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Here’s a brief (somewhat subjective) month-by-month roundup of activity across the last 12 months of climate change. Some good, some bad, and some just plain ugly. It’s just the tip of the iceberg (yes, sorry).
Thanks to Greenpeace, The Worldwide Fund for Nature, ShelterBox and Surfers Against Sewage for all your tenacity and hard work. The Semi-famous team is very proud to support you with our donations.
Storms, cyclones, and no early warning systems
In January, weeks after Storm Ana wrought devastation in Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi, Cyclone Batsirai then “barrelled towards” Madagascar, said Reuters. The tropical storm also hit Mauritius, bringing life “to a standstill”. The death toll in drought-stricken Madagascar reached 120 and 124,000 people had their homes damaged or destroyed.
A new data forecast from disaster relief charity, ShelterBox, shows that if extreme weather events continue to increase at current rates, we face losing 8.35 million homes a year between now and 2040.
That’s 167 million homes – the equivalent of all homes in the UK wiped out six times, or all of the homes in the USA.
Source: Shelterbox, OCHA, BBC, Reuters / Graphic: Semi-famous
Report lays bare devastating harm caused by unchecked global heating
According to a major IPCC report approved by 195 countries, one in three people are currently exposed to deadly heat stress, and this is projected to increase to 50% to 75% by the end of the century.
Source: IPCC, The Guardian. / Graphic: Semi-famous
Scientists develop the next stage in enzyme systems that can break down waste plastic for re-use.
5.7 billion metric tons of discarded plastic have never been recycled.
With more than 400 million tons of plastic waste produced each year, scientists from The University of Portsmouth (UK) and Montana State University (US) hope this work will open the door to help tackle the challenge of plastic pollution and develop biological systems that can convert waste plastic into usable materials, naturally.
The study was undertaken as part of the Bottle Consortium, a collaboration between the US and UK, bringing together researchers from across a wide range of scientific areas to tackle plastic recycling and upcycling.
Source: US Dept of Energy; bottle.org / Graphic: Semi-famous
Swiss startup sucks carbon dioxide directly from the air.
And raises $650 million funding.
Climeworks AG has raised 600 million francs ($650 million) to scale up its carbon-dioxide removal technology, the largest sum ever raised by a CO₂ removal company, of which there is a handful globally.
So far the plant can capture only about 4,000 tons each year, roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of 600 people living in Europe. The goal is to reach million-ton scale.
Climeworks’ technology works by moving large quantities of air over a special chemical that is able to filter out CO₂, similar to a magnet attracting iron filings.
While scientists have said that technologies to remove CO₂ from the air need to grow, experts also stress that they’re not a substitute for reducing emissions.
Source: UN Environment Programme, Bloomberg / Graphic: Semi-famous
Raw sewage has been dumped into English rivers and beaches for over 10 years.
A leaked report is the catalyst for the UK Environment Agency admitting to Parliament that private companies illegally dumped untreated waste into rivers and beaches, largely unchecked, and un-prosecuted.
Recently, Surfers Against Sewage said 23 beaches in Cornwall are unsafe for swimming, due to untreated human waste being released into the sea as a result of heavy rain.
Over the summer, sewage was dumped into the most popular surf and swim spots 5,504 times. That’s a total of 15,021 hours.
“The (private water) industry has become reliant on this often illegal activity to make profits and bonuses and to do this it needed the agency to let most of it go unpunished and unchecked.”
Water companies told the Environment Agency that they dumped raw sewage into rivers and seas 372,544 times in 2021, for 2.6m hours. The real figure is believed to be much higher though, due to underreporting.
Source: Surfers Against Sewage, The Guardian / Graphic: Semi-famous
Drones fishing for marine waste
Dutch company RanMarine has developed aquatic drones that capture rubbish and bring it back to land. The ‘WasteShark’ drones can hold 160 litres of trash, floating pollution such as plastics, algae and biomass from harbours, lakes, ponds, waterways.
Source: AP, EuroNews / Graphic: Semi-famous
Heatwave UK: London Fire Brigade had busiest day since World War II
On July 19, the capital was one of 15 areas around the UK to declare a major incident, as fires started on a day which saw a record temperature of 40.3C (104.5F) in Coningsby, Lincolnshire.
"Normally we get 350 calls a day, on a busy day we can get up to 500. Yesterday the fire service had more than 2,600 calls" The Mayor of London said. The fire service dealt with multiple fires that destroyed 41 properties in London.
A drought was officially declared in parts of England in August, with a hosepipe ban imposed as reservoir levels sunk. Analysis by the UK Health Security Agency found that 2,800 more people aged 65 and over died during the periods of high temperatures than would normally be expected.
Source: The Week, BBC, FT / Graphic: Semi-famous
Great Barrier Reef scientists record the highest levels of coral cover in 36 years
The Australian Institute of Marine Science’s annual long-term monitoring report says the fast-growing corals that have driven coral cover upwards are also those most at risk from marine heatwaves, storms and the voracious crown-of-thorns (COTS) starfish.
In the northern parts of the reef, the monitoring data showed coral cover averaged 36% – a record high, with the lowest levels in the region at 13% recorded in 2017.
Surveys are carried out by towing divers over reefs at a standardised rate, recording corals, bleaching levels, COTS and the number of coral trout and sharks.
Global heating is accepted by scientists as the reef’s biggest long-term threat.
The previous Australian government (led by the un-respectable Scott Morrison) attempted to fight a UN recommendation to place the reef on a list of world heritage sites in danger. The status of the reef will be discussed at the next world heritage meeting, but a date has not yet been set after a scheduled June meeting was cancelled due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia was due to host the meeting.
Source: UN, The Guardian / Graphic: Semi-famous
Floods in Pakistan leave 1/3 of the country under water.
It was estimated that more than 33 million people were impacted by the deadly floods that swept across Pakistan from June to September this year. Thousands of kilometres of road were washed away. By September, a third of the country was underwater, with water-borne diseases making the situation even worse. It remains “hard to predict if Pakistan will be able to rebuild its lost infrastructure in this decade”.
Triggered by heavy monsoon rains, the floods killed more than 1,500 people, including 528 children, and affected about 16 million children, according to Unicef. Authorities say the waters that have washed away homes, roads, crops, livestocks and people will take at least three to six months to recede.
UN chief blames Pakistan’s “monsoon on steroids” on the global climate crisis.
Source: The Week, The Guardian, BBC / Graphic: Semi-famous
UK Government re-institutes ban against fracking.
In her first act as Prime Minister, in September, in a demonstration of sheer political will versus any rational thought, short-lived PM Liz Truss lifted a 2019 moratorium on fracking, unleashing a nationwide wave of vitriol.
Weeks later, she resigned. The latest PM, Rishi Sunak, reversed the decision and announced that fracking will be banned in England.
In parliament, Sunak was asked about fracking, and said he stood by a 2019 manifesto commitment on the issue. A small offering of good news from the UK Government.
Source: Reuters / Graphic: Semi-famous
Australian Court rejects building of giant thermal coal mine.
Australian billionaire Clive Palmer’s Galilee Coal Project, which involves building the biggest thermal coal mine in Australia, has been stopped.
Youth Verdict, a coalition of young Queenslanders, and environmental conservation group The BimbleBox Alliance, challenged the Waratah Coal project in court over the proposal on the Galilee Basin west of Emerald, QLD.
The groups argued burning coal from the mine will impact the cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by further contributing to adverse climate change.
The mining company’s defence team said the Court has no control over the emissions, because approving the applications does not approve the combustion of the coal.
“That will be a decision made in the countries to which the coal will be exported.”
QLD Land Court president, Fleur Kingham says “However, granting permission to mine the coal cannot be logically separated from the coal being used to generate electricity. The justification for the mine is to export coal for that purpose.”
“Wherever the coal is burnt the emissions will contribute to environmental harm, including in Queensland.”
“For each right, considered individually, I have decided the importance of preserving the right, given the nature and extent of the limitation, weighs more heavily in the balance than the economic benefits of the mine and the benefit of contributing to energy security for Southeast Asia.”
Source: NCA Newswire / Graphic: Semi-famous
Short haul, now no haul for domestic flyers in France.
The European Commission has approved the move which will abolish flights between cities that are linked by a train journey of less than 2.5 hours.
The decision was announced on Friday. The changes are part of the country’s 2021 Climate Law and were first proposed by France's Citizens' Convention on Climate – a citizens' assembly tasked with finding ways to reduce the country's carbon emissions.
France is also cracking down on the use of private jets for short journeys in a bid to make transport greener and fairer for the population.
Transport minister Clément Beaune said the country could no longer tolerate the super rich using private planes while the public are making cutbacks to deal with the energy crisis and climate change.
Source: EuroNews / Graphic: Semi-famous