Tag Archives: Human health

Extreme heat and cold kill five million every year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mediterranean at risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mediterranean at risk

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

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

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

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

Waste plastic deluge could soon prove irreversible

The waste plastic deluge fouling the world’s beaches could be more than just an eyesore. It could be a toxic timebomb.

LONDON, 8 July, 2021 − European researchers have warned that the wave of pollution engulfing the globe could be nearing a tipping point. The waste plastic deluge could become an irreversible crisis.

Somewhere between 9 and 23 million tonnes of polymers get into the rivers, lakes and seas of the world every year. Even more may be getting into the terrestrial soils and by 2025 − unless the world changes its ways − these levels of pollution will have doubled.

And, the researchers warn, the uncertain and as yet unknown effects of weathering on such volumes of plastic could bring what has been called “a global toxicity debt” as drinking bottles, bits of fishing gear, coffee cups and carrier bags become covered with microbial life; as plastic particles foul the sea’s surface, become suspended in the water column, and build up in the sediments of the ocean.

Plastic waste has now been found everywhere: on the world’s highest mountains, in the deepest oceanic trenches, on the beaches of desolate islands in the Southern Ocean, in the Arctic ice, and in the tissues of living creatures, from seabirds to whales.

Worsening climate crisis

“Right now we are loading up the environment with increasing amounts of poorly reversible plastic pollution. So far we don’t see widespread evidence of bad consequences but if weathering plastic triggers a really bad effect we are not likely to be able to reverse it,” said Matthew Macleod of Stockholm University in Sweden.

“The cost of ignoring the accumulation of persistent plastic pollution in the environment could be enormous. The rational thing to do is act as quickly as we can to reduce emissions of plastic into the environment.”

Professor Macleod and colleagues warn in the journal Science that alongside threats to wildlife, and the potential hazard of environmental poisoning, there could be a number of other hypothetical consequences.

Plastic pollutants could exacerbate climate change by disrupting the traffic of carbon between the natural world and the atmosphere, and they could heighten biodiversity loss in the already over-fished oceans.

Researchers do not yet know of the long-term non-toxicological effects of plastic pollution on carbon and nutrient cycles, soil and sediment fertility, and biodiversity. Nor has there been any assessment of the potential for delayed toxic effects as the plastic polymers are altered by weathering.

“The rational thing to do is act as quickly as we can to reduce emissions of plastic into the environment”

And if there are such effects, then they could persist, to trigger what the scientists call a “tipping point”, long after people have stopped discarding plastic waste into the environment.

“The world promotes technological solutions for recycling and to remove plastic from the environment. As consumers, we believe that when we properly separate our plastic trash, all of it will magically be recycled,” said Mine Tekman, of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, and a co-author.

“Technologically, recycling of plastic has many limitations, and countries that have good infrastructures have been exporting their plastic waste to countries with worse facilities. Reducing emissions requires drastic actions, like capping the production of virgin plastic to increase the value of recycled plastic, and banning the export of plastic waste unless it is to a country with better recycling.”

And her colleague Annika Jahnke of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany warned: “In remote environments, plastic debris cannot be removed by cleanups, and weathering of large plastic items will inevitably result in the generation of large numbers of micro- and nano-plastic particles as well as leaching of chemicals that were intentionally added to the plastic and other chemicals that break off the plastic polymer backbone.

“So, plastic in the environment is a constantly moving target of increasing complexity and mobility. Where it accumulates and what effects it may cause are challenging or maybe even impossible to predict.” − Climate News Network

The waste plastic deluge fouling the world’s beaches could be more than just an eyesore. It could be a toxic timebomb.

LONDON, 8 July, 2021 − European researchers have warned that the wave of pollution engulfing the globe could be nearing a tipping point. The waste plastic deluge could become an irreversible crisis.

Somewhere between 9 and 23 million tonnes of polymers get into the rivers, lakes and seas of the world every year. Even more may be getting into the terrestrial soils and by 2025 − unless the world changes its ways − these levels of pollution will have doubled.

And, the researchers warn, the uncertain and as yet unknown effects of weathering on such volumes of plastic could bring what has been called “a global toxicity debt” as drinking bottles, bits of fishing gear, coffee cups and carrier bags become covered with microbial life; as plastic particles foul the sea’s surface, become suspended in the water column, and build up in the sediments of the ocean.

Plastic waste has now been found everywhere: on the world’s highest mountains, in the deepest oceanic trenches, on the beaches of desolate islands in the Southern Ocean, in the Arctic ice, and in the tissues of living creatures, from seabirds to whales.

Worsening climate crisis

“Right now we are loading up the environment with increasing amounts of poorly reversible plastic pollution. So far we don’t see widespread evidence of bad consequences but if weathering plastic triggers a really bad effect we are not likely to be able to reverse it,” said Matthew Macleod of Stockholm University in Sweden.

“The cost of ignoring the accumulation of persistent plastic pollution in the environment could be enormous. The rational thing to do is act as quickly as we can to reduce emissions of plastic into the environment.”

Professor Macleod and colleagues warn in the journal Science that alongside threats to wildlife, and the potential hazard of environmental poisoning, there could be a number of other hypothetical consequences.

Plastic pollutants could exacerbate climate change by disrupting the traffic of carbon between the natural world and the atmosphere, and they could heighten biodiversity loss in the already over-fished oceans.

Researchers do not yet know of the long-term non-toxicological effects of plastic pollution on carbon and nutrient cycles, soil and sediment fertility, and biodiversity. Nor has there been any assessment of the potential for delayed toxic effects as the plastic polymers are altered by weathering.

“The rational thing to do is act as quickly as we can to reduce emissions of plastic into the environment”

And if there are such effects, then they could persist, to trigger what the scientists call a “tipping point”, long after people have stopped discarding plastic waste into the environment.

“The world promotes technological solutions for recycling and to remove plastic from the environment. As consumers, we believe that when we properly separate our plastic trash, all of it will magically be recycled,” said Mine Tekman, of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, and a co-author.

“Technologically, recycling of plastic has many limitations, and countries that have good infrastructures have been exporting their plastic waste to countries with worse facilities. Reducing emissions requires drastic actions, like capping the production of virgin plastic to increase the value of recycled plastic, and banning the export of plastic waste unless it is to a country with better recycling.”

And her colleague Annika Jahnke of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany warned: “In remote environments, plastic debris cannot be removed by cleanups, and weathering of large plastic items will inevitably result in the generation of large numbers of micro- and nano-plastic particles as well as leaching of chemicals that were intentionally added to the plastic and other chemicals that break off the plastic polymer backbone.

“So, plastic in the environment is a constantly moving target of increasing complexity and mobility. Where it accumulates and what effects it may cause are challenging or maybe even impossible to predict.” − Climate News Network

UK’s ‘really shocking’ climate record is damned

Britain, host of November’s UN talks, COP-26, is pilloried by its own advisers for the UK’s “really shocking” climate record.

LONDON, 17 June, 2021 − In a searing indictment of its failure to act fast enough to prepare for the onslaught of rising heat, there is condemnation of the British government by its independent advisers for the UK’s “really shocking” climate record.

The latest science says the world could warm by an average of 4°C over historic levels by 2100, an increase which would prove devastating to human life and the natural world.

The advisers’ assessment says the UK’s plans are inadequate to cope even with a 2°C temperature rise, a risky limit which exceeds the 1.5°C maximum most of the world’s nations agreed to aim for as the maximum tolerable rise in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The report is the work of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent statutory body set up to advise the UK government and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, on emissions targets, and to report to Parliament on progress made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

“Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored”

The CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, said CCC members were so frustrated with the lack of progress on climate-proofing the UK that they deliberately made this report “spiky”. He said: “It’s really troubling how little attention the government has paid to this.

“Overall, the level of risk that we are facing from climate change has increased since five years ago. Our preparations are not keeping pace with the risks that we face. That is a very concerning conclusion.”

Dr Stark told BBC News: “The extent of planning for many of the risks is really shocking. We are not thinking clearly about what lies ahead.”

The CCC’s assessment examines risks and opportunities affecting every aspect of life in the UK. It concludes that action to improve the nation’s resilience is failing to keep pace with the impacts of a hotter planet and the growing climate risks the UK faces.

Threat to net zero

The UK is already committed to a legally-binding goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the middle of the century. This  CCC assessment focuses, not on mitigation emissions cuts but on adaptation preparing to live with the inevitable. The government’s failure to act on adaptation is putting its net zero goal in jeopardy, the New Scientist reports.

Since the CCC’s last assessment five years ago, more than 570,000 new homes have been built in the UK that are not resilient to future high temperatures; since 2018 over 4,000 heat-related deaths have been recorded in England alone.

Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, said: “Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, still sitting in rags by the stove: under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored. A detailed, effective action plan that prepares the UK for climate change is now essential and needed urgently.”

UK-wide, nearly 60% of the risks and opportunities assessed in the 1500-page report have been given the highest urgency score. Among the priority risk areas identified by the CCC as needing immediate attention, within the next two years at the most, are:

  • Terrestrial and freshwater habitats and species from multiple hazards
  • Risks to soil health from increased flooding and drought
  • Risks to crops, livestock and commercial trees
  • Risks to supplies of food, goods and vital services from climate-related collapse of supply chains and distribution networks
  • Risks to people and the economy from climate-related failure of the power system
  • Risks to human health, wellbeing and productivity from increased exposure to heat in homes and other buildings
  • Multiple risks to the UK from climate change impacts overseas

The changing climate will create some opportunities for the UK, the CCC acknowledges, but these are massively outweighed by the risks.

It says the government must deliver a much better action plan to support good adaptation planning across the UK and integrate this into all relevant government plans and policies. The government has to date not heeded the CCC’s advice on the importance of this plan or on funding it adequately, and this needs to change, the Committee says.

In response, a government spokesman commented: “We welcome this report and will consider its recommendations closely as we continue to demonstrate global leadership on climate change ahead of COP-26 [the UN climate summit to be hosted by the UK] in November.” − Climate News Network

Britain, host of November’s UN talks, COP-26, is pilloried by its own advisers for the UK’s “really shocking” climate record.

LONDON, 17 June, 2021 − In a searing indictment of its failure to act fast enough to prepare for the onslaught of rising heat, there is condemnation of the British government by its independent advisers for the UK’s “really shocking” climate record.

The latest science says the world could warm by an average of 4°C over historic levels by 2100, an increase which would prove devastating to human life and the natural world.

The advisers’ assessment says the UK’s plans are inadequate to cope even with a 2°C temperature rise, a risky limit which exceeds the 1.5°C maximum most of the world’s nations agreed to aim for as the maximum tolerable rise in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The report is the work of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent statutory body set up to advise the UK government and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, on emissions targets, and to report to Parliament on progress made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

“Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored”

The CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, said CCC members were so frustrated with the lack of progress on climate-proofing the UK that they deliberately made this report “spiky”. He said: “It’s really troubling how little attention the government has paid to this.

“Overall, the level of risk that we are facing from climate change has increased since five years ago. Our preparations are not keeping pace with the risks that we face. That is a very concerning conclusion.”

Dr Stark told BBC News: “The extent of planning for many of the risks is really shocking. We are not thinking clearly about what lies ahead.”

The CCC’s assessment examines risks and opportunities affecting every aspect of life in the UK. It concludes that action to improve the nation’s resilience is failing to keep pace with the impacts of a hotter planet and the growing climate risks the UK faces.

Threat to net zero

The UK is already committed to a legally-binding goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the middle of the century. This  CCC assessment focuses, not on mitigation emissions cuts but on adaptation preparing to live with the inevitable. The government’s failure to act on adaptation is putting its net zero goal in jeopardy, the New Scientist reports.

Since the CCC’s last assessment five years ago, more than 570,000 new homes have been built in the UK that are not resilient to future high temperatures; since 2018 over 4,000 heat-related deaths have been recorded in England alone.

Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, said: “Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, still sitting in rags by the stove: under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored. A detailed, effective action plan that prepares the UK for climate change is now essential and needed urgently.”

UK-wide, nearly 60% of the risks and opportunities assessed in the 1500-page report have been given the highest urgency score. Among the priority risk areas identified by the CCC as needing immediate attention, within the next two years at the most, are:

  • Terrestrial and freshwater habitats and species from multiple hazards
  • Risks to soil health from increased flooding and drought
  • Risks to crops, livestock and commercial trees
  • Risks to supplies of food, goods and vital services from climate-related collapse of supply chains and distribution networks
  • Risks to people and the economy from climate-related failure of the power system
  • Risks to human health, wellbeing and productivity from increased exposure to heat in homes and other buildings
  • Multiple risks to the UK from climate change impacts overseas

The changing climate will create some opportunities for the UK, the CCC acknowledges, but these are massively outweighed by the risks.

It says the government must deliver a much better action plan to support good adaptation planning across the UK and integrate this into all relevant government plans and policies. The government has to date not heeded the CCC’s advice on the importance of this plan or on funding it adequately, and this needs to change, the Committee says.

In response, a government spokesman commented: “We welcome this report and will consider its recommendations closely as we continue to demonstrate global leadership on climate change ahead of COP-26 [the UN climate summit to be hosted by the UK] in November.” − Climate News Network

Maggot burgers can help to solve world hunger

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

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

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

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

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

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

Millions at risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Millions at risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fish supplies face rising threat from algal blooms

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate heating implicated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate heating implicated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global heating causes 1 in 3 heat-related deaths

In a heatwave, global warming driven by fossil fuels becomes an act of self-harm. It causes 1 in 3 heat-related deaths.

LONDON, 1 June, 2021 − As temperatures rise, so do the numbers of people dying from heat stroke and other temperature-related health conditions. And now statisticians can separate the extra hazard delivered by global heating: 1 in 3 heat-related deaths now occurs because of the profligate use of fossil fuels for the last century.

The additional stress of heat caused entirely by human action now claims 172 lives in Rome every year; 189 in Athens, 177 in Madrid and even 82 Londoners. Across the Atlantic, the extra greenhouse gas kills 141 New Yorkers annually and 136 in Santiago, Chile. In Bangkok, 146 perish because of anthropogenic heat stress; in Tokyo, 156, in Ho Chi Minh City, 137.

Extreme heat kills: it can do so in at least 27 different ways. Extremes of heat are a summer hazard even in temperate climate zones. Annual averages might suggest pleasantly warm conditions, but that’s not a reliable guide: summers have always arrived with the risk of sometimes murderous heat.

But all the evidence from past decades suggests that global average temperatures have risen by at least one degree Celsius in the last hundred years. And with that rise in temperature, so has the risk of more prolonged, more intense and more frequent extremes of heat risen too.

“We expect the proportion of heat-related deaths to continue to grow if we don’t do something about climate change”

An international consortium of 68 researchers reports in the journal Nature Climate Change that daily temperature readings and mortality tables from 732 centres in 43 countries revealed what rising levels of mercury driven by human activity so far could do for mortality and morbidity associated with heat.

The findings are likely to be conservative: some tropical regions with the highest risk of extreme heat and very high rates of population growth were excluded because the daily death figures were not available.

Not surprisingly, the proportion of death from heat extremes attributable to climate change varied: from 20% to more than 75%, delivering an average of 37%, or one death in three. And these extra deaths occurred between 1991 and 2018. That is, climate change is silently claiming lives already.

The study is not the first to try to quantify the extra cost of global heating driven by fossil fuel use. Extreme events happen anyway: climate change tends to make them more extreme, and in May researchers tried to estimate the extra lives lost and the additional homes flooded during one terrible storm made even more terrible by human-triggered sea level rise.

Worse to come

There is now a huge body of evidence to suggest that more frequent and more devastating extremes of heat are on the way.

“We expect the proportion of heat-related deaths to continue to grow if we don’t do something about climate change or adapt,” said Ana M. Vicedo-Cabrera of the University of Bern in Switzerland, the first author.

“So far the global average temperature has only increased by about 1°C, which is a fraction of what we could face if emissions continue to grow unchecked.”

And her co-author Antonio Gasparrini of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine added: “The message is clear: climate change will not just have devastating impacts in the future, but every continent is already experiencing the dire consequences of human activities on the planet. We must act now.” − Climate News Network

In a heatwave, global warming driven by fossil fuels becomes an act of self-harm. It causes 1 in 3 heat-related deaths.

LONDON, 1 June, 2021 − As temperatures rise, so do the numbers of people dying from heat stroke and other temperature-related health conditions. And now statisticians can separate the extra hazard delivered by global heating: 1 in 3 heat-related deaths now occurs because of the profligate use of fossil fuels for the last century.

The additional stress of heat caused entirely by human action now claims 172 lives in Rome every year; 189 in Athens, 177 in Madrid and even 82 Londoners. Across the Atlantic, the extra greenhouse gas kills 141 New Yorkers annually and 136 in Santiago, Chile. In Bangkok, 146 perish because of anthropogenic heat stress; in Tokyo, 156, in Ho Chi Minh City, 137.

Extreme heat kills: it can do so in at least 27 different ways. Extremes of heat are a summer hazard even in temperate climate zones. Annual averages might suggest pleasantly warm conditions, but that’s not a reliable guide: summers have always arrived with the risk of sometimes murderous heat.

But all the evidence from past decades suggests that global average temperatures have risen by at least one degree Celsius in the last hundred years. And with that rise in temperature, so has the risk of more prolonged, more intense and more frequent extremes of heat risen too.

“We expect the proportion of heat-related deaths to continue to grow if we don’t do something about climate change”

An international consortium of 68 researchers reports in the journal Nature Climate Change that daily temperature readings and mortality tables from 732 centres in 43 countries revealed what rising levels of mercury driven by human activity so far could do for mortality and morbidity associated with heat.

The findings are likely to be conservative: some tropical regions with the highest risk of extreme heat and very high rates of population growth were excluded because the daily death figures were not available.

Not surprisingly, the proportion of death from heat extremes attributable to climate change varied: from 20% to more than 75%, delivering an average of 37%, or one death in three. And these extra deaths occurred between 1991 and 2018. That is, climate change is silently claiming lives already.

The study is not the first to try to quantify the extra cost of global heating driven by fossil fuel use. Extreme events happen anyway: climate change tends to make them more extreme, and in May researchers tried to estimate the extra lives lost and the additional homes flooded during one terrible storm made even more terrible by human-triggered sea level rise.

Worse to come

There is now a huge body of evidence to suggest that more frequent and more devastating extremes of heat are on the way.

“We expect the proportion of heat-related deaths to continue to grow if we don’t do something about climate change or adapt,” said Ana M. Vicedo-Cabrera of the University of Bern in Switzerland, the first author.

“So far the global average temperature has only increased by about 1°C, which is a fraction of what we could face if emissions continue to grow unchecked.”

And her co-author Antonio Gasparrini of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine added: “The message is clear: climate change will not just have devastating impacts in the future, but every continent is already experiencing the dire consequences of human activities on the planet. We must act now.” − Climate News Network

There will be no silver bullet for climate change

There is no silver bullet for climate change, no one answer. To save civilisation, nations must co-operate on five fronts.

LONDON, 20 May, 2021 − The world could meet a global commitment made six years ago to limit climate heating to no more than 1.5°C by the century’s end − but only by taking urgent and challenging action on five separate fronts, by doing so at speed, and ceasing to dream of a silver bullet for climate change.

In 2015, the world’s nations met in Paris and agreed to try to contain the inexorable rise in planetary temperatures by the century’s end, to “well below” 2°C above the historic average before the emergence of coal, oil and gas as fuel to power population growth, technological advance and the global economy.

But by 2021, the planet was already 1.2°C warmer than the historic levels, and research has repeatedly confirmed that so far all the commitments made at Paris will leave the world 3°C or more warmer. And this extra degree or more Celsius could have catastrophic consequences.

These include devastating sea level rise, murderous levels of heat extremes for 500 million people or more, and premature loss of life on huge scales, along with loss of health for even greater numbers.

Now an international team of distinguished climate scientists reports in the journal Environmental Research Letters that its members looked in detail at the action necessary to keep the promises made in Paris.

“We need a sustainability revolution to rival the industrial revolution”

And they have bleak news for the advocates of gradual change: there is no silver bullet, no engineering solution, no single answer that can address the challenge.

The researchers combed through 414 scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions, and found only 50 that had a chance of restraining temperature rise to 1.5°C in the next eight decades. They also looked at five different kinds of global action that could reduce atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, to find that no single one of them meets the Paris target.

So the world will have to drastically reduce fossil fuel use to almost zero. It will have to restore and protect the natural wilderness − forests, wetlands, grasslands, mangrove forests and so on. Researchers will have to find how to draw down carbon from the atmosphere in ever-greater quantities and then identify ways of storing it for aeons.

Humankind will have to switch to a sustainable plant-based diet on international scales to help reduce emissions of  methane, nitrous oxide and other potent greenhouse gases. Industry, too, will have look for new efficiencies.

Daunting prospect

The switch away from carbon-based fuels is by far the most urgent step to be taken. “Yet we can’t do away with the other strategies,” said Lila Warszawski of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who led the study.

“Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and for instance storing it underground also proves to be almost indispensable. Land use must become a net carbon sink, for instance by re-wetting peatlands or afforestation. Finally, emissions of the powerful gas methane must be cut from animal production, but also from leaks in oil and gas extraction. This is quite a list.”

And Tim Lenton, of the University of Exeter in the UK, reinforced the message. “This calls for an immediate acceleration of worldwide action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by all available means,” he said.

“We need a sustainability revolution to rival the industrial revolution. Otherwise those most vulnerable to climate change are going to bear the brunt of missing the 1.5°C target. This is a system-wide challenge − piecemeal actions and rhetorical commitments are not going to be enough.” − Climate News Network

There is no silver bullet for climate change, no one answer. To save civilisation, nations must co-operate on five fronts.

LONDON, 20 May, 2021 − The world could meet a global commitment made six years ago to limit climate heating to no more than 1.5°C by the century’s end − but only by taking urgent and challenging action on five separate fronts, by doing so at speed, and ceasing to dream of a silver bullet for climate change.

In 2015, the world’s nations met in Paris and agreed to try to contain the inexorable rise in planetary temperatures by the century’s end, to “well below” 2°C above the historic average before the emergence of coal, oil and gas as fuel to power population growth, technological advance and the global economy.

But by 2021, the planet was already 1.2°C warmer than the historic levels, and research has repeatedly confirmed that so far all the commitments made at Paris will leave the world 3°C or more warmer. And this extra degree or more Celsius could have catastrophic consequences.

These include devastating sea level rise, murderous levels of heat extremes for 500 million people or more, and premature loss of life on huge scales, along with loss of health for even greater numbers.

Now an international team of distinguished climate scientists reports in the journal Environmental Research Letters that its members looked in detail at the action necessary to keep the promises made in Paris.

“We need a sustainability revolution to rival the industrial revolution”

And they have bleak news for the advocates of gradual change: there is no silver bullet, no engineering solution, no single answer that can address the challenge.

The researchers combed through 414 scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions, and found only 50 that had a chance of restraining temperature rise to 1.5°C in the next eight decades. They also looked at five different kinds of global action that could reduce atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, to find that no single one of them meets the Paris target.

So the world will have to drastically reduce fossil fuel use to almost zero. It will have to restore and protect the natural wilderness − forests, wetlands, grasslands, mangrove forests and so on. Researchers will have to find how to draw down carbon from the atmosphere in ever-greater quantities and then identify ways of storing it for aeons.

Humankind will have to switch to a sustainable plant-based diet on international scales to help reduce emissions of  methane, nitrous oxide and other potent greenhouse gases. Industry, too, will have look for new efficiencies.

Daunting prospect

The switch away from carbon-based fuels is by far the most urgent step to be taken. “Yet we can’t do away with the other strategies,” said Lila Warszawski of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who led the study.

“Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and for instance storing it underground also proves to be almost indispensable. Land use must become a net carbon sink, for instance by re-wetting peatlands or afforestation. Finally, emissions of the powerful gas methane must be cut from animal production, but also from leaks in oil and gas extraction. This is quite a list.”

And Tim Lenton, of the University of Exeter in the UK, reinforced the message. “This calls for an immediate acceleration of worldwide action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by all available means,” he said.

“We need a sustainability revolution to rival the industrial revolution. Otherwise those most vulnerable to climate change are going to bear the brunt of missing the 1.5°C target. This is a system-wide challenge − piecemeal actions and rhetorical commitments are not going to be enough.” − Climate News Network

Falling harvests could soon follow growing deserts

A hotter world will mean more deserts and falling harvests − bad news for food producers and for all of us.

LONDON, 18 May, 2021 − By the end of the century falling harvests could jeopardise as much as a third of present levels if greenhouse gas emissions continue uncontrolled.

That is because climatic regions that right now and for most of human history have been home to reliable crops of grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables, and safe grazing for cattle, sheep, goats and so on, could become too hot, too dry, or too wet.

And these things could happen too quickly for farmers either to adapt, or crops to evolve. Land that had for generations been considered “safe climatic space” for food production could be shifted into new regimes by runaway global heating, according to a new study in the journal One Earth.

“Our research shows that rapid, out-of-control growth of greenhouse emissions may, by the end of the century, lead to more than a third of current global food production falling into conditions in which no food is produced today − that is, out of safe climatic space,” said Matti Kummu, of Aalto University in Finland.

“The good news is that only a fraction of food production would face as-of-yet unseen conditions if we collectively reduce emissions, so that warming would be limited to 1.5° to 2°Celsius.”

Very big If

In 2015, almost all the world’s nations met in Paris and agreed to act to contain global heating to “well below” 2°C above the average for most of human history by 2100.

Six years on, that promise now looks increasingly ambitious: despite declarations of good intent, the planet is heading for a temperature rise of 3°C or more by 2100. The Paris target of 1.5°C could be surpassed in the next two decades.

The One Earth study is yet another in a chain of findings that confirm that much of the worst possible consequences of global heating could be contained if − and only if − there is concerted and determined global co-operation to abandon fossil fuel use and to restore natural ecosystems.

Professor Kummu and his colleagues report that they examined ways of considering the complex problem of climate and food. Geographers have identified 38 zones marked by varying conditions of rainfall, temperature, frost, groundwater and other factors important in growing food or rearing livestock.

The researchers devised a standard of what they called “safe climatic space” and then considered the likely change in conditions for 27 plant crops and seven kinds of livestock by the years 2081to 2100, under two scenarios. In one of these, the world kept its promise and controlled warming to the Paris targets. In the other, it did not.

“The increase in desert areas is especially troubling because in these conditions barely anything can grow without irrigation”

And they found − an increasingly common finding − that climate change is likely to hit the poorest nations hardest: that is, those people who have contributed the least to global heating could once again become its first casualties.

Under the more ominous scenario, the areas of northern or boreal forests of Russia and North America would shrink, while the tropical dry forest zone would grow, along with the tropical and temperate desert zones. The Arctic tundra could all but disappear.

The areas hardest hit would be the Sahel in North Africa, and the Middle East, along with some of south and south-east Asia. Already-poor states such as Benin, Ghana and Guinea-Bissau in West Africa, Cambodia in Asia and Guyana and Suriname in South America would be worst hit if warming is not contained: up to 95% of food production would lose its “safe climatic space.”

In 52 of the 177 countries under study − and that includes Finland and most of Europe − food production would continue. Altogether 31% of crops and 34% of livestock could be affected worldwide. And one fifth of the world’s crop production and 18% of its livestock would be most under threat in those nations with the lowest resilience and fewest resources to absorb such shock.

“If we let emissions grow, the increase in desert areas is especially troubling because in these conditions barely anything can grow without irrigation,” said Professor Kummu. “By the end of this century, we could see more than 4 million square kilometres [1.5m sq miles] of new desert around the globe.” − Climate News Network

A hotter world will mean more deserts and falling harvests − bad news for food producers and for all of us.

LONDON, 18 May, 2021 − By the end of the century falling harvests could jeopardise as much as a third of present levels if greenhouse gas emissions continue uncontrolled.

That is because climatic regions that right now and for most of human history have been home to reliable crops of grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables, and safe grazing for cattle, sheep, goats and so on, could become too hot, too dry, or too wet.

And these things could happen too quickly for farmers either to adapt, or crops to evolve. Land that had for generations been considered “safe climatic space” for food production could be shifted into new regimes by runaway global heating, according to a new study in the journal One Earth.

“Our research shows that rapid, out-of-control growth of greenhouse emissions may, by the end of the century, lead to more than a third of current global food production falling into conditions in which no food is produced today − that is, out of safe climatic space,” said Matti Kummu, of Aalto University in Finland.

“The good news is that only a fraction of food production would face as-of-yet unseen conditions if we collectively reduce emissions, so that warming would be limited to 1.5° to 2°Celsius.”

Very big If

In 2015, almost all the world’s nations met in Paris and agreed to act to contain global heating to “well below” 2°C above the average for most of human history by 2100.

Six years on, that promise now looks increasingly ambitious: despite declarations of good intent, the planet is heading for a temperature rise of 3°C or more by 2100. The Paris target of 1.5°C could be surpassed in the next two decades.

The One Earth study is yet another in a chain of findings that confirm that much of the worst possible consequences of global heating could be contained if − and only if − there is concerted and determined global co-operation to abandon fossil fuel use and to restore natural ecosystems.

Professor Kummu and his colleagues report that they examined ways of considering the complex problem of climate and food. Geographers have identified 38 zones marked by varying conditions of rainfall, temperature, frost, groundwater and other factors important in growing food or rearing livestock.

The researchers devised a standard of what they called “safe climatic space” and then considered the likely change in conditions for 27 plant crops and seven kinds of livestock by the years 2081to 2100, under two scenarios. In one of these, the world kept its promise and controlled warming to the Paris targets. In the other, it did not.

“The increase in desert areas is especially troubling because in these conditions barely anything can grow without irrigation”

And they found − an increasingly common finding − that climate change is likely to hit the poorest nations hardest: that is, those people who have contributed the least to global heating could once again become its first casualties.

Under the more ominous scenario, the areas of northern or boreal forests of Russia and North America would shrink, while the tropical dry forest zone would grow, along with the tropical and temperate desert zones. The Arctic tundra could all but disappear.

The areas hardest hit would be the Sahel in North Africa, and the Middle East, along with some of south and south-east Asia. Already-poor states such as Benin, Ghana and Guinea-Bissau in West Africa, Cambodia in Asia and Guyana and Suriname in South America would be worst hit if warming is not contained: up to 95% of food production would lose its “safe climatic space.”

In 52 of the 177 countries under study − and that includes Finland and most of Europe − food production would continue. Altogether 31% of crops and 34% of livestock could be affected worldwide. And one fifth of the world’s crop production and 18% of its livestock would be most under threat in those nations with the lowest resilience and fewest resources to absorb such shock.

“If we let emissions grow, the increase in desert areas is especially troubling because in these conditions barely anything can grow without irrigation,” said Professor Kummu. “By the end of this century, we could see more than 4 million square kilometres [1.5m sq miles] of new desert around the globe.” − Climate News Network

Asia’s cities are worst hit in warming world

Climate change, water shortage and pollution are worst for Asia’s cities, researchers say. The rest of us have a lucky escape.

LONDON, 17 May, 2021 – It’s bad news for residents of Jakarta. People living in Delhi, Chennai or Wuhan do not fare much better. A new study has found that a wide range of environmental and climate change threats are worst for Asia’s cities, with the rest of the planet getting off more lightly.

The study, by the analysis and forecasting group Verisk Maplecroft, looks primarily at the risks posed to businesses operating and investing in various urban centres.

Based on such factors as pollution, a lack of water, extreme heat and general vulnerability to climate change, 99 of the 100 most risk-prone cities in the world are in Asia, with the Indonesian capital Jakarta topping the list and cities in India close behind.

Jakarta, with a population of more than 10.5 million people, is sinking. Like many coastal cities round the world, it is vulnerable to sea level rise.
Built on what was once a swamp, the city has serious water supply problems as well, and the air is severely polluted.

“The reality for most cities is of widespread productivity losses, skyrocketing cooling costs, and a grim toll of heat-related disease”

Little can be done: the Indonesian government plans to shut up shop and move the capital to East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.

Air and water pollution are particularly acute problems in India’s cities. In its risk index, the study ranks Delhi, Chennai, Agra and Kanpur in the top ten of the world’s cities most at risk of environmental disaster and climate change.

Several cities in China, along with Manila in the Philippines, Bangkok in Thailand and Karachi in Pakistan score badly. Nor are cities outside Asia immune from the growing environmental and climate crisis.

“Londoners might envisage warm days in the park and an Italian café culture, but the reality for most cities is of widespread productivity losses, skyrocketing cooling costs, and a grim toll of heat-related disease”, says the study.

Clean Cairo?

The business sector has to be aware of what’s happening and assess the risks of locating and investing in various urban centres. “How well global organisations manage the escalating environmental and climate crisis is now one of the most critical factors determining their long-term resilience”, says Verisk Maplecroft.

Legal issues have to be considered. “As the pace picks up on carbon regulations, legal liabilities related to climate are also becoming more mainstream”, the study says.

Cities in Canada and New Zealand generally perform well on the Verisk Maplecroft index. Many European cities also achieve a good rating.

Istanbul in Turkey and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia perform badly while, perhaps surprisingly, the Egyptian capital Cairo – a city of nearly 10 million – performs better, mainly due to its cleaner air and greater access to water supplies.

Northern attraction

Elsewhere In Africa, the teeming metropolises of Lagos in Nigeria and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo have a low rating. In South America, the desert city of Lima, the Peruvian capital, is facing severe water shortages and other environmental problems.

There is more and more evidence that fish and many other creatures are moving north as ocean and land temperatures rise. Plant life is also trying to adjust to global warming.

One of the overall messages of the study seems to be that, however grim the problems of Asia’s cities, when it comes to looking for cities to live in, we humans should also be moving northwards.

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, scores well on the study’s index. Vancouver and Ottawa in Canada would not be a bad bet. Krasnoyarsk in Siberia looks OK.

And there’s good news for those heading for Glasgow for the big COP-26 climate conference later this year. The Scottish city – not renowned for warm, moisture-free days – is among those in the world least exposed to the dangers of climate change, says the study. – Climate News Network

Climate change, water shortage and pollution are worst for Asia’s cities, researchers say. The rest of us have a lucky escape.

LONDON, 17 May, 2021 – It’s bad news for residents of Jakarta. People living in Delhi, Chennai or Wuhan do not fare much better. A new study has found that a wide range of environmental and climate change threats are worst for Asia’s cities, with the rest of the planet getting off more lightly.

The study, by the analysis and forecasting group Verisk Maplecroft, looks primarily at the risks posed to businesses operating and investing in various urban centres.

Based on such factors as pollution, a lack of water, extreme heat and general vulnerability to climate change, 99 of the 100 most risk-prone cities in the world are in Asia, with the Indonesian capital Jakarta topping the list and cities in India close behind.

Jakarta, with a population of more than 10.5 million people, is sinking. Like many coastal cities round the world, it is vulnerable to sea level rise.
Built on what was once a swamp, the city has serious water supply problems as well, and the air is severely polluted.

“The reality for most cities is of widespread productivity losses, skyrocketing cooling costs, and a grim toll of heat-related disease”

Little can be done: the Indonesian government plans to shut up shop and move the capital to East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.

Air and water pollution are particularly acute problems in India’s cities. In its risk index, the study ranks Delhi, Chennai, Agra and Kanpur in the top ten of the world’s cities most at risk of environmental disaster and climate change.

Several cities in China, along with Manila in the Philippines, Bangkok in Thailand and Karachi in Pakistan score badly. Nor are cities outside Asia immune from the growing environmental and climate crisis.

“Londoners might envisage warm days in the park and an Italian café culture, but the reality for most cities is of widespread productivity losses, skyrocketing cooling costs, and a grim toll of heat-related disease”, says the study.

Clean Cairo?

The business sector has to be aware of what’s happening and assess the risks of locating and investing in various urban centres. “How well global organisations manage the escalating environmental and climate crisis is now one of the most critical factors determining their long-term resilience”, says Verisk Maplecroft.

Legal issues have to be considered. “As the pace picks up on carbon regulations, legal liabilities related to climate are also becoming more mainstream”, the study says.

Cities in Canada and New Zealand generally perform well on the Verisk Maplecroft index. Many European cities also achieve a good rating.

Istanbul in Turkey and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia perform badly while, perhaps surprisingly, the Egyptian capital Cairo – a city of nearly 10 million – performs better, mainly due to its cleaner air and greater access to water supplies.

Northern attraction

Elsewhere In Africa, the teeming metropolises of Lagos in Nigeria and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo have a low rating. In South America, the desert city of Lima, the Peruvian capital, is facing severe water shortages and other environmental problems.

There is more and more evidence that fish and many other creatures are moving north as ocean and land temperatures rise. Plant life is also trying to adjust to global warming.

One of the overall messages of the study seems to be that, however grim the problems of Asia’s cities, when it comes to looking for cities to live in, we humans should also be moving northwards.

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, scores well on the study’s index. Vancouver and Ottawa in Canada would not be a bad bet. Krasnoyarsk in Siberia looks OK.

And there’s good news for those heading for Glasgow for the big COP-26 climate conference later this year. The Scottish city – not renowned for warm, moisture-free days – is among those in the world least exposed to the dangers of climate change, says the study. – Climate News Network