Europe Rolls out Its Own Green Deal
The European Commission introduced a plan to overhaul the bloc's economy to more sustainable, climate-conscious policies and infrastructure, with the goal of being carbon-neutral by 2050, according to CNBC.
The proposal, dubbed the "European Green Deal," seems to be the most ambitious vision from a major economy to combat the climate crisis. The proposal for the 28 countries that make up the world's largest economic bloc and ranks third behind the U.S. and China in global greenhouse emissions will require a massive overhaul of its practice in order to achieve no detrimental impact on the economy by 2050, as Vox reported.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission's new president, introduced the European Green Deal package in Brussels on Wednesday. The proposals seem to leave no part of life untouched, as it affects transportation, agriculture, energy and buildings. Industries such as cement, steel, information and communication technology, chemicals and textiles are also included, as CNBC reported.
"[This] is our new growth strategy, for a growth that gives back more than it takes away," she said, according to The Guardian. "It shows how to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming, so that we live healthier [lives] and make our businesses innovate. We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast."
"This is Europe's man on the moon moment," said von der Leyen, according to Vox.
The policy paper calls for massive payouts to member-states that rely on coal power as a way to wean them off burning fossil fuels and shift to renewables, according to The New York Times. The bloc will have to spend generously to convince polluting countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which rely on coal for generating electricity and have long resisted commitments to net-zero carbon emissions.
"Our goal is to reconcile our economy with our planet, and make it work for our people," said von der Leyen, as The New York Times reported. "The European Green Deal is as much about cutting emissions as it is about creating jobs."
The commission will present the draft laws to the European Union for approval in January. It is expected that the final product will be slightly watered down after debate and input from the member states. If the proposal passes, the policies will likely be implemented in 2021, as The New York Times reported.
If the EU passes this ambitious strategy paper, it can claim the mantle as a world leader in fighting the climate crisis. Doing so would put pressure on China to reduce its carbon emissions when EU and Chinese leaders meet for a climate summit in Germany next fall. Alden Meyer, an expert on climate change policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said China was unlikely to commit to stronger emissions goals if Europe did not do so first, according to The New York Times.
Climate activists welcomed the ambitious plan, but called for bolder strokes and more specific details.
"The proposed package is comprehensive, identifying the right areas for action — from biodiversity and nature restoration to climate change and stopping deforestation — and it presents us with a number of new and potentially transformational initiatives," Ester Asin, director of the WWF's European Policy Office, said in a statement, as CNBC reported.
"However, by emphasizing continued economic growth as a key objective, the Commission has missed an opportunity to challenge the traditional growth paradigm in favor of an approach that would respect planetary boundaries," Asin added. "Can such 'in the box' thinking achieve the deep systemic change that was promised?"
Greenpeace was similarly skeptical."The climate targets [the commission is] proposing would be too little too late," said Franziska Achterberg, EU spokesperson for Greenpeace, as The Guardian reported. "On protecting nature, much is aspirational and needs to be fleshed out. The detailed measures that will follow must tackle the production and consumption patterns that have brought us to the brink."
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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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