Tag Archives: Temperature rise

Global health journals warn on climate and nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No to austerity

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No to austerity

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * *

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

More people face greater risk from extreme heat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olympics ruled out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olympics ruled out

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

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

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

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

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

Hotter water leaves smaller and less mobile fish

The catch with warming oceans is that there’ll be less of a catch. Smaller and less mobile fish will leave less to eat.

LONDON, 18 August, 2021 − Climate change could be about to get the world’s tastiest fish into hot water. The double jeopardy of global heating and overfishing could already be resulting in smaller and less mobile fish, turning sardines and herring, anchovies and pilchards into ever-smaller servings.

It has happened before: a new study of the evolution of fish species over the past 150 million years has found clear evidence of the ups and downs of time: as the ocean temperatures rise, fish tend to get smaller and travel less.

“Warming waters are a double whammy for fish, as they not only cause them to evolve to a smaller size, but also reduce their ability to move to more suitable environments,” said Chris Venditti, of the University of Reading, UK.

“Our research supports the theory that fish will get smaller as oceans warm under climate change, but reveals the worrying news that they will also not be able to evolve to cope as efficiently as first thought.

“This has serious implications for all fish and our food security”

“With sea temperatures rising faster than ever, fish will very quickly get left behind in evolutionary terms and struggle to survive.”

Professor Venditti and colleagues in Chile and Peru report in the journal Nature Climate Change that they applied subtle statistical techniques to evidence of fish evolution amassed in an international database called The Fish Tree of Life to learn about the link between temperature and size in one seafaring order, the Clupeiforms.

This group embraces both Atlantic and Pacific herring, the Japanese and South American pilchard, the anchovy and so on. But what is true for one order is likely to be true for almost all fish: warmer oceans mean more stress.

And stress is on the way. Over the last 150 million years, fish have had to adjust to changing temperatures, but only at rates of around 0.8°C per thousand years. Since 1981, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the seas have been warming at 0.18°C per decade.

Evolution at risk

So the finding supports what biologists already know: that animals confronted with higher temperatures tend to evolve to smaller sizes.

It’s not as if fish were not already feeling the heat. As waters warm, their capacity for dissolved oxygen dwindles. Spawning becomes more problematic. Migration becomes more urgent, but for smaller creatures with lower energy reserves also more difficult.

In the world’s traditional fishing grounds, overall catch sizes are shrinking: so too are the sizes of individual fish. And, the latest research suggests, warming waters could limit the capacity to evolve to new species that can adapt to changing conditions.

“This has serious implications for all fish and our food security,” Professor Venditti said, “as many of the species we eat could become increasingly scarce or even non-existent in decades to come.” − Climate News Network

The catch with warming oceans is that there’ll be less of a catch. Smaller and less mobile fish will leave less to eat.

LONDON, 18 August, 2021 − Climate change could be about to get the world’s tastiest fish into hot water. The double jeopardy of global heating and overfishing could already be resulting in smaller and less mobile fish, turning sardines and herring, anchovies and pilchards into ever-smaller servings.

It has happened before: a new study of the evolution of fish species over the past 150 million years has found clear evidence of the ups and downs of time: as the ocean temperatures rise, fish tend to get smaller and travel less.

“Warming waters are a double whammy for fish, as they not only cause them to evolve to a smaller size, but also reduce their ability to move to more suitable environments,” said Chris Venditti, of the University of Reading, UK.

“Our research supports the theory that fish will get smaller as oceans warm under climate change, but reveals the worrying news that they will also not be able to evolve to cope as efficiently as first thought.

“This has serious implications for all fish and our food security”

“With sea temperatures rising faster than ever, fish will very quickly get left behind in evolutionary terms and struggle to survive.”

Professor Venditti and colleagues in Chile and Peru report in the journal Nature Climate Change that they applied subtle statistical techniques to evidence of fish evolution amassed in an international database called The Fish Tree of Life to learn about the link between temperature and size in one seafaring order, the Clupeiforms.

This group embraces both Atlantic and Pacific herring, the Japanese and South American pilchard, the anchovy and so on. But what is true for one order is likely to be true for almost all fish: warmer oceans mean more stress.

And stress is on the way. Over the last 150 million years, fish have had to adjust to changing temperatures, but only at rates of around 0.8°C per thousand years. Since 1981, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the seas have been warming at 0.18°C per decade.

Evolution at risk

So the finding supports what biologists already know: that animals confronted with higher temperatures tend to evolve to smaller sizes.

It’s not as if fish were not already feeling the heat. As waters warm, their capacity for dissolved oxygen dwindles. Spawning becomes more problematic. Migration becomes more urgent, but for smaller creatures with lower energy reserves also more difficult.

In the world’s traditional fishing grounds, overall catch sizes are shrinking: so too are the sizes of individual fish. And, the latest research suggests, warming waters could limit the capacity to evolve to new species that can adapt to changing conditions.

“This has serious implications for all fish and our food security,” Professor Venditti said, “as many of the species we eat could become increasingly scarce or even non-existent in decades to come.” − Climate News Network

Ailing Earth can’t cope as human demands soar

Climate physicians who have re-checked global heating say the Earth’s condition is critical, worsening as human demands soar.

LONDON, 4 August, 2021 − Just 20 months after warning the world that climate change threatens “untold suffering” for millions, a team of scientists has checked the data and issued an even more urgent warning: all the evidence is that the climate emergency will get worse as human demands soar.

In 2019, more than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries examined what they called the planet’s “vital signs” and warned that, without action, disaster threatened.

Since then, another 2,800 researchers have signed their declaration and authorities in 34 nations have declared or recognised a climate emergency. And since then, 11 of those signatories have identified an “unprecedented surge in climate-related disasters”.

Among these have been devastating floods in South America and south-east Asia, record-shattering heat waves and wildfires in Australia and the western United States, an extraordinary Atlantic hurricane season, and devastating cyclones in Africa, South Asia and the western Pacific.

“Policies to combat the climate crisis should address the root cause: human over-exploitation of the planet”

“There is also mounting evidence that we are nearing or have already crossed tipping points associated with critical parts of the Earth system, including the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, warm-water coral reefs, and the Amazon rainforest,” they warn in the journal Bioscience.

The year 2020 was the second hottest in history. The five hottest years on record have all happened since 2015. Three greenhouse gases − carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide − set records for atmospheric concentration in 2020 and again in 2021: in April of this year carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a ratio of 416 parts per million. This is the highest monthly global average ever recorded. Governments need to act urgently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We also need to stop treating the climate emergency as a stand-alone issue − global heating is not the sole symptom of our stressed Earth system”, said William Ripple, an ecologist at Oregon State University in the US, who led the 2019 initiative and the latest study.

“Policies to combat the climate crisis or any other symptoms should address their root cause: human over-exploitation of the planet.”

Growing urgency

The researchers tracked 31 variable measures to find new record highs and lows in 18 of them. These included:

  • Forest loss rates in the Brazilian Amazon. These have increased in the last two years, reaching a 12-year high in 2020 with the loss of 1.11 million hectares of tree cover.
  • The global count of ruminant livestock. This has now gone past 4 billion: on the scales, the mass of sheep, cattle and so on would outweigh all humans and all wild mammals combined.
  • Global gross domestic product: this dropped by 3.6% in 2020, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is heading again to an all-time high.
  • Fossil fuel energy consumption fell during the pandemic months, along with carbon dioxide emissions: on present signs, these will rise and go on rising.
  • Solar and wind power consumption rose by 57% between 2018 and 2021 but is still 19 times lower than fossil fuel consumption.
  • Greenland and Antarctica: these went on losing record quantities of ice, while Arctic sea ice continues to fall to near all-time low levels each summer.
  • Glaciers are now losing 31% more snow and ice per year than they did 15 years ago.
  • The oceans: these continued to become ever more acid. Combined with higher sea temperatures, this threatens coral reefs upon which more than 500 million people depend for fisheries, tourism and storm surge protection.

The Bioscence study is only the latest in a series of increasingly urgent warnings from scientists, and from groups of scientists, who have looked at climate trends, the degradation of the planet’s ecosystems and the transformation of the Earth’s surface by human numbers and human demand.

Priority for basics

Separate studies have examined the so-called “tipping points” that could precipitate catastrophic climate change; have assessed the likelihood of an irreversible trend towards a “hothouse” Earth; and have identified a “ghastly” future for humanity in a world of ever-greater heat extremes, more violent storms and ever-rising sea levels.

And these too have all called for concerted international action to contain demand, alter economies and share resources more fairly. The latest study warns that the analysis reflects “the consequences of unrelenting business as usual”, and calls for profound changes in human behaviour, including a switch away from fossil fuels and the protection of the planet’s biodiversity − and of the wildernesses that absorb atmospheric carbon.

“All climate actions should focus on social justice by reducing inequality and prioritising basic human needs,” Professor Ripple said. “And climate change education should be included in school core curriculums around the world − that would result in greater awareness of the climate emergency and empower learners to take action.” − Climate News Network

Climate physicians who have re-checked global heating say the Earth’s condition is critical, worsening as human demands soar.

LONDON, 4 August, 2021 − Just 20 months after warning the world that climate change threatens “untold suffering” for millions, a team of scientists has checked the data and issued an even more urgent warning: all the evidence is that the climate emergency will get worse as human demands soar.

In 2019, more than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries examined what they called the planet’s “vital signs” and warned that, without action, disaster threatened.

Since then, another 2,800 researchers have signed their declaration and authorities in 34 nations have declared or recognised a climate emergency. And since then, 11 of those signatories have identified an “unprecedented surge in climate-related disasters”.

Among these have been devastating floods in South America and south-east Asia, record-shattering heat waves and wildfires in Australia and the western United States, an extraordinary Atlantic hurricane season, and devastating cyclones in Africa, South Asia and the western Pacific.

“Policies to combat the climate crisis should address the root cause: human over-exploitation of the planet”

“There is also mounting evidence that we are nearing or have already crossed tipping points associated with critical parts of the Earth system, including the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, warm-water coral reefs, and the Amazon rainforest,” they warn in the journal Bioscience.

The year 2020 was the second hottest in history. The five hottest years on record have all happened since 2015. Three greenhouse gases − carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide − set records for atmospheric concentration in 2020 and again in 2021: in April of this year carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a ratio of 416 parts per million. This is the highest monthly global average ever recorded. Governments need to act urgently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We also need to stop treating the climate emergency as a stand-alone issue − global heating is not the sole symptom of our stressed Earth system”, said William Ripple, an ecologist at Oregon State University in the US, who led the 2019 initiative and the latest study.

“Policies to combat the climate crisis or any other symptoms should address their root cause: human over-exploitation of the planet.”

Growing urgency

The researchers tracked 31 variable measures to find new record highs and lows in 18 of them. These included:

  • Forest loss rates in the Brazilian Amazon. These have increased in the last two years, reaching a 12-year high in 2020 with the loss of 1.11 million hectares of tree cover.
  • The global count of ruminant livestock. This has now gone past 4 billion: on the scales, the mass of sheep, cattle and so on would outweigh all humans and all wild mammals combined.
  • Global gross domestic product: this dropped by 3.6% in 2020, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is heading again to an all-time high.
  • Fossil fuel energy consumption fell during the pandemic months, along with carbon dioxide emissions: on present signs, these will rise and go on rising.
  • Solar and wind power consumption rose by 57% between 2018 and 2021 but is still 19 times lower than fossil fuel consumption.
  • Greenland and Antarctica: these went on losing record quantities of ice, while Arctic sea ice continues to fall to near all-time low levels each summer.
  • Glaciers are now losing 31% more snow and ice per year than they did 15 years ago.
  • The oceans: these continued to become ever more acid. Combined with higher sea temperatures, this threatens coral reefs upon which more than 500 million people depend for fisheries, tourism and storm surge protection.

The Bioscence study is only the latest in a series of increasingly urgent warnings from scientists, and from groups of scientists, who have looked at climate trends, the degradation of the planet’s ecosystems and the transformation of the Earth’s surface by human numbers and human demand.

Priority for basics

Separate studies have examined the so-called “tipping points” that could precipitate catastrophic climate change; have assessed the likelihood of an irreversible trend towards a “hothouse” Earth; and have identified a “ghastly” future for humanity in a world of ever-greater heat extremes, more violent storms and ever-rising sea levels.

And these too have all called for concerted international action to contain demand, alter economies and share resources more fairly. The latest study warns that the analysis reflects “the consequences of unrelenting business as usual”, and calls for profound changes in human behaviour, including a switch away from fossil fuels and the protection of the planet’s biodiversity − and of the wildernesses that absorb atmospheric carbon.

“All climate actions should focus on social justice by reducing inequality and prioritising basic human needs,” Professor Ripple said. “And climate change education should be included in school core curriculums around the world − that would result in greater awareness of the climate emergency and empower learners to take action.” − Climate News Network

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

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

Solve nature and climate together or not at all

Sink or swim as one, says science. Solve nature and climate together, or neither of the twin crises will be soluble.

LONDON, 11 June, 2021 − Two of the world’s leading scientific institutions have joined forces to arrive at a not very surprising conclusion: solve nature and climate together, or forget them both. If the world does not work to tackle the climate crisis and the extinction threat confronting millions of wild species together, it has little hope of solving either of them separately.

So says a report published by the snappily-titled Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), each respected for their commanding knowledge in their own fields.

The report, the IPBES/IPCC Workshop Report, which marks the first collaboration between the two bodies’ scientists, is not content simply to urge joint action on the intertwined problems threatening the world. It goes on to identify what it says are key options for solving them.

Both biodiversity loss and climate change are driven by human economic activities and mutually reinforce each other, the report says.

While previous policies have largely tackled the twin crises independently of each other, addressing the synergies between the two simultaneously offers hope of maximising benefits and meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives”

“Human-caused climate change is increasingly threatening nature and its contributions to people, including its ability to help mitigate climate change. The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives, in many regions”, said Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the report’s scientific steering committee.

“Changes in biodiversity, in turn, affect climate, especially through impacts on nitrogen, carbon and water cycles,” he said. “The evidence is clear: a sustainable global future for people and nature is still achievable, but it requires transformative change with rapid and far-reaching actions of a type never before attempted, building on ambitious emissions reductions.

“Solving some of the strong and apparently unavoidable trade-offs between climate and biodiversity will entail a profound collective shift of individual and shared values concerning nature − such as moving away from the concept of economic progress based solely on GDP growth, to one that balances human development with multiple values of nature for a good quality of life, while not overshooting biophysical and social limits.”

The authors also warn that narrowly-focused action to combat climate change can directly and indirectly harm nature, and vice versa, but say there are many ways to benefit both areas.

Their suggestions include:

* Stopping the loss and degradation of carbon- and species-rich ecosystems on land and in the ocean and restoring them. The authors say reducing deforestation and forest degradation can help to lower human-caused greenhouse gas emissions by between 0.4 and 5.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year.

End damaging subsidies

* Increasing sustainable agriculture and forestry to improve the capacity to adapt to climate change, improve biodiversity, increase carbon storage and reduce emissions. The report estimates this improved management of cropland and grazing systems could offer annual climate change mitigation potential of 3 to 6 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent.

* Enhanced and better targeted conservation supported by strong climate adaptation and innovation. Protected areas currently represent about 15% of land and 7.5% of the ocean. Global estimates of what the world needs range from 30 to 50% of all ocean and land surface areas.

* Eliminating subsidies that support both local and national activities harmful to biodiversity, such as deforestation, excessive fertilisation and over-fishing, can also support climate change mitigation and adaptation. It can also help to change individual consumption patterns, reduce loss and waste and shift diets, especially in rich countries, towards more plant-based options.

The report also warns against climate mitigation and adaptation measures which it says can harm biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. These measures, it says, include increasing irrigation capacity, a common response to adapt agricultural systems to drought which it says often leads to water conflicts, dam building and long- term soil degradation from salinisation. − Climate News Network

Sink or swim as one, says science. Solve nature and climate together, or neither of the twin crises will be soluble.

LONDON, 11 June, 2021 − Two of the world’s leading scientific institutions have joined forces to arrive at a not very surprising conclusion: solve nature and climate together, or forget them both. If the world does not work to tackle the climate crisis and the extinction threat confronting millions of wild species together, it has little hope of solving either of them separately.

So says a report published by the snappily-titled Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), each respected for their commanding knowledge in their own fields.

The report, the IPBES/IPCC Workshop Report, which marks the first collaboration between the two bodies’ scientists, is not content simply to urge joint action on the intertwined problems threatening the world. It goes on to identify what it says are key options for solving them.

Both biodiversity loss and climate change are driven by human economic activities and mutually reinforce each other, the report says.

While previous policies have largely tackled the twin crises independently of each other, addressing the synergies between the two simultaneously offers hope of maximising benefits and meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives”

“Human-caused climate change is increasingly threatening nature and its contributions to people, including its ability to help mitigate climate change. The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives, in many regions”, said Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the report’s scientific steering committee.

“Changes in biodiversity, in turn, affect climate, especially through impacts on nitrogen, carbon and water cycles,” he said. “The evidence is clear: a sustainable global future for people and nature is still achievable, but it requires transformative change with rapid and far-reaching actions of a type never before attempted, building on ambitious emissions reductions.

“Solving some of the strong and apparently unavoidable trade-offs between climate and biodiversity will entail a profound collective shift of individual and shared values concerning nature − such as moving away from the concept of economic progress based solely on GDP growth, to one that balances human development with multiple values of nature for a good quality of life, while not overshooting biophysical and social limits.”

The authors also warn that narrowly-focused action to combat climate change can directly and indirectly harm nature, and vice versa, but say there are many ways to benefit both areas.

Their suggestions include:

* Stopping the loss and degradation of carbon- and species-rich ecosystems on land and in the ocean and restoring them. The authors say reducing deforestation and forest degradation can help to lower human-caused greenhouse gas emissions by between 0.4 and 5.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year.

End damaging subsidies

* Increasing sustainable agriculture and forestry to improve the capacity to adapt to climate change, improve biodiversity, increase carbon storage and reduce emissions. The report estimates this improved management of cropland and grazing systems could offer annual climate change mitigation potential of 3 to 6 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent.

* Enhanced and better targeted conservation supported by strong climate adaptation and innovation. Protected areas currently represent about 15% of land and 7.5% of the ocean. Global estimates of what the world needs range from 30 to 50% of all ocean and land surface areas.

* Eliminating subsidies that support both local and national activities harmful to biodiversity, such as deforestation, excessive fertilisation and over-fishing, can also support climate change mitigation and adaptation. It can also help to change individual consumption patterns, reduce loss and waste and shift diets, especially in rich countries, towards more plant-based options.

The report also warns against climate mitigation and adaptation measures which it says can harm biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. These measures, it says, include increasing irrigation capacity, a common response to adapt agricultural systems to drought which it says often leads to water conflicts, dam building and long- term soil degradation from salinisation. − 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

UN declares 2021 is ‘year for action’ on climate

The year of plague and fire, record heat, melting ice and rising seas: who’s surprised 2021 is UN’s “year for action”?

LONDON, 23 April, 2021 − The world’s most authoritative global forecasters have soberly confirmed conclusions first outlined in January. The year 2020, the year of Covid-19, of planet-wide economic slowdown, did almost nothing to damp global heating, which is why the UN says 2021 must be a “year of action”.

Even at a point in the natural weather cycle in which tropical conditions should have been cooler, it was hotter: one of the three warmest years on record.

The decade 2011-2020 is now the hottest on record. Global average temperatures reached 1.2°C above the long-term average for most of human history.

Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere − for most of human history around 285 parts per million − have now reached 410 ppm. This year they could reach 414 ppm, thanks to ever-greater use of fossil fuels.

Relentless change

Six years after the nations of the world vowed, in Paris in 2015, to act to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2°C, and ideally at 1.5°C, the last six years have all been the warmest since records began.

All this is catalogued in the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report State of the Global Climate 2020. It is the 28th such report since 1993. It simply confirms and underscores provisional conclusions published in January.

“The basic message remains the same, and we now have 28 more years of data that show significant temperature increases over land and sea as well as other changes like sea level rise, melting of sea ice and glaciers, and changes in precipitation patterns,” said Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general.

“All key climate indicators and associated impact information in this report highlight relentless, continuing climate change, an increasing occurrence and intensification of extreme events, and severe losses and damage, affecting people, societies and economies.”

“The bottom line? The way we are running human affairs is destabilising the climate system, with predictable and increasingly dire consequences”

The report appeared as US President Biden convened a virtual summit on climate. It showed, said UN secretary-general António Guterres, that there is no time to waste: “The climate is changing and the impacts are already too costly for people and the planet. This is the year for action.”

In the 2020 summer, the Arctic sea ice dwindled, for only the second time in recorded history, to below below 4 million square kilometres. The Greenland ice sheet lost 152 billion tonnes of ice between September 2019 and August 2020. The Antarctic ice sheet has been losing between 175 and 225 billion tonnes of ice a year in meltwater.

Because such loses are difficult to imagine, the report helpfully points out that 200 billion tonnes is about twice the annual discharge of the river Rhine into the North Sea.

It was a year of record temperatures: the mercury reached 38°C in the town of Verkhoyansk in the Siberian Arctic. Death Valley in California recorded an all-time global record of 54.4°C. Cuba, Dominica, Grenada and Puerto Rico all experienced record national temperatures. In a suburb of Australia’s city Sydney, the thermometer tipped 48.9°C.

Same but worse

Heavy rain and floods in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa triggered destructive swarms of the desert locust. An estimated 690 million people − 9% of humankind − were undernourished. The US saw its largest wildfires ever. Until 2020, the record number of hurricanes to hit the US coasts had stood at nine. Last year there were 12: one of these, Hurricane Laura, caused $19bn in losses.

Scientists have greeted the report with weary resignation and impatience. “Here we go again: 28 issues since the annual exercise began, the message is the same, yet incrementally worse. More floods, fires, heatwaves, storms, melting ice, and natural and human impacts,” said Chris Rapley, a climate scientist at University College London.

“Especially worrisome is that, despite the societal impact of Covid, the signals − atmospheric greenhouse concentrations, ocean heat content, decadal temperature − continued to rise, in some cases with clear acceleration. With estimates of the global mean temperature rise since pre-industrial times now in the range 1.15-1.28°C, the 1.5°C Paris guard-rail is close to being breached.

“The bottom line? The way we have organised and are running human affairs is destabilising the climate system, with predictable and increasingly dire consequences.” − Climate News Network

The year of plague and fire, record heat, melting ice and rising seas: who’s surprised 2021 is UN’s “year for action”?

LONDON, 23 April, 2021 − The world’s most authoritative global forecasters have soberly confirmed conclusions first outlined in January. The year 2020, the year of Covid-19, of planet-wide economic slowdown, did almost nothing to damp global heating, which is why the UN says 2021 must be a “year of action”.

Even at a point in the natural weather cycle in which tropical conditions should have been cooler, it was hotter: one of the three warmest years on record.

The decade 2011-2020 is now the hottest on record. Global average temperatures reached 1.2°C above the long-term average for most of human history.

Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere − for most of human history around 285 parts per million − have now reached 410 ppm. This year they could reach 414 ppm, thanks to ever-greater use of fossil fuels.

Relentless change

Six years after the nations of the world vowed, in Paris in 2015, to act to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2°C, and ideally at 1.5°C, the last six years have all been the warmest since records began.

All this is catalogued in the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report State of the Global Climate 2020. It is the 28th such report since 1993. It simply confirms and underscores provisional conclusions published in January.

“The basic message remains the same, and we now have 28 more years of data that show significant temperature increases over land and sea as well as other changes like sea level rise, melting of sea ice and glaciers, and changes in precipitation patterns,” said Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general.

“All key climate indicators and associated impact information in this report highlight relentless, continuing climate change, an increasing occurrence and intensification of extreme events, and severe losses and damage, affecting people, societies and economies.”

“The bottom line? The way we are running human affairs is destabilising the climate system, with predictable and increasingly dire consequences”

The report appeared as US President Biden convened a virtual summit on climate. It showed, said UN secretary-general António Guterres, that there is no time to waste: “The climate is changing and the impacts are already too costly for people and the planet. This is the year for action.”

In the 2020 summer, the Arctic sea ice dwindled, for only the second time in recorded history, to below below 4 million square kilometres. The Greenland ice sheet lost 152 billion tonnes of ice between September 2019 and August 2020. The Antarctic ice sheet has been losing between 175 and 225 billion tonnes of ice a year in meltwater.

Because such loses are difficult to imagine, the report helpfully points out that 200 billion tonnes is about twice the annual discharge of the river Rhine into the North Sea.

It was a year of record temperatures: the mercury reached 38°C in the town of Verkhoyansk in the Siberian Arctic. Death Valley in California recorded an all-time global record of 54.4°C. Cuba, Dominica, Grenada and Puerto Rico all experienced record national temperatures. In a suburb of Australia’s city Sydney, the thermometer tipped 48.9°C.

Same but worse

Heavy rain and floods in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa triggered destructive swarms of the desert locust. An estimated 690 million people − 9% of humankind − were undernourished. The US saw its largest wildfires ever. Until 2020, the record number of hurricanes to hit the US coasts had stood at nine. Last year there were 12: one of these, Hurricane Laura, caused $19bn in losses.

Scientists have greeted the report with weary resignation and impatience. “Here we go again: 28 issues since the annual exercise began, the message is the same, yet incrementally worse. More floods, fires, heatwaves, storms, melting ice, and natural and human impacts,” said Chris Rapley, a climate scientist at University College London.

“Especially worrisome is that, despite the societal impact of Covid, the signals − atmospheric greenhouse concentrations, ocean heat content, decadal temperature − continued to rise, in some cases with clear acceleration. With estimates of the global mean temperature rise since pre-industrial times now in the range 1.15-1.28°C, the 1.5°C Paris guard-rail is close to being breached.

“The bottom line? The way we have organised and are running human affairs is destabilising the climate system, with predictable and increasingly dire consequences.” − Climate News Network

Loss of Arctic sea ice can spoil French wine harvest

What happens in the Arctic may not stay there. Loss of Arctic sea ice can dump the polar blizzards elsewhere.

LONDON, 19 April, 2021 − Once again, scientists have linked a weather-related catastrophe directly to human-induced climate change. Extreme frost and springtime snowfalls in Western Europe can be pinned to the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice.

So, paradoxically, global heating may have had the unexpected effect of wiping out around one third of the French wine harvest for this coming year, after temperatures so low that growers were forced to light bonfires in their vineyards to save the first buds from the chill.

“Climate change doesn’t always manifest in the most obvious ways,” said Alun Hubbard, of the Arctic University of Norway. “It’s easy to extrapolate models to show that winters are getting warmer and to forecast a virtually snow-free future in Europe, but our most recent study shows that is too simplistic. We should be beware of making broad, sweeping statements about the impacts of climate change.”

Professor Hubbard and colleagues report in the journal Nature Geoscience that they measured telltale isotope signatures in water vapour from Finland in February 2018 during an episode of freezing snow in Europe, in an anticyclone dubbed “the Beast from the East” by meteorologists and the media.

“The abrupt changes being witnessed across the Arctic now really are affecting the entire planet”

They found that the Barents Sea north of Scandinavia was anomalously warm. And 60% of the sea’s surface was free of ice, and the same sea lost 140 billion tonnes of water to evaporation during this too-warm February. This enormous atmospheric burden of water vapour provided, they calculate, 88% of the snow that was to fall over northern Europe that month.

Then they looked at the pattern over the years from 1979 to 2020, to find that, for every square metre of ice that vanished in the month of March − itself part of a pattern of Arctic temperature rise − evaporation across the Barents Sea increased by 70 kg, and this could be matched with increases in Europe’s maximum snowfall.

“Our analysis directly links Arctic sea ice loss with increased evaporation and extreme snow fall,” they write, and warn that by 2080 an ice-free Barents Sea “will be a major source of winter moisture for continental Europe.”

The Beast from the East brought much of Europe to a halt, at an economic cost of an estimated $1bn (£0.72bn) a day. It is still rare for researchers to directly link any particular weather event with climate change driven by profligate use of fossil fuels − that is because climate is what forecasters can reasonably expect, but weather is what actually happens − but some scientists have begun to do so with increasing confidence. And this time, they can explain why.

Natural complexity

The ice cover over the Barents Sea has fallen by 54% since 1979, at the rate of 11,200 sq kms a year, and snow mass across Eurasia has increased. The latest study confirms the link: the isotope signature of Barents water was repeated in the European snows that arrived with the Beast from the East.

“What we’re finding is that sea ice is effectively a lid on the ocean. And with its long term reduction across the Arctic, we’re seeing increasing amounts of moisture enter the atmosphere during winter, which directly impacts our weather further south, causing extremely heavy snowfalls,” said Hannah Bailey of the University of Oulu in Finland, who led the research.

“It might seem counter-intuitive, but nature is complex and what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.”

And Professor Hubbard said: “This study illustrates that the abrupt changes being witnessed across the Arctic now really are affecting the entire planet.” − Climate News Network

What happens in the Arctic may not stay there. Loss of Arctic sea ice can dump the polar blizzards elsewhere.

LONDON, 19 April, 2021 − Once again, scientists have linked a weather-related catastrophe directly to human-induced climate change. Extreme frost and springtime snowfalls in Western Europe can be pinned to the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice.

So, paradoxically, global heating may have had the unexpected effect of wiping out around one third of the French wine harvest for this coming year, after temperatures so low that growers were forced to light bonfires in their vineyards to save the first buds from the chill.

“Climate change doesn’t always manifest in the most obvious ways,” said Alun Hubbard, of the Arctic University of Norway. “It’s easy to extrapolate models to show that winters are getting warmer and to forecast a virtually snow-free future in Europe, but our most recent study shows that is too simplistic. We should be beware of making broad, sweeping statements about the impacts of climate change.”

Professor Hubbard and colleagues report in the journal Nature Geoscience that they measured telltale isotope signatures in water vapour from Finland in February 2018 during an episode of freezing snow in Europe, in an anticyclone dubbed “the Beast from the East” by meteorologists and the media.

“The abrupt changes being witnessed across the Arctic now really are affecting the entire planet”

They found that the Barents Sea north of Scandinavia was anomalously warm. And 60% of the sea’s surface was free of ice, and the same sea lost 140 billion tonnes of water to evaporation during this too-warm February. This enormous atmospheric burden of water vapour provided, they calculate, 88% of the snow that was to fall over northern Europe that month.

Then they looked at the pattern over the years from 1979 to 2020, to find that, for every square metre of ice that vanished in the month of March − itself part of a pattern of Arctic temperature rise − evaporation across the Barents Sea increased by 70 kg, and this could be matched with increases in Europe’s maximum snowfall.

“Our analysis directly links Arctic sea ice loss with increased evaporation and extreme snow fall,” they write, and warn that by 2080 an ice-free Barents Sea “will be a major source of winter moisture for continental Europe.”

The Beast from the East brought much of Europe to a halt, at an economic cost of an estimated $1bn (£0.72bn) a day. It is still rare for researchers to directly link any particular weather event with climate change driven by profligate use of fossil fuels − that is because climate is what forecasters can reasonably expect, but weather is what actually happens − but some scientists have begun to do so with increasing confidence. And this time, they can explain why.

Natural complexity

The ice cover over the Barents Sea has fallen by 54% since 1979, at the rate of 11,200 sq kms a year, and snow mass across Eurasia has increased. The latest study confirms the link: the isotope signature of Barents water was repeated in the European snows that arrived with the Beast from the East.

“What we’re finding is that sea ice is effectively a lid on the ocean. And with its long term reduction across the Arctic, we’re seeing increasing amounts of moisture enter the atmosphere during winter, which directly impacts our weather further south, causing extremely heavy snowfalls,” said Hannah Bailey of the University of Oulu in Finland, who led the research.

“It might seem counter-intuitive, but nature is complex and what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.”

And Professor Hubbard said: “This study illustrates that the abrupt changes being witnessed across the Arctic now really are affecting the entire planet.” − Climate News Network