised an inexpensive polymer-aluminium film that keeps itself cool, packed in a specially designed solar shelter. The film absorbs heat from the air and converts it to thermal radiation that can be beamed back into space.

Deep cuts possible

The researchers report, in the journal Nature Sustainability, that in the laboratory temperatures could be lowered by up to 11°C. On a clear, sunny day in New York state, they achieved outdoor all-day temperature reductions of 2°C to 9°C.

This exercise in entirely passive cooling – no electricity, just rooftop boxes – is in its infancy. But there are other approaches to the “heat island effect” that already makes modern cities uncomfortable.

Researchers at the University of Rutgers in the US simply looked at the ground beneath their feet. Pavement and road surfaces made of concrete or asphalt cover 30% of most cities and in high summer these surfaces can reach 60°C.

So, the Rutgers engineers report in the Journal of Cleaner Production,  roads could be made of permeable concrete, through which water could drain. It might give off more heat on sunny days, but after rainfall the water could run through, and evaporate through the pores, to reduce pavement heat by up to 30%.

And in addition, their concrete treated with fly ash and steel slag would make a huge difference to stormwater management and reduce the risk of urban flash floods. − Climate News Network