Continental shelves form the edge of the continent. They extend up to 300 miles out to sea and, compared to the majority of the ocean floor, have shallow water. Their shallow depths and relative proximity to land allowcontinental shelfwaters to be productive.
For example, the bottom of continental shelves serves as critical habitats for commercial species such as lobsters, scallops, crabs, flounder, cod and othergroundfish, according to theNational Oceanic and Atmospheric…
An outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza that started in 2021 has become the largest bird flu outbreak in history, both in the US and worldwide. In the US the virus has led to the destruction of millions of commercially raised chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, and has killed thousands of wild birds.
Many virologists are concerned that this virus could spill over to humans and cause a new human pandemic.
University of Colorado Boulder virologists Professor Sara Sawyer, Emma Worden-Sapper and Sharon Wu summarise the compelling story of H5N1 and why scientists are closely watching the outbreak.
1. Is this virus a serious threat to humans? H5N1 is a specific type of influenza virus, predominantly harbored by birds, that was first detected on a goose farm in China in 1996. Recently it has begun infecting an exploding diversity of bird and mammalian species around the globe.
The virus is highly pathogenic to birds, meaning that infections often cause extreme symptoms, including death. But its impact on humans is complicated. There have been relatively few human infections detected – fewer than 900 documented globally over several decades – but about half of those infected individuals have died.
The good news about H5N1 for humans is that it currently doesn’t spread well between people. Most people who have contracted H5N1 have gotten it directly from interacting with infected poultry – specifically chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, which often are raised in close quarters on large commercial farms.
There are only a small handful of examples of human-to-human spread. Because H5N1 doesn’t spread well between people, and because direct infection of humans by infected birds is still relatively rare, H5N1 has not yet erupted into a human epidemic or pandemic.
2. Why is this outbreak suddenly getting so much attention? The first reason that so much attention is being paid to bird flu right now is that currently H5N1 is causing the largest ‘bird pandemic’ ever recorded. A certain viral variant that arose in 2020, called H5N1 184.108.40.206b, is driving this outbreak.
The second reason for increased attention is that H5N1 is now infecting more bird and mammalian species than ever before. The virus has been detected in a broad array of wild birds and in diverse mammals, including badgers, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, ferrets, fisher cats, foxes, leopards, opossums, pigs, skunks and sea lions.
As H5N1 infects more species, it also increases its geographical range and produces more viral variants that could have new biological properties.
The third and most worrisome reason that this virus is getting so much press is that H5N1 now seems to be transmitting well between individuals of at least one mammalian species. In late 2022, mammal-to-mammal spread occurred in Spain in farmed minks. H5N1 spread very efficiently between the minks and caused clinical signs of illness and death in the mink populations where it was detected.
Sea lions in Peru are also succumbing to H5N1 virus in massive numbers. It hasn’t been confirmed definitively whether the sea lions are spreading the virus to each other or are contracting it from birds or H5N1-infected water.
Here’s the key question: If H5N1 can achieve spread in minks and possibly sea lions, why not humans? We are also mammals.
It is true that the farmed minks were confined in close quarters, like chickens on a poultry farm, so that may have contributed. But humans also live in high densities in many cities around the world, providing the virus similar tinder should a human-compatible variant arise.
3. What features could help H5N1 spread well in humans? Birds experience influenza as a gastrointestinal infection and spread flu predominantly through defecating in water. By contrast, humans experience influenza as a respiratory infection and spread it by breathing and coughing.
Over the centuries, some of these avian influenza viruses have been passed from birds to humans and other mammalian species, although this is a relatively rare event.
This is because bird influenza viruses must mutate in several ways to infect mammals efficiently. The most important mutational changes affect the tissue tropism of the virus – its ability to infect a specific part of the body.
Avian flu viruses have evolved to infect cells of the intestine, while human flu viruses have evolved to infect cells of the respiratory tract. However, sometimes a flu virus can acquire mutations that allow it to infect cells in a different part of the body.
Which cells influenza infects is partially dictated by the specific receptor that it binds. Receptors are the molecules on the surface of host cells that a virus exploits to enter those cells. Once viruses are in cells, they may be able to produce copies of themselves, at which point an infection has been achieved.
Both human and bird influenza viruses use receptors called sialic acids that are common on the surfaces of cells. Bird influenza viruses, such as H5N1, use a version called α2,3-linked sialic acid, while human flu viruses use α2,6-linked sialic acid – the predominant variant in the human upper respiratory tract. Thus, to become efficient at infecting humans, H5N1 would likely need to mutate to use α2,6-linked sialic acid as its receptor.
This is a concern because studies have shown that only one or two mutations in the viral genome are enough to switch receptor binding from α2,3-linked sialic acid to the human α2,6-linked sialic acid. That doesn’t seem like much of a genetic obstacle.
4. Why don’t we make a vaccine just in case? With avian influenza viruses, it is not possible to make effective human vaccines in advance, because we don’t know exactly what the genetics of the virus will be if it starts to spread well in humans. Remember that the seasonal flu vaccine must be remade every year, even though the general types of flu viruses that it protects against are the same, because the specific genetic variants that affect humans change from year to year.
Right now, the best way people can protect themselves from H5N1 is to avoid contact with infected birds.
For more information about prevention, especially for people who keep domesticated birds or are bird-watching hobbyists, the Centers for Disease Control has a list of guidelines for avoiding H5N1 and other bird flu viruses.
The future of humanity’s “lifeblood” — water — is under threat worldwide, the UN secretary-general warned Wednesday at the opening of the global body’s first major meeting on water resources in nearly half a century.
“We’ve broken the water cycle, destroyed ecosystems and contaminated groundwater,” Antonio Guterres said at the three-day summit in New York, which gathers some 6,500 participants including a dozen heads of state and government.
“We are draining humanity’s lifeblood through vampiric overconsumption and unsustainable use, and evaporating it through global heating,” Guterres told the conference.
A report by UN-Water and UNESCO released Tuesday warned of too little or too much water in some places, and contaminated water in others — conditions it said highlight the imminent risk of a global water crisis.
“If nothing is done… it will keep on being between 40 percent and 50 percent of the population of the world that does not have access to sanitation and roughly 20-25 percent of the world will not have access to safe water supply,” report lead author Richard Connor told AFP.
With the global population increasing every day, “in absolute numbers, there’ll be more and more people that don’t have access to these services,” he said.
The report also warned that water “scarcity is becoming endemic” due to overconsumption and pollution, while global warming will increase seasonal water shortages in both areas with abundant water as well as those already strained.
Governments and actors in the public and private sectors will present proposals at the conference to reverse that trend and help meet the development goal, set in 2015, of ensuring “access to water and sanitation for all by 2030.”
The last conference at this high level on the issue, which lacks a global treaty or a dedicated United Nations agency, was held in 1977 in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
“The water crisis is bad enough without climate change,” said Stuart Orr of the World Wildlife Fund.
“We can build resilient societies and economies if governments and businesses urgently pursue policies, practices and investments that recognize — and restore — the full value of healthy rivers, lakes and wetlands,” he said.
But some observers have already voiced concerns about the scope of commitments and the availability of funding to implement them.
– ‘Now or never’ –
“About 10 percent of the world’s population lives in a country where water stress has reached a high or critical level,” the report said.
According to the most recent UN climate study, published Monday by the IPCC expert panel, “roughly half of the world’s population currently experience severe water scarcity for at least part of the year.”
Those shortages have the most significant impact on the poor, Connor told AFP.
“No matter where you are, if you are rich enough, you will manage to get water,” he said.
Women and girls are also “disproportionately affected,” actor Matt Damon, co-founder of the nonprofit Water.org, said Wednesday, adding that “millions of girls aren’t in school because of this, because they’re collecting water.”
The report noted the impact of water supplies becoming contaminated due to underperforming or nonexistent sanitation systems.
“At least 2 billion people (globally) use a drinking water source contaminated with feces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio,” it said.
That high number does not take into account pollution from pharmaceuticals, chemicals, pesticides, microplastics and nanomaterials.
To ensure access to safe drinking water for all by 2030, levels of investment would have to be tripled, the report said.
Freshwater ecosystems — which in addition to water, provide life-sustaining economic resources and help combat global warming — “are among the most threatened in the world,” the report warned.
“Everything we need to live a decent life is directly related to water: our health, food safety, habitats, economy, infrastructure and climate,” said Dutch King Willem-Alexander, who is summit co-chair alongside the president of Tajikistan.
“Now it is time to rise above our partial and sectional interests, see the big picture and get moving.”
But as with the fight against climate change, the poorest countries do not have the means to do it alone.
“We must build water infrastructure fit for a new world in which storms are more frequent and stronger,” focusing on storage on islands where sea intrusion into freshwater aquifers is increasingly problematic, said Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano.
An international group of researchers led by the University of Tasmania has taken a fresh look into the disappearance, and conceivable reappearance, of the Tasmanian tiger thylacine. The last thylacine confirmed killed in the wild was in 1930, and the last specimen in captivity died at a Tasmanian zoo in 1936. Since then, sightings have regularly persisted across Tasmania, though no captured creatures or images have been offered to prove its survival.
With the possibility that the creature had persisted well past its addition and eventual removal from the endangered species list with an official designation of “extinct,” the researchers wanted to model the most likely last refuges of the iconic predator. In the paper, “Resolving when (and where) the Thylacine went extinct,” researchers modeled 1,237 reported sightings from 1910 to the present day.
For the study, published in Science of The Total Environment, researchers pulled from every available source: records from government archives, published reports, museum collections, newspaper articles, contemporary correspondence, private collections or other miscellaneous citations and testimony. The team even poured over microfilm records to compile their sighting database.
Next, each observation was dated, geotagged, quality-rated, and categorized by type (physical specimen, expert sighting, other observations, tracks). Using this curated sighting database, researchers mapped the sighting locations over time, taking into account that “…extinction often progresses via an intermediate process of range contractions and spatially heterogenous declines, themselves driven by a variable local intensity of threats like habitat change and hunting.”
The final database comprised of 1,237 entries with 99 physical records and 429 expert sightings from former trappers, bushmen, scientists or officials, with the rest coming from the general public. Two models were created, one using a statistical extinction date and the other with optimal linear estimators.
This resulted in median extinction dates of 1999 and 2008, with the most likely (overlapping) termination date by the late 1990s—a highly controversial result unless you are a Tasmanian tiger enthusiast hoping they may still be out there. However, when restricting data to physical specimens, the models indicated extinction by 1941.
The researchers suggest that while the Tasmanian tiger is unlikely to be hiding in the temperate forests of the island today, the actual extinction year is likely much more recent than previously considered. Many examples are referred to of clustered sightings with closely matching visual descriptions, the interrelationships of which would not have been apparent when reports were submitted to authorities.
Looking at the data as a whole, the annual number of reports in the six decades spanning 1940 to1999 was relatively constant but fell substantially from 2000 to the present. This suggests the possibility of a small group of thylacine beating the odds of extinction by retreating to more remote areas, vanishing just a few years before smartphone cameras could have captured conclusive evidence.
“This is an unusually high number of storms this winter in California,” said Daniel Swain, climate scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles. “No matter how you slice it, no matter how you make these formal definitions, this is unusually many.”
Determining how to count atmospheric rivers is an ongoing conversation in the scientific community.
While Swain said California has seen 12 significant atmospheric rivers so far this season, Chad Hecht, a meteorologist with the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said the center has tallied of 29 so far, including some weaker systems and systems that only clipped California. Six of the storms fell into the category of what Hecht described as severe or extreme.
“These numbers are likely higher than a lot of the numbers you are seeing from news outlets because their criteria for an atmospheric river is likely stricter and considers the impacts that they bring,” Hecht said. “There are [also] instances when an atmospheric river is primarily targeting the Pacific Northwest, but clips the far northwestern portions of California, say Del Norte County, with weak conditions.”
Weak and low-end moderate storms tend to be less impactful and primarily bring beneficial precipitation to the state, he said. Meanwhile, the high-end atmospheric rivers are the big rain and snow producers, which lead to more severe impacts.
Four cliff-side, ocean-view apartment buildings were evacuated and red tagged after heavy rains brought on a landslide on Buena Vista in San Clemente, California, on March 16.Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Drivers barrel into standing water on Interstate 101 in San Francisco on January 4.Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
Hecht said this year has already outpaced the state’s average annual number of atmospheric rivers. Many of them came in a rapid series of storms in early January.
“We typically refer to these successive types of atmospheric rivers as ‘AR families,’” Hecht told CNN. “While AR families are not all that uncommon, we don’t see them every year and the stretch of nine we had around the turn of the New Year was a more active family than we typically see.”
An atmospheric river is like a conveyor belt of moisture that originates over the tropical water of the Pacific Ocean. They can carry more than 20 times the amount of water the Mississippi River does, but as vapor. As these storms pummeled the state in quick succession, the soil became over-saturated and vulnerable to flooding and mudslides.
California is facing its 12th atmospheric river this year, following a historic drought. This week’s storm is funneling moisture into California from the central Pacific Ocean.CNN Weather
It’s unclear how the climate crisis could be playing a role in the number of storms that hit the West Coast. But climate scientists have linked the climate crisis to an increase in the amount of moisture the atmosphere holds, meaning storms — such as hurricanes and atmospheric rivers that are impacting the West Coast now — will be able to bring more moisture inland than it would without climate change, which in turn leads to an increase in rainfall rates and flash flooding.
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Swain said this week’s storm will be another event that will rapidly strengthen and could even come close to what’s known as a “bomb cyclone” — a storm that rapidly intensifies at a rate of at least 24 millibars of pressure in 24 hours. The storm is expected to affect a large area of the California coast, from the San Francisco Bay Area to Southern California.
“This [storm] is going to bring a whole litany of concerns that are probably greater than we had initially anticipated a few days ago,” Swain said. “Frankly, even widespread moderate rain at this point is going to exacerbate flood conditions in some places — so not the best news.”
Vehicles and homes in floodwaters in Pajaro, California, on March 11. Residents were forced to evacuate in the middle of the night after flood water broke through the Pajaro Levee.Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
Despite these hazards, Swain said that California is lucky to have some breaks in between the storm cycles. And forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last week that they expect the West’s spigot of rain and snow will likely turn off come April.
“As much as folks feel like it’s been an unrelenting winter, we actually have gotten some at least weeklong breaks and, in some cases, multi-weeklong breaks in between these sequences,” he said. “Had we had this winter and everything that happened back-to-back without any breaks during the storm cycles at all, the level of flooding and the level of damage in California would be dramatically higher.”
The storms have also erased the dire impacts of the drought, particularly mandatory water cuts in parts of the state.
According to the latest US Drought Monitor, severe drought now only covers 8% of the state, with just over a third of the state remaining in some level of drought — the lowest amount in nearly three years.
The National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed this week the presence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in a striped skunk recovered from the north Texas county.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, HPAI is a highly contagious virus that transmits easily among wild and domestic birds and is detected in all U.S. states except Hawaii. The virus can spread directly between animals and indirectly through environmental contamination.
For mammals, current data shows transmission occurs primarily through the consumption of infected animal carcasses, though mammal-to-mammal transmission does not appear sustainable, TPWD said in a news release.
Because of the ease of transmission, TPWD recommends that wildlife rehabilitators also remain cautious when intaking wild animals with clinical signs consistent with HPAI and consider quarantining animals to limit the potential for HPAI exposures to other animals within the facility.
The transmission risk of avian influenza from infected birds to people is low, but TPWD said the public should take basic protective measures, like wearing gloves, face masks, and handwashing, if contact with wild animals can’t be avoided.
Those who locate wild animals with signs consistent with HPAI should immediately contact their local TPWD wildlife biologist.
Earth is likely to cross a critical threshold for global warming within the next decade, and nations will need to make an immediate and drastic shift away from fossil fuels to prevent the planet from overheating dangerously beyond that level, according to a major new report released on Monday.
The report, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of experts convened by the United Nations, offers the most comprehensive understanding to date of ways in which the planet is changing. It says that global average temperatures are estimated to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels sometime around “the first half of the 2030s,” as humans continue to burn coal, oil and natural gas.
That number holds a special significance in global climate politics: Under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, virtually every nation agreed to “pursue efforts” to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Beyond that point, scientists say, the impacts of catastrophic heat waves, flooding, drought, crop failures and species extinction become significantly harder for humanity to handle.
But Earth has already warmed an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the industrial age, and, with global fossil-fuel emissions setting records last year, that goal is quickly slipping out of reach.
There is still one last chance to shift course, the new report says. But it would require industrialized nations to join together immediately to slash greenhouse gases roughly in half by 2030 and then stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere altogether by the early 2050s. If those two steps were taken, the world would have about a 50 percent chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Delays of even a few years would most likely make that goal unattainable, guaranteeing a hotter, more perilous future.
The report, which was approved by 195 governments, says that existing and currently planned fossil fuel infrastructure — coal-fired power plants, oil wells, factories, cars and trucks across the globe — will already produce enough carbon dioxide to warm the planet roughly 2 degrees Celsius this century. To keep warming below that level, many of those projects would need to be canceled, retired early or otherwise cleaned up.
“The 1.5 degree limit is achievable, but it will take a quantum leap in climate action,” António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, said. In response to the report, Mr. Guterres called on countries to stop building new coal plants and to stop approving new oil and gas projects.
Many scientists have pointed out that surpassing the 1.5 degree threshold will not mean humanity is doomed. But every fraction of a degree of additional warming is expected to increase the severity of dangers that people around the world face, such as water scarcity, malnutrition and deadly heat waves.
Related video: UN ‘survival guide’ report a stark warning on climate (France 24)
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UN ‘survival guide’ report a stark warning on climateUnmute
The difference between 1.5 degrees of warming and 2 degrees might mean that tens of millions more people worldwide experience life-threatening heat waves, water shortages and coastal flooding. A 1.5-degree world might still have coral reefs and summer Arctic sea ice, while a 2-degree world most likely would not.
“It’s not that if we go past 1.5 degrees everything is lost,” said Joeri Rogelj, director of research at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London. “But there’s clear evidence that 1.5 is better than 1.6, which is better than 1.7, and so on. The point is we need to do everything we can to keep warming as low as possible.”
Scientists say that warming will largely halt once humans stop adding heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere, a concept known as “net zero” emissions. How quickly nations reach net zero will determine how hot the planet ultimately becomes. Under the current policies of national governments, Earth is on pace to heat up by 2.1 to 2.9 degrees Celsius this century, analysts have estimated.
The report makes clear that humanity’s actions today have the potential to fundamentally reshape the planet for thousands of years.
Many of the most dire climate scenarios once feared by scientists, such as those forecasting warming of 4 degrees Celsius or more, now look unlikely, as nations have invested more heavily in clean energy. At least 18 countries, including the United States, have managed to reduce their emissions for more than a decade, the report finds, while the costs of solar panels, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles have plummeted.
At the same time, even relatively modest increases in global temperature are now expected to be more disruptive than previously thought, the report concludes.
At current levels of warming, for instance, food production is starting to come under strain. The world is still producing more food each year, thanks to improvements in farming and crop technology, but climate change has slowed the rate of growth, the report says. It’s an ominous trend that puts food security at risk as the world’s population soars past eight billion people.
Today, the world is seeing record-shattering storms in California and catastrophic drought in places like East Africa. But by the 2030s, as temperatures rise, climate hazards are expected to increase all over the globe as different countries face more crippling heat waves, worsening coastal flooding and crop failures, the report says. At the same time, mosquitoes carrying diseases like malaria and dengue will spread into new areas, it adds.
Nations have made some strides in preparing for the dangers of global warming, the report says, for instance by building coastal barriers against rising oceans or establishing early-warning systems for future storms. But many of those adaptation efforts are “incremental” and lack sufficient funding, particularly in poorer countries, the report finds.
And if temperatures keep rising, many parts of the world may soon face limits in how much they can adapt. Beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, low-lying island nations and communities that depend on glaciers may face severe freshwater shortages
To stave off a chaotic future, the report recommends that nations move away from the fossil fuels that have underpinned economies for more than 180 years.
Governments and companies would need to invest three to six times the roughly $600 billion they now spend annually on encouraging clean energy in order to hold global warming at 1.5 or 2 degrees, the report says. While there is currently enough global capital to do so, much of it is difficult for developing countries to acquire. The question of what wealthy, industrialized nations owe to poor, developing countries has been divisive at global climate negotiations.
A wide array of strategies are available for reducing fossil-fuel emissions, such as scaling up wind and solar power, shifting to electric vehicles and electric heat pumps in buildings, curbing methane emissions from oil and gas operations, and protecting forests.
But that may not be enough: Countries may also have to remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, relying on technology that barely exists today.
The report acknowledges the enormous challenges ahead. Winding down coal, oil and gas projects would mean job losses and economic dislocation. Some climate solutions come with difficult trade-offs: Protecting forests, for instance, means less land for agriculture; manufacturing electric vehicles requires mining rare earth metals for use in their batteries.
And because nations have waited so long to cut emissions, they will have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to adapt to climate risks that are now unavoidable.
The new report is expected to inform the next round of United Nations climate talks this December in Dubai, where world leaders will gather to assess their progress in tackling global warming. At last year’s climate talks in Sharm el Sheik, language calling for an end to fossil fuels was struck from the final agreement after pressure from several oil-producing nations.
“Without a radical shift away from fossil fuels over the next few years, the world is certain to blow past the 1.5 C goal.” said Ani Dasgupta, president of the World Resources Institute, an environmental group. “The I.P.C.C. makes plain that continuing to build new unabated fossil fuel power plants would seal that fate,” he added, using the abbreviation for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
While the next decade is almost certain to be hotter, scientists said the main takeaway from the report should be that nations still have enormous influence over the climate for the rest of the century.
The report “is quite clear that whatever future we end up with is within our control,” said Piers Forster, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds who helped write one of the panel’s earlier reports. “It is up to humanity,” he added, “to determine what we end up with.”
The United Nations (U.N.) published its latest climate change report Monday, which doubled down on global warming-related risks and which the intergovernmental organization dubbed a “survival guide for humanity.”
The synthesis report, assembled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), represents the U.N.’s latest attempt to sound the alarm on the risks posed by climate change and not taking aggressive actions to halt global warming. According to the document, “unsustainable energy and land use” has caused the world to warm 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, close to the 1.5-degree emergency threshold.
“The rate of temperature rise in the last half-century is the highest in 2,000 years,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message Monday. “Concentrations of carbon dioxide are at their highest in at least 2 million years. The climate time bomb is ticking. But today’s IPCC report is a how-to guide to defuse the climate time bomb. It is a survival guide for humanity.”
“As it shows, the 1.5-degree limit is achievable. But it will take a quantum leap in climate action,” he continued. “This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every time frame. In short, our world needs climate action on all fronts, everything, everywhere, all at once.”
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres (Vladimir Astapkovich / Sputnik / Kremlin Pool Photo via AP / File)
The report stated that every additional increment of warming that occurs will result in “rapidly escalating hazards” for humanity.
For example, it warned that climate change will spur more intense heatwaves, heavier rainfall and other extreme risks to human health and ecosystems. And food insecurity will increase while additional conflicts and pandemics will be harder to manage, the report said.
“Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits,” IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said in a statement. “This Synthesis Report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.”
“Transformational changes are more likely to succeed where there is trust, where everyone works together to [prioritize] risk reduction, and where benefits and burdens are shared equitably,” Lee added. “We live in a diverse world in which everyone has different responsibilities and different opportunities to bring about change. Some can do a lot while others will need support to help them manage the change.”
The IPCC report further called for a massive investment in clean energy and an immediate phasing out of fossil fuels across the world. The U.N. also called on Western nations to boost the amount of capital and financing they devote to climate investments.
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry attends a U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 12, 2021. (Reuters / Yves Herman)
During the most recent U.N. climate conference in November, nations committed to billions of dollars worth of climate financing for developing countries and rallied to call on private investors to boost climate financing.
However, fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas still account for the vast majority of worldwide energy consumption, according to the latest International Energy Agency data. The three sources produce nearly 70% of all global energy and a large majority of electricity generation, which accounts for another 17% of energy produced.
“Every country must be part of the solution,” Guterres added Monday. “Demanding others move first only ensures humanity comes last. The ‘Acceleration Agenda’ calls for a number of other actions. Specifically, no new coal and the phasing out of coal by 2030 in OECD countries and 2040 in all other countries; ending all international public and private funding of coal.”
“Ceasing all licensing or funding of new oil and gas – consistent with the findings of the International Energy Agency,” he continued. “Stopping any expansion of existing oil and gas reserves; shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to a just energy transition; establishing a global phasedown of existing oil and gas production compatible with the 2050 global net-zero target.”
Thomas Catenacci is a politics writer for Fox News Digital.
Residents in southern Malawi repair a home destroyed by heavy rain from Cyclone Freddy. Climate change is causing cyclones and hurricanes to get more intense and dangerous.
The planet is on track for catastrophic warming, but world leaders already have many options to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and protect people, according to a major new climate change report from the United Nations.
The report was drafted by top climate scientists and reviewed by delegates from nearly 200 countries. The authors hope it will provide crucial guidance to politicians around the world ahead of negotiations later this year aimed at reining in climate change.
The planet faces an increasingly dire situation, according to the report. Climate change is already disrupting daily life around the world. Extreme weather, including heat waves, droughts, floods, wildfires and hurricanes, is killing and displacing people worldwide, and causing massive economic damage. And the amount of carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere is still rising.
“Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health,” the report states. “There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
But there are many choices readily available to policymakers who want to address climate change, the report makes clear.
Those choices include straightforward, immediate solutions such as quickly adopting renewable sources of electricity and clamping down on new oil and gas extraction. They are also more aspirational ones, such as investing in research that could one day allow technology to suck carbon dioxide out of the air.
The authors of the report are not prescriptive. No solution is held up as the “right” one. Instead, scientists warn that there is no time, and no reason, to delay action on climate change. And every potential path forward includes reducing reliance on fossil fuels, the main driver of climate change.
The planet is nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was in the late 1800s, and is on track to exceed 5 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by the end of the century, it warns.
That kind of extreme warming would spell disaster for billions of people, as well as critical ecosystems, and would lead to irreversible sea level rise and mass extinction of plants and animals.
But it is still possible to change course, the report states. If humans can limit warming to no more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius), some of the more catastrophic effects of climate change can be avoided. Sea levels would rise a lot less. Heat waves and storms would be less deadly. And many ecosystems on land and in the oceans would be more able to adapt or recover.
To achieve that goal, global emissions would need to be slashed in half by the end of the decade, something the report authors say is still possible if countries around the world quickly pivot away from fossil fuels. Right now, total global emissions are not falling.
A cheat-sheet for world leaders to tackle climate change
Over the last two years, hundreds of scientists working for the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have published three sprawling reports that highlighted the disproportionate effects of climate change on poor people, the need to cut emissions rapidly and the policy options available for doing so. Each of those documents ran hundreds of pages long.
This latest report is the slim summary of all that work: a cheat-sheet for policymakers who face increasing pressure to address global warming.
The timing of its publication coincides with an important deadline under the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to keep warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and ideally to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement requires countries to review their progress toward that goal at climate negotiations later this year in the United Arab Emirates.
The hope is that the new report will serve as a shared scientific foundation for those negotiations, as well as a menu of solutions available to world leaders.
“When we talk about climate change it’s often really easy to focus on the bad outcomes, the things that are really scary,” says Solomon Hsiang, a climate scientist at the University of California, Berkeley who has worked with the IPCC.
He says it’s important that policymakers, and the wider public, not lose hope in the face of relentless news about extreme weather and other dangerous effects of global warming. Hsiang’s own research has found that millions of lives, and billions of dollars, can be saved by reducing global reliance on fossil fuels, in part because extracting and burning fossil fuels releases enormous amounts of air and water pollution, on top of their damage to the climate.
“Investments in reducing emissions are investments in improving people’s health and education and economic opportunities, and protecting the people we care about,” he explains.
Poor people are most threatened by climate change
The other big takeaway from the report is that people in developing countries, and poor people around the world, are disproportionately affected by climate change.
“Vulnerable communities who have historically contributed the least to current climate change are disproportionately affected,” the report states.
For example, “between 2010 and 2020, human mortality from floods, droughts and storms was 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions, compared to regions with very low vulnerability,” the authors write.
The most vulnerable communities include people who live in low-income countries, low-lying areas and island nations, and Indigenous groups around the world, according to the report.
“We are not all in this together,” says Patricia Romero-Lankao, a climate researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of Chicago who works with the IPCC. “The poorest and most marginalized communities are the most vulnerable, in all cities and in all regions.”
Reducing emissions will help protect such communities, now and in the future, says Romero-Lankao.
For example, investing in low-carbon public transit, designing communities to support walking or biking, building homes and other buildings to be resilient and building cleaner power plants can reduce air pollution and save lives in low-lying and low-income neighborhoods that are currently suffering disproportionate damage, the report notes.
One of the biggest topics at international climate negotiations later this year will be how much richer, industrialized countries will pay to help poorer countries transition to clean energy and recover from damage caused by climate change. The industrialized world has historically been the biggest contributor of the pollution now driving climate change.