It was a week of numbers in climate change - deaths, temperatures, dollars, gigawatts and years all pointing to more bad news than good news.
The big news this week came via the Washington Post when it reported that food scarcity caused by climate change could cause 500,000 deaths by 2050. “The effects of climate change on food production around the world could lead to more than 500,000 deaths by the year 2050, according to a grim new study. Climate-related impacts on agriculture could lead to an overall global decline in food availability, the research suggests, forcing people to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and less meat. And the public health impacts of these changes could be severe. Climate experts have long predicted severe consequences for global food security if serious steps are not taken to mitigate climate change. Rising temperatures, more frequent droughts and more severe weather events are expected to cause agriculture in certain areas to suffer, all while the global population — and its demand for food — continues to skyrocket.”
The good news just kept on coming when Grist reported the world has just surpassed a historic climate threshold, adding the world is still heating up. “As of Thursday morning, for the first time in recorded history, average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere briefly crossed the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius above “normal.” Eric Holthaus picked up on the momentous occasion over at Slate, adding that global warming is now “going into overdrive.” A few degrees warmer since preindustrial averages may not seem like much, but in the grand scheme of things, it matters. Countries around the world formally agreed years ago to hold warming under the 2-degree mark, and the respected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned of the dangerous impacts of 2 degrees of global warming.”
Last week we told you about the worst drought in a century in South Africa - let’s go one better - well nine ‘better’ actually. The International Business Times reports on NASA research indicating human induced climate change has triggered the Middle East’s worst drought in 900 years. “Over the past four years, as a relentless and bloody civil war rages on in Syria, more than 4 million Syrians have fled the country, while over 7 million have been internally displaced. Many of these refugees have fled to Europe, where the influx has triggered a massive crisis, the likes of which have not been seen since the end of World War II. Several studies in the past have attributed the conflict, at least in part, to a series of severe droughts that have gripped the country since the late 1990s. Now, a new report from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies further bolsters the claim that anthropogenic climate change-induced drought may be one of the root causes of the conflict in the region. The study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, states that the recent drought that began in 1998 in the eastern Mediterranean region — which includes Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey — is likely the worst drought to affect the region in 900 years, and that human-induced climate change was a contributing factor.”
Here’s some good-ish news. The Guardian reports carbon emissions may have peaked already in China, years earlier than its leaders pledged, according to a study co-authored by the world-renowned economist Lord Stern. “The country’s emissions have fallen, partly as a result of its globally relevant economic slowdown, and partly owing to government policies to pursue a low-carbon path and reduce the rampant air pollution in its major cities. If this trend continues it would show that the country’s emissions have already peaked, said Fergus Green, lead author of the report from the LSE. This would be a landmark in international efforts to tackle emissions and fight climate change, formalised in last December’s breakthrough international accord on climate change signed in Paris. At the summit China, the world’s second biggest economy and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, agreed that its emissions should peak by 2030. This is an important development, as it means that the world’s biggest emitter is likely to be finally on a downward path of carbon emissions. Although there is a possibility that China’s emissions will pick up if its growth rate recovers, the reduction in emissions is likely to continue, according to Green.”
In the United States, the Guardian reports the Obama administration has made a first installment on its $3bn pledge to help poor countries fight climate change – defying Republican opposition to the president’s environmental plan. “The $500m payment to the Green Climate Fund was seen as critical to shoring up international confidence in Barack Obama’s ability to deliver on the pledges made at the United Nations’ climate change conference in Paris in late 2015. The White House is also working with United Nations officials to encourage countries to formally approve the Paris climate agreement ahead of a signing ceremony on 22 April. At least 55 countries, representing at least 55% of global climate emissions, must ratify the agreement before it takes effect.”
The European Union reports the renewable energy sector employed over one million people in Europe and created a turnover of around €143.6 billion in 2015, according to a new report published by EurObserv'ER, the body that monitors trends in renewable energy in Europe. “According to the report – the State of Renewable Energies in Europe – the countries with the highest amount of renewable energy jobs were Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain, with the EU's smaller countries having the least jobs in the sector. When it comes to turnover, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Denmark and Spain saw the highest turnover rates last year.”
The news isn’t so good in Australia. Renew Economy reports “Australia’s large-scale renewable energy industry is stuck between a rock and a hard place: Despite legislation and an apparently firm 2020 target, and soaring prices for renewable energy certificates, the market remains at a virtual standstill. A whole slew of reports have been issued in recent weeks trying to analyse the situation. The latest, from UBS, suggests that the market remains stalled because the biggest electricity retailers (also known as gen-tailers because they have large generating plants) have little reason to invest – they suffer no penalties if they don’t invest, and risk cutting earnings from their existing fossil fuel plants if they do.”
In science news, Nature reports on research form the University of New South Wales indicating rainfall is likely to rise along with global temperatures. “Get ready for rain: climate change is already driving an increase in extremes of rainfall and snowfall across most of the globe, even in arid regions. And this trend will continue as the world warms, researchers report today in Nature Climate Change. The role of global warming in unusually large rainfall events in countries from the United Kingdom to China has been hotly debated. But the latest study shows that climate change is driving an overall increase in rainfall extremes.”
Finally……….. in Australian domestic politics…….. I don’t know how to put this…. well…… the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the NSW Liberal Party state conference last weekend, which “formally called on the Turnbull government to conduct public debates about climate change - including whether the science is settled - in a stark reminder of the deep divisions within the party over the issue. A motion passed at the party's state council calls on the government to "arrange and hold public debates/discussions" between scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and "independent climate scientists”. The motion says the events should cover "the global warming/climate change debate"; "the claims by the IPCC"; and the statement "is all the science settled”.
And no, this is not from a satire site. Sigh.
CLIMATE COMMUNICATION PUBLICATIONS
This Week in Climate Change (formally The Week That Was), a weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm