The World Is 'Way off Track' in Dealing With Climate Crisis, Says UN Head
The United Nations released a sobering report Tuesday showing that the climate crisis is accelerating global hunger and wreaking havoc on land, sea and in the atmosphere, according to the UN's State of the Climate report.
The report says that "the tell-tale physical signs of climate change" are everywhere, noting record breaking heat waves, wildfires and flooding. It warned that more is certain to come, as CBS News reported.
The report found that more than 820 million people suffered from hunger in 2018 – the highest number since 2010. Weather-related phenomena linked to the climate crisis suggest that number will move in the wrong direction, as food shortages start to mount, according to CNN.
Scientists involved in the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) report said that the threat the world faces from the climate crisis is far greater than the danger of the coronavirus. They strongly encourage world leaders not to lose focus on the climate emergency, as The Guardian reported.
The UN Secretary General António Guterres wrote the forward of the report and said the world is currently "way off track meeting either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets that the Paris agreement calls for," according to UN News. Guterres also called the climate crisis the "the defining challenge of our time," and said, "time is fast running out for us to avert the worst impacts of climate disruption," as CBS News reported.
The comprehensive report led by the WMO, a branch of the United Nations, included input from a broad range of UN agencies, including those for environment, food, health, disasters, migration and refugees, as well as scientific centers, according to The Guardian.
The report found that 2019 was the second hottest ever on record, following 2016. However, 2016's temperatures were inflated by a strong, natural El Niño weather system, which 2019 did not have. The WMO scientists found that 84 percent of the oceans experienced one or more marine heatwaves, and, for the 32nd year in a row, more glacial ice was lost than gained, which pushed sea levels up to record levels, according to The Guardian.
"Given that greenhouse gas levels continue to increase, the warming will continue," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, as UN News reported. "A recent decadal forecast indicates that a new annual global temperature record is likely in the next five years. It is a matter of time."
"We just had the warmest January on record," said Taalas in a WMO statement. "Winter was unseasonably mild in many parts of the northern hemisphere. Smoke and pollutants from damaging fires in Australia circumnavigated the globe, causing a spike in CO2 emissions. Reported record temperatures in Antarctica were accompanied by large-scale ice melt and the fracturing of a glacier which will have repercussions for sea level rise."
The continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions coupled with wildfires in Australia, Siberia and the Amazon pushed carbon dioxide levels 40 percent higher than pre-industrial levels to its highest level in 3 million years, as EcoWatch noted. More than 90 percent of the heat from that excess carbon dioxide is trapped in the oceans, contributing to a spate of marine heatwaves, as CBS News reported.
The climate emergency has also led to extreme weather that has caused severe droughts in Australia and Africa, which is experiencing food shortages. Furthermore, the strange weather of drought followed by heavy rainfall in the Horn of Africa has spurred a severe locust invasion, which will threaten food security there, as CNN reported.
"This report is a catalogue of weather in 2019 made more extreme by climate change, and the human misery that went with it," according to Brian Hoskins, chair of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College in London and not associated with the WMO State of the Climate, who spoke to CNN.
"It points to a threat that is greater to our species than any known virus – we must not be diverted from the urgency of tackling it by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible."
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.