Thursday, December 17, 2020

What if net-zero isn’t enough? Inside the push to ‘restore’ the climate

Now we are being led by a 17-year-old. When I was 17 years old, I thought that Armageddon was imminent. So maybe I can be indulgent to this young false prophet

Disagreements about how to tackle the climate crisis abound, but in 2020, it seemed much of the world finally reached consensus about at least one thing: getting to net-zero by 2050, or sooner. Net-zero is a state where greenhouse gases are no longer accumulating in the atmosphere — any emissions must be counterbalanced by sucking some carbon out of the air — and this year, a tidal wave of governments, businesses, and financial institutions pledged to reach it.

But for a new movement of young activists, the net-zero rhetoric is worrisome. “Hitting net-zero is not enough,” they wrote in a letter published in the Guardian last month. Instead, the group behind the letter, a youth-led organization called Worldward, urges the world to rally around a different goal, one they call “climate restoration.” The letter was co-signed by prominent climate scientists James Hansen and Michael Mann, in addition to writers, artists, and other activists.

“The climate today is not safe,” said Gideon Futerman, the 17-year-old founder and president of Worldward, who lives in a suburb north of London. “Millions of people are suffering and millions more will.” By the time net-zero is achieved, he said, the climate will be considerably more dangerous.

He’s right. A new comprehensive report on climate change and health published last week in the medical journal the Lancet found that there has already been a 50 percent increase in heat-related deaths in the past 20 years. It warned that up to half a billion people could yet be displaced by sea-level rise, and that wildfire risks and threats to food security will grow. “Restoration is about removing the CO2, which is causing these problems, and starting to reverse those issues,” said Futerman.

Climate restoration, as Futerman defines it, has three components: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, actively removing carbon from the atmosphere to offset any remaining emissions, and then continuing to draw it down, so that the concentration in the atmosphere begins to decline, “restoring” an earlier version of the climate. In other words, Worldward — a portmanteau of “world” and “forward” or “onward” —wants to get to net-zero, and then keep going.

The group does not advocate for a specific temperature goal or atmospheric concentration of carbon — Futerman said that’s a societal decision — but roughly, they want society to aim for somewhere close to pre-industrial levels.

After a soft launch this spring, Worldward now has nearly 100 volunteers from all over the world, including Mexico, India, and Zimbabwe, according to Futerman. On Monday, December 14, they are planning a more public launch of their campaign to pressure governments, companies, and other organizations to take “meaningful action toward restoration.”

In legal first, coroner finds Ella's death was caused by air pollution

Purely a matter of opinion. No proof. How come there are not many such deaths among the thousands who live in that area?

London: For more than seven years now, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah has been searching for the truth about why her nine-year-old daughter Ella died so young and in such pain.

"I do not think that I can grieve properly about the loss of Ella until I get to the bottom of this," Kissi-Debrah told a coronial inquest in London earlier this month.

On Wednesday she was given an answer: Ella – an exuberant girl who loved swimming, dancing and football and whose favourite hymn was I Vow To Thee My Country – was killed in part by pollution.

Ella lived just 25 metres from South Circular Road in south-east London – one of the capital's busiest roads – and would often walk to and from school along the congested thoroughfare.

The landmark finding made Ella the first person in the United Kingdom to have air pollution listed as a cause of death. Lawyers say it might also be a world-first, with major implications for government policy.

Ella died in the early hours of February 15, 2013 after a massive asthma attack triggered cardiac arrest. In the three years prior she had suffered seizures and was admitted to hospital 27 times.

A 2014 inquest found her death was the result of acute respiratory failure, but the High Court overturned that ruling last year once new evidence emerged about air pollution in London.

Deputy Coroner Philip Barlow presided over a new two-week inquest and on Wednesday ruled Ella's death was caused by acute respiratory failure, severe asthma and air pollution exposure.

"Air pollution was a significant contributory factor to both the induction and exacerbations of her asthma," Barlow said.

"During the course of her illness between 2010 and 2013 she was exposed to levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter in excess of World Health Organisation guidelines. The principal source of her exposure was traffic emissions."

Barlow said there was a "recognised failure" to reduce pollution within European and domestic law which "possibly contributed to her death". He also said Ella's mother was never given information about the health risks of air pollution and its potential to exacerbate her daughter's asthma.

"If she had been given this information she would have taken steps which might have prevented Ella's death."

London is a world leader in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) - levels are far higher than they are in the US - because of its reliance on diesel-powered vehicles.

Air pollution is estimated to cause up to seven million deaths around the globe each year but Ella will be the first victim in Britain to have it listed on a death certificate. Legal experts believe the case will put pressure on governments and councils to do more or risk lawsuits.

Respiratory disease professor Sir Stephen Holgate told the inquest Ella was a "canary in a coalmine" and governments had failed to fix what they have long known was a major problem.

A report he authored in 2018 found levels of pollution at a monitoring station 1.6 kilometres from Ella's Lewisham home had consistently breached lawful limits in the years before the young girl's death.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said the ruling "must be a turning point" in clean air policy.

"This is a landmark moment and is thanks to the years of tireless campaigning by Ella's mother Rosamund, who has shown an extraordinary amount of courage," he said.

"Toxic air pollution is a public health crisis, especially for our children, and the inquest underlined yet again the importance of pushing ahead with bold policies such as expanding the ultra-low emissions zone to inner London."

Sarah Woolnough, the chief executive of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, called on the government to craft an urgent plan to protect citizens: "Today's verdict sets the precedent for a seismic shift in the pace and extent to which the government, local authorities and clinicians must now work together to tackle the country's air pollution health crisis."

Rosamund Kissi-Debrah thanked the coroner for his findings: "Seven million people around the world die every year courtesy of air pollution. Yes this was about my daughter getting air pollution on the death certificate, which we finally have and we've got the justice for her which she so deserved.

"But this is also about other children still who are walking around our city with high levels of pollution. And I hope you heard what the coroner said – that there are still illegal levels of pollution now as we speak. So this matter is far from over."

Leftists are now complaining that disposable masks are polluting the oceans

Conservationists have warned that the coronavirus pandemic could spark a surge in ocean pollution – adding to a glut of plastic waste that already threatens marine life – after finding disposable masks floating like jellyfish and waterlogged latex gloves scattered across seabeds.

The French non-profit Opération Mer Propre, whose activities include regularly picking up litter along the Côte d’Azur, began sounding the alarm late last month.

Divers had found what Joffrey Peltier of the organisation described as “Covid waste” – dozens of gloves, masks and bottles of hand sanitiser beneath the waves of the Mediterranean, mixed in with the usual litter of disposable cups and aluminium cans.

The quantities of masks and gloves found were far from enormous, said Peltier. But he worried that the discovery hinted at a new kind of pollution, one set to become ubiquitous after millions around the world turned to single-use plastics to combat the coronavirus. “It’s the promise of pollution to come if nothing is done,” said Peltier.

In France alone, authorities have ordered two billion disposable masks, said Laurent Lombard of Opération Mer Propre. “Knowing that … soon we’ll run the risk of having more masks than jellyfish in the Mediterranean,” he wrote on social media alongside video of a dive showing algae-entangled masks and soiled gloves in the sea near Antibes.

The group hopes the images will prompt people to embrace reusable masks and swap latex gloves for more frequent handwashing. “With all the alternatives, plastic isn’t the solution to protect us from Covid. That’s the message,” said Peltier.

In the years leading up to the pandemic, environmentalists had warned of the threat posed to oceans and marine life by skyrocketing plastic pollution. As much as 13 million tonnes of plastic goes into oceans each year, according to a 2018 estimate by UN Environment. The Mediterranean sees 570,000 tonnes of plastic flow into it annually – an amount the WWF has described as equal to dumping 33,800 plastic bottles every minute into the sea.

These figures risk growing substantially as countries around the world confront the coronavirus pandemic. Masks often contain plastics such as polypropylene, said Éric Pauget, a French politician whose region includes the Côte d’Azur.

“With a lifespan of 450 years, these masks are an ecological timebomb given their lasting environmental consequences for our planet,” he wrote last month in a letter to Emmanuel Macron, calling on the French president to do more to address the environmental consequences of disposable masks.

Earlier this year the Hong Kong-based OceansAsia began voicing similar concerns, after a survey of marine debris in the city’s uninhabited Soko Islands turned up dozens of disposable masks.

“On a beach about 100 metres long, we found about 70,” said Gary Stokes of OceansAsia. One week later, another 30 masks had washed up. “And that’s on an uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere.”

Curious to see how far the masks had travelled, he began checking other nearby beaches. “We’re finding them everywhere,” he said. “Ever since society started wearing masks, the cause and effects are being seen on the beaches.”

While some of the debris could be attributed to carelessness, he speculated that the lightweight masks were at times also being carried from land, boats and landfills by the wind.

“It’s just another item of marine debris,” he said, likening the masks to plastic bags or straws that often wash up on the city’s more remote shorelines. “It’s no better, no worse, just another item we’re leaving as a legacy to the next generation.”

Still, given the likelihood that porpoises and dolphins in the region could mistake a mask for food, he was bracing himself for a grim find. “We’re constantly getting them washing up dead and we’re just waiting for a necropsy when we find a mask inside,” he said. “I think it’s inevitable.”

Australia: Greenie exhibitionists let off lightly

Two Extinction Rebellion protesters who held up inner-city Brisbane traffic for more than two hours earlier this month have been fined hundreds of dollars each.

However, serial protester Eric Serge Herbert, 21, and Wenzel Auch, 28, will not have to pay $917 restitution to the State fire service and their convictions have not been recorded.

The pair blocked traffic at the intersection of Edward and Queen Sts on December 7, from 7.15am to 9.25am, while protesting on top of a truck, Brisbane Magistrates Court heard.

Police, including the Special Emergency Response Team, Queensland Fire and Rescue Service and Queensland Ambulance Service, were called to the scene.

Herbert has just spent seven days in Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, after he refused to sign a bail condition agreeing not to participate in any illegal protests while on bail.

Wenzel Auch, 28, who also refused to sign the bail condition, spent four days in custody, before being released on Friday.

The court heard the protesters appeared to have their arms locked in a metal pipe “sleeping dragon’’ device, while they stood on the truck during the protest.

However, after fire officers brought them to the ground and sawed through the pipe, it was revealed the pair were only held together with bulldog clips.

Herbert pleaded guilty to obstructing the path of a driver, contravening a police direction to move off the road, obstructing a police officer and refusing to state his full and correct name.

Police prosecutors asked for each man to be ordered to pay $917 restitution to QFRS.

Herbert objected, saying it should only be ordered if there was damage to property or injury to people.

“My conscience dictates that it is my duty to follow our ancestors and do peaceful civil disobedience when our lives are threatened by the government or its laws,’’ he said.

Magistrate Mark Nolan said he took into account Herbert’s early pleas of guilty and that he had voluntarily spent several days in custody.

Mr Nolan said everyone had the right to protest and make statements about their beliefs, but the law required everyone to abide by it.

He fined Herbert $600, and did not record a conviction. Mr Nolan refused to order restitution to QFRS, saying the paperwork was insufficient.

Auch pleaded guilty to causing an obstruction to drivers, contravening a police direction and obstructing police and was fined $500, with no conviction recorded.

When Auch told Magistrate Terry Quinn that he had not enjoyed making people angry by disrupting traffic, Mr Quinn said: “I disagree.’’ Mr Quinn said he had seen Auch looking around the court, looking very happy with himself. “I have formed the opinion you are enjoying the limelight,’’ the magistrate told him.

Auch, who recently graduated with an environmental science degree, said he felt such a protest was a small impact on people’s lives compared to a catastrophic climate emergency.

Mr Quinn told Auch his protest could have prevented people, including pregnant women or doctors, from going to hospital.

While Herbert and Auch were in custody Extinction Rebellion staged a city protest on Thursday, which resulted in several arrests.

Auch said outside court he was released from prison at 1am the following day.




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Now we are being led by a 17-year-old."

"And a little child will (mis)lead them."