UN Urges World Leaders to Heed Climate Risk, Warns of More Severe Disasters
By Paul Brown
The hurricanes and wildfires that have severely damaged large areas of the U.S. in recent weeks have had no impact on President Donald Trump's determination to ignore the perils of climate change and support the coal industry.
In a deliberate denial of mainstream science, the Trump administration has issued a strategic four-year plan for the U.S. Environment Protection Agency that does not once mention "greenhouse gas emissions," "carbon dioxide" or "climate change" in its 48 pages.
Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager of the Union of Concerned Scientists, described this as "stunning" in its ignorance. "This was not an oversight," she said. "This is a deliberate strategy by this administration."
However, President Trump's repudiation in June of the 2015 Paris agreement designed to combat global warming, and his refusal to acknowledge any connection between recent extreme weather events and climate change, seems to have made the world even more determined to tackle the issue.
The acid test will be the progress that is made in November at the annual meeting of the parties for the Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, hosted by Fiji, one of the small island states expected to be most affected by sea-level rise and more frequent storms.
Ahead of the conference, three of the UN's most senior climate change figures have issued a statement urging world leaders to see the recent spate of disasters as a "shocking sign of things to come."
In a joint statement, Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Climate Change Convention and Robert Glasser, the UN secretary-general's special representative for disaster risk reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, said the events of the last few months were a reminder that climate change threatens more frequent and severe disasters such as those just witnessed.
The three officials emphasize that there have been many more extreme weather events that have not received the publicity given to the hurricanes in the Caribbean and the U.S.
"The record floods across Bangladesh, India and Nepal have made life miserable for some 40 million people," they said. "More than 1,200 people have died and many people have lost their homes, crops have been destroyed, and many workplaces have been inundated. Meanwhile, in Africa, over the last 18 months 20 countries have declared drought emergencies, with major displacement taking place across the Horn of Africa.
1,200 Dead, 41 Million Affected by Flooding in India, Bangladesh and Nepal https://t.co/WhmnRqL6AU @climatecouncil @climateinstitut— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1504299671.0
"For those countries that are least developed the impact of disasters can be severe, stripping away livelihoods and progress on health and education; for developed and middle-income countries the economic losses from infrastructure alone can be massive.
"During the last two years over 40 million people, mainly in countries which contribute least to global warming, were forced either permanently or temporarily from their homes by disasters."
The three officials did not mention the Trump administration's refusal to accept basic science, but describe the rising sea levels of 85 millimeters (3.34 inches) in the last 25 years and the potential catastrophic storm damage that coastal areas face as a result.
"There is clear consensus," they added. "Rising temperatures are increasing the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, leading to more intense rainfall and flooding in some places, and drought in others.
"Rising and warming seas are contributing to the intensity of tropical storms worldwide. We will continue to live with the abnormal and often unforeseen consequences of existing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, for many, many years to come."
They pointed out that the cost of adaptation to climate change will be far cheaper than the repair bill if no action is taken.
"It is critical to remember that the long-term reduction of emissions is THE most important risk reduction tactic we have, and we must deliver on that ambition," they wrote.
The three officials concluded, "The November UN Climate Conference in Bonn provides an opportunity to not only accelerate emission reductions but to also boost the serious work of ensuring that the management of climate risk is integrated into disaster risk management. Poverty, rapid urbanization, poor land use, ecosystems decline and other risk factors will amplify the impacts of climate change."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
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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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