New York, Sept 28 (Canadian-Media): “All of us from small islands can relate to the word’s perception of us, as small islands”, but rather than treating them as distant vessels, imagine instead “an undivided Pacific, connected by an ocean highway, UN reports said.
”That was the plea to world leaders from Vinzealhar Ainjo Kwangin Nen, on Friday, speaking on behalf of her generation, on the front line of climate change.
The young advocate from the island nation of Papua New Guinea, painted a vivid picture of the dangers for delegates on Friday, during the last major summit of the UN’s high level week, dedicated to looking at the progress and pitfalls facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS) as the world warms, and the seas rise.
Speaking from the General Assembly Hall podium, she offered a personal view in poetic form, of the struggles she is dealing with: “I am a youth of a small island, when in a global community, most everyone doesn’t know where I am. And what hurts the most, is I know where they all are”.
Testimonies like Ms. Nen’s received a warm welcome during the event, geared towards addressing climate and development issues unique to island states, and assessing the implementation of priorities laid out in a 2014 mandate, to accelerate SIDS development.
The Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action - or SAMOA Pathway, was agreed in September 2014, during the Third International Conference to focus the world’s attention on islands’ special development roles and particular vulnerabilities.
As world leaders gathered for a mid-term review on the plan’s implementation, five years form its adoption, they conceded that progress toward sustainable development for SIDS require a major increase in urgent investment, and the road to stability for many island nations is threatened by amplified environmental challenges, economic crises, food security, and others.
While some progress has been made in addressing social inclusion, gender equality, poverty and unemployment, inequality continues to affect vulnerable groups, and devastating effects of climate change cause lasting loss of life and property.
Putting the plan into action represents “an important chance for the international community to demonstrate solidarity”, Secretary-General António Guterres stressed.
“Small Island Developing States are a special case for sustainable development. They require the concerted long-term attention and investment of the entire international community”, he said.
Following in line for comment, President Michael Higgins of Ireland, which sponsored the event, emphasized that “we cannot allow our words in one compartment to be contradictory to another. There must be consistency across the architecture and delivery, most of all the words must be followed by action.”
“This is not academic, this is about life,” he added, highlighting that for island nations “the word ‘disaster’ has a different meaning…as it is a disaster that will come again and again, and therefore response must take account of the danger of recurrence.”
The day-long review comes one month after Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of the Bahamas, adding to the increasing frequency, scale and intensity of natural disasters and their unique threat to island nations and their people.
Keynote speaker and leading Hollywood actor, Jason Momoa said, “I am standing here today because I am ashamed that not all leaders have wanted agreement”, referring the groundbreaking 2015 Paris Climate pledge to limit the globe from warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“I have seen how one place can be oblivious to another…with a foothold in two worlds, I began to see how a problem for one can become a problem for all,” said the star of the Aquaman superhero movie, speaking to his background as Hawaiian-born, and Iowa-raised.
A political declaration is expected to come at the summit’s conclusion, a concise action-oriented agreement to further propel the SAMOA pathway’s integration which will require the international community’s support.
Ottawa, Sept 27 (Canadian-Media): A recent study at the Center for Climate Change Communication in the U.S. -- done in response to scientific evidence of global warming -- denied that warming is actually happening, media reports said.
Center for Climate Change Communication in USA/Facebook
Maxime Bernier, People's Party of Canada Leader was reported to tell the Toronto Star's editorial board that while the change of climate is not primarily due to human activity.
"It tends to be much more either, 'We can't do anything about it' or 'It's not important enough to do right away,'" says Matto Mildenberger, a Canadian climate policy researcher who also suggests "powerful economic actors" are at work influencing public discourse.
The climate communication researchers believe media coverage to providing two opposing sides on any story is as one of the causes that has amplified the climate denial movement
"You would have a climate scientist on a cable news show or a panel debating climate policy, and the media would find someone who disbelieved [it] or was from an industry group that was rejecting the climate consensus," said Mildenberger. "It gives [the public] a false sense that there was real substantial scientific debate about this."
New York, Sept. 6 (Canadian-Media): Our oceans and frozen spaces have been “taking the heat” for global warming for decades, climate experts said on Wednesday, warning that without a radical change in human behaviour, hundreds of millions of people could suffer from rising sea levels, frequent natural disasters and food shortages, UN reports said.
“The ocean is warmer, more acidic and less productive”, the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states. “Melting glaciers and ice sheets are causing sea level rise, and coastal extreme events are becoming more severe.”
According to the IPCC report on the ocean and cryosphere - the frozen parts of the planet - global warming has already reached one degree Celsius above the pre-industrial level.
This temperature rise, which the 195-strong Member State body attributes to greenhouse gas emissions, has resulted in “profound consequences” for people and the planet.
“The world’s ocean and cryosphere have been ‘taking the heat’ from climate change for decades, and consequences for nature and humanity are sweeping and severe,” said Ko Barrett, Vice-Chair of the IPCC.
In total, 670 million people who live in the world’s high mountain regions and around the same number in low-lying coastal zones “depend directly” on the planet’s oceans and frozen resources, the IPCC notes.
In addition, four million people live permanently in the Arctic region, and small island developing states are home to 65 million people.
In a bid to protect them, their surroundings and livelihoods, the IPCC is calling for the introduction of measures to limit global warming “to the lowest possible level”, in line with the internationally agreed 2015 Paris Agreement.
“If we reduce emissions sharply, (the) consequences for people and their livelihoods will still be challenging, but potentially more manageable for those who are most vulnerable”, said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “The open sea, the Arctic, the Antarctic and the high mountains may seem far away to many people. But we depend on them and are influenced by them directly and indirectly in many ways – for weather and climate, for food and water, for energy, trade, transport, recreation and tourism, for health and wellbeing, for culture and identity.”
According to the IPCC report, average sea level rise is now 3.6 millimetres a year.
This is more than twice as fast as during the last century and levels could rise more than a metre by 2100 “if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly”.
The result is likely to be more extreme sea level events that occur during high tides and intense storms. “Indications are that with any degree of additional warming, events that occurred once per century in the past, will occur every year by mid-century in many regions, increasing risks for many low-lying coastal cities and small islands”, the report states.
Without major investments in adaptation, these low-lying zones would be exposed to escalating flood risks, and some island nations “are likely to become uninhabitable”.
Glaciers could shrink 80 per cent, by 2100
Highlighting the importance of coordinated, ambitious and urgent action to mitigate the impact of global warming, the IPCC report also warns that glaciers, snow, ice and permafrost are declining “and will continue to do so”.
In Europe, eastern Africa, the tropical Andes and Indonesia, smaller glaciers are projected to lose more than 80 per cent of their current ice mass by 2100, under worst emission scenarios.
This is likely to increase hazards for people, for example through landslides, avalanches, rockfalls and floods, in addition to farmers and hydroelectric power producers downstream.
“Changes in water availability will not just affect people in these high mountain regions, but also communities much further downstream”, said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC’s Working Group I.
Sea ice getting thinner every month
On sea ice, the IPCC report underscores that the extent of Arctic ice has declined every month, “and it is getting thinner”.
If global warming can be kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the Arctic ocean would only be ice-free in September once in every 100 years, the study suggests. At two degrees Celsius, however, this would occur up to one year in three.
“Some people living in the Arctic, especially indigenous peoples, have already adjusted their traveling and hunting activities to the seasonality and safety of land, ice and snow conditions, and some coastal communities have planned for relocation,” the report states.
Permafrost ‘warming and thawing’
Turning to permafrost - ground that has been frozen for many years – the IPCC suggests that it is “warming and thawing and widespread permafrost thaw is projected to occur in the 21st Century”.
Even if global warming is limited to well below two degrees Celsius below pre-industrial levels, around a quarter of the permafrost down to three to four metres depth, will thaw by 2100.
If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly, there is a potential that around 70 per cent this near-surface permafrost could be lost.
In writing the report, more than 100 authors from 36 countries assessed the latest scientific literature on the ocean and cryosphere, basing their findings on some 7,000 scientific publications.
It will provide input for world leaders gathering in forthcoming climate and environment negotiations, such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Chile, in December.
Toronto, Sept 20 (Canadian-Media): An announcement was made today by Toronto Mayor John Tory that he will lead Toronto in joining 800 other governments around the world in declaring a climate emergency, media reports said.
The consideration of the the declaration of a climate emergency would be done at the Oct. 2 meeting of City Council keeping in mind the purpose of naming, framing and deepening Toronto's commitment to protecting our community, our economy, and our ecosystems from climate change.
Being a member of C40, and ahead of the C40 World Mayors Summit, Toronto is joining other cities around the world to acknowledge the scale of the climate crisis. Climate emergency has been declared by more than 800 local governments in 16 countries including Amsterdam, Auckland, Barcelona, London, Los Angeles, Montréal, New York City, Paris, San Francisco, Sydney and Vancouver.
Our residents and businesses in Toronto, over the past few years had been dealing with the effects of more frequent flooding and other severe weather events brought on by climate change. It was also noted by our City's Resilience Strategy that Toronto's risk of Toronto is increasing due to its weather getting hotter, wetter and wilder.
With his commitment to lead City of Toronto in addressing climate change, the Mayor is collaborating with our partners in the provincial and federal governments to enact real and meaningful actions that will protect future generations.
"Climate change and global warming poses a major risk to our city's residents and businesses," said Mayor John Tory. "That's why we are taking action through plans like TransformTO and adaptation strategies such as Toronto's Resilience Strategy. This emergency declaration serves to join cities across the world in tackling climate change, frame the impact of climate change on our residents and businesses, and enhance Toronto's commitment to a net zero carbon future."
This announcement was made on the same day Mayor Tory and members of the City's debenture committee approved Toronto's second green bond. This $200 million bond will be used to invest in environmental projects including the Port Lands flood protection, energy efficiency retrofits for Toronto Community Housing buildings, cycling infrastructure, and installing solar panels at City facilities to generate at least five per cent of its energy.
TransformTO plan to reach greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets of 80% reduction by 2050 based on 1990 levels was approved by the Toronto City Council in 2017.
A set of strategies to achieve Toronto's established carbon reduction goals laid out by TransformTO are now underway.
In recent months, cities from across the world are collaborating to tackle carbon reduction to facilitate achievement of the major change necessary to keep global warming to 1.5°C
Councillor Jennifer McKelvie, the Mayor's Resilience Champion supported the climate emergency declaration.
"Action on climate change will define this generation. Toronto has a climate emergency," said Councillor Jennifer McKelvie (Ward 25 Scarborough-Rouge Park). "Climate change impacts are being felt today, we can’t wait until tomorrow to take action. C40 is an opportunity for global learning that will challenge Toronto to do more."
Councillor Mike Layton, vice-chair of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund and responsible for establishing the climate subcommittee that would later develop TransformTO, is supportive of Toronto declaring a climate emergency.
“I am proud to stand beside Toronto residents and experts calling for greater action on climate change, particularly the strong movement of youth," said Councillor Layton (Ward 11 University-Rosedale). "Toronto needs to show leadership as we join the international community to call for greater action on the climate crisis - that means stronger targets, accelerating the programs we have and finding new tools, and more involvement from all communities impacted by climate change."
United Nations, Sept 20 (Canadian-Media): Ahead of global leaders’ arrival in New York for the Climate Action Summit on 23 September, the United Nations deputy chief has launched a comprehensive report on how the world can take swift and meaningful action to slow down climate change.
As countries face more political, technical, socioeconomic and other barriers, increased climate ambition is central to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Vendors are photographed in Kashmir before going to a floating market.
“We know why tackling climate change is important”, said Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed on Wednesday. “The devastation wreaked by Dorian on the Bahamas, what the Secretary-General called a Category Hell hurricane, is a glimpse into one aspect of a future powered by climate change – a future with super storms that grow in intensity and frequency, where those countries with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, continue to feel the worst impacts of the planet’s rising temperatures.”
Informed by the perspectives of more than 130 Governments, The Heat is On – Taking Stock of Global Climate Ambition, reveals that business as usual, is not good enough and requires more mitigation, adaptation and finance – all which must be done quickly.
‘Sling shot’ moment
“When I look back on this Climate Action Summit, I want us to see it as a sling shot – that helped to change our common trajectory towards sustainability”, said Ms. Mohammed, building trust “between this generation of adults and the next – between our children and ourselves – that we are all working together to our fullest potential to tackle the climate emergency”.
She recapped that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report stressed the need to ensure that “the global temperature rise does not go beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius” through “cutting emissions by 45 per cent by 2030”, warning that “we have very little time to take the decisions needed to get there”.
Those decisions should be set out in each country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) on climate change, which she called “the cornerstone of the Paris Agreement”.
The report, which was developed in partnership by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Climate Change treaty body (UNFCCC), “will help us to understand whether world leaders address the Climate Summit…with ‘concrete plans, not speeches’, as is the Secretary General’s call”, Ms. Mohammed said.
She expressed her hope that in “ratcheting up the response to the climate crisis” countries will be ambitious, saying “ambitions plans, accelerated action, and mobilized societies” are all crucial.
“As the Secretary-General has said about this Climate Action Summit – the race is on”, she concluded. “It is a race we can win; it is a race we must win”.
Less talk, more action
"We need to talk less, and we need to act more" the head of the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) said at the launch.
Fortunately, momentum has been building since the adoption of the Paris Agreement and most countries are committed to combatting climate change. Since that time, more and more key actors are aligning their plans, policies and projections with the Agreement.
"Half of the world's population is engaged in a proactive transformation of their economies to low-carbon", said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.
According to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), with the necessary support, cities, regions and businesses can help countries surpass pledged emissions cuts and raise ambition.
However, the report cuts to the bottom line, while momentum exists, “much more climate ambition” is needed as climate change is “fast outpacing us and needs an urgent response by all segments of society”.
UNDP presented its scaled-up commitment of support, aimed at helping 100 countries enhance their NDCs by 2020.
The launch concluded with a preview of ‘Mission 1.5’, an interactive digital media experience to help citizens to have a voice in the next generation of climate action – the mobilization effort.
Queensland, Sept 19 (Canadian-Media): In internationally respected group of scientists have urgently called on world leaders to accelerate efforts to tackle climate change. Almost every aspect of the planet's environment and ecology is undergoing changes in response to climate change, some of which will be profound if not catastrophic in the future.
Credit: CC0 Public Domain
According to their study published in Science today, reducing the magnitude of climate change is also a good investment. Over the next few decades, acting to reduce climate change is expected to cost much less than the damage otherwise inflicted by climate change on people, infrastructure and ecosystems.
"Acting on climate change" said lead author, Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the ARC Centre for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies at the University of Queensland in Australia "has a good return on investment when one considers the damages avoided by acting."
The investment is even more compelling given the wealth of evidence that the impacts of climate change are happening faster and more extensively than projected, even just a few years ago. This makes the case for rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions even more compelling and urgent.
Prof Hoegh-Guldberg explained the mismatch. "First, we have underestimated the sensitivity of natural and human systems to climate change, and the speed at which these changes are happening. Second, we have underappreciated the synergistic nature of climate threats—with the outcomes tending to be worse than the sum of the parts. This is resulting is rapid and comprehensive climate impacts, with growing damage to people, ecosystems, and livelihoods."
For example, sea-level rise can lead to higher water levels during storm events. This can create more damage. For deprived areas, this may exacerbate poverty creating further disadvantage. Each risk may be small on its own, but a small change in a number of risks can lead to large impacts.
Prof Daniela Jacob, co-author and Director of Climate Services Centre (GERICS) in Germany is concerned about these rapid changes—especially about unprecedented weather extremes.
"We are already in new territory" said Prof Jacob, "The 'novelty' of the weather is making our ability to forecast and respond to weather-related phenomena very difficult."
These changes are having major consequences. The paper updates a database of climate-related changes and finds that there are significant benefits from avoiding 2 C and aiming to restrict the increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial global temperatures.
Prof Rachel Warren from the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia in the UK assessed projections of risk for forests, biodiversity, food, crops and other critical systems, and found very significant benefits for limiting global warming to 1.5 C rather than 2 C.
"The scientific community has quantified these risks in order to inform policy makers about the benefits of avoiding them," Prof Warren stated.
Since the Paris Agreement came into force, there has been a race to quantify the benefits of limiting warming to 1.5 C so that policy makers have the best possible information for developing the policy required for doing it.
Prof Warren continued. "If such policy is not implemented, we will continue on the current upward trajectory of burning fossil fuels and continuing deforestation, which will expand the already large-scale degradation of ecosystems. To be honest, the overall picture is very grim unless we act."
A recent report from the United Nations projected that as many as a million species may be at risk of extinction over the coming decades and centuries. Climate change is not the only factor but is one of the most important ones.
The urgency of responding to climate change is at front of mind for Prof Michael Taylor, co-author and Dean of Science at the University of the West Indies. "This is not an academic issue, it is a matter of life and death for people everywhere. That said, people from small island States and low-lying countries are in the immediate cross-hairs of climate change."
"I am very concerned about the future for these people," said Professor Taylor.
This urgency to act is further emphasized by the vulnerability of developing countries to climate change impacts as pointed out by Francois Engelbrecht, co-author and Professor of Climatology at the Global Change Institute of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.
"The developing African countries are amongst those to be affected most in terms of impacts on economic growth in the absence of strong climate change mitigation," Prof Engelbrecht explains.
Prof Hoegh-Guldberg reiterated the importance of the coming year (2020) in terms of climate action and the opportunity to strengthen emission reduction pledges in line with the Paris Agreement of 2015.
"Current emission reduction commitments are inadequate and risk throwing many nations into chaos and harm, with a particular vulnerability of poor peoples. To avoid this, we must accelerate action and tighten emission reduction targets so that they fall in line with the Paris Agreement. As we show, this is much less costly than suffering the impacts of 2 C or more of climate change."
"Tackling climate change is a tall order. However, there is no alternative from the perspective of human well-being—and too much at stake not to act urgently on this issue."
'The human imperative of stabilizing global climate change at 1.5°C' is published in Science on September 19.