#UN; #UNClimateChange; #AnnualGlobalTemperature; #WMO; #Covid19; #CO2
Geneva, Jul 09 (Canadian-Media): Annual global temperature is likely to be at least 1°C warmer than pre-industrial levels in each of the coming five years, putting globally agreed climate change targets in jeopardy, new data from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reveals.
An 11-year-old boy finds relief from the summer heat by playing in a fountain in a historic part of the city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan. (file). Image credit: UNICEF/Pirozzi
The prediction is among the findings in the UN agency’s latest Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update, released on Thursday in Geneva, which also shows that temperature could exceed 1.5°C in at least one year between now and 2024.
The Earth’s average temperature has already risen beyond 1°C above the pre-industrial period, which spans 1850-1900, while the last five years have been the warmest on record.
“This study shows – with a high level of scientific skill – the enormous challenge ahead in meeting the Paris Agreement on Climate Change target of keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius”, said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
No substitute for action
The latest predictions take into account natural variations and human influences on climate but exclude changes in greenhouse gas emissions and aerosols resulting from lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic.
WMO explained that the slowdown in industrial and economic activity due to the pandemic is not a substitute for sustained and coordinated climate action.
“Due to the very long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, the impact of the drop in emissions this year is not expected to lead to a reduction of CO2 atmospheric concentrations which are driving global temperature increases”, said Mr. Taalas.
“Whilst COVID-19 has caused a severe international health and economic crisis, failure to tackle climate change may threaten human well-being, ecosystems and economies for centuries, Governments should use the opportunity to embrace climate action as part of recovery programmes and ensure that we grow back better.”
Harnessing international expertise
The Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update is led by the United Kingdom’s Met Office.
It harnesses the expertise of internationally acclaimed climate scientists and the best computer models from leading climate centres around the world.
WMO explained that combining forecasts from across the globe enables a higher quality product than what can be obtained from any single source.
Boston (US), Jul 8 (Canadian-Media): Strengthening U.S. air quality standards for fine particulate pollution to be in compliance with current World Health Association (WHO) guidelines could save more than 140,000 lives over the course of a decade, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Air Pollution. Image credit: Pixaby
The study, published June 26, 2020 in Sciences Advances, provides the most comprehensive evidence to date of the causal link between long-term exposure to fine particulate (PM2.5) air pollution and premature death, according to the authors.
“Our new study included the largest-ever dataset of older Americans and used multiple analytical methods, including statistical methods for causal inference, to show that current U.S. standards for PM2.5 concentrations are not protective enough and should be lowered to ensure that vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, are safe,” said doctoral student Xiao Wu, a co-author of the study.
The new research builds on a 2017 study that showed that long-term exposure to PM2.5 pollution and ozone, even at levels below current U.S. air quality standards, increases the risk of premature death among the elderly in the U.S.
For the new study, researchers looked at 16 years’ worth of data from 68.5 million Medicare enrollees—97% of Americans over the age of 65—adjusting for factors such as body mass index, smoking, ethnicity, income, and education. They matched participants’ zip codes with air pollution data gathered from locations across the U.S. In estimating daily levels of PM2.5 air pollution for each zip code, the researchers also took into account satellite data, land-use information, weather variables, and other factors. They used two traditional statistical approaches as well as three state-of-the-art approaches aimed at teasing out cause and effect.
Results were consistent across all five different types of analyses, offering what authors called “the most robust and reproducible evidence to date” on the causal link between exposure to PM2.5 and mortality among Medicare enrollees—even at levels below the current U.S. air quality standard of 12 μg/m3 (12 micrograms per cubic meter) per year.
The authors found that an annual decrease of 10 μg/m3 in PM2.5 pollution would lead to a 6%–7% decrease in mortality risk. Based on that finding, they estimated that if the U.S. lowered its annual PM2.5 standard to 10 μg/m3—the WHO annual guideline—143,257 lives would be saved in one decade.
The authors included additional analyses focused on causation, which address criticisms that traditional analytical methods are not sufficient to inform revisions of national air quality standards. The new analyses enabled the researchers, in effect, to mimic a randomized study—considered the gold standard in assessing causality—thereby strengthening the finding of a link between air pollution and early death.
“The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed retaining current national air quality standards. But, as our new analysis shows, the current standards aren’t protective enough, and strengthening them could save thousands of lives. With the public comment period for the EPA proposal ending on June 29, we hope our results can inform policymakers’ decisions about potentially updating the standards,” said co-author Francesca Dominici, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics, Population, and Data Science.
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Climate change impacts are affecting water availability and are exacerbating the damages floods and drought cause worldwide. Climate related water action is a key for bringing us back on track to deliver Sustainable Development Goal 6, to ensure access to water and sanitation for all and to sustain a healthy environment, WMO reports said.
WMO hosted a virtual diplomatic briefing on 2 July on plans for a Water and Climate Coalition aimed at building momentum on water and climate action through implementing concrete activities at the national, regional and global levels. It is intended that the coalition will bring together UN partners and Members, donor governments, private sector, non-governmental organizations and financial institutions.
“The impacts of climate change are felt through water: through floods, drought, coastal inundation, melting of glaciers and forest fires,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas told the briefing. “There is a need to invest more in disaster risk reduction, climate adaptation and resilience,” he said.
“Water stress is a global problem,” he said. It has negative impacts on economies, health and well-being and poses a threat to future GDP in large parts of the world. Food insecurity and hunger is once again on the rise. Population growth and climate change will join forces to increase the number of people facing water shortages, especially in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
WMO is committed to strengthening the flood and drought monitoring systems and to improving the exchange of hydrological data and information which is fundamental to decision-making, he told diplomats.
The briefing was organized with the UN Environment Programme, UNESCO and UN Water, as well as with the permanent missions of Finland, Germany and Tajikistan to the United Nations. It came one week ahead of the launch on 9 July of the UN-Water SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework.
“The world is not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal on water by 2030,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, UN-Water Chair and President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. He said that the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted how many millions of people lacked access to water even to wash their hands.
“Drought appears to be a co-traveller with fragility,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Anderson. With growing water scarcity, it is projected that in future one in four children under the age of 18 – or 600 million – will be living in areas of extreme water stress.
Water is a central part of all the sustainable development goals, not just SDG 6, said Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences at UNESCO. The acceleration of SDG6 would therefore yield multiple benefits for all sectors of society.
FAO partners with the Adaptation Fund to help vulnerable countries fight the impact of climate change
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Rome, Jul 4 (Canadian-Media): The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been accredited as an implementing partner of the Adaptation Fund and will work with the international fund on projects to help vulnerable countries fight the harmful effects of climate change.
Eileen Jaleke and Geveleti operating foot treadle pump in Malawi. Image credit: FAO
FAO is already accredited with the Green Climate Fund and now becomes the 13th multilateral implementing entity to work with the Adaptation Fund.
"FAO's official accreditation to the Adaption Fund is a significant step forward in our work to promote food security and nutrition in countries particularly affected by climate change," said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General.
"It will help boost the efforts of the Organization to enhance the resilience of rural communities to build back better in times of changing environmental conditions, degrading ecosystems, and increasing water scarcity."
FAO previously worked with the Adaptation Fund on its regional project that was implemented by the World Meteorological Organization to enhance the resilience of small farmers in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.
The UN agency has now established a dedicated unit in its Land and Water Division to provide immediate assistance for the development and implementation of climate change adaptation projects in countries that might otherwise not have access to these climate-financing mechanisms.
"FAO is committed to support countries to unlock their growth potential and promote climate change adaptation for rural development and environment sustainability," said Eduardo Mansur, Director of FAO's Land and Water Division.
He said FAO's new accreditation to the Fund was a highly significant step in the agency's work to promote food security in countries particularly those affected by climate change.
"It well aligns with the efforts of the Organization to enhance the resilience of rural communities in times of changing environmental conditions, degrading ecosystems, and increasing water scarcity," Mansur said.
Electric mobility could help clean the air and boost green jobs as part of the COVID-19 recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean
#UNEP; #LatinAmerica; #CarribeanCountries; #Covid19Crisis; #ALAMOS
Panama, Jul 3 (Canadian-Media): The transition to electric mobility could help Latin America and Caribbean countries to reduce emissions and fulfill their commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change, while generating green jobs as part of their recovery plans from the COVID-19 crisis, according to a new study, UNEP reports said.
Image credit: Twitter handle
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, “Electric Mobility 2019: Status and Opportunities for Regional Collaboration in Latin America and the Caribbean,” analyzes the latest developments in 20 countries in the region and highlights the growing leadership of cities, companies, and civil associations in promoting new e-mobility technologies.
Though still a recent development, electrification of the public transport sector is happening at high speed in several countries in the region, says the study financed by the European Commission through the EUROCLIMA + Programme and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and renewable energy company Acciona.
Chile stands outs with the largest fleet of electric buses in the region, with more than 400 units, while Colombia is expected to incorporate almost 500 electric buses in Bogotá, its capital. Other Colombian cities, like Cali and Medellín, have join Ecuador’s Guayaquil and Brazil’s Sao Paulo in introducing electric buses.
Increased efficiency, lower operation and maintenance costs of electric buses, as well as growing public concern around the impacts of road transport-related emissions on human health and the environment are the main drivers behind this transition in public transport, according to the study.
The transport sector is responsible for 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean and is one of the main drivers of poor air quality in cities, which causes more than 300,000 premature deaths a year in the Americas, according to the World Health Organization.
“In recent months we have seen a reduction of air pollution in cities in the region due to lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But these improvements are only temporary. We must undertake a structural change so that our transportation systems contribute to the sustainability of our cities,” says Leo Heileman, UNEP Regional Director in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The report calls on decision-makers to prioritize the electrification of public transport, especially when updating the old bus fleets that run through the large cities in the region. There is fear of a “technology lock-in” over the next 7 to 15 years if authorities choose to renew old fleets with new internal combustion vehicles that will continue to pollute the air and cause severe health damages.
Some countries are already paving the way to ensure a transition to sustainable transport. Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panamá have designed national strategies on electric mobility, while Argentina, Dominican Republic, México, Paraguay are finalizing their own plans, according to the report.
More than 6,000 new light-duty electric vehicles (EVs) were registered in Latin America and the Caribbean, between January 2016 and September 2019, according to the report. The need for charging infrastructure has boosted new ventures and services. For example, e-corridors, already running in Brazil, Chile, México, and Uruguay, allow users to extend the autonomy of their EVs by making use of public fast charging point networks.
Shared mobility businesses focusing on electric bicycles and skateboards are also being developed in at least nine countries in the region.
The development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure has the potential to foster new investments and jobs, which are key to COVID-19 recovery efforts in the region.
The report calls on governments to develop a clear medium- and long-term roadmap that provides legal certainty for private investment and highlights the role of sustainable mobility in power grid expansion plans, in line with climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.
The 2015 Agreement, signed to date by nearly 200 countries, aims to keep the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The report was produced with inputs from the Latin American Association for Sustainable Mobility (ALAMOS) and contributions from the Center for Urban Sustainability in Costa Rica.
#UNEP; #Ghana; #Covid19Pandemic; #ClimateAdaptation; #NAP; #GreenClimateFund
Accra, 02 July (Canadian-Media): The Government of Ghana has launched the process to develop a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) in efforts to build nationwide resilience to climate change impacts. The project is the first of its kind in Ghana to use future climate projections to plan over large timescales, up to the year 2080, UNEP reports said.
NAP Global Network. Image credit: Twitter handle
The NAP process seeks to reduce vulnerability to the negative impacts of climate change by strategically planning to build resilience, especially in developing countries. NAPs are widely viewed as one of the most important mechanisms for climate adaptation.
At the official launch event in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, on the 30 June, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Minister for Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation, said:
“The National Adaptation Planning (NAP) process is one of the efforts by the Government of Ghana to address climate change impacts from a more integrated, coordinated and sustainable manner. It is imperative for the developing world to plan their development with climate change in mind.”
Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng. Twitter Handle of GBC Ghana
A key aspect of Ghana’s NAP process is to develop temperature and rainfall scenarios up to 60 years into the future. These climate projections, combined with climate-vulnerability assessments for different sectors, can then be used to plan and guide government decisions, whether it’s investment decisions, changes to regulatory and fiscal frameworks or public awareness, so that the country can take timely action to reduce exposure and sensitivity to climate risks.
In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Ghana’s government will aim to use this NAP process to ‘build back better’, ensuring that post-COVID-19 recovery investments and stimulus packages are ‘climate-proof’ – i.e., resilient to the extreme weather events projected in the coming decades.
Describing the COVID-19 global pandemic as “a wake-up call to us as Ghanaians on self-sufficiency”, Minister Frimpong-Boateng stressed that proper adaptation planning was a critical part of the solution.
During Ghana’s NAP process, the government will consider strategies to build resilience to the impacts from both climate change and COVID-19 in tandem. For instance, a major goal of the project is to strengthen institutional collaboration across many different ministries and sectors, because government responses to both climate change and COVID-19 demand cross-sectoral planning and coordination.
Similarly, climate change and COVID-19 have stark implications for food security. By focusing on strategies to strengthen and bolster Ghana’s agricultural sector, which provides livelihoods for around 65% of the population, the NAP process can serve as a vehicle to strategically plan for both extreme weather events and global pandemics, protecting agricultural livelihoods and economic growth from climate shocks.
Supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be executing the NAP project, which is funded by the Green Climate Fund to the tune of USD$2.97m.
The EPA’s Acting Executive Director, John Alexis Pwamang, said:
“Today marks the beginning of a 36-month journey of adaptation planning where the EPA will be working together with all of the partners and stakeholders for this launch to ensure that climate change adaptation becomes part and parcel of Ghana’s medium- and long-term development agenda. The consultative nature of the NAP process is a key ingredient for making sure that all actors are on board for better results.”
Speaking at the project launch event, the UN Resident Coordinator for Ghana, Charles Abani, said: “We must draw on science to inform policy in our efforts to adapt to climate change. Ghana is one of the leading countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that is putting in place a policy and institutional framework to implement climate action, targeting vulnerable communities that are disproportionately affected by shocks and stresses.”
Climate change in Ghana is expected to: render rainfall patterns increasingly unpredictable and erratic; increase mean temperature by 1.5 – 5.2°c by 2090; and increase sea level by 34.5cm by 2090. This is likely to have serious implications for the agricultural sector, which contributes 54% of Ghana’s GDP.
UN and Sony PlayStation team up with new virtual experience to raise gamers’ awareness of climate change
#UN; #UNEP; #SonyPlayStation; #Nairobi
Nairobi, Jul 3 (Canadian-Media): The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Sony PlayStation have teamed up to create an immersive virtual reality experience designed to increase global awareness about what a climate change-friendly lifestyle looks like.
Image credit: Twitter handle
For the first time, UNEP and Sony have collaborated using the DreamsTM platform to create an immersive video that seeks to bring viewers face to face with their individual carbon footprints. It takes the audience on a 5 minute journey through an average day, observing what they eat, how they travel and the homes they live in. The video ends with viewers witnessing a giant 34 meter high heaving ball illustrating the carbon footprint of an average person in a developed country.
“COVID has brought unprecedented disruption to how we live our lives, but now as we move out of lock-downs, we have an opportunity to develop new habits that can keep us within the safe limits of a 1.5 degree world. We hope that this ‘virtual reality check’ will show people how beautiful and possible these new lifestyle choices are" said Ligia Noronha, Director of UNEP’s Economy Division
As a member of the Playing for the Planet Alliance, launched in 2019 with the support of UNEP, Sony hopes to see more game designers becoming more deliberate about tackling climate change. The Alliance hosted a Green Mobile Green Jam with 11 companies in April that will see more companies integrate green activations into their games.
Explaining this project’s approach, lead illustrator Martin Nebelong said, “Virtual reality is an extraordinary storytelling medium for climate change – as an artist, I wanted to design a beautiful and sometimes frightening experience that shows the true scale of our emissions and the impacts we should expect to see. This is not possible in two dimensions.”
Speaking in support of the initiative, Kieren Mayers, Director of Environment and Technical Compliance at Sony PlayStation said, “Gaming reaches a huge audience worldwide, and has the power to inspire social change. Sony Group has a global environmental plan "Road to Zero", and following our commitment at the September 2019 UN Climate Summit in New York, we have partnered with UNEP to explore various ways to use gaming and virtual reality to educate and bring messages of hope – and are excited to see this video using DreamsTM as one of the first initiatives from this.”
Viewers will not need virtual reality devices to experience it – the video will also be streamed through Youtube in a 360 degree format so that viewers can interact with the experience on desktops or mobile devices. The video will also be shared via Earth School which has been visited by some 700,000 young people as a result of UNEP’s collaboration with TED-Ed for students and educators around the world.
#UN; #UNCTAD; #EelectricCars; #ClimateChange
New York, Jun 28 (Canadian-Media): Demand for raw materials used in the production of electric car batteries is set to soar, prompting the UN trade body, UNCTAD, to call for the social and environmental impacts of the extraction of raw materials, which include human rights abuses, to be urgently addressed, UN reports said.
Agência Brasil/José Cruz. Image credit: Brazilian mine (file)
Electric cars are rapidly becoming more popular amongst consumers, and UNCTAD predicts that some 23 million will be sold over the coming decade: the market for rechargeable car batteries, currently estimated at $7 billion, is forecast to rise to $58 billion by 2024 .
The shift to electric mobility is in line with ongoing efforts to reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change, but a new report from UNCTAD, warns that the raw materials used in electric car batteries, are highly concentrated in a small number of countries, which raises a number of concerns.
Drilling down in DRC, ChileFor example, two-thirds of all cobalt production happens in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about 20 per cent of cobalt supplied from the DRC comes from artisanal mines, where human rights abuses have been reported, and up to 40,000 children work in extremely dangerous conditions in the mines for meagre income.
And in Chile, lithium mining uses nearly 65% of the water in the country's Salar de Atamaca region, one of the driest desert areas in the world, to pump out brines from drilled wells. This has forced local quinoa farmers and llama herders to migrate and abandon ancestral settlements. It has also contributed to environment degradation, landscape damage and soil contamination, groundwater depletion and pollution.
Climb the value chain
Noting that "the rise in demand for the strategic raw materials used to manufacture electric car batteries will open more trade opportunities for the countries that supply these materials”, UNCTAD's director of international trade, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, emphasised the importance, for these countries, to “develop their capacity to move up the value chain".
In the DRC, this would mean building processing plants and refineries that would add value and, potentially, jobs within the country. However, for various reasons (including limited infrastructure, financing and a lack of appropriate policies), refining takes place in other countries, mainly Belgium, China, Finland, Norway and Zambia, which reap the economic benefit.
The report recommends that countries such as DRC provide “conducive environment to attract investment to establish new mines or expand existing ones”.
Diversify and thrive
UNCTAD also recommends that the industry find ways to reduce its dependence on critical raw materials. For example, scientists are researching the possibility of using widely-available silicon, instead of graphite (80% of natural graphite reserves are in China, Brazil and Turkey).
If the industry manages to become less reliant on materials concentrated in a small number of countries, says UNCTAD, there is more chance that prices of batteries will drop, leading to greater take-up of electric cars, and a shift away from fossil-fuel powered transport.
As for the environmental consequences of the batteries themselves, the report recommends the development of improved, more sustainable mining techniques, and the recycling of the raw materials used in spent Lithium-Ion batteries, a measure that would help deal with the expected increase in demand, and also create new business opportunities.
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New York, Jun 28 (Canadian-Media): As governments try to kick-start their economies, the UN is calling for recovery plans to be built around low-carbon technologies, to avoid a return to fossil fuel-based business as usual, UN reports said.
Coastal communities, like Port Sud-Est in Mauritius, are exposed to the adverse impacts of climate change. Image credit: UNDP Mauritius/Stéphane Bellero
Islands at the forefront
Some of the countries and regions at the forefront of this wholescale shift to renewables are islands, where the need to avoid the significant cost of importing fossil fuels, such as oil and gas, provides added motivation.
Mauritius, for example, is planning to generate over a third of its electricity from renewable sources within the next five years. Projects supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), will be an important part of this transition, bringing an additional 25 Mega Watts of solar power to Mauritius, including a mini-power grid in Agalega, one of the outer islands.
At the current pace, it would take the world forever to come anywhere near a no-carbon system. Rana Adib, Executive Director, REN21
As well as reducing pollution, this shift to clean energy is expected to aid economic recovery, with new jobs in areas such as the production, installation, and maintenance of renewable energy equipment, from solar panels, to batteries and wind turbines.
Another added benefit is energy security: with such a high dependence on imported oil, price fluctuations can make budgeting difficult, and any interruption to supply can have serious consequences. “Home-grown” energy from renewable sources can make the energy grid more reliable, and more resilient.
The Pacific US State of Hawaii is planning to go even further and become a trailblazer for the rest of the United States, by going completely renewable by 2045. As Hawaii State Governor, David Ige, explained to UN News, their commitment is now moving to the mainstream: “at the time we enacted the law to commit to 100 per cent renewables, no other community had done anything similar and at the National Governors’ Association, people were generally very surprised.
They thought that it was so beyond possible that it was a foolish undertaking. Now, California has embraced the commitment to 100 per cent clean renewable energy and other states are contemplating doing the same. I’m proud that Hawaii has really inspired other states and communities.”
Time to change the entire energy system
As economies recover post-pandemic, following these examples will be essential to turn the tide and, as a new report from REN21 – a renewable energy think tank that includes the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Development Programme (UNDP) amongst its members – shows, remarkable progress has been made by the renewable energy industry, where costs are falling, and clean energy use is increase.
However, this good news is currently offset by the fact that global energy use is rising, and is being powered, in the main, by fossil fuels. Following the release of the report, on 16 June, Rana Adib, REN21’s Executive Director, underlined the fact that the pandemic-related emissions drop barely makes a dent in the long-term problem of climate change, and an overhaul of the entire energy system is needed:
“Even if the lockdowns were to continue for a decade, the change would not be sufficient. At the current pace, with the current system and current market rules, it would take the world forever to come anywhere near a no-carbon system.”
The report warns that many recovery programmes include commitments to stick with dirty, polluting fossil fuel systems: whilst some countries are phasing out coal, others continue to invest in new coal-fired power plants. In addition, funding from private banks for fossil fuel projects has increased each year since the signing of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, totalling some USD 2.7 trillion over the last three years.
“Some directly promote natural gas, coal or oil. Others, though claiming a green focus, build the roof and forget the foundation,” warned Ms. Adib. “Take electric cars and hydrogen, for example. These technologies are only green if powered by renewables.”
Clean is cost-effective
Nevertheless, Mauritius and Hawaii show that a green option is not only possible, but actually a better deal than a fossil-fuel based recovery plan, especially when the true costs, including air pollution, climate change effects and traffic congestion, are factored in.
A new book from the World Bank, Technology Transfer and Innovation for Low-carbon Development, shows that most of the emissions reductions needed to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, can be achieved if existing, commercially proven low-carbon technology is adopted on a massive scale.
As Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) explains, “renewables are now more cost-effective than ever, providing an opportunity to prioritize clean economic recovery packages and bring the world closer to meeting the Paris Agreement Goals. Renewables are a key pillar of a healthy, safe and green COVID-19 recovery that leaves no one behind.”
When Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2020, a report from UNEP, The Frankfurt School, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, was released in June, it further underlined the plummeting costs of clean energy, highlighting the fact that “putting these dollars into renewables will buy more generation capacity than ever before”, and help countries deliver on stronger climate action.
“If governments take advantage of the ever-falling price tag of renewables to put clean energy at the heart of COVID -19 economic recovery, instead of subsidizing the recovery of fossil-fuel industries”, said Ms. Andersen, “they can take a big step towards clean energy and a healthy natural world, which ultimately is the best insurance policy against global pandemics.”
An opportunity for a cleaner world
The economic slowdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a significant fall in harmful greenhouse emissions and, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 2020 will see a drop of around eight per cent.
This has given us an idea of what a cleaner world might look like, but it is only a temporary respite: it has also had devastating consequences, including the shuttering of entire sectors, and unemployment for millions of people.
Now, with countries and regions like Mauritius and Hawaii investing in policies, programmes and initiatives to get people back to work, there is an opportunity for a more sustainable approach, with renewable technologies at its heart. The question is whether the international community will seize this opportunity, or stick with the devil they know.
United Nations, Jun 26 (Canadian-Media): New records for extreme lightning bursts, or ‘megaflashes’, during 2019, have been made official, more than doubling the size and duration of the previous record flashes, the UN’s weather agency, WMO, announced on June 25, UN reports said.
Closing the windows and covering your pet’s ears, during the ensuing thunder, probably wouldn’t have made much difference to anyone stuck in the middle of the flash that developed continuously over northern Argentina on 4 March 2019, lasting a whopping 16.73 seconds.
And the flash that stretched more than 700 kilometres (400 miles) across southern Brazil on 31 October last year, was equivalent to the distance between Boston and Washington DC in the United States, or between London, England, and Basel, Switzerland.
The world’s greatest extent for a single lightning covered a horizontal distance of over 700 km (440) across parts of southern Brazil on 31 October 2018, by WMOThe previous megaflash distance record was 321 km (199.5 miles) on 20 June 2007, across the US state of Oklahoma, and the previous continuous duration record, was a puny-by-comparison 7.74 seconds, reached on 30 August 2012 in southern France.
Seen from space
The new record-breaking strikes, captured by the American Geophysical Union ahead of International Lightning Safety Day on 28 June, were recorded by equipment carried on the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites, and their orbiting counterparts from Europe and China.
The records were described by Professor Randall Cerveny, chief rapporteur of Weather and Climate Extremes for WMO, as “extraordinary”: “Environmental extremes are living measurements of what nature is capable of, as well as scientific progress in being able to make such assessments”, he added.
“It is likely that even greater extremes still exist, and that we will be able to observe them as lightning detection technology improves.”
Professor Cerveny said the technology could help scientists better understand the whole science of lightning, and potentially save lives: “This will provide valuable information for establishing limits to the scale of lightning – including megaflashes – for engineering, safety and scientific concerns.”
The WMO reiterated the dangers of lightning, and the many lives it claims every year.
Previous extreme examples have led to major loss of life: in 1975, for example, 21 people in Zimbabwe were killed when a single flash hit the hut in which they were sheltering, and 469 people were killed in Dronka, Egypt in 1994, when lightning tragically struck a set of oil tanks, causing burning oil to flood the town.
The official advice from the agency is to follow the 30-30 rule: if the time between flash and thunder is less than 30 seconds, stay inside, and wait 30 minutes after the last observed flash, to resume outdoor activities.