UN Report warns of 'Collective Failure" to Act and Meet CO2 emissions gap

Signing up to the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, world leaders agreed to limit global warming by the end of the century to 1.5 degrees Celsius, ideally, and certainly no higher than 2 degrees C.

But a United Nations report published today says either goal is a long way off. Unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6% each year, the world will fail to meet the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.

Global temperatures are set to rise about 3.2 degrees C by 2100, the report says, bringing catastrophic weather including hotter, deadlier heatwaves and more frequent floods and drought.

Instead of cutting emissions, machines and products released more CO2 in 2018 than ever before, according to the annual Global Emissions report. Last year year, 55.3 gigatons of global CO2 were pumped into the atmosphere, up from 53.5 gigatons in 2017.

Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions — over 7% each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade.

The worst polluters

From 2030, 15 gigatons of CO2 would have to be cut each year. This is roughly the annual emissions of the EU, India, Russia and Japan combined. But time is slowly running out.

Most responsible for the continually increasing emissions is the G20, a group of 20 of the world’s biggest economies, who emit the equivalent of 43 gigatons of CO2 — 78% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Industrialized countries must take the lead here.

How to close the emissions gap

The report names five key areas that will be decisive in the future:

1. At least €1.45 billion ($1.59 billion) annual investment in renewables and more efficient energy use

2. Coal phaseout

3. Decarbonization of transport

4. Decarbonization of industry

5. Increased access to electricity for 3.5 billion people

The number of countries, regions and cities setting goals to go carbon-neutral has risen since September last year from just a handful to about 65.

The European Union, for example, aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. Individual countries including Germany, the UK and France have also set zero-emissions goals.

But how exactly they will achieve this — and how soon — is uncertain. Only a few of the 65 have laid out a timeline for reaching net-zero, according to the report, none of which are countries in the G20.

Fossil fuel production

Fossil fuel production grows globally

Eager to cut out carbon, but unwilling to give up fossil fuels, countries are struggling to rein in emissions. Production of coal, gas and crude oil is rising, and reached its highest level in 2018 at around 37 gigatons.

Some environmental economists have called for a tax on CO2 emissions to incentivize companies to produce energy more sustainably. But the comprehensive introduction of a CO2 price has so far been unsuccessful.

One strategy for closing the emissions gap would see renewable sources make up 85% of the world’s electricity mix by 2050. With higher emissions trees are growing

Major turnaround still possible

On the one hand it’s a matter of having greater ambitions, and on the other hand of implementing them faster. “Energy and transport will be the most important areas.

The report states that technologies for rapid and cost-effective emission reduction have improved, such as the price of solar energy, which can compete with coal on cost.

If the world is to slow down and adapt to global warming, it must acknowledge that “fundamental changes in values, norms, consumer culture and worldviews are inevitable parts of the great sustainability transformation.

Crickey Conservation Society 2019.

Swiss Glaciers lost 25% of its Volume due to Impact of Global Warming

FURKA PASS, Switzerland — On the hairpin bend of a Swiss mountain pass, a Victorian-era hotel built for tourists to admire the Rhone Glacier has been abandoned now that the ice has retreated nearly 1.2 miles uphill.

Where mighty glaciers once spilled into Swiss valleys like frozen rivers of ice, a residue of gray scree and boulders remains, spliced through with raging streams.

A picture of the Gorner Glacier in Zermatt, Switzerland, taken in 1863, is displayed at the same location on Aug. 25, 2019. (Photos: Denis Balibouse/Reuters, Glaziologische Kommission der Akademie der Naturwissenschaften Schweiz/ETH Library Zurich/Handout via Reuters)

More than 500 Swiss glaciers have already vanished, and the government says 90% of the remaining 1,500 will go by the end of the century if nothing is done to cut emissions.

Their retreat is expected to have a major impact on water levels, possibly raising them initially as the ice melts but depleting them long term. Officials fear the changes could trigger rockfalls and other hazards and affect the economy.

The Belvedere Hotel, built in the 1880’s during a surge in Alpine tourists, was an early victim of the decline. Once the scene of wild parties, it features in a James Bond car chase in “Goldfinger.”

Landlocked Switzerland is warming at twice the global rate, and over the last year its glaciers have lost 2% of volume, said Mathias Huss, who heads Switzerland’s glacier monitoring institute, GLAMOS, which has data stretching back 150 years.

We have never seen such a fast rate of glacial decline since the measurements have started. Some hope that politics can make a difference, especially after the Green Party surged in an October 2019 election.

But the glaciers will keep shrinking, scientists say. “The Alps will still be beautiful in my opinion, but they will just be different.”

Crickey Conservation Society 2019.

UK hit by Heavy Rains and Flooding

The United Kingdom is once again being drenched with torrential rain as half of the average rainfall of November has fallen in the last 24 hours causing the Met Office to issue another 45 flood alerts to a very weary population.

The Met Office is expecting heavy rain and strong winds throughout the weekend, with 48-hour weather warnings currently in place for the south-west of England as of this morning.

Flooding of homes and businesses is ‘likely’, forecasters are warning, as are power cuts and disruption on the roads and railways.

November has been a disaster for the UK after persistent torrential rain. The rain started in late September when Storm Lorenzo which brought strong winds to the west of Ireland before crossing the UK on 3rd October.

Lorenzo was a mid-Atlantic hurricane but weakened rapidly as it tracked north-east past the Azores toward the west coast of Ireland.

The storm followed a spell of unsettled wet weather across England and Wales during late-September causing disruption and flooding.

Torrential downpours across parts of Wales, the Midlands and southern England on 1st of October also brought localized flooding and disruption, it has continued to rain in some areas since then with hardly a pause.

The persistent wet weather continued throughout October 2019 as slow-moving westerlies rolled in from the Atlantic. Some locations across Wales and northern England received a full months rain often in just a couple of hours.

The heavy rain, which was falling on already very wet ground, led to flooding disruption across Wales, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Manchester.

The Environment Agency has 44 flood warnings in place across the country, including five severe warnings on the River Don in South Yorkshire.

The city of Sheffield in the UK has received six months of rain in just seven days. Fishlake, near Doncaster, was cut off by its worst flooding in living memory when the River Don burst its banks.

About 700 residents were told to evacuate after a month’s worth of rain fell in a single day.

Big Wobble / Crickey Amigu di Natura Foundation 2019.

Chinese scientists discover Massive Caverns around underground River

China’s Ministry of Natural Resources announced on Friday that a group of scientists had discovered a giant cluster of natural sinkholes consisting of 19 huge caverns in a forest near the southern part of the country bordering Vietnam.

Researchers claim that the group of giant caves is one of the largest sinkhole clusters found in the country, in comparison with the world’s largest sinkhole cluster, also located in China.

The 19 caverns are reportedly spread “like a string of beads” around the basin of the underground river of Dingye, 60 km long, with a drop of 292 meters.

The volume of each of the caves is over one million cubic metres, and all are located at an altitude of over 1,000 meters. Researchers also discovered primitive vegetation and trees standing over 50 meters tall.

According to the ministry, the discovery of the sinkhole cluster is hope to cause a significant leap in the economy of geological tourism between the towns of Chengxiang and Longhe in the county of Napo, Guangxi Zhuang Napo, famous for its Karst geological formations.

Beijing claims to possess the deepest underwater cave in the world, as well as over two-thirds of the world’s known natural sinkholes, including the planet’s largest sinkhole cluster.

Crickey Nature Foundation 2019.

The Trouble With Corn as Biofuel

For months now the Trump administration has been promising to deliver a new biofuels package that would boost the market for production of soy- and corn-based alternative fuels.

The move would help American farmers hurt by the administration’s tariffs, as well as ease their anger over changing regulations that have exempted several oil refineries from blending biofuels with their other fuels.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 mandated that all fuels produced in the U.S. contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels. Part of that came in the form of biofuels, derived from living, renewable sources such as crops or plants.

The term “biofuels” generally refers to the gasoline substitute derived from corn, while “biodiesel” is a diesel substitute derived from soybean oil or animal fats.

At the time many experts predicted biofuels would provide a renewable source of energy, help reduce the use of fossil fuels, and lessen the risks of climate change.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the expansion of the biofuels industry — as a share of the fuel market and a lobbying power — is that the general public hasn’t really noticed.

Compared with fracking or coal, biofuels aren’t the subject of many policy reports or New York Times op-eds. Media coverage of the biofuels package has been limited.

But as President Donald Trump continues to make promises about the future of biofuels, two important questions loom.

Should the rest of the country care about what’s going on in Iowa and other corn-belt states? And is biofuel expansion something we should welcome or oppose?

Critics say this lobbying has allowed the industry to successfully broaden its market without fully informing customers of the potential costs and concerns, which range from reduced gas mileage to increased air pollution.

Advocates of biofuels around the country tout them as better for the environment than fossil fuels, a fact that polls tell us the public doesn’t disagree with.

Scientists, on the other hand, have begun to question some of those so-called environmental benefits.

According to some studies, biodiesels emit more of certain pollutants than regular diesel, and biofuels can have a larger carbon footprint than gasoline, depending on where you start in the production cycle.

Increased corn production can also harm farmland because it causes farmers to cut back on crop rotation, a process essential to maintaining soil quality and reducing pests. Farmers also have an increased incentive to plant corn in ecologically sensitive grassland or wetlands.

But the effects of biofuel production on wildlife and public health are subtle and hard to separate from the consequences of food production.

This sets biodiesel apart from other sources of pollution and environmental health, such as fracking, which are often much more immediately visible.

Corn requires more fertilizer than other crops, and the toxic algal bloom caused by fertilizer runoff into the rivers is a visible consequence of increased corn production to meet biofuel demand. However, these blooms occur out of sight in the Gulf of Mexico.

Eco Watch / Crickey Amigu di Natura 2019.

10,000 Dogs taking pills for a study on Canine and Human Aging

The Dog Aging Project at the University of Washington is looking to recruit 10,000 dogs to study for the next 10 years to see if they can improve the life expectancy of man’s best friend and their quality of life.

The project hopes that the study will also reveal something about human health, especially if they are able to identify genetic markers for particular man-made diet created diseases like cancer.

The researchers will collect a trove of data and test out a new drug. The data will include vet records, DNA samples, gut microbes and information on food and walks.

Five hundred study participants will test out a pill that may slow the aging process. What we learn will potentially be good for dogs and has great potential to translate to human health.

The benefits to human health is what convinced National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health to give the researchers a $15 million grant to conduct the study.

The researchers, which include teams from the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, issued a joint statement that said, “Dogs truly are science’s best friend.

Dogs make excellent study subjects because they are intertwined with humans. The longer a dog lives, the more the canine consumes, which is also good for business.

“Unlike laboratory animals, they also share our environment,” said Matt Kaeberlein, a professor of pathology at the UW School of Medicine.

So we absolutely believe that, in that respect, pet dogs are going to be superior to laboratory models for understanding the aging process in humans, because we’re able to capture that environmental diversity.”

All owners who complete the nomination process will become Dog Aging Project citizen scientists, and their members will become members of the Dog Aging Project ‘pack.

Since large dogs tend to have shorter lifespans than small dogs, they will be prime candidates for the pill designed to slow the aging process. The dogs chosen to experiment with rapamycin, a drug that has extended the lifespan of mice, must weigh at least 40 pounds.

Eco Watch – ABC Flash Point News 2019.

Venice Flooded by High Tide during Heavy Rains

Venice has been inundated by an exceptional high tide which put three-quarters of the lagoon city under water. Large swathes of the rest of Italy have also experienced flooding and heavy winds which toppled trees, killing eleven people.

Schools remained closed on Tuesday in many regions. Century-old pine trees toppled in Rome, blocking roads and clogging traffic.

Violent thunderstorms, small tornadoes that blew roofs off homes, and hurricane-force winds lashed Italy from Piedmont to Sicily early this week, leaving at least 11 people dead.

Many more people got injured and firefighters and other rescue workers are scrambling to respond to emergency calls.

Tourists and residents donned high boots to navigate the streets on Monday after strong winds raised the water level 156 cm – more than 5 feet – before receding.

Water levels exceeded the raised walkways normally erected in flooded areas of the city, forcing their removal. Transport officials also closed the water-bus system, except to outlying islands, due to the emergency.

Residents and businesses typically reinforce their doors with metal or wooden panels to prevent water from entering but, this time, photos on social media showed shop owners using water pumps to try to protect their wares.

Much of Italy is under flood alert due to heavy rains, a problem exacerbated by a lack of maintenance of the country’s many river beds. High winds toppled trees that killed passersby in three accidents in Naples and Lazio.

Officials closed major tourist attractions in Rome, including the Colosseum and Roman Forum, early due to heavy rains.

It may not be visible to the eye, but structures age because of the salt water drenching the bricks, which were not meant to remain underwater for long; that goes for bronze.

Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in towns in the mountainous Trentino-Alto Adige region, northwest of Venice, after rivers rose over their banks. Newspapers described fish swimming in the streets of one town.

Crickey Foundation Curacao 2019.