Newsdesk – March 23

Survivors clinging to buildings in the district of Buzi, Mozambique Photograph: INGC

Cyclone Idai ‘might be southern hemisphere’s worst such disaster,’ according to the UN. The devastating cyclone that hit the city of Beira in south-eastern Africa may be the worst ever disaster to strike the southern hemisphere, according to the UN – affecting 2.6 million from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, destroying nearly everything in its path, leading to devastating floods, destroying crops, and killing and injuring thousands of people. “Where there was land, there’s now sea. The city itself is completely cut off. It’s really an island now in the ocean,” said Matthew Cochrane of the Red Cross, adding that an emergency appeal will be launched to raise an initial 10 million Swiss francs to provide shelter and clean water. For those stranded in the aftermath, health is a huge worry and the risk of outbreaks of cholera and typhoid is high, especially with reports that water pipelines to the city have been cut. “It is a total mess here. Please pray for the thousands and thousands who have lost their homes,” said Jill Lovell, the Australian who runs a mission school in Beira. “People are in trees and on rooftops. Emergency relief crews are slowly coming in. Rains continue to make it all even harder. So many lives lost and homes destroyed.” – The Guardian.

Read moreNewsdesk – March 23

Newsdesk – March 16

Thousands take part in a protest called by the “Fridays For Future” movement on a global day of student protests aiming to spark world leaders into action on climate change in Santiago, Chile, on March 15, 2019. Photograph: Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images

Climate strikes held around the world – as it happened. More than 1 million students skipped school on Friday to protest government inaction on climate change. More than 2,000 protests took place in 125 countries. The movement was inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, now nominated for a Nobel Prize. From Australia and New Zealand to Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, and South America, students took to the streets with a clear message to world leaders: act now to save our planet and our future from the climate emergency. Here are the most powerful words of an 18-year-old student, Hannah Laga Abram from Santa Fe, New Mexico, who protested yesterday: “We are living in the sixth mass extinction. Ice is melting. Forests are burning. Waters are rising. And we do not even speak of it. Why? Because admitting the facts means admitting crimes of epic proportions by living our daily lives. Because counting the losses means being overpowered by grief. Because allowing the scale of the crisis means facing the fear of swiftly impending disaster and the fact that our entire system must change. But now is not the time to ignore science in order to save our feelings. It is time to be terrified, enraged, heartbroken, grief-stricken, radical. It is time to act” – The Guardian 

Read moreNewsdesk – March 16

Newsdesk – March 9

Image Credit: Daniel Reinhardt / AP

On March 15, the Climate Kids Are Coming. They are coming in massive and growing numbers, and they are not in the mood to negotiate. On March 15, tens of thousands of high-school and middle-school students in more than 30 countries plan to skip school to demand that politicians treat the global climate crisis as the emergency it is.  As Greta Thunberg, 16, has gained prominence partly from her blistering callouts of global elites, the 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez torched the right-wing trolls who laughably derided her as “stupid” after she introduced the congressional resolution to create a Green New Deal. The grassroots movements now taking charge of the climate fight consist overwhelmingly of teenagers and twentysomethings-people. These young fighters are decidedly not your parents’ environmentalists, “realistic,” and all too accepting of failure. They are angry about the increasingly dire future that awaits them and clear-eyed about who’s to blame and how to fix it – The Nation

Read moreNewsdesk – March 9

Newsdesk – March 2

A fresh catch at the port of Sakaiminato, on the west coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island. Photo CreditYuri Smityuk\TASS, via Getty Images

The World Is Losing Fish to Eat as Oceans Warm, Study Finds. The new findings — which separate the effects of warming waters from other factors, like overfishing — suggest that climate change is already having a serious impact on seafood. The oceans have absorbed 93 percent of the heat that is trapped by the greenhouse gases that humans pump into the atmosphere, and the study published in January, in Science, found that ocean temperatures were increasing far faster than previous estimates.  As the oceans have warmed, some regions have been particularly hard-hit. In the northeast Atlantic Ocean and the Sea of Japan, fish populations declined by as much as 35 percent over the period of the study. “Fish provide a vital source of protein for over half of the global population, ” said Chris Free, the lead author of the study, “The ecosystems in East Asia have seen some of the largest decline in fisheries productivity, and that region is home to some of the largest growing human populations and populations that are highly dependent on seafood”- The New York Times 

Read moreNewsdesk – March 2

Newsdesk – February 23

Wallace Smith Broecker was a professor at Columbia University in New York. Photograph: Gregorio Borgia/AP

Climate change science pioneer Wallace Smith Broecker dies. US professor raised early alarms about climate change and popularised term ‘global warming’. With a 1975 article, Broecker correctly predicted that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would lead to pronounced warming. He was also an advocate for political action to deal with the problem. In 1984, he told a House of Representatives subcommittee that urgent action was required to halt the accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere because the climate system could “jump abruptly from one state to another” with devastating effects. Broecker’s theories have subsequently become proven by events and are almost universally accepted by climate scientists today. “Wally was unique, brilliant and combative,” said the Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer. “He wasn’t fooled by the cooling of the 1970s. He saw clearly the unprecedented warming now playing out and made his views clear, even when few were willing to listen” – The Guardian.

Read moreNewsdesk – February 23

Newsdesk – February 16

Love in the time of climate change – the Valentine’s traditions under threat. As lovers around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day on Thursday, few will be thinking of the environment. Climate change poses a threat to many romantic traditions. The romantic destinations such as Bali and the Maldives are under threat from rising seas. Plastic pollution is also affecting many island nations, with Vanuatu and the Seychelles introducing locally managed marine reserves or banning plastic bags and straws. Ocean warming is also causing coral bleaching and scientists say pollution and over-fishing could contribute to the loss of as much as 90 percent of global reefs by 2050. Paris is the quintessential city of love, but in recent years the famous cityscape has been regularly shrouded in smog. Air pollution is responsible for 48,000 deaths a year across France, making it the nation’s third biggest killer after smoking and alcohol consumption, according to a 2016 study by the French National Public Health agency.  As supermarket shelves groan under the weight of fancily wrapped boxes of chocolate ahead of Feb. 14, it is hard to imagine the world could ever run out.  Cocoa thrives in warmer weather but requires rainfall and shade to grow, and producers say deforestation and a changing climate are threatening world supplies of chocolate – Reuters.

Read moreNewsdesk – February 16

Newsdesk – February 9

Illustration by Bill Bragg

Climate change is the deadliest legacy we will leave the young.  Property prices, pensions and austerity will pale into insignificance compared with the effects of global warming on the next generation. There is nothing wrong with the version of intergenerational inequality that existed in the developed world for much of the 20th century, which was based on the idea that life should be gradually better, from one generation to another – more secure, more prosperous, healthier, longer. However,  the central premise of capitalism, the idea that work was the means to escape from poverty and towards a decent standard of living, has been broken by the stagnation of pay growth.  The inflation in property prices has caused the collapse in levels of home-ownership among the young, in which a huge proportion of people’s earnings are consumed by housing costs. How is the intergenerational inequality linked to climate change? If you look at the reports from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the projections of what a warmer world is going to look like, and how quickly it could arrive, you realize we are facing the prospect of the most radical form of intergenerational inequality the world has ever seen – The Guardian

Read moreNewsdesk – February 9

Newsdesk – February 2

The temperature in Minneapolis, Minnesota Wednesday. Photograph: Craig Lassig/EPA

What is the polar vortex – and how is it linked to climate change? The polar vortex is an area of low pressure and extremely cold air that swirls over the Arctic. It is a band of strong winds, high up in the atmosphere that keeps bitterly cold air locked around the Arctic region. The phenomenon became widely known to Americans during a particularly frigid spell in 2014. This time, the polar vortex has broken into “two swirling blobs of cold air,” bringing the most frigid conditions in decades to the midwest. There’s some evidence that the jet stream, a meandering air current that flows over North America and Europe, is slowing and becoming wavier as the planet warms. Then, the jet stream interacts with the polar vortex, helping to bring numbing temperatures further south. Scientists also point to a complex sequence of events involving sea ice, which is rapidly diminishing in the Arctic. As the ice retreats, summertime heat is absorbed by the dark ocean that lies underneath. This heat is released into the atmosphere during winter, spurring winds that can disrupt the polar vortex. “We aren’t entirely there yet but there’s more and more support for this concept,” said Jennifer Francis, the senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center – The Guardian

Read moreNewsdesk – February 2

Newsdesk – January 26

Swedish youth climate activist Greta Thunberg at the World Economic Forum in Davos, eastern Switzerland. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Teenage activist takes School Strikes 4 Climate Action to Davos.
Protest by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg snowballs to last day of World Economic Forum. Thunberg is rapidly becoming the voice for a generation who are demanding urgent action to slow the rise in global temperatures. Thunberg started her protest last September by striking for three weeks outside the Swedish parliament, lobbying MPs to comply with the Paris Agreement.  After the Swedish election, she continued to strike every Friday, where she is now joined by hundreds of people. Greta Thunberg will join a strike by Swiss school children in the ski resort on Friday – the final day of the World Economic Forum. The school strikes last Friday were by far the biggest to date. In Germany, an estimated 30,000 students left their schools in more than 50 cities to protest, carrying banners including: “Why learn without a future?” and “Grandpa, what is a snowman?” – The Guardian

Read moreNewsdesk – January 26

Newsdesk – January 19

The planetary health diet allows an average of 2,500 calories per day. Photograph: Molly Katzen/Eat Forum

New plant-focused diet would ‘transform’ planet’s future, say scientists. Seeking to draw up guidelines that provide nutritious food to the world’s fast-growing population, the “planetary health diet” was created by an international commission.  The diet is a “win-win”, according to the scientists, as it would save at least 11 million people a year from deaths caused by unhealthy food, while preventing the collapse of the natural world that humanity depends upon.  Unhealthy diets are the leading cause of ill health worldwide, with 800 million people currently hungry, 2 billion malnourished, and further 2 billion people overweight or obese. Industrial agriculture is also devastating the environment, as forests are erased and billions of cattle emit climate-warming methane. Globally, the diet requires red meat and sugar consumption to be cut by half, while vegetables, fruit, pulses, and nuts must double. But in specific places the changes are stark. North Americans need to eat 84% less red meat but six times more beans and lentils – The Guardian

Read moreNewsdesk – January 19