2018 was fourth hottest year on record: UN report
NEW YORK, Feb 6: Last year was the fourth warmest on record and the outlook is for more sizzling heat approaching levels that most governments view as dangerous for the Earth, a UN report showed on Wednesday.
Weather extremes in 2018 included wildfires in California and Greece, drought in South Africa and floods in Kerala. Record levels of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, trap ever more heat.
Average global surface temperatures were 1.0 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times in 2018, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said, based on data from US, British, Japanese and European weather agencies.
“The long-term temperature trend is far more important than the ranking of individual years, and that trend is an upward one,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. “The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years.”
To combat warming, almost 200 governments adopted the Paris climate agreement in 2015 to phase out the use of fossil fuels and limit the rise in temperatures to 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times while “pursuing efforts” for 1.5C (2.7F).
“The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt - in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Last year, the United States alone suffered 14 weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion each, led by hurricanes and wildfires, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.
NOAA and NASA contribute data to the WMO.
This year has also started with scorching temperatures, including Australia’s warmest January on record. Against the global trend, parts of the United States suffered bone-chilling cold from a blast of Arctic air last week.In WMO records dating back to the 19th century, 2016 was the hottest year, boosted by an El Nino weather event in the Pacific Ocean, ahead of 2015 and 2017 with 2018 in fourth.
Risks of 1.5 c
The British Met Office, which also contributes data to the WMO, said temperatures could rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial times, for instance if a natural El Nino weather event adds a burst of heat.
“Over the next five years there is a one in 10 chance of one of those years breaking the (1.5C) threshold,” Professor Adam Scaife of the Met Office told Reuters of the agency’s medium-term forecasts.
“That is not saying the Paris Agreement is done for ... but it’s a worrying sign,” he said. The United Nations defines the 1.5C Paris temperature target as a 30-year average, not a freak blip in a single year.
The United Nations says the world is now on track for a temperature rise of 3C or more by 2100. The Paris pact responded to a 1992 UN treaty under which all governments agreed to avert “dangerous” man-made climate change.
A UN report last year said the world is likely to breach 1.5C sometime between 2030 and 2052 on current trends, triggering ever more heat waves, powerful storms, droughts, mudslides, extinctions and rising sea levels.
US President Donald Trump, who has cast doubt on mainstream climate science and promotes the coal industry, plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. He did not mention climate change in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday.
Patrick Verkooijen, head of the Global Center on Adaptation in the Netherlands, told Reuters that the WMO report showed “climate change is not a distant phenomenon but is here right now.”
He called for more, greener investments, ranging from defences against rising seas to drought-resistant crops.
The Garden of Eden is no more: David Attenborough
DAVOS, Jan 23: The “Garden of Eden is no more,” Sir David Attenborough warned the world’s movers and shakers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and called for a renewed global endeavour to contain fallout of climate change. The world has changed since he first began his television career six decades ago, the legendary broadcaster and naturalist said.
“The world then seemed unexplored, it was a wonderland. You’d step off the beaten track and it was primary jungle, unexplored and exciting. Everywhere you turned you saw something exciting. The human population was only a third of what it is now, and you really did get the feeling you were in the Garden of Eden,” he added.
Sir David, 92, was in Davos to present a special screening featuring never-before-seen footage from his new series, Our Planet, which will be aired on Netflix in April and was in discussion with the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William.
It’s difficult to overstate the crisis humanity is now facing, he said. “We are now so numerous, so powerful, so all-pervasive, the mechanisms that we have for destruction are so wholesale and so frightening, that we can actually exterminate whole ecosystems without even noticing it because the connection between the natural world and the urban world since the Industrial Revolution, has been remote and widening,” said Sir David.
“I was born during the Holocene – the period of climatic stability that allowed humans to settle, farm, and create civilisations,....; (but)the Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: the Anthropocene, the age of humans,” he added.
Humanity really needs to be to aware of the destruction it is causing before the damage becomes irreversible. “Almost everything we do has its echoes, duplications and implications across the natural world. The natural world, of which we are a part, is incredibly complex and it has connections all over the place. If you damage one, you can never tell where the damage is going to end up, because of all the broken connections. And if you break all of them, then suddenly the whole fabric collapses and you get eco -disaster,” he warned.
It isn’t just about animals, Sir David said.
“It’s not just a question of beauty, or interest, or wonder, the essential part of human life is a healthy planet. We are in danger of wrecking that.”
Delhi is like a gas chamber: Supreme Court
NEW DELHI, Jan 18: It is better not to be in Delhi, the Supreme Court said on Friday, expressing despair over the lack of implementation of measures to curb air pollution and traffic congestion in the capital which, it added, has become like a “gas chamber”.
“In the morning and evening, there is so much pollution and traffic congestion,” Justice Arun Mishra said, hearing a matter related to air pollution in the National Capital Region.
“It is better not to be in Delhi. I do not wish to settle in Delhi. It is difficult to live in Delhi,” he said.
A bench of justices Mishra and Deepak Gupta said these problems affect the right to life.
Justice Mishra cited an example to explain the problem of traffic, saying he was stuck in traffic on Friday morning and could have missed the swearing-in of two judges at the apex court.
Advocate Aparajita Singh, assisting the court as an amicus curiae, told the bench that Delhi has become a “gas chamber” due to pollution. And Justice Gupta agreed, “Yes, it is like gas chamber.”
Singh told the court that authorities always say they take measures to curb pollution but the reality is different.
“We would like to understand,” the bench said.
“What are the things which are required to be done in actuality? What remains to be done as per the comprehensive action plan? What is required to keep in check environment pollution in Delhi? What more can be done?” it said, adding, “implementation is definitely lacking”.
It said that many polluting vehicles enter Delhi at night and asked authorities how they were allowing these to enter the national capital.
The court asked the Delhi police what action they have taken to remove unclaimed vehicles — that are no longer required in legal cases — from police stations. It also asked the Delhi government why they have not appointed district ‘nazir’ (record keeper of record room).
The Delhi government’s counsel told it they are yet to receive a reply from Delhi Development Authority for allotment of land to build malkhana (record room).
“If you can dispose of the junk vehicles, you will get several acres of land,” the bench said.
The court posted the matter for further hearing on February 1.
Climate change will shrink US economy and kill thousands: Government report
WASHINGTON, Nov 23: A new US government report delivers a dire warning about climate change and its devastating impacts, saying the economy could lose hundreds of billions of dollars -- or, in the worst-case scenario, more than 10% of its GDP -- by the end of the century.
The federally mandated study was supposed to come out in December but was released by the Trump administration on Friday, at a time when many Americans are on a long holiday weekend, distracted by family and shopping.
David Easterling, director of the Technical Support Unit at the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, emphasized that there was "no external interference in the report's development." He added that the climate change the Earth is experiencing is unlike any other.
"The global average temperature is much higher and is rising more rapidly than anything modern civilization has experienced, and this warming trend can only be explained by human activities," Easterling said.
Coming from the US Global Change Research Program, a team of 13 federal agencies, the Fourth National Climate Assessment was put together with the help of 1,000 people, including 300 leading scientists, roughly half from outside the government.
It's the second of two volumes. The first, released in November 2017, concluded that there is "no convincing alternative explanation" for the changing climate other than "human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases."
The report's findings run counter to President Donald Trump's consistent message that climate change is a hoax.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted, "Whatever happened to Global Warming?" as some Americans faced the coldest Thanksgiving in over a century.
But the science explained in these and other federal government reports is clear: Climate change is not disproved by the extreme weather of one day or a week; it's demonstrated by long-term trends. Humans are living with the warmest temperatures in modern history. Even if the best-case scenario were to happen and greenhouse gas emissions were to drop to nothing, the world is on track to warm 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit. As of now, not a single G20 country is meeting climate targets, research shows.
Without significant reductions in greenhouse emissions, the annual average global temperature could increase 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 Celsius) or more by the end of this century, compared with preindustrial temperatures, the report says.
The costs of climate change could reach hundreds of billions of dollars annually, according to the report. The Southeast alone will probably lose over a half a billion labor hours by 2100 due to extreme heat.
Farmers will face extremely tough times. The quality and quantity of their crops will decline across the country due to higher temperatures, drought and flooding. In parts of the Midwest, farms will be able to produce less than 75% of the corn they produce today, and the southern part of the region could lose more than 25% of its soybean yield.
Heat stress could cause average dairy production to fall between 0.60% and 1.35% over the next 12 years -- having already cost the industry $1.2 billion from heat stress in 2010.
When it comes to shellfish there will be a $230 million loss by the end of the century due to ocean acidification, which is already killing off shellfish and corals. Red tides, or algae bloom that deplete oxygen in the water and can kill sea life -- like those that triggered a state of emergency in Florida in August -- will become more frequent.
Impacts on our health
Higher temperatures will also kill more people, the report says. The Midwest alone, which is predicted to have the largest increase in extreme temperature, will see an additional 2,000 premature deaths per year by 2090.
There will be more mosquito- and tickborne diseases like Zika, dengue and chikungunya. West Nile cases are expected to more than double by 2050 due to increasing temperatures.
Delhi goes up in smog after sharp air quality spike before Diwali
NEW DELHI, Nov 5: The air quality deteriorated sharply as a change in wind pattern swept in smoke from farm fires in Punjab and Haryana on Monday, shrouding the national capital region (NCR) in a thick haze made of tiny particulate matter that can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause health problems.
Levels of PM2.5 shot up nearly five times in 24 hours – a phenomenon that officials said was not recorded in the three years since hourly monitoring began for the region. Sunday was the best November day since 2015.
Scientists from government agencies said they expected pollution to increase but were taken aback by how fast it happened. “The prediction was that air quality could deteriorate to ‘very poor’ levels. We have not encountered such an overnight spike in the last three years at least,” said an official of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
The average Air Quality Index (AQI) value shot up from 171 on Sunday to 426 on Monday, settling in the ‘severe’ category, which is the second worst of five classifications of pollution.
According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (Safar), at least 33% of the pollutants originated from fires in farms in Punjab and Haryana, where farmers set fire to crop residue ahead of the next round of sowing later this month.
Satellite images from the United States’s National Aeronautical Space Agency (Nasa) showed that between Friday and Sunday, at least 5,000 instances of crop burning were seen in Punjab.
A farmer leader said fields are still to be cleared and there will likely be more instances between Tuesday and Saturday, a period that is also likely to be affected by pollution from Diwali celebrations.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) general secretary in Punjab, Harinder Singh Lakhowal, said the problem was that many farmers could not afford to use machinery that could clear crop residue. “Those who can afford the additional diesel costs during the use of machinery are not burning stubble. Rest of the farmers are helpless,” he said.
But till now, he added, only about 30% of crop residue has been cleared through burning.
Adding to the problem are the atmospheric conditions – high moisture content, calm winds near the surface and strong currents in the upper atmosphere that are bringing the farm fire pollutants it. “It is almost as if there is a rain of particulate matter, which is being brought in by the upper air currents and being trapped in the moist, still surface air,” a Delhi environment department official said, asking not to be named since he was not authorised to speak to the media.
According to forecasts, the air pollution might relent to ‘very poor’ category – when AQI is between 300 and 400 – on Tuesday before it starts climbing back up again from Wednesday.
Experts said that at this point, it was crucial that officials in NCR made sure that restrictions in place to curb local emissions were being followed. “Commuters must use public transport to minimise the use of private vehicles, which is a major contributor to local emission,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment.
Doctors, meanwhile, reiterated that people should avoid outdoor exposure, particularly strenuous activity.
Particularly at risk are children, said Dr Krishan Chugh, paediatric pulmonologist, Fortis Memorial Research Institute (FMRI), Gurugram. “A child gets affected by all components of polluted air, and each of these components are known to cause serious harm. So, imagine what will happen to a child’s lungs when all these pollutants are collectively inhaled in heavy measure,” he said.
Hospitals and clinics have already recorded an increase in number of people coming in with pulmonary problems.
23 cities including Paris, Tokyo, New York vow to cut down on waste generation
NEW YORK, Aug 28: By slashing food waste and improving waste management and recycling, 23 global cities and regions representing 150 million people pledged Tuesday to significantly cut the pollution-causing garbage they generate by 2030.
Places like New York, Tokyo, London, Paris and Sydney vowed to “cut the amount of waste generated by each citizen 15 percent by 2030,” said a statement from C40 Cities, a global network dedicated to fighting climate change.
They will also “reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and incineration by 50 percent and increase the diversion rate to 70 percent by 2030,” according to the declaration.
The goal of the “Advancing Towards Zero Waste Declaration” is to avoid the disposal of at least 87 million tons of waste by 2030.
Waste is becoming one of the leading threats to the environment, increasing faster than any other pollutant.
Each year, 1.3 billion tons of wasted food is sent to landfills where rotting scraps send the potent heat-trapping greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere.
Improving waste and material management around the world globally could reduce global emissions by 20 percent, and are “essential” to delivering on the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accords and keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 Celsius, said the C40 Cities statement.
The announcement was released ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in mid-September.
Signatories include Auckland, Copenhagen, Dubai, London, Milan, Montreal, New York City, Newburyport, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Rotterdam, San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver Washington DC, and the regions of Navarra and Catalonia.
Specific steps include reducing food waste and facilitating safe food donation.
Participating areas may encourage separate collection of food scraps that could be used for compost, and supporting local policies like sustainable procurement and boosting awareness and use of recycling for construction and demolition materials.
Areas may also support reductions or bans on single-use and non-recyclable plastics.
The signatories pledged to publicly report their progress every two years.
“Dramatically reducing waste will help curb carbon emissions while helping us build a fairer, cleaner and more livable city for all New Yorkers,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“We’re proud to stand alongside other leading cities worldwide in taking ambitious steps to cut down on waste.”
SpaceX rocket launch creates 60 kilometre-wide hole in Earth's ionosphere
NEW DELHI, March 26: SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launched on August 24, 2017 has created a massive hole in the Earth's ionosphere.
The rocket built by SpaceX was launched to take a satellite to orbit.
A new study suggests that the rocket launch has punched a temporary hole - which extends between around 60 kilometre - in the ionosphere, a part of the Earth’s upper atmosphere composed of free electrons and ions.
The study led by Charles Lin of National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan, analysed how the launch affected the ionosphere.
The launch created an extremely rare, perfectly circular shock wave, the first such event recorded after a rocket launch.
It was the largest rocket shock wave the team had ever seen.
Researchers said that the hole was caused by 'rapid chemical reactions of rocket exhaust plumes' and charged particles in the atmosphere.
The study was published in the journal Space Weather.
India to showcase 'Yoga' at Climate Conference
BONN, Nov 6: United Nations climate change conference to prepare a rule book to implement Paris Agreement began here on Monday with India asking for including pre-2020 actions of rich nations in the agenda for discussion. India has also decided to conduct 'Yoga' session every evening in the country's pavilion here to showcase its age-old tradition of sustainable lifestyle.
The mega meet took off amid alarming report of the World Meteorological Organisation's (WMO) which says the year 2017 is very likely to be one of the three hottest years on record.
The State of the Climate report of the WMO, released on the inaugural day of the Conference (COP23), says the average global temperature from January to September 2017 was approximately 1.1°C above the pre-industrial era. "As a result of a powerful El Nino, 2016 is likely to remain the warmest year on record, with 2017 and 2015 being second and/or third", it says while noting that 2013-2017 is set to be the warmest five-year period on record.
Though the Paris Agreement is meant for post-2020 climate actions to keep the average global temperature rise within 2 degree Celsius by the end of this century, India's pitch for discussing pre-2020 actions assumes significance considering the recent 'emission gap' report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The report, released last week, said that the national pledges on emission reduction, made by countries from across the globe under the Paris deal, would only bring a third of what is needed to avoid worst impact of climate change.
"India's demand to put pre-2020 actions on the agenda of the COP23 will hopefully be accepted", the country's negotiator said. Under pre-2020 actions, only developed countries - the historical polluters (developed countries) - are mandated to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases. The Paris Agreement, on the other hand, says that all nations should take voluntary climate actions (as they had promised) under this global deal in December 2015.
Clearly articulating India's position, the country's environment minister Harsh Vardhan said, "India has been ambitious in its climate change actions."
Speaking after inaugurating India's pavilion at sidelines of the climate change conference, the minister also noted that India's per capita emission is only one-third of the global average and shared what all the country has been doing to fulfill its Paris Agreement commitment.
The Conference (COP23) was kicked off with strong and unified calls to walk on the path of the Paris Agreement - especially when the US decision to withdraw from the global deal has already sent a negative signal to the world. Negotiators strongly believe that it would be practically impossible to meet the Paris goal without the US - the biggest historical polluter and the second largest current carbon emitter after China.
"All over the world, huge number of people are suffering. Our job as leaders is to respond to the suffering with all means available to us," said newly elected COP23 president and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Whilst Fiji has the Presidency of COP23, Germany is providing logistic resources to the island nation in Bonn to hold the key climate conference.
The participating countries' concerns and need for raising their emission cut ambition got reflected in what the WMO said in its report on global temperature rise.
Referring to warmest years in record, the WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas, said, "The past three years have been in the top three years in terms of temperature records. This is part of a long term warming trend. We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa.
"Many of these events - and detailed scientific studies will determine exactly how many - bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities."