2022 IPCC report: A short window of opportunity

Renewables & Vulnerable Communities
Raphael Pouget / Climate Visuals Countdown

With the latest IPCC report, we are at a crossroads, the decisions we make now can still secure a liveable future. This report draws from 34,000 studies from 270 authors in 67 countries and is the most important update since 2014. Some key take-aways are:

Current Climate action is far behind Paris commitments

  • Emission levels are the highest ever and they are not in line with the Paris Agreement.
  • GDP and population growth are the main causes and are not compensated by energy or carbon intensity improvements.
  • A 1.1°C warming today is already causing harmful health impacts and disruptions through droughts, extreme heat and record floods.
  • Nearly half of the population leaves in regions highly vulnerable to Climate Change even if, they least contribute to it, such as South Asia, Central and South America, and sub-Saharan Africa. This will drive further inequity, conflict and development challenges.
  • The world is at least on a 3°C course and the risks (WRI, 2022) will only escalate faster with higher temperatures, causing irreversible impacts such as loss of glaciers, polar ice, and of the majority of coral reefs by 2100. According to a recent report (Bressler, 2021) an estimated 83million could die from Climate Change by 2100.
  • Limiting to 1.5°C means we should halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero globally in 2050. Only then, global temperatures will stabilise.

All decarbonisation levers should be activated now. The report highlights key priorities:

Accelerating the Renewable Energy Transition: At the heart of decarbonization is the drastic reduction of coal, oil and gas and increased use of renewables. From 2010 to 2019, solar and energy storage have become 85% cheaper and wind 55% respectively. This unlocked the potential for rapid adoption and meaningful action is already happening in many countries.

Changing demand and decarbonising cities and buildings: Actions on demand could reduce from 40% to 70% emissions by 2050. Sobriety will have the most impact by abandoning individual cars, using public transport and reducing air transport. Populations will also need to shift towards more plant-based foods. Urban centers are responsible for 70% of emissions and 55% of the population. Key levers are to reduce energy consumption with energy efficiency, low carbon buildings, buildings renovation, electrification with renewables, heat pumps and emobility. A key driver is also to implement carbon absorption and storage with Nature-based Solutions.

Changing Industry processes : Decarbonizing industry requires novel production processes using electricity, hydrogen and low carbon fuels. Electricity and circular material flows will also drastically contribute to reduced environmental pressure and increased economic activity.

Improving Transport processes : Road transport represents a large part of emissions and light vehicles offer the most potential of decarbonization. Biofuels and hydrogen with low emissions can contribute to reduce emissions especially from maritime, aviation and heavy road transport but this requires production process improvements and cost reductions.

Investing in Nature-based Solutions: Oceans, forests and other ecosystems already absorb about 50% of world emissions. Investing in ecosystem protection, restoration, improved farmlands management and their sustainable management are essential to attain a Zero Net Emission. They could provide about 1/3 of the climate mitigation necessary to meet targets, help improve resilience, maintain ecosystems health and address UN SDGs such as hunger, poverty, access to clean water and inequality. Opportunities are especially significant in developing countries, along the equator given forests’ rapid growth rates and high risks of deforestation.

Carbon price: the conclusion states that collective action involving all is necessary. Incentive and support policies for the transition must be multiplied, with in particular, the carbon price. Mitigation options less or equal to $100/TCO2eq could reduce emissions by at least half of the 2019 level by 2030.

On a personal note, given the highly constrained world we are getting in, I believe that the companies that will clean-up their operations inline with the Science Based Targets and define a clear value proposal that help their customers reduce their impact to achieve their targets will prevail.

Time is of the essence as we still have a short window of opportunity to drive change.

UN Sustainable Development Goals Framework for COVID-19 Recovery

COVID-19 : a systemic shift for the climate?

COVID-19 is set to cause the largest ever annual fall in CO2 emissions due to traffic, power usage and industrial production. Scientists estimate a 7% highest potential reduction if restrictions remain until the end of 2020 (Le Quéré et al., 2020). These reductions are not enough since we need to reduce by 50% our emissions by 2050 to remain below 2°c and limit worst impacts.

According to WMO, in each of the coming five years, there is a 20% chance that the global temperature will exceed 1.5°C in at least one year. (WMO 2020)

History also shows when a crisis causes a drop in emissions, it’s unlikely to be sustainable. Great depression, WWII, Oil crisis and Great recession had little lasting effect… (Time 2020)

What is our chance to keep the temperature below 2°C ? The difference with previous crises is that, there will be a before and an after COVID-19 with the global and local awareness it created. COVID-19 is also a cautionary tale for Climate Change. It highlighted and drove the need for more sustainability on health systems, energy infrastructure, local supply chains, digital ways of working and showed our ability to swiftly adapt… This combined with the clear mindset change of investors, new generations and consumers, we might be assisting to the premises of a systemic shift driving long term change in CO2 reduction.

September 2019, largest Climate Strike in history

Millennials Global Climate Strikes
Global Climate Strikes, Photograph: Satyabrata Tripathy/ Getty Images

Young activists are calling for north-south solidarity and a global climate strike to help tackle climate emergency that will exacerbate inequality and conflict.

The September 2019 climate strikes are a series of international protests to demand climate action prior to UN Climate Action Summit. The “Global Climate Strikes” inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, was likely the largest one in history, where organizers reported over 4 million protesters, taking place across 4500 locations in over 150 countries.

These series of protest are inspiring. They are the clear premises of a consciousness change, led by millennials, which will drive our decarbonization for generations to come.

1.5°c warming: Climate Justice & Renewable Energies

Renewable Energies, environmentalists arrange their bodies to form a message of hope and peace during Paris COP21 (Reuters / Benoit Tessier)

A recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change draft report warns global warming is on track to breach the toughest limit set in the Paris climate agreement by the middle of this century unless governments make unprecedented economic shifts from fossil fuels. It mentions average surface temperatures are about 1C above pre-industrial times and that average temperatures are on track to reach 1.5C by the 2040s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to the report, “In a 1.5 degree Celsius warmer world”, a world we’re likely to see by mid-century without a global transformation in the next decade, “those most at risk will be individuals and communities experiencing multidimensional poverty, persistent vulnerabilities and various forms of deprivation and disadvantage.”

The focus on justice and fairness is highlighted to push for transformations of the energy landscape and changes in land management. The draft says that renewable energies such as solar and wind power would have to become the dominant form of primary energy by 2050 to achieve the 1.5C goal. Additionally, limiting global warming to 1.5C by 2100 would “involve removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere”. This could mean planting vast forests and setting up efficient carbon capture technologies.

Source: Reuters, IPCC

Outdoor air pollution tied to 2.7 million preterm births per year

preterm-birthOutdoor air pollution has been linked to 2.7 million preterm births per year, a major study has concluded. When a baby is born preterm (at less than 37 weeks of gestation), there is an increased risk of death or long-term physical and neurological disabilities.

It found that in 2010, about 2.7 million pre-term births globally – or 18% of all pre-term births were associated with outdoor exposure to fine particulate matter. Results suggest that addressing major sources of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – from diesel vehicles, to agricultural waste-burning, could save babies’ lives and improve health outcomes.

Climate change health crisis: Global experts launch Lancet Countdown

floodAn international, multi-disciplinary research initiative was launched at the COP22 climate talks taking place in Morocco. It brings together leading experts to track and analyze the impacts of climate change on public health.

The interrelation of climate change and public health is becoming increasingly clear. The Lancet Countdown builds on the findings of the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, which concluded that climate change posed both a “potentially catastrophic risk to human health”, while conversely being “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century” if the right steps are taken.

Air pollution linked to increased mental illness in children

children_air_pollution

Research showed relatively small increases in air pollution were associated with a significant increase in treated psychiatric problems. Photograph: Alamy

Higher levels of air pollution may correspond to higher rates of mental health disorders in children e.g. kids and teens, according to a new study conducted in Sweden.

Researchers found that, in areas with higher levels of pollution, there were more medications dispensed for psychiatric conditions in children and teens, compared with areas with lower levels of air pollution.

The new findings add to previous research that has shown links between air pollution and anxiety, perceived levels of stress and mental health conditions in the general population, the researchers said in their study, published June 3 in the journal BMJ Open.

“The results can mean that a decreased concentration of air pollution — first and foremost, traffic-related air pollution — may reduce psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents,” lead study author Anna Oudin, a public health researcher at Umeå University in Sweden, said in a statement.

One striking aspect of the new research is that Sweden has low levels of air pollution, but the researchers still saw the link even below levels of 15mcg/m3. “Sweden is not a country that suffers from very bad air quality, said Kelly. “This suggests that other countries and cities have an even bigger challenge, as they will have to make significant improvements to their air quality so that it is even cleaner than Sweden’s.”

Prof Frank Kelly, at King’s College London, said the research was important. “This builds on existing evidence that children are particularly sensitive to poor air quality probably because their lifestyles increase the dose of air pollution they are exposed too – ie they are more active – and that developing organs may be more vulnerable until they fully mature.”

Air pollution rising at an ‘alarming rate’ in world’s cities

Outdoor air pollution has grown 8% globally in the past 5 years, with billions of people around the world now exposed to dangerous air, according to new data from more than 3,000 cities compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Air pollution levels were generally much lower for cities in developed countries with Sydney, New York and London registering 17, 16 and 22 micrograms per cubic metre for PM10s respectively. However, the data only includes measurements for particulates and does not include forms of air pollution such as NO2 and ozone.

“We have a public health emergency in many countries. Urban air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health. It’s dramatic, one of the biggest problems we are facing globally, with terrible future costs to society,” said Dr Maria Neira, director of public health at the WHO in Geneva.

Outdoor air pollution causes more than 3m deaths a year – more than malaria and HIV/Aids – and is now the biggest single killer in the world. The toll is expected to double as urban populations increase and car numbers approach 2bn by 2050.

Air pollutants such as sulphates, nitrates and black carbon penetrate deep into the lungs and into the cardiovascular system, posing the greatest risks to human health, says the UN.

“As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them. When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations – the youngest, oldest and poorest – are the most impacted,” said Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant director general.

“More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organisation limits.

It is crucial for city and national governments to make urban air quality a health and development priority,” said Dr Carlos Dora, co-ordinator of the WHO’s Interventions for Healthy Environment programme. “When air quality improves, health costs from air pollution related diseases shrink, worker productivity expands and life expectancy grows. Reducing air pollution also brings an added climate bonus, which can become a part of countries’ commitments to the climate treaty.”

Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd

Air pollution linked to premature birth and $4.3B cost to the United States

premature_birthAir pollution is now linked to premature birth in the U.S., causing over 3% of these events, about 16,000 each year. The annual cost has reached $4.3 billion, according to a new study by the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City (Particulate Matter Exposure and Preterm Birth: Estimates of U.S. Attributable Burden and Economic Costs, Trasande et al. 2016). Researchers say the costs include prolonged hospital stays, long-term use of medications for the infant, as well as lost economic productivity for the mother. The report also found that the number of premature births linked to air pollution was highest in urban counties. Air pollution, the research says, introduces toxic chemicals to the mother such as fine particulate matter, which in turn leads to a cascade of ill effects: immune system stress, a weakened placenta, preterm birth and a host of potential mental and physical disabilities for the baby.

In the weeks immediately after birth, premature infants often have difficulty breathing and digesting food. They can also encounter longer-term challenges such as impaired vision, hearing, and cognitive skills as well as social and behavioral problems. Pregnant women may want consider moving away from areas with heavy pollution or at least purchase air filters and close windows during high traffic periods.

“Air pollution comes with a tremendous cost, not only in terms of human life, but also in terms of the associated economic burden to society,” says Dr. Leonardo Trasande, a professor at the medical center who led the research. “It is also important to note that this burden is preventable, and can be reduced by limiting emissions from automobiles and coal-fired power plants.”

Dr. Trasande plans to share the findings with policymakers. He also says the number of premature births in the U.S. remains well above those of other developed countries. The report, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to trace the frequency and cost of premature births related to air pollution.

Climate Change is a ‘Medical Emergency’ experts warn

NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record-Shattering Global Warm Temperatures in 2015

NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record-Shattering Global Warm Temperatures in 2015. 2015 was the warmest year since modern record-keeping began in 1880, according to a new analysis by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The record-breaking year continues a long-term warming trend — 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have now occurred since 2001

According to the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, the threat to human health from climate change is so great that it could undermine the last 50 years of gains in development and global health.

Extreme weather events such as floods and heat waves bring rising risks of infectious diseases, poor nutrition and stress, the specialists said, while polluted cities where people work long hours and have no time or space to walk, cycle or relax are bad for the heart as well as respiratory and mental health.

Almost 200 countries have set a 2 degrees C global average temperature rise above pre-industrial times as a ceiling to limit climate change, but scientists say the current trajectory could lead to around a 4 degrees C rise in average temperatures, risking droughts, floods, storms and rising sea levels.

“That has very serious and potentially catastrophic effects for human health and human survival,” said Anthony Costello, director of University College London’s (UCL) Institute for Global Health, who co-led the report. “We see climate change as a major health issue, and that’s often neglected in policy debates,” he told reporters at a briefing in London. The report, commissioned and published by The Lancet medical journal, was compiled by a panel of specialists including European and Chinese climate scientists and geographers, social, environmental and energy scientists, biodiversity experts and health professionals.

It said that because responses to mitigate climate change have direct and indirect health benefits – from reducing air pollution to improving diet – a concerted effort would also provide a great opportunity to improve global health.

The report said direct health impacts of climate change come from more frequent and intense extreme weather events, while indirect impacts come from changes in infectious disease patterns, air pollution, food insecurity and malnutrition, displacement and conflicts.

“Climate Change is a medical emergency,” said Hugh Montgomery, director of UCL’s institute for human health and performance and a co-author on the report. “It demands an emergency response using technologies available right now.”

The panel said there were already numerous ways to bring about immediate health gains with action on climate change.

Burning fewer fossil fuels reduces respiratory diseases, for example, and getting people walking and cycling more cuts pollution, road accidents and rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. 

Cardiovascular disease is the world’s number one killer, leading to some 17 million deaths a year, according to World Health Organization data.

“There’s a big (energy) saving in people using calories to get around, and there are some immediate gains from more active lifestyles,” Montgomery said.

The commission also recommended the creation of a new global independent body with the task of monitoring climate change and global health. This coalition would report every two years on the health effects of climate change, track the progress of policies designed to mitigate climate change and make new suggestions on how to further adapt to climate change and implement low-carbon, sustainable health systems.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, June 22, 2015