Category Archives: Climate Change

Coronavirus Pandemic Delays 2020 Earth Overshoot Day by Three Weeks, But It’s Not Sustainable

Humanity now consumes around 60% more than Earth can yield in a year, meaning we need 1.6 planets to sustain us. elenabs / Getty Images

Back in 1970, the earth’s biocapacity was more than enough to meet annual human demand for resources. But in the half century since, we have steadily outgrown our single planet. Humanity now consumes around 60% more than Earth can yield in a year, meaning we need 1.6 planets to sustain us.

In 2019, we had already spent our resource budget for the year by July 31, the earliest Earth Overshoot Day ever recorded by the Global Footprint Network, which has been calculating global and national ecological impacts for near three decades. In that time, humanity has overshot its biocapacity — defined as an “ecosystems’ capacity to produce biological materials used by people and to absorb waste material generated by humans” — by a few more days each year.

But due to the global coronavirus lockdown, 2020 has bucked the trend. This year, Earth Overshoot Day has moved back by more than three weeks to August 22.

Projections point to almost 15% reductions in CO2 emissions (around 60% of the total footprint) in 2020 as a result of the pandemic-related slowdown in fossil fuel use across the transport, power, industry, aviation and residential sectors. The global Earth Overshoot calculation, which uses data from the likes of the International Energy Agency, also includes forest production, which dipped nearly 9%, and our food footprint, which was steady.

One Planet Misery or Prosperity?

According to Mathis Wackernagel, founder and president of the Global Footprint Network, this year’s contraction is welcomed. But he says the fact that it is accidental means it is not sustainable.

“The tragedy of this year is that the reduction of carbon emissions is not based on a better infrastructure such as better electricity grids or more compact cities,” he told DW. “We need to move the date by design, not by disaster.”

To meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) targets to limit warming to 1.5-2 degrees Celcius, the current decline in the emissions curve would have to continue at the same rate for the next decade, Wackernagel points out. At present, however, this is being achieved through economic and social suffering.

“Not doing anything, being stuck at home. That’s not the kind of transformation we need. It’s not lasting,” Wackernagel said.

The goal must be to “systemically adjust to the physical budget we have available,” added the Swiss-born Global Footprint Network founder and 2018 World Sustainability Award winner. “Do you want one planet misery or one planet prosperity?”

Wackernagel argues that the coronavirus is itself a reflection of ecological stress. “These pressures that we see like pandemics, like famine, like climate change, like biodiversity loss, they’re all manifestations of an ecological imbalance,” he said.

Lowering Emissions for the Benefit of All  

A key side effect of disaster-driven emission reductions is the fact that “the pain is going to be unevenly distributed,” according Wackernagel. Marginalised groups, especially people of color, have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s “huge economic impacts,” said Sarah George, a senior reporter with Edie, a UK media company that promotes sustainable business practices.

Edie conducted its first Earth Overshoot webinar in 2019, with the aim of educating organizations to reduce their resource footprint through business models that are sustainable for everyone in the long-term.

George says this year’s webinar on August 22 will also address the misnomer spread by some climate skeptics that a green, low-consumption future is only possible under the deprivations of a lockdown.

“They have used the situation to say that lockdown is ‘what green campaigners want,’ and that we cannot enjoy things like international travel, economic growth, etc. in a green future,” George told DW.

But post-lockdown, George says the goal is to create a one planet model through which businesses can couple “better economic and social outcomes” with “lower emissions and air pollution.”

https://www.ecowatch.com/earth-overshoot-day-2020-2647050359.html?rebelltitem=3#rebelltitem3

Climate woes growing for women, hit worst by displacement and migration

Flood-affected women are seen in a temporary shelter on a nearby dry land in Jamalpur, Bangladesh, July 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

BARCELONA, – From sexual violence in displacement camps to extra farm work and greater risk of illness, women shoulder a bigger burden from worsening extreme weather and other climate pressures pushing people to move for survival, a global aid group said on Tuesday.

Scientists expect forced displacement to be one of the most common and damaging effects on vulnerable people if global warming is not limited to an internationally agreed aim of 1.5 degrees Celsius, CARE International noted in a new report.

“This report shows us that climate change exacerbates existing gender inequalities, with women displaced on the frontlines of its impacts bearing the heaviest consequences,” said CARE Secretary General Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro.

For example, women and girls uprooted by Cyclone Idai, which hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in 2019, are still facing serious health threats due to poor access to basic services and sanitary products, the report said.

And in Ethiopia, where about 200,000 people were forced from their homes last year by drought and floods, women living in overcrowded shelters face higher levels of sexual violence there and on longer, more frequent trips to fetch water and firewood.

Sven Harmeling, CARE’s global policy lead on climate change and resilience, said displacement linked to climate stresses was already “a harsh reality for millions of people today”.

If global warming continues at its current pace towards 3C or more above pre-industrial times, “the situation may irrevocably escalate and evict hundreds of millions more from their homes”, he added.

Climate change impacts are likely to strengthen and “unfold over the next couple of years, and not only in the distant future”, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Failure to prepare for them will lead to more suffering and people having to abandon their land, he said. Many places already are affected by multiple climate shocks and rising seas, making it harder for those displaced to return, he added.

“(Climate extremes) may mean more men are leaving to try to find income elsewhere, and that puts additional burden on the women who stay back and have to try to earn (money) while taking care of the family,” he said.

MEANS TO ACT

The report said governments and aid agencies needed to gather more data on how women and girls are affected by climate-linked displacement and migration so they can better understand and try to alleviate their situation.

It also called for more women to lead efforts to respond to climate threats, including in their own communities.

And it said more funding should be allocated to help women adapt to changing conditions on a hotter planet, such as by choosing resilient crops or being able to access micro-credit, so that fewer will be uprooted from their homes.

In most countries, climate measures supported by public finance do not adequately prioritise women, CARE noted, calling for at least 85% of funding for adaptation projects to target gender equality as an explicit objective by 2023 at the latest.

But some projects are making women a priority, it said.

In two rural districts of India, CARE worked with 4,500 tribal women in 50 villages whose rice harvests were falling as rains became erratic, water scarcer and soils less fertile.

Over the past seven years, it helped them set up and run self-support groups that gave them greater confidence and financial skills to start addressing the problem.

They also received seasonal and weekly weather forecasts so they could plan farming activities.

The aid agency said agriculture production rose by a third, food insecurity declined and the number of days women had to work away from home to make ends meet more than halved.

In Somali villages, women were given business training and organised into groups that pooled and gradually built up savings that were then used to offer loans to their members.

The groups helped their communities ward off economic shocks and hunger during Somalia’s 2016 drought, the report said.

“CARE’s experience tells us that when women lead in crises, entire communities benefit, and more effective and sustainable solutions are found,” said Sprechmann Sineiro.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200707051425-a5d5v/

Revisiting integral ecology amid the heat wave and surging coronavirus

Map provided by National Weather Service/New Orleans

Months ago, before we were imagining months to come in lockdown, some experts predicted that summertime heat and humidity would ease the pandemic. Instead, rising temperatures have intensified the crisis, especially for the poor and for anyone in one of those long queues awaiting a COVID-19 test. 

As the Washington Post reported, the south and southwestern U.S. were especially hard hit by the heat this week at the same time those regions were struggling with a surge of coronavirus cases. Heat warnings and advisories were in effect for 11 states from Southern California to the Florida Panhandle, and the National Weather Service was predicting the excessive heat would continue for another two weeks. 

Citing this 2019 study, the Post reported: “In general, heat waves are one of the clearest manifestations of long-term human-caused climate change, with numerous studies showing that such events are becoming more likely to occur and more severe.”

Extreme heat is one of those things you need to experience to fully grasp. I got mine in Baghdad, where I spent a month reporting during the summer of 1991 in the aftermath of the First Gulf War. I can tell you that walking around in temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit is a lot more than 20 percent worse than doing so in 100 degree weather. Most nights, though, I was able to return to an air-conditioned hotel and never experienced what it’s like to face unrelenting heat with no relief in sight.

It’s difficult to imagine current conditions in Iraq, where the summer heat is accompanied by spiking coronavirus cases and dwindling medical supplies. 

All of which brings me to the topic of integral ecology, the interconnectedness of so many of the circumstances fueling “the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.”

This sent me to chapter four of Laudato Si’ and to a couple of excellent explorations of integral ecology, one by columnist Thomas Reese and the other by contributor Samantha Panchèvre.

Written five years ago, shortly after Pope Francis issued his encyclical, Reese’s column takes on renewed relevance in our current circumstances. 

He describes this section of the pope’s document  as “flowing from his understanding that ‘everything is closely related’ and that ‘today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis.'”

Reese also points to Francis’ account of “indigenous communities being pressured to ‘abandon their homeleands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degration of nature and culture.”

By way of underlining the lasting wisdom of the pope’s message, the Trump administration this week dramatically weakened the role of local communities in determining whether environmentally dangerous projects can be built in their midst.

Integral ecology is at the heart of any discussion of environmental justice, and EarthBeat contributor Samantha Panchèvre examined Laudato Si”s fourth chapter in the course of exploring intergenerational solidarity. She points to Francis’ assertion that “the notion of the common good also extends to future generations,” quoting him further:

The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity. Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at this differntly…Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice…”

And in the meantime, the people most in need are also the hardest hit by the extremes of climate, as Maddie Kornfeld reports in this InsideClimate News article we published today as part of our collaboration with Covering Climate Now.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/earthbeat-weekly-revisiting-integral-ecology-amid-heat-wave-and-surging-coronavirus

Net gains: Thai project turns fishing nets into virus protection gear

A worker prepares old fishing nets for recycling to create products such as protective gear against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Saint Louis Plas Mold factory in Ayutthaya province, Thailand, June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Juarawee Kittisilpa

RAYONG/AYUTTHAYA, Thailand, – Thai fisherman Anan Jaitang used to pile tattered nylon fishing nets on the beach after hauls of wriggling crabs tore them beyond repair, but most of the nets wound up in the sea, threatening to entangle turtles and choke coral reefs.

Now, Anan and others have an alternative that’s not only lucrative and environmentally friendly but will help Thailand battle the coronavirus pandemic.

A new community-based project is paying small-scale fishermen 10 baht (32 cents) per kilogram of discarded nets, or about every one or two, to recycle them into items from push sticks to face shields and disinfectant bottles.

“If no one bought my fishing nets, they would just pile up like a mountain,” says Anan, who goes through about 36 nets every quarter, fishing in the east coast province of Rayong.

He is among more than 100 artisanal fishermen from four coastal villages in Thailand’s east and south to have joined the project, run by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).

With 50,000 small fishing vessels and 10,000 commercial ships, Thailand has one of the world’s largest fishing industries, and is also one of its top marine plastic polluters.

Hundreds of endangered sea animals wash up on Thailand’s shores every year. About 74% of sea turtles and 89% of dugongs stranded on the beaches between 2015 and 2017 had been injured by nets left or lost in oceans, official Thai figures show.

About 640,000 tonnes of fishing nets end up in the ocean globally every year, becoming “ghost gear,” the United Nations says.

NET GAINS

In addition to tackling Thailand’s stubborn pollution problem, the project offers a rare all-domestic solution to a global challenge.

Thai design company Qualy is buying most of the fishing nets being collected by EJF.

Its recycling and manufacturing operations are based in Thailand, unlike similar projects in other countries that ship nets abroad for recycling.

Workers at Qualy’s recycling factory in the central city of Ayutthaya wash the nets before feeding them into a shredder that yields blue nylon granules to be mixed with colourants and melted down in product moulds.

During the pandemic, Qualy has shredded 700 kg (1,500 lbs) of nets to make face shields, alcohol spray bottles and push sticks for elevator buttons and ATM machines to avoid contact.

“We’ve sold over 100,000 push sticks already during the coronavirus pandemic,” said marketing director Thosaphol Suppametheekulwat.

He declined to give financial details but confirmed the net recycling operation was profitable, with sales in Europe, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“Buying the nets supports the fishers’ livelihoods, and we can make new products out of them,” Thosaphol said. “It’s even better when it also helps save our environment.”

HELPING HANDS

The Thai government has welcomed the initiative.

“Any efforts to remove the nets from the ecosystem is welcome,” said Ukkrit Satapoomin, the director of Thailand’s Office of Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation.

EJF said the project had collected more than 1.3 tonnes of used nets since a pilot phase two months ago, and plans to expand it to all seaside provinces by year-end.

“It’s really important and urgent that we tackle this problem,” said campaigner Ingpat Pakchairatchakul.

“Local communities are very environmentally-conscious already, but they just need helping hands from other sectors.”

For Anan, the fisherman, the project has not only brought extra income, but put a smile on his face at the thought that his trash contributes to a worthy cause.

“I’ve seen the products, and I’m proud of my materials,” he said, after seeing a push stick made from recycled nets.

“At least it helps the society and saves the environment.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20200702095811-rnap8/

Good for planet and people? Renewable energy firms urged to clean up act on human rights

Workers walk at a solar power station in Tongchuan, Shaanxi province, China December 11, 2019. Picture taken December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Muyu Xu

BARCELONA, – Companies that produce clean energy are crucial for curbing climate change – but they’re not always the “good guys”, according to a report that tracks their human rights record for the first time.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) says 16 of the world’s largest publicly-traded wind and solar producers are not doing enough to protect their workers and the local communities affected by their operations.

Here are the key takeaways:

What’s the bigger picture?

A push to use less fossil fuel and curb climate change has seen nearly $2.7 trillion invested in renewables – mainly in solar and wind power – in the past decade, and the sector employed 11 million people in 2018.

Many of the companies are seen as saviours when it comes to tackling global warming – but the same can’t be said of how they treat human rights, according to Phil Bloomer, BHRRC executive director

That is a particular concern for indigenous people whose land has in some cases been used for clean energy projects without their agreement or fair compensation.

Which companies have been assessed and what are the key results?

Spanish energy corporations Iberdrola and Acciona, followed by Denmark’s Orsted and Italy’s Enel, had the best human rights record overall, with French and German firms dominating the middle tier – but no company scores above 53% on the benchmark.

The worst performers are Chinese and North American companies, as well investors Brookfield and BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, which own many renewable projects.

Companies, on average, scored better on indicators covering the basic human rights responsibilities, including having policies and grievance mechanisms in place, similar to other high-risk industries like apparel, agricultural products and tech manufacturing.

But they scored zero across the board when it came to commitments such as respecting local land rights and relocating or compensating communities affected by renewables projects.

The companies scored well in some areas, including anti-corruption due diligence and health and safety disclosures.

So big renewable energy firms are doing the right thing for the planet but the wrong thing for people?

The centre has tracked allegations of abuse against renewables companies over the past decade, and says complaints increased 10 times between 2010 and 2018.

Since 2010, the centre has identified 197 allegations of human rights abuses related to renewable energy projects, and asked 127 companies to respond to those allegations.

They include: killings, threats, and intimidation; land grabs; dangerous working conditions and poverty wages; and harm to indigenous peoples’ lives and livelihoods.

Allegations have been made in every region and across the wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal and hydropower sectors, with the highest number in Latin America.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200701164637-rk6o4/

‘Care for nature’ to keep people safe and well, leaders urge

Workers clean up trash at a beach on World Environment Day in West Aceh, Aceh Province, Indonesia June 5, 2020. Antara Foto/Syifa Yulinnas/via Reuters

BARCELONA, – The COVID-19 crisis has exposed how the health of people and nature is intertwined, and protecting the planet, its climate and ecosystems will be crucial to preventing further pandemics, the U.N. chief and political leaders said on Friday.

In a video statement for World Environment Day, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said humans had been harming the natural world “to our own detriment”.

“Habitat degradation and biodiversity loss are accelerating. Climate disruption is getting worse,” he said, noting more frequent and damaging fires, floods, droughts and super-storms.

Oceans are heating and acidifying, harming coral reefs, while the new coronavirus is “raging”, undermining health and livelihoods, he said.

“To care for humanity, we must care for nature,” he added, urging more sustainable consumer habits and decision-making centred around safeguarding the natural world.

The presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica and Switzerland, joined by ministers from a dozen other countries, on Friday launched a “High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People”, aimed at persuading governments to agree on a global goal to preserve at least 30% of the planet’s lands and oceans by 2030.

This, together with retaining wildernesses and conserving biodiversity, is “a crucial step to help prevent future pandemics and public health emergencies, and lay the foundations for a sustainable global economy”, they said in a statement.

The World Health Organization has said the novel coronavirus probably has its “ecological reservoir” in bats, while scientists say 60% of the infectious human diseases that emerged from 1990 to 2004 came from animals.

The new nature coalition noted that illegal and non-regulated wildlife trade, deforestation and ecosystem destruction can increase the risk of disease transmission from wildlife to people, and urged tighter control.

“This pandemic provides unprecedented and powerful proof that nature and people share the same fate and are far more closely linked than most of us realised,” they said in a statement.

Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told a coalition event that protecting nature was “about security and health”.

The COVID-19 crisis was a predictable manifestation of what scientists branded a “planetary emergency” several months before the pandemic began, he added.

World Environment Day should be renamed “human safety day”, he proposed, adding “it’s no longer about nature – it’s all about humans and our equitable, prosperous future on Earth”.

‘RACE TO ZERO’

The U.N. climate change secretariat (UNFCCC), alongside Britain and Chile, meanwhile, launched a “Race to Zero” campaign, committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest and “a healthy, resilient and zero-carbon recovery” from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

“Net-zero” means producing no more climate-heating emissions than can be absorbed by planting carbon-sucking trees or using other methods to trap greenhouse gases.

A U.N. climate science panel has said global emissions need to be slashed by 45% by 2030 and to net-zero by mid-century to have a 50% chance of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

The new climate campaign unites 120 countries with net-zero emissions initiatives backed by 992 businesses, 449 cities, 21 regions, 505 universities and 38 big investors, the UNFCCC said.

U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa said “Race to Zero” should also spur stronger national climate action plans due this year, including targets to cut emissions over the next decade.

The companies signed up to the net-zero goal have combined annual revenues of $4.72 trillion, the UNFCCC said, with new joiners including computer software giant Adobe, alcoholic drinks maker Diageo, fashion retailer Inditex and engineering firm Rolls-Royce.

According to analysis from the UK-based Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) think-tank, 53% of global GDP is now produced in countries, states, regions and cities that have either set a net-zero target or intend to do so.

Alison Doig, international lead at the ECIU, said participants in the “Race to Zero” campaign would have to present plans to reach net-zero, including interim emissions targets for the next decade, by the time of the delayed COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow in November 2021.

“This is not… about pushing climate action to some date in the future. No entity can reach net-zero in 2050 without starting now,” she said.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200605130846-9n69a/

20,000 Ton Oil Spill in Russian Arctic Has ‘Catastrophic Consequences’ for Wildlife

The leaked diesel oil drifted some 12km (7.5 miles) from the site of the accident

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared an emergency after 20,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled into a river in the Arctic Circle.

The accident is the second largest oil spill in terms of volume in modern Russian history, the Word Wildlife Fund (WWF) told AFP, as BBC News reported. The oil spread around 7.5 miles from the fuel site, turning the Ambarnaya river bright red, and contaminated a total of 135 square miles.

“The incident led to catastrophic consequences and we will be seeing the repercussions for years to come,” Sergey Verkhovets, coordinator of Arctic projects for WWF Russia, said in a statement reported by CNN. “We are talking about dead fish, polluted plumage of birds, and poisoned animals.”

Russia’s environmental ministry Rosprirodnadzor is already reporting contaminant levels in the water that are tens of thousands of times higher than the safe limit.

“[T]here has never been such an accident in the Arctic zone, ” former deputy head of Rosprirodnadzor Oleg Mitvol told BBC News.

Greenpeace compared the disaster to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The spill occurred last Friday when a fuel tank at a power plant near the city of Norilsk in Siberia collapsed. The plant is owned by a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, the world’s No. 1 producer of nickel and palladium. Its factories are also the reason why Norilsk is one of the most polluted places on Earth, The Guardian reported.

The plant initially attempted to clean the spill on their own and did not tell authorities about the incident for two days, Ministry of Emergency Situations head Evgeny Zinichev said, according to CNN.

Alexei Knizhnikov of WWF said his group was the first to inform cleanup specialists of the spill, according to The Guardian.

“These are huge volumes,” he said. “It was difficult for them to cover it up.”

The governor of the Krasnoyarsk region, where the spill took place, told Putin he only learned of it Sunday from social media posts.

“Why did government agencies only find out about this two days after the fact? Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media? Are you quite healthy over there?” Putin scolded Sergei Lipin, the head of NTEK, as the subsidiary that owns the plant is called.

Norilsk Nickel countered that NTEK had alerted authorities in a “timely and proper” fashion.

https://www.ecowatch.com/oil-spill-russia-arctic-wildlife-2646152380.html?rebelltitem=6#rebelltitem6

Five years ago, Pope Francis asked us to care for Earth. Have we listened?

single tree CROP
An aerial view shows a single tree seen on land that was previously jungle in Mato Grosso, one of the Brazilian states suffering from deforestation. (Reuters/Bruno Domingos)

There was a time when Br. Jaazeal Jakosalem had little success when he asked bishops in the Philippines to join campaigns against mining or coal-fired power plants endangering communities as well as the land.

It wasn’t that the bishops were ignoring the issues facing the environment — they’d written a half-dozen statements on the topic since the late 1980s. They just weren’t as visible in the struggle to do something about them, said Jakosalem, a lifelong environmental activist and a member of the Order of Augustinian Recollects.

The Philippines is one of the world’s front lines on climate change. Last week, Typhoon Vongfong slammed into the Eastern Samar province, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people in a region that seven years earlier was decimated by Typhoon Haiyan. Climate scientists expect such tropical storms to become more powerful and more frequent as global temperatures rise.

Things have changed in the post-Laudato Si’ world.

Today, the Catholic Church of the Philippines is seen as one of the leaders in answering the call that Pope Francis issued to the entire world in his 2015 social encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”

Since the encyclical’s release, Jakosalem, better known as Brother Tagoy, says more bishops have joined him and other religious in speaking out against the construction of new coal-fired power plants and the damaging effects of mining on both communities and the land. Last July, the Philippine bishops conference issued a pastoral letter on the “climate emergency,” calling the full church on the islands to an ecological conversion and to “activate climate action on behalf of the voiceless people and the planet.”

“They are emboldened to act more for the caring of our environment,” Jakosalem told EarthBeat in a phone interview.

Five years after the publication of Laudato Si’, you can easily find such examples across the world of individual Catholics, parishes and institutions responding to the pope’s own repeated appeal for ecological conversion with prayer and reflection over the encyclical but also with concrete actions in living it out.

Even with those examples, the consensus among Catholic ecological leaders is those responses have been not nearly as widespread as Francis sought with his universal call “for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” Count the pope among them.

“Sadly, the urgency of this ecological conversion seems not to have been grasped by international politics, where the response to the problems raised by global issues such as climate change remains very weak and a source of grave concern,” Francis said in January in remarks to the Vatican diplomatic corps.

The call for increasingly urgent action from a historically slow-moving institution is driven by awareness of the numerous crises facing the planet.

The coronavirus pandemic struck at the start of a decade that climate scientists say is critical to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Doing so would prevent the most severe consequences of climate change, which threatens to exacerbate poverty, hunger, lack of water access, and migration, all impacting first and fiercest the world’s already most vulnerable communities.

Already, global temperatures have risen 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s. The planet is on pace to warm another 2 degrees C by the end of the century, and to reach the critical 1.5-degree mark as soon as 2030. Roughly 20% of the planet already has, according to a Pulitzer-winning report by The Washington Post.

“When we pass that 1.5 degrees threshold, climate change will move into all of our living rooms,” said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. “You don’t have to turn on TV to find out about climate change.”

The pandemic has some worried it may slow momentum for addressing climate change. But there is also optimism up to the highest levels of the Catholic Church that how the world responds, economically and otherwise, just may be the multitrillion-dollar stimulus needed to jumpstart the globe to match societal actions with the urgency of the science.

And perhaps Laudato Si’ can play a part.

Laudato Si’ has an immense amount of wisdom to charter that path and just aid us in that journey,” said Tomás Insua, co-founder and executive director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/five-years-ago-pope-francis-asked-us-care-earth-have-we-listened

EarthBeat Weekly: Throwaway plastics strike back amid the pandemic

Plastive
An elderly woman wears a protective face mask as she walks with shopping bags during the COVID-19 pandemic in Barcelona, Spain, April 1, 2020. (CNS photo/Nacho Doce, Reuters)

Earlier this week, my wife Clare and I decided to try something we hadn’t done before: ride bikes to grab our groceries.

The weather was great and springy, and near our home in Kansas City (the one in Missouri, by the way) there’s a trail that passes by several grocery stores — meaning we wouldn’t have to bother with passing cars in a city that’s still learning to share the road.

So we had our route. The sky was clear. There was just one more thing to do before we were on our way: Gather our reusable bags.

One of the side effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been a restoking of the pushback on reusable goods. Some stores have barred reusable bags, concerned they could spread the virus, and coffeeshops have paused refilling reusable cups. Food pantries are placing meals in disposable bags in their efforts to feed millions in need. Restaurants struggling to stay in business have turned to disposable packaging — and often plastic foam — in their shift to carryout and delivery meals. And as they plan to reopen, some are opting for disposable menus.

In late March, The New York Times reported on how the plastic bag industry is seeking to capitalize on the pandemic to undo state and city bans on single-use plastics like bags and straws. The story has stuck with me. It was a reminder of the forces at play seeking to preserve the throwaway culture that Pope Francis has urged the world to abandon.

Economics of course are a major factor, with plastic production backed by major oil and chemical associations. But I find it harder to understand the freedom angle: Is there really such a passion to fight for the right to be able to throw something away often minutes after receiving it? I was recently reminded there was by a conservative friend, who in listing reasons why he wouldn’t want to live in Seattle stated he liked his plastic straws.

How did something like single-use plastics become so ingrained in U.S. culture when it hasn’t been around that long? It turns out others have wondered the same thing. While variations of straws have been around since 3,000 B.C., the plastic version wasn’t introduced until the 1950s and by the ’70s had overtaken the slurping market. National Geographic offered a video chronology of plastic’s history as part of its Planet or Plastic project.

Today, approximately 8.8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, and upwards of 26 million tons of plastic enter landfills in the U.S. alone. As plastics pollute land and water, they threaten both biodiversity and human health, with more and more microscopic plastic particles entering into the food chain.

The disposable vs. reusable debate existed well before the novel coronavirus began spreading around the globe. How it plays out post-pandemic will likely have a significant effect on whether the planet leaves the throwaway culture in its past, as well.

And whether pedaling to grocery stores with reusable bags in tow becomes an even more prevalent practice.

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/earthbeat-weekly-throwaway-plastics-strike-back-amid-pandemic

On Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, bees buzz with hope for California sisters

beekeeping 7 CROP
Sr. Barbara Hagel with a frame from one of her hives on the property of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose in Fremont, California. All of the bees in a hive are genetically related to the queen, making all of the worker bees sisters. (Melanie Lidman)

FREMONT, CALIFORNIA — A few times a week, Sr. Barbara Hagel of the Dominican Sisters of the Queen of the Holy Rosary suits up in a very different type of veil, a mesh facemask that zips to a large white jacket known as a bee suit. Carefully, she reaches in to check on one of the 13 beehives on her property. As she pulls out a frame of honeycomb, it vibrates with bees, a frenetic mass of activity shimmering in black and gold.

Hagel said it can be a spiritual moment, the first glimpse of the bees dancing over honeycomb cells.

“I’m constantly in awe of what I see and what is happening with the bees, and how the more I learn, the more I think about how God made this so incredibly complex and beautiful,” said Hagel, who serves as the Care of Creation and Sustainability coordinator for her congregation, which is also referred to as the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose.

The world celebrates Earth Day on April 22 in the shadow of a global pandemic. This year is the 50th anniversary of the original Earth Day celebrations that birthed the modern environmental movement, though the realities of the COVID-19 outbreak will push most of the celebrations and demonstrations online.

With the widespread collapse of bee colonies and the danger this poses for ecosystems, beekeepers are a small but essential part of the larger fight against climate change.

 

 

 

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/environment/news/earth-days-50th-anniversary-bees-buzz-hope-california-sisters