By Jessica Corbett
Following in the footsteps of leaders in Milan and New York City who are heeding global calls to #BuildBackBetter from the coronavirus pandemic, London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Friday unveiled plans to create "one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world" to improve local air quality and encourage more walking and cycling.
"This is genuinely exciting," London-based author and physicist Helen Czerski tweeted of the plans. "Yes, of course, it will be disruptive (and like any change, there will be both winners and loser at the start). But it could also make London a far more human place and a new sort of city, with huge health benefits for everyone."
Environmentalists and public health advocates also welcomed the initiative. The UK branch of the advocacy group Greenpeace declared: "This is a great first step!"
This is a great first step! Putting walking and cycling first means less toxic air pollution - we need these measur… https://t.co/0klzTm2CQt— Greenpeace UK (@Greenpeace UK)1589550650.0
Khan announced the upcoming transformation of central London streets — intended to help promote social distancing — in a joint statement with Transport for London (TfL). The government body will release more details in the weeks ahead, but the statement said roads between London Bridge and Shoreditch, Euston and Waterloo, and Old Street and Holborn may soon be limited to buses, pedestrians and cyclists.
Beginning Monday, the city will also reintroduce fee schemes for drivers that aim to cut pollution and help tackle the climate emergency: the low emission zone, the ultra low emission zone, and the congestion charge — the last of which may temporarily increase next month.
Khan has made tackling London's polluted air a top priority since taking office in 2016. The Labour Party member released figures last month showing how air quality in the UK capital has "dramatically improved" in the wake of both anti-pollution measures introduced in 2017 and the city's pandemic-related lockdown.
"Covid-19 poses the biggest challenge to London's public transport network in TfL's history," Khan said Friday. "It will take a monumental effort from all Londoners to maintain safe social distancing on public transport as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased."
"That means we have to keep the number of people using public transport as low as possible," he added. "And we can't see journeys formerly taken on public transport replaced with car usage because our roads would immediately become unusably blocked and toxic air pollution would soar."
The mayor urged all of the city's 32 boroughs to support the plans and work with officials to implement similar restrictions. He encouraged all Londoners to walk and cycle more while steering clear of public transit "unless it is absolutely unavoidable."
Khan also highlighted that the plans have benefits beyond ensuring the safety of transport in London as the city lifts coronavirus restrictions. "By ensuring our city's recovery is green," he said, "we will also tackle our toxic air which is vital to make sure we don't replace one public health crisis with another."
JUST ANNOUNCED: our plans to make central London one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world… https://t.co/rK6qoThsJd— Sadiq Khan (@Sadiq Khan)1589544749.0
Theo Highland of Sustrans, a UK charity that works to make it easier for people to walk and cycle, called the initiative "a potential game-changer" and echoed Khan's call for boroughs to embrace efforts to make miles of roads across the city more walkable and cycle-friendly while reducing toxic traffic.
"TfL's bold and ambitious plans to get London moving at this critical time are exactly what's needed right now," said Highland. "All boroughs must now make the changes our streets need to give Londoners space to move around safely and build our spirited city's resilience as we begin to bounce back from this pandemic."
"Sustrans is also here to help local authorities wanting to transform their streets with new infrastructure and give their residents confidence to cycle," he added. "Taking immediate action will help tackle health inequalities, air pollution, and the climate emergency. And by making successful changes permanent we'll emerge from this pandemic as a healthier, happier, and fairer London."
The Guardian reported Friday that David Miller of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which recently has helped coordinate similar plans in metro areas around the world, congratulated Khan "for showing the world what is possible when we reimagine our cities for the benefit and health of everyone."
"These measures announced in London today, including major car-free zones, will clean the air that Londoners breathe, improve public health both during the Covid-19 pandemic and long into the future, while also helping to avert the climate crisis," Miller said. "This is the future we want."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
- Germany Considers Free Public Transport to Fight Air Pollution ... ›
- Strict Air Quality Rules Are Helping, London’s Mayor Says - EcoWatch ›
- Governors Pledge to Cut Transportation Pollution - EcoWatch ›
New fossils uncovered in Argentina may belong to one of the largest animals to have walked on Earth.
- Groundbreaking Fossil Shows Prehistoric 15-Foot Reptile Tried to ... ›
- Skull of Smallest Known Dinosaur Found in 99-Million-Year Old Amber ›
- Giant 'Toothed' Birds Flew Over Antarctica 40 Million Years Ago ... ›
- World's Second-Largest Egg Found in Antarctica Probably Hatched ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Pruitt Guts the Clean Power Plan: How Weak Will the New EPA ... ›
- It's Official: Trump Administration to Repeal Clean Power Plan ... ›
- 'Deadly' Clean Power Plan Replacement ›
By Jonathan Runstadler and Kaitlin Sawatzki
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have found coronavirus infections in pet cats and dogs and in multiple zoo animals, including big cats and gorillas. These infections have even happened when staff were using personal protective equipment.
- Gorillas in San Diego Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Wildlife Rehabilitators Are Overwhelmed During the Pandemic. In ... ›
- Coronavirus Pandemic Linked to Destruction of Wildlife and World's ... ›
- Utah Mink Becomes First Wild Animal to Test Positive for Coronavirus ›
By Peter Giger
The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
By John R. Platt
The period of the 45th presidency will go down as dark days for the United States — not just for the violent insurgency and impeachment that capped off Donald Trump's four years in office, but for every regressive action that came before.
- Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate and Green Recovery Plan ... ›
- How Biden and Kerry Can Rebuild America's Climate Leadership ... ›
- Biden's EPA Pick Michael Regan Urged to Address Environmental ... ›
- How Joe Biden's Climate Plan Compares to the Green New Deal ... ›