Tag Archives: Earth

New UN climate report is a ‘Code Red for Humanity’

By Reynard Loki – In a grim report released on August 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that climate change was “unequivocally” caused by human activity, and that within two decades, rising temperatures will cause the planet to reach a significant turning point in global warming. The report’s authors—a group of the world’s top climate scientists convened by the United Nations (UN)—predict that by 2040, average global temperatures will be warmer than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, causing more frequent and intense heat waves, droughts and extreme weather events. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the bleak findings a “code red for humanity.”

The report found global warming increasing at a faster rate than earlier predictions estimated. “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land… [and] at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years,” the report says. “Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.” Even if the world’s nations enacted sharp and stringent reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases today, overall global warming is still estimated to rise around 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next 20 years. That means that the hotter, more dangerous future that scientists and the Paris climate agreement sought to avoid is now unavoidable.

Linda Mearns, a senior climate scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research and one of the report’s co-authors, offered a stern warning: “It’s just guaranteed that it’s going to get worse,” she said, adding that there is “[n]owhere to run, nowhere to hide.” In an interview with the Hill, Kim Cobb, the lead author of the report’s first chapter, said, “We’re already reeling, clearly, from so many of these impacts that the report highlights, especially in the category of extremes that are gripping these headlines and causing so much damage, but of course the 1.5 degree C world is notably and discernibly worse.” more>

Unsnarling Traffic Jams Is the Newest Way to Lower Emissions

By John Fialka – The Department of Energy is preparing to use the massive computing power of its national laboratories to tackle a daily scourge of American life: traffic jams.

The effort is aimed at more than just improving motorists’ moods. If it works, it could cut U.S. transportation fuel consumption up to 20% and reduce auto emissions.

A second goal is to recover as much as $100 billion in lost worker productivity by unsnarling rush hour traffic jams in U.S. cities over the next 10 years.

Two years ago Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., selected Chattanooga, Tenn. (population 182,799), as the guinea pig for their first traffic-cutting experiment.

The city, nestled among the hills and ridges of the southeastern corner of the state, is ranked among the nation’s top 20 most traffic-congested cities.

The first step for NREL scientists was to make a detailed computer model, or what it calls a “digital twin,” of the city’s traffic patterns to isolate and then explore solutions to its snarled rush hours.

“Chattanooga provided an ideal microcosm of conditions and opportunities to work with an exceptional roster of municipal and state partners,” explained John Farrell, who manages the vehicle technology management program for NREL.

“Eventually, the plan is to apply these solutions to larger metropolitan areas and regional corridors across the country.” more>

Updates from ITU

The benefits of space must be accessible to all
ITU News recently caught up with Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) Simonetta Di Pippo, who leads UNOOSA’s strategic, policy and programmatic activities and advises the United Nations Secretary-General on space affairs. 

UNOOSA carries out an important mission regarding activities in space. What exactly does UNOOSA do, and how does this differ from the work of its sister UN agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)?

UNOOSA’s mission is to promote the peaceful uses of outer space and ensure that everyone, everywhere, has access to the benefits of space technology and applications. ITU, on the other hand, is committed to connecting all the world’s people, wherever they live and whatever their means, so that they can effectively communicate through radio and satellite technology. Therefore, our missions are closely aligned and interdependent.

Space exploration is the backbone of modern communication technologies: every time you make a phone call or access the Internet, you are benefitting from space technology, which also enables satellite navigation, remote financial transactions and many more of the activities that make our modern lives possible.

UNOOSA’s work, in ensuring strong international cooperation in space, the sustainability of space exploration, and inclusiveness for developing countries in benefiting from space, creates a strong foundation for ITU’s work in leveraging the potential of communication technologies. more>

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Morgan Stanley Commits $1 Trillion for Sustainable Solutions

Morgan Stanley commits to mobilizing $1 trillion by 2030 for sustainable solutions that include helping prevent and mitigate climate change.
Morgan Stanley – Public health emergencies, social and economic inequality and the ramifications of climate change stand among the most immediate and pressing global issues of our time. In response, governments, corporations and investors have rallied around sustainability efforts, not only to preserve our planet for current and future generations, but also to improve the standard of living for diverse communities.

Morgan Stanley has been a leader in prioritizing environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices for more than a decade. Now, the firm has pledged to mobilize at least $750 billion of low-carbon solutions, tripling our original commitment set in 2018. This enhancement is part of a larger goal to facilitate $1 trillion of sustainable solutions by 2030 that support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals—a scale of capital that reflects the growing severity and urgency of these global challenges.

Morgan Stanley also joined the United Nations-convened Net-Zero Banking Alliance, which coordinates 43 of the world’s leading banks to accelerate the transition to net zero, a state in which the amount of carbon produced is offset by the amount removed from the atmosphere. The alliance provides a common framework for banks to set, communicate and achieve 2050, 2030 and nearer-term targets, and engage with clients on decarbonization efforts. more>

Green markets won’t save us

Markets are an unreliable guide for navigating a problem as large and complex as climate change.
By Katharina Pistor – How can one make wise decisions about a perpetually unknowable future? This question is as old as humankind, but it has become existential in light of climate change. Although there is sufficient evidence that anthropogenic climate change is already here, we cannot possibly know all the ways that it will ramify in the coming decades. All we know is that we must either reduce our environmental footprint or risk another global crisis on the scale of the ‘little ice age’ in the 17th century, when climatic changes led to widespread disease, rebellion, war and mass starvation, cutting short the lives of two-thirds of the global population.

The British economist John Maynard Keynes famously argued that investors are driven ultimately by ‘animal spirits’. In the face of uncertainty, people act on gut feelings, not ‘a weighted average of quantitative benefits multiplied by quantitative probabilities’, and it is these instinct-driven bets that may (or may not) pay off after the dust settles. And yet policy-makers would have us trust animal spirits to help us overcome the uncertainty associated with climate change.

Humanity has long sought to reduce uncertainty by making the natural world more legible, and thus subject to its control. For centuries, natural scientists have mapped the world, created taxonomies of plants and animals, and (more recently) sequenced the genomes of many species in the hope of discovering treatments against all imaginable maladies.

What maps, taxonomies and sequences are to chemists and biologists, numbers and indicators are to social scientists. Prices, for example, signal the market value of goods and services, and the expected future value of financial assets. If investors have largely ignored certain assets, the reason might be that they were improperly measured or priced. more>

Disinformation and the efforts to counter its effects can undermine human rights

By Miroslava Sawiris – Disinformation is a phenomenon often thought of in relation to electoral interference, subversion of democratic processes or foreign state influence operations. While all of these examples receive deserved attention, the spread of disinformation also negatively impacts another hard-won pillar of the post-World War II era, that of human rights.

When the concept of universal humanity does not apply

It is no coincidence that with the rapid spread of disinformation as a tool of information warfare, both the concept of human rights itself, as well as its application, have come increasingly under attack.

This is because ‘disinformation’ – deliberate and systematic spread of lies that are aimed at confusing the recipient – undermines the very foundations of the idea that objective reality exists, a necessary condition upon which the notion of universal humanity is founded.

Such undermining opens up the possibility to claim, for example, that universal human rights do not exist, and are nothing but a form of ‘aggressive colonialism’ attempting to ‘impose Western values’ on different cultures, precisely the argument chief Kremlin ideologists, such as Vladislav Surkov, have developed. Dismissing human rights as a Western concept is very convenient when needing to suppress political opposition, as in the case of Alexey Navalny, who was recently sent to a Russian penal colony for violating a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement as he missed check-ins with Russia’s prison service due to his near-fatal poisoning.

Disinformation meets hate speech

Another way in which disinformation impacts human rights is its deployment in propaganda hate campaigns. These form a part of the 10 stages of genocide, which starts with portraying the target group as the ‘other’, demonizes it through de-humanizing labels and leads to persecution and even extermination.

While our modern history is filled with notorious examples such as the Holocaust or the genocide in Rwanda, Facebook-fueled hate campaign against Rohingya Muslims based on lies disseminated by the Myanmar military triggered ethnic cleansing and ‘the largest forced human migration in recent history’ as recently as 2016. more>

They’re Healthy. They’re Sustainable. So Why Don’t Humans Eat More Bugs?

By Aryn Baker – Sylvain Hugel is one of the world’s foremost experts on crickets of the Indian Ocean Islands. So when he received an email from a fellow entomologist in March 2017 asking for help identifying a species in Madagascar that could be farmed for humans to consume, he thought it was a joke. “I’m working to protect those insects, not eat them,” the French academic responded tartly.

But the emails from Brian Fisher, an ant specialist at the California Academy of Sciences, in San Francisco, kept coming. Fisher had been doing fieldwork in Madagascar when he realized that the forests where both he and Hugel conducted much of their research were disappearing. Nearly 80% of Madagascar’s forest coverage has been destroyed since the 1950s, and 1-2% of what remains is cut down each year as farmers clear more trees to make room for livestock. The only way to prevent this, Fisher told Hugel in his emails, was to give locals an alternative source of protein. “If you want to be able to keep studying your insects, we need to increase food security, otherwise there will be no forest left,” Fisher wrote.

His proposal was insect protein. More than two-thirds of Madagascar’s population already eat insects in some form, usually as a seasonal snack. If there were a way to turn that occasional snack into a regular meal by making it easily available, it could help ease pressure on the island’s threatened forests. Crickets, which are high in protein and other vital nutrients, were already being farmed successfully in Canada for both human and animal consumption. Surely Hugel, with his vast knowledge of Indian Ocean crickets, could help identify a local species that would be easy to farm, and, more importantly, might taste good? more>

EU credibility as a people’s union rests on the social pillar

Buffeted by the pandemic and by populism, the EU needs the European Pillar of Social Rights to become a solid anchor of security for all.
By Liina Carr – Next week, the European Commission is set to unveil its Action Plan for putting the European Pillar of Social Rights into practice. The European Trade Union Confederation is pressing hard for an ambitious plan, which provides the means to achieve and monitor tangible social progress.

The EPSR was adopted by member states in 2017 but—partly due to the social and economic damage inflicted by the pandemic—European citizens might be forgiven for wondering what difference it has made to their lives. It was the former commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, who announced the initiative in his 2015 State of the Union address. The text was finally proclaimed by European Union leaders at the Social Summit in Gothenburg.

The ETUC played a major role in developing its 20 principles, which we see as crucial to strengthening the EU’s social dimension—ensuring that the welfare of workers and their families is not subordinated to the economic interests of the single market.

Despite its legalistic language, the pillar however lacks legal force: the principles do not give direct rights to any individual. It has been described as an agenda, ‘a compass for a renewed process of upward convergence towards better working and living conditions in Europe’.

The ETUC sees it as a guiding strategic framework, enabling the commission to bring forward legislation and other initiatives to strengthen social wellbeing. But at a time when the EU is under intense scrutiny for its handling of the Covid-19 crisis, implementing the pillar in a way that touches people’s lives is a question of credibility for European institutions and member-state governments in the eyes of their citizens. There is no time to waste. more>

Updates from McKinsey

America 2021: Renewing the nation’s commitment to climate action
To America’s leaders, innovators, and changemakers; here’s how you can help build a low-carbon economy that is resilient, competitive, prosperous, and fair.
By Dickon Pinner and Matt Rogers – The new federal administration has arrived in Washington with ambitious plans to address the climate crisis—and in so doing, revitalize the US economy and reclaim a leadership position on the international stage. During their campaign, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris highlighted “the opportunity to build a more resilient, sustainable economy—one that will put the United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide by no later than 2050 […] and, in the process, create millions of good-paying jobs.”

Their vision recognizes that the global transition to a low-carbon economy is well under way. The cost of many clean-energy technologies fell significantly during the past decade—as much as 90 percent for some renewable-energy projects. The capital markets are funding the use of these technologies at historically low costs of capital, thereby accelerating scale-up investments. A climate-friendly policy tilt is taking hold in many places. With China, Japan, and the European Union having announced targets to achieve net-zero emissions, more than 110 countries, accounting for more than 70 percent of global GDP, have made net-zero pledges. Of the US states, 23 have established emissions-reduction goals and 12 have instituted carbon-pricing policies. Groups representing prominent American companies have endorsed the use of market-based mechanisms to promote emissions reductions. Some large businesses, along with four former Federal Reserve chairs (including the new treasury secretary), have voiced support for a nationwide carbon tax. These trends are creating possibilities for American leadership, innovation, entrepreneurship, competitive advantage, and economic growth.

With the wind at their backs, government agencies and private-sector organizations can continue advancing the new national climate agenda that’s been set in motion already. The stimulus and government appropriations bill of December 2020, which received bipartisan support, set out tax incentives and funding for energy innovation and climate-related programs. And within days of his inauguration, President Biden signed executive orders initiating the process to reenter the Paris Agreement, positioning climate as a foreign-policy and national-security issue and calling on federal agencies to coordinate an all-government push to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, purchase clean-energy technologies, support innovation, conserve nature, and create economic opportunities across America. 1 Making good on these intentions will require new information, products, operations, and market innovations from public officials and business leaders. To inform their work, this memo highlights four sets of practices with notable potential to deliver the prosperity, security, and social-justice outcomes that the administration has prioritized. more>

EU vows to work with international partners to be climate neutral by 2050

New Europe Online/KG – The Europe Union can be a powerful promoter of climate ambitions also because it can offer a model of a socially just Green Deal transition, which leaves no one behind. “We can share our experience of tools such as the Coal Regions in Transition Initiative, and the Just Transition Mechanism. We can show that economic and energy diversification is possible and can create better jobs and growth for societies,” Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said on February 1 at the EsadeGeo Annual Energy Meeting “Geopolitics of the Green Deal Month”.

Europe accounts for around 8% of global emission. “So, to address global climate change, we need others to follow the same path – to become our partners in the clean energy transition,” Simson noted.

“Europe has two assets to advocate here: our high climate ambition and our just transition policy model. The European Union showed leadership announcing its climate neutrality goal for 2050. Last December EU leaders also agreed to step up commitment to reduce emissions by 2030. This is now the EU’s nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement,” the Commissioner said, adding that several other major international partners have announced as well net zero commitments. “We can look at 2021 with optimism. As a year of global climate action. Thanks to the COP 26 but also the actions of G20 and G7 led by the UK and Italy, Europe will be a driving force of this collective effort,” she said.

“So, as I said, we want to be leaders, but we have important work to do as partners. The Green Deal is not just an agenda to transform Europe’s economy and society. It has an impact beyond our borders, and most of all, on our closest partners and in our neighborhood. That’s why this must be a focus of our external energy action,” Simson stressed. more>