Climate change
Climate change
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October 4, 2020

With tender care, Sepp Rieser adorns the bulky heads of his reluctant cows with flower wreaths, adds some more fir twigs, and adjusts the large bells around their necks.

"I've been doing this since I was a little boy," Rieser says of the ancestral tradition in which cattle are decorated for their journey from the high Alpine Gramai pasture in Austria's western Tyrol state, where they graze all summer long, to the valley below where they'll spend the harsh winter months.

To Rieser, the festivities surrounding this journey to the village of Pertisau in the Karwendel mountains are as important as his birthday or Christmas.

Images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary feature in the adornments of his 90-strong herd, reflecting the region's strong Catholic heritage. 

But it could soon be a relic of the past: Sweeping economic changes as well as climate change are taking their toll on the landscape and threatening the future of the tradition as well as its bovine stars. — AFP

September 30, 2020

Some of Europe's biggest car giants including BMW and Jaguar Land Rover use leather linked to deforestation in South America, threatening the most vulnerable tribes, environmental NGO Earthsight says Wednesday.

It claims the automakers buy leather for vehicle interiors initially sourced from cattle ranching on illegally razed land in a part of Paraguay that is home to one of the world's last tribes with no contact with the outside world. 

The London-based organization says the leather from the Paraguayan Gran Chaco, a region rich in biodiversity that is home to jaguars and giant anteaters, enters the auto industry supply chains via Italian tanneries. 

The region's forests are being destroyed faster than any others in the world, it noted. — AFP

September 8, 2020

World powers must pull together and retool their economies for a green future or humanity is "doomed", UN chief Antonio Guterres has warned, telling AFP that failure to control the coronavirus pandemic illustrates the danger of disunity.

Before the virus struck, 2020 was billed as a pivotal year for the plan to dodge the bullet of catastrophic global warming, with high profile summits planned to catch a wave of public alarm over the future of the planet. 

The coronavirus crisis may have shunted climate into the sidelines as nations launched unprecedented shutdowns to try to slow its spread, but Guterres said the need for climate action was more urgent than ever.

In a searing assessment of the international response, Guterres said the pandemic should sharpen governments' focus on cutting emissions, urging them to use the crisis as a springboard to launch "transformational" policies aimed at weaning societies off fossil fuels. — AFP

March 8, 2020

As a child, Nguy Thi Khanh used to lie in the grass in her Vietnamese village and watch toxic emissions from nearby coal plants float past like clouds.

Today she is one of the few voices in Vietnam taking on the industry -- a rare female climate crusader pushing for renewables in a country where dirty energy is on the rise.

At 43, she has already founded Green ID, Vietnam's best-known environmental NGO, convinced the government to reduce some of its coal targets, helped spark a national conversation about rising air and water pollution, and won international plaudits for her work.

But it is not without risks: Dissent is not tolerated by the Vietnamese government and many activists have wound up in jail for speaking up against authorities. -- AFP

March 8, 2020

New analysis by the Nestpick 2050 Climate Change City Index says Bangkok could be hardest hit by global warming.

And while it is not alone facing such a threat — Venice, New Orleans, and Jakarta are predicted to be underwater by 2100 — it does have a secret weapon in its battle to negate the impact of a hotter planet: renowned architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom who preaches mindful development over mindless construction.

"We are talking life and death in this situation," says the 39-year-old who is hoping to bring Bangkok back from the brink, as scientists warn extreme weather — flooding and droughts — could ravage the city, leaving as much as 40 percent submerged in the next decade.

Kotchakorn says: "I don't want to face it with fear. At this moment we have a chance to make change... We have to do it right now to show the coming generations that this is possible. It is not about sitting and waiting and doing the same thing." — AFP

February 12, 2020

The global cost of air pollution caused by fossil fuels is US$8 billion a day, or roughly 3.3% of the world's GDP, an environmental research group says.

The findings from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air and Greenpeace Southeast Asia are the first to assess the global cost of air pollution specifically from burning oil, gas and coal. — AFP

January 21, 2020

Some of the world's biggest banks, insurers and pension funds have collectively invested $1.4 trillion in fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal, Greenpeace said Tuesday at the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos. 

With the climate emergency expected to be front and centre at the annual summit of the world's business elite, the charity accused some institutions in attendance of failing to live up to the Forum's goal of "improving the state of the world".

Greenpeace analysed the portfolios of 24 of the banks represented at Davos and found that they had financed the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $1.4 trillion since the landmark 2015 Paris deal. 

That accord enjoins nations to limit global temperature rises to "well below" two degrees Celsius (3.6 Farenheit) through a rapid and wide-ranging drawdown of planet-warming carbon emissions. — AFP

January 19, 2020

Britain, a global leader in offshore wind energy, plans to make the sector one of the pillars of its transition to carbon neutrality in the coming decades.

The country aims to quadruple its offshore electricity production capacity by 2030 by utilising the windswept North Sea and a favourable policy environment.

"It's more conducive to build offshore in the UK than anywhere else in Europe," says James Brabben, of Cornwall Insight energy consultancy. — AFP

December 22, 2019

Thirty-eight years after he revived his family's small vineyard in northern Greece, Vangelis Gerovassiliou proudly gazes on his property that grows one of the country's most popular wines.

And after 45 years in the business, Gerovassiliou says that with a little local savvy, there are answers even to global warming.

"It's an opportunity for Greek winemakers to return to the original grape varieties, and to carefully choose the location of the vines on suitable land," he told AFP, adding that until recently, vineyards were planted "everywhere".

Growers in northern Greece, one of the country's top wine-producing areas, have been among the first nationally to be interested in the consequences of rising temperatures. -- AFP

December 13, 2019

EU leaders agreed at their summit to protect European businesses moving to renewable energy by applying a carbon levy on imports from less regulated suppliers, France says.

The European Commission is drawing up legislation to enshrine its Green Deal growth plan and a 2050 target for a carbon-neutral economy.

A French presidential official says this would include a mechanism to "tax foreign products on Europe's frontiers that don't respect the same climate rules as European firms." — AFP

December 12, 2019

An EU summit was at risk of being relocated to a neighbouring building on Thursday after Greenpeace activists scaled the planned venue with the intention of staying there as long as possible.

"The police are currently intervening. The summit will go ahead, but consideration is being given whether to relocate it to the Justus Lipsius building," said an internal message to EU staff.

Early Thursday, 28 Greenpeace activists scaled the facade of the EU's Europa building - where the heads of state and government will meet later in the day to discuss climate measures.

The team deployed a large banner saying "Climate Emergency" and remained gripped to the building. They also held flares. — Agence France-Presse

December 11, 2019

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg was chosen as Time magazine's 2019 Person of the Year, the magazine announced Wednesday.

The 16-year-old has found herself in the role of spokesperson for a generation haunted by climate emergency since her solo strike against global warming outside Sweden's parliament last year.

The magazine cover has a picture of Thunberg with the subtitle "The Power of Youth." — Agence France-Presse

December 5, 2019

Parents from around the globe Thursday say governments locked in negotiations at UN talks in Madrid must beat back the threat of global warming to "give our children the future that they deserve".

"Our children are being handed a broken world on the verge of climate chaos and ecological breakdown," they say in an open declaration from 222 associations in 27 countries. 

"As parents, seeing this is agonizing."

The plea comes the day before young climate strikers led by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg plan to march through the Spanish capital under the Friday for Futures banner.  

— Agence France-Presse

December 2, 2019

Confronted with a climate crisis threatening civilization, humanity much choose between hope and surrender, UN chief Antonio Guterres tells the opening plenary of the UN COP25 climate conference Tuesday.

"One is the path of surrender, where we have sleepwalked past the point of no return, jeapordising the health and safety of everyone on this planet," Guterres says. -- Agence France-Presse

November 10, 2019

Icelandic seventh-grader Lilja Einarsdottir is on an unusual field trip with her class: they're measuring the Solheimajokull glacier to see how much it has shrunk in the past year, witnessing climate change first-hand.

"It is very beautiful but at the same time it is very sad to see how much it has melted," says Lilja, bundled up against the autumn chill in a blue pompom hat.

Each October since 2010, now-retired schoolteacher Jon Stefansson has brought students aged around 13 from a school in Hvolsvollur — a village about 60 kilometers (40 miles) away — to the glacier to record its evolution.

The results are chilling: nestled between two moss-covered mountain slopes, Solheimajokull has shrunk by an average of 40 metres (130 feet) per year in the past decade, according to the students' measurements. — Agence France-Presse

October 6, 2019

Pope Francis deplored the fires that ravaged the Amazon rainforest, which were "set by interests that destroy," in a homily at a synod on the region's isolated indigenous communities.

"The fire set by interests that destroy, like the fire that recently devastated Amazonia, is not the fire of the Gospel. The fire of God is warmth that attracts and gathers into unity," he says.

"It is fed by sharing, not by profits. The fire that destroys, on the other hand, blazes up when people want to promote only their own ideas, form their own group, wipe out differences in the attempt to make everyone and everything uniform." — AFP

October 3, 2019

After protests in New York and Montreal, teen activist Greta Thunberg has said she will join demonstrators in Iowa in the US Midwest on Friday for the latest "climate strike."

The 16-year-old Swede generated headlines around the world last week with her so-called "How Dare You?" speech at the UN climate summit, accusing world leaders of betraying her generation.

"This Friday I'm happy to say that I'll join the climate strike in Iowa City!" Thunberg says on Twitter on Wednesday, using the movement's hashtag "Fridays For Future."

"All we're saying is unite behind the science and listen to the scientists," she added. — Agence France-Presse

September 24, 2019

After a year spent protesting on the streets, it was Greta Thunberg's moment on the world stage, and she did not disappoint, accusing leaders of betrayal and repeatedly demanding "How dare you?" in a raw, emotional speech.

Since landing on US shores on a sailboat in August, the Swedish teen has spoken only briefly at public events, preferring to pass the mic to lesser-known activists so that more voices are heard.

Not so at Monday's Climate Action Summit, convened by UN chief Antonio Guterres to reinvigorate the Paris agreement, where Thunberg was determined to make the most of the allotted time. 

She began by telling the audience: "My message is that we'll be watching you," eliciting some laughter.

But it soon became clear that humor was not what she was going for.

"This is all wrong," Thunberg said, becoming visibly angry. "I shouldn't be up here. I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean." 

"Yet, you come to us young people for hope. How dare you?" the 16-year-old, who has taken time off from her education to focus on activism, thundered. 

"You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing.

"We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!" -- Agence France-Presse

September 23, 2019

Sixty-six countries have signaled their intent to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, the United Nations says, seen as a vital goal in preventing catastrophic longer term climate change.

"In terms of the 2050 group, 66 governments are joined by 10 regions, 102 cities, 93 businesses and 12 investors — all committed to net zero CO2emissions by 2050," the office of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says in a statement. — AFP

August 8, 2019

The world must overhaul how it feeds itself and manages Earth's forests, pasture and resources in order to avoid food insecurity and the worst impacts of climate change, a landmark UN assessment says. 

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change warns that failure to act rapidly on reducing land degradation, food waste and agriculture's carbon footprint could challenge food systems and undermine efforts to head off disastrous global warming. — AFP

July 16, 2019

The Pacific's low-lying reef islands are likely to change shape in response to climate change, rather than simply sinking beneath rising seas and becoming uninhabitable as previously assumed, new research has found.

Atoll nations such as Tuvalu, Tokelau and Kiribati lie only a few meters above sea level and are considered the world's most vulnerable to global warming, with fears their populations will become climate refugees as waters rise.

But a study published this week found that such islands "morphodynamically respond" to the environment because they are composed of the skeletal remains of tiny reef-dwelling organisms, rather than solid rock.

March 13, 2019

A quarter of all premature deaths and diseases worldwide are due to manmade pollution and environmental damage, the United Nations says in a landmark report on the planet's parlous state.

Deadly smog-inducing emissions, chemicals polluting drinking water, and the accelerating destruction of ecosystems crucial to the livelihoods of billions of people are causing a worldwide epidemic that hampers the global economy, it warns. — AFP

October 8, 2018

Avoiding global climate chaos will require a transformation of society and the world economy that is "unprecedented in scale," the UN says in a landmark report, warning that time is running out to avoid disaster.

"Limiting global warming to 1.5C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says in a statement.

To have at least a 50/50 chance of staying under the 1.5C cap without overshooting the mark, the world must, by 2050, become "carbon neutral," according to the report.

"That means every tonne of CO2 we put into the atmosphere will have to be balanced by a tonne of CO2 taken out," says lead coordinating author Myles Allen, head of the University of Oxford's Climate Research Programme.

At current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, Earth could warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) as early as 2030, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change says in a landmark report.

"Global warming is likely to reach 1.5C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate," the report concluded with "high confidence."

Earth's surface has warmed one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit)—enough to lift oceans and unleash a crescendo of deadly storms, floods and droughts—and is on track toward an unliveable 3C or 4C rise.

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