EU Parliament Declares ‘Climate and Environmental Emergency’
European Parliament declared a "climate and environmental emergency" Thursday, calling on the European Commission to make sure all legislation and budgets align with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
In another resolution, the group called on the EU to submit a strategy to the UN Convention on Climate Change for reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. The European Commission has already proposed a 2050 carbon neutrality goal, but the opposition of Poland, Hungary and Czechia has stopped it from earning the endorsement of the European Council.
@UNEP MEPs are calling for declaration of climate emergency in the EU. 🌿 EU should commit to net zero emissions by… https://t.co/D5JYl13Dff— European Parliament (@European Parliament)1574956110.0
The votes come less than one week before countries are set to gather in Madrid for the UN COP25 Climate Change Conference.
"The fact that Europe is the first continent to declare climate and environmental emergency, just before COP25, when the new commission takes office, and three weeks after Donald Trump confirmed the United States' withdrawal from the Paris agreement, is a strong message sent to citizens and the rest of the world," French liberal Member of European Parliament (MEP) Pascal Canfin, who wrote a draft of the climate emergency resolution, said, according to The Guardian.
Some climate activists applauded the European Parliament's emergency declaration, but also urged the EU to back up words with deeds.
"We can't solve a crisis without treating it as one," Swedish school-strike leader Greta Thunberg tweeted from the Atlantic Ocean, as she sails back from North America to attend COP25. "Let's hope they now take drastic sufficient action."
Day 16. In the middle of the ocean I’m struck by the news that the EU Parliament has declared a climate emergency.… https://t.co/mYa2EgHtSV— Greta Thunberg (@Greta Thunberg)1574957987.0
Greenpeace EU climate policy adviser Sebastian Mang shared a similar sentiment before the vote.
"Our house is on fire. The European parliament has seen the blaze, but it's not enough to stand by and watch," Mang said, according to The Guardian.
The first resolution was adopted 429 to 225 with 19 abstentions, and the second passed 430 to 190 with 34 abstentions.
The votes came a day after European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to lead the EU's executive arm, pledged that the EU would be the first continent to reach net zero emissions by 2050, The Washington Post reported. She has promised a European Green Deal, which the commission will draft within 100 days of taking office in December.
"If there is one area where the world needs our leadership, it is on protecting our climate," she said, as The Washington Post reported. "This is an existential issue for Europe — and for the world."
The European Parliament's resolutions Thursday will put additional pressure on her to make good on her promises, and even increase them. Von der Leyen has proposed a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2030, but the second resolution called on her to make that a 55 percent reduction. The current target is 40 percent, which activists and Green politicians argue is not ambitious enough, according to The Guardian.
A UN study released this week warned that greenhouse gas emissions must decline 7.6 percent every year for the next decade in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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