Category Archives: Environment

India air pollution at ‘unbearable levels’, Delhi minister says

10DE066D-AB22-4AF9-86B3-A76D33143735Worshippers braved the smog to enter the polluted River Yamuna as part of the Hindu religious festival of Chatth Puja

Air pollution in the north of India has “reached unbearable levels,” the capital Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvid Kejriwal says.

In many areas of Delhi air quality deteriorated into the “hazardous” category on Sunday with the potential to cause respiratory illnesses.

Authorities have urged people to stay inside to protect themselves.

Mr Kejriwal called on the central government to provide relief and tackle the toxic pollution.

  • How a food crisis led to Delhi’s foul smog

Schools have been closed, more than 30 flights diverted and construction work halted as the city sits in a thick blanket of smog.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain advised the city’s residents to “avoid outdoor physical activities, especially during morning and late evening hours”.

The advisory also said people should wear anti-pollution masks, avoid polluted areas and keep doors and windows closed.

How bad is the smog?

Levels of dangerous particles in the air – known as PM2.5 – are far higher than recommended and about seven times higher than in the Chinese capital Beijing.

An Indian health ministry official said the city’s pollution monitors did not have enough digits to accurately record pollution levels, which he called a “disaster”.

Five million masks were handed out in schools on Friday as officials declared a public health emergency and Mr Kejriwal likened the city to a “gas chamber”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution.

“This is having an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco,” the WHO says on its website.

How are people reacting?

Mr Kejriwal’s most recent comments are unlikely to please government officials, reports the BBC’s South Asia regional editor Jill McGivering. She said Indian politicians were blaming each other for the conditions.

On Sunday young people in Delhi came out to protest and demand action.

“You can obviously see how terrible it is and it’s actually scary you can’t see things in front of you,” said Jaivipra.

She said she wanted long-term and sustainable anti-pollution measures put in place.

“We are concerned about our futures and about our health but we are also fighting this on behalf of the children and the elderly who bear the biggest brunt of the problem here,” she said.

Some ministers have sparked controversy on social media by suggesting light-hearted measures to stay healthy.

Harsh Vardhan, the union minister for health and family welfare, urged people to eat carrots to protect against “night blindness” and “other pollution-related harm to health”.

Meanwhile, Prakash Javadekar, the minister of the environment, suggested that you should “start your day with music”, adding a link to a “scintillating thematic composition”.

“Is that the reason you have turned deaf ears to our plight on pollution?” one Twitter user responded. “Seems you are too busy hearing music that you are not able to hear us!”

What’s caused the pollution?

A major factor behind the high pollution levels at this time of year is farmers in neighbouring states burning crop stubble to clear their fields.

This creates a lethal cocktail of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide – all worsened by fireworks set off during the Hindu festival Diwali a week ago.

Vehicle fumes, construction and industrial emissions have also contributed to the smog.

Indians are hoping that scattered rainfall over the coming week will wash away the pollutants but this is not due until Thursday.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-50280390

 

 

 

 

 

Pesticide poisoned French paradise islands in Caribbean

pest
GETTY IMAGES
Image captionBananas are a big export industry for Martinique and nearly all are shipped to France.

The French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique thrive on their image as idyllic sun, sea and sand destinations for tourists.

But few visitors are aware that these lush, tropical islands have a chronic pollution problem.

A pesticide linked to cancer – chlordecone – was sprayed on banana crops on the islands for two decades and now nearly all the adult local residents have traces of it in their blood.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called it an “environmental scandal” and said the state “must take responsibility”. He visited Martinique last year and was briefed on the crisis on the islands, known in France as the Antilles.

The French parliament is holding a public inquiry which will report its findings in December.

“We found anger and anxiety in the Antilles – the population feel abandoned by the republic,” said Guadeloupe MP Justine Benin, who is in charge of the inquiry’s report.

“They are resilient people, they’ve been hit by hurricanes before, but their trust needs to be restored,” she told the BBC.

Large tracts of soil are contaminated, as are rivers and coastal waters. The authorities are trying to keep the chemical out of the food chain, but it is difficult, as much produce comes from smallholders, often sold at the roadside.

Drinking water is considered safe, as carbon filters are used to remove contaminants.

In the US a factory producing chlordecone – sold commercially as kepone – was shut down in 1975 after workers fell seriously ill there. But Antilles banana growers continued to use the pesticide.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50144261

Climate change activists target London’s financial district

London
Extinction Rebellion members stage a protest calling for action on climate change, outside the Bank of England, London, UK, on October 14, 2019. HANDOUT/Vladimir Morozov/AKX Media

LONDON, (Reuters) – Climate change activists targeted London’s financial district on Monday blocking Bank junction, vowing a day of disruption for major institutions which they said were financing an environmental catastrophe.

Extinction Rebellion protesters blocked the streets around Bank in the heart of the City of London.

“The City of London is a preeminent nexus of power in the global system that is killing our world,” said Carolina Rosa, spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion.

The activists will target major financial institutions which they say are financing fossil fuel exploration and infrastructure. A mock trial of the financial sector will take place at shortly after midday.

The group, which promotes a rebellion against the political, economic and social structure of the modern world to avert the worst devastation outlined by scientists studying climate, is engaged in two weeks of civil disobedience in London.

Police said there had been more than 1,300 arrests since the protests began.

“There are currently protesters blocking roads around Bank Junction,” the City of London Police said on Twitter, which has previously warned of disruptive demonstrations on Monday.

Extinction Rebellion wants non-violent civil disobedience to force governments to cut carbon emissions and avert a climate crisis it says will bring starvation and social collapse.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has said the financial sector must transform its management of climate risk, warning that global warming would prompt reassessments of the value of every single financial asset.

Carney has been a leading voice among regulators in warning of the risks climate change poses to the stability of the global financial system. He has led various international initiatives to improve supervision and disclosure.

“Climate disclosure must become comprehensive, climate risk management must be transformed, and sustainable investing must go mainstream,” he told a United Nations climate summit last month. (Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden)

 

 

 

 
http://news.trust.org/item/20191014060405-ya6az/

In the shadow of strict protest laws, young Russians build a climate movement

Screenshot_2019-10-01 In the shadow of strict protest laws, young Russians build a climate movement(1)
Activists attend an environmental demonstration, part of the Global Climate Strike, in Saint Petersburg, Russia September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

MOSCOW, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – At 15 years old, Margarita Naumenko is one of the youngest participants in Russia’s Fridays for Future climate protest movement.

Each week, she stands in downtown Moscow with other young activists chanting, brandishing posters and demanding the government take action on worsening climate change threats.

Her parents support her decision to protest, Naumenko said, but they are less convinced about the urgency of slowing the climate change.

“I tried talking to them and changing their opinion,” she said. “But that is not easy.”

Led largely by young people, Russia’s nascent climate protest movement has taken on the challenge of changing minds in a country where, not long ago, both the public and politicians were sceptical about the need to act quickly on climate change.

The protests may be having some effect. Earlier this month, Russia announced it would join the 2015 Paris Agreement to fight climate change – one of the last countries in the world to do so.

The country is the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases and was the biggest emitter not to have agreed to the landmark global climate deal.

Before the announcement, activists in Moscow held about 50 individual protests, after previously having been denied a permit to demonstrate as part of a large-scale global climate strike last week.

On Friday, as young climate campaigners again marched around the globe, about 85 protesters in Moscow held up red and white fabric to spell out the words “Act Now” in front of Russia’s main government building.

Naumenko joined the movement five months ago, inspired after attending a lecture on improving sustainability in the education system and after seeing Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old figurehead of the youth climate movement, speak on television.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t I take any action?,'” Naumenko told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We have just one planet. If we do not care about it, who else will?”

GROWING PROTESTS

Since the first mass eco-protest in Moscow’s Sokolniki Park in March – a day students around the world walked out of their classes to call for action on climate change – other Russian cities such as St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Irkutsk, have joined the climate campaign.

For Arshak Makichyan, it was the March protest in Moscow that sparked his involvement in climate activism.

Since then, the 25-year-old violinist has become one of the faces of Russia’s youth protest movement, demonstrating every week, often on his own.

He also acts as one of the coordinators of the movement, and part of his job is to apply for official permission to protest, which can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

New rules adopted after mass protests in Moscow that followed President Vladimir Putin’s 2012 election made it a criminal offence to stage some forms of non-violent protests without a permit.

Single-person protests, on the other hand, do not require a permit, Makichyan explained. But they do have restrictions – for example, in Moscow, protesters must not stand closer than 50 metres (160 feet) from each other.

Makichyan said that, so far, Russia’s climate activists have succeeded in getting permits for two large-scale environmental protests.

And the crowds at protests have been getting bigger over the past few months, he added. These days, an organised climate demonstration in Moscow attracts between 20 and 40 participants.

The number may be small compared to the thousands who come out for protests in other cities around the globe, but it is a big increase from when Russia’s activists first started, Makichyan said.

“The numbers have been growing,” he said. “Ten weeks ago, I was very often protesting on my own. Now every week we get more participants and new cities join in.”

Russia’s government has a history of cracking down on protests that it has declared illegal.

In a case in July that triggered global condemnation, police in Moscow detained more than 1,000 people for taking part in a protest calling for opposition members to be allowed to run in a local election.

Makichyan, who took part in that protest and was detained for three hours, said so far there have been no arrests during any of the climate protests.

 

 

 

 

http://news.trust.org//item/20190927111020-yhl2b/

Extreme sea level events ‘will hit once a year by 2050’

Glacier
A child walks through floodwaters near a pier in California. The climate crisis can expose millions to flooding. Photograph: Ana Venegas/AP

The Guardian: 25 September 2019 – Extreme sea level events that used to occur once a century will strike every year on many coasts by 2050, no matter whether climate heating emissions are curbed or not, according to a landmark report by the world’s scientists.

The stark assessment of the climate crisis in the world’s oceans and ice caps concludes that many serious impacts are already inevitable, from more intense storms to melting permafrost and dwindling marine life.

But far worse impacts will hit without urgent action to cut fossil fuel emissions, including eventual sea level rise of more than 4 metres in the worst case, an outcome that would redraw the map of the world and harm billions of people.

The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and approved by its 193 member nations, says that “all people on Earth depend directly or indirectly on the ocean” and ice caps and glaciers to regulate the climate and provide water and oxygen. But it finds unprecedented and dangerous changes being driven by global heating.

Sea level rise is accelerating as losses from Greenland and Antarctica increase, and the ocean is getting hotter, more acidic and less oxygenated. All these trends will continue to the end of the century, the IPCC report said.

Half the world’s megacities, and almost 2 billion people, live on coasts. Even if heating is restricted to just 2C, scientists expect the impact of sea level rise to cause several trillion dollars of damage a year, and result in many millions of migrants.

“The future for low-lying coastal communities looks extremely bleak,” said Prof Jonathan Bamber at Bristol University in the UK, who is not one of the report’s authors. “But the consequences will be felt by all of us. There is plenty to be concerned about for the future of humanity and social order from the headlines in this report.”

The new IPCC projections of likely sea level rise by 2100 are higher than those it made in 2014, due to unexpectedly fast melting in Antarctica. Without cuts in carbon emissions, the ocean is expected to rise between 61cm and 110cm, about 10cm more than the earlier estimate. A 10cm rise means an additional 10 million people exposed to flooding, research shows.

The IPCC considers the likely range of sea level rise but not the worst-case scenario. Recent expert analysis led by Bamber concluded that up to 238cm of sea level rise remains possible by 2100, drowning many megacities around the world. “This cannot be ruled out,” said Zita Sebesvari at the United Nations University, a lead author of the IPCC report.

Even if huge cuts in emissions begin immediately, between 29cm and 59cm of sea level rise is already inevitable because the ice caps and glaciers melt slowly. Sea level will rise for centuries without action, Sebesvari warned. “The dramatic thing about sea level rise is if we accept 1 metre happening by 2100, we accept we will get about 4 metres by 2300. That is simply not an option we can risk.”

Extreme sea level impacts will be felt in many places very soon and well before 2050, Sebesvari said. The IPCC report states: “Extreme sea level events that [occur] once per century in the recent past are projected to occur at least once per year at many locations by 2050 in all scenarios.”

The heating oceans are causing more intense tropical storms to batter coasts, the IPCC report found, with stronger winds and greater deluges of rain. For example, Hurricane Harvey’s unprecedented deluge, which caused catastrophic flooding, was made three times more likely by climate change.

Ocean heating also harms kelp forests and other important ecosystems, with the marine heatwaves that sear through them like underwater wildfires having doubled in frequency in the last 40 years. They are projected to increase by at least 20 times by 2100, the IPCC reported.

Extreme El Niño events, which see heatwaves in some regions and floods in others, are projected to occur twice as often this century whether emissions are cut or not, the report said. Coral reefs, vital nurseries for marine life, will suffer major losses and local extinctions. Across the ocean, heat, acidification and lower oxygen is set to cut fisheries by a quarter and all marine life by 15% if emissions are not slashed.

The IPCC report also records the large reduction in Arctic ice. This loss exacerbates global heating, because the exposed darker ocean absorbs more heat from the sun than highly reflective ice. On Monday, scientists announced that the Arctic sea ice in 2019 shrank to its second lowest extent in the 41-year satellite record.

The world’s high mountain glaciers, upon which almost 2 billion people rely for water, are also melting fast, the IPCC found, while landslides are expected to increase. A third of the great Himalayan range is already doomed, with two-thirds projected to vanish if emissions are not cut.

One of the most worrying alarms sounded by the IPCC report is about melting tundra and increasing wildfires in northern latitudes: “Widespread permafrost thaw is projected for this century and beyond.” A quarter is already near certain to melt, it said, and 70% or more would go if emissions are not curbed. In the latter case, hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane could be released, supercharging the climate emergency.

“That risks taking us beyond the point where climate change could be easily constrained,” said Richard Black, at the UK’s Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. “Nevertheless, the IPCC’s 2018 report concluded that governments can shrink emissions quickly enough to keep global warming to 1.5C if they choose. None can claim to be unaware of both the dangers of untrammelled climate change nor the feasibility of preventing it.”

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris and chair of the C40 Cities climate coalition, said the IPCC report was shocking. “Around 1.9 billion people and over half of the world’s megacities are all in grave danger if we don’t act immediately. Several cities, home to hundreds of thousands of people, are already disappearing underwater. This is what the climate crisis looks like now.”

Taehyun Park, of Greenpeace East Asia, said: “The science is both chilling and compelling. The impacts on our oceans are on a much larger scale and happening way faster than predicted. It will require unprecedented political action to prevent the most severe consequences to our planet.”

As well as cutting fossil fuel emissions, preparing for the inevitable impacts is also vital, said Sebesvari, especially in poorer nations that lack the funds to build sea walls, move settlements or restore protective coastal marshes.

“Action is needed now to secure the coast for our children and coming generations,” she said. The pressure now being exerted by the global school strikes for climate was important, she said. “I have very strong motivation. I have two kids and we are really being tested by our kids on our actions.”


https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/25/extreme-sea-level-events-will-hit-once-a-year-by-2050

 

 

We scientists must rise up to prevent the climate crisis. Words aren’t enough

ScientistExtinction Rebellion protesters on Waterloo Bridge, London, April 2019. ‘This is what we have been waiting for, yet strangely the reaction within the scientific community has been muted.’ Photograph: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images

As scientists, we tend to operate under an unspoken assumption – that our job is to provide the world with factual information, and if we do so our leaders will use it to make wise decisions. But what if that assumption is wrong? For decades, conservation scientists like us have been telling the world that species and ecosystems are disappearing, and that their loss will have devastating impacts on humanity. Meanwhile, climate scientists have been warning that the continued burning of fossil fuels and destruction of natural carbon sinks, such as forests and peatlands, will lead to catastrophic planetary heating.

We have collectively written tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers, and shared our findings with policymakers and the public. And, on the face of it, we seem to have done a pretty good job: after all, we all know about the environmental and climate crises, don’t we?

But while we’re now well informed, we haven’t actually changed course. Biodiversity loss proceeds apace, to the extent that a million species face extinction in the coming decades, and we continue to pump carbon into the atmosphere at ever faster rates. We have emitted more greenhouse gases since 1990, in full awareness of its impacts, than we ever did in ignorance. It seems that knowledge alone cannot trigger the radical global changes we so urgently need.

It was this realisation that incited us both to embrace activism, and to take to the streets and engage in non-violent civil disobedience as members of Extinction Rebellion. The refusal to obey certain laws has a long and glorious history: from the suffragettes to Rosa Parks and Gandhi, many of the 20th century’s greatest heroes engaged in non-violent civil disobedience to win their rights.

Today, civil disobedience is again on the rise. And it is working. The protests that shut down four sites in London in April raised the climate crisis rapidly up the political agenda, and into the public consciousness. The environment is now the third most pressing issue for British voters, above the economy, crime and immigration: the UK parliament and half the country’s local councils have declared a climate emergency, and a zero-carbon target has been enshrined into law. We don’t know what policy change will follow, but it is an encouraging start.

Alongside this are the Greta Thunberg-inspired school strikes and our sister movements worldwide. This is what we have been waiting for. And yet, the reaction within the scientific community has been strangely muted. In conversation, our conservationist colleagues (and we imagine climate scientists, too) have long bemoaned the fact that environmental issues remain so marginal in the public consciousness. “If only conservation was mainstream,” we lament, “and if only people would take action to fight for our world.” Well, now they are, yet few of us seem to have joined them.

Young people have embraced the movement, and grandparents, too. So have doctors and lawyers, farmers and unemployed people. But not many scientists, which is odd given we probably know more about the severity of the problems we face than anybody. Perhaps it’s related to an unspoken assumption that if our job is to provide information, then adopting a position will weaken our authority. In fact, research shows it doesn’t.

Alternatively, scientists may be reluctant to rise up because there are “proper” channels for influencing policy: you can vote, you can write letters and sign petitions, and if things get really desperate you can walk from A to B on a sanctioned march. The trouble is, these avenues aren’t working, and lobbyists for fossil-fuel industries have far greater access to political decision-makers. In 2018, for example, oil and gas lobbyists alone spent more than $125m (£100m) lobbying politicians in just one country, the United States.

Worse, these lobbyists and the corporations they work for have invested heavily in an anti-science agenda, all with the aim of convincing the world that we can carry on as normal. They are endangering our very survival in pursuit of profit, and undermining the faith in truth, rationality and the scientific method that – surely – will be critical to surviving these crises. This is why we have taken a break from our usual areas of research to publish an article in the prestigious journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, urging our fellow scientists to rise up and embrace rebellion.

As scientists we have spent years telling policymakers that we must change course, but they haven’t taken action. They may be starting to now, but only because people have engaged in open rebellion, making it clear that we will no longer accept inaction. Surely scientists have a moral duty to join the masses, and rebel for life.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/06/scientists-climate-crisis-activism-extinction-rebellion

Ireland, France set to block EU-Mercosur trade deal over Amazon

BED9A5E4-EE61-40A2-A8F5-85B8A0098FEBVast tracts of the Amazon jungle has burned and are being cleared by loggers and farmers in Novo Airao [Bruno Kelly/Reuters]

As wildfires rage through the Amazon, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and French President Emmanuel Macron have said they will vote against a trade deal between the European Union and South American trade bloc Mercosur unless Brazil takes action to protect the rainforest.

Varadkar said in a statement he was very concerned at the record levels of rainforest destruction, and said the Irish government would closely monitor Brazil’s environmental actions in the two years until the Mercosur deal is ratified

“There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments,” he said.

Macron, meanwhile, believes his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro lied to him on Brazil’s stance on climate change, and France will now join Ireland in blocking the trade deal between the EU and South American nations.

“Given the attitude of Brazil over the last weeks, the president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Osaka [G20] summit [in June],” a French presidential official said on Friday, as a public row flared between the two leaders over wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest.

Brazil’s comments and policies over the past few weeks showed the right-wing Bolsonaro did not intend to respect obligations on climate change and also did not want to commit on concrete proposals to maintain biodiversity, said the official.

“Under these conditions, France will oppose the Mercosur (Free Trade Agreement with the EU) as it stands,” the French official added.

About 500 protesters, many from the Extinction Rebellion climate strike group, blocked the road outside Brazil’s embassy in London on Friday morning, incensed at Bolsonaro’s lack of environmental protections.

“When we destroy elements of biodiversity, we cut the threads that hold everything together,” Farnan Ellwood of the University of the West of England told Al Jazeera. “Biodiversity is nature’s protection mechanism, its insurance policy.

“We need to stop using hardwood furniture, stop eating beef – because it’s the beef farming which is driving deforestation. The second thing is to recognise the world has changed – we simply cannot go back. But there is some good news; scientists are trying to rebuild the biodiversity. If we can put the fire out – literally and figuratively – and stop the decline, then we can try to restore some of these complex networks of biodiversity.”

Macron had tweeted on Thursday that fires burning in the Amazon amounted to an international crisis and should be discussed as a top priority when the G7 countries meet this weekend in France.
Bolsonaro then blasted Macron for having a “colonialist mentality”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined Macron’s call on Friday, and it looks likely to be a topic for discussion.

Vast tracts of the Amazon – often described as the lungs of the world – are currently ablaze in what is known as the burning season. Environmentalists have blamed deforestation for an increase in fires and accuse Bolsonaro of cutting protection of an area deemed crucial in combating climate change.

Varadkar said Bolsonaro’s effort to blame non-government environmental organisations for the fires was “Orwellian”.

Ireland and France will need other EU states to help form a blocking minority if it wants to kill the deal which was reached in June after 20 years of negotiations between the EU and the Mercosur countries – Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

But the Irish government is under pressure to defend its beef farmers, already suffering from Britain’s looming EU exit and low prices, by seeking to ensure Mercosur countries do not flood the market with cheaper beef.

Bolsonaro has rejected what he calls foreign interference in Brazil’s affairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/ireland-block-eu-mercosur-trade-deal-amazon-fires-190823095908509.html