Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health

Lukoye Atwoli, Abdullah H Baqui, Thomas Benfield, Raffaella Bosurgi, Fiona Godlee, Stephen Hancocks, Richard Horton, Laurie Laybourn-Langton, Carlos Augusto Monteiro, Ian Norman, Kirsten Patrick, Nigel Praities, Marcel G M Olde Rikkert, Eric J Rubin, Peush Sahnim, Richard Smith, Nicholas J Talley, Sue Turale, Damián Vázquez

Lancet | Open Access | Published: September 04, 2021 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(21)00204-8

The UN General Assembly in September, 2021, will bring countries together at a critical time for marshalling collective action to tackle the global environmental crisis. They will meet again at the biodiversity summit in Kunming, China, and the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, UK. Ahead of these pivotal meetings, we—the editors of health journals worldwide—call for urgent action to keep average global temperature increases below 1·5°C, halt the destruction of nature, and protect health.
Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades.1 The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1·5°C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.2, 3 Despite the world’s necessary preoccupation with COVID-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.

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The Capitalinian: The First Geological Age of the Anthropocene

John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark

Monthly Review | Volume 73, Number 4 (September 2021)

Photo by an environmental scientist (crime) investigator of hundreds of fly-tipped tires in a disused chalk quarry in North Kent, England. By Cugerbrant – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The geologic time scale, dividing the 4.6 billion years of Earth history into nested eons, eras, periods, epochs, and ages, is one of the great scientific achievements of the last two centuries. Each division is directed at environmental change on an Earth System scale based on stratigraphic evidence, such as rocks or ice cores. At present, the earth is officially situated in the Phanerozoic Eon, Cenozoic Era, Quaternary Period, Holocene Epoch (beginning 11,700 years ago), and Meghalayan Age (the last of the Holocene ages beginning 4,200 years ago). The current argument that the planet has entered into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, is based on the recognition that Earth System change as represented in the stratigraphic record is now primarily due to anthropogenic forces. This understanding has now been widely accepted in science, but nevertheless has not yet been formally adopted by the International Commission on Stratigraphy of the International Union of Geological Sciences, which would mean its official adoption throughout science.

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Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health

Lukoye Atwoli, Abdullah H Baqui, Thomas Benfield, Raffaella Bosurgi, Fiona Godlee, Stephen Hancocks, Richard Horton, Laurie Laybourn-Langton, Carlos Augusto Monteiro, Ian Norman, Kirsten Patrick, Nigel Praities, Marcel G M Olde Rikkert, Eric J Rubin, Peush Sahni, Richard Smith, Nicholas J Talley, Sue Turale & Damián Vázquez

The Lancet | Open Access | Published: September 04, 2021 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(21)00398-3

The UN General Assembly in September, 2021, will bring countries together at a critical time for marshalling collective action to tackle the global environmental crisis. They will meet again at the biodiversity summit in Kunming, China, and the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, UK. Ahead of these pivotal meetings, we—the editors of health journals worldwide—call for urgent action to keep average global temperature increases below 1·5°C, halt the destruction of nature, and protect health.
Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades.1 The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1·5°C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.2, 3 Despite the world’s necessary preoccupation with COVID-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.

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Dispatches from a world aflame

From California’s deadliest blaze to a new planetary fire regime, how wildfires are reshaping our climate-changed planet.

Alexandra Witze

Nature | September 07, 2021

A firefighter looks on as flames devour a tree in Paradise, California
The Camp Fire devastated the town of Paradise, California, in November 2018.Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire Lizzie Johnson Crown (2021)

The Pyrocene: How We Created an Age of Fire, and What Happens Next Stephen J. Pyne Univ. California Press (2021

On the morning of 8 November 2018, an electrical-transmission tower in the foothills of northern California sent sparks raining into the bone-dry vegetation below. Strong winds fanned the flames and flung showers of embers ahead of the fire’s ferocious advance. Within hours it had obliterated several mountain communities, including the town of Paradise. Eighty-five people died; it was the deadliest California wildfire so far.

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200+ medical journals demand emergency climate action

Editors urge ‘fundamental changes to how our societies and economies are organized’

The editorial below is being published this month by over 200 medical journals, including the Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, the British Medical Journal, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the East African Medical Journal, the Chinese Science Bulletin, the National Medical Journal of India, and the Medical Journal of Australia, and others from around the world. (Click here for a full list of the authors and journals.)

Climate and Capitalism | September 07, 2021

Wealthy nations must do much more, much faster

The UN General Assembly in September 2021 will bring countries together at a critical time for marshaling collective action to tackle the global environmental crisis. They will meet again at the biodiversity summit in Kunming, China, and the climate conference (COP26) in Glasgow, UK. Ahead of these pivotal meetings, we — the editors of health journals worldwide — call for urgent action to keep average global temperature increases below 1.5°C, halt the destruction of nature, and protect health.

Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades. The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1.5°C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse. Despite the world’s necessary preoccupation with Covid-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.

Read More »

Freak US winters linked to Arctic warming

Models suggest that distortions in polar-vortex winds can send chilly air hurtling southwards. But some climate scientists remain unconvinced.

Quirin Schiermeier

Nature | September 03, 2021

People carry groceries while walking down a snowy street
Unusually severe winter storms brought snow to Austin, Texas, in February. Credit: Montinique Monroe/Getty

Recent spells of unusually cold winter weather in the United States and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere could be a paradoxical consequence of the climate warming in the Arctic, according to a study based on decades of atmospheric observations. However, it is still unclear whether this represents a long-term trend that will persist as the world heats up.

The Arctic’s rate of warming is twice that for Earth as a whole, and some climate researchers have long suspected that this rapid Arctic warming can trigger anomalies in the winds around the North Pole, with consequences for weather thousands of kilometres farther south.

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Climate change implicated in Germany’s deadly floods

Holly Else

Nature | August 26, 2021

Cars are seen floating in a flooded street in Valkenburg, Netherlands.
Record rainfall caused severe flooding in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands (pictured) this year. Credit: Patrick van Katwijk/BSR Agency/Getty

Extraordinary downpours such as those responsible for deadly flooding in Western Europe last month are becoming more frequent, and more intense, as a result of climate change. That’s the finding of a rapid attribution study by researchers involved in the World Weather Attribution initiative, which assesses whether global warming is a factor in extreme weather events.

The research adds to a growing list of attribution studies that demonstrate the current impacts of human-caused climate change. “This happened in highly-developed Germany, which is not regarded as particularly vulnerable to climate change compared to most countries in the world,” says Ralf Toumi, a climate scientist at Imperial College London, who was not involved in the research. “It shows us nowhere is truly safe as we continue to roll the dice of extreme weather.”

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The IPCC warns that capitalism is unsustainable

Juan Bordera / Fernando Valladares / Antonio Turiel / Ferran Puig Vilar / Fernando Prieto / Tim Hewlett

ctxt | August 22, 2021

North Iceland glacier. 

The second draft of Group III of the IPCC, the one in charge of mitigation proposals, affirms that it is necessary to move away from current capitalism in order not to cross planetary limits. It also confirms what was already advanced  in the article published in CTXT on August 7: “Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must reach a ceiling in at most four years.” The document also recognizes that there is very little chance for further growth. 

The signatory scientists and journalists have analyzed a new part of the Sixth Report, filtered by the same source: the scientific collective Scientist Rebellion and Extinction Rebellion Spain. In this section you can clearly see the differences existing in the scientific community with respect to the necessary measures to carry out an effective and just transition. Fortunately, among the usual more timid positions, demands are beginning to appear that not long ago would have been unthinkable for them to appear.

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The IPCC Report: Key Findings and Radical Implications

Beyond the headlines: what climate science now shows about Earth’s future. Can we act in time?

Brian Tokar

The UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its latest comprehensive report on the state of the earth’s climate. The much-anticipated report dominated the headlines for a few days in early August, then quickly disappeared amidst the latest news from Afghanistan, the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections in the US, and all the latest political rumblings. The report is vast and comprehensive in its scope, and is worthy of more focused attention outside of specialist scientific circles than it has received thus far.

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Climate change: the fault of humanity?

Michael Roberts blog | August 12, 2021

The sixth report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) runs to nearly 4,000 pages.  The IPCC has tried to summarise its report as the ‘final opportunity’ to avoid climate catastrophe.  Its conclusions are not much changed since the previous publication in 2013, only more decisive this time.  The evidence is clear: we know the cause of global warming (mankind); we know how far the planet has warmed (~1C so far), we know how atmospheric CO2 concentrations have changed since pre-industrial times (+30%) and we know that warming that has shown up so far has been generated by historical pollution.  You have to go back several million years to even replicate what we have today.  During the Pilocene era (5.3-2.6 million years ago) the world had CO2 levels of 360-420ppm (vs. 415ppm now). 

In its summary for Policy makers, the IPCC states clearly that climate change and global warming is “unequivocally caused by human activities.” But can climate change be laid at the door of the whole of humanity or instead on that part of humanity that owns, controls and decides what happens to our future?  Sure, any society without the scientific knowledge would have exploited fossil fuels in order to generate energy for production, warmth and transport.  But would any society have gone on expanding fossil fuel exploration and production without controls to protect the environment and failed to look for alternative sources of energy that did not damage the planet, once it became clear that carbon emissions were doing just that? 

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