UN panel warns time is short to stop climate change


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | April 6, 2022

A new road to limiting climate change appeared from a new major scientific report from the United Nations, however it shows there is very little time to stop the effects of global warming.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conducted the report. The document warns that countries across the globe must drastically accelerate efforts in the near future to slash coal, oil, and natural gas emissions to limit global warming in the next decade. The report once again places the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is projected that countries will reach that mark by the end of the decade.

Holding down warming will cause nations to work together and collectively reduce emissions by 43 percent by 2030, according to The New York Times. It also calls for the end of carbon dioxide emissions by the 2050s. While the goals are tall orders, the panel and report say it is possible for countries to make the changes necessary to limit the biggest effects of climate change.

The report was approved by 195 governments across the globe. Climate scientists are clear in the report, stating there is an extremely small margin for delay. Any additional extensions would cause global warming to go past relatively tolerable levels.

United Nations develops ‘historic’ plastic pollution treaty


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | March 4, 2022

The United Nations if preparing to approve a plan to create the first-ever global plastic pollution treaty.

The resolution is a multilateral climate deal that would be the most consequential agreement since the 2015 Paris accord. Nearly 200 countries at the UN environmental assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, agreed on Wednesday to develop a treaty according to CNBC. The resolution would address the full lifecycle of plastic from production to disposal. The current plan suggests a full treaty will be written by the end of 2024.

The treaty has been touted as a triumph and significant even though it has yet to be written. Delegates are set to figure out finer details further into the treaty negotiation process. The treaty’s focus on the “plastic crisis” has yet to be attempted on such a broad scale, both in terms of countries and timeline of plastic development.

Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said the treaty’s development could be a “breakthrough.”

“It is an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it,” Andersen said.

The UN Warns of Increased Wildfires this Century


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Josie Taylor | February 24, 2022

A new landmark United Nations report has reported that the risk of wildfires around the world will likely surge by over 50% in coming decades as climate change further intensifies what the report described as a “global wildfire crisis.” 

The scientific assessment was made as a result of deadly wildfires around the world, like in Australia and even the Arctic. It is the first by the organization’s environmental authority to evaluate wildfire risks worldwide. 

The report, produced by more than 50 researchers from six continents, estimated that the risk worldwide of highly devastating fires could increase by up to 57% by the end of the century, primarily due to climate change. Some regions are expected to experience much more severe fires than others. It is a stark warning about the increased heat and dryness that human-caused global warming is bringing about. 

In a moderate scenario for global warming, the likelihood of extreme, catastrophic fires could increase by up to 33% by 2050 and up to 52 percent by 2100, the report estimates. If emissions are not curbed and the planet heats up more, wildfire risks could rise by up to 57% by the end of the century.

Compromise met at the COP26, some say it isn’t enough


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By Eleanor Hildebrandt | November 15, 2021

After two weeks in Glasgow, 200 countries adopted a document regarding climate policies and action at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The agreement includes agreements to reduce fossil fuel and coal subsidies, specifically calling for a “phase down.” John Kerry, U.S. special envoy for climate change, called fossil fuel subsidies the insanity at the meeting, calling for the rapid phase out of their use immediately.

The U.N. Secretary-General, António Guterres said more work needs to be done when it comes to the climate crisis. In a video address, he said the planet is fragile and “hanging by a thread,” as the world gets closer to a “climate catastrophe.”

Alongside other decisions, more than 100 world leaders—including the U.S. and China—committed to ending deforestation in the next nine years. COP26 President Alok Sharma told NBC News that this year’s summit was still an important stepping stone when it comings to climate change and global warming.

“We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive,” he said. “But its pulse is weak, and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.”

Climate activists, like Greta Thunberg, said the real conversation and work regarding climate change continues outside of meetings with governmental officials.

WHO sets tougher regulations for air quality


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | September 28, 2021

The World Health Organization set new standards for air quality guidelines for the next 15 years on Sept. 22.

The standards are set for policymakers across the world to lower pollutants that impact air quality. According to the Associated Press, more research and monitoring has cleared up previous questions regarding the impacts pollutants have on the health of human beings and animals. The United Nations health agency said 90 percent of the global population currently live in environments with at least one harmful type of pollutant.

Pollution of the air is concerning to global health advocates, as it becomes comparable to smoking tobacco. The guidelines are not legally binding, and they ask policy makers to focus on reducing the concentrations of six pollutant. The concerning pollutants include two types of particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide.

Some of the guidelines also encourage individuals to do their part to improve air quality by changing their behaviors through reducing use of plastics and using public transportation instead of driving cars. Air pollution is decreasing in several countries and has over the past few years, especially in Europe and North America. The change of guidelines could see improvements across many other continents.

Joe Biden has a New Goal of Cutting Down Methane Emissions


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Josie Taylor | September 27, 2021

The United States and European Union are working on a pledge to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030, President Joe Biden announced on Sept. 17, 2021. He urged countries around the world to join before the U.N. climate summit later this year. 

Cutting out methane would be beneficial for both slowing climate change and for the health of every citizen. There is less methane in the atmosphere than there is carbon dioxide, however it is a much more potent greenhouse gas when it comes to warming the planet. Methane also causes unhealthy air pollution. 

Methane emissions have been going up very quickly recently, and research shows they need to drop by almost half by 2030 to meet the Paris climate agreement goals. This means that the entire world needs to cut methane emissions. 

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, but it also contributes to surface ozone, which is a toxic air pollutant. Reducing methane improves air quality, while reducing the effects of climate change. Another benefit is that the results are almost immediate. 

Climate Change is a Human Rights Issue, UN Rights Chief Warns.


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Josie Taylor | September 16, 2021

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned the UN of what she called the biggest challenge to human rights- climate change. She said on Monday climate change, pollution, and nature loss are severely affecting human rights, while countries across the globe fail to take the necessary action. 

“As these environmental threats intensify, they will constitute the single greatest challenge to human rights of our era,” Bachelet said at the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The UN has many goals they hope to reach by 2030. These goals include ending poverty, ending hunger, access to clean water worldwide and more. All of these issues are directly impacted by climate change. 

Bachelet said that climate change is putting people in extremely vulnerable situations, and it is “murdering” people. Not only are people dying directly from climate disasters, they are hungry from droughts and homeless from fires. All of these should be considered human rights violations, according to Bachelet.

United Nations Summit on Emerging Diseases and Deforestation Will Occur Next Month


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Maxwell Bernstein | September 2, 2020

A UN summit on biodiversity is scheduled for next month in New York City, where conservationists and biologists will discuss a strong link between deforestation and the emergence of novel diseases such as Covid-19, according to The Guardian

Land-use change, the process where humans transform natural land, is linked to 31% of emerging infectious diseases including HIV, Ebola, and Zika virus, according to Iowa Environmental Focus.

Proportions of animals that host pathogens that are detrimental to human health is anywhere from 21-144% higher in human-disturbed areas than non-disturbed habitats, according to Iowa Environmental Focus

“It is estimated that tens of millions of hectares of rainforest and other wild environments are being bulldozed every year to cultivate palm trees, farm cattle, extract oil and provide access to mines and mineral deposits,” The Guardian said. 

U.N. climate negotiations end with key issues unresolved


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Tyler Chalfant | December 17th, 2019

The 25th annual Conference of the Parties concluded in Madrid on Sunday, and activists as well as participants largely consider the United Nations negotiations to be a failure. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said on Twitter that he was “disappointed with the results” of the conference. “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation & finance to tackle the climate crisis.”

The talks were meant to conclude on Friday, but stretched on to be the longest ever in a quarter century. Delegates left with neither a commitment from the world’s largest polluters to adopt new carbon emissions targets next year, nor a set of rules for global carbon markets. Article 6, which sets up the international trade of emissions cuts and other forms of international cooperation, remains the last aspect of the Paris climate agreement to be resolved, and could “make or break” the entire agreement. 

As the United States is the only country in the world backing out of the Paris climate agreement, this was the last chance, at least for some time, for U.S. delegates to participate in climate negotiations. The U.S., along with Australia, Brazil, China, and India, was singled out as among the major polluters blocking several actions, including more ambitious climate targets for 2020. 

Other issues pushed into next year’s conference in Glasgow include:

  • How to support countries affected by the irreversible effects of climate change
  • An agreement on common timeframes for national climate pledges
  • The establishment of common metrics for converting non-carbon dioxide emissions into carbon dioxide equivalents to be reported
  • Recommendations for climate action in agriculture

Rise in natural gas drives increase in global carbon emissions


Tyler Chalfant | December 10th, 2019

As representatives from nearly 200 countries meet to discuss limiting greenhouse gas emissions, a study released last week shows that global fossil emissions have risen for a third year in a row. This rise is largely due to an increase in the use of natural gas that has outpaced the decline of other fossil fuels, including coal.

The growth in emissions largely comes from China and India. While emissions in North American and European countries are gradually declining, these countries still consume 5 to 20 times as much oil per capita as China and India. Therefore, as car ownership and air travel in Asia increase, global oil consumption is expected to rise.

This prediction is part of a larger trend. Natural gas, often viewed as a cleaner “bridge fuel” used to replace coal and other fossil fuels, as well as renewables, are being used to provide new energy to new consumers, not just replacing other fossil fuels. Natural gas is the fastest-growing fossil fuel globally, but has been presented by energy companies as a long-term solution. 

As coal has declined in recent years, the U.S is projected to see a 3.5% rise in natural gas use in 2019. The University of Iowa has increased natural gas use, rising 61% between 2014 and 2018, as the primary means of displacing coal in its power plant. When University President Bruce Harreld declared a climate crisis on Monday, he said that the university wants to substitute natural gas as well and move towards biomass.

Because of these trends in oil and natural gas use make it likely that we will see another increase in carbon emissions in 2020. One major obstacle to meeting the goal of a 2 degrees Celsius increase limit, set in the Paris Climate Agreement, is establishing international carbon markets, an issue that could be decided in Madrid this week.