Developing Countries Are Already Tackling Climate Change. What's Your Rich Nation's Excuse?
By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
World leaders have a formidable task: setting a course to save our future. The extreme weather made more frequent and severe by climate change is here. This spring, devastating cyclones impacted 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Record heatwaves are hitting Europe and other regions — this July was the hottest month in modern record globally. Much of India is again suffering severe drought.
This month's UN Climate Action Summit is a critical test for leaders to demonstrate a turning point on action. The science says to avoid even worse impacts, we must limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve this, countries and industries must peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and reduce them to net-zero by 2050.
Meeting these goals is in all our interests. If we don't, climate change could force 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. By 2050, we could have 140 million climate migrants. Entire nations are at real risk of disappearing under rising seas.
There is also a clear, positive economic case. A New Climate Economy report found that bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in economic benefits between now and 2030. It could also deliver 65 million new, low-carbon jobs per year in 2030 (equal to the combined workforces of Egypt and the UK today) and lead to 700,000 fewer deaths per year from air pollution.
This opportunity is just as compelling in individual countries. In Indonesia, a government report found recently that a low-carbon development path, more ambitious than the country's current Paris commitment, could deliver GDP growth of at least 6 percent a year until 2045 — higher than business-as-usual. This path will reduce poverty more quickly, create more jobs and improve public health. In Mexico, smart actions to reduce emissions could save 25,000 lives and $5 billion over the next 12 years.
Some of the most ambitious action is happening in island nations on the front lines. Last year Jamaica significantly increased its renewable energy target, from 30 percent of its electricity mix by 2030 to 50 percent. Countries like Barbados and Maldives have among the earliest deadlines for carbon neutrality (2030 and 2020 respectively). These countries know there is no time to wait. Their ambition must become the norm.
The International Monetary Fund estimates that the world wastes 6.5 percent of global GDP directly or indirectly subsidising fossil fuels. The health impacts of air pollution, which kill an estimated 4.2 million people each year, make up the bulk of costs. In Africa, air pollution kills more people than childhood malnutrition does, and poses risks on a scale similar to unsafe water or sanitation. Women and children especially are harmed by indoor air pollution from dirty cooking fuels.
Backing out of coal in particular is imperative: emissions over the 30-50 year lifespans of new coal facilities are incompatible with the world reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. However, lack of leadership from developed countries, within their own jurisdictions and in their overseas investments, is slowing action. G7 countries on average produce 19 percent of their electricity from coal. And despite repeated commitments to end fossil fuel subsidies, the G7 still provides at least US$100 billion per year in subsidies to coal, oil and gas.
African countries only account for 2 percent of coal demand, yet are willing and compelled to take a different path. But they need support from partners and financiers. Developed and emerging economies must help deliver the investments for a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.
Many regions in Africa are still working to give people electricity. To ensure this electricity is clean, it is time for investors to focus on renewables and stop subsidising coal. Conditions are right: renewable energy prices are dropping, and clean energy is now often the mostcompetitive option. When considering local health costs, coal is more costly than renewables.
African countries are gaining momentum. Morocco recently built the world's largest concentrated solar facility, serving 2 million people. South Africa's robust renewable energy auctions led to solar and wind priceslower than prices from the national utility or from new coal plants. Kenya is the world's 9th largest producer of geothermal power, which generates nearly half its electricity. And across the continent, often the quickest, most affordable and reliable options are a mix of off-grid and on-grid solutions, like household solar panels andsolar mini-grids. Companies like Mkopa in East Africa and Lumos in West Africa are providing household and small business solar solutions.
Of course, there are risks and opportunities beyond energy. On land use, the recent IPCC special report didn't pull punches: land is critical both as an emissions source and as a climate solution. This dichotomy is obvious in Africa, where 48 percent of the continent's GDP will be vulnerable to climate extremes in 2023. Meanwhile, research from the Food and Land Use Coalition shows a sustainable approach could produce $320 billion annually in new business opportunities for sub-Saharan Africa.
The climate crisis does not begin or stop with Africa, but African countries can play a leadership role in seizing the opportunities of a better future. The world's larger economies have a responsibility to unlock this future, for themselves and for others. Their voters know this. Children, in the streets calling for action, know this. In recognition of our environmental, economic, political and moral predicament, leaders of developed countries must come to the UN Climate Action Summit clearly signaling they will deliver enhanced climate plans next year, and that they plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. If the smaller, poorer and vulnerable countries can do it, so can they.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is former Finance Minister of Nigeria and Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
This story originally appeared in Newsweek. It is republished here as part of EcoWatch's partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.
- 'The Planet's on F***ing Fire': Bill Nye Explains Climate Change to ... ›
- World Economy Can Reap $26 Trillion in a Decade by Fighting ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.
- Lead Poisoning Reveals Environmental Racism in the US - EcoWatch ›
- First-of-Its-Kind Study Finds Racial Gap Between Who Causes Air ... ›
- Pollution, Race and the Search for Justice - EcoWatch ›
By Peter Beech
Using waste food to farm insects as fish food and high-tech real-time water quality monitoring: innovations that could help change global aquaculture, were showcased at the World Economic Forum's Virtual Ocean Dialogues 2020.
Fly fishing. nextProtein
BiOceanOr's AquaREAL system. BiOceanOr
- Environmental Innovation Will Transform Business as Usual ... ›
- How an Army of Ocean Farmers Is Starting an Economic Revolution ... ›
The big three broadcast channels failed to cover the disproportionate impacts of extreme weather on low-income communities or communities of color during their primetime coverage of seven hurricanes and one tropical storm over three years, a Media Matters for America analysis revealed.
Researchers at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced yesterday that it will start a trial on a new drug designed specifically for COVID-19, a milestone in the race to stop the infectious disease, according to STAT News.
- Dogs Can Smell COVID-19 - EcoWatch ›
- Drugs Touted by Trump for COVID-19 Increase Heart Risks, Studies ... ›
- Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate Shows Promise in Mice - EcoWatch ›
The sixth mass extinction is here, and it's speeding up.
Terrestrial vertebrates on the brink (i.e., with 1,000 or fewer individuals) include species such as (A) Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis; image credit: Rhett A. Butler [photographer]), (B) Clarion island wren (Troglodytes tanneri; image credit: Claudio Contreras Koob [photographer]), (C) Española Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis hoodensis; image credit: G.C.), and (D) Harlequin frog (Atelopus varius; the population size of the species is unknown but it is estimated at less than 1,000; image credit: G.C.).
- Humanity 'Sleepwalking Towards the Edge of a Cliff': 60% of Earth's ... ›
- New Border Wall Construction Threatens 8 Species With Extinction ... ›
- The Insect Apocalypse Is Coming: Here Are 5 Lessons We Must Learn ›
By Cathy Cassata
With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
- WHO Declares Global Health Emergency as Coronavirus Cases ... ›
- Here's What We Know About Ibuprofen and COVID-19 - EcoWatch ›
- Trump's Budget Plan: A Push for Even Greater Environmental ... ›
- Trump Pushed for Mining Project That Could Destroy Alaska Salmon ... ›