1.5C now ‘hard to prevent’
At many times, the latest IPCC report
would have had a good chance being top of mainstream news reports – however events in Ukraine have of course dominated coverage. The report itself is not one if you’re looking for some good news. Headlines: half the world’s population is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; 1.5C of global warming is going to be hard to prevent and a permanent rise higher than that is likely. Chillingly the report says that the window in which action can maintain what the IPCC refers to as a “liveable” future is disappearing faster than had previously been anticipated.
The report refers to dangers of significant migration and widespread mental health problems; spikes in the transmission of food and water borne disease; water scarcity and catastrophic biodiversity loss. There are no surprises in that those least able to cope with climate change will be those feeling its effects most keenly, and in most cases containing communities that have done least to contribute to emissions. However, some analysts have picked up that there is some hope in that there is still an opportunity to prevent rising of 1.5C and beyond, and also that temperature rises could be reversed if there are transformational actions in the future. However, there is no suggestion that at this stage these can be relied upon.
Building back worse?
A new report in journal Nature
finds that while governments were spending at unprecedented levels trying to heave the world’s economy out of the recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, promises for investment in “build back better” type measures that would counter climate change have not been met.
In 2020 and 2021 the G20 spent $14 trillion, Nature says. While this was primarily used to boost health systems and for short-term economic protection, only 6% of the total was invested in areas that will cut emissions, such as vehicle electrification schemes or renewable energy projects. Some 3% was actually targeted at activities likely to increase emissions, including providing subsidies to coal projects. As of early 2022, Nature estimates that only one-ninth of the investment required to mitigate climate change to limit warming to 1.5C has been made, and highlights the US, China and the UK for disappointing performance, and particularly the latter for failing to follow through on promising policy ideas.
Whole-life approach plastics deal
There was better news from the fifth United Nations Environment Assembly
in Nairobi, Kenya, where delegates pledged to broker a binding international treaty designed to provide a comprehensive solution to plastic pollution. The treaty will take a whole life approach including design, production and end of life reuse and recycling.
Some hope that it will end up limiting the amount of plastic the world is allowed to produce. Others point to the fact that while the treaty may end up being binding, in characteristic diplomatic language the assembly’s resolution contains language providing for binding and non-binding parts to the treaty and discretion for how countries stick to its terms. The resolution was framed by a proposal from Peru and Rwanda that called for focus on product design and use. An alternative from Japan and India that instead proposed more of an emphasis on cleaning up what it already in the ocean received less support.
Soil plastic concerns
A recent report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation suggests that while ocean plastic has a high profile, the situation on land may in fact be worse. Agricultural production accounts for 3.5% of global plastic. While that may not seem significant, the risks lie in the proximity to soils and food. Many commonly used agricultural products contain non composting films or coatings and result in waste plastic materials, including microplastics. There is, as pointed out by website Civil Eats, a growing body of research that shows microplastics to be a vector for chemicals and other potentially harmful materials.