200 Nations Start 2-Week Talks To End Political Divide On Climate Change

Katowice, Poland: Delegates from nearly 200 nations on Sunday began two weeks of talks to tackle deep political divisions at the most important U.N. meeting on global warming since the landmark 2015 Paris deal to shift away from fossil fuels.

Expectations are low that negotiations in Katowice, at the heart of Poland's coal region, will fully resolve concerns laid out in reports over recent weeks on the severity of rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The political climate has also been transformed since the Paris agreement and the fragile global unity that brought about that accord has shattered.

"This is a very, very important conference," U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa told reporters. "It also takes place in a scenario where we have clear signals about the urgency with which we need to address the issues of climate change."

4k393n8oDelegates said that one of the trickiest issues could be monitoring emissions as the United States, which cannot quit the pact until 2020, uses the talks to press for a level of detail it perceives as useful to its foreign policy dealings (Representational)

Four former presidents of U.N. talks, including Laurent Fabius of France, who led negotiations for the Paris agreement, issued a statement urging "decisive action".

"The world is at a crossroads and decisive action in the next two years will be crucial to tackle these urgent threats," they said in the joint statement.

However, political divisions were clear from the outset, with Brazil having withdrawn its offer to host the 2019 talks.

The United States, meanwhile, reiterated at the G20 summit in Argentina on Saturday its decision to withdraw from the Paris accord and a U.S. commitment to all energy sources.

Year-End Deadline

The other members of the group of industrialised nations - including the biggest polluter, China - reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the Paris deal, taking into account their national circumstances.

gq7e9d9G20 Summit, Buenos Aires, Argentina: Delegates said that one of the trickiest issues could be monitoring emissions as the United States, which cannot quit the pact until 2020, uses the talks to press for a level of detail it perceives as useful to its foreign policy dealings (Representational)

The Katowice talks precede an end-of-year deadline to produce a "rule book" to flesh out the broad details that were agreed in Paris on limiting the rise in global temperatures to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.

Delegates said that one of the trickiest issues could be monitoring emissions as the United States, which cannot quit the pact until 2020, uses the talks to press for a level of detail it perceives as useful to its foreign policy dealings.

Poland is hosting U.N. climate negotiations for a third time, but the nation remains hooked on coal, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. Coal provides about 80 percent of Poland's power and has been a major source of employment and national pride.

The younger generation is less emotionally attached to coal and is increasingly environmentally aware, though any phasing out of the fuel in Poland is likely to be slow.

The energy ministry said only last week that Poland plans to invest in new coal capacity while its long-term energy strategy assumes it will still obtain about 60 percent of its power from coal in 2030.

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Climate-heating greenhouse gases at record levels, says UN

The main greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change have all reached record levels, the UN’s meteorology experts have reported.

Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are now far above pre-industrial levels, with no sign of a reversal of the upward trend, a World Meteorological Organization report says.

“The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5m years ago, when the temperature was 2-3C warmer and sea level was 10-20 metres higher than now,” said the WMO secretary general, Petteri Taalas.

“The science is clear. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed.”

Levels of CO2 rose to a global average of 405.5 parts per million in the atmosphere in 2017 – almost 50% higher than before the industrial revolution.

Levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas responsible for about 17% of global warming are now 2.5 times higher than pre-industrial times owing to emissions from cattle, rice paddies and leaks from oil and gas wells.

Nitrous oxide, which also warms the planet and destroys the Earth’s protective ozone layer, is now over 20% higher than pre-industrial levels. About 40% of N2O comes from human activities including soil degradation, fertiliser use and industry.

The WMO also highlighted the discovery of illicit production of CFC-11, a banned chemical that also both warms the planet and destroys ozone. Investigations indicate that at least some of the production is in China.

In October the world’s scientists said global warming of even 1.5C would have severe consequences for humanity. International climate agreements had for two decades set 2C as a limit.

“Every fraction of a degree of global warming matters, and so does every part per million of greenhouse gases,” said the WMO deputy secretary general, Elena Manaenkova. “CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the oceans for even longer. There is currently no magic wand to remove all the excess CO2 from the atmosphere.”

Prof Corinne Le Quéré, of the University of East Anglia, said she was not surprised by the new record levels of greenhouse gases. “But I am very concerned that all three gases most responsible for climate change are rising upwards unabated. It seems the urgency and extent of the actions needed to address climate change have not sunk in.

“Low-carbon technologies like wind, solar, and electric transport need to become mainstream, with old-fashioned polluting fossils pushed out rapidly.”

Efforts to cut emissions are increasing and on Wednesday the UN’s climate change body published a report on the commitments made in 2018. It found 9,000 cities in 128 countries were taking action, along with 240 states and regions in 40 countries and more than 6,000 businesses in 120 countries.

Patricia Espinosa, head of the UN framework convention on climate change, said: “On one hand, greenhouse gas emissions have yet to peak and countries struggle to maintain the concentrated attention and effort needed for a successful response to climate change. On the other hand, climate action is occurring, it is increasing and there is a will to do more. I highlight this because falling into despair and hopelessness is a danger equal to complacency, none of which we can afford.”

Climate change damaging male fertility

Climate change could pose a threat to male fertility -- according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

New findings published today in the journal Nature Communications reveal that heatwaves damage sperm in insects -- with negative impacts for fertility across generations.

The research team say that male infertility during heatwaves could help to explain why climate change is having such an impact on species populations, including climate-related extinctions in recent years.

Research group leader Prof Matt Gage said: "We know that biodiversity is suffering under climate change, but the specific causes and sensitivities are hard to pin down.

"We've shown in this work that sperm function is an especially sensitive trait when the environment heats up, and in a model system representing a huge amount of global biodiversity.

"Since sperm function is essential for reproduction and population viability, these findings could provide one explanation for why biodiversity is suffering under climate change.

"A warmer atmosphere will be more volatile and hazardous, with extreme events like heatwaves becoming increasingly frequent, intense and widespread.

"Heatwaves are particularly damaging extreme weather events. Local extinctions are known to occur when temperature changes become too intense. We wanted to know why this happens. And one answer could be related to sperm."

The research team investigated the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum) to explore the effects of simulated heatwaves on male reproduction.

The beetles were exposed to either standard control conditions or five-day heatwave temperatures, which were 5°C to 7°C above their thermal optimum.

Afterwards, a variety of experiments assessed the potential damage to reproductive success, sperm function and offspring quality.

Heatwaves killed sperm

The team found that heatwaves halved the amount of offspring males could produce, and a second heatwave almost sterilised males.

Females, by contrast, were unaffected by heatwave conditions. However, female reproduction was affected indirectly because experiments showed that heatwaves damaged inseminated sperm within female reproductive tracts.

Following experimental heatwaves, males reduced sperm production by three-quarters, and any sperm produced then struggled to migrate into the female tract and were more likely to die before fertilisation.

Kirs Sales, a postgraduate researcher who led the research, said: "Our research shows that heatwaves halve male reproductive fitness, and it was surprising how consistent the effect was."

The group also explored the underlying causes of male vulnerability. Heatwaves caused some impact on male sexual behaviour -- with males mating half as frequently as controls.

Heatwaves caused damage across generations

"Two concerning results were the impact of successive heatwaves on males, and the impacts of heatwaves on future generations," said Sales.

"When males were exposed to two heatwave events 10 days apart, their offspring production was less than 1 per cent of the control group. Insects in nature are likely to experience multiple heatwave events, which could become a problem for population productivity if male reproduction cannot adapt or recover."

The research also shows that offspring sired by heatwaved dads -- or their sperm -- live shorter lives -- by a couple of months.

And the reproductive performance of sons produced by dads -- or sperm -- exposed to heatwave conditions was also impacted. Sons were found to be less able to fertilise a series of potential mates, and produced less offspring.

The researchers warn that this could add extra pressure to populations already suffering through climate change over time.

"Beetles are thought to constitute a quarter of biodiversity, so these results are very important for understanding how species react to climate change. Research has also shown that heat shock can damage male reproduction in warm blooded animals too, and past work has shown that this leads to infertility in mammals," added Sales.

The researchers hope that the effects can be incorporated into models predicting species vulnerability, and ultimately help inform societal understanding and conservation actions.

The work was funded by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the EnvEast DTP, UEA, and the Leverhulme Trust.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of East Anglia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Air Pollution Kills 600,000 Children Each Year: World Health Organization

Geneva: Exposure to toxic air both indoors and out kills some 600,000 children under the age of 15 each year, the World Health Organization warned Monday.

Data from the UN health body shows that every day, 93 percent of children under the age of 15 -- a full 1.8 billion youngsters, including 630 million under the age of five -- breath dangerously polluted air.

This has tragic consequences: In 2016 alone, some 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air, the WHO report found.

"Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. 

"This is inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfil their full potential."

According to WHO data, more than nine out of 10 people on the planet breath dangerously toxic air, causing some seven million premature deaths each year.

Air pollution is especially dangerous for children, and accounts for nearly one in 10 deaths among children under five around the globe, the report found.

WHO's study, which examined the health toll on children breathing health-hazardous levels of both outdoor and household air pollution, focused on dangerous particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5).

These include toxins like sulfate and black carbon, which pose the greatest health risks since they can penetrate deep into the lungs or cardiovascular system.

The report found that children in poorer countries are far more at risk, with a full 98 percent of all children under five in low- and middle-income countries exposed to PM2.5 levels above WHO air quality guidelines.

That compares to 52 percent in high-income countrie, WHO said.

Triggers asthma, cancer

Together, household air pollution from cooking and outdoor air pollution cause more than half of all cases of acute lower respiratory infections in young children in low- and middle-income countries, WHO said.

The report, launched ahead of the WHO's first ever Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, revealed that when pregnant women are exposed to polluted air, they are more likely to give birth prematurely and have small, low birthweight children.

It found that children are often more vulnerable to the impact of air pollution since they breath more rapidly than adults, and thus absorb more pollutants at a time when their brains and bodies are still developing.

They also live closer to the ground, where a number of pollutants reach peak concentrations, WHO said, pointing out that newborns and young children are also more susceptible to household air pollution in homes that use polluting fuels for cooking, heating and lighting.

Air pollution can impact a child's development and cognitive ability, and can trigger asthma and childhood cancer, WHO said.

Children who have been exposed to high levels of air pollution may also be at greater risk for chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease later in life, it said.

"Air pollution is stunting our children's brains, affecting their health in more ways than we suspected," warned Maria Neira, the head of the WHO's department of public health and environment.

The UN health body is calling for an acceleration of the switch to clean cooking and heating fuels, and for the promotion of cleaner transportation, lower emissions, and better waste management, among other measures.

"The world needs to reduce the overdependance we have on fossil (fuel), and accelerate to clean, renewable energy," Neira told reporters in a conference call.

  • Published in World

UN to Set Off Alarm on Climate Change Global Emergency

UN Secretary General, António Guterres, announced today he would set off alarms on the global emergency that means climate change, topic to which he gives priority since assuming his post.

Through his official Twitter account, the top representative of the UN, shared a video with advances on the topics to be presented in a speech this Monday.

'We all, governments, businesspeople, consumers... have to make changes and more than that, we have to be that change', said Guterres in that audiovisual film.

Climate change is an undeniable fact, science has so confirmed and solutions to face this problem look us in the face -said the Portuguese diplomat- it is time already to abandon the way to suicidal emissions.

These may not be easy times, but change is urgent for the good of generations today and those of the future, he stressed.

In his most recent alert on the issue, last month Guterres highlighted that climate change is also an emergency of public health, expected to cause 250 thousand additional deaths each year from 2030 to 2050.

That is included in a report of the World Health Organization (WHO), that shows the need for an urgent climate action, he added.

Any place, be it a little island, a great city or a rural town, is exposed to the threats of climate change to the health of persons, he indicated.

According to WHO, climate change affects social and environmental factors of health: clean air, potable wáter, enough food and secure refuge.

Over the last 50 years, human activity -mainly in the burning of fossile fuels- have liberated enough amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to trap additional heat in the lower atmosphere ansd affect world climate, detailed the WHO report.

The sea levels rise, glaciers melt and the patterns of precipitation change, while extreme climate events are ever more intense and frequent.

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Climate Change Could Hit Point of No Return by 2035

London, Sep 1 (Prensa Latina) Earth could go through a point of no return by 2035 if governments do not act decisively when it comes to fighting climate change, warns a study published in the Earth System Dynamics magazine.

Scientists at the University of Oxford say it would be unlikely to limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius by 2100 and consider that the deadline to reduce it to 1.5 degrees has already passed, unless radical climate action is taken.

The researchers wanted to find the last possible year to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions before it is too late.

In this regard, the concept of point of no return has the advantage of containing useful temporary information to report about the urgency of taking climate measures, says Matthias Aengenheyster, the study's lead author.

Through the use of information on climate models, the team determined the deadline to initiate actions, in order to keep global warming likely (with a probability of 67 percent) below two degrees Celsius by 2100.

This depends on how fast humanity can reduce emissions with the use of more renewable energy.

According to experts, the point of no return has already been exceeded for the most modest climate action scenario, where the proportion of renewable resources increases by two percent each year.

However, they consider that the elimination of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, through the use of negative emission technology, could give the Earth a little more time: between six and 10 years.

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Domino-effect of climate events could move Earth into a ‘hothouse’ state

A domino-like cascade of melting ice, warming seas, shifting currents and dying forests could tilt the Earth into a “hothouse” state beyond which human efforts to reduce emissions will be increasingly futile, a group of leading climate scientists has warned.

This grim prospect is sketched out in a journal paper that considers the combined consequences of 10 climate change processes, including the release of methane trapped in Siberian permafrost and the impact of melting ice in Greenland on the Antarctic.

The authors of the essay, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, stress their analysis is not conclusive, but warn the Paris commitment to keep warming at 2C above pre-industrial levels may not be enough to “park” the planet’s climate at a stable temperature.

They warn that the hothouse trajectory “would almost certainly flood deltaic environments, increase the risk of damage from coastal storms, and eliminate coral reefs (and all of the benefits that they provide for societies) by the end of this century or earlier.”

“I do hope we are wrong, but as scientists we have a responsibility to explore whether this is real,” said Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. “We need to know now. It’s so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science.”

Rockström and his co-authors are among the world’s leading authorities on positive feedback loops, by which warming temperatures release new sources of greenhouse gases or destroy the Earth’s ability to absorb carbon or reflect heat.

Their new paper asks whether the planet’s temperature can stabilise at 2C or whether it will gravitate towards a more extreme state. The authors attempt to assess whether warming can be halted or whether it will tip towards a “hothouse” world that is 4C warmer than pre-industrial times and far less supportive of human life.

Katherine Richardson from the University of Copenhagen, one of the authors, said the paper showed that climate action was not just a case of turning the knob on emissions, but of understanding how various factors interact at a global level.

“We note that the Earth has never in its history had a quasi-stable state that is around 2C warmer than the preindustrial and suggest that there is substantial risk that the system, itself, will ‘want’ to continue warming because of all of these other processes – even if we stop emissions,” she said. “This implies not only reducing emissions but much more.”

New feedback loops are still being discovered. A separate paper published in PNAS reveals that increased rainfall – a symptom of climate change in some regions - is making it harder for forest soils to trap greenhouse gases such as methane.

Previous studies have shown that weakening carbon sinks will add 0.25C, forest dieback will add 0.11C, permafrost thaw will add 0.9C and increased bacterial respiration will add 0.02C. The authors of the new paper also look at the loss of methane hydrates from the ocean floor and the reduction of snow and ice cover at the poles.

Rockström says there are huge gaps in data and knowledge about how one process might amplify another. Contrary to the Gaia theory, which suggests the Earth has a self-righting tendency, he says the feedbacks could push the planet to a more extreme state.

As an example, the authors say the loss of Greenland ice could disrupt the Gulf Stream ocean current, which would raise sea levels and accumulate heat in the Southern Ocean, which would in turn accelerate ice loss from the east Antarctic. Concerns about this possibility were heightened earlier this year by reports that the Gulf Stream was at its weakest level in 1,600 years.

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Currently, global average temperatures are just over 1C above pre-industrial levels and rising at 0.17C per decade. The Paris climate agreement set actions to keep warming limited to 1.5C-2C by the end of the century, but the authors warn more drastic action may be necessary.

“The heatwave we now have in Europe is not something that was expected with just 1C of warming,” Rockström said. “Several positive feedback loops are already in operation, but they are still weak. We need studies to show when they might cause a runaway effect.

Another climate scientist – who was not involved in the paper – emphasised the document aimed to raise questions rather than prove a theory. “It’s rather selective, but not outlandish,” said Prof Martin Siegert, co-director of the Grantham Institute. “Threshold and tipping points have been discussed previously, but to state that 2C is a threshold we can’t pull back from is new, I think. I’m not sure what ‘evidence’ there is for this – or indeed whether there can be until we experience it.”

Rockström said the question needed asking. “We could end up delivering the Paris agreement and keep to 2C of warming, but then face an ugly surprise if the system starts to slip away,” he said. “We don’t say this will definitely happen. We just list all the disruptive events and come up with plausible occurrences … 50 years ago, this would be dismissed as alarmist, but now scientists have become really worried.”

“In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm: the wolves are now in sight,” said Dr Phil Williamson, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia. “The authors argue that we need to be much more proactive in that regard, not just ending greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible, but also building resilience in the context of complex Earth system processes that we might not fully understand until it is too late.”

Heat Wave Ruled Out in Cuba

Havana, Jul 23 (Prensa Latina) The possibility of a heat wave in Cuba in the next few days was ruled out by a specialist from the Climate Center of the Meteorological Institute of the island, the daily Granma points out today.

The prevalence of very warm thermal sensations refers to particular atmospheric situations in mid-latitudes and continental zones, when temperatures reach values above 40 degrees Celsius, Ramon Perez, a researcher at the scientific institution, told the newspaper.

This reality, together with the prevailing low humidity, leads to the death of human beings from dehydration and other causes, he explained.

In particular, Cuba, due to its insular condition, makes such events improbable, as the sea breeze will always be a mitigating factor for not recording such extreme scenarios, to which is added the usual cooling of the atmosphere caused by the typical rains of summer afternoons, Perez added.

According to the expert, the heat wave concept depends not only on the behavior of the temperatures, but also on the impact they cause.

When comparing what happened in previous summers, he declared that in June there was no record of absolute maximum, while the monthly average was very close to the norm with an anomaly of 0.2 degrees Celsius below the usual.

Nor, he also added, in the first two decades of July there is any report of new primacy of maximum. The highest record registered to date is 37.3 degrees, in Veguitas, Granma, on the 17th, he commented.

During July of the 2015, 11 heat records were set, he recalled.

Although the current summer period in Cuba remains within the normal range, between 1951 and 2010 the average temperature at the stage increased by 0.8 degrees Celsius, which confirms the trend towards a warmer climate in this country, he warned.

This situation progressively leads us to extreme heat values over the years, but at least for now our insular condition protects us from the so-called waves, he concluded.

  • Published in Cuba
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